26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner
I slam my fist against the wall. Stupid, soft wall. The collision makes no sound. None of my fury is exchanged for pain. Worthless room.
“Attie?” Jenesis touches the back of my neck, stroking it softly. “You should ask to be alone. There will likely be another fight soon. I’m sure you want to prepare.”
“I have to know,” I say between gritted teeth.
Jenesis moves between Samuel and I. She kneels down and bows her head.
“Please, great champion, my fighter has a question. Take your anger, sorrow, and pain out on my flesh, but please answer him.”
“What?” I shake my head. “Jenesis, I don’t want that. This is between my brother and me.”
She doesn’t move. Quinn cries. It’s the loud sob of a scared child, a cry that is meant to bring any parent running. Two green blobs the size of manatees slither in. Myndi enters behind them.
“Quinn, come here,” I say as I look between the boy and the champion who would eat him. “Now.”
He sniffles and wipes his tears. He chokes on his cries as he plods toward me. Samuel reaches out. I shake my head.
“Myndi, how grand to see you again.” I say the words as loud and clear as I can, staring at Samuel, hoping he’ll realize the danger.
Samuel shakes himself like a wet dog. He wipes his face as he rises. “And scene!”
There’s a fake smile on his face as he takes several bows, rotating away from me and toward the door. I clap, playing along.
“Clap your hands,” I whisper to Quinn as I usher him behind me. I reach over and tap Jenesis on the shoulder.
“Rise and clap for the champion.” She lifts her head, looks around, and then claps as she gets up.
Myndi tilts her head. Samuel squawks and waves his arms. Myndi squawks in a low pitch as she leaves.
“Thank you for attending the end of our performance. Go away now.” Samuel gives a dismissive wave to the green blobs, who slither out.
I rub my hand over my face. “Quick thinking.”
“Not really. I’ve explained a lot of my actions by saying that acting is how Earth fighters from my tribe learn to fight.” Samuel rubs the tattoo on the back of his hand. “Channeling you, I guess.”
“Yeah.” That was what I told him when he was young and didn’t want to fight. I told him the bullies were acting, and the fighting wasn’t real. Showed him action movies where someone fought to the death, and then another movie where the same actor was just fine. It was a well-crafted lie that kept my brother safe. One he believed for more years than he should have, probably.
Brydanz saunters in. “Ah, you’ve found each other. Not in the arena, as I hoped, but still!”
“Should you be here?” Samuel crosses his arms and stares at my abductor.
“I heard there was acting. Not many here know the meaning. So few on Phaeton have been to Earth.”
“The show ended. You can go.” Samuel waves him off. Unlike the blobs, Brydanz doesn’t move.
“I come on behalf of Myndi.”
“She was just here. Obviously she can show up on her own behalf.” Samuel says as he crosses his arms.
“Ah, but this is protocol. She wishes to issue a challenge, an offer to fight Attie the Earthling, a chance for him to be a champion.”
“He declines,” Samuel spits out.
Brydanz looks to me. “Do you decline the champion’s offer?”
“I have no reason to fight her.”
“Then if you are not victorious in your next battle in the arena, she will take your bonus trophy.” Brydanz gives one of his wicked, face-altering smiles as he backs out of the room.
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