I hate it. Not out of some childish thoughts that my time was more important doing other things, but because I just didn’t like looking at my body anymore. I’d never say that I used to be vain or self obsessed, but I did admit I felt somewhat confident of my body, with no real worries or issues before the incident in Norfolk. The reasons why were simple; I was unfit before, and for the last three years I’d been deteriorating. It showed.
I walked down the hallway with the items I’d been given by the guards to allow me to bathe. The bathroom was bright, several shower stall separated by the cubicles you’d see in a public toilet.
You step into the closest one, placing the towel over the rack that was concerningly too close to the shower’s assumed stream of water. I turned the knob and the cold hits me harder than any punch. Not as hard as…
I shook my head, hands going through my hair and allowing me to get used to the cold. I’m here. Not in Texas. I’m fine.
“Damn it,” I muttered to myself, barely audible in the shower. “Fuck.”
I slowly slid down with my back against the cubicle wall. I could only feel it in patches here and there as my skin rubbed against it and I sat on the floor.
Three Years Ago: Kingdom of New Austin
“Didn’t you want revenge, Ryan?” Taker mocked, smiling as he looked on the arena where I stood, exhausted. “You did, didn’t you?”
I stood there, shaking and trying to keep my footing, fists clenched.
“Come on Ryan, do it!”
Sacrifice looked at me, her eyes empty. Hollow. She was strewn against a pillar in a daze. A drugged up mess. In contrast, I was there, the other side of the ring. I was nothing but the punchline Taker’s sick shaggy dog joke.
“Go on, you can punch, can’t you?”
I could, but barely. I’d been awake for three days. I had to watch for three days. Despair and pity were overpowering what was blind rage.
I gave in. “I-I don’t want to,” I said quietly. “I didn’t want this.”
Taker laughed. Barely refined spite and anger.
“You see that, Samantha!” he bellowed, pointing at me from his stand. “He’s pathetic! He can’t even attack you! What the hell did you see in him!? Potential!?”
Sacrifice, no… Samantha finally fell. I charged a little too late and punched her face with the force of somebody falling asleep. She didn’t even react.
“I didn’t want this,” I mumbled, crying over her. “I didn’t want this.”
I took so long in the shower guards came in to check if I was still alive. Apparently, I had inhaled water in the shower when I lost my concentration and nearly drowned. That wasn’t what worried them.
A knock at the door. Maxine.
“Come in,” I said.
She entered the hospital room and placed some flowers on a table.
“I’d get you some chocolate but you…” she trailed off, looking at my hands and feet.
I was chained to the bed after they saw.
“Do they hurt?” she asked after too much silence.
“No,” I interrupted. “No, she wasn’t what… I don’t think so.”
Maxine sighed, looking at me. I turned away, avoiding eye contact.
Maxine finally brought up something. “Derek’s dead, you know.”
“He was caught in an explosion. It uh… They said it didn’t hurt.”
I could hear some sniffing. Dammit.
“I was so mad at you when you came back, you weren’t even there at his funeral. I thought you ran away or died or something.”
“Derek was a bit of an ass, but he had his heart in the right place,” I replied. “I remember one time he was late hanging out. Turns out he took a detour to give this abandoned kid to the Information office of the mall in Norfolk.”
I chuckled a little.
“He didn’t want to be seen as soft so he made the most stupid excuse about a blonde chick in a bikini.”
Maxine added on to the story. “Yeah, I think Micheal put him in a headlock for wandering about with strangers on his own.”
We spent some time in silence.
“I hate how everyone says I’ve changed, Max. I didn’t want this. I wanted things to go back to normal, or for it to be a dream.”
“That’s why you chased after them?”
“I-” I stammered out the next part. “I think deep down inside that I deserved it. I think I had this happen because I wanted to much, I wanted something I’ll never get back.”
Maxine left without saying a word, or a goodbye.