Tag Archives: Fiction

Gimpy

(A short story, by Sha’Tara)

I was starting my third grade year when I got to know a scrawny first grade little kid with large beautiful brown eyes everyone called “Gimp” or “Gimpy.” I just want to quickly write up how it was we actually met, I mean to talk to each other.

It was lunch time and most of the kids who didn’t go home for lunch gathered in one large room of multi-purpose usage. There were tables and benches and the odd older desk too for those who liked to sit alone and perhaps read, or draw. Remember that was a while ago, even transistor radios didn’t exist then!

I had picked one of the old desks because I wanted to continue reading a book I’d just got my hands on: Treasure Island. It promised well right from the beginning and I was eager to find out if Jim would get to go sailing.

I had opened my lunch kit and was inspecting my food when there was a bit of a commotion. A scrawny kid was being called names and laughed at. One of those at the ‘bully’ table called the kid over, dangled a chocolate bar in a wrapper in front of him, then threw it down the aisle. The kid raced after it, got it, tore open the wrapper to find that it had been stuffed with dirt.

Amidst the jeers and laughter, I looked at that kid’s sad, confused and disappointed face. He saw me looking at him and realized I wasn’t of those making fun of him. He carefully put the chocolate wrapper still filled with dirt into the garbage can and limped over to my desk. He stood there and I saw his eyes grow even bigger as he eyed my lunch.

I may have been only eight years old but I came from a large family and I knew a hungry look on a kid’s face when I saw one. I asked him to come over and sit beside me, then I offered him half of everything I had packed for myself. The kid ate every crumb and I realized that he was starving. So I gave him more and kept less. I felt, I dunno, something warm and good and powerful rising inside me as I watched him devour my lunch. I didn’t even feel hungry anymore.

We became friends, and I think he sort of adopted me as a big sister. So I decided to help him with his school work as well. He was, from my point of view, terribly slow. Obviously he’d never been shown how to read, write or even do simple arithmetic at home before coming to school. In fact, when I asked him his age, he reluctantly admitted he was also eight years old. He looked no more than five.

“How come you didn’t come to school when you were six like the rest of us then?”

“My mom said it was too much bother and she couldn’t afford to buy me new clothes, that school was useless anyway. So I stayed home and on the street until a lady called a social worker came to see my mom and after she got some clothes for me, I came to school. Is school really useless, Deena?”

“No it isn’t, Gimpy. School is like being on a holiday where you get to practice your imagination, you get to learn things only adults would normally know, and when you know how to read, oh boy, all those books, all those amazing stories you can make your own, like you can accompany those people in the stories, become one of them, play along, have endless adventures.”

“Why doesn’t my mom know this?”

I had no answer but to admit I didn’t know. My own parents loved reading all sorts of stuff and they made sure we would not be kept in the dark. I had learned about measurements from reading labels on cans and bottles. I had already tried some recipes printed on the back of cereal boxes. I knew how to tell the difference between several ‘medicines’ stored in the bathroom medicine cabinet, as well as those stored in the milk house to be used for the cows, pigs or chickens.

A couple of weeks after I had gotten to know Gimpy I had to miss a day of school. After school Gimpy came to my house crying, his jacket torn and with a terrible black eye and split lip. My heart raced when I saw that. Even more so when he told me that the bullies had assaulted him at afternoon recess and beaten him severely.

“What about Sister Blanche? Didn’t she see what was going on, or heard anything?”

“I dunno. She watched, didn’t do nothin’.”

“Did nothing… Oh, never mind, let me fix you up as best we can and we’ll deal with this tomorrow.”

As I remember that day, so many years ago now, it wasn’t one of my best days. I wanted to be a truly good person. I never wanted to get into any kind of trouble and certainly did not want to get involved in a fight with other kids, particularly bullies. But I knew I still had to confront them. After all they had assaulted my ‘little brother’ and this was a blood thing from my point of view.

I kind of started it wrong the next morning when I waylaid the chief trouble maker who had assaulted Gimpy with, “Hey chicken shit, are you so scared to take on someone your own size you gotta beat up a little kid?” And I walked right up to him, sticking my face practically in his. “That’s unfinished business you left yesterday and I’m here to make sure it is finished so you’ll know not to mess with us.”

That was the trigger. He threw down his books and came at me. Now I may have been a girl but my dad had taught me a few fighting tricks of his own, some of which he had warned me never to talk about or brag about. He taught me about men’s particular weakness down there between their legs and I saw my chance to test that particular move. Needless to say it worked like a charm. When the others saw their leader down on the ground moaning and crying, they not only backed off, they ran.

I suppose that would have been that except a sister of those bullies went to tattle to Sister Blanche who immediately stepped over to us, grabbed me by the arm, pinching as hard as she could and made me stand by the blackboard in front of the whole class. When all were settled she ordered me to bend over her desk and she certainly didn’t hold back on the strap. When I yelled that “they” had started it, I got more, so much I couldn’t sit straight the rest of that day.

I didn’t cry and swore I’d get even, not on the bullies, I knew they’d stay away from me and Gimpy from now on, oh no, my aim was Sister Blanche. Whatever was her problem I’d make her pay. And I did, though not in any way I had thought possible if quite impractical. What I needed was something practical, and that’s what I got, from a very practical source: my mother.

After school (and after I managed to give the evil eye to Sister Blanche) I took Gimpy home so I could do a bit of sewing on his clothes, and put more salve on his shiner – that left eye was almost shut by then. It happened that mom had come in from the fields and of course wanted to know the story behind the black eye. So I told her, and Gimpy haltingly told his own version, without embellishments, including my punishment at school.

I should tell you, my mom has a fiery temper. She doesn’t “take any shit” as dad would often, and proudly say and she’d tell him to “shush George.” She didn’t say anything but I knew that she was brewing something up; I heard her and dad talking later that night.

Chores done, lunches made and time to head for school and here’s mom, in her Sunday best outfit, holding the door open, then walking with me to school.

“What’s going on, mom?” I asked and got the predictable answer,

“You’ll see.” And that was it. She went in with me and stood at the back of the room until the kids were settled at their desks then walked up to Sister Blanche and stated, loudly and clearly, “I want to have a talk with you, Sister. Now, and no excuses. Either right here in front of your class, or find us an office to talk in. Just know that I’m in no mood for games, savvy?”

I liked that “savvy” the way she said it. It was like reading a novel. I was so proud of her at that moment I swore to myself that I would become just like that some day. Anyway, Sister gave the class a reading assignment, put an older girl in charge and she and my mom left the room.

Sister Blanche came back a while later and let me tell you that if looks could kill, I’d have been six feet under and Sister Blanche in prison for life! I didn’t feel uncomfortable though. I gave her the same look right back, you know the kind when you feel that palpitation in your eyelids? The danger look full of hate and anger? It was at that moment that I realized Sister Blanche was just as much of a bully as those who had beaten up Gimpy. I grew up a lot that day!

That had been a Thursday and when Saturday morning was well engaged mom told me to get dressed, that we were going to see Gimpy’s mom. I was surprised but not terribly. Mom did things like that. If she had her mind on doing something it got done, (case closed as I liked to add for myself). That was mom.

When we got there, we had to bang heavily on the door to get an answer. Gimpy’s mom (who seemed too young to be a mom by my standards) stood there, holding on to the door, bleary eyed and her hair a total mess. She didn’t smell clean either.

“Where’s Gimpy?” asked mom.

“I dunno. It’s Saturday, innit? He’s probably roaming the streets looking for stuff.”

“You mean looking for something to eat, don’t you Violet?”

“I feed him. I got food here.”

“Yeah? Let’s see what you have that your kid could eat and live off of then.”

“Not today, I just cleaned out the fridge yesterday. I was going to go shopping today.”

“But you spent the money on booze, didn’t you, Violet? Look Vi, it’s none of my business what you do with your own life, OK? But the whole village is talking – not that those hypocrites are any better – but you’re going to lose your boy sooner than later. My daughter here has been seeing to getting Gimpy food at school, but that’s not enough. We could do more, but where would be your responsibility? By the way, I need to know your kid’s real name, Vi. What is it?”

“It’s Vidal. Don’t say I told you, and please, oh please, don’t call him that, he just hates it.”

“I don’t blame him. OK, at least I know. Now is not the time but later this afternoon I want you to come over to our house for tea, and I want for you and me to have a very, very serious talk, OK? You were a good girl not so long ago Vi. You babysat my kids and did a great job. It’s never too late to get back on track. If you don’t, Gimpy will be taken away from you and there won’t be anything any of us can do. Deena and Gimpy are very good friends and I’d hate to see them separated. Promise you’ll come?”

“I promise I’ll come Mrs. Bennett, I promise.”

“Good. I have a few dollars here for you to buy some decent groceries. Do something good for your boy, it’s high time to make him proud of you just as my kids are proud of me, if that makes any sense. Go shopping, hold your head high and ignore the snotty noses. Right now you have one thing in your favour as far as I’m concerned: you’re not a pew warming hypocrite. Not much but it’s something to go on. See you later.”

We walked home together, mom and I, and I held her hand as if she’d been royalty and I’d just been adopted. That kind of pride. And she taught me a new word. She said, “there’s a name for people like Sister Blanche and that’s a bigot. She thinks Gimpy’s mom is a bad sinner because she doesn’t go to church and she ‘entertains’ on her own. That’s why she didn’t help Gimp. You don’t ever want to be like that Sister Blanche.”

That was my mom. That was the shining light of humanity I swore to myself I would learn from, and I did. My mom didn’t actually die, she just moved inside me where I had left a big part of my heart for her to live in. She is there still.

I need to finish this, so here goes. Violet, that is, Mrs. Atkinson did choose to become responsible and raised her boy properly from there on. Gimpy became Doctor Vidal Atkinson, now retired. Sister Blanche was transferred halfway through that school year – she was not regretted by anyone, and isn’t it sad to not realize when one’s character is faulty and needs changing? The ‘bullies’ grew up and did change their characters… I even dated a couple of them and we had some pretty wild times. When my dad was dying, his last words were, “Don’t take any shit, Jane” as mom sat by his bedside crying and saying, “It’s so hard all of a sudden Todd. You were my life, my whole life. What will I do now?” But he passed on without an answer for her, or me.

And me? Well I’m still Deena Bennett and I’ve been sort of a writer of stories and tales and of the stuff that any observing person can see. Some of us just know how to put it in words so that others can also remember. Have I been successful? That depends. I was there for Gimpy and how many lives did he save as a good doctor? I grew a heart big enough to accommodate my mom and I and quite a few Violet type strays over the years. I never had to beg for anything.

 

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #37

(from the last post: )His entreaty is genuine.  I reply, “You’ve given me two reasons to come out alive sir.  Deirdre and you.  To be cared for as a slave woman in this place is truly the ultimate gift.  To be cared for by a man?  If I did not honestly believe that all things are possible I’d say to myself, ‘this is impossible; it’s a trick.’  But I believe you.  I want to believe you doctor.  I need to believe you.”

[end blog post #36]


[begin blog post #37]

Chapter 16 – To Save Deirdre

“Let me introduce myself properly to you.  My name is Balomo Echinoza.  My close friends call me Bal for short.  Can you find it in your heart to call me what my friends call me, without fear of reprisal?”

“Doctor Echinoza: that is a beautiful name sir.  It is difficult for me to call a man by a first name.  But I will do it, even if it brings up your anger against me later.”  My words cut him, I know, and I wish I hadn’t said them but the pain of being struck so viciously across the face, and by someone you thought you could trust, a medical doctor, is not so easily dismissed, even now.

“Doctor Echinoza, I have a question I’ve been keeping in the back of my mind for years now.  Why, when I entered my first fight those years ago, did you say to me, ‘We want you to kill him,’ of the pompous dandy who made the challenge?  Can you now tell me who he was and who ‘we’ were, or are supposed to be?  I know that in my own small way I’m part of a subversive process in this society which I understand, but what else am I involved in with you I have no idea what it’s all about?”

He consults his chrono wrist-com.  “We still have a bit of time before the end of your rest break; yes, I can answer your question.  It was discovered by my Cydroids, and related to the King by me that the man was a spy working with his brother to overthrow the legitimate King and install the brother in his place.  This was, of course, before we made the royal switch at the castle.

“This was an opportune time to get rid of the spy without letting the brother know we were onto his intrigues and conspiracy.  You served us well, without knowing.  It was of course not possible for the King to even think in such terms since to them you can only be a fighting animal of high calibre; a wise investment perhaps, but one which he would have soon tired, not having the brother to contend with.  In the course of time you would have been re-sold,  certainly as soon as you showed any signs of slowing down.  The high ones like their fighters not only powerful and agile, but also sexually attractive.  Your efforts to put some entertainment value in your fights have paid off for you and we are grateful.

“Things have changed somewhat now.  Nevertheless “our” king must demonstrate similar traits to the original, and you mustn’t take anything for granted.  I already said the Cydroids can be literal.  Despite their training and understanding of life, they can be as ruthless as any other man here, circumstances demanding.  The pattern to keep for the cloned King is that he readily tires of his concubines and fighters.  He could order your death should that serve his ends.  Now that you have accepted to join us in our attempts to resolve some of the problems of T’Sing Tarleyn, you are part of the “we” I mentioned at the beginning.” 

He frowns as he turns away from me to add, “You may have to die for us yet.  What of that, Antierra?”

My own reply comes instantly, as if I’d though about this much.  “I have known of this likelihood from before the time I arrived on this world and became a slave in Hyrete.  I will die here of a violent death.  I would not be here if I had any doubts about this.  But I did not come here just to die.  I came here as a change agent, a catalyst.  I came to introduce an idea that may grow and change how the women view themselves in relation to men.  You see, I think the sickness you know of does not affect the women.  They are free to change once they understand they are not the ones who are cursed.

“As for you and your people then, it is my understanding that you came here to probe this planet’s energies to discover why this world is apparently “imploding” upon itself, both socially and physically?”

He looks at me in a new way.  He realizes I am two people, a simple slave woman or gora, as caught in the gears of Malefactus as any other woman of this world, and the inscrutable dimension-hopping avatar called Al’Tara and considered by a few of the fighter women to be the reincarnation of their Desert Beast of T’Sing Tarleyn’s ancient lore.  He knows also I am as trustworthy as any member of his Cydroid family or the Cholradil.  But he also knows I possess no superhuman physical abilities apart from the changes he made to my anatomy, that my body and brain functions can be twisted, destroyed. 

He concludes, “Your conclusions about our purpose are quite correct, as I touched on before.  We are concerned and we do want to prevent a total collapse of this world.  I will endeavour to find a way to discuss this with you at length at some future time.  Now remember I have told you these things in complete confidence.  I must trust you now to keep them to yourself, whatever happens between us, whatever is done to you to make you reveal our discussions if my work here is discovered.  You understand?”

“Yes I do Bal,” saying the name thus almost makes me choke with fear, “I will remember.  I know I cannot survive Malefactus but what’s in my mind I will keep.  I won’t let anyone have it.  No force will take it.  I’ve been under torture before, though not by neuro-inductor but we have a way on Altaria to shift our knowledge into parts of our minds that even we cannot access during times of stress or under duress.  It may be the memory of this power will come to me should I need it and I won’t be lying when I say, “Je ne sais rien.”  I do understand that strange ability to lock information possessed by the Cholradil on this world.”

[end blog post #37]

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #19

[begin blog post #19]

The doctor is not seeing me anymore and when I receive a particularly large wound, she pinches it closed with her long skinny fingers or her mouth in turn, doing so for hours at a time, refusing to let me stir.  I’m sure she saves my life on a couple of occasions by stemming flowing blood from cut arteries.  She always has her braided straw ropes which she makes during the night and hides in the straw bedding, ready to use as tourniquets. 

She is a totally amazing creature, yet seemingly unaware of her special skills, talents and gifts.  She is human, I know, yet she is more, something intangible that motivates her, pushing her to be what she is.   

It is during those long, quiet times when I’m recovering and she sits by me that I tell her stories and build alternate and future lives in her mind.  I speak to her of other worlds where people are not like they are on T’Sing Tarleyn.  I try to explain space travel that allows one to jump instantly between worlds so far apart that it would take several lifetimes of one person to reach, even if he were travelling as fast as a beam of light.  I relate some aspects of my remembered past lives in order to broaden the field of her understanding for I have learned by attempts to interact with most of the people here that beyond their immediate concern for this life, awareness drops into a void.  For them there is nothing beyond death. 

She puzzles deeply over the confusing quality of the lives of the people of Túat Har, of the simplicity of life in the silence of Parnako where the people there communicate exclusively by telepathy; and the fullness of the joy experienced by those who spend time on my “home world” of Altaria.  She asks many questions for which there are no answers, simply because in the living of the questions, she, and only she, can find the answers.  Just as I have to find mine.  I also attempt to explain that aspect of life to her.

How incredibly receptive – and consequently dangerous to herself – she is!  She wants to believe everything I tell her and this frightens me so for I am helpless to protect her from the unknowns her new-found knowledge may bring upon her.  Yet there is no fear at all in her, although she has exposed so much of it in me! 

I fear her utter, totally unconditional love for me, following the dreadful emptiness of her previous life may have made her a bit mad.  And again, I’m probably as wrong as can be in that respect.  The quality of her is such that whenever I think I’ve got her pegged to a certain understanding, or pattern of thought, she moves beyond it, out of my mind’s grasp.

For a while as I got to know her I thought it was simple innocence that made her at the same time utterly one with me and inscrutably fluid to escape any template I made of her mind.  But there are no innocents on Malefactus.  These children raised in crèches know all that is to befall them when they are taken from their questionable childhood safety and sold “into the trade” as slaves.  They are told everything, often even elaborated upon deliberately to frighten them. 

Sometimes in the telling, their bleak future is made even worse than what I’ve described so far.  The viciousness and malice of this society possesses few bounds.  The weak, in whatever form found, have but one purpose: to be exploited and oppressed to the utmost; the very marrow of their lives sucked from them.  So far I have found no redeemable moral values here.  Everything is set up to be cut and dry.  Those who have power will do whatever it takes to keep it, or augment it.  Those who have none, even the little they may think they have will be ripped from their minds, their hearts, their bodies by the most shameless, heartless and cruel ways that can be devised by minds sold into the concept of evil.  Along with her strange nature my young friend shows many signs of having been thus mentally and physically abused.  There is a dark, despairing side to her I can feel in her unguarded moments. 

So I love her all the more.  Weeks somehow stretch into months, months become the dreadful year taking her closer to the arena. 

Basically there seem to be little discernable change of seasons in this part of T’Sing Tarleyn.  Yearly temperatures vary little, except by changes in the weather.  Because it is a dry and sandy world it loses much of its heat during the night and the mornings are always cold.  The days are hot and dry, evenings cool, if the sky is cloudless. 

If it is the rainy season, the mornings are not as cold – but the wet and humidity on our bare skins makes it more miserable to bear while we eat (always in the open, regardless of the weather), train or repair our weapons and armour.  The only times we are permitted indoors apart from our sleeping and holding cages is when we are being used for sex and occasionally when we are being treated for serious but not life-threatening injuries from the fights.  If the injury is life-threatening is it cheaper for our owners to buy a replacement fighter and let us die than attempt “repairs.”  More often than not a badly injured fighter, even if she has killed her opponent, is killed by her handlers in the arena, thus giving the crowd a moment of temporary satisfaction. 

During this strange and very emotional time I watch her grow.  She has a full growth of pubic hair now and her breasts are filling out.  I notice the men looking her over more and more.  I try to warn her about what they are about to do to her.  She smiles at me as if I’d lost my mind.  “I know that!” she whispers.  “Are you jealous?” 

“No sweet one, I’m not jealous – yes, I am jealous, damn you!”  She smiles mischievously, “Mostly I’m scared for you that you may do something unacceptable and be punished.  I want you to be everything they want you to be, to fit in, no matter what they say or do.  Whatever you and I are together, we are not when separated.  Keep those lives separate and never forget you are a fighter slave and not my child-lover.”

“Am I really your child-lover?”  Her tone is reproachful and I’m stung to the quick by it.  “You’ve never made love to me.  I watch the others and I’ve been waiting.  Is there something wrong with me?  Don’t you love me?”

Oh the pain those words carry!  Oh please, I don’t want to hear that!  Again I realize I’ve thoroughly messed up with another when I was so convinced I was being kind and understanding.  Is there no way to “do the right thing” on this stupid world?  Or am I such a fool?

“Sweet, I love you more than I can tell or show.  I just thought you should be the one to, you know, make the first move.  You give me so much all the time, I was afraid to take something from you, you may not have been ready or willing to share with me.”

She leans over to me, puts her head on my shoulder and whispers, “You crazy old woman!  If you love me and you’re the oldest, you take me.  That’s how it’s done.  I cannot do it first – that would be wrong and punishable.  When I was put in your cage, I became your bond slave for as long as either one of us lives or you reject me for another.  But you would have known that, wouldn’t you?”

Old woman she calls me.  Old?  I’m maybe seven years older than when I arrived here!  Thirty two classic (Old Earth) years?  Or is this world so twisted that even time moves in some terribly debilitating way, aging some and not others?  No, it’s not time, it’s the way we are treated.  We are all old women the moment we enter the arena.  When youth is forced to kill to defend or avenge; when it is forced to die, it is no longer youth.  It becomes a ghost that wears an aging death mask.

Professional gladiators are at the prime of their lives on their first fight, usually at around sixteen years of age.  From then on, they age quickly, if they live to age at all.  I’m well past my prime now…  Even the trainers are no longer that interested in taking me for sex in their barracks.  Younger ones have taken my place. 

“Make love to me!” she says, “before the men take me.  I want you first.  Here.”  She digs into the straw and pulls up an implement that could pass, in shape and size, for an erect penis.  “Break my skin, please.  I don’t want them to have it.  It’s what we do where I come from but they took me before it was done.  So I have been waiting for my lover; for you to do it.”

What can I say?  I’m beyond amazed at her candour and offer of herself to me.  then I have an idea.  “Sweet, if I be the one to break your skin, I want to take your blood, mix it with mine – I’ll open that fresh wound on my left arm here,” (she knows exactly which one it is and winces) “and I will mix our blood in my hands and baptize you as I promised I would.”

Her large eyes light up with a glow.  “Yes, do it!”

And so we mix our blood together and with the few drops that I can keep in my hand, I sprinkle her forehead as she holds her head reverently backward as I had instructed her to do – a ritual so she could have something to remember later.  I smear the rest of the blood in her hair and hold on to her tightly.  We both cry.

[end blog post #19]

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #17

[begin blog post #17]

‘And what’s your name fellah?  I’ll call you Blacky.  That will do.’  He does not read thoughts at all so I don’t have to do the ‘white noise’ thing with him.  The centering trumpet blows.  I move across from where he should be but he does not move.  The handlers have to come back and push him to stance.  Could they not have taught him that much?  We wait, my sword raised up, his he holds tight across his midriff with one hand, the blade over his left shoulder.  He’s mocking proceedings, that’s it.  Showing he despises not just me but all of Hyrete, all of Elbre.  A roll of drums is followed by three trumpets announcing the beginning.  My heart gives a loud thump and I get ready to… do what?

He does not move.  I have to attack him but I know it’s the play dumb trap.  He wants to decapitate me at the first move.  ‘Good luck Blacky and take this.’  I lunge at him only to be parried with a lighting move.  Ahah, now we fight?  I whirl and lunge again, a bit higher and to his left.  He has a little more difficulty but also parries my blade easily.  Now comes the really tough part.  I have to make him chase me.  But he knows that game and won’t move.  Damn.  I have to buzz him like a fly then.  Jab, thrust, jump back, turn, move in.  I may as well be fighting our wooden man in the compound for all the reaction I get for my efforts – except that the wooden man doesn’t have a lightning fast reaction to my thrusts. 

The only way I can get him to move is to make him angry.  For that I must cut him, make him bellow, shame him.  I know some tricks.  I come at him full front as if I’m going to throw myself in his arms.  His sword is still across his chest.  I feint a stab at his throat, he parries but neither I nor my sword are there.  I dive under his blade and sliding my sword down in rapid motion cut a slash down his thigh then jump back on a low crouch while his blade passes over me with an angry vibrating whine.  I feel the displacement of air.  That was too close.

The mosquito has drawn blood and now he’s going to try to swat me.  Of course, being a female mosquito I can’t leave now.  I need a full belly of blood to reproduce.  I stare at his face and when he finally looks at me I smile, then laugh softly.  I have to anger him and get him to move or I’ll be so tired I will become a sitting duck for him.  ‘Come on big boy, chase me.  Think of that juicy female meat you want to cook and eat.  Did they promise you could barbecue me in your snake pit wherever they be keeping you?’  He knows I’m teasing him but can’t understand.  But at least I’ve got him moving.  His sword is slashing through the air as he comes for me.  I stand still until he commits himself to aim for my neck and duck, spin and cut him across the back before he can turn. 

Now comes the bellow!  He literally charges at me, flailing the sword, throwing up sand.  I dance in front of him, my breasts bouncing slightly.  That seems to enrage him even more.  I raise my arms above my head, holding the sword as if it were a dagger, pointing at his chest and continue to dance back, watching.  This is dangerous: I don’t know his moves yet, or if he has any more to display.  He sees this slim female body completely exposed and lunges low.  I hadn’t expected that and barely escape the heart jab followed by a cutting swath.  I jump as high as I can – and damn that soft sand to hell – turning and throwing myself down and just out of reach.  I’m still fresh and not cut.  His own cuts are superficial but I can tell he is becoming truly enraged, dangerous now.

Seems all he knows of fighting hand to hand is with killing blows.  No feints, no skill, no finessing around.  He approaches me as if I were no more of a challenge than a fence post.  I’ll have to trust my intuition on that and offer him more tantalizing openings and feints.  I continue to tease, following through after his predictable jab and swing, and cutting him a little each time.  So much like a bull, I feel I’m a toreador, as much as I despise that particular “sport” of Túat Har. 

I’m totally into the fighting now, dancing, enjoying the feel of breeze and sweat on my skin, feeling the sword in my hands as it becomes more a part of me with each stroke, the carefully crafted handle absorbing the sweat from my hands, keeping them dry and the grip firm.  At this moment you’d think I was the one bred to be a fighter.  Well maybe I was, in some distant other life?

Yes, I remember that one.  In what was called Nippon, later Japan, C-14 Old Earth, I learned how to use the famous Samurai sword then, and what a deadly weapon that was.  I was a woman then too, a Geisha in training, and what I did was considered immoral.  When they discovered my secret I was forced to commit seppuku with the very sword I’d used to fight men and kill men while defending a women’s compound from slavers and head hunters.  If remembrances are good for anything, this is as good a time as any to incarnate my ancient skills.  May they serve as well today as they did then.  I was able to save the lives of a dozen women that night so long ago, but not my own.  Now I can even that score and save my own life.

From mosquito I’ve become the wasp.  I buzz around him, seeking to sting, for the wasp is not bound to one sting.  She can bite over and over and my sword sings when it connects with his.  I pull back, draw him out, swing to draw his eyes away from mine, then whirl, pulling the sword tight against my body to present hardly any target.  When he lunges I use his great weight against him, going with the thrust, letting him believe he’s got me only to roll around and cut again.  This time deep in the right thigh, a real cut.  The blood pours out freely.  He turns to look at the damage and I get him across the forehead, bringing blood into the eyes.  He raises his arm to wipe his eyes and I swing with all my strength at the exposed wrist, cutting off the left hand. 

From then its just finishing strokes.  When he is finally down I raise my sword to the crowd to ask for mercy for their fallen champion.  He could still live.  No mercy is forthcoming and I kill him, turn and walk to the end of the ring to be escorted back to the compound. 

As is customary and absolutely necessary, I inventory the damage done to my body.  In these fights the adrenaline runs so high we often overlook many severe cuts or other damage.  My damage?  A blister and broken toenail that’s bleeding.  ‘Well Blacky, wherever you go I hope for your sake you don’t ever underestimate a woman again.  It’s not healthy.  Size, speed and the ability to roar does not a fighter make.’ 

[end blog post #17]

The Antierra Manifesto – blog post #12

[begin blog post #12]

Chapter 7 – In for the Long Haul

“If a path to the better there be it begins with a full look at the worst.”  (Thomas Hardy)

It’s a truism of war: short lives engender fast promotion.  I’ve been promoted to unofficial trainer of new trainees.  My unorthodox ways with hand weapons, especially blades has earned me some recognition. 

The next few months bring little change except I am fitted with a couple of different sets of armour.  One is just a basic skirt made of that same light alloy I realize now is not made of anything familiar to me.  I am fitted with forearm and shinbone protectors as well and have to train with these things on.  They are quite stiff and take some getting used to.  I fail to understand their purpose until I begin to train with the staff.  Ah, I discover that smashing the staff against bones of arms and legs is the preferred method of bringing one’s opponent down.  It can break a forearm or cause such numbing pain on the shin that you simply collapse.  The armour takes some of the blow allowing one to move out of range and recover.  The skirt is used to protect one’s loins from a sudden thrust by the opponent.  That leaves one’s thighs, ribs, hands and face exposed.  But these areas are the easiest to protect.

I’m fast on this particular weapon.  It’s as if I’d used it many a time before.  I have.  I remember reading up on this fighting method and practicing while preparing for my incarnation.  Yes, I know this weapon, but I did not know it could be so deadly.  These staves have pressure points in them that allow the user to shorten or extend them by as much as twelve “thumbs” (akin to inch on Old Earth) thus keeping the opponent always guessing at the distance to pull back, swing or thrust.  They also have one pointed end with which to spear, unlike the ones I am familiar with. 

“Can spear point of staff be poisoned, drugged as with the dagger, sir?” I ask my handler while studying the weapon.

“Yes.  Done all time.” he replies. 

No fighter would ever be permitted such a trick, even if such things were available to us, but for the male contenders there is no dishonour in trickery, however he brings down his opponent slave.  In fact dirty, deadly tricks provide additional entertainment for a paying and braying public that always demands something new and more exciting.  It is the nature of those who participate as spectators of organized sport in any society.  Lust for blood and varying levels of violence dominates their minds.  Deceit is always a part of the game, in sports and war.

I also train with a type of wide battle axe, by far the heaviest weapon used by female gladiators and not very popular.  But we do not make the choices so we have to train and ready ourselves to handle all the officially approved weapons.  With this weapon comes the other type of armour – a robe thing covering the upper body to halfway down the thighs and a helmet equipped with a chin strap.  I feel encased in this contraption, quickly chafing and sweating profusely.  It doesn’t have suitable slits to let me open my long legs wide enough for proper balance.  Bad design, or someone forgot my stature. 

I have difficulties handling the heavy weapon with sufficient speed.  My cut arm gives me trouble and my ambidextrous abilities are of no use.  I can only wield this thing one way, my right hand forward on the handle, my left holding back to guide the stroke.  I cannot switch sides without losing connection with my brain.  To make matters worse, the handle is round, straight and smooth all the way.  As soon as it is coated with sweat or blood it becomes all but impossible to hang on to, never mind use it effectively against an opponent. What I wouldn’t give now for one of those real axe handles of Old Earth.  I must find a way to re-design this ugly contraption if I’m to use it in combat.  Ugh!

I hate this method of fighting and would forego it if weapons’ choices fell upon us.  So I train the harder on this thing because I know that sooner or later someone, some spy, some paid trainer or even a female gladiator, out of spite or for some “favour” will reveal my weakness to an informant and I will pay with my life.  I won’t let that happen.  Too many questions left unanswered and too little accomplished in terms of touching upon the private thoughts of other gladiators.  I’m not even “at bat” yet as to sharing any kind of philosophy with the other women.  I’m still an outcast although the young ones’ faces light up when they train with me.  With our signals and low-pitched voice I tell them stories they find fascinating.  It doesn’t matter to me whether they believe me or not, enough that they consider me not only the best fight teacher but a great story-teller.

Day after numbing day, while women continue to be sent to the arena, some  returning cut and bruised, some never, I train.  For the time being at the very least I’ve managed to close my heart and mind to pain and the ever-present sense of fear.  I turn my attention to local details, studying the small but solid hierarchy of the compounds, overseers, handlers, trainers, medics and fighters, looking for answers to my many questions about the social fabric underlying T’Sing Tarleyn.  I search quietly, surreptitiously, for potential leaders, rebels, among the women, even among the men or for weaknesses in the stratified set-up.  I find little to go on.  I try to tap into the women’s minds and receive nothing but white noise – meaningless thought jargon in answer to my probe.  Is this a trick of the mind they play, or are they so brain-dead, confused, mad?  I can’t believe that.  They must have some natural, instinctive method for blocking their thoughts from probes and scanners, both of which I have become aware, are in use around the compound, in our cage areas and in the arena. 

That strange, advanced, inscrutable, esoteric technology that continues to haunt my mind and my dreams.  Where does that come from?  Who really rules this world?

From the other side of the spectrum, I’ve had sex with several of the handlers, trainers and male “nurses” or medics by now.  A couple of them are quite taken by me and I’ve become their “favourite” of sorts.  A dangerous play.  One of them comes to me now and announces that I’ve got a turn in the arena tomorrow.  I pay close attention because there has been no warning of such before.  This has to be something different, unusual.

“Your challengers come soon to watch displays.  You demonstrate skills with sword and dagger, staff and axe.  Word of advice, demonstrate greatest ability with axe, they don’t choose.  Demonstrate least with staff, they chose.  Simple.  That how you make success; turn things around to you, to owner advantage.  So you get to choose weapons after all, huh?” and he pats me on the butt, then casually puts his hand on my breast, fondling the nipple.  Reluctantly he removes his hand before he is noticed. 

However flaunted, the law remains in place: no male may have intercourse with, or demonstrate affection for, any female – under pain of death.  And everyone jealously watches everyone else for any advantage they may derive from blowing the whistle. 

Honour, indeed, hah!  I spit the word out in my head.  And I remember Tiegli.  I miss her terribly at night.  I miss her simple wisdom and her love for me, however brief that was.  And I wonder where she is now.  ‘Shut up – concentrate on here and now.  You are a gladiator.  A fighter, nothing else.’  So I tell myself and return to my work.

Two men, simply, almost poorly dressed, appearing anxious or nervous arrive through one of the stone portals I didn’t even know existed so perfectly does it blend with the surrounding wall.  They are directed to my exercise space and watch me make my moves with the weapons.  I survey them through my lashes.  Both shorter than I by a head – that’s normal.  No unusual musculature that I can see.  They do not seem to have that cat-like walk preferred by those who frequent the arena just for a chance to bet on a fight they are getting into.  Yes, there are professional fighters, killers, out there who make a living by killing us for those who employ them.  They are frowned upon but like bounty hunters, tolerated, as they take chances and cause the stakes to rise.  The women call them drooks.  These two are definitely not drooks, that much I know.

As instructed, I first use the axe and go through some rather esoteric moves, actually impossible in a real confrontation with a living opponent.  I make it look real by letting the heavy weapon slip through my hand and embed itself in a wooden sparring post cut and roughly carved to the size of a man.  They seem suitably impressed.  I then take off my armour and naked, go through my sword routine.  Again I demonstrate undeniable speed and skills with these, suddenly diving on my back and pulling the dagger, sliding it upward and stabbing the wood “man” in what would be his loins or stomach.  

Putting on the light skirt and protector pads, I then heft the staff.  I look at it suspiciously and thrust viciously but wildly at the wood post, missing it.  I pirouette, pretending to regain my composure and aim the side of the staff at the dummy but instead of hitting high enough to break an arm, or low enough to numb a leg, I hit it straight in the middle, the most easily defended part of the body.

My trainer stops me and upbraids me loudly, bemoaning I’ve made him look ridiculous as trainer.  He pulls the staff from my hands, orders me to remove the armour and sends me to wash.  The ploy seems to have worked.  I observe the two “contenders” choosing the staff.

[end blog post #12]

The Antierra Manifesto – Blog post #10

[begin blog post #10]

Chapter 6 – Life in the Cages

“We cannot conquer fate and necessity, yet we can yield to them in such a  manner as to be greater than if we could.” (Walter S. Landor) 

I feel the most terrible ache in my heart.  I remember a time in a past life when I was taken from my home, accused of witchcraft.  My twelve year old son was taken from me and I was kept in a dungeon and I knew I’d never see him again.  I would never leave that place until, after an endless series of indignities were performed upon me, I was formally condemned for practising witchcraft by using herbs considered to have Satanic properties and I was hanged, my executors claiming compassion in my case by deciding not to burn me alive as was the current practice.  They said my healing arts had been of value to the village before I began consorting with demons and performing the black arts.  Men have never been short of excuses for “punishing” women, even in so-called modern, civilized societies.  But the greatest pain they cause women is not physical, it’s psychological.  The continual put-down of her knowledge, natural skills and abilities; of her intuition and innate compassion. 

That sort of pain is what I’m speaking of: emptiness of heart and an atavistic fear rolled together like some choking fog that will never lift until perhaps after you are dead.  And even then… who really knows?  Now imagine my temporary despair, that I, Antierra, who promised a better life to Tiegli, would lower herself to doubt her own knowing?  Who better than I can know of the future of a certainty?  But shock does strange and terrible things to one’s thought pattern.  I feel as if my mind is unravelling as it feeds from the poisoned mind sewers of Malefactus.

Tiegli is gone and I haven’t seen the doctor in many days.  My arm still does not feel right but the tingling of the wound tells me it is healing.  There will be an ugly white welt there, but that seems a small thing now.  I wonder how I can get near the other women who all seem to be avoiding me.  Something about me frightens them.  It could be any number of things.  The superstition about my status as the reincarnation of their Desert Beast and my ‘natural’ skill with their basic weapons.  My size.  The colour of my eyes.  But mostly, I think, the way I talk.  Can I ever learn to speak in their pidgin?  Would that make a difference?

This morning I wake up to a low cry followed by a steady wailing in a cage close to mine.  In the early light I see a young girl sitting up holding the body of another and rocking it.  Soon all the women are keening along and to my surprise I am too.  The heavy blanket of death touches us all.  The one they called “The Brute” – the dark-skinned woman Tiegli pointed out to me who’d been captured in the deep south beyond the desert has killed herself in the night and her cage-mate has awakened to her cold body against her.  The dead woman had managed to find, hide and bring a sharp piece of broken flagstone into her cage.  She inserted it in her own jugular and bled to death.

The wailing brings several handlers, trainers and a dozen guards armed with lasguns.  A shrill whistle silences the women and the first row of twenty cages are opened and we are led outside to stand in the cold dawn.  The Brute’s mate and another nearby are made to carry the body outside to a door in the far wall.  A carrier awaits and the body is dumped in the open back.  It leaves and the door is locked.

Perhaps I should describe these strange conveyances they call carriages (if equipped to carry people or carriers if for handling supplies.  Basically they could be compared to cars or pickup trucks of Old Earth except they use a directional anti-grav force field instead of wheels, are totally silent and are usually, not always, operated by remote control or pre-programmed to run a set course.  I cannot get near enough to one to study it and tell but I sense they are, again using Old Earth observations, of a very light alloy material that appears to be metallic.  They do not carry as much of a load as did the old polluters of Earth.  They also appear to be quite slow, at least the ones I’ve seen.  Maybe there are great roads somewhere and they move faster, or maybe they have some that can rise much higher above the landscape and run “as the crow flies.” 

So much I do not know, and so much I thought would be of no consequence to me may turn out to contain crucial knowledge in the future.  Expect the unexpected!  I must approach the other women, or perhaps if I see him again, seduce the doctor to talk to me and tell me of things beyond the obvious here.  A tall order that can get me killed and nothing gained, maybe, but I need to know more.  Despite the fear of the moment, my mind reels with thoughts around Malefactus’ strange mix of technology.  They seem to be a very primitive people, social mores and practices resembling those of medieval Old Earth. 

Yet their “castles” are equipped with auto-lifts and automatic doors, and draw-bridges weighing tens of tons operate on hydraulic energy run by computerized remotes.  They have laser weapons and sophisticated fabrics.  Also they seem to have endless time and energy to engage their depraved ways, apparently having no need to concern themselves with provision of food stuffs or materials for armour or weaponry, even though, technically they are a world constantly at war with the enemy, the Estáani.  I know that much of the labour is provided by a great river of slaves, not all of them women as my research had so emphatically indicated.  Many males slave as beasts of burden and castrated ones (eunuchs) look after young males and females in crèches and sorting wards.  Where do these male slaves come from?  How do they become slaves?

A light but painful flick of a whip on my buttocks shocks me out of my reverie.  We are told to return to our cages and clean them out.  We grab wooden pitchforks stacked in a barrel against the wall by our entrance and begin the task of raking and piling the old straw bedding which we roll into sheaves and carry to a rock pit where it is burned.  A fresh pile of straw is brought in, also by carrier, and we make fresh bedding in our cages.  After we wash and eat we are returned to our cages, locked in and the next row goes through the same procedure.  No one makes a sound and I have a deep sense of foreboding while this apparently normal effort proceeds.

After these chores are complete we are once more taken out, all of us together, and made to stand in a large circle around the steel post I’d spent a night chained to.  The young trainee who had wailed at the discovery of her friend’s death is dragged out from the group and chained to the post, her hands raised above her head and the wrist chain affixed to a hook.  She appears beyond petrified, wild eyed and mouth agape, beyond the power even to scream.  Two trainers throw ice cold water on her and two handlers proceed to flog her.  She is allowed the freedom of her legs, probably to make the flogging more interesting for the men. 

As she brings her legs up for instinctive protection the long whips wrap around them and as the handlers pull their whips free, her body slams against the post over and over, leaving their bloody marks on the thin white-skinned legs.  Now she screams and her cries are non-stop and beyond heart-rending.  Her blood splatters everywhere.  The terrible whips tear into her skin and rip it into shreds and finally she stops screaming, then stops moaning.  Only then do they quit.  When they see she no longer moves they leave her hanging there, her body shredded beyond recognition, her blood still dripping down onto the paving stones. 

Some dark energy beast inside me wants to pounce on these men and tear them apart as if I had fangs and claws.  I throw up and immediately two trainers come over to me and look me over.  Something stops them from administering the same treatment to me – what?  What protects me at that moment when they know my feelings towards them?  All I see beyond the totally irrational hate is an even deeper fear.  What kind of Power drives these men?

[end blog post #10]

The Antierra Manifesto, Blog post #9

(Tiegli’s story, part 2)

[begin blog post #9]

“And the honour?” I refrain from asking about the evil juice – no time.  I find out later however that the “evil juice” is a concoction made from dried and powdered chakr (pronounced shoak) root – an indigenous herb that grows profusely at the edge of the desert, readily available and cheap – that is mixed with the blood of one’s kill after a killing orgy.  The drink is usually shared with several males.  It is a bonding which, they believe, makes them invulnerable and immortal, despite all evidence to the contrary, I might add.   

Tiegli continues with her story:

“Returning from fight or hunt alive, telling of dangers and wounds received, and saying “I do this again!”  Showing off skins,  part of animals and people too; dead bodies; captive slaves and scars on body – all good for male pride.”

“Is any woman ever recognized for her endurance or courage or the money she brings her owners?”

“That be outrage.  If man ever praise woman for deed he be disgrace and treat like female.  If not rich to buy out, he castrate and flog like woman in arena.  Or he given for special fun to bad, vicious fighters in compound for trainer fun and kill.  How you not know? Everybody know this.”

She tucks her body against mine and I feel her desire for sexual comforts which I give her freely.  She will die having known a moment of gentleness and companionship and will know that she is more than an animal.  I wish I could kill her as she rests against me but that is not what she would want.  She needs to return to her arena and maybe discover the additional courage to yell when she makes her kill.  Maybe she will scream that she is just as human as the men who came to watch her die, or to kill her.  Maybe she will upset a tiny bit of the status quo, enough for me to find the match I need to light the fire I came here to light.  Yes, what this place needs is a cleansing fire; nothing less will do.

I say, more to her mind than ear: “Tomorrow you must scream at them that you are human.  You must yell your own taunts over your kill.  Strike hard and die with courage and make them see your pride.  I am not really Spirit of the Desert Beast.  Just let those superstitious males believe that for now.  I am, indeed, from the stars, that I remember now.  I am here to share your pain for it is known from far away.  I am here to find out everything there is to know about this world.  This means I will die just like you, probably soon.  I will return to my world and find ways to help your people.  And I will return again as a fighter.  I will speak to the women and give them new ideas – dangerous, illegal, bold ideas.  They will have to decide whether to listen to me and trust I’m speaking truth or remain in their condition.  Would you like to see me again when I return home?”

“Hah…”  She hesitates then whispers hoarsely, “You speak strange; like sex slaves train concubine.  Good speak, many words you have.  You say I allowed to decide for me?”

“Yes, you are allowed to decide.  Tomorrow they may kill your body but you will find out that you are still very much alive – more than you’ve ever been.  When your people come for you and if you want to see me again, ask them to direct you to a world called Altaria.  It’s a very difficult world to reach, hidden in folds of space from prying evil eyes like Albaral.  But you can find it if you remember some basic words from me.

“Tell them you are the friend of Antierra from T’Sing Tarleyn.  If they do not understand, tell them you are the friend of Al’Tara whom you met on Malefactus.  They will contact people from my world and will be able to send you there.  Using my name as code-word for access you will be allowed to enter.  There you can wait for me if you wish.  Or you can learn what you want to, then leave and go anywhere you want.  Anywhere.

“Remember to keep your name, Tiegli.  You will not look as you do now and no one will recognize you, not even me.  So I shall ask for you by name – and it will be a famous name for everyone will know who you are and where you are from; how you lived and how you died.  You will be loved there.  All my friends will be your friends and they will show you many wonders.  That is my gift to you, Tiegli.”

“Your words, sweet; touch like lover – I had one, I know ; she  killed maybe one, two year? I never have again.  Much losing pain.  Almost killed too, I so tired from losing pain that time.  I know you be as say.  I die bravely, oh yes sure.  I die most happy, tomorrow.  I go to your world and wait for you, yes?  But you come back here, I no promise come with you.  I not crazy woman like you.  Can I go from you, die, no promise I return and your people they still keep me, not kill me?”

“Yes.”  I manage to whisper with the lump in my throat and full, free tears flowing.  “There are no conditions bearing upon you when you live on my world except you learn new things and accept that you will be happy.  You can live there free, happy, as long as you wish.  Then you can go anywhere you wish, choice is always yours alone.  No one kills on my world.  No one dies.”

She nudges against me, her small face tucked between my breasts.  I feel the moisture of her tears.  “Your world is beautiful place, Antierra.”

“No more so than yours can be – and will be in time.  All worlds have, within themselves the power of choice to be ugly or beautiful.  It is the intelligent, sentient and self-aware life on those worlds that determines which choice they will make.  For you see, as women are slaves of men on your world, so is every world a slave of its ISSA life forms.”

“You have strange words; speak strange things.  Much power.  You be the Desert Beast giving passing dream of power to dying woman.  I content.  Sleep now.”

Too tired myself to ask any more questions, I let her sleep cradled between my thighs and breasts.  But I cannot sleep.  I feel her rhythmic breathing and the beating of her strong heart.  I try to imagine her in a different environment.  This wreck of a woman is no older than I, yet looks to be fifty.  I move my hands slowly and deliberately over her body.  I feel the many scars, some badly healed from lack of medical care.  She would not have been a favourite of the medical attendants this one, so she suffered the more.

I gently massage a swollen deformity on her back, probably from a blow of that stick weapon I described earlier.  Again, I feel the urge to just break her neck and save her from her final ordeal; it would be so easy, and seemingly so compassionate.  But see, I can let her live to die and allow her to have another kind of happiness: a flicker of hope that I am as true as she wishes to believe and she has a future where she can be human. 

I start that damning circular thinking again, trying to sort out my feelings, the old and the new.  If I give in to bouts of compassion, or to the weakness of love, will I fail in my purpose?  Or is it the other way around: if I do not allow any compassion to flow through me, and if I do not allow the pain of loving, either this friend I am about to lose or that enigmatic doctor whom I insist on believing knows more than he shared with me of love for a woman, will I become spiritually dead and lose myself in this maelstrom of mindless violence?  Surely then I will have failed.

Ah, Tiegli, old child woman, how beautiful you are.  I remember what possessions meant to me and so many others on Old Earth in what now seems like a never-never time.  Yet here you are, naked, bereft of family or friends, scarred, abused, battered, ignorant of most things taken for granted elsewhere, living in pain and your entire wealth lies but in your name.  Yet it is a wealth beyond any imagined by those who have made fortunes betting on your skills, your sweat, your blood and your life.  How did your leader baptize you?  In whom, or what?  Did they use their own blood?  Was it in the name of some goddess of long ago through whom they keep in touch for a tiny bit of humanity, of sanity? Was it in the name of their unborn and dead children and equally dead dreams?  Who will teach me about that goddess?  How will I find her?  How will I bring her back to empower your lives before everything is destroyed?  ‘All in good time’ I hear my mind intoning.  And my immediate reply is, ‘How will I find “good time” on this world, in this place?’

Finally I fall into a fitful sleep troubled by a dream in which a pack of hairy red demons chase white angels whom, upon being caught, vanish as mist.  The demons gather together on a high dune with their empty hands raised and howl like wolves at the false sun that shines only darkness upon the desert.  Blood drips from their mouths and their hate consumes them.   They fall upon the red sand, writhing as if flames were devouring them from the inside.  Vultures swoop down and proceed to tear at their still twitching bodies.  Then only the dunes remain but the real sun does not rise above them – there is no morning.  Eternal darkness reigns. 

When I awake I am alone in the cage.  Soon the gates open and guards and handlers watch as we file out to relieve ourselves, wash and eat.  Tiegli the Undaunted; “The Crone” no longer exists for us, though by muted sounds from the arena we know the fighting is still taking place – and will probably until late in the day or for as long as the complement of female victims they have allocated lasts.  And we will hear the screams of delight from the packed crowd when the last gladiator falls.  But I know that these women never think of a fallen gladiator as dead.  Only if you kill yourself are you considered dead.

No gladiator is ever dead as long as another takes her place in a line-up, and  on this world that seems to stretch to the end of time itself. 

[end blog post # 9]