Just before eight o’clock, Logan found himself amongst the other recruits as they headed to the fight arena. He was tense, nervous, and thought he might throw up, but it was all because he didn’t know what to expect. He felt as if any moment someone would jump out and yell ‘boo,’ and he would go into cardiac arrest.
He followed everyone else as they moved through the mess hall and down a hallway in the staff dorms, which led to another building. Logan knew from his handbook that this building was just behind the fight arena and housed an infirmary and equipment storage area. He continued to follow the recruits as they made their way to a spiral staircase in the corner, which headed both up and down. The other recruits went up and Logan followed, but he could hear various noises coming from below. Some sounded almost animalistic.
A mixture of denial and fear ignited within him, and Logan’s hand shook badly as he gripped the stair railing. He swallowed deeply, trying to calm himself, and made his way up the stairs on unsteady legs.
There was a closed door on the second level, but none of the recruits passed through it. Logan followed them to the third level. The door here stood open and Logan entered to find the other recruits moving to stand by a railing. The railing was in a U shape, blocking access to the open air in front of it. As Logan crept across the floor to peer over, he found a sight that made him dizzy.
In what must be a level below the ground was a pit. Hard packed dirt covered its walls that sloped inward slightly at the bottom. The only blemish in its surface was a door, which Logan decided must lead to the building behind the arena, where he heard the animal sounds.
Overlooking the pit was an area like the one he stood in, only twice the size. The railing completed a full square around the open air and above this was a second level exactly the same as the first. In one of the corners was a stairwell that gave access from the first floor to the second.
Logan began to wonder why the level he stood on was only half the size of the two below him, but he quickly remembered how the third level of both the arena and house was only half a story.
He would have remained standing there, staring over the railing at the lower levels, but someone called his name. He looked up to find AJ on the other side of the room, gesturing for him to come join her and Mack. Logan made his way over and slotted himself in beside AJ, where there was a spare piece of railing.
“I see you found the place all right,” said Mack, smiling.
“It was a little hard not to,” Logan told him.
Logan heard a burst of voices and looked back down to the lower levels, watching as the first and second floors began to fill with people dressed in their finest. There was a mixture of both men and women wearing suits, evening gowns and even fur coats. Logan was a little shocked by their attire, but after all, it was only rich people who got to see the collection on display. This was probably like an outing to the theater or opera for them.
When all the noise settled and everyone seemed to be in their places, Logan watched as Thomas Gerard stepped up to the railing on the first floor. He was dressed in a charcoal three piece suit and there was a large smile on his face. People on the same side on the second level wouldn’t be able to see him, but Logan noticed he held a microphone in his hand. Logan also noticed a woman clad in a bronze colored dress standing beside him.
It took him a few seconds to figure out the woman was Gena, and he inhaled a shaky breath. Had she been wearing that dress when she smiled and flirted with him, he would have definitely turned into a slobbering idiot.
“Good evening, and welcome everyone to tonight’s display,” came a slightly accented voice through a speaker system. Logan pulled his gaze away from Gena to find Thomas Gerard speaking into the microphone. “Tonight we have five bouts lined up for your viewing pleasure, so sit back, relax, and we will begin momentarily.”
Gerard handed the microphone over to someone, and about a minute later the door in the pit opened.
This is it, thought Logan, his heart almost jumping into his throat. This is it. The truth was about to be revealed.
Into the pit stepped a man, tall and thin, dressed in jeans and a shirt, who looked as if he would break the moment he was punched.
Logan dragged his eyes away from the man to look at AJ and Mack. “Should he even be fighting? He doesn’t exactly look strong enough to go up against a vampire or werewolf.”
Logan had tried to put a bit of sarcasm in his voice, but he failed.
Mack and AJ smiled at each other, and AJ responded.
“Gavin’s not one of us, he’s one of them.”
Logan looked back at the man. “But he looks...human.”
AJ and Mack laughed.
“Resurrected corpses usually do,” Mack told him.
Logan’s eyes practically bulged. “What! He’s a zombie?”
“Yep,” said AJ. “I know what you’re thinking. He doesn’t exactly look very Night of the Living Dead. That’s what I first thought when I saw him and the other two they’ve got.”
“But we’ve heard it all depends on how long they’ve been dead and the condition of their body,” added Mack. “If they haven’t been too badly injured, their body hasn’t begun to decompose, and their brain hasn’t been dead for too long, they can pass for human.”
“Aren’t they meant to be all slow and brain eating?” Once again Logan tried for a bit of sarcasm, but he could feel the panic rising in him. He knew his voice sounded strained.
AJ gave him a small smile and his arm a quick squeeze. “They only eat brains if whoever resurrected them wants them to eat brains. They do whatever their Master tells them to. And as for them being slow...you’ll see for yourself in a minute.”
While they had been talking, a young woman entered the pit and Logan recognized her as the one who he witnessed flipping someone in the training yard. She was wearing sneakers, shorts, and a tank top, which showed off her heavily muscled arms. In one of her hands, she carried a dangerous looking metal baton.
“Her name’s Deanna,” AJ told him as the door in the pit closed over.
Deanna and the zombie, Gavin, faced each other, the recruit the only one with a weapon. Logan was beginning to think this was a little bit unfair, but then from the speaker system came a single word.
Logan’s hands clenched the cold metal railing and his knuckles turned white. He watched as Deanna and Gavin began to circle. It was time to see if all he had been told was true.
Logan wasn’t left waiting long.
Deanna lunged at Gavin, her metal baton aiming for his head. As if Gavin had all the time in the world, he side stepped and extended his right foot. His foot connected with Deanna’s ribs and even though the kick didn’t look that hard, she was lifted off her feet and sent flying across the pit. Deanna landed with a thud and a cloud of dirt rose from where she came to rest.
“Super strength and super speed,” whispered AJ.
Logan watched as the zombie crossed the pit in a motion almost too quick for the eye. Gavin leaned over Deanna and his hand darted towards her neck. His fingers wrapped around her throat and as she began to struggle, he picked her up. As Deanna hung in the air and Gavin squeezed her throat, she started to go red, then purple. Her mouth opened and closed as she clearly struggled for breath.
Panic bubbled up inside of Logan as he watched Deanna being choked, and his alarm increased as a thought occurred to him. Was Deanna going to be strangled to death? Was she about to be killed in front of him, in front of all these people?
Logan wrenched his gaze away from the scene in the pit. He looked for Gerard, who would surely put a stop to what was happening before it got that far. As his eyes moved over the crowd on the lower levels, he found a sight that brought his search for Gerard to halt. On the faces of those watching the fight, instead of panic or fear, Logan found excitement. One woman, who had a fox stole draped around her bony shoulders, was laughing in what appeared to be delight. A man, who looked to be wearing an actual monocle, was even pointing at the scene as he thumped the back of the man beside him.
Ice settled in Logan’s veins as he struggled to comprehend what he was seeing. These people were actually enjoying the spectacle of Deanna being choked to death. Even the recruits around him only had the smallest hint of worry on their faces.
Consumed with panic, confusion, and a touch of disgust, Logan looked back down into the pit. He expected to find Deanna on the ground, the life squeezed out of her, but he didn’t. She was still in the air, alive, and as purple as a grape. Slowly lifting the arm that held the baton, Deanna brought the metal cylinder down and hit Gavin on the head. He immediately released her and Deanna dropped to the ground, gasping for breath. The crowd produced an ‘ahh’ of disappointment, which turned into a sound of pleasant surprise as Deanna retaliated. Even as she gasped, she kicked out with her foot to send Gavin tumbling. Gavin fell to the floor of the pit in a tangle of arms and legs.
After a moment, they both got to their feet. Deanna’s chest rose and fell heavily, but Gavin didn’t even look like he was breathing as they started to circle once more.
This time when Gavin moved towards Deanna, she managed to jump out of his way. With a grunt, she swung her baton, in attempt to hit him in the head again. Gavin moved too quickly, though, and her baton didn’t connect.
However, Deanna wasn’t done. She threw herself to the side as Gavin went to hit her, and tangled her legs with his. He crashed down on top of her and an agonized yell tore from Deanna’s throat.
Logan didn’t know if Deanna’s maneuver was an accident, but it seemed to work for her. She took Gavin by surprise. Deanna wrestled with Gavin until she managed to roll him onto his stomach. She wrenched both of his arms up behind his back and pinned him to the ground with her body.
A buzzer sounded, and both Deanna and Gavin got to their feet. Deanna immediately clutched a hand to her ribs, to the spot where Gavin kicked her. If the red finger marks on her neck were any indication, her ribs were probably badly bruised. Possibly even broken.
“What just happened?” Logan wasn’t sure what he asked the question in regard to. Whether it was about the fight stopping all of a sudden, or about the entire fight, the reaction of the crowd and the fact that he had just seen an actual zombie. He didn’t know because his head was swirling. He had to blink black spots from his vision.
It was true. It was all true.
Logan leaned heavily against the railing. He took deep breaths and out the corner of his eye, he saw both Deanna and Gavin leave the arena.
“Deanna pinned Gavin,” Mack told him, assuming Logan was asking about the end of the fight. “You’ll learn all this in training, but if one opponent can overcome the other, it’s the end of the fight. If someone is clearly injured, that’ll put an end to it, too. They keep going if it’s just minor cuts or scrapes, though.”
Relief started to seep into Logan as he heard this, but it froze inside him as AJ spoke.
“Not that even a cut off hand would bother Gavin.”
Logan jerked his gaze towards her. “What?”
“Technically because his body is dead, there’s no blood and no pain, so he can get limbs chopped off and be totally fine.”
For a moment Logan’s dizziness grew so severe that he thought he would have to sit on the ground with his head between his knees. The wave thankfully passed and Logan blinked in time to see the door to the pit open once more. He focused on that while he took deep breaths and Logan managed to steady himself.
Out stepped a man who looked as if he should be a part of the paying crowd, not fighting in the pit. He seemed no older than thirty, but he had an air of sophistication about him. That wasn’t all, though. As Logan watched him walk to the center of the pit, there was something about the way he moved that made the hair on Logan’s arms stand on end.
“What is he?” asked Logan, his voice shaking slightly.
“Werewolf,” responded AJ and Mack together.
Logan looked back at the man. He couldn’t say for absolute certain the man in the pit was a werewolf, but there was definitely something not human about him. Then Logan remembered what he had heard earlier that day.
“Hey, wait a minute. Is he the recruit who was turned?”
“No, this is Lyle King,” explained AJ. “You’ll definitely know Insane Zane when you see him.”
Both AJ and Mack laughed.
“Sorry,” Mack apologized. “Zane Cooper was the recruit who was turned, but most of us just call him Insane Zane because he’s been crazy ever since.”
“Which is bad for anyone who comes up against him in a fight,” added AJ, “but thankfully when he’s outside the arena, he directs that crazy at someone who deserves it.”
AJ and Mack smiled mischievously.
Logan gave them a blank look. “I don’t get it.”
“You’ll see soon enough,” AJ told him, but didn’t say more as Lyle King’s opponent stepped into the pit.
This recruit was male, with muscled arms not quite as big as Deanna’s. He stepped up to Lyle, taller than the werewolf, and as a voice sounded through the speakers, they began to fight.
Logan would have thought a werewolf in human form wouldn’t have been very strong, but he was proved wrong. The recruit came at Lyle with his baton, incessant in his assault and Lyle blocked, sleek in his movements, waiting for an opportunity. When he found his opening, Lyle reversed the flow of the fight, going on the attack even more relentless than the recruit. With a punch to the face, Lyle set the recruit off balance and before he could find his feet, Lyle picked him up. He slammed the recruit into the ground with brute force.
The recruit’s head hit the ground hard and he didn’t get up.
The buzzer went. Lyle stood up from the crouch he had been in beside the recruit, who was barely moving. The ferocity left Lyle’s face and the tension faded from his body. To Logan it seemed that he had just looked very wolf-like.
Logan exhaled a shaky breath. “Was he about to change?”
AJ shrugged. “It’s possible. I know Lyle and Zane change at full moon and during the days after, but I’m not sure about other times. I haven’t gotten the chance to ask. Lyle’s a bit on the obnoxious side and not the best person to chat with. And Zane, well, you’ll see.”
Logan was getting annoyed with the ‘you’ll sees,’ but his irritation passed as a new creature entered the pit. Logan knew immediately that this one was definitely a monster. It had long, greasy, matted hair and a pale green tinge to its skin. From the stained, brown dress it wore, Logan assumed it was female and even though he couldn’t smell the creature from where he stood, he had the feeling it would reek of decay. It looked horrifying, especially with the razor sharp claws on its hands.
“Banshee,” said AJ.
Logan nodded stupidly, and after a few moments a new recruit entered the arena.
“That’s Victoria,” There was concern in AJ’s voice. “She’s good, but...”
The door closed and Victoria and the banshee were told to begin. Victoria held one of the metal batons in her hands, which seemed like a poor match for the banshee’s claws, but she darted forward and attacked without hesitation.
Victoria was good, but in the end the banshee was better. As Victoria rolled away after striking, the banshee grabbed her and raked its claws down her back. Victoria screamed, and as the buzzer sounded so did the banshee. The scream was ear splitting. Logan felt as if his eardrums were about to burst and no matter how hard he pressed his palms to his ears, he couldn’t end it.
The screaming suddenly stopped. Logan looked back to the pit to see the banshee’s mouth still open, all its black teeth on show, but no sound coming out. The banshee angrily closed its mouth. It spun around then stalked from the pit, leaving Victoria lying bleeding on the ground.
Out the corner of his eye, Logan could see AJ and Mack leaning over the railing, furiously yelling into the pit. He couldn’t tell what they were yelling, as his ears were still ringing. They weren’t the only recruits who seemed outraged, but it was only the recruits who were. The paying crowd laughed and clapped. Monocle guy looked as if he was even re-enacting the end of the fight.
Logan shook his head. He was still disgusted by the reactions of the rich people, but he knew better than to expect more from them now.
He watched as Victoria was carried from the arena on a stretcher. She lay on her stomach, barely conscious, and there was blood not only coming from her back, but also from her ears. She received the full force of the banshee’s scream.
“Do you think she’ll be okay?” Logan asked AJ and quickly shut his mouth as he was yelling.
AJ tried to smile, but it slipped from her face.
“I think she’ll be fine, but her permanent hearing may not be so good,” AJ told him at a normal level, but he could hear her better now. “That banshee played dirty, screaming after the buzzer.”
“Why didn’t our ears start bleeding?”
“There’s a magical shield between the pit and the first floor.”
Logan nodded, now understanding why Victoria was the only one who received the full blast.
He looked away from the pit, and out the corner of his eye saw the door he and the other recruits entered through swing open. He glanced towards it and watched as a girl entered, closing the door behind her. She stood out, not just because she didn’t look as old as the other recruits, but because she was wearing a pink dress, which made her look even younger.
“Who’s that?” Logan wondered out loud.
Mack was talking to one of the other recruits, but AJ saw the direction of his gaze. She snorted.
“That’s the Psychic.”
Logan concentrated on the girl. Her eyes were cast down as she crossed the floor and the fingers of her left hand were wrapped tightly around her right wrist. She moved to stand by the railing and he noticed how the recruits quickly moved out of her way. “Seriously? I expected...”
“Someone a little less sweet and innocent for someone keeping us prisoner? Don’t let that fool you.”
Logan had actually been expecting someone a little more like Gena in truth. He ignored AJ’s remark and asked the first thing that came to his mind. “Is she human?”
“Do you know how she came to be here?”
“Gerard adopted her when she was about seven, apparently. Something happened to her parents and she was in some orphanage before Gerard took her in. Rumor has it that she not only helps him to keep his collection and the recruits from escaping, but also helped him to gain his fortune.”
Logan grew confused. “How did she do that?”
AJ gave him an almost mocking smile. “She reads minds and sees visions of the future. How do you think, Logan?”
Logan was pretty sure by this point AJ didn’t like the Psychic much. Looking at it from AJ’s point of view, he could kind of see why. AJ and Mack believed the Psychic was the reason why they couldn’t leave.
As he continued to watch the Psychic covertly, Logan couldn’t find it in his heart to feel any malice towards her. She looked sad, and Logan wondered about what AJ told him. Something happened to her parents when she was younger. What? And if it were true that she helped Gerard gain his fortune, a seven year old wouldn’t have known what they were doing. Gerard would have used her abilities for his own devices. What was to say he wasn’t still using her?
The Psychic glanced up and met his eyes, a look of astonishment on her face.
Logan should have read more in the expression than he did, but in that moment only one thought occurred to him. A memory of such a similar expression on a different face flashed before him. He didn’t know what color the Psychic’s eyes were, but in his mind he pictured hazel eyes like his own, filled with surprise. A surprise that slowly faded as blood soaked the knees of his jeans.
Logan clenched his eyes shut and shook his head.
“Begin,” he heard through the speakers. Logan’s eyelids snapped open, the memory pushed back inside his mind as he looked down into the pit once more.
While he had been watching the Psychic, he missed the entrance of the new creature and recruit. As the two opponents circled, Logan looked at them closely, knowing right away which one was the recruit. He was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, unlike the creature who was dressed in a blue pinstriped suit.
Logan had no idea what kind of creature he was. He looked very normal apart from being overly dressed for a fight. His dark hair was slicked back, his black shoes were polished, and he walked very casually with his hands in his pockets, even while circling.
With a war cry, the recruit launched himself at the creature. Just before the recruit’s metal baton could strike, the creature flew up into the air as if it had wings or was attached to invisible wires.
Logan wasn’t even aware he had spoken until AJ answered.
“Liam actually has wings, but we can’t see them because he’s using glamour.”
Logan watched as Liam made his descent. “What is he? A demon? Shape-shifter?”
“Leprechaun,” answered Mack as Liam landed.
Logan yanked his eyes away from the pit to stare at Mack, mouth hanging open. “What?”
“A bit different from the stories, huh?” said Mack, smiling. “They’re actually a type of fairy, but they’re more like a pretty fairy’s ugly stepsister. They’re absolutely hideous without the glamour. But Liam’s actually not too bad a guy. At least he doesn’t eat humans like the rest of his kin.”
There was a loud ‘ahh’ from the crowd and Logan looked back to the pit, unable to find out exactly what Mack meant about Liam not eating humans like the rest of his kin.
Liam stood by one of the walls with his hands still in his pockets, while the recruit got to his feet. As Logan watched, Liam took one hand out, something round and gold between his fingers. A coin. As Liam flipped the coin into the air, Logan couldn’t look away.
He watched as the coin flipped again and again, end over end. The light caught it in different ways as it spun through the air.
Logan suddenly felt pain in his arm.
“Oww,” he yelped and he looked to find AJ draw her hand back after pinching him. “What was that for?”
“Don’t watch the coin,” she told him simply before she looked back to the fight.
Logan followed her gaze, and he now saw that Liam was halfway across the pit, flipping the coin as he walked. The recruit was still standing where he had been, as if caught in a trance.
Logan then understood that he himself had been caught in the same trance. The coin had hypnotized him.
Firmly not looking at the coin, Logan focused on Liam’s face instead and found a sly smile. Logan gasped, but it wasn’t the smile that made him do so. It was the flicker of something that passed across Liam’s face. For a second the handsome, smiling face was no longer there, but replaced by something reptilian. It was gone before Logan could really focus on it, but Logan figured that what he had seen must be what Liam actually looked like.
Logan shuddered and watched as Liam got within an arm’s distance of the recruit, still flipping his coin. The leprechaun’s smile broadened and he slowly leaned forward. As he did, the recruit lashed out with his baton and hit Liam squarely on the temple.
The recruit hadn’t been hypnotized, after all. He was simply pretending.
Liam staggered. He fell to one knee and his glamour rippled once more to reveal what was really underneath for an instant. The leprechaun steadied and so did his glamour, but before he could get to his feet, the recruit was on him. Liam slammed into the floor of the pit, the recruit’s knees digging into his back as he pinned Liam to the ground.
The buzzer sounded, and both recruit and leprechaun got to their feet. As Liam started to brush off the front of his suit, which was covered in dirt, they were both laughing and smiling. They shook each other’s hand then left the pit.
“How could he possibly be a leprechaun?” Logan was unable to comprehend what he just saw with what he had grown up thinking.
“Liam says the whole leprechaun myth has been twisted and changed over the years,” AJ told him. “As Mack said, they’re a type of fairy, but they’re more lizard-like, which you may have caught a glimpse of. They use their glamour to hide their real appearance, and to lure unsuspecting humans to their death. They’re mostly found in Ireland, and the whole rainbow and pot of gold thing is all true, but leprechauns do the rainbow and pot of gold just so humans will try to find it and they can be there waiting to eat them.”
“So, you’re saying that leprechauns aren’t little men dressed in green, but cannibalistic fairies?” To his ears it sounded absolutely ridiculous, but Logan couldn’t deny what he just witnessed.
AJ and Mack gave no response. Their attention was focused on the pit, and it was then that Logan noticed the chatter of the crowd had taken on a heightened edge of excitement. He looked back down into the pit just as the door opened once more. As it did, he felt his heart stop for a moment.
Out walked an angel. A fiery angel. Her auburn hair hung thick and wavy down her back. As Logan stared, completely captivated by the exquisite creature, he felt something hot and intense slam through him.
“Wow,” he breathed. Attraction beyond rational belief pulsed through him for the woman in the pit.
AJ, hearing his comment, laughed. “That’s Pepper.”
Logan wrenched his eyes away from the woman and looked at AJ. “Pepper?”
“Yep, that’s what they call her. To you she may look like a goddess, but she’s a vampire. You don’t ever want to come up against her. All of her opponents end up in the infirmary.”
Logan swallowed deeply and remembered his conversation with Harvey only a few days before. It felt like a lifetime had passed between then and now, but Logan remembered their discussion about the only vampire in the collection. They had been discussing the beautiful woman who now stood in the pit before him, but it was hard to connect the two. At the time, Logan was playing along with the hoax and not thinking overly much about the actual vampire. But now, with her in front of him, Logan wondered how he could have spoken about her so casually. How could anyone not be affected by her, even without knowing who she was?
Logan’s eye was caught by a flash of pink across the other side of the floor and he glanced up to see the Psychic. They met eyes for the first time since they had made eye contact before, but this time her face wasn’t filled with astonishment. It was filled with humor. Logan thought he knew why: she must have read his thoughts.
Logan buried his face in his hands as his cheeks flamed.
Great. Just great, he thought. I’ve just gone and got all smitten for a vampire and someone else knows about it. Oh, and I’m sure she heard that as well.
Logan peeked up from his hands, but the Psychic was looking down into the pit. She did, however, have a huge smile on her face. Logan’s cheeks grew hotter. He quickly looked away from the Psychic, back down into the pit and his pulse raced as his eyes caught on Pepper once more.
Her opponent was already facing her, and Logan saw it was the recruit who warned him about AJ and Mack. Logan began to worry, which was stupid, because Pepper was a vampire, but he couldn’t help it. He soon understood he didn’t have to.
The recruit came at Pepper with a series of movements and she easily blocked each of his strikes. When he did manage to get past her defense, she threw herself to the side, resembling a swimmer performing a sideways dive. When her hands met the ground, one of Pepper’s elbows bent. She landed on her shoulder and in a move worthy of a break dancer, Pepper rolled on her back to the other shoulder. She flipped upright, into a crouched position, and bared her teeth as she hissed.
Logan’s breath caught, and he took a slight step back from the railing. He knew she was a vampire, but he hadn’t expected this. He hadn’t expected her to look so wild and frightening. She looked capable of killing a person - of killing him.
As Pepper and the recruit began to circle once more, Logan stepped back up to the railing. The recruit attacked first again and like before Pepper blocked his assault, but this time she didn’t dive to the side when he managed to get past her defense. Pepper grabbed his arm as it darted towards her face and used his momentum to flip him over her body. She didn’t let go as the recruit hit the ground and in the silence that filled the arena, Logan heard a loud crack. A beat later, the recruit began to scream.
Logan couldn’t work out what had happened. He was about to ask, when the crowd erupted into raucous cheers. The roar was deafening, but it wasn’t loud enough to drown out the agonized screams from below. As Logan concentrated on the recruit, he suddenly understood. “She broke his arm.”
AJ gave him a smile. “You wouldn’t expect her to break her record of sending opponents to the infirmary, would you?”
Logan didn’t answer. He looked back into the pit, but Pepper was gone. When he looked up, he saw that the Psychic had also left.
“How did you enjoy your first Fight Night?” asked Mack as the recruits on the third level began to leave the arena.
“It was...” Logan began, but couldn’t say any more. He really didn’t know what to say.
© 2012 Jade Fowler