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Suspense

I breathe in the cold night air and close my eyes. For a second I consider just walking away. Then I brace myself, step out of the shadows and onto the field. No sense in delaying the inevitable. The stands are empty, there is not a soul in sight.

"We don't have to do this, you know," I yell out, loud enough for my voice to carry into the far corners of the stadium. "You could just walk away." A few moments go by without anything happening. I already hope that she won't show when I hear her footsteps behind me. I slowly turn around, showing my empty hands.  She stops just a few meters away from me, ready to pounce. I look her up and down, she’s a skinny thing, dressed all in black, a long knife already unsheathed and in her right hand. She exudes purpose and determination.  I’m guessing my chances of changing her mind are slim to none, you don’t put on this kind of outfit if you’re coming to talk. But you’ll never know unless you try.

I smile. I try to put some warmth into my voice. “Hello, kid.” She takes another step towards me, I don’t flinch. I keep my shoulders down, my posture relaxed. I look at her as if we were meeting in a cafe for a chat instead of a baseball field in the middle of the night for a dance of death. “I’ve got to give respect where it’s due, I can’t have been easy to find.” A few more steps, then she hesitates. “Where’s your blade?” she asks. “Didn’t bring one,” I answer. “Liar!” she hisses. I shrug. “Suppose I can’t blame you for not believing me, given my reputation.” She says nothing, but she isn’t advancing either. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but I can see a hint of uncertainty in her eyes, so I keep talking. “Look at me.” I say, “really look at me. Do I look like the man you’ve heard of? I didn’t come here to fight you. I…” I sighed, “I want to make peace.” “You don’t deserve peace.” Her voice is raspy and harsh, full of barely suppressed hate. Whatever made her come for me, I’m beginning to think it's personal. Taking a second look at her, her face does seem vaguely familiar.  “You’re right, I don’t deserve shit, but life ain’t fair. So here’s me hoping that I don’t get what’s coming to me.”

Suddenly, her eyes turn back to steel. I’m still trying to figure out what I did wrong, but she is already dashing towards me. “Wait” I scream. “Just wait.” Her knife comes at me in a flash of steel, changes direction wickedly fast as her feint turns into an actual blow. I barely manage to spin out of the way, push her past me and get some distance back between us. I can see blood on her blade. When I put my hand to my side, it comes back sticky and warm. Guess I don’t dodge as fast as I used to anymore.

“Listen to me, just listen to me” I yell, “I get it, or maybe I don’t. I did something bad, something to someone close to you. You grew up angry and I was the demon you saw in your nightmares. Am I in the right ballpark?” I was hoping I had hit a nerve. At least she wasn’t coming right back at me again. “This didn’t turn out as you expected, did it?” my hand was shaking, I pressed it into my side to keep it still. “Look, I know what you’re thinking. You’re not gonna let me get inside your head, gonna just push through it. But trust me, it ain’t worth it.” The pain from the cut to my side was beginning to register now. “I’m your first kill, ain’t I? I’m your last test, to see if you’ve got the balls for the job. I know you think this is what you want, but it ain’t. All that shit people say about a dark path. The things your teachers told you are just excuses for the weak… you know… it’s not an excuse, it’s real. You do this and you’ll be cursed. They’ll own you and by the time you realize that they do, you’ll be so far gone you won’t even care or know anything else.” I shut up for a second, wondering what else I could possibly say. So, we just stand quietly across from each other, puffs of condensation wafting away in the cold air.

“You did come unarmed,” she finally says. I nod, hoping against all odds. “The man I’ve come for never abandoned his blade.” I had been lying about that, there was a stiletto strapped to my forearm, but I didn’t see how divulging that would be particularly helpful right now. I pretend to wipe some of the blood off my hand, a casual gesture, hiding a little sleight of hand to unlatch the stiletto sheath. If she came at me again I could lower my arm and the blade would drop straight into my hand. I had been honest about everything else though. I did not want this for her or me, she deserved better. But I wasn’t about to get stuck like a pig by some nameless novice either.

For an instant, I could see her mind on a knife's edge, ready to fall either way. Life or death. Her anger, as well as her doubt, were written across her face, plain as could be. We linger for a few more seconds, then her fighting stance relaxes. She rams her blade back into its sheath, spits at my feet, turns around, and slowly walks away.

Relief washes over me. I sit down on the field, watch her leave, and wait a few more minutes for good measure, giving her all the time in the world to disappear. Now that the adrenaline is wearing off, the cut on my side begins to sting something fierce. I have no idea how I managed to talk her down. Maybe she had just considered me too pathetic to be her first kill or she was smarter than she looked and had figured I wasn’t as defenseless as I seemed. Some insane part of me hopes I got through to her though, that she would use the skills she had used to find me and just disappear from the face of the earth. Either way, it was time to get moving. Get stitched up, get my essentials, and disappear. I wasn’t going to wait around for her to change her mind.

March 06, 2022 10:52

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