113: Against The Wall

on December 7, 2007 in 04: The Body Politick

In Which Masonry Is Sorely Abused

You ever play one of those fighting games where there’s always the one guy who’s like seventeen tons of walking muscle, and if he manages to hit you it does massive damage but it’s laughably easy to avoid his attacks because they move so slowly?

That’s almost exactly what getting suckerpunched by a fucking ogre isn’t like.

What is it like? More like one of those spring-loaded gauntlets you see in slapstick shows. Only, less funny.

Of course, technically, Belinda may have only been half-ogre, but she identified herself as an ogre… and after getting hammered upside the skull out of nowhere I was willing to grant her that point.

Not only are ogres far from slow, they’re also not slow-witted… not when it comes to fighting, and especially in their favorite style: dirty. Belinda must have been watching me for days, planning this so I’d be alone and she wouldn’t be interrupted.

She caught me in the hallway just after I left my logic class, with my head still full of shifting spell sequences and half-formed plans. She simply stepped out of the darkened doorway of one disused classroom and decked me, half-carrying, half-pushing me into the room across the hall in the process and shutting the door.

I didn’t process all of that at once, of course. I only put it together after I finished pondering the question of how my skull could be in one piece after I’d distinctly felt my head exploding in a massive fireball of pain.

It was Belinda’s voice which started to bring me out of the daze brought on by the combination of pain, jarring physical displacement, and the dark room I found myself in.

“I told you I was going to get you,” she said. Her breath, hot and oddly sweet, was right in my face. Her face was on a level with mine… not because she was stooping but because she had me pinned with one stubby-fingered hand against the wall. Her face–which kind of looked like a boulder had a child with one of those really ugly, pudgy-faced baby dolls–was uncomfortably close to mine. Though, of course, I couldn’t actually see it that well. Because the room was dark. “You should have listened. You should have been ready. Did you think I was bluffing?”

“I’ve… uh… had other stuff on my mind,” I said, a little apologetically. “Sorry.”

I actually meant that to be mollifying, somehow. Yeah. It wasn’t my best idea, but then, I’d just been suckerpunched by a fucking ogre.

“You watch your fucking mouth!” she said, grabbing my shoulders with both hands and shaking me with considerable violence… though considerably less violence than hitting me would have involved, for which I was grateful. “All through high school I had to put up with shit from people like you, and I’m sick of it. This is my time.”

She got shit from people like me? What school did she go to, and why wasn’t I allowed to go there?

“Don’t look at me like that!” she said, slamming me back against the wall. I guess my incredulity must have showed. “You know what I’m talking about… I know your type. You were one of the smart kids, too good to talk to anybody else… always talking shit about the jocks and laughing when you don’t think they can hear you… acting so damned superior when you have to tutor someone. Well, who’s laughing now, smart kid?”

“Um… is it you?” I asked, and was rewarded with another punch in the face. If it hadn’t been for the wall behind me, I would’ve hit the floor. Instead, I slammed against the wall. That was so much better. She let go of me and I fell heavily to the floor.

It sure wasn’t the knowledge that she could hit me as hard as she wanted as often as she wanted without killing me that made me brave, because honestly, that’s not much of an encouragement to keep mouthing off.

So why the hell didn’t I shut up?

“No, I’m serious,” I said shakily, as I picked myself up. It was like something had turned on… or been turned off… inside me… and I no longer cared what she did to me. “Is it you? Are you… are you laughing? Is this actually funny to you?”

“You bet your ass it’s not!” Belinda raged.

“Then who is laughing?” I asked, and got a vicious backhand for my trouble.

“Nobody!” Belinda bellowed. “That’s who!”

“Then why are you doing it?” I asked, getting up again.

“Because you’ve got it coming,” Belinda said. “I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks!”

“You must be terribly disappointed,” I said. “Because you don’t look like you’re having a very good time.”

“Yeah?” she sneered. “I’ll have a good time with you after I’ve taught you some respect. Yeah. Everybody else gets a piece, why not me?”

“Oh, so, are you going to rape me, Belinda?” I goaded. She hadn’t hit me the last two times and I seemed to be gaining some kind of weird momentum. Maybe the repeated blows to the head had done some damage, somehow… the situation might not have been funny, but my condition was starting to verge on hysteria. “Why not? That seems to be the number one solution for all life’s petty complaints. High school sucked? Shitty childhood? Go ahead and have one, on me!”

“You think I won’t?” Belinda asked, her voice cracking weirdly. Why did people keep asking me this?

“I think you’ll do whatever the fuck you please!” I said. “Why not? You’re Belinda, the hot shit warrior jock! Or you were in high school. Biggest and baddest on the team, I bet, right?”

“Damn straight I was!” she said.

“Damn straight you were!” I echoed. “But now you’ve come to a major university. You’re not the only half-ogre here. You’re not the only monster player. Worse, there’s probably human fighters from bigger high schools, with better budgets and better training programs, showing you up.”

“You shut your filthy cock hole,” Belinda screeched.

“You were the big boss of a little dungeon,” I said. The whole thing was a scenario I probably would have had no clue about if it had never been used as background plot material on TV shows and in novels, but from what I understood, it was one of those rare clichés that only get to be a cliché because they happen in real life. It was like the tale Steff had spun about failing a class and losing my scholarship: it could happen. You never think it’ll be you, but nobody’s immune. “Now you’re just another freshman player filling out the roster and now you’re going to beat on me until you feel better about it, aren’t you?”

Fuckyou!” Belinda screamed in response, bent down to bellow directly in my face. “You’re nothing! You got that? Nothing!”

Then what the fuck are we even doing here?” I screamed, right back at her and twice as loud.

“I’ll fucking kill you!” Belinda screamed. “Do you understand that, you bug-eyed little freak? Do you fucking comprehend it?”

“I comprehend just fine,” I said. “I just don’t care. You hear me? I am past caring. Ever since I got here, people have been slapping me around… I woke up the first day and my roommate was ‘ha-ha, just pretend’-ing to murder me in my sleep! Fucking Mariel slaps me around! I am sick and fucking tired of everybody thinking they can solve their problems by beating on me! Or on anybody else! When the hell exactly did violence become the first resort?”

Belinda was beyond taken aback.

“You want to hit me? Hit me!” I yelled. “Beat me! Rape me! Kill me, if you want to! Who knows? You might get a fucking medal for it! And when you’re done, your sadlittle… life will be just as sad and just as little, and the only thing that will be different is you’ll have nobody left to blame for it. So, come on… come on!”

My pulse was pounding in my ears and my breath was coming hot and ragged, like I’d just run a marathon… or maybe a sprint, if that actually gets you worked up more. I don’t know. I could see it working either way. What do I know about running?

“You’re fucked, Blaise,” Belinda said, shaking her head in disbelief. “You are seriously fucked in the head.”

“Probably!” I agreed. “What are you going to do about it?”

“I told you what I’m going to do… I’m going to pound you,” Belinda said.

“Yeah? You said you were going to kill me,” I reminded her.

“I will!” she said.

“Go ahead,” I said.

She didn’t.

“I’m not afraid of you,” she insisted.

“I know you’re not,” I said. “I wish you were, but you’re too stupid to be. The real problem is that you think it won’t mean anything if I don’t fight back… you’re right, actually, but it still won’t mean anything even if I do.”

“I’ll kick the shit right out of you either way,” Belinda said defiantly.

“But you want me to fight back,” I said.

“It’s more fun that way,” she sneered.

“We already established this isn’t about ‘fun’… but you want me to fight back? I’ll fight back,” I said. “But… we’re doing it my way. Civilized.”

“A civilized fight?” Belinda asked. “No such thing.”

“Sure there is,” I said. “We’ll take turns. You hit me as hard as you can, and then I’ll hit you, and so on. Got it?”

“You got a fucking death wish,” Belinda said.

“That would explain a lot,” I said. “Are you in?”

She answered with her fist. It was somehow lacking in comparison to the previous ones. I know she wasn’t holding back on purpose, but I think she’d already put a lot of what she had into those earlier blows. Also, she might have been more than a little unnerved already.

I was hoping so. She’d have to be, if what I had planned was going to work. If not, I’d have no real choice but to mess her up, badly.

Also, I’d have to let her hit me again.

“Alright, runt,” she said when I got back to my feet. “Your turn.” She grinned a smug, toothy grin. “I’ll even be nice and let you actually take it.”

“That’s good of you,” I said. I raised one skinny arm, balled up a tiny fist, drew back my elbow… and then lashed out blindly to my side, knocking a big chunk of cinder block out of the wall amid a shower of plaster and dust.

Incidentally, that hurt quite a bit more than her punch had. My scream of pain sounded pretty primal, though. I think it might have passed for rage.

“What the fuck?” Belinda asked, her eyes wide and her mouth hanging open. She was staring at the crater my wild blow had gouged out of the wall.

“I missed,” I said, giving a lopsided grin, and resisting the urge to cradle my injured-feeling hand. “Not much of a fighter. Well… next time. C’mon, your turn.”

“Fuck this,” she said.

“It’s your turn,” I said. “Hurry up, I really want to try again.”

“Fuck this,” she repeated. “You’re using magic.”

“No magic,” I said, shaking my head. “Just me.” I bent down and picked up the chunk of brick, then crumbled it in my hands. I didn’t really want to do it… I knew I was doubling the work of whoever would have to put it back together… but I didn’t know how else to get the point across to Belinda that I could really hurt her, without really hurting her.

“This is what I am, Belinda,” I said, letting the pieces fall from my fingers. “You can beat on me all you want, but you can’t beat me, because the moment I fight back, you’ll look like that,” I said, pointing at the hole in the wall.

“You’re fucked in the head,” she said again, in a choked voice.

“Probably,” I said, once more. “What are you going to do about it?”

There was a moment when she might have launched herself at me with total abandon. I saw it on her face. She might have decided to hell with it, I was still a scrawny nerd no matter what tricks I might pull. If she did… well, I’d have to lash out, and quickly. I’d been learning–slowly but well, as Amaranth would say–that I wasn’t a fighter. If I hesitated, she’d be all over me, and she’d win. She couldn’t hurt me, but she could incapacitate me… and then do whatever she wanted.

I took a step towards her, squaring off my shoulders and lifted my hands.

The moment passed.

“Fuck this,” she said one more time. “You didn’t win.”

Then she was gone, the same powerful stride she’d used to ambush me carrying her out the door like a ballista bolt.

I can’t imagine what our “conversation” had sounded like to those out the room, but I had to believe it had been audible. Even with the identity and racial heritage of the participants unknown, it wasn’t all that surprising that nobody was in too big a hurry to investigate.

I sat down on the floor, not even bothering to stagger over to a chair. Also, the room was still dark, and I’d done enough damage to it for one day.

I’d only meant to catch my breath, but as the rush of excitement and imminent danger passed, pain seemed to seep back into my body and the floor seemed more and more to be the place to be. It was mostly in my head and arm but also in my back, shoulders, and one ankle, which I’d landed on when Belinda dropped me.

I’d won. No matter what she said, I’d won. I’d avoided violence, and still won. I’d yelled and lost my temper… and I would have to, as Dee had put it, “make an act of contrition” for that… but Amaranth could be proud of me for not having hurt anybody. I could be proud of myself.

I was laughing, even though the situation had not got one tiny bit funnier, when the door opened and a light came on.

“Just what’s going on in here?” a man asked. He was dressed relatively casually, in jeans and a polo shirt, though he was more than a bit old for a student, with noticeably salt-and-pepper streaks in his temple. Also, I couldn’t see a student opening with that line.

Well, it was getting a bit late in the day. He could be a teacher who’d been done with classes for a while… or maybe some departments had casual Fridays. I didn’t know.

“A couple people were fighting in here,” I said, truthfully, getting to my feet. “One of them knocked a chunk out of the wall.”

“And you just stood there and watched?”

“No, sir,” I said. I didn’t know the man or what his position was, so I decided to play it safe and respectful. “I tried to stop it.”

“These students today… and will you look at that,” he said, going over to examine the hole I’d knocked in the wall. He shook his head and clucked. “What were they fighting with, bolts of force? Still… not even worth bothering maintenance with. Not on a Friday, anyway. Not worth the headache.”

He waggled his fingers over the broken pieces. Their uneven surfaces began to glisten and then became smooth and round as they turned to beads of liquid, which then flowed together into a single, thick puddle. The hole in the wall drew the viscous liquid to it like a lodestone, and then the wall was solid. He made a similar attempt to draw the plaster back together, which failed and backfired in a cloud of white dust and particulate shrapnel uncomfortably close to his face.

“Don’t you have some place to be?” he demanded of me suddenly.

“Uh, yeah,” I said. “Um… do you want me to send for…”

“I think I can handle a little patch job!” he said indignantly, and I took my cue to leave. Not wanting to garner any more attention, I made an effort to walk normally until I was out of his sight, though my ankle didn’t want to support my weight. I could bear it, though. I knew what a real broken ankle felt like.

This was just a cheap knock-off. I could handle it.

After Ariadne and Belinda, I could handle anything.

Just… not right that moment… preferably.

Ow.

Ow.

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7 Responses to “113: Against The Wall”

  1. Donous says:

    that felt good to read.

    Current score: 7
  2. BMeph says:

    Ooh, “Professor Chekhov”?

    …I love his guns. ;þ
    (Bah-dum-PUM!)

    Current score: 2
  3. Adam Barnes says:

    BMeph…. I know a good program for TV tropes addicts, if you need it 😛

    Current score: 1
  4. pedestrian says:

    Our Mack learning how to fight smart. Alexandra can take pride in how far her character has developed.

    Current score: 2
  5. Maesenko says:

    There’s that spine I was waiting for Mackenzie to grow!

    As Donous said, this really felt good to read.

    Current score: 2
    • MackSffrs says:

      That spine is growing so deliciously slow 😀
      (oh wait that’s pretty morbid isn’t it?)

      Current score: 0
  6. Ryzndmon says:

    If you see Prof. Chekov repairing a wall in the first act, he should be fired before the final act.

    I hope his teaching aid isn’t a fencer named Sulu…

    Current score: 3