Dark Light
Years of training couldn’t have prepared him for what he would have to face, but he knew that it was time for the show to begin.

The doors were closed. I was alone, surrounded by four white walls. My mind ran all sorts of predictions…I had to stop thinking—breath, relax. The shouting grew larger. My turn was up. Pressing my hands against each other I tried to pray. No one could save me from the mess I chose.

The doors opened and a thin man walked in. “They are waiting for you,” he said, then approached me and checked my gloves. “You got this.”

I tried to imagine my opponent but I knew it was useless. A sudden pull on the glove laces made me look down. Not even the pressure on my wrist helped me ignore the energy that surrounded the place. I could sense a stalking animal on the prowl.

I stood up confidently. After all the years of training I knew my time had come. It was just yesterday when I was another spectator to the ring. Back then it looked insignificant, but now, it was terrifying. Regardless, I tried to walk without fear towards the door.

Outside my room, at the end of the hall, large doors opened. The coliseum light shone in, and I felt the intense noise from the crowd. I couldn’t remember it ever being so loud, crashing against my body. After stepping through the doors I saw the ring shining in the middle of it all.

Every step got me closer to it. There, a taller and stronger man waited for me. Fear ran through my body until it became too hard to swallow. His eyes focused on me. I had to get closer to appreciate his true size. I shouldn’t think about that.

He glowed with light bouncing off his bald head. His hands were twice as big as mine, and his arms were thick and full of muscles. I had to look down, his eyes were too menacing. I felt as if he was inspecting my every move—I couldn’t be sure.

After a man checked my gloves, I was invited into the ring. A referee wearing a black suit stood between me and my opponent, then invited us to join him in the middle of the ring.

My opponent walked towards me, with every step he became taller…I looked from side to side for a way out. I could have escaped. Instead, I stretched my arms to touch his gloves… waiting for a friendly salute. Instead, I felt the weight of his heavy hand fall on top of mine, pushing them downwards. The strength of my opponent frightened me.

I was finished. But my only way out of this mess was through him. I closed my eyes and focused on the positive. That was the only thing I had left—my agility could be enough to surpass this challenge. The bell rang. Keep moving, dodging his attacks, nothing was impossible.

His first punch knocked my lights off. I felt a deep void surrounding me, while my body fell to the ground. Six, five, four… I pushed myself off the ground as soon as I regained consciousness.

I had trouble finding my balance while the referee talked to me, but his words couldn’t reach me. He took a step back and invited my opponent to continue. I saw him rushing towards me…there was nothing left to do, I raised my guard and protected my head from his blow. This time, I felt my own glove crashing against my face.

Once again, I was on the floor—somehow, it felt easier to stand up. I had to avoid his blows at any cost, dodging was my only option. His gloves came closer to hitting me with every attack.

After a while, I found an opportunity. The opening I had dreamed for. I aimed for his jaw and used all of my strength…to my surprise the man fell to the ground.

Silence. The referee looked at me with disappointment, the lights deem down, and a door opened at the edge of the coliseum.

Two flares exploded on either side of the door. Another opponent walked out. The crowd yelled in excitement. The man walked confidently with a black robe covering his body. After casually walking towards the ring, he entered without assistance and dropped the robe to the ground.

Fiction came to mind when I noticed that his skin was pierced by outward bones. Eventually, its entire body turned into the carcass of an insect…his face no longer looked human. The creature’s mouth opened in four different directions.

The referee walked towards the center of the ring and gave us a sign to continue…turned back and ran away.

The creature looked at me. It’s hands were no longer covered by red gloves—it’s sharp claws moved as it approached me.

Looking down I noticed that my gloves had disappeared…I was now holding a dull, old and rusty iron sword and a small wooden shield. When I looked up everything had changed.

I was standing in the large arena of a stadium. The place was filled with fighters and creatures attacking them. I couldn’t believe how large it was, it has space for all of us. Immediately, I remembered the creature stalking and turned to see it running towards me on its four legs.

I raised my weapons, thinking I was ready for anything. The creature attacked. I jumped to the side and struck its leg with my sword. Surprisingly, my sword proved useless against the hard skin of its body. The impact made me lose grip of my weapon, and pain ran up my arm. I fell on top of the shield and spun to stand up again.

The creature’s leg didn’t even have a scratch—it’s skin was tougher than my sword. I had no tools against it. The creature was covered with sharp spikes…I looked down and saw the skin of my hands. Any wound could be the end of me.

The creature turned and looked at me. This time, it emitted a loud screech before charging…as soon as it was closed enough it jumped. I threw myself towards the sword… trying to reach the ground to avoid the attack. I could almost feel its claw grazing my body—I grabbed my sword before standing up.

I looked for an exit. The circular wall surrounding the arena was too high to climb with the creature behind me, there were no open doors…I faced the creature. All my years of training didn’t prepare me for this.

The creature approached and I raised my weapons. I had to survive. I had to fight. Stay alive for as long as possible. I tried to stop his leg attack with my sword but its strength threw me backwards.

“Behind you,” I understood the message clearly, even though it came in a different language. Another creature charged towards me…but time stopped. I moved normally but everything else was frozen.

The man. He lived in a different relative time. I walked towards him…while the creatures moved in slow motion. His katana irradiated with a blue energy and looked forged by an artisan blacksmith.

I approached him and bowed. “Thank you,” was all that I was able to say before turning to continue with the fight. Knowing that I would grow old in the arena…knowing that I was no longer alone.

Welcome to the ring!
—Haruki Murakami
Shokugyō to shite no shōsetsuka

Inspired by What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

  1. There is deep meaning within this story and only the writer knows what the arena represents in his mind and it may symbolize multiple situations. But he is forced into the arena he cannot escape by the “mess I chose.” For many of us, we must face the consequences of our choices. It is sad that the fighter feels there is no way out and he will be dealing with it into old age and he cannot walk away, but such is the world today. He mentions the other fighter’s katana which is a samurai sword and the writer says it is blue energy. In Japanese culture, blue represents purity calmness and stability which is necessary in a place of conflict such as an arena. I am glad the protagonist has someone with his back that can make time slow down and give him breathing room. Samurai operate by the Bushido code of justice, courage, benevolence, politeness, honesty and sincerity, honor, loyalty, self-control – a worthy code indeed. And there are many fighters within the arena indicating that his fight is part of a larger movement against the creatures which can be human or a frightening spiritual being. A beautifully written short story.

  2. Love it . The fight will always continue but knowing that the fighter is not alone gives strength and nourishes courage . Even if defeat or even death is what he encounters , it wont have a bitter taste . Well this is what I have felt from this story 🙂 by the way thank you for supporting me 🙂

  3. I love the way you are able to blend in the fantasy element in a story. It is quite effortless. Yet, the initial thrill of the read just seeped out of me the moment it became a fantasy.

    Sebastian! I’m aware that most of your followers worship you for your fantasy writing but this reader requests you to write contemporary stories as well.

    The build up of the story was super gratifying. Absolutely loved the image used by you. It’s spot on!

  4. Murakami is one of my favourite Japanese authors. I thought the transition between two worlds could’ve have been illustrated a bit more. Otherwise, it’s an interesting one.

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