The Late Night Knife Fight
by thadd presley
Victor stood in the dimly lit alley, his heart pounding with anticipation. The air was heavy with tension as a man had just demanded money. Slowly Victor turned and saw the menacing grin grow across the face of a very fat man. There were thick patches of scars crossed his chest and neck. A single flickering streetlamp cast deforming shadows across the muggers lumpy face. The strobe effect adding another level of danger to the ambush.
The sweaty flesh was lumpy with cancerous lesions and bacteria filled boils, a grotesque sight at anytime, in any place, but here in a dark alleyway, during the middle of the night, it meant that Victor was in more danger than just being robbed and killed. Even a light misting or splatter of blood meant a infection. The strongest antibiotic wouldn’t be enough to kill the bacteria. There was a very smaller chance that the virus would mature and develop into cancer, but coming into contact with the man’s blood would guarantee a long, painful decline into the crushing mouth of infection and disease.
Victor measured the distance betweent them. Eight feet was close enough to demand money, but not close enough to take it. He could outrun the threat. Maybe. But, it would leave this scum to target and steal from someone else. And worse, even.
Victor tightened his grip on the handle of the curved blade, feeling its familiar weight and balance. Then, he loosened his grip. He swung the cold steel out in an arc, making sure the man could see it. He half expected the man to give up, considering his weight and miserable state of health, but the grin widened across the man’s face and opened into a wide gaping, toothless maw.
With a sudden burst of energy, the fat man lunged forward. The speed of the double-edged short sword came from the need to surprise and the painful anger of desperation.
Victor swiftly sidestepped the attack, his reflexes honed by countless battles. He countered the wild stab with a swift double slash, aiming first for the wrist, then for the soft skin just below the man’s ribs.
In a moment of shuttering disbelief, their blades clashed, the clang of metal on metal echoing through the alleyway and reverberated in Victor’s bones. The sudden halt of his swinging arm made everything clear. The fat man could not be under estimated. He was fast and he was strong. Adrenaline rush into his blood, coursing through his veins like rocket fuel, drowning out everything except the fat man, heightening his senses and sharpening his focus to a level unknown to most people.
The following attacks turned the alley into a battleground of swirling shadows and slashing steel. The mugger out matched victor in brute strength. It was evident that if not for technique and skill he would already be wounded or dead. But, because of his practice and agility, he was able to time his strikes with precision, exploiting the man’s soft belly and hanging side rolls.
Victor noticed the fat man’s pacing and patterns slowed. As he lost his breath and strength his attacks grew more wild and erratic. Pain and desperation still motivated him. Victor knew he was very dangerous and to stay alive and unharmed he must force his mind to be clear and focused. He had to anticipate each jab and swing of the blade. While trying to only dodge and not parrying because a little slip could slide and cut his thumb or arm.
The chance of catching his disease from the fat man was probably enough to scare anyone from wanting to fight. Resisting him meant infection and infection in this place meant a painful death.. But, this was not the case for Victor. Knowing the man would target others only made him want to defend himself more. It made him faster and smarter than the fat man.
With a final surge of strength, Victor seized an opening. He swiftly disarmed the man, sending his blade clattering to the ground. The man stumbled backward, his eyes wide with disbelief and defeat.
Victor stood tall, his chest heaving with exertion. He looked into the man’s eyes, a mix of pity and triumph in his gaze. He had won the fight, but it was not over.
There was no joy in victory anymore. The violence had taken its toll.
Victor’s blade found its final mark, opening a deep, bright-red gash under the man’s chin. Blood squirted and spewed like a liquid arrow directly toward Victor’s face, but by some miracle of muscle memory he managed to twist clear of the fountain.
First, he heard it and then he saw the blood pattering the ground. The fat man held his neck and turned from side to side, painting the final picture of his life. Death’s red graffiti bloomed and ran in jagged lines through the cracks of the filthy asphalt at the end of a stinking alleyway. A fitting masterpiece that perfectly described the brutal finality of their struggle.
As the first rays of dawn began to break through the darkness, Victor turned away from his fallen opponent. He knew that his nightmares were far from over, that more battles awaited him in the shadows of nearer the heart of the city.
With a heavy heart, Victor disappeared into the early morning mist, his steps echoing the weight of his choices. The knife fight had come to an end, but the red painting would forever remain in his mind as a reminder of the price for desperation and fear.