Some things are more important than death.
The warm blood of my enemy drips from my fingertips to congeal in the hot sands around me as I affix my enemies head onto my spear. Kind and compassionate men didn’t find themselves in the arena. This was a place of which champions were made up of men who all had been tried and convicted for murder by the courts of the world federation. No-one ended up here by accident.
Many of the soft civilians called us wicked, immoral, and even evil. They were probably right. But those critics had never heard of me. Not until this very moment when I had taken the head of the arena’s champion had anyone taken me seriously. I had said when interviewed that I would take the head of the champion my very first fight. They had laughed then. I laugh maniacally now as the copper scent of blood fills my flaring nostrils. I grasp the rough wooden spear tightly in my sweating palm and turn as if to made each spectator look in the eyes of my victim. The man they had told me I had to kill.
I screamed violently at the crowd again, “Am I not the monster you paid to see?” Many flinched at my statement hearing it the second time. Most didn’t know whether to look away or watch the show and thus some strange combination of the two resulted in which they switched off from hiding their face in their hands and peering out from behind them. Weak, the lot of them. They all know that with this statement I commit myself to the grave yet many are too afraid to look at me. Many scream out insults or questions. To become champion of the arena was to secure oneself prestige and luxury. ‘Why would you throw it all away?!’ They scream.
To do anything with your opponent’s body after the fight was over was considered sacrilege and went against the teachings of ‘honorable combat’ that they had taught us when we were first brought to this hell on the surface. I snorted to myself as I thought about what ‘honorable’ meant to these lying, backstabbing bastards. To do what I had just done was a guaranteed death sentence as sure as the fact that all men must die.
Some things are more important than death.
A cold voice laughed mockingly from the top booth high above and behind me. Spinning around so as to find the source of the laughter I saw that one of the magistrates had come to the show to observe. A fat man with a powdered wig and a ludicrously intricate outfit of vibrant colors, he looked like a great fat parrot. He squawked like one too as he continued to belt out that cold mocking laughter.
He called down at me sounding to all his spectators like a caring lord but I could hear the mockery: “Oh brave Cassius why do you take our champion and then commit yourself to the grave right after?!”
The bastard was actually using me to improve the ratings of his town’s arena show. The city of Acheron had for a long time been lagging behind in ratings compared to the other major city’s arenas. The magistrates could care less if one person or one thousand died, so long as there city did well on ratings and everyone obeyed the unjust laws that they purported.
I raise my left hand to wipe sweat away from my brow and leave a streak of blood in its place. Frowning slightly at the warm trickle dripping over my eyebrow, I paused dramatically before answering. They wanted a show? Fine, I would give them a show they would never forget.
Hefting the spear into my other hand caused the head of the former champion to roll over grotesquely-but I had only eyes for the magistrate.
“You have led the people of Acheron to become bloated carrion feeding on moral decay.” Many of the spectators laugh at this. What big, fancy words for a killer they whisper and laugh to each other. My voice breaks as I spit blood out of my mouth accompanied by a prophecy: “Your rule comes to a close with my death.”
A silence more ominous than a swinging sword follows these words.
The magistrate leaned his considerable bulk against the railing and looked at me differently. Appraising me as a farmer who is sad to slaughter a prized pig who had done well at market. “You will be executed in two weeks time for this ultimate crime of dishonor.” He declares to the crowd trying to sound sad. In truth he is excited and happy I caused so much trouble for him. My stunt would probably make this show’s ratings and views skyrocket and place this month as one of the most popular.
My next act would ensure it would become the most watched show of all time. I slowly grasp the hair of the former champion and with a soft slurping sound, pull the head off the end of the spear. The magistrate, clearly disgusted by this act of continued sacrilege, makes to turn from the scene as if to spare his pampered eyes the inconvenience of seeing a creature like myself.
I scream throatily as I stick the butt of the spear in the sand and stick the end to my throat screaming, “LOOK AT ME.”
The entire crowd gasps as I draw a trickle of blood underneath my chin. I don’t even feel it my adrenaline is pumping so much as I have eyes only for the magistrate. The man who leads the wicked few against the good of the average finds my eyes.
“My life is my own to take. You will not put me on an execution show to mock me and use my body to further your evil. I am free.” With this word I shove my neck onto the point of the spear and the world becomes blinding pain.
The crowd erupts in a combination of excitement and panic. They pay to see men batter, cut and kill each other but never have they even considered that someone would kill themselves. Most citizens lived content, preoccupied lives filled with creature comforts. Suicide was practically unheard of. Never in all their lives did these people believe that someone would kill themselves, especially on federation TV programming.
I sink to my knees and place a hand in the sand to steady my shaking, leaking body. My last thoughts are of hope. Hope that some will take heart in what I’ve done and rise against the federation. Hope that my people will live free one day Hope that I will see my wife again when this darkness takes me. I only wished that I could have lived freely with her.
But some things are more important than death.