We open on Caledonia Highlander, the World Heavyweight Championship belt around her waist. She is looking down with a pensive look on her face. She speaks.
I never thought it would come to this.
She remains silent for some time and takes a deep breath.
It’s been more than a year since the call went out, that fateful call. “One more show,” it said… one more show. What harm could one more show do? Well, quite a lot, given how this year has gone.
Sure. There’ve been good things…
She glances down at the title around her waist.
Had it not been for that “one more show” I would never have achieved this dream. I would never have stood at the peak of CWF, the World Heavyweight Champion.
She looks back at the camera.
But in this year since “one more show” I’ve experienced horrors I never thought I would. Everyone knows what I’ve faced; or certainly Omega and Amber do. I’ve seen my name dragged through the mud by those who would deride me as a coward. I’ve been through physical agony, through heartbreak, through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered.
And yet here I stand. After all of the horror emerging after “one more show.” Here I stand, CWF’s World Heavyweight Champion. Undefeated since the second week of January, five months ago. And no-one on the roster can claim to have defeated me one-on-one.
But we all know that there’s two great big asterisks hanging over that statement.
One of them says “Amber Ryan.”
The other says “Omega.”
On the one hand, a dear friend.
On the other, an enemy.
It is strange to me to think of you as my enemy, Omega. You may say you don’t hate me… and I confess, it is difficult for me to form the words. We were friends a long time… or at least so I thought. How long, how longdid you see me as nothing but a potential soldier, a potential general, a potential martyr? For that must surely have crossed your mind when Jace Valentine had me by the throat outside the Academy, helpless to fight back, at his mercy. Caledonia, one half of the World Tag Team Champions, even then held as one of the best fighters in CWF; certainly, one of the most popular. Did some dark part of your twisted mind think that if Jace had snapped my neck, if he had killed me, if he had cast me down and cut short my “promising career” … that you could use my death to rally people to your cause?
Ah, but you’d justify it to yourselves, you and Elijah… you’d tell yourself that you were just doing what needed to be done. You felt no qualms about planting the seeds of Amorality in the mind of perhaps the one truly good man left in this fight, because this is no time for moderation. You manipulated dozens of wayward souls into becoming your army, but you regret nothing, because the fight against the Institute is a war. You can sleep at night, knowing that James Skelton was shot to death before his twentieth birthday, because all wars have casualties.
A few weeks ago, I told Dorian Hawkhurst that “whatever it takes” is a covenant not lightly taken; that “whatever it takes” can send you down dark paths. I know this because you and Elijah tried to lead me down that dark path. You and Elijah enticed my husband down that dark path, watched as he was taken from me, then aided those who took him in twisting him into their perfect Amoral soldier. And now, it seems, that if I want to bring him back to the light, I too must follow you into the dark.
But it’s not just us in this battle, no.
Caledonia looks directly into the camera.
I’m sorry for this, Amber. When you cashed in your Unhinged briefcase shot, I was delighted. I would go into another title match, facing against a woman I could call a close friend. Much like my fight against MJ Flair, I would be facing someone who I could trust not to try and beat me through illegitimate means; someone who I could trust to fight clean - to fight hard, to fight with every follicle of her being… but to fight clean. And win or lose, to stand in the ring and shake my hand afterwards.
I cannot say that “we” have been robbed of that match. It was me who requested the change. Me who requested that I have a chance to get my hands on the bitch who helped torture my husband. Me who took away your chance to fight your friend in an honourable match, with no ill will afterwards. And for that, I’m sorry.
But this is the match we have now. Malice in Wonderland… the twisting and perversion of a beloved thing, straight out of Omega’s playbook. A match steeped in violence, in rage, in bloodshed.
In some ways, it’s refreshing.
For violence, rage, bloodshed… these have been part and parcel of what it has been to be a “friend” of Elijah and Omega. To be moulded into a perfect Amoral warrior, uninhibited by foolish emotion, willing to do whatever it takesto strike down the Institute. Willing to maim. Willing to kill. Willing to die.
But you and Elijah have miscalculated this time, Omega. You sought to make me into your general, leading your new army against the Institute, never questioning, only executing your Will.
But my Will is as strong as yours.
I will follow you into the dark place. I will make you bleed. I will cast you through the looking glass. And I will undo what you have done.
Be seeing you.
I walked out of the Commune’s studio, ignoring Eris’ question about whether or not I wanted to do another take. I didn’t. Not yet, anyway. This one was hard enough. And when I thought of James… I thought about how he had just been starting to get past the major setback of being unceremoniously fired, finding his stride in directing promos, only to be shot down while going for a cigarette.
I couldn’t deal with it.
I strode outside, past the orchards and wheatfields and to the edge of the forest that surrounded this place. There was a spot, a little bench by a tributary river where I had spent a lot of time lately. It was a nice place to think. Isolated, quiet… I loved my friends at the Commune, but of late a lot had been on my mind. I needed space. I needed time to think.
I found myself just sitting and watching the river flowing past. I found myself thinking about how I’d gotten here, the same thoughts I’d had almost every minute since the Battle of the Academy. A year ago, I was just an ordinary woman, a psychology PhD student, about to complete my thesis alongside my husband, and the two of us were going to be an inseperable package, marketing ourselves jointly to universities. It was a common practice; often less competent people would get hired on the back of their spouse. But Dan and I were roughly equal in our abilities, and we had been accepted by our respective departments without so much as speculation of being carried.
It was only when I realized today’s date that I had to stop myself from crying at the thought of “one year ago.”
I drove the thoughts from my mind and looked into the river, trying to think about anything else. It didn’t work. So I slowly made my way back. A few people had gathered (while trying to look like they hadn’t gathered) to see what was wrong. I nodded and walked past, but Oscar “The Grouch” Gonzales stopped me.
‘Hey boss, you okay?’
‘I…’ The four or five people lurking in the entryway were trying to look like they weren’t staring at me, waiting for my answer. ‘I’m fine.’
‘Bullshit,’ said Oscar. ‘What’s up?’
‘I’m fine. Today’s just a bit of a bad day for me.’
‘Why today?’ he pressed.
‘It’s…’ I honestly thought about telling them what was wrong, but decided to keep my stiff upper lip, keep this one to myself. ‘It’s Donald Trump’s birthday. Always makes me a little glum.’
‘Booooo,’ said Oscar, grinning. ‘Don’t sweat the Cheeto, Cali. He ain’t worth your time.’
I didn’t know if the Grouch believed me, but he didn’t press the matter. I was grateful for that.
Or at least I was, until Eris sidled up to me once the crowd had dissipated. ‘So… what’s wrong?’
I sighed. ‘You’re not going to accept “Donald Trump”, are you?’
‘Ordinarily, a perfectly acceptable answer to the question of “what’s wrong,” but not with you, and not with the match you’re facing. Spill it.’
‘Not now, okay?’ I looked at Eris, saw the concern in their eyes and cursed the tears creeping into mine. ‘Just… not now.’
‘Fine,’ said Eris, with a distinct tone of I-will-be-asking-you-about-this-later. ‘But let’s talk about something else now. Your promo.’
‘You barely mentioned Amber.’
‘I know. She’s not the one you want to eviscerate. But you’re going to have to dig down just as deep against her as you are against Omega, maybe deeper. You want to win, you have to put Amberthrough one of those glass sheets, not just Omega. You can’t afford not to take Amber seriously.’
‘Maybe not. But your mind is on Omega. This is a Triple Threat, and Amber’s one of the best fighters on the roster. She won the Unhinged briefcase, and she made Silas Artoria tap out.’
‘… no she didn’t,’ I replied.
‘She did in my mind!’
Silence rang for a second. Eris spoke. ‘Point is, you can’t go into this match half-assed. It’s one thing to be ready to inflict horrific injuries on Omega, someone who’s done terrible things to you; you have to inflict them on Amber too.’
I sighed. ‘I know. Trust me, I know. And it’s taking a toll on me, combined with it being… well, today.’
‘Donald Trump’s birthday,’ said Eris, raising an eyebrow.
‘Yes. Donald Trump’s birthday.’
Eris looked thoughtful. ‘I need to make a call. I’ll be back.’
I milled around for about ten minutes. When Eris didn’t return, I shrugged to no-one in particular and went into the kitchen to make myself a sandwich and a cup of tea. When I had completed them and still saw no sign of Eris, I opted to head into the gym and do a quick calisthenics session. When that, and the subsequent rinse in the shower, were done, I finally ended up going to Eris’ room to check on them.
I entered Eris’ room to find a mighty mound of winged… well, penises, in the middle of the floor. They were made from all manner of materials: stone, bronze, wood, real feathers for the wings. There were even colourful felt phalluses that looked like they’d been purchased from an eccentric Etsy seller.
‘Um…’ I said.
‘They are protecting me,’ came a voice from within Dick Mountain.
‘Have you been watching those videos again? I told you, nothing good comes of it.’
‘Sometimes it does,’ said the voice, ‘just not this time.’
‘I still don’t understand how bunny rabbits freak you out so much.’
‘What species needs such good eyesight that their entire diet is carrots? They’re plotting something!’
I sighed. ‘When will you be done in there?
‘I just need a few minutes to finish reading this fic and then I swear I’m coming out.’
I tentatively reached inside the enormous pile of penises and grabbed for Eris’ Kindle. ‘Hey!’ they protested.
‘“The wrestling champion gasped at His Highness’ impropriety. They were both, after all, married - but none of that seemed to matter as she twisted in pleasure under his royal ministrations; and all the while the new Princess watched on in delight…” - the hell is this?’ I scrolled to the top of the fic. ‘“When Harry Met Cali”? Oh, for God’s sake, Eris!’
‘I’m reading it for the story!’ they exclaimed, clambering out from beneath the phallic mountain. ‘It’s a really clever subversion of… of…’ Their protests died off under my withering gaze. They looked sheepish, then bolted upright. ‘Oh right! I told you I needed to call someone.’
‘Someone who could provide you with a link to a fanfic of me and Prince Harry doing…’ I scrolled back down the Kindle and gagged. ‘Oh God, Eris, who writesthis stuff? Who wants to seethis stuff written?’
‘You’d be surprised,’ they said, snatching the tablet back. ‘And my call was to someone else. I wanted to check a hunch I had, and I was correct.’
‘What hunch?’ I said, suspiciously.
‘You’ll see. Get dressed in something comfortable. We’re going to the City.’
Later that night, after a three-hour drive, I found myself following Eris through the streets of Manhattan, in the heart of New York City. We had stayed at the same hotel we had stayed at the previous week, and taken a cab deep into Hell’s Kitchen. I was a little wary. I knew that the neighbourhood had been gentrified, but the gentrification was less than complete, and we seemed to be headed for one of the rougher parts. Our cab had dropped us on a corner, and Eris strode with what I really hoped was genuine confidence towards a dark alley.
‘Eris… please tell me you know where you’re going.’
‘Shh.’ They scrutinized the entrance to the alley, checking the brickwork next to it. Then they nodded. I glanced at the wall they had been examining. I assumed that they were notnodding at the graffiti that read “YOUR A PENIS” - although Eris enjoyed penises, they weren’t wild about punctuation errors. Eris strolled down the alley, and I followed, tense, but choosing for the moment to trust my friend. My apprehension grew as we rounded a few corners.
And then I saw it.
‘I thought there was only one of these,’ I said, tilting my head to the side.
‘Turns out they’re all over the world,’ said Eris. ‘Forty-two, in total.’
‘Well, there you go,’ I said, the implications of this discovery only just now catching up to me. ‘So. We return to The Grotto.’
We turned to look up at the large, plain black door, at the roses painted around its frame. At the brass plaque, identical to the one in Old York. I wondered if the inside was the same as well. I was about to find out.
‘You ready?’ said Eris, just as they had last time.
I took a deep breath. ‘Let’s do this.’
The inside of the New York Grotto was much the same as that of the Old York Grotto; the paintings that hung were different, but the three doors were the same. To the left, a nude Eros; to the right, a shattered human face. I needed no explanation this time, and Eris and I walked straight into the central room.
It was as I remembered - strange, to remember a place I had never been. There were the same two concave glass walls, meeting ahead of us in the shape of a horseshoe. Between the walls, couches and armchairs and benches, facing the windows, peering in, indulging voyeurism at what lay beyond. There were other seats, further back; but it was virtually impossible to sit in the Grotto and not be engaged in it.
The bar at the centre, was brighter than the one I had seen before, lit by gaslight rather than wooden torches, but it had the same circular shape, the same plethora of vices, as the one I knew. I wondered if they had the same absinthe. I had a feeling I’d be needing it.
I remembered the last time I had gone to the Grotto; the fear, the trepidation of what the night was about to yield. Even now, I felt twinges of trepidation. But it was of a different kind.
The Grotto was not especially crowded tonight. A few people sat towards the back, hunched over hookahs and nursing hard whiskey, discussing God only knew what. In this place it could be anything from Marxist philosophy to contemporary politics to… well, to professional wrestling. Most of the patrons were gathered around the windows, not talking to each other, but occasionally cheering as one, as though all possessed by the same spirit, moving as a single entity. Eris motioned for me to sit, and I did.
I sank deeply into the softness of one of the armchairs. Eris came over, bearing cocktails. I accepted one and drank a tiny sip to taste it. The taste was strong. I took a longer draught and looked expectantly at Eris.
‘Death in the Afternoon. Said to be invented by Ernest Hemingway. Made with absinthe and champagne.’
I sipped, tasting it. ‘I like.’
‘Hemingway reportedly drank five of them in one sitting.’
‘Well. I like to think I can throw down with old Ernie,’ I said, finishing my cocktail. Eris raised their eyebrows at me. I signalled a server to bring us another round.
‘So,’ said Eris, draining theirs just in time to have the glass taken away, ‘I notice that you’re facing a different way to the first time.’
They were right. The first time we’d come here, I’d been unable to gaze into the realm of Violence, the realm of sadism and masochism where the urge to hurt and to be hurt could be freely indulged. This time, I faced myself towards Violence, obstinately not looking in the other direction.
‘Yes, I am,’ I said.
Our drinks arrived. I drank from mine, but Eris did not take a drink. Instead they studied me. ‘Is it because you’ve been inside a Violence room now?’
I sipped my drink. I tried to give the impression of pensively thinking, but in truth I knew my answer.
I was so unbelievably horny that looking into Sex was almost painful.
I hadn’t been intimately touched by a hand other than my own in over six months. For a few months after the Tower, the motions required for sex were too painful for Dan to manage; after that, he had simply “never been feeling up to it.” I had accepted it as part of the healing process, acknowledging that it wouldn’t be foreveruntil I had sex again. But then… well, then he had been taken.
And it was around thenthat the loneliness had started to become unbearable. Because then there was no visible end in sight. I had made my marriage vows and I had intended to keep them; but this had meant accepting that I wouldn’t be touched until I got my husband back (or until he was confirmed dead, whispered the darkest parts of my mind) - and God only knew how long that would be.
It had been four months. And there was still no end in sight.
So, looking into a room with people openly copulating, licking, kissing, fucking… was on the whole more torturous than anything the Violence room could inflict on me.
Eris continued to look at me, awaiting an answer. I continued sipping my Death in the Afternoon. They sighed. But their curiousity was not sated. ‘So, are you going to tell me?’ they said.
‘Tell you what?’
‘What’s up with today.’
June 14th, 2017
‘Are your eyes closed?’ I call from across our apartment.
‘Yeah!’ says Dan, the slightest tinge of nervousness trickling into his excitement. I bustle around the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on the cocktail I am making for him. We have only just moved into this apartment, so the place is still being organized. But I’m happy, and optimistic.
This is going to be our home together.
I come out to the living room, where Dan is sitting in his favourite armchair, his face beaming and his eyes still faithfully closed. I set the martini glasses down.
‘Don’t look just yet,’ I say. He nods. I duck into a side cupboard that I’ve had him stay out of for the last week. From it I retrieve a package. The wrapping bears the face of CWF wrestlers. Alex Cain. Jarvis King. Amber “Angel” Ryan. Elijah.
Me and Dan.
It is the last image that I face towards him. ‘And open them!’ I say, my voice full of unfeigned excitement. He does, and his grin shines anew. We pick up the cocktails and drink from them. He takes his first sip delicately, as I’ve taught him to; his eyes widen and he takes a deeper sip.
‘You like?’ I say.
‘I love,’ he says.
‘It’s my own concoction. Chocolate liqueur, mixed with caramel-infused vodka, half-and-half, and a secret ingredient I’m not going to tell you just yet.’
He grins, enjoying the intrigue, ‘I love it.’
‘I thought you might.’ I straddle his lap and kiss him. ‘Open your present,’ I say.
He does, slowly, preserving the paper. I help him with the more stubborn bits of tape. Bit by bit the present becomes clear, little bits revealing themselves to his increasing delight. Finally the gift is revealed in full, and his eyes open wide with unmitigated joy.
‘You got me a BB-8!’ he says, with the exact tone I imagine he would have used to say ‘you got me an R2-D2!’ twenty years previously.
‘Happy birthday,’ I say, kissing him again. ‘I love you.’
‘I love you too,’ he says, wrapping his strong arms around me. ‘I’m so happy you’re my wife. Our life together is going to be wonderful. Here’s to another magical year.’
We drink, finishing the cocktail.
Life is good.
I snapped out of my memories, realizing that Eris was looking at me. ‘Egg whites,’ I said, under my breath.
‘What?’ Eris looked thoroughly confused.
‘A year ago, I made Dan this cocktail. I told him there was a secret ingredient… and I never got a chance to tell him that it was egg whites.’
‘You’re bummed out over a cocktail?’ Eris said, still confused.
‘Put it this way… I’m bummed out for halfof the reason that I’ve been saying all day.’
Eris looked up and to the left, trying to figure out my meaning. ‘You’ve been saying it’s Donald Trump’s birthday…’ Their face fell. ‘Oh.’
‘Yeah.’ I took a drink from my cocktail. ‘Dan’s twenty-nine today. Yet another thing that this fucking war has taken away from me.’
Eris took my hand and squeezed it. ‘Well. That explains a lot.’
I merely sipped my drink.
‘Are you going to be okay?’ asked Eris.
‘I’m just going to take it as additional motivation,’ I said. ‘Elijah may have been the one to put the words in Dan’s mouth, but you just knowthat Omega was bobbing around with her fake fucking child act, whispering in both of their ears. They act as one, they feel each other’s pain - I’m going to cause Elijah the kind of pain that he caused me.’
‘What?’ I said. ‘You’re not still defending - ’
‘No, I’m not,’ they said firmly. ‘Elijah and Omega saved my life, and I can never forget that. But what they’ve done to Dan… I can never forget that either. No, I’m worried about you.’
‘I can take Omega.’
‘I have no doubt. But can you take Amber?’
That caught me off guard. ‘I mean…’
‘In a fair fight, I’m sure you could,’ said Eris. ‘Well. Maybe you could, maybe you couldn’t, but that’s exactly what matches are for. But this isn’ta fair fight, and it’s barely a match. So my question still stands. Can. You. Take. Amber?’
‘Um…’ I honestly had no answer.
‘That’s what I thought,’ said Eris, finishing their drink. ‘And that’s why we’re here.’
I looked at them. ‘I learned to let go, to fight all-out, the last time we were here… well, not here here, but you know what I mean.’
Eris shook their head. ‘No. The last time we were here, you were getting ready to fight Jace Valentine, a person you didn’t hate, but didn’t especially like. Now, yeah, you’re fighting Omega, who you hate. But you’re also fighting someone you love.’ They straddled me, took my face in both their hands and looked me directly in the eye. ‘If you want to walk out of Golden Intentions as the World Heavyweight Champion, you have to be prepared to make Amber bleed. You have to be willing to throw Amber into those ropes with shards of glass embedded in them. You have to be willing to throw Amber through plate-glass. You have to make Amber scream, to hear her yell out in the sheer agony of glass buried in her skin. You have to be willing to inflict horrendous pain on someone you love.’
‘So, what does this have to do with the Grotto?’ I asked. But I already knew the answer, in my heart of hearts.
‘At its core, the Grotto is about breaking down barriers. Those of others, and those within. This place is equipped with every tool of sadism, of pain, of malicethat could be imagined. You want to win? You have to be ready to use them. You have to be willing to use them. You have to relishusing them. And you have to use them on someone you love. You have to use them on me.’
‘There has to be another way,’ I said, my voice low and flat.
‘There isn’t,’ said Eris. ‘This is the price you’re going to have to pay.’
‘The price for what?’
‘For getting your hands on Omega at Golden Intentions, and walking out of Philadelphia as the World Champion. You chose the first; if you want the second you have to be ready for the horrors your friend will suffer at your hand. And this is the only way to make yourself ready.’
I finished my drink in one draught, despite it being almost half full. After an unavoidable burp, I said, ‘Okay. Let’s do this, I suppose.’
We walked back into the entry hall and walked through the portal to Violence. I cracked my neck from side to side as we walked into the room. Eris walked straight through to the end, making for a door I hadn’t noticed before; a door that apparently led to more secluded dens of depravity.
As they opened the door, I saw through it to what lay within. I involuntarily gagged. ‘Eris?’ I called. They turned. ‘I need a warmup.’
They nodded and closed the door. Through the window I could see a few of the onlookers cheering. None of the other combatants had noticed us. I surveyed the room. A red-headed woman was laying into a blonde man in a suit, who she had apparently knocked to the ground with a baseball bat. At the moment, she was simply kicking his ribcage and screaming. Two burly trucker-looking men were alternating between trading massive right hands and simply grappling and biting one another. And three more men, young, tall, handsome, were involved in a free-for-all; one with long hair, one in a leather jacket, one wearing a trenchcoat.
I looked at Eris and they looked back at me. We drew weapons from a nearby rack - Eris, a bullwhip; me, a kendo stick with the top half wrapped in barbed wire. I screamed and charged into the midst of the three-man brawl. Eris shoved the red-headed woman out of the way and began whipping the man in the suit. The woman nodded approvingly and sat down to watch the gruesome display before her, her hand wandering towards her crotch.
I had caught the men off guard and managed to knock them down. But they had recovered, and they were clearly unhappy that their brawl had been interrupted. I went into a defensive stance and snarled as one of them, the one in the jacket, swung a big right hand at me. I ducked under it and swung my barbed-wire staff into his ribs. He collapsed, and his friends turned to me with growls. The long-haired one grabbed me from behind, holding my arms behind my back. The one in the trenchcoat swung his fist into my unprotected ribs, and I gasped for air. He smirked and hit me again. I spat in his face, and in the brief second while he was staggered, I broke the hold his friend had on me, kneeing him in the crotch and slamming my fist into his face, breaking his nose. As the man in the trenchcoat charged, I rolled, grabbed a nearby baseball bat, and swung it into the side of his head. He simply collapsed, falling to the ground like a sack of meat. I was breathing heavily and clenching my teeth as I checked my opponents - they were all down.
Somewhere in the brawl, Eris had stripped to the waist, and continued to lay waste to the man in the suit as the redheaded woman stood behind Eris, licking their neck, her hands roaming all over Eris’ body.
My blood had risen by this point. My skin felt hot, my heart was beating hard. But as I looked at Eris, I still could not conceive of harming them.
So I closed my eyes for a moment.
I thought of all that I had suffered.
I thought of my arm being shattered against a boulder.
I thought of learning that my parents had betrayed me and taken my husband from me.
I thought of learning that people I thought were my friends had been manipulating me and Dan for nearly a decade.
I thought about how their arrogance and manipulation had gotten James Skelton killed.
I thought about Omega blindsiding me, swinging her barbed-wire-wrapped fist into my face and drawing blood from a thousand cuts.
And I thought about seeing them shaking hands with my father outside the headquarters of the Order of the Oncoming Storm. And the fact that that handshake meant that she was complicit in torturing, warping my husband.
There we go.
I grabbed Eris by the back of their head. I threw them to the ground as the red-headed woman moaned. I threw her against the wall for good measure, and dragged Eris to the next room over.
I threw them bodily through the door to the next room, and slammed the door shut behind me. Eris looked around at me, the slightest hint of fear in their eyes. ‘Guess you’re ready, then,’ they said.
‘Shut up,’ I said, scowling. I looked around the room. Now that we were inside, I could see everything the room offered. Eris must have made a few requests - the room was filled with glass-based weapons. I made a note to thank them later, then pushed it to the back of my mind.
Now was not a time for giving thanks.
Scanning the room, one weapon quickly caught my eye. I smirked. There was no way Eris didn’t set this up.
A glove, studded with chunks of broken glass. Just like the one Omega had used on me. I put it on, and advanced on Eris. They charged at me, swinging a big right hand. I block it with my left, and drive my gloved fist into their stomach. They stagger back, the concussive force of the blow combining with the sharp glass cutting their bare skin.
I didn’t hesitate to follow up. I couldn’t.
I swung my gloved fist into Eris’ face, once, twice, three times. I saw a set of ropes, as from a wrestling ring, set up with the glass shards that awaited me at Golden Intentions. I kneed Eris in the stomach and threw them into the ropes. They did not bounce off, as they would a normal rope - to do so would require sinking their weight into the ropes, and that is far more painful.
So I followed up.
I charged into Eris, clobbering them with a massive clothesline and driving them further onto the sharp ropes.
As they collapsed, tears streaming down their cheeks in agony, I forced myself to look at them for a moment. This was done by my hands,I thought. I have done this to them.
But I had to do more.
I saw a thick glass sheet, set up at an angle. Its purpose was clear.
I kicked Eris in the ribs, stomped on them for good measure. I lifted them, holding them over my head.
And I threw them through the glass.
There was a horrifying, heart-stopping clash, as the glass sheet shattered into a million pieces, some big, some tiny. But many, far too many, were embedded in the flesh of my best friend.
I’ve done what I need to do.