Constant

For the 'More Than This' competition.
In the not so distant future, our solution to rising unemployment is The Tournaments. If you win or die nobly in battle then your family can afford to eat. Many have no choice but to enter. Nick Cassini is of the Constant tribe. He is incapable of emotions, swift and brave. In his battles he must face members of his own tribe and those of Ardor, Urbane and Guile.

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1. Constant

 

I have gotten used to the sound of my thumping heart resonating around my head.  It never stops beating and when I kill, it seems to beat stronger than before. As if I had stolen the remaining beats of their hearts for myself. I have been in this Tournament for two months now though it feels like years. It has been eight days since I last heard another human’s voice. Usually they don’t let you go this long without an encounter. Today seemed to be my lucky day. I felt the thumping in the walls that I had grown accustomed to hearing when I was about to fight. The crowds outside howl for blood.

The creaky gate to my cell opens slowly while the metal hinges cry out in pain. It sends me into yet another flash back of murder and blood, the screaming that never ends. The walls were practically vibrating while my feet were hopping without my consent as the architects introduced a new element to the fight. They were trying to confuse our senses, make us disorientated before we must face each other. Straight ahead the wall was pulsing a luminous purple that hurt my eyes to stare at. They had taken yet another of my senses. As soon as they pulled the door back, my eyes would take moments to adjust. Moments that could mean the difference between life and death. I unsheathed my sword, the sword I had taken from my first victim. It melded perfectly into my hand as if they had been made for each other. Perhaps it had been, the architects were known for being unpredictable after all. How twisted of them. I was destined to find that young boy, the boy who could barely hold his sword an inch above his head. I killed him with his own sword in the end. I didn’t want to but he had begged me. His parents would get none of the reward money if he didn’t die honourably in battle. It was a mercy killing so unfortunately for him it meant his family would still receive no money. As the life left his frail body and his eyes glassed over, I carved another notch into my skin with my new sword. I wiped away the blood and counted them again. As if I didn’t know already how many were there. I could count them in my sleep. Fifteen to die by my hand and he was the youngest. As with all my victims, I closed his eyes and took the valuable items from his pack.

I was woken from my reverie by the groaning of levers coming to life, pulling the door open so I could face my new enemy. As I predicted, it took a moment for my eyes to readjust. I blinked rapidly and held my sword tightly in front of me. The screams and shrieks of the crowd in the stands never ceased to surprise me. There was thousands of them all begging for blood. I refused to acknowledge them mostly, but that just spurred them on. I had been a favourite since I won my first tournament.

‘State your names for the people at home.’ boomed the crackly voice of an architect. He was most likely watching our interaction on one of the many camera’s above us.

‘I am Nicholas Cassini of the Constant Tribe.’ I shouted. My enemy stepped forward, out of the purple haze so that I could see her clearly for the first time.

‘My name is Alastrine Auden of the Ardor Tribe.’ She said bravely. In her hands were a matching pair of small knifes with leather handles. They seemed to be a perfect fit. Just my luck that I would be facing an Ardor. Constant’s and Ardor’s were polar opposites. I, being a Constant, was unfeeling, swift and agile. This Ardor girl was more likely to be passionate and spirited but also fickle and capable of feelings which would be her inevitable downfall. I wondered how she had gotten this far into The Tourney as it was. Usually it was a Constant or a Guile that won. The Ardor’s and Urbane’s were the first to die.  Clearly she had some sort of talent or maybe just the raw determination to win.

‘You may begin.’ The voice crackled once more before a loud bell chimed twice. The sound reverberated in my ears, ringing and making my teeth chatter. I stepped into the arena and surveyed the bloody sand with a flash of recognition. I had fought in this arena before. It was in this room I had claimed my fifth victim. I usually let my enemy make the first move, it gave me the advantage. Yet she refused to move forward, in fact she didn’t even lift her blades. She stared at me in a strange way I didn’t recognise or understand.

‘You don’t remember me do you?’ She said. I was shocked and slightly angry. Usually they waited until they were dying at my feet to exchange numbers.

‘Should I?’ I spat at her. She looked vaguely hurt but I was incapable of feeling sorry for causing her expression.

‘We met at the final gathering before The Tournament. It was dark, shut your eyes and you’ll remember.’ She said. I stared sceptically. Surely she didn’t expect me to believe her? She would slice my neck before my eyes even closed. She sighed, rolled her eyes to the sky and threw her knives away from her before pulling another knife from a sheath tied to her leg and threw that away too.

‘I’m unarmed now, happy?’ She said, waving her arms in the air. I had never been more confused by someone. This girl was truly strange. I didn’t know what else to do so I decided to close my eyes. She spoke softly. The crowd had hushed considerably; I could almost forget they were even there.

‘Listen to my voice Nick. Remember that night. We were finally alone on the balcony but the stars were gone, it was so dark. We had never been alone together before. The architects never allowed it. It felt forbidden and I loved it, you were indifferent. I don’t think you even looked at me once that night but I couldn’t stop staring at you.’ She whispered, her words floating on the air and processed in my head at a time delay as I remembered the scene she described. I touched my lips. They were chapped and raw with new skin that wouldn’t heal over.

‘Yes! You remember our kiss. You kept your eyes closed and I couldn’t tell how you thought it went. You were so different to the Ardor boys. They feel too easily. Being with you was… refreshing,’ She sought for the right word, ‘Nick, I think I love you.’ She said faintly. Within seconds she was on top of me, hugging me one second and kissing me the next. Her lips were perfectly formed and she smelt of something sweet that I couldn’t identify. I struggled to stay upright against her impatient pushes. A typical Ardor, she felt emotions too easily. It was what made her weak and easier to kill. I would wait until she pulled back, then I would take one quick swipe with my sword and her life would be nothing but another notch on my arm. She stopped kissing me and let her head rest on my shoulder.

‘I- I’m sorry.’ She stuttered. I became confused again. I was about to ask why when my voice caught in my throat. I coughed violently and my blood splattered across her clothes, dripping down her back and turning her brown hair reddish. She pulled away and I saw the shining shard of a mirror in her hand, halfway up her sleeve. I was tricked, fooled by an Ardor. She had pierced a vital organ and now my windpipe was filling with blood. I dropped to the hard gravel floor and slammed my head hard. Struggling to breathe in air without swallowing copious amounts of blood, I convulsed violently.

This was it. I had finally met my death. It was about time really, I was nearly seventeen and I had been in Tourney’s like this for four years. I wondered if my mother was watching on the televised version. If so, I hope she put my brother to bed before he saw his only sibling die. As long as I didn’t beg to end my life, she would still get the money. I was one of the last people left in this Tournament so the prize was pretty high. The money would run out eventually though and my brother would have to start Tournament’s too or they would starve. So much for the Government’s solution to unemployment, this method solved nothing. People were dying unnecessarily all because they couldn’t afford to feed their families. It was supposed to make good entertainment but I had always asked myself, ‘Could there be more than this? Could there be more to life than dying for the sake of entertainment?’

I could feel death coming like a dark shadow creeping up behind me. This would be my last breath. It was ragged as I tried to make it as deep as I could. My eyes clouded and cleared suddenly as if I was focusing a microscope. The last thing I saw was Alastrine. She bent down beside me and kissed my cheek softly. I guess in the end, she really did have feelings for me. Not that it mattered in the Tournament. Love didn’t matter. Tournaments would turn husbands against wives, brothers against sisters. The edges of my vision grew darker and darker. I had reached the end of my last breath. As I let go of the final morsel of air I clung onto with all my might, I really hoped there was more than this.

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