January 6, 2013
— bloodsport, brutal sport, caesar, collecting the dead, darwinian evolution, fatalities, flash fiction, gladiators, recycled lives, short story, trees once good men
By Jude Ellery
The large wooden cart creaks to a halt, its owner spotting another pile. Body parts are loaded in; a severed head clunks against a shorn ribcage. The cart lurches into life again to reluctantly continue its morbid journey, and the cargo settles. Wheels protest sharply with every orbit, but besides this rhythmic squeak of the clean-up job, the arena is soundless.
Now back in its storage shed, the cart is stripped of its spoils. The rusting head of an outdoor tap is rotated four times and a hose rudely awakened as icy water surges through its coils and towards its nozzle. The liquid arrives, spitting erratically at first then becoming a steady stream that erases the spatters of blood and bits of flesh and bone that cling to the cart’s tightly bound planks. The tap turns back; the evidence is gone.
In the thick of night comes an intruder; a rebel, a saviour. This bloodsport must be ended. Twisted hatred burns teary eyes as the axe head buries itself in the cart’s wooden heart, then is jerked free and lifted high, to arc downward again. And again. And again. Where once stood the aching, guilty cart now lies broken timber. A cold wind sweeps in through the open door, circuiting the room, rattling trinkets and tools that sit high on shelves, bearing witness to the murder of one of their own as though they are merely innocent bystanders. The breeze departs with a subtle sigh; the deceased cart gratefully welcomes the release of death. Its job is done, its torment over.
The axeman pleads no defence when the cloaked cleaners interrupt his escape. It makes no odds to them. His is just another body to add to the pile of lifeless shells in the steep-walled pit outside. Redundant clothes freeze tight to withered skin, splintered wood cracks and withers in the toxic winter air.
Now the cleaners’ work begins in earnest. Strange seeds and chemicals no scientist could find on a table of elements are poured into the pits. The silent, sombre ceremony is one of pure efficiency; not a second is wasted on remembering or naming the dead. They have served their use in their present form. Now they shall serve another.
The following night there are already signs of rapid decomposition. Moisture has evaporated into the starless sky, sucking the last imaginations of life from the colourless scene. Carcasses begin to erode to fine white powder, permeating through welcoming soil.
Yet both they and the cart were wrong to believe their torment was done. When another day and night pass, unnaturally green shoots protrude from the rich compost bed. When the sun swaps shifts with the moon once more these shoots are trees, tall and slender, arms outstretched to one another, groaning with the wind which whispers between their sad shapes. No leaves adorn the artificial newborns, simply strong, long branches which, after the fourth day, are hewn from their owners. Spears, these shall make.
Furnaces are heated to hellish temperatures. Spearheads and various other grotesque weapons are forged from the recycled bodies of the dead. When the trees fully mature, they are are uprooted, ending the cycle. The cleaners become woodcutters as they turn trunks into planks.
Gradually a new image is formed. Larger than its predecessor, more grand and spacious and efficient, another cart is born. The device goes about its work compliantly, eliciting not even a squeak in protest as it is shoved along the cold hard stone floor of the brutal sporting arenas.
At every match, both competitors and riotous fans fall. They have given everything for the sport they love. Then, immediately after the survivors have departed, their remains are taken up in the cart and transported away to continue the sickly cycle.
Yet soon a distant memory returns to the wooden cart, echoes of a life since lost. A grudge grows. The fresh planks grow grey and old overnight, they begin to creak and moan at the strain put upon their back. A conscience cries out in the thin, vacant air. No more, it screams with every revolution of its wheels. No more.
It must be silenced.
The cleaners ready a new batch of seeds and chemicals. The formula is tweaked, this time the cart deconstructed methodically by their own hands. Through trial and error they shall reach the perfect ratio of ingredients, creating the perfect tool which bears no soul, carries no knowledge or remembrance of what it does.
To its pain, the paying fan turns blind eyes. This is merely a by-product that cannot be avoided, they tell one another, and soon the propaganda becomes the accepted reality. Sacrifices are necessary for the brutal, bloody game to thrive like it has, through the millennia. It is the ultimate survival of the fittest, and the games accelerate the cycle of nature. Yes, Darwin would have been proud, but Caesar prouder still. These people are not cowards who shrink from death or sneak in at night to sabotage the system. They wish only to live long enough to satisfy nature and glory.
Glory Blood by Jude Ellery is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License