2305: Eyeless

Posted: September 21, 2009 by Kelly in deathmatching, stories

I push my fingers into my eyes
It’s the only thing that slowly stops the ache
If the pain goes on
I’m not gonna make it
-Slipknot, “Duality”

Eyeless

“Prepare to die,” he’d whispered to the girl that had murdered his girlfriend, and he’d pulled the trigger. He could still feel the recoil. He could still feel her blood splatter hotly in his face. It had been a point blank shot in the face and he had been near enough to kiss her. Charlotte had crumpled like a rag doll, sagging downwards and trailing blood on the white tiled wall. There had been no word from her, after that one last plea. She’d just… crumpled. And yet he hadn’t felt any better. He’d thought the rage and the despair would subside, that he would feel sane again after he killed Charlotte. He’d always felt saner after killing in the arena, so why wouldn’t he now? He’d shot the years of abuse and beatings out of his system in the Fortress and the Euroleague, surely he’d take the edge off his despair if he were to kill Charlotte, right?

The answer was no.

Charlotte Adams sagged on the floor and sweet sweet Myrian was still dead, and his world was still in shambles. The fire that burned inside of him continued to singe his sanity and Donny still wanted to scream, he wanted to kill. But if killing didn’t work, what was left? His heart beat slowly in his chest while seconds passed, until it began to dawn on him what he’d just done. He was at Charlotte’s victory party, and he had killed her in cold blood in the toilets. Soon enough they would come looking for her, and they would find him. His life was over. Myrian was dead and it still was unbearable, and now his life had just become worthless. He’d killed the winner of the Fortress outside of the League. He had killed dozens of times before, but now he was a murderer.
“Fuck this shit,” Donny whispered. He jammed his gun back in his belt again and yanked at the doorhandle to get out of there. He spared one look at Charlotte Adams; the girl that once warmed his bed. A psycho bitch if he’d ever met one, but she was great in the sack. They would always leave that bedchamber bruised and battered, sometimes bloody. But they’d always felt exhilarated afterwards. It was a release to be with her, especially in that magical period of his first months in the prelims of the Fortress. He’d been winning and winning, and he’d been blooddrunk. Charlotte had understood that. For the time being, they had been brilliant together. It was needing, and taking, and it was always fast and furious and violent, but always worth it. It had all been so simple back then. And now she was at his feet, her shimmery golden dress turning crimson with blood and gore.

He /had/ to get out of here.
Yanking the handle, there was a sudden push – as if someone else was pushing on the other side. He had not calculated on this and neither had the person on the other side, so the woman with the strawberry-coloured hair nearly fell into his arms. She managed to keep herself upright, however, and hardly budged when he shoved her out of the way. As he bolted, he saw people look at him. And then someone started screaming, and it was all over. He’d never stood a chance.

***

“Well, here it comes,” Young murmured, crossing his arms and leaning back in his chair. It was stuffy and hot in the courtroom, as if the airco had given up sometime during the trial. People around them were sweaty and fidgety. He could feel the tension in the air, tingling the hair in his neck. The court’s remission had taken hours, but the verdict was supposed to read out now. He could spell it out, every single word. He knew what the verdict would be, he knew what Wellington’s attorney would plead. Wellington himself would stare in the distance in that catatonic behaviour he had adopted after he’d murdered the Adams girl. This was such a waste of time.

The Judge sat up straighter and nodded at the defendant. Donny Wellington hardly acknowledged him, but the man went on to speak anyway. “Donald Wellington, after careful consideration the Jury and I have come to the decision that you have been found guilty on all charges.” He looked up into the courtroom, but there was hardly any response. It wasn’t as if not everybody had seen this coming, Young thought sourly. “You now have a choice to make, mister Wellington,” the Judge continued with a practised stern look on his face. “What will it be, death by lethal injection or participation in the League?”

No response from Wellington. Still that same dead look in his eyes, a slack face. Young wondered if Wellington was just drugged up beyond any relief, or whether he was truly catatonic. Perhaps it was a combination of both; Wellington was a dangerous man, and obviously homicidal. The fact that it had mostly been targeted at the girl that so tragically killed his girlfriend didn’t really matter. Everybody had seen him dominate the Euroleague in his better years. The Court didn’t take any chances, and rightly so.

Wellington’s attorney, a mousy man with a skintone that looked downright sickly, cleared his throat instead. “Mister Wellington would like to participate in the Deathmatch, your Honour. I have his declaration, if you would be interested.” He held up a piece of paper that featured a signature. The signature looked scrawly, as if the pen hadn’t been held properly. It would do for the Court, Young supposed. They were probably glad enough to be rid of him; and usually Stender and he were itching to get the dramatic players added to their arena’s.

But then again, Donald Wellington wasn’t your average convict.

Stender had been very unhappy. He’d called Young moments after the incident occurred, almost simultaneously with the reports that came on the broadcasts from the media who’d been attending the party. “It was after I’d left already. Val was still there, and Hugh, and the situation was contained quickly. Wellington never stood a chance, but I’ll have the /head/ of the idiot that let him through with a gun. It wasn’t you, was it?”

“It wasn’t my party,” Young had reminded him calmly. “I’m on the other side of the world. Berntsson was in charge, and he’s likely as gobsmacked as you are. That guy never makes mistakes.”
“Damn that Wellington boy. If he’d offed her somewhere in the Dregs we could have put a great spin on that, but no, he has to shoot holes in her on her own bloody victory party,” Stender spat. “I hate it when people ruin my parties.”

“Doesn’t everybody,” Young said with a slow smile.

Stender grinned his devil-may-care grin back at him throught he screen of his vidphone. They understood each other completely, even without words. “I want that boy taken care of.”

Young shrugged. “The boy will end up in the Deathmatch,” he said. “I’m pretty sure that he’s not going to go for the death sentence.”

“I’d really rather not. He’s a loose cannon, completely insane.”

“We’ve dealt with that before. And he gets the short straw in the weapon lottery, don’t worry about that.”

Stender shook his head slowly. “It’s not the game itself I’m worried about. I just don’t want his name associated with us anymore. Our good name, and all that. Next thing you know people don’t want to come to our parties anymore.” He delivered his statement with so much irony that seemed to be dripping off his words. Sometimes Young wondered where Stender started and where his announcer persona began. Whole households would have sniggered at his words, if this had been a deathmatch comment.

“Want him compromised?” Young offered.

“Totally. This fucker is not going to last for more than ten minutes this time.”

***

“Donald Wellington is a rager,” the pretty redhead on the vids said. Her name was Priscilla LaCoeur, and she was one of the new psychologists that they’d hired for on-screen psych evals. Berntsson liked her already; she was the prettiest one of the bunch. The young woman smiled and turned her head just so that the light from the high windows caught her eyes, giving the viewers a full view on a pair of the most gorgeous green eyes the audience had ever seen. They had to be contacts, but with that luminosity and that bright colour, nobody cared either way. “You know what we mean by that, right?”

“Please enlighten us,” Jorn Berntsson said, smiling his charming smile back. He knew, of course, but this was a scripted conversation. The audience would want to know. He leaned back in his leather chair, and waited for what was to come.

“He came out of all the tests as a rager, before he’d ever set foot in any arena. People sign up for the League for a myriad of reasons. Excitement, money, glory… but sometimes they sign up out of rage. Donald Wellington is one of those. He had a lot of unresolved issues to work through.” She smiled again, as if she was flirting with Berntsson instead of laying the lowdown on a deranged killer. “You can see it in his behaviorial patterns in the Arena as well. The number of kills, his heartrate during the games, but most of all, the way /how/ he offed his victims is telling. The amount of gore he created diminished immensely during his time as a participant.”

Ah, it was his turn. “One could argue that this is because he got more skilled at the games. Where he made a mess before, he could have become more efficient.”

“While I am inclined to agree with that, it is not the whole explanation. Psych evaluations confirmed the rage. Donald Wellington was able to let his rage out through the Games. And he was becoming more quiet, more efficient in his kills, he became more careful not to lose his life. And, of course, there was the whole deal with his girlfriend. Myrian Seltzer.”

“One of your colleagues, I’m told,” Berntsson said, revelling in the shock in her eyes. That wasn’t scripted, he just enjoyed to see her squirm. “Seltzer and you worked closely together, right?”
The redhead blinked slowly. “Yes, we were colleagues for the better part of two years.”

“Tell me, what did the two ever see in each other?” Berntsson said, leaning over at her and smiling sweetly. He was throwing her off completely. Sometimes a little discomfort and leading the conversation astray was just what the conversation needed… just that little extra that made things seem that tiny bit more genuine. The whole world was watching, after all.

“They… I don’t know. Myrian always was interested in him,” she said, shrugging. Ah yes, she was uncomfortable. She was dropping the last names, going on memory here. “I know that she was the one who asked him to go out. I don’t know why either, I mean, she was the one who conducted his tests. She must have known his psych patterns.”

“But she didn’t care?”

“Obviously. It’s not for me to say… I never saw any of her psych evals. Nor would I want to. But for the time they were together, they were happy. Until the moment she wanted to join the League.”
“And what did you think about that?”

LaCoeur narrowed her pretty green eyes. “I don’t think my opinion on that is quite relevant here. I thought we were discussing Donald Wellington.”

“Of course we are,” Berntsson smiled, noting the tiny beads of sweat on her brow and taking joy in it. “Wellington is a rager. So what you are saying is…”

“He ventilated his anger in the League. Blood for blood, the fight made him feel good. He got rid of his angst that way. And most of his issues were gone, by the time Myrian entered the League. He was happy, content. Quiet. It’s a good thing his technique improved over time, or he would never have survived the next League, he didn’t have his anger fuel him anymore. But when Myrian died under the hands of his ex girlfriend, his rage flared up again. And he vented it by the only way he knew how: he killed Charlotte Adams.”

“Do you think it helped?” Berntsson asked.

The redhead shook her head. “No. I’m fairly sure it didn’t.”

****
He couldn’t believe how easy it was to snatch the butter knife from his breakfast tray and to scrape it over the floor until it became sharp enough to cut flesh. Of course he had the practiced ease of a shoplifter, but he’d thought they’d have noticed it by now. With all the scraping he’d had going on, the sound would have driven any sane person up the walls after three days.

Or maybe they knew and they let him. The staff wouldn’t get close to him anyhow. Perhaps they wanted him to do it – perhaps they were watching him with those damned camera’s, making not
es as they peered at the screen with hungry eyes. /Let them watch. As long as they let me play./

He’d felt his own blood ooze over his skin before, but this time it was different. It was warm, soothing. It felt like a bit of a release. A little bit.

/Maybe the restraints are lifted as soon as you’re convicted. As soon as you’re behind those bars, they don’t care whether you live or die. The damage’s been done, and I should be dead anyway. I’m rotting away already. Just waiting for my heart to follow suit and stop beating./

“Blood for blood,” he whispered, watching perfect red drops rivulet over his pale skin in the flickering white light.

If he was hurting, he couldn’t feel it.

***

Young felt it more than he heard Jorn Berntsson entered the room. He didn’t look up from his work, hoping that if he’d ignore the guy, maybe he’d go away. However, Berntsson wasn’t very phased. He just sat down next to Young and peered at the livefeed that showed the inside of Donny Wellington’s cell. “He’s not doing much, is he?”

“Not anymore,” Young said. He was busy sorting through vid material, and he was juggling so many feeds that he refused to look up.

“What do you mean?”

/Why don’t you just go away? Don’t you have anything better to do with the match only two weeks away?/ “You’ve got the files under your fingertips. Just look it up.”

Fingers tapped on silicon, and for a minute or so it was blissfully silent as they both worked on the vid material. “Holy fuck,” Berntsson whispered. Young looked up to the dark-haired announcer, but Berntsson’s eyes were glued to the visuals on the screen before him. “Is he cutting his arms with a /butter knife/?”

“Told you.” Young tore his eyes from the gruesome images and back to the ones he was supposed to be working on. He had seen it all before; he’d been the one to call in the medics when he saw things go wrong the first time.

“Who the hell gave him the knife?”

“We did,” Young said. “Stender didn’t particularly care if the boy would hurt himself, as long as he wouldn’t hurt anyone else. But with the way we arranged his holding cell, he won’t even get close to the staff.”

“Blood and fire,” the strangled whisper came from the screen. Donald Wellington was crying as he cut himself, his fingers and his legs slick with warm blood. Young had seen it all before. He’d seen some shit in his days so far, but this one pretty much took the cake. He almost felt voyeuristic.

“I don’t think he cares much about the fact that he has three more days to live,” Berntsson said thoughtfully.

Young just shrugged.

***
He dreamed of her every time he fell asleep. Sometimes he thought he could see her watching him when he was awake as well. She always had such a sad look in her eyes.

He tried to talk to her, but she never responded. When he reached out to her, she just seemed to vanish before his eyes. Even when he had his eyes closed, she vanished. If he could just bury himself behind his eyes, behind his life – maybe then he could see her again. Maybe he could tell her he was sorry, even though he was not quite sure what he had to be sorry for.

She had wanted to join the League. She had wanted the glory, and for a while there, she had been brilliant. They might have even met one another in the League at some point, if she would have continued her winning streak. He could see it happen. Myrian with her battle gear on, grime on her face like warpaint. She would turn to him, her rifle in hand. And he would look at her amidst dust and death, and he would… what?

Was that what he wanted to apologise for? He wouldn’t have killed her. Of course he wouldn’t have. They would have made sure that they wouldn’t have to face off in whatever League, ever. But what if circumstances /had/ turned out that way? Would he have killed her? Would she have killed him? Would he have let her kill him? He wasn’t sure.

He didn’t know, and the questions drove him crazy.

/If only I could see her again./

Although he bled, he continued to be completely numb.

***
Berntsson was sitting with his legs on the table, of all things. His boots were hovering just inches above plasma screens that even his lofty annual salary couldn’t pay for in five years, and he had to know it.

Young was too busy to give voice to his irritation. There were a gazillion things to take care of for this match. Everything had to be watched, everybody had to be in place. He felt like a spider in his web, taking care of everything. Stender was off taking care of political and promotional business for now. He would probably show up the moment the Game started, but until then Young ran everything. Stender had given him Berntsson to announce the game, as usual. Tonight the dark-haired man was supposed to talk the audience through the previews and give them the rundowns of all the participants, while Young was in charge of the montages and video feeds. It was just hours before it all would start and he could feel the stims taking over from his body’s natural reserves. In thirty six hours it would all be over, and he would be allowed to crash.

For now, however, there were sixteen million things to take care of all at once, and he had no time to be annoyed with Berntsson’s lazy attitude. The blond announcer lazily called up some stats and peered at the view before him on the screen. “I still can’t believe you’re giving Wellington the slime gun,” he drawled.

Young didn’t look at him. He was too busy sliding fingers over screens to connect fragments of seconds of footage. “He asked for it,” he said, frowning at the images.

“Is that what we’re telling the press? It’s completely rigging the Game /again/ and it’s a far cry from his old rocket launcher. There was this article in the Times the other day that claimed-”

“No, you’re not listening. He /asked/ for it. Specifically.”

***

The engine hummed beneath his feet while the vehicle that would drop them at their Arena destinations closed its doors. Immediately the atmosphere turned stuffy and crackled with tension. Competitors were sizing each other up. Some of them spoke softly with one another, others just shot looks that were challenging or venomous.

Donny didn’t look at the other competitors. He knew their names and their faces; he had met them all before. One of them was the winner of the last two Northern Leagues. She was the strawberry-haired woman he had encountered moments after Charlottes lifeless body had crumpled onto the bathroom tiles. She had been curiously regarding him for most of the formal televised dinner the night before, but they had never spoken.

He hadn’t spoken to anybody. He’d hardly touched his meal anyway. Most of the time he had looked at his hands and thought that once he cared about the League. Once he had cared about sitting here, the night before the great match, and his heart would have thundered in his throat. He would have charmed the viewers at home and he would have had some witty banter with the other competitors while stuffing his face with some of the most delicious food he had ever tasted. Not last night, though.

Food tasted like ashes these days anyway. Even thought he cameras must have been hungrily drinking in the new scars on his forearms and the lines of grief in his face, he never looked up to acknowledge those millions of viewers that were watching him.

Instead he looked down at the slime gun in his hands. The weapon was heavy and cold in his hands. He gingerly touched the business end of the gun, which was oozing the tiniest bit of slime. Immediately he could feel the acid biting into the fingertip of his index finger. It was almost enough to feel pain. Almost.

“Hey Wellington, if you could stop touching yourself for a minute and pay attention to what I’m saying?” A voice said on the other side of the cabin. Donny looked up at the plasma screen that showed the announcer’s face. Dark hair, pulled back in a ponytail. Laughing lines around dark eyes, but it was not a friendly face. This year, the Euroleague was presented by Jorn Berntsson, after its usual announcer Karl Lorentz had bailed out for health reasons. Donny had decided a long time ago, when he still cared about these things, that this guy was a douchebag.

Donny just smiled and rubbed his index finger and his thumb together, so the slime bit into his thumb as well. The burning feeling was almost pleasant. The smell it emitted was a little less so, though.

Berntsson sighed and said: “Because Wellington doesn’t want to wave at the viewers at home, I’ll just make sure to introduce him properly for you. Wellington is a convict. He murdered his ex girlfriend Charlotte Adams in cold blood at her own party. In the bathroom. Blood everywhere. It was quite the mess.” He paused for a second, undoubtedly showing the audience images of Charlotte’s corpse. Blood on the shimmering gold dress, on the white tiles. Donny could still see it when he closed his eyes.

The image was soon drowned out by Myrian, hoisting herself upon that balcony. Half paralysed, bleeding all over the concrete. Her pretty face as she made a decision upon which she would gamble her life. The sound of her body hitting the water. And nobody… nobody who saved her. Anybody in the organisation of the event could have gotten into the Fortress and got her out of there. But no one did. She died on the bottom of the river, not very long after hitting the water. Donny often wondered what came first, the drowning or death by the wound in her gut. That mattered so much, but no one could tell him.

Suddenly he noticed Valentina Marin’s eyes on him again. She wiped a stray lock of strawberry-coloured out of her face and smiled vaguely. “Drowning´s not a bad way to go, you know? Compared to being shot in the gut. Some would almost call it gentle.”

He didn’t know how she knew what he was thinking of. Maybe she wasn’t even talking at all, and he was just imagining this. He had to ask, though. “How do you know she drowned?” he murmured.
She shrugged. “Wound like that…takes forever to bleed out.”

Not under water though. /Nobody/ had dragged her out of the water. And he had let her enter that damned Fortress in the first place. Perhaps he did have to apologise to her after all.
Berntsson was talking. He was still talking about Donny, drawing up charts and stats that everyone following the League undoubtedly knew. He didn’t waste long, though. Soon he moved on to the other competitors and finally left Donny alone with his thoughts. The ooze burned on his fingers. With a detached curiosity, he looked at the reddened flesh.

Some time after that, people started leaving. The vehicle would hum, doors would open. People would leave. Valentina was the fourth to leave. She looked at him for a moment, flashed him a quick grin that could have meant anything, waved her dual guns, and then she was gone. He didn’t even look at the others.

He was the last to enter the Arena. It didn’t surprise him. Berntsson didn’t have anything to say to him where it came to parting words except for the customary “Good game!”

The door opened. Donny grabbed his gun and jumped out.

He found himself on a hill near a forest. Buildings were closeby, and behind the twenty feet high electrified fence was the rest of the world. The sun was shining blindingly silver amidst hazy clouds.

It was Marin who found him eventually, sitting on that same patch of grass. The slime gun glinted faintly in the glaring sunlight. He didn’t pick it up. He had never intended to use it.

Instead, he rose to his feet and stretched out his arms, as if he wanted to embrace the bullets that would undoubtedly come.

And when they came, his last thought was that the sound of the gun sounded just like Myrian’s.

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