Story Go Round 11/29/2009, #7

More Blood, Now

"Blood!" No, wait, that wasn't quite right. "More blood, now!"

"Still working on your speech, eh?"

I turned to face my brother, who had once again entered my room without knocking.

"Well, you know, I want to get it right. You don't want to know the consequences if it isn't."

"Oh, c'mon, sis," he condescended, "I'll be 16 next year, too. It's not that big a deal — nobody's actually died in the competition since-"

"Since mother?" I spat, angrily now. "Yeah, and what kind of legacy are we inheriting, when she couldn't even get out of the starting area, let alone within a kilometer of the finish line?"

"God, you are such a sissy-faced pooh-pooh head!" my brother said to me for the first time since childhood.

"Yeah, and you're-"

It was then that my uncle Leroy came into the room and asked "Francesca you ready to give that speech on the sugar plum fairy heavy metal theory?"

"Almost, uncle," I answered.

My brother snorted out a laugh right before I head slapped him and stated warningly "Cool your jets bro or else I'll eat you. No, I'll actually feed you to the monster for the ceremony after I make my speech. So there."

Uncle Leroy smiled. "Now, now, children, don't fight. There's nothing to worry about, my darling niece -- I mean, the worst that could possibly happen is that we all die!"

I have to admit this talk cheered me up a little. The trick is to get in the right frame of mind for the competition — you need to psyche yourself into a blind rage — Then they push you out the door and it's show time.

But first I needed that extra blood, with plenty of jalapenos to fire me up in addition to all the sibling fighting.


At the coliseum, the crowd's stomping was shaking loose dust and bits of plaster. I brushed white specks off my robes. Jalapenos singing in my veins, I prepared to face 30 lions barehanded armed only with the knowledge that I was too skinny and bony to be much of a snack.

But maybe I could be a toothpick. No! I couldn't let thoughts like that rise over the pepper-fueled rage in my heart.

Still, a little voice somewhere under the jalapenos -- one that tasted like cupcakes -- was convinced that I was gonna go down like Mom did.

I squared my shoulders and decided that if I didn't make it, I'd rather go down like grandma instead. In that spirit, I howled bloody murder and leapt headfirst into the fray.

The lions had been starved for 3 days, in preparation for this conflagration. Typically the were also given jalapenos, but only when they were to face a truly high-ranking warrior. Which, secretly, I was convinced I wasn't.

The first lion went down under my flailing fists. I kicked the second in the chops, sending it flying into the third and fourth which went down like tawny, toothy tenpins. But the fifth was more clever than its predecessors. When I turned to face it, it was holding a loaded crossbow. We locked eyes.

"Bad lion," I said. "Bad."

It fired the crossbow. I screamed girlishly and dodged. It laughed at me. I pulled a pocket watch from my pocket and swung it back and forth. This was my last chance.

"You are getting veeery sleepy," I told it. "When I snap my fingers, you will be a ... a duck-billed platypus. One ... two ... three ..." And I snapped.

The lion froze, blinking blankly. It didn't move. I couldn't help the giggle that worked its way up my throat. It seemed the lion didn't know what a duck-billed platypus was either.

"More blood, now!" I cried, and sprinted for the finish line. I didn't make it, of course ... not all of me. With 25 lions still around to chase me, I really had no chance. But as the lions snapped at my body, my severed head had just enough momentum to finish the job, and in my least fading moment of consciousness I knew I had secured my family legacy.