“Eight…Nine…Ten.” He’s out, the referee waved his hands in their air, his shirt caked in blood, his brow soaked with sweat. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, the winner by way of knockout in the 38th round, the undefeated Martin ‘Zombie Slayer’ Peacock.” With this said the ref raised Martins hands above his head and turned him around full circle, allowing everyone in attendance that chance to show their appreciation.
Martin soaked it up. His breathing was heavy, his lungs burnt and his legs had turned to lead, but he remained standing, soaking it up for as long as he could, after all, someone had to give them all hope.
It had been a big crowd, easily 100 000 people crammed into the stadium to watch him fight. Since the plague had hit fighting had become the most popular sport in America. Possibly the world, nobody knew much about that anymore. Travel had been suspended. Nobody dared venture out much further than the boundaries of their own town, and even then it was during the day time for the most part.
“You really put on a show out there tonight kid” Lloyd Bartlett his manager spoke. “You feeling good?” He asked with genuine concern. Lloyd had been his agent before the plague, back then he had been a writer, well aspiring at least.
“I’m good. They’re getting tougher, more aggressive.’ Martin answered him, rubbing the back of his neck as he spoke. He sat naked in the locker room, waiting for the blood to dry. There was nothing worse than trying to wash the zombie blood off before it had hardened, it seemed to react with the water, burning the skin it was attached to.
“Doc said the same thing the other day. The disease isn’t done with ;’em yet. It keeps changing, that’s why they haven’t found a cure. Hey if you want out just say the word buddy, I mean your 75 – 0 it’s a good run.” Lloyd stood back and looked at his friend, his body muscular, his face tired. “ You’re not getting any younger man.”
“I can’t walk away Lloyd, those people out there need something to hold onto. How many of us are left, that must have been nearly the entire state out there tonight. I can’t just walk away from that.” Martin rose to his feet. “Someone has to keep fighting these things, and Lord knows we can’t do it out there.” He pointed out of the now heavily barred window. It was overcast, the sky grey, but there was enough sun forcing its way through to keep them all hidden away until the true sunset.
“Ok buddy, whatever you want. I tell you what, how about we arrange a couple of weaklings for you. Throw a couple of hand picks your way. I know there’s a few in the lab, look wild as a puma with its tail in a bear trap but soft as a schoolgirl on the inside.” Lloyd offered, thinking up a solution.
“Lab rats? You think they would notice?” Martin asked,
“It wouldn’t matter. You’re still out there kicking zombie ass around the ring, they’ll love it. Everyone would understand you taking a couple of easy fights. Leave it to me, I’ll talk to the joint chiefs and see what we can arrange for you. Go get cleaned up, I’ve got your back.” Lloyd said, patting his friend on the shoulder as he walked away, careful to pick a spot that wasn’t crusted over by the blood of the undead.
A few weeks went by, three fights were set up, the attendances at record lows, not due to the staged opposition, no nobody noticed that, but because of a spate of killings that had occurred, bodies discovered within their own homes, necks snapped. The full details hadn’t been released yet, not that there was a press around anymore to release anything too. The army had moved quickly and instilled a curfew, escorting people to the stadium for fights and back home again. There were a couple of zombies spotted loitering but they seemed to be ‘ transitionals’ The virus not fully in control of their body, rendering them useless. The basic motor functions were left and so they would wander the world until the virus claimed them and the seemingly endless hunger for living flesh consumed them.
“Hey champ, listen I’ve got a proposition for you.” Major Tom Harding spoke as he strode into the locker room. “You really get the crowd going, get them baying for blood. You’re a fucking gladiator man. So how about we stop fucking around and mix things up a bit.” The Major spoke, his military uniform was pristine despite the fact that he had just fired on a group of three zombies who had been feasting on a young runaway over by in the park. The creases in this trousers looked sharp enough to cut you it you felt them.
“No, he’s not doing it. Don’t even listen to ‘em Marty, they’ve all gone fucking mad. Its craziness. You leave him . . . “ Lloyd strode into the room shouting his mouth, obviously continuing a conversation that the Major had already considered closed. He put a definite end to it by firing a round into Lloyds head, piercing his skull right between the eyes. His body fell to the floor limply, twitched slightly as the last few impulses were processed by the brain.
“Listen up champ, here is how things are gonna go.” The Major continued, turning his attention back to Martin as if nothing had happened. “You have become something of a symbol around here.” He spoke
“Lloyd, you k..killed Lloyd” Martin stammered in disbelief.
“Yeah Yeah, get over it. Listen to me now because your choice at the end will be what I suggest or what he got, because what I am going to tell you can’t leave this room if you’re not on board.” The Majors voice changed, it wasn’t a threat but a warning of how serious things were about to become. As if they weren’t already.
“Then I guess I am all ears Major.” Martin spoke, staring at the military man with the cold eyes of a man who has nothing left to loose.
“You have no doubt heard of the new murders that have happened. Well, they weren’t at the hands of any zombies. It was something else… something new.” He began “And we need to something to keep peoples spirits up, if you understand what I’m saying.” He looked at Martin raising his eyebrows.
“The virus has mutated again hasn’t it?” Martin jumped in, he felt uncomfortable all of a sudden with his nudity and rose, quickly slipping into a bathrobe. He didn’t really feel any better.
“No, this is something else,”
“And you want me to fight it, put on a display like a .. . what was it. Gladiator.” Martin jumped in, seeing the direction the conversation was taking.
“Yes.” I mean listen to them out there.”Chanting your name, they love you, you have given them all some hope, something to look forward to. It’s only a matter of time before we find the cure.” He began, but Martin cut him off, raising a taped hand.
“I’ll do it. Put the brainless beast in front of me and I’ll knock him down. The world has changed but at the end of the day it’s still just a case of last man standing wins the race.” He added, not sure where the line came from. Probably a movie he had watched back when the televisions were still broadcasting.
“There’s something you need to know before you go out there.” The major began.
“You mean it’s out there now?” Martin fired back. That thing that killed those little kids is out there in that ring?” He stared down at the Major his eyes burning with an intensity usually only seen on the battlefield.
“Yes, but the bodies . . .” He started, but Martin had turned and fled down the tunnel, ready to make his stand, to make the stand for all of them. “The bodies were drain of blood.” The Major finished his sentence talking to himself and the lifeless body that lay on the floor beside him.