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Facing Yourself Before The Fight (Dweller Chapter 15)

As though on cue, the mechanism beneath the platform I stood upon creaked and whined as it began the ascent into the heart of the World Stadium completely indifferent to whom it carried. It must remember well the emotions of all the past fighters that had stood upon it throughout decades of victories and disappointments. Up and up it went, slow enough to build the moment up appropriately. The far-away lights of the massive arena were starting to fall on me now. Soon I would be bathed in it.
Concentrate. This is it.
I could not. I was as far away from the stadium as an airplane flying above it as all of the things rattling around in my head began to viciously flash through my mind like a stormy window as though I were preparing for my own death. I felt my mother’s arms around me, singing that lovely song as I clung to her neck and played with her hair, having no conception of ever being separated from the warm security of her arms. I felt Bethany’s breath hot against my neck as she cried out with delight and told me that we would always be together. I felt the strain of tired legs as Sophina relentlessly chased me around the house, as I laughed and escaped beneath the couch.
I saw the summer skies drifting like a red desert throughout my mind. I felt the grass beneath me where I lay down as clouds languidly crossed my chest. I smelled the wet, rainy leaves on the days of walking to school late for class. And I could see myself, just a little kid whose hair was messed, jeans too short and shoes too big. All of these visions were chased away by the reality that stood before me like a horizon where nothing was behind. Everything, good or bad, led to this. This was my time. Regardless of the outcome, there was no going back, ever.
I looked up as the edges of the ring were coming down and I could just picture Syrus the Hellman sitting on a ledge, smiling.
“There’s no way you can beat him.” He would taunt. “He’s just too good and I’ve seen him put down a lot better fighters than you, Kid. Trust me, tonight your heart is going to be the last thing to break.”
The roar of the crowd was deafening. I was in full view now and could see little specks of spectator movement all across the stadium that walled my vision. In my mind Hellman still laughed away. He didn’t seem to have a face because he was everyone that I knew, everyone that I had ever met. He was every opponent, every wall -every open pit that I had ever come across. In every place he breathed indifference and pain. He was all of them -the harrowing bullies, the shiny plastic demons, the things that lurked in the night forest, the shadows –and he was here at my final moment before it all came to fists and blood to let me know that he was watching and waiting for me to fall.
I would not be sorry to disappoint him. I bet it happened rarely enough that he might even consider it a pleasure.
I searched the front rows looking for Sophina but I could not find her. My heart began to race at the prospect of her not being here but the idea of it was rather ludicrous considering that she had attended all of my fights and this was the largest and by far most important. Sophina was here. I could feel her if I opened my heart and listened for hers.

The Dweller 11: Enter Sweet Sophina’s Night of Heaven Deep inside of Hell

I was not dead, well, still half-dead but still here above ground. I had simply passed out from the overall strain of whatever I was doing which I could not exactly recall so it must have been very intense. For how long I was out for I wasn’t entirely sure but I had awakened to hands shrugging my shoulders with increasing intensity and so crossed my arms over my face to shield myself while shouting, “No! Get away from me, you Haggard Wench!”

Calm, cool hands brought my arms down gently and I ventured to open my eyes to find not the easily excitable (and extraordinarily insane) healing bag-lady but Sophina knelt down before me, peering into my face questionably. It was quite the contrast. Sophina looked so much more outer-worldly majestic than at any other time that I had seen her. It ached to watch her, even for a moment. Black dress, black lipstick, black hair, large black eyes and a white porcelain face from a dolls from a dream that you would not want to ever forget faced me and I somehow knew that she was not here to harm or terrify me, not this time.
‘Dweller.’ She whispered.

I gazed at Sophina as an artist would a fine painting. That she was here seemed nothing short of a miracle and reinforced what Jacob had said about her being my keeper. I still did not truly understand what that entailed but I didn’t have to, not right then. I had never been so close to her and I had just opened my eyes. That in itself was its own reward. The question of why Sophina was here or how she had got here did not seem too important at the time. The fact was that she was here. I felt as though I was staring at heaven, a dark heaven filled with impossibilities to be broken.

I reached out and touched her face. Sophina did not back away, instead her eyes grew with curiosity so I caressed her and she let me, even leaned into my hand. There was such sadness in her there that I did not see before. It was breaking my heart to look at her but would only break it even more to turn away.

(Excerpt from ‘The Dweller’ Chapter 11)