The Objectors of Thunderpunch
by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson
part 1 of 2
I woke up in a 6-by-10 room with ten other people lying randomly on three double beds. The others were waking up as well.
“Where am I?” asked a woman on the other side of the room.
“Who are you?” asked a man beside me.
I looked at him. “You talking to me?”
“Where are we?” he asked.
“Wasn’t that a party?” I asked myself, looking around, wondering if there was maybe a police cruiser in the back yard.
“I don’t remember any party,” said someone.
“It was that awesome,” said I and checked the time. 14:27. I checked the date. “Hey, I’ve been here for a month!”
“Some party indeed,” said the one nearest to me.
People were getting up. One man walked to the door, stating his intention to leave. The door wasn’t locked. “What the hell is happening here?” he yelled from the hall.
I walked over to check why he was making a fuss.
The hall curved out of sight, and there were plenty of people there already, leering out the doors, standing around looking dumbfounded, or running.
After a while, one of the runners who had disappeared a couple minutes before, appeared again.
“It’s a circle,” I said, again to myself, because experience has shown that nobody listens or cares.
The runner went around again before realizing that he was trapped. “There’s no way out!” he yelled.
* * *
After a couple of hours we had... Well, I had made sure that there was indeed no way out: no windows, no doors, other than the door leading out to the hall. The circle had 52 rooms on the inside, and 54 on the outside. One was somewhat larger than the others, and contained 15 people, but other than that, they were about the same size.
I figured there were slightly over one thousand people here. I had enough time to calculate that. I had nothing else to do, really. Normally I’m too distracted by the TV, the radio, or whatever other marvel of modern times to bother calculating anything.
I found myself understanding how the ancients bothered to figure out the motion of stars.
I was about to say something about that, when a section of the floor suddenly began to descend, creating a ramp to a lower floor. The people rushed down there. I wasn’t in any hurry and walked down after the greater part of the stampede was over.
The lower floor was identical to the upper one, which would have been a complete bummer, if not for the ramp immediately down to the next floor, and there, a door to the outside. Which was a sort of bummer when I saw it first, because it led to the inside of the circular structure.
I followed the people and ended up in a walled area under the blue sky. Everybody was there, wondering at the trappings: three large racks filled with swords. That was all very fascinating, but I looked around some more, and found that the building itself must have been six storeys tall.
I was beginning to fit that into my calculations, when a voice boomed: “Choose your weapons!”
The people looked around. There was nobody there.
“Pick one weapon each from the racks,” said the voice again.
The people started to get swords, some of them. Some decided they didn’t want anything to do with them. I had a look. They offered three kinds: a Roman army sword, short and thick-bladed, with a very sharp tapering point; a rapier, with a very long, thin blade and sharp tip; and a cutlass, somewhat longer than the Roman gladius, with more of a cutting edge to it.
Looking around, I didn’t see a shield of any sort on offer. The rapier looked rather flimsy, so I picked the cutlass. That thing looked like it could be used as a crowbar if the need arose.
“Who are we going to kill?” asked someone, once most had a sword in hand.
The general consensus was that there were monsters behind the wall. The people were quite agitated when the wall started sinking slowly into the ground.
I’d have worried, but I had a sword, so whatever was behind all this, I could stab it. But there was nothing but a huge circular arena, sand-floored, about 100 meters across. And there was an audience on some bleachers on the opposite wall. Perhaps five thousand people. I guessed that must be the people from the upper and lower floors.
We went into the vast arena and saw that it had been tidied up a bit.
“What are we now: gladiators?” asked a man right beside me.
“I suppose so.”
“What if we won’t fight?” he asked.
“Then there’s no show,” said I.
“Someone has been here with a rake,” he said.
“Of course,” said I, “to hide the blood from the last contest.”
And the voice began again: “Now you will fight the person next to you to the death.”
I looked at the man beside me. He looked back, and we gave each other a look that said, “I don’t think so.”
We had hardly taken two steps when we hit what can only be described as a force field.
“What is this Star Trek stuff?” yelled the man beside me, rather annoyed.
I said nothing. I was also getting annoyed at the whole thing, actually. More annoyed, I mean. Looking around, I saw that the whole group had been paired together just as the man and I were, and the force fields were moving and resizing to space us all together equally.
“Fight!” commanded the voice.
I flipped it off. Then I looked at the man. He shrugged. The rest of the people stood there, staring into the sky, at each other, and at the crowd watching. The crowd was beginning to shout at them to kill each other.
“They won’t let us out until we have killed someone!” somebody yelled.
“Not gonna happen,” I said.
“Kill, kill, kill!” said the crowd.
“I have to take a leak,” said the man I was supposed to duel to the death.
“I don’t think you can have any privacy around here,” said I.
“I’ll wait,” he said.
So time passed, and nobody swung a sword at anyone.
In five minutes, the voice boomed again: “When at least ten percent of you have been killed, you will be allowed to take a break, go to the toilet, and have a meal.”
“Kill!” yelled the crowd. I flipped them off too.
Suddenly the crowd roared. We all looked around. I couldn’t see a thing. Wait... a man about ten meters away had run his partner through with a rapier. And now he stood there with both hands above his head, victorious.
“Change of partners!” said the voice, and the force fields forced us into new pairs.
That’s when the killing started.
The guy with the rapier, who had made the first kill, killed his new partner, and a few people began furtively swinging at each other.
I pointed threateningly at my new partner, and said, “You don’t do anything.”
When four more people had been successfully killed, the remainder were paired up again, and the killers kept it up, killing whoever ended up with them. And again they were paired up with someone else, and their new partners ran away from them. But they never went far on account of the force field and got caught and killed within a minute.
It wasn’t much of a fight.
The third time, I had to parry a furtive blow from a new partner. I punched him in the face with the hand guard and proceeded to kick him to the ground, where he lay, begging for mercy. I sighed and shook my head, beginning to lose my temper with the entire scenario.
I didn’t pay attention to the growing number of killers, because I felt I needed to keep an eye out for whomever I got paired up with next. The next two people did nothing, but the third needed to have me make threatening motions toward him.
The original killer was in the next field over now. He seemed to be enjoying himself. He stabbed his victim six times, just for fun, before he delivered the finishing blow. Then he looked at me. “I kill you next,” he said, and smiled wolfishly.
The entire world was out to piss me off, I was sure. And sure enough, we got paired up next.
“I used to fence when I was in college,” he told me, grinning. “I made the team.”
Yeah, whatever. Team. I waited for the guy to spring forth, as these fencers do, and when he did, I rushed him. He hadn’t been expecting that. They don’t do that in fencing. They just poke each other from a safe distance. He nearly toppled over, but no matter. I hacked at him until his head was all over the place. Then I hacked off his arms, and opened him up.
I was beginning to feel very satisfied when someone tapped me on the back. “What?” I asked.
It was my original partner. “People are staring,” he said.
I looked around. So they were. “Sorry... I got a little carried away.”
The killing stopped. People were paired together five or six times after that, but not a single kill was made. The most intense sociopaths had taken to injuring people for the fun of it, and one of them had been disarmed by someone who didn’t like being stabbed at all. That is, literally disarmed, he now only had one hand, the other was lying on the floor, hacked off at the elbow.
“Stop now,” said the voice. And all the weapons were pulled to the ground. I suspected there must have been a powerful electromagnet under the whole floor by the way the swords fell suddenly. I shrugged. Now there was nothing to worry about.
A wall slid open, revealing various refreshments, as well as medical help in the form of weird, hovering robot things with tentacles.
The food was very simple, just some bread and a mug of what tasted like watered-down red wine. After dinner, the so-called fight continued. For me, it was mostly peaceful, so I had time to look around. I had to stab one guy in the face though. He was one of the apparently growing number of people who did as they were told. I rather regretted that afterwards. I didn’t regret stabbing him in the face, that was very satisfying. I regretted not killing him outright. Because he went and killed the next person he got paired with.
The whole day went by like this. In the end, I guess as many as fifty people had been killed, and almost everybody was injured in one way or another. We went back to our rooms and fell into a coma shortly afterwards.
* * *
Copyright © 2012 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson