Respawn, Pt. 1

Happy New Year! Let’s do some of that pulp goodness I was talking about back in 2015. Ready?

The bloodlust of the audience was a palpable thing, a scent thick enough you could taste it, wet and heavy and metallic on the tongue. It was raw meat. It was blood pounding at the temples. It was a bassline so heavy that it reverberated in your chest, filling the empty space around your heart. It was the word of a god grown ravenous.

KILL HIM KILL HIM KILL HIM

Anausa let his eyes drift upwards, let them take in the crowd. So many faces. Men, women, children. All of them grinning, their teeth as white and sharp as sharks’. Underneath him, Raiden moaned softly, nose broken and teeth missing and eyes swollen shut. In a different world, he would have let Raiden go to heal up and return to the arena sometime in the future. But that was millennia ago. Now life was cheap and death was meaningless and god had spoken.

KILL HIM KILL HIM KILL

Anausa obliged. He reached behind his back and freed the dagger from its sheath. Lupara pulled her opponents’ throats out with her teeth. Brick smashed their face under his heel. The Doctor dissected them. You had to have a ritual. You had to give the crowd a reason to care, to not just want to see a fight, but to want to see you fight. The dagger was part of his ritual, but only a part. Really the crowds came to see him for one reason and for one reason only: Anausa never died.

He hauled Raiden up to his feet, the other man limp in his hands like a stuffed animal. He slid the dagger under the man’s chin, punching up into his brain. Raiden kicked a little, but that was less than animal instinct. That was the last throes of a broken machine being acted upon by outside forces. Then the body went limp. Whatever was in it that had been Raiden was gone.

Anausa let it fall to the ground. The crowd cheered wildly, screamed his name, but he paid them no mind. That was part of his ritual as well. The distance. The apathy. They loved him despite it. They loved him because of it. They loved him because they could cheer at his victories with the same intensity that they could eagerly await his inevitable defeat.

A mechanical hiss shook Anausa from his thoughts. The silver insects were coming out of the arena floor, forming a stretcher to carry the body away through the door Raiden had entered the arena from. He always watched as the bodies were taken away. He tried to imagine what it would be like on the day that it was him atop the machines.

He tried to imagine what it would feel like to undergo the process that would bring him back to life.

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