13th September '17 - Coming of Age (Short Story).

While showing off his skills within a coliseum a mighty gladiator is challenged by a member of the audience and is shocked to discover that it is a young boy. The warrior laughs but the cocky young boy has no intention of backing down and the challenge is accepted with a fight to the death, or until one of them cries. Set in the days of old and told from the point of view of the gladiator.

* * *

I fell flat on my face, my cheek resting against dirt as six large men pounded on top of me hitting their arms against my back. Their mighty brawn was no match for my own however so with ease I jumped to my feet flinging the other men into the air as the crowd of the coliseum roared at my feat of strength.

"Ha, ha, ha!" I boomed with a deep laugh, "None of you weaklings are a match for me. I'll snap you all like a twig."

One of the men, a particularly large wrestler, lurched towards me with both his hands in readiness to grab my shoulders. I simply stood out of the way pushing him to the ground much to the amusement of the cheering spectators.

"Ha, ha, ha!" I continued while resting my fists against my hips, "Your feeble attempts amount to nothing."

Another of the wrestlers took advantage while my back was turned jumping onto me in an attempt to topple me over. Grabbing hold of his legs I held him in a piggyback fashion then span my body around and around forcing him to fly out of my arms the moment I let go. His dizziness caused him to wobble on his feet as he tried to stand and ended up flaying across the coliseum into the spectators who continued to roar with laughter.

The other wrestlers had had enough and fled with fear.

"Ha, ha, ha, ha!" I boomed raising my arms high and addressing the crowd, "Is there no one to dare challenge me?!"

I flexed my muscles, continuing with my exaggerated laugh for a few more moments, before turning my back and making my way towards the coliseum entrance. A group of archers began making their way inside ready to entertain the crowd further. The overlapped voices, cheers and laughter of the spectators echoed around my head but one particular comment was all too clear.

"I challenge you!" Yelled a prepubescent voice.

I ignored it and continued along my way.

"Are you not brave enough?!" This voice called out fully aware that I could hear his comment.

I was still willing to ignore him but the spectators had also heard his challenge and they began to hush. Turning around I looked toward the vast crowd trying to gauge who had spoken. The sun was in my eyes distorting my gaze so it took a few moments to make out who was speaking. Part of me wished it was a larger than life muscle-clad man but as he continued to heckle I saw him sitting in the front row. It was a child.

"I challenge you for real!" The boy said in a broken and put-on tough guy tone, "Everyone knows your wrestling is fake, so I challenge you to a real fight, a fight to the death!"

I laughed out loud in the hope that the spectators would join in, but to my surprise not many did so, I guessed they were fed up with fake fighting too.

The boy's face was distorted with anger and he was likely serious in his childish little mind, but there was no way I could fight a child for he wouldn't last no more than a single punch. It was a crazy challenge. I was going to have to wiggle out of it to save face.

"So child," I said calmly as approached, "What makes you think you have even the slightest chance of succeeding against me?"

The boy's face twitched.

"Because you're a big fat fraud!" He chirped his response causing the crowd to laugh with him.

I let out a breath trying not to let the situation overwhelm me just in case I did something stupid I would later regret.

"How old are you?" I asked guessing he was no more than twelve at the most.

"Old enough to defeat you!" He shouted as he jumped to his feet and raised his fists.

With that the spectators cheered and I was clearly losing the battle of popularity with him. I wondered if I should accept his challenge then simply spank him in front of everyone to teach the little brat a lesson. I leant forward trying my best to intimidate.

"Challenge accepted," I responded calmly.

The boy jumped from his seat then ran as fast as he could slipping against the dusty ground as he hurried into the middle of the coliseum. The archers quickly started making their way out not wanting any association with the crazy battle that was to take place.

"Ha, ha, ha, not too steady on your feet are you?" I laughed at the boy who simply stood defiant with his fists in the air.

I flexed my muscles a few times to make him realise how foolish he was acting but he continued to stare at me. Shaking my head I walked over to him.

"I won't see that you come to any real harm," I told him softly as to not let the spectators overhear, "But you will get hurt I promise you, so I suggest you back out now."

"This battle will end with you crying!" He yelled his response before striking his fist at my belly.

I lurched back as the crowd started laughing, but I was sure they were laughing at me rather than with me. I wasn't used to being made to look the fool and felt anger brewing inside.

The boy lurched forward and began punching my abdomen with his fists one after the other, I turned away only for him to then start punching my back. I then felt his boot kick me against the back of my leg causing me to wobble and fall to one knee. The spectators went wild with amusement as they cheered the boy.

"You annoying little runt!" I yelled as I turned and grabbed the boy by his neck lifting him from the ground while he kicked his feet in the air.

It took just one punch from me to cause blood to spurt from his nose and his body to fall limp. I threw him to the ground and the crowd let out a silent gasp.

Some of the archers and other wrestlers re-entered the coliseum and raced over to the boy who remained lifeless on the ground. There were screams from the spectators and shouts of abuse directed toward myself.

"Are you out of your mind?!" One of my fellow gladiators yelled at me.

My mind span and I felt dizzy as the huge coliseum felt so small and claustrophobic. Everything was a blur and all sounds incomprehensible. Collapsing to my knees and covering my hands over my face I began to immediately regret what I had done. I was a monster. Why couldn't I control my rage? I began to weep causing my tears to flood between the gaps of my fingers before letting out a loud cry of grief. Falling into a heap to the ground I sobbed loudly.

A shadow was then cast above me as the boy who had just regained consciousness stood looking down at me. He wiped his bloody nose across his sleeve.

"I said I'd make you cry," he said with a smile.

THE END.

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