by Leo King

Approx. 1200 Words


Beyond the Mask Series:
Part 1 | The Prayer
Part 2 | The Sell
Part 3 | The Walk


Standing on the top of the ropes, looking down upon his opponent, Furio could hardly believe the match was almost over. His longtime rival, King Rex, lay prone on the ground before him, covered in sweat. It had been a long battle between Furio and his much larger opponent, the disparaging differences between size made up for by Furio’s agile fighting style. If he could just land this final blow, he might be able to win.

Furio raised his arms, signaling for his finishing move, a double somersault that had ended more than one opponent’s dreams of victory. All around, the crowd was screaming his name, chanting it as if he were a saint. Their love and support flowed through him like fresh blood from a donor. Furio was grateful for the love – sometimes it was all that sustained him.

With a battle cry, Furio jumped into the air. Immediately, he closed his eyes as the otherwise blinding flash of thousands of lights rippled around him, his fans capturing this moment in time with their cameras and phones. Like so many of his other moves, Furio’s body moved on its own. Muscle memory, ingrained into him through years of training and experience.

The impact came hard, Furio’s body slamming, stomach first, into Rex’s. Immediately, he felt the air rush out of his lungs and the lungs of his rival. His arms absorbed most of the impact, but Rex absorbed the rest. Furio could hear him gasp in pain.

Sitting up for a second and holding his aching abdomen, fighting back the rising pain, Furio opened his eyes and looked down. Rex wasn’t moving; his eyes were rolled back, and he looked as if someone had hit him in the back of the head. For a moment, Furio wondered if he had given Rex whiplash.

The crowd still screaming, their cheers at a fever pitch, Furio remembered what he had to do. Grabbing one of Rex’s legs, he pinned his rival’s shoulders to the mat. The referee dropped down to make the count.

“One!”

Furio concentrated on keeping the grimace on his face, the look of a gladiator in the final moments of a battle.

“Two!”

Furio could hear the crowd screaming, counting along in thunderous refrain.

“Thr—“

With a roaring cry, Rex lifted his shoulder off the mat so hard Furio tumbled to the side. The crowd’s screams changed to a blood-frenzied call for carnage. Before Furio realized what was happening, Rex had grabbed his throat and was lifting him.

Furio clasped his hands over Rex’s as his rival brought him to his feet, pushing him to the center of the ring. The crowd’s screams were no longer in support of him but admonishing and throwing abhorrence, heat as it is often called, towards Rex. Just as quickly as the crowd had been feeding Furio their love, they switched focus and were now feeding Rex their hate. But he was the villain so he fed them willingly.

Once in the center of the ring, Rex locked eyes with Furio, sneering in what looked like utter contempt. Shaking his head, his rival made a slashing motion with his thumb over his own throat, and with both hands, lifted Furio off the ground.

Again, the flashes of light went off, the crowd roaring as Rex began to set up his own finishing move. The crowd was no longer behind Furio. They may hate Rex, but they wanted to see him drive Furio into the mat. They wanted to see him break Furio’s body. They lived for this. They paid for this.

For a brief moment, Furio looked ringside and saw his wife, Maria, and his two children, Amada and Antonio. His children were wearing masks similar to his own, tributes they wore to their father’s profession. All three of them looked horrified, pale, and anxious. Antonio pleaded for his father to fight back. It was amazing that he could hear his son’s small voice above the blood-thirsty crowd.

Looking down, Furio realized that Rex’s hold on him had shifted. The hand holding his legs was barely holding on at all. Furio realized that during the match, Rex’s arm must have gotten injured. It was something he could exploit.

As Rex began to roar, signaling that he was about to drive Furio into the mat, Furio realized he could win this match. All he had to do was twist, trap Rex’s head between his legs, and spin. The resulting move would throw Rex to the ground. Furio could win.

Looking back at his wife and children, Furio remembered the first time he ever imparted a lesson to them. He had taught them never to lie and to always follow the rules. He could win, but what would that teach Antonio and Amada? Furio had made a promise, and he intended to keep it.

Instead of winning, Furio closed his eyes.

The slam came quickly, and all of the air again was knocked from Furio’s lungs. From the impact, he felt the rosary, his mother’s rosary, shake loose from his boot. He couldn’t see where it went. All he saw were stars and lights. All he heard was his blood pounding through his veins.

When his vision returned, all Furio could see was the stadium lights above.

Then he felt Rex upon him, pushing into the mat. He heard the referee drop to start the count – the final count of his career.

“One!”

Furio thought of his father and mother, and how they were likely watching him from heaven with pride.

“Two!”

Furio thought of his wife and children. They would be disappointed, but at least they’d get their father back.

“Three!”

Furio closed his eyes. It was over.

The crowd roared as Rex stood up, the announcer calling out his name as victor and still Champion. Furio opened his eyes to see the crowd ignoring him and casting all off their bitterness onto his rival.

Furio couldn’t see where his rosary went. He wondered if it flew off into the crowd.

“That’s the end of you, Furio,” came Rex’s voice from above. His rival had gotten a microphone and was growling his venom at him. “We had a deal. I beat you, and you retire. It’s over!”

Dropping the microphone next to his head, Rex went to the top ropes and posed for the crowd, who screamed hate at him with even greater fervor.

Furio just lay there. Despite all the planning for this fight, the promotions, the confrontations in the ring and out, he had still lost. Even when he saw the moment to change his destiny, he knew that this was the right move. In the end, he sold the crowd on his defeat.

Tonight was his night.


Note From Leo: If you wish to leave feedback on this general fiction short story, please fill out the comment form below. I make sure to read all feedback, both praising and critical.