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A Manly Story for Manly Men

Men love women. Men also love manly stories.  One of our readers shared this science fiction gem, and we thought we would share that with you. Enjoy!

I was sitting in Chalk’s with my back to the door when Jan Decker found me.  He had his hand on the hilt of the sheathed honor blade thrust through his sash.  The corded muscles of his forearms stood out as he flexed his grip, his left and equally massive hand clenched near his tiny waist.  His overbuilt chest heaved above slim legs.  The torchlight flickered on his scalp beneath the close-cropped brown scrub of his hair.  The green-black dragon tattoo that crawled across his face, from his right check to above his right eye, made him look demonic.

“You,” he said.

It was me he wanted, or – more accurately – it was me that Yomu, his teacher, wanted.  I couldn’t say I blamed him.  By his – their – code, I had given the Templar Ryu more than sufficient provocation.  The fact that I thought it was stupid and unnecessary made no difference.

Jan was going to kill me.  Well, he was going to try.  If I let him and if I played by his rules, by Yomul’s rules, he was going to succeed.

I’ve never been one for rules.  The court psychologist said I had problems with authority.

Well, obviously.

“You,” Jan said more quietly, pushing his way past the rough plank tables and rougher plank benches.  Chalk’s was pretty quiet at that hour and only a couple of people had to move out of his way.  Nobody wanted in on this and I couldn’t say I blamed them, either.  Of course, given time, Jan or Scalpel or one of Yomu’s other people would get to each of them in turn, unless they enrolled with the Templar first.

A lot of us live the illusion that we’re just waiting for our moments, waiting to make our moves.  Each of us bides his time and thinks, “I could draw my blade today, but why not wait?  No sense rushing things.”

No sense rushing to your death.

Me, I’ve decided that your right time never comes if you wait for it.  The moment finds youYou don’t find it.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to act as if you’re expecting the moment to walk in the door, put its big hand on its sword, and call you out on any given evening.

Chalk’s serves just three things, because those are the only three things to be had:  water, leikl curd, and a broth made by boiling water with leikl skin in it.  As I always did I had ordered half a curd cake and a bowl of broth, the broth boiled again on Chalk’s stone hearth until it was far too hot to drink.

Jan swaggered through the room until he stood before me.  I stood, very slowly, pushing back my splintered plank bench to give me some room in which to fight.

“You,” Jan said a third time, when he was standing across from me with only the wobbling table between us.  “Did you think I would allow your insult to pass?”

I leaned forward, placing both hands on the table, careful not to make a move to my own blades.  I thrust out my chin and, doing my best to keep my voice from cracking, looked him in his blue eyes.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“You lie,” he said, refusing to lean in to meet me.  He was good; he knew better.  He was too good.  He was better than me and he was going to beat me if I dueled him.  “You have insulted my teacher.  You have insulted my school.”

Naturally, I said, “I accept your challenge.”

I’d beaten him to it and that was, while not against the rules, simply not how it was done.  As if he hadn’t heard me, he announced soberly, “Cull Gavin, formerly of the Templar Ryu, I challenge you to meet me.”

“I accept, already,” I said, rolling my eyes.

He frowned.  “Name your conditions.”

“Very, well,” I said.  “First–“

Then I whipped up the wooden bowl and threw the nearly-boiling broth into his eyes.

He shrieked and recoiled, hands going to his face.  I ripped the plank table aside with one hand and drew my belt knife with the other, stepping forward and shoving it into his abdomen almost before the table hit the packed earth.  I pumped it savagely into him, digging upward under his rib cage as I shielded my own face with my free arm.  He reached for me and clawed desperately, ripping up my forearm with his nails and then locking onto me in panic.

He was still clutching at me and I was still stabbing him when he finally died.  I had bruises on my arm for two weeks after that – five bruises that mirrored the pads of the fingers and thumb of his right hand.

I should have known after that initial attack that I had made a terrible mistake.  I had to live here.  I had to endure here for a long time.  And I had blown my chance.  I was going to regret digging this grave I was now standing in.

Over the next few weeks, I was able to fend off a few more attacks.  But they were coming faster and more furious now.  I was going to have to have my hands full defending myself. I didn’t like where this was going.  I was worried all the time. It was harder and harder to get any sleep.

Finally, my exhaustion caught me.  I had to lie down.  I did what I could to find a safe place, a location far from any other inmates, and I tried to conceal myself as best I could.  But they found me.  They crept up on me in my sleep, and they put the knife in me.  I can feel myself growing colder.  That’s the feeling of the blood leaving my body.

I wish I could say it was worth it. I wish I could say it meant something.

I wish I could…



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