“Jack? Are you alright?”
Someone was talking to him. Someone far away. And underwater. At least it sounded that way.
“Are you, what do the kids say these days, “punking” me? I didn’t even hit you that hard."
Jack looked up at the ceiling. A hazy figure was coming in to view over him. A familiar voice. God, he hurt all over.
“Jack? Oh come now. This is silly. My confidence is just fine. You don’t have to play along.”
Who the hell was that? He squinted against the lights of the gym. Had he been unconscious? He felt like he was coming to from being knocked out. Was he? It had been a long time since that had happened but yeah, this is kind of what it felt like.
Who the fuck was talking to him? Dammit, just shut the hell up.
He was laying flat on his back and his whole body hurt. No, not just hurt. He was in pain. Stuff was torn, pulled, broken. His brain was racing trying to figure out where he was hurt and how badly. Where was he? How did he get here? What the hell was going on.
“You have to get up, Jack.”
Who…Sal? Why the hell was Sal talking to him? “What,” he said, bewildered
“You have to keep fighting, Jack. You always tell me that when we’re training. ‘Stay up, get up or they kill you’. You never shut up about it. If you lay down and give up they kill you, remember?”
“Training, Jack. You keep saying it during training. It’s like you’re a maniac. Keep fighting or you die.”
“Yeah’” he said weakly, still punch drunk. “Did you hit me with something? How the fuck did you knock me out?”
“Get up or die, Jack. You never stop. Get up, or die. Jack. Get up. GET UP!”
He looked up at Sal, the familiar face coming in to focus. What are you talking about. Give me a second. What the hell is going on."
“Jack, get up or I’ll kill you.”
“What the fuck, Sal?”
“GET UP OR…”
The image of Sal standing above him morphed and shifted and something heavy fell on him and grabbed at his throat. It press down on his neck with a frenzied strength. “I’LL KILL YOU,” it screamed manically. “LIKE YOU KILLED ME!”. It’s claws torn into the flesh on his neck. How much did this thing weigh? It reeked of rot and dirt and worse. Something wet and sticky fell out of it’s skull and hit Jack in the face.
“Ha ha ha, I knew it.” Someone was laughing at him. Someone close. Jack reached up at the abomination’s face with his left hand. His right hand still didn’t work like it should. He grabbed it it’s throat to crush it.
“Yeah, that’s not gonna help,” the voice came again. “It can’t breath so you can’t kill it.”
Who the hell was that? Another familiar voice. Jack’s vision was blurry, tunneling on him. He couldn’t breath and he was going to black out soon.
He looked around frantically trying to find anything that would help. He saw Dickie sitting on a bench nearby, leaning forward and casually eating an apple. He took a bite and half chewed it. “I always knew you’d go out like a bitch. Pussy.”
Something inside Jack snapped. He reached across his chest to grab the left elbow of the monster with his left hand.
“You die! like I died!” it yelled. He noticed it’s face, which he had previously mashed in beyond recognition was fully healed. Or as healed as an resurrected corpse could be.
Jack pulled with everything he had. Elbows don’t bend far on an opposite direction. They are a particularly fragile joint and most people protect them poorly. They were great for compliance holds. They also made great opportunities for submissions as he recalled Natalie saying. Not near as strong as knees which were designed to hold a body up. Elbows were not knees.
At first the elbow bent a little. Any human being would scream in agony in this position. But the monster kept pushing. So Jack kept pulling. It bent a little more. Jack grunted. His breath was leaving him. All he could see was his hand on a slippery, rotting elbow. He mustered everything he had and let out a gurgled scream.
SNAP! The body tumbled off him, it’s useless left arm failing to help it get up. Jack coughed an gasped. He couldn’t pass out. Gotta stay awake. Stay awake and stay alive. Get up or die.
So he did. He struggled to his feet and the room swayed as wildly as the heavy bag had. He had to focus.
Stay up. Stay alive. The monster staggered to it’s feet.
“Round Three,” said Dickie, gleefully chewing the apple.
Jack took a huge breath. The hardest breath he had ever managed in his life. Blood or maybe some sort of unthinkable ooze ran into his left eye. He steadied himself for one Herculean swing.
“All or nothing, baby!” Dickie shouted
It charged him again and Jack swung. With everything he had. He felt the elbow come up through the floor, through his hips are he turned them, through his torso as it turned violently and finally out through his left elbow as he swung it around like a whip. He was off balance, horribly exposed to a counter punch, though none was coming. If he missed he was down.
The elbow caught the monster fully on the left side of it’s head. Alive or dead, simple physics dictated that there had to be a reaction when two bodies collided like that. And just like the perfect swing of a bat when you get the ball right on the sweet spot, Jack didn’t feel a thing. The beast jerked to it’s left and staggered. It fell hard on to it’s broken left arm. But again, it struggled tirelessly to regain it’s feet.
“DOWN GOES FRAZIER! DOWN GOES FRAZIER!” Dickie yelled.
Jack staggered over to the monster as it tried to get up. He breathed hard and blood poured into his eye. Something in Jack moved him. He felt like an observer in the whole scene. His brain was silent. He was acting on instinct and adrenaline. Staggered to the monster as it struggled on it’s one good arm. He kicked the arm out from under it and it fell face down on the gym floor.
“Oh! Nice move, Champ!” Hollered Dickie, jumping up, bits of apple flying from his mouth.
Jack stepped over to the beast and stomped on it’s head.
“The fuck” Stomp.
The monster’s head came apart like a ripe watermelon.
“Jack?” Anna said from the doorway.
He spun around to look at her. Was it really her? Was she real? She stood there with her Sig in her hand. Is this another trick? Is someone here to kill me? Is this how I’m going to die? His mind raced.
“Jack, she said in an obviously worried tone. “Why are you saying ‘Dickie’?”
She looked scared, almost terrified. Why? The bad guy was dead. Then it hit him. He only knew how he felt. But if he looked anything like he felt it had to be horrible.
“Nothing. Never mind. I will explain later. I’m ok. I’m going to be ok.”
Then came a scream from the house. And a crash.
Anna turned to look quickly and then turned back to Jack.
“Give me the Sig,” he said as he ran to her.