I’ve finally been able to get back to working on a YA novel that’s been catching dust in my documents for some time now. I’d like to share an excerpt with you all from it. This particular piece involves the main character dreaming of a previous life he had, in Imperial Rome (and if you haven’t guessed by the end of the piece, yes, “Gladiator” is my all-time favorite film). Enjoy!
“Their chants are deafening as I emerge from the cage.
“MIKILUS! MIKILUS! MIKILUS!”
How foolish they are. The one time the rich and the poor unite, only to watch more slave blood spilt. A fellow warrior will fall upon these sands this day.
I stopped feeling pity long ago.
The sun is blazing overhead, and the screams erupt as the mob catches sight of me. The air is heavy with heat and the breath of thousands. I raise my blade overhead, and they roar. I hear the cage close behind me, completing our circular prison of blood. Many have fallen here, with only the sky above as some semblance of a different life. I dig my bare feet in the sand, relishing in its soft embrace. The brother is standing about a man’s height across from me. He is new. The amount of armor and leather he wears says as much. I wear no helmet, no guard, no brace. It’s better that way.
We turn toward the center of the arena, and look up toward the Emperor and his gang of government. They sit in a concealed chamber, away from the mob. The Emperor raises a glass.
‘We who are about to die, salute you!’ we yell, bowing.
Eventually, he will be forced to give me my freedom. He has no choice. I will continue to dispatch all these men he places before me, and once there is no one left, and there is no more coin to be made and power to be gained from my entertainment, it will be my time.
And if he does not, then I will come for him and all of those he loves.
He knows that all the legionnaires in the Republic cannot protect him from the likes of me.
A horn blasts, the crowd screams, and the battle begins.
He is fast, this brother, and well-trained. Perhaps he was in the army, a deserter, maybe? He is sure-footed and accurate with his spear, and the mob roars as I duck and weave away from his attacks. I have yet to swing my sword.
Sweat is pouring from under the brother’s helmet as he fights. His muscles must be aching by now. Steel of shield and spear can be taxing, especially when you keep missing your target. He drops his shield and reaches for one of the props buried in the dirt, a hooked blade left over from a previous bout.
No brother, desperation is your enemy in this.
The crowd begins to jeer as he breathes heavily, hunched over, his weapons pointed before him. I stand my ground. The sand surrounding us is warm, inviting.
The brother, to the surprise of the crowd, throws his spear, aiming for my bare chest.
I tense, summoning the familiar energies, the gift of the Gods.
The transformation starts at my feet, until it travels up my body, turning my flesh into grain, into sand.
The heavy spear passes through me like water through hands.
The crowd cries in pure ecstasy. Oh, how they love this, to see the Gods’ work made reality.
The brother has fallen to his knees in disbelief. Another atheist made to feel useless. He tears his helmet off, bowing his head. He is younger than I expected. His long black hair is plastered to his sweaty face. There are tears in his eyes.
I materialize behind him, the sand giving way to blood and bone and man. I reach for his fallen sword, touching two fingers to the hot blade. Like fire traveling up wood, the steel merges with my arm until I release the blade. My arm is grey, stained and rusted with use. The crowd explodes.
I look up toward the Emperor. He rises from his regal chair, holding his hand out for all the world to see. Slowly, he lowers his thumb toward Hell.
I raise my arm, the steel cutting the air. The crowd trembles, their screams buzzing as they pile together, inching closer for the final blow of the match. What do they care of their starving bellies and the flies that surround them in their splintery bleachers, the disease currently creeping up on them like a demon? What should they care, when they are witness to me, to the One Touched by The Gods? This coliseum, with its marble, majestic surface and its ugly, dirty depths, will one day fall to Time as all things do, but I will remain, in the whispers and the stories of legend. As I let my bladed arm fall toward the brother’s neck, I can feel the endless tapestry of history wrap itself around me like a lover. I embrace it as the brother’s blood splashes onto my face…”