The same dream woke me up.
I was one of the many. We were all seated, each head turned to the ring at the center of the arena. Inside it was a wall with the height of a basketball player and the width of a sumo wrestler. On it, a circular board was mounted. Seven rings and four colors created its face and a band of 20 disoriented numbers completed its expression. A loud voice in the darkness called.
The ring dimmed. Foot falls were heard. A sole light searched for the lone player, who was at the opposite end of the ring. I think it was a man. But that was all. Even with the light shone on him, something dark surrounded him. I couldn’t discern anything else.
Suddenly, there was a glint among his shadows. It was in his hand. A swift turn of the wrist and in the next second, it wasn’t.
What he threw in the air seemed like the length of a palm of a human hand. Its flight seemed like it was two thumbs wrapped in leather. The shaft and the barrel melded into one piece, ending with the point that had its sharp edge surrounding the last three parts.
I protested! I knew I spoke in the dream. But I couldn’t hear my voice. So I turned to the person on my right. He was asleep. I turned to the left. She too was asleep. I surveyed the whole arena. Save for me, the all the spectators were slumped in their seats, all their eyes closed.
My eyes followed the target. And I couldn’t believe where it would land. Between the board and the blade was a body, which still bore the unmistakable insignias only he could have.
I stood up. I still tried to warn the target. But I remained voiceless. I tried to run down to the ring. Yet no matter how fast I dashed down, I could never reach the ring. And in the most futile attempt, I jumped at the blade flying towards him.
And it was always at this point when I wake from the dream. Questions haunt me because of it. Yet I always dismiss them. But they persist. Even as I walk, I could hear myself asking the darkness things I know I was curious about but just frustrating myself more because I knew that it would never answer me.
Just as I was about to knock at the door, the heavy wood swung open. Sheepishly, I smile as I entered. I couldn’t tell if I was late or not because, strangely, there were already a crowd in the hall. It was always crowded when new recruits for the annual war games were presented.
And this year like the six years before, Hulyo Kaiser had the pick of the litter. It’s one of the perks of winning the previous war game. And Hulyo loved it. The only part he hated was he had to tell me. In truth, he doesn’t have to; they could register themselves and all I had to do was see that all the papers were in order. What he hated about telling me was that I always had something to say about his choices. Even when I don’t speak to him, he still believes I have something to say.
Since I arrived, I’ve heard a bunch of names. My guess is they are the names taken from the forum. Cassidy. June. Surfer. Five. Luke. Seville. Pubs. Alvin. Tullio. Trevor. Long. Enzo. Cecil. Bucky. Rubik. Marco. Six. Eagle. Pete. Ten. Paco. Nelly. So much more were in the air that I couldn’t make out the rest. And even with the supposed commemorative photos of them in a ring, I couldn’t tell who was who. Mismatching faces and names are a hassle.
But in midst of the noise, I could hear something distinct, something familiar which I could not identify.
Once I had water, I sat on the chair to begin the work. I laid the stamps and ink set in front of me. A tumbler of ball pens was to my right and empty forms were to my left. I breathed.
Walking straight in my direction was a large group of men. Their jokes were lost to everyone else. The drinks in their hands spilled to the floor. They moved like a huge wave coming from the farther shore. I asked how many there were in their group. They began counting but stopped. Like the sea of old, the din died and the waters parted to reveal one man standing in the far back. Despite being in a well-lighted area, he still stood in the shadows. His frame was a solid wall. His stance was that of a mounted board. His voice was a blade.