They didn’t kill me, just made me wish they had, bastards. We were all there that day, lined up ringside waiting for the off. It was top billing and we were crackling with anticipation, the scent of victory already creeping up our noses and fuelling our self-belief. Our man was big. The biggest. I mean really big. So big their man couldn’t even reach him never mind hit him. So what, that it was barely a competition? All we cared about was winning. We had bets, we’d make a pile. We’d get the hell out of the gulags and away somewhere warm with women; lots of women, easy women.
Suddenly the noise dropped, we all held our breath over that tipping moment between the waiting and the battle, then the baying and roaring began as the fighters made their way through the pumping crowd. Sergei was unmissable, 7’2” of muscle and dumb intent, while their guy, Fyodor Vasiliev, was barely visible despite being a pretty impressive size himself. Roaring chants broke out, most of them anticipating Sergei’s bloody defeat of the pretender, but some of them silky-sly because of what they knew was coming.
They climbed into the ring, Vasiliev ducking under the ropes while Sergei stepped over them like he was in a child’s playground. The crowd went ape. Then everybody froze; nostrils flared and mouths open ready to howl allegiance. We froze too, a few more minutes and it would be over and we’d be rich. My chest was squeezed tight as a rusty wing-nut with the waiting.
Then the plan kicked in. Sergei began to puff and blow, his eyes went all wild-looking with huge pupils and even huger whites, and Vasiliev saw his chance. Leaping forward like a panther on springs, he hung a hard right on Sergei’s temple, getting in another with his left as he dropped back and skipped away. Sergei staggered; he wasn’t smart, our man, and he wasn’t used to being hit. We waited for the crash and Vasiliev being declared the winner. We practised looking shocked and mentally counted our haul.
But the plan was screwed. Sergei was used to a regular arseful of meds in the psych unit where we’d found him, but that didn’t include horse tranqs. This crap sent him nuts and he laid about him with arms like wrestlers’ legs. His face got redder, his eyes wilder, and when Vasiliev tried to make a run for it, Sergei grabbed his neck. Must have reminded him of the guards or something because he swung that man round like a piece of dead meat, which is what he was after a minute or so of being battered against the posts and thrown onto the floor. Now we were screwed. Painted into a corner with no Plan B. Sergei collapsed: twenty-five stone of him hitting the deck like a brick shit-house and dead seconds later. Vasiliev got his hits in first, alright, but he couldn’t win because Sergei outlived him. Last man standing rule.
(c) suzanne conboy-hill 2012