Friday, June 3, 2011

Pastiche Project: Terminus

Another Pastiche Project! So, for our latest Writers of AntiquiTea meeting, Lisa and I decided to be manly and leave the fairy tale emotions behind. We wanted to step outside our comfort zones and give ourselves a challenge. She chose to write about a bull fight. I chose to write about a gladiator. Surprisingly similar topics, but different enough that we were able to write uniquely. Here's what I learned while creating this project:

  1. It is really really hard for this girl to write about fighting. It was like pulling teeth. I really know nothing about physical combat.
  2. Researching gladiators is fascinating.
  3. I couldn't find a song to go with this project. I tried lots, but none of them worked. I wanted something epic (but not too 'big' sounding)... Something with heartbeat-like drums (that's not too creepy). Apparently, this music doesn't exist yet. My husband said he preferred the story without music, so I decided to leave it at that.
  4. I'm thinking that next time I do a Pastiche I'm going to start with a song, and then find a piece of art, and THEN write the story...
So, here it is... And, if you like, leave me a comment with your feedback! I cherish feedback. :)


The gate opens and a blaze of sunlight floods my vision, blinding my eyes momentarily. What I cannot see I can still hear. A massive crowd is gathered, all gawking and jeering as my naked body is thrust into the arena.

I grip the handle of my sword, knuckles straining. My palm is sweaty. My throat is dry.

The Colosseum comes into focus as my eyes adjust to the light. Squinting through the small eye-holes of my helmet, I can make out the first tier of the circular seating. The Emperor is there, as are the senators and members of state. Sunlight reflects off of the white caps of the priests and Vestal Virgins. Beyond the first tier are the seats for the nobility and knights. Beyond those are the seats for commoners and women. From my vantage point they all look much the same. Like small birds, fluttering movements, and flashes of color.

I lower my gaze, once again taking in the vast arena. It seems only moments ago that myself, and the rest of the day’s fighters marched into the arena, parading towards the Emperor’s Box.
“Ave imperato morituri te salutant!" we shouted. "We who are about to die, salute you!" Now, a half day later, the dirt of the arena has changed it’s hue from beige to copper.

I advance across the crimson-soaked arena. Reaching the far side, I turn and wait.

The Gate of Life opens and I see him. A Retiarii. Net Fighter. I would have preferred a Thracian whose curved swords I might have easily disarmed.

Slowly, almost casually, we begin to pace the edge of the arena. A delicate death waltz before the slaying. Taking our time before we strike. This is what the crowd wants. What they expect. Die too quickly and their day will have been wasted.

The Retiarii clutches his net in his left hand and his trident in his right. He is much smaller than me, but probably faster. I twirl the handle of my sword around, coolly flaunting my blade as if it means nothing to me. The Retiarii’s trident lowers ever so slightly. His unhelmeted black eyes staring, unblinkingly, into my own sheathed head.

The diameter of our dance begins to shorten. Like a funnel of draining water, we are inevitably drawn together towards the center of the arena.

20 feet apart.

Sun beats on my back.

15 feet.

The trident’s prongs dip.

10 feet.

My sword presses against my blistered palm.

A loud roaring fills my ears. The hum of spectators chanting. The pulse of the blood rushing in my head. The yell ripping through my vocal chords as I charge.

Slash. Pull back. Redness drips from the Retiarii’s thigh. But I have only just grazed him. His left hand is quick, but for the moment, I am quicker. I roll to the left as the webbed cloud of the Retiarii’s net flies past my right shoulder.

I regain my footing, stepping back in a crouch while the Retiarii shifts his grasp on his trident and yanks back his net. Abruptly, he lunges on his good leg. His trident narrowly misses my shoulder as I leap back. A spot of dust, unsodden with blood, stirs up around my feet. Then he jabs again, swifter than I anticipated and his trident scores my breast. He has gotten too close. I reel backwards. Securing my sword with both hands I leap and drive my sword sideways, calculating the distance between my blade and his head.

He ducks, twists his body, and presses back against the side of my sword with the staff of his trident. For a moment we are locked in graceless embrace. Snorting breath. Feet pawing the dusty earth. The strain of our heartbeats leaking from his thigh and my chest.

Suddenly he dives, rolls past my side, and retreats to the left. I swivel my stance to face him and our magnetized orbit resumes.

I wait for him to make the next move.

Thunder echoes across the sunbathed arena. A multitude, chanting and clamoring. The crowd is growing restless.

Warmth trickles down my torso. Heat drenches my helmeted face.

For an instant, a flash of sunlight glances off of the Retiarii’s trident. A flicker of dazzling whiteness.

I blink.

My eyes open to a shadow of knotted rope, descending upon my face. The net is heavier than it looks. My body wriggles, arms reaching to find the bottom of the web... to throw off the sheet of fatality.

But he is too quick. A burning shock explodes in the left side of my abdomen. Pulsating throbs. My sword is too heavy. The arena is spinning. Whirling. A spiraling flock of colors and heat.

The net is yanked off and vertigo forces me to the ground. I can feel the flat edge of my sword under the curve of my thigh. Cool metal against sweat. My weapon, useless under the weight of my dizzy and dripping body.

The air feels cool against my face. Where is my helmet?

The sand beneath me is wet.

I look up. He is a blurred shadow of darkness against the noonday sun. The arena echoes with shouting and jeering. Raucous babble. Endless disquiet.

The shadow nears, arm outstretched. His hand is clutching the slaughtering knife.



  1. Loves:
    1.)you refer to the audience as fluttering birds and blurs of color.Great imagery :)
    2.)the pacing builds anticipation
    3.)swivels,dives,rolls,ducks,twists...good verbage!!!!
    4.)vestal virgins and retiarii=factual historical references...people will learn by reading this!
    5.)"The net is yanked off and vertigo forces me to the ground. I can feel the flat edge of my sword under the curve of my thigh. Cool metal against sweat. My weapon, useless under the weight of my dizzy and dripping body..." Visceral awesomeness.

    I tip my hat to you and your manly writing skills ;) Beautiful job stretching yourself Shen!I love it :)
    p.s.I'm off all weekend so I'll post mine(and the Bioloweza piece!)when I'm done creating the new blog!!!!

  2. "The strain of our heartbeats leaking from his thigh and my chest." Uhm, favorite line? Those are the type of lines that make me want to cry they're so beautiful. good job!