Light The Night
By: Kasey Winterborn
Date: 10th Sep 2021
Her attention was so focused on the card that she almost didnít hear Shawn wrap up his conference and head out the door. She hastily stuffed the envelope back in her bag and gave him a dazzling grin as he walked up to her. “Well, that was something,” she said, grabbing his hand and lacing her fingers with his. They headed out into the lobby, getting lost in the crowd of people. “So, are you ready for Apathy?”
He gave her a sideways glance. “Are you ready for Korrupt?”
The question caught her slightly off-guard. She hadnít really thought much about her upcoming match since it was announced. “I…think so.” Her brown eyes fell to the floor, as her free hand came up to toy with a lock of her hair. She felt Shawnís encouraging squeeze of her hand, and she looked back up at him. She knew that he had picked up on her apprehension, so there was no point in trying to put on a happy face. “I just donít know,” she sighed.
He pulled her a little tighter to his side, and she rested her head on his shoulder. “Well, if I may offer a bit of advice?”They came to a stop in the middle of the lobby, the crowd fading into the background as she looked up into his face. His eyes were sincere, but she caught the determination behind them as he waited for her approval. She nods slightly, eager to hear what he had to say.
”I know itís easier said than done, but…Donít be nice.”—————– ”Donít be nice.” The words reverberated around her mind even a few hours later, as she sat on the couch in the brownstone. A glass of bourbon in one hand (Shawn had introduced her to Jim Beam Extra Black, and it was her favourite so far) and the black envelope in the other. Taking the last gulp from her drink, she put the empty glass on the coffee table and without any fanfare ripped open the flap of the envelope, sliding out a folded notecard. It was made of heavy cardstock, coloured black like the envelope with the same gold edging. When she unfolded it, the elegant script in gold font glinted in the low light from the lamp beside her, and she read on. Dear Miss Winterborn, We hope you enjoyed your well-deserved time off after your incredible showing at Toxic Tag. And despite the fact that you came just a hairís breadth of success, please do not take that to mean that we donít think you have potential. When you elected to sign a contract with us, we were excited to have a woman of your incredible skill and talent decide to call our company home. So we hope that your recent setbacks donít discourage you. We see a bright future for you here, and we predict that you will be holding gold in the not-too-distant future. Now, Iím sure that by now you have received word that you have been booked on the next edition of Venom, and we look forward to seeing you back in the ring again. But we do ask a small favour of you – Believe in yourself, the way so many others do. óóó
FIGHT! NYC tower
New York City
The sound of the maintenance hatch opening behind her didnít come as a shock, but instead brought a bigger smile to her lips as she heard the familiar male voice speak, “You know, when you told me to meet you at the Tower, I was thinking of the bar.”
She looked back over her shoulder to see Shawn climbing up out of the hatch, dusting gravel off of his hands. “Maybe later. I figured this was the only way I was ever going to be on top of Fight.”
Shawn gave her a look, but let the comment go. At least for now, she thought. “You sure this isnít one of those Ďalone with your thoughtsí times?”
She gave him a small smile, patting the space next to her. “Nah, itíll be nice to hear a different voice than the one in my head. One I know will be nicer.”
He lowered himself down beside her, immediately putting an arm around her shoulder and pulling her tight into his chest. It was something that comforted and calmed her when she was particularly anxious, and she reveled in the closeness as she pressed the side of her face into his hoodie and breathed in his scent. “Look, you need to evict that bitch already. Sheís done nothing productive for you. Just sits up there like a good-for-nothing freeloader, making you feel like shit when itís not true.”
Despite herself, a small giggle rose up in her throat. “If only it worked like that.”
”I know, I know. Itís just hard for me to watch you struggle with yourself when everyone around you knows just how damn good you are. A couple losses doesnít change that fact.”
She was quiet for a moment, absorbing his words. “I know. I do try to tell myself that. But my biggest fights are never in the ring, theyíre in my own head. Hell, even when I was winning I was always worried something was going to ruin it. Like my own self-sabotage.” She sighed heavily, looking up into his eyes. “But for what itís worth, I really am grateful that I have you in my life to tell me otherwise. Even if it seems like I donít believe you sometimes.”
He smiled at her, and they shared a kiss. They sat for a few moments in comfortable silence, watching the lights and hearing the sounds of the city, before Shawn gave her a kiss on her forehead and moved to stand up. “Just remember what I said before.”
She tilted her head and gave him a curious look. “What was that?”
He smirked. “Donít be nice.” And then he was gone.She looked back out across the city scape, her face changing from love-struck teenager to battle-hardened warrior in the blink of an eye. The neon lights glinting in the depths of her dark brown eyes, she thought of what lay ahead of her at the next edition of Venom, and suddenly the words came unbidden to her mind.
”You know, the easiest thing to do at a moment like this would be to just turn tail and run. Luckily, Iíve never been someone who takes the easy way out. Iím always ready to throw myself into the thick of it, to get my hands dirty. No matter how many times I get knocked down, I am always back on my feet with a smile on my face, ready for the next punch to be swung. So if anyone out there was hoping that I was done in FightÖsorry not sorry.”
A cheeky smirk appeared on her face as she leaned back on her hands, turning her gaze to the inky black expanse of the night sky hanging above her. The stars twinkled and shone much like the city lights beneath them. “I never came to this company looking to get embroiled in some faction war. All I wanted was a place to let my true potential shine. A place where the competition would test my very limits and push me to heights Iíd never dared to dream of. I suppose in a way, I am getting what I wish for. And though I said I didnít come for that reason, Iím certainly not complaining. Because while itís nice for some people to make a nice, quiet debut in a company, Iím starting to realize thatís not who I am anymore. Anywhere I go, Iím there to start riots and shake things to their very foundation.”
She sat upright, bringing her knees up and wrapping her arms around and then resting her chin atop them. Her hair blew in the night breeze, whipping around her face like a chaotic halo. “Hey there, Korrupt. Seems like you drew the short straw in your little clique, and you get to go head to head with me. And let me guess, you think Iím just going to be some easy pushover, still smarting over my loss at Toxic Tag. You think Iím nothing more than Shawn Warsteinís girlfriend, only following her man around like a lovesick little puppy.” The smile on her face slipped into something a little more…sinister. “That would be one huge mistake on your part, sir. You see, before I came here to Fight, I was in another company. A company that put me into a division I would not normally have gotten involved in. And I ended up the champion of that division. The standard bearer, if you will.”Overlaid over Kaseyís image, video clips began playing of her more recent matches: her standing in a ring holding up a title belt while covered in blood and shards of glass, her in a cafeteria setting with scalpels protruding from each of her thighs, and finally a close up promotional picture of her smiling and holding the title belt with blood as red as her hair covering her face like a mask and dripping down her body.
”I became the queen of the deathmatch scene over in that company. And like I said, at first I was petrified at the mere thought of participating in something so barbaric and sadistic. But it turned out to be the best decision I ever made for my career. I tapped into a bloodlust I never knew I had. I started looking forward to those matches. To feel the pain inflicted on my body, only to turn around and return it to my opponents tenfold. It woke up something dark inside of me. Something I never thought I was capable of. And once I did, I realized the possibilities were absolutely endless for me. I realized that there were no lengths I wouldnít go to anymore. Nothing is off-limits to me. And if that doesnít scare youÖ” She bared her teeth in a deranged chuckle. “It really, really should.”
”So Korrupt, I want you to do one thing for me after Iíve beaten you at Venom. As you lie there, the blood filling your mask so much that all you see is a red haze, and your body twisted and contorted into positions no human body should be in, I want you to remember the face standing above you. And then, I want you to go back to all your little Cure cronies, and I want you to tell them just who did it to you. I want them to know that we are coming for them. We are coming to tear down everything theyíve built. And we are going to do it in glorious, spectacular fashion.”
From beside her, she lifted up a kitsune mask, studying it with a contemplative expression. A smile slowly appeared on her face as her fingers traced over the lines of the mask. Suddenly, the mask lit up with a neon red glow, washing Kaseyís face in its light and reflecting in her dark eyes. “Time to light this company up.”