CW: Violence, Mass Accident, Panic Attack & Death
My name is Naomi Sakana.
I have been spiralling since my success.
Since the downfall of the economy, it was also the downfall of me. I found everyday harder to manage than the last. While keeping a strong face for my reputation and family, I found it hard to find the little pleasures within life. I walked along the streets of the pathways of the school, seemingly aware of every single thing happening around me. The dauntful rain slowly pattered onto my dark hair, signalling my way to take cover. I walked over to the assembly hall, where it was empty from the massive swarm of children coming in every Friday. I took a seat within the crowd, looking at the bright projector, flashing neon pixels through my eyes. A display of names flashed in and out, until it reached mine.
Sounds like me I suppose. I mean, the legal details matched up, and my last name was literally fish in Japanese, so. Sometimes, I did feel like I was a fish. Fish have the ability to swim in water, and to breathe underwater. If humans were submerged underneath the water for a period of time, we’d be considered to be drowning. However, if fish were submerged below the water, it would certainly thrive and swim around in the cold liquid salt. Yet, there’s this parallel of me being human and being a fish. The theory of adaptation, where if you were accustomed to an environment for a long period of time, you’d succumb to the environment and begin to adapt yourself into said environment. That same theory applies to me. I’ve been drowning under the immense desolate water, I’ve adapted to be a fish and thrive in it.
I’m still drowning though. That’s for sure.
I was simply sitting in one chair of the assembly hall, distant and away from the stage. My photo was still up there, as if me achieving head girl was some distant dream. It was almost like I was looking at my life from afar, seeing that girl named Naomi Sakana go up and present some award-winning speech, and yet I sit back and sulk. The assembly hall got colder and colder, but the shining image of me on the screen didn’t change. My view began to blink in and out, the bright lights dimming in and out. I further moped into the plastic chair I was sitting on, but the prevalent face was still there. Edited out eye-bags, a deadpan stare, and somewhat of a great smile.
I blinked in and out, trying to recreate the smile in that photo. But I simply couldn’t. I didn’t really know if that was me or not, if I’m going to be honest with you. She was so strong, so great, yet I was simply, well, nothing. It just looked too perfect, too good, to be me. My eyes finally closed on itself, letting tiredness carry me away into the unknown. Oh to be Naomi Sakana, the great economics student who is comedically regarded as the cruel capitalist within her friend group. To be the student who has two international honours for winning martial arts competitions, to be the student who I aspired to be. The merciless rain pattered on the outside of the hall, while I snuggled into my cosy hoodie to the noise from outside. I was constantly told everyday is a day in paradise, but I don’t think any day is a day in paradise.
It was an average afternoon. After a long day of rigorously working through my economics studies, I felt as if I needed to come back to the world for a quick moment. I forced myself to step away from the dollar signs and numbers, and step into the real world where there would be other things controlling the nature of life. For example, such as the wild winter outside. Despite only being three in the afternoon, the angered clouds made it look like eleven in the night. Students in their wool sweaters tried to run away from the aggressive storms, only for the thunderstorm to strike down on their rugged accounting books and make everything fall apart.
“Everyday is a day in paradise!”
Yeah, a day in paradise where you’re caught up with bad weather all the time. I leaned back and stretched, cracking at least twenty bones within my back. Without my restrictive blazer on, I most likely would have cracked fifty. Whenever I was wearing my blazer I always had to be incredibly delicate with it. Whenever always meant, every single day except for the weekends. Maybe on the weekends. The school badges were not made out of the utmost quality of materials, and I was constantly worried they would break apart if I moved too much. Within these badges, is a reputation to uphold.
The dark but incandescent clouds held back their fury right as the bell went, signalling for the end of the day. I dropped the heavy textbook into my bag and let it sling over my back, crippling my posture even more. The pavement was a deep contrasting grey, after the clouds quite literally bombarded it with water. I once again had to fight the never-ending battle with public transport, fighting for a seat every single day. I got up to the crowd, where I did spot some familiar faces, but everyone seemed to mind their own business. Still, the quiet murmurs and whispers are unfortunately loud at times.
“Oh my god hey, that’s the head girl right? What was her name again? Naomi right?”
“Can you believe she’s head girl? I mean, obviously Xander was destined to be head boy… but Naomi? I don’t really think so…”
“Xander’s just better. I guess.”
Uhm yeah, that was me. I looked down at my badge really quickly, just to confirm the fact I wasn’t a fraud. I indeed was not. Quickly, I glanced away from the source of the voice and began to walk towards the station of my bus. While trying to nudge through the crowd, I quite literally heard the same thing, over and over again. It was quite hard to go unnoticed in such crowds like this, with my striking blazer while everyone else was constrained to jackets and jumpers.
“You know her last name is literally fish in Japanese right?”
I’m not sure if that was supposed to ridicule me or compliment me, or supposed to be some comedic relief after a bad day. I was a little too tired to really care, I’ll just care later. I reached my bus stop and patiently waited, looking at the gloomy clouds. I let my mind wander endlessly, trying to pass the time until there was something else I could do to kill it. Someone tapped on my shoulder, and I quickly turned around to realise who it was. The tall and elegant Ivory, one of the many students I coerced to take accounting or economics this year. Her sleek and brown hair, with the same deranged but alive look plastered on her face. Ivory, the Orchard kid two years below me.
“Hey, how are you?” She smiled, waving at me.
“Oh my days, it’s Ivory!” I chuckled and jokingly pointed, like my normal greeting.
“How was accounting?” I asked, as a rumble of thunder crackled above us.
“I don’t know how to count anymore, so I guess it’s been going good.” Ivory laughed, covering her mouth. That was an usual irck I found out about her. Whenever Ivory wasn’t in her resting face, she’d usually try to cover her face whenever facing another expression. Any positive emotion, she’d try to mask under her hand.
“Anyways, did you hear about–” Ivory began, but was immediately interrupted.
A loud shoot of lightning detonated right by us, it was like a bright stem of light exploded in the background. The entire crowd faced the bright light, a sudden stunning flash from afar.
“Why was that so loud?” I muttered, rubbing my ears.
“Probably because it was so close to us, ugh.” Ivory also rubbed her ears to get the ringing sharpness away, while our bus finally arrived ten minutes late.
“Well, better late than never.”
The two of us were fortunate enough to secure seats, inside a compartment where it was safe enough from the enraged thunder and lightning. Just as everyone got on, the disturbed dark grey clouds began to release their bullets of rain down, showering like it was hell on earth.
“Anyways, did you hear about the martial arts competition held this spring?” Ivory asked, cleaning her glasses with her sleeve.
The loud lightning slashed down again, hitting the hard ground.
I was both stunned and astounded from her announcement and question, due to the fact I somehow didn’t catch wind of it. As someone who won two international competitions because of boxing and Muay Thai, it was a little disheartening to realise I didn’t find out about this competition sooner.
“What?” I stuttered.
“Yeah, even Xander’s going to be joining it. I was quite surprised when I found out.”
A second crack of lightning flashed a little too close to the entire bus’ liking.
My eyes widened at Ivory’s sudden bombshell of information. Xander, the head boy, was also going to compete amongst the students. I was too utterly shocked to say anything, combined with the dreadful exhaustion. Please not Xander, for love’s sake.
Even though I was head girl with him, it seemed like every move I made was constantly being thrown out by his. Everything I did, he would do better. I didn’t know whether to feel ashamed or angered by his proceedings, but if he was trying to take my speciality, then I felt like it was going to be the end of me. Xander didn’t really like me. No one in the entire school did. I was simply someone who was elected to be head girl, and yet, everyone hates me.
“It’s held by the NMAC, which I’m assuming is the committee you’re also under? Like the times you got those two red badges.” Ivory smiled.
A third clash of thunder rang so loudly, it made the entire bus shake. The lights flickered on and off for thirty seconds consecutively.
The students on the bus began to murmur under fear, and some even excitement. But, I wasn’t afraid of the lightning about to potentially crash onto this bus, I was more afraid of Ivory’s own words.
“What the hell is going on?” Ivory muttered, I could gather the uneasiness creeping around her skin just by listening to her voice.
“Naomi I’m a little scared…” She admitted, trying to dismiss it as nothing but comedy.
“So, are you going to join? I’ll come watch of course.”
A fourth slash of lighting struck, and this time the vivid light was so bright, it was right outside the glass panel Ivory and I were sitting at.
“It’ll go away, it’s fine.” I firmly placed my hand on Ivory’s shoulder, just to stabilise things for a while. She slowly nodded, but in a disoriented manner.
The entire bus was now shaking, and the white lights now permanently shut off from the raving weather. For the rest of the journey, most of the time it was nothing but just a silent bus ride with the lights failing to flicker back. It was daunting, like everything was going to get worse.
After a safe period of time, chatter began to restart again.
“Well, are you?” Ivory asked again. Even though she had no malicious intent within her voice, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy by her questions. It felt like there was a consequence with every word that came out of her mouth which was related to the competition. I guess she was just eager for me to join.
“Maybe not…” I shrugged, declining the offer.
It was almost like within those words, the unhinged weather caught wind of my words and decided that was unacceptable.
There was no warning. It was within a split of a second, between when I made the decision to not join the martial arts competition and the millisecond right after that. The loudest and brightest clap of lightning striked through the roof of the bus, splitting the entire thing in two and setting the entire thing ablaze. It all happened within a blink of an eye. Ivory was talking to me before, and now she was somewhere else. I myself was thrown onto the wet road, rolling around and having my badges hit me through the chest. I knew for a fact the majority of them would be scratched out of repair after this.
Coughing the exhaust dust out of my lungs, I quickly recovered and stood up to take in the situation. I stared around me in extreme disturbance. The bus had entirely been blown up into two pieces, with both pieces being burnt as the fuel was gleaming through the air. It was even hard for me to look at it, because of the sparkling radiation that hurt my eyes even if I tried to look at it. While diverging my sight from the burning bus, I caught sight of Ivory, trying to get up from a pool of blood diluted with rain water. Even with the wrathful downing of rain, the bright flames somehow kept bursting through the cold.
“Ivory! Stay down!” I yelled as loud as I could, maybe louder than the entire crowd of cars. I began to push myself away from the damp floor and rushed towards her.
I swerved in and out between cars, just to reach her position. Looks like it was bad. Her white glasses were now stained a light red, which was assumed to be fresh blood. Ivory staggered a bit, trying to stay conscious and up. Cars honked at me, but my ears were so numb from the lightning noise they didn’t make an impact on my hearing whatsoever. I ducked from an incoming car and rolled down to the glass plain. Ouch, those badges really do hurt against my ribcage.
“Are you with me?” I asked impatiently, holding her up so the blood didn’t reach the brain.
“I’m alive and well, Naomi.” She laughed.
An ambulance flashed its way towards the combusted street, with one, a bus on fire, and two, several injured and even dead students. The rain poured down even harder, as cars honked, as if it would make their commute home easier. When I thought Ivory and I were just going to peacefully wait until a paramedic gets here, I was wrong. Some complete degenerates try to take advantage of a tragic situation like this, just for their own benefit. While I was trying to brush away Ivory’s blood on her face, an entire gang set out to loot the injured students. Another loud clasp of thunder rang down on the earth, bringing my alert to these degenerates. I glanced over their hands, and unfortunately it looked like they were carrying weapons; against students.
“I’ll deal with them…” I hissed underneath my breath, knowing things were about to get more messy than it should.
I laid Ivory on the floor, staggering myself up a little, hands raised. Not in a form of surrendering, but in the form of being ready to defend myself and her if needed. One masked man was approaching the two of us, and I prepared my hands together to strike. I looked behind me, Ivory finally recovering a little and able to sit up.
“Ivory, sit still!” I urged, unable to say anything else.
While I took my eyes away from the opponent, it gave them a good opening to hit. A sharp stinging pain reached the lower flesh of my forearm, like something slicing through in a way that felt uneven. With the sudden reaction of the pain, I staggered sideways and flinged the knife and an uppercut back at the opponent. Now my mind was set back like a couple of weeks ago, in the training centre. Though I couldn’t exactly recall everything I would do crystally clear because of the high-pressure situation I was in, the feeling led by natural instincts fluctuated through my veins.
Well I mean, he hit first, so I surely shouldn’t be in trouble right.
I was about to grab Ivory and run away, but soon the police came around and took all the criminals down and tackled the group. Ivory’s hand and mine were told to be put up, while they inspected us to make sure we weren’t the offenders by any means.
“Thanks, Naomi…” Ivory murmured, still wiping away blood in the dense rain.
“Do you two have any forms of identification on you?” The officer asked in a stern voice, calling paramedics over.
We handed over our student identification cards quietly, and once the officer gave it back the two of us were left alone. Our uniforms were trashed. My blazer wet and muddy, while Ivory’s shirt was bloody and drenched, and somehow still smiling at me. Grateful, I offered some sort of protection. But at the same time, there was this deep guilt lurching at the bottom of my stomach, telling me I wasn’t strong enough for this incident. I could’ve easily stopped the bad guys before the police came here, but I was incapable. I felt like I had the great responsibility without the great power.
Paramedics soon took us into an ambulance and shot us to the hospital in a flash. Fortunately, Ivory and I suffered only mild injuries and could easily return back to school the next day. Others were not so fortunate. I accidentally peeked through one of the blinds through the centre, there were some students in our school uniform, wailing because of the pain. I hissed at the nauseous sight, and continued to wait in the outpatient centre with Ivory. Our parents were to collect us soon. Well, mine anyways. Ivory’s parents were out on a business trip, she told me, so mine offered to drop her home.
“What a day…” She laughed, as several walls of bandages covered her arms entirely.
“You know, I still have a meeting tomorrow. I’ll just casually ramp back to school like everything’s normal.”
“Sounds about right.” I sighed, also realising I have a meeting tomorrow.
Even worse, it was a meeting with the martial arts club I ran. In a scent of distress, I wiped my face downwards to try and remove the horrible despair encapsulated within my body. However, it was within the same moment of hopelessness I found myself a breach of light. I looked at Ivory’s helpless state, tired, and with the nurses trying to heal her the best that they could. This could’ve all been avoided, if I was just a little stronger. But I was strong enough, wasn’t I? I won two international competitions, yet, the feeling of being undermined was hitting my core a little harder than I intended.
“I’ll join the martial arts competition, I think.” I nodded, talking to myself.
Ivory’s face lit up, happy I would be joining a competition where she was under the assumption that I would steamroll everyone. Could I steamroll anyone? Fortunately, the lightning did not strike the entire hospital building after I made another decision. I sighed once more, out of the exhaustion that was propelled throughout my entire body. My mother was going to pick Ivory and I up any time soon, but the traffic was peaking as of right now. I continued to sulk in my seat, pissed off by numerous things.
My blazer was quite literally trashed from today. The badges barely remained intact within the fabric, and most of the pins were falling off. The entire thing was soaked in and through, one of the nurses took it off of me to let it dry over the radiator. I doubted such little time would fix such a monumental mess. That reminded me, when was the martial arts competition anyways? In spring, so I have some months to train and get my skills up to notch. I gulped down the fear, a fear that I didn’t even want to address or realise.
What if I wasn’t good enough anymore?
Once Ivory was safely home, and I was too, I began to diverge myself through the immense thoughts that I was so afraid to dive into. Like studying a crippled economy for an important grade, I was studying my own thoughts for the sake of the competition. I’ll do that later, might as well settle my fate first.
There was a notice online about it, and I forcefully entered my name through the register. Almost immediately, the database recognised my details and within two seconds I was registered for the competition. Held at Joveline Arena, September 31st. I’ve been in that place many times before, slamming my opponents to the ground. It was only for some reason now, I felt like the little Naomi from seven years ago. Afraid of the big stage, and the big kids coming towards me. It was the same fear, just as if I was starting out. Maybe it was the fact I was the big kid now. I was the big kid that needed to perform well. And if I didn’t, I would be ridiculed and mocked by all those around me. Winning awards is both a blessing and a curse.
Sure, the high dopamine and reputation you acquire from such achievements is great, but it’s like a drug. When it first hits, you’re on top of the world. International grace, everyone congratulates you and you have a bouquet of flowers and a medal around your neck, and a fancy badge approaching you right after. After that, you’re known as the great martial artist, being able to knock out a competition two years in a row. But after that, you sink so slowly into such a fear that you’ll never be able to reach to break the surface water, and rise above into the sunlight. Constantly, I was drowning in my own reputation and ego, knowing those two things are completely separate people from me at this point.
My ego and reputation is Naomi Sakana, the great and well achieved head girl. Naomi won several martial arts competitions nationally and some internationally, runs the successful investment club, and a prodigy at economics who also coerced many younger students to take economics. There is an idea of a Naomi Sakana, and it’s quite present when it came towards my ego and reputation that I upheld. What about me? I have become a shell of my own self. While I was showered in abundant petals and medals last year, and gained great love and likeness against the crowd, the me, the voice, was slowly withering inside.
There is an idea of a Naomi Sakana.
An idea that is so widely projected throughout my life, I fail to be the real person Naomi claims to be.
I stare into the mirror while brushing my teeth in the bathroom, encapsulating every single aspect of my face. Some bruises here and there, fairly smooth skin, and dark brown eyes that were shone in the bathroom light. I kept staring into my own eyes, trying to really identify who this was. Was I really going to win another competition for the third year in a row? Wouldn’t it be absolutely humiliating to fall off from the golden image of yourself from before? I clenched my fist out of the frustration pouring through my mind, applying pressure to whatever surface I could find. I looked down for a brief moment, gasping for air while trying to regain my thoughts.
Naomi Sakana is above me. That name is simply already superior to me. Every badge that I scratched today, every single little piece of polyester woven onto that blazer I wear every single day, they are all above me. But there was something I had to do to make it right. I couldn’t keep drowning in the dark abyss where the ocean pressure would finally create an implosion for me. I was drowning, every single day in the whirlpool called ego and reputation, the same whirlpool I created for myself. My knuckles turned red and so did the rest of my hand, while my face steamed red from the pressure I was applying through my own heart. How would life work like this? Genuinely, how would it work like this? Drowning behind your own achievements? Falling behind on everything you’re doing? I’m not Naomi Sakana, and this isn’t even my body.
I kept staring into the endless void of ‘my’ reflection, before the pressure became so deep everything came falling apart. I clutched my hand so miserably tough it was hard that I didn’t rip through the thick skin on my hand. With one single blink, I threw the entirety of my own implosion towards the mirror. A spider-web of cracks immediately followed, and the reflection of Naomi Sakana was immediately broken apart. Now, my hand was even more red from the chiselled glass plucked into my skin, more blood falling down my hand like my tears. I looked forward again, staring at the broken up glass, and it was only then that I understood. I was the broken up version of her, and nothing else.
It was only after a good twenty seconds I hissed at the dire pain and rapidly bandaged myself up from the hefty blood. There was an entire puddle on the floor by then. My mom tried to come in and see what I was doing, but I quickly clutched the door closed so she didn’t see the mess I created. Sighing in another breath of both relief and pain, I crumbled to the floor and stared at the micro bits of glass on the floor, glistening in the light. That was me, I suppose. Broken up. My bathroom mirror was now completely shattered, almost about to fall off from the wall. I groaned a hiss of disapproval, looking at the aftermath of the implosion inside of me.
I cleaned the glass on the floor and excused it as some steam blowing up the window. My parents were shocked at first, and then began to blame each other for whoever sourced such a low quality mirror. I hid my bandaged fist behind my back, and retreated to my room. I was going to become Naomi Sakana. Whether I liked it or not. And that meant, winning that damn martial arts competition Ivory introduced me to. I dug my sharp nails into my face to feel at least a little bit of pain, attempting to motivate myself through the dullness of it all. I was going to achieve whatever was needed to bring back Naomi Sakana.
There is an idea of Naomi Sakana.
I’ve been throwing myself into the training room for the majority of my time now. I only ever show my face during assemblies, putting on a one dimensional smile for everyone to see, and then disappearing off of the face of the earth. My surroundings have been numbed down to nothing but the padded mats and popcorn walls. The recent tragedy of Eden Choi sent almost everyone into a madness, ones that showed all their true colours. I suppose mine was definitely kicking every bag in frustration, and then proceeding to silently cry while learning against the wall. It’s been a month ever since Eden Choi’s unfortunate passing, and his effects were felt all over the school. And because of such events, I’ve locked myself in the dark shed where I can only thrust my anger out towards these heavy bags.
The outside world wept of misery and anguish, the depressed feeling of grievance and death. Whilst inside the training room, there was nothing but the constant dangling of chains and the loud but muffled punches that went through the punching bags. It felt like an escape, a good cave to dig myself into, and come out when I only needed to. To run away from the daunting world, and hide myself in a place where I would replace the mental with the physical. It’s about a month away until the school competition starts, and I don’t even know if I’ll make it or not. I’ve been hurdling myself through these bags over and over again, and winding bandages back on top of my skin. It was a repetitive process, but I enjoyed it.
After the fifth hour of the continuous cycle of wiping away tears, punching bags, kicking bags, and stretching afterwards, I finally left the dimly lit space and returned home. Every single light in the house was turned off. To be fair, I arrived well after dark, so I assumed everything to be as such. I dropped my near-empty duffle-bag down on the smooth carpet, and sat down after another long day of ripping my entire body apart. It was all a process, wasn’t it? It felt as if there was this still peace just for a moment, where I could breathe in the cold rain air, and finally lower my body temperature. But the sudden vibration of my phone felt like a drill through my head. Like horses pricking up their ears at a potential, my eyes widened at the sudden noise.
It was from Ivory.
What could she be calling me about?
I picked up out of natural curiosity, and soon it was like another part of my world crumbled.
“Hello?” I muttered into the phone, exhausted.
“Naomi, that’s you right?” A voice just a little deeper than Ivory was calling me, someone who I also recognised from one of my clubs.
“Yeah, who’s this?” I asked suspiciously, trying to warrant a reason for someone else to be picking up the phone.
“It’s Jerry… I- I’m at the hospital right now.” He stuttered, almost choking on his own breath as he spoke.
“Why are you using Ivory’s phone to call me?” I probed further, now even more sceptical of why Jerry called me.
“Listen, Naomi, I…” He sniffled, almost sounding like he was about to cry into the mic.
This better not what I think it is.
I stood up, pulling the points together. Jerry was crying at a hospital, and he was Ivory’s phone. No, no, no, this can’t be good. I began to pace around my room, clenching my fists as close as they could go, something to release the nervousness and tenseness building beneath my body.
“Ivory’s at Gateton Hospital right now… She’s not in good shape.” Jerry quietly muffled into the phone.
“No, no, tell me right now what the hell happened to her!” I raised my voice at him, slamming my rigid fist onto the table.
“Look, Ivory got hit by a truck. She was running, running across the middle of a road, and all of a sudden, the truck just hit her. It was so bloody… I couldn’t tell you.” He snivelled again and again, until the entire story unravelled itself.
“Ivory lost so much blood, but somehow she still made it half-conscious to the hospital, meaning she’s still alive, and is going to make a full recovery which is good, but the sight… Naomi. It was an entire massacre.”
“I don’t understand what lengths, and what things that made her just – run out of somewhere and try to get away so quickly from such things…”
I was silent the entire time Jerry went on and on, about the gorey details that followed through every word that transpired. Hot tears streamed out of my bruised eyes, coming to the realisation that someone, so pure and so bright, would be struck down just as easily as one blunt hit from a truck. Little by little, my arm dropped my phone away from my ear, and as Jerry’s haunting voice became more and more fainted, I felt as if I was fading away too. Static poured through my ears, getting more severe by each second. I meshed onto the carpet, as my consciousness was taken away by the hallucinate of sleep.
“You look lonely, I can fix that.”
The next morning I had a proper conversation with Ivory, asking if I could come see her that afternoon. She agreed with a solemn voice, most likely tired from endless bandaging. I heard it was pretty brutal. My parents heard about Ivory’s accident and tried to console me about it, but their words had no such effect on me.
Though the forecast was horrible like usual, there was this force within my head that uttered words that made me pursue the day.
Do it just because.
Even though I knew simple sentences in my head wouldn’t keep me afloat forever, it was some of the best words in order to keep me alive through the day. With every kick, every punch and every slam, I was simply gaining myself more and more power, the power I so longed to have. The burdensome fear of underperforming, the excruciating mental wound of weakness, gaps that I would finally be able to complete within myself. The rain refused to hold any of its fury back any longer, and continued to hammer down mercilessly; I was training right beside it.
There’s a constant battle, coming in and coming out, always venturing to tackle you down. When I was told about Ivory’s hospitalisation situation, the words pounded so deeply in my heart it shattered every skill I’ve been taught throughout my decade of martial arts. It was such a simple battle that I wasn’t even able to participate in. With every single syllable I heard about a weakness someone wasn’t able to conquer, a bit of my vital organs disintegrated. It was a perishing darkness that would take you by force into a place you’d never imagine.
Ivory always told me to look for the light when I’m in the dark. I looked at the photo that I had messily plastered onto my rubber wall, staring at it for copious amounts of time. The photo was taken right after we got lost for over two hours past midnight in the city, where the place we visited was so desolate there wasn’t anywhere to turn to. Every two seconds I kept staring down at the floor with the impending doom, knowing we’d most likely be stuck out here forever. It was dark, it was snowing, it was miserably cold. The two of us were only in mere thin blazers, trying to navigate the identical dark grey streets. I was about to give up and freeze to death any moment, but Ivory was my little lamplight, taking me through the eternal disheartened I was facing. Eventually, we found our way back to the group.
When you’re in the dark, look for the light.
When the time came as I glanced over at the clock, I set into Gateon Hospital. Located in the central city as usual. The rain refused to stop its anarchist behaviour, and continued to menacingly spray its distaste towards the place. I sighed, knowing it was going to be a tough ride out there. Nothing was easy in this world. Well, that’s what we’re all taught, isn’t it? Some have it harder than others, while some have it easier than others. The minute we’re born, you’re already given a pitchfork and lighter to begin your bizzare adventure through life. My leg was constantly shaking, not because of the bitter cold but because of Ivory. If her war ended within my own hands, I would fight fate itself to challenge its logic.
Jumbled words passed in and out of my head, trying to find some sort of motivator helping me pass the time. When I finally arrived at the hollow white walls of the hospital, I had to take numerous breaths just to ensure I wasn’t going to collapse there. Unsurprisingly, I’ve been there several times before. Whether it was toddler Naomi falling off of her bike, or getting wrecked by a rule breaker in a competition, Gateton hospital was nothing but a distant memory to me. If anything, there was a subconscious fear riddled within my veins. But, one foot after the other, one foot after the other. That’s what Ivory would say.
The hallways were dauntingly quiet, with nothing but the black of my hardened but wet shoe on the tiled floor. It genuinely reminded me of Alan. The smell of discarded chemicals and medicines were strong and compelling towards my nose. The scent smelled like a dying funeral home, like the essence when you’re letting someone die. Not today Ivory, not today. I pushed my pace quicker and quicker, trying to get there before the scent did. It first began from a compelled walk with purpose, and soon it turned into a full sprint to her room right down the never-ending hallway.
It was that pristine voice again, chirping the vowels of my name like a beautiful bird. I stopped, and slowly entered the monochromatic coloured place. There she was. Alive, bandaged, but smiling. My eyes widened at such imperfections, Ivory was hit by a high speed truck. How did she not break any bones at all? There was nothing but ruthless white bandages, covering every limb of her body. One eye even had an eyepatch laid over it. Immediately, I was stunned at such a state. Both, alive, but not alive? Ivory looked like me after a sadistic battle with some rage, but infinitely times worse. I sat down because of the shock, and couldn’t even begin to utter words.
“What a day… hmmm?” She smiled, stretching her arms out into the air. Ivory’s face turned towards the gloomy weather, and then laid back in her bed. There were barely any machines around her, nothing but a cup of water and painkillers. She had a table over her lap. There laid her accounting workbook, a pencil case, and a calculator.
“I used to do this two years back.” I chuckled, sitting down and flipping through the pages.
It didn’t take long before I was completely submerged within the pages and pages of numbers. Fixating on one singular profit was my best feat. I would simply stare at such digits for too long, and forget my basic needs such as eating. Ivory glanced at what I was doing, and soon tried to explain what she was stuck on. I rolled my eyes at such a treacherous question. Back in my day, I would genuinely be struck with one of these questions and simply fly over it with no answer due to the fact I would get too deep; then, all comes crashing down. When I finally realised I was getting back to that phase again, I immediately slammed the pages together, and looked back at her.
The question struck again.
“You were hit by a truck, Ivory, how are you not –” I stammered, beginning to ask questions.
“How did I not break any bones, that’s a question to be answered.” Ivory softly laughed, she sounded surprised herself.
“I mean, how – even I –!” I yelped out again, trying to find some answer. But, Ivory looked back at me and raised her eyes, signalling for her to talk.
“I was hit by glass, not a truck.” Ivory began, sighing. She looked out the window again, letting the sweet raindrops land against her window.
“Believe it or not, there was glass on the road. You see Naomi, the reason everyone thought I got hit by a truck is because the movements lined itself up, way… too… close.”
I blinked in confusion, just about to make another comment.
“The truck propelled over, while I was tripping over the glass.”
“Your entire body got glass dug into it?” I inferred.
“Goddamn right you are.” Ivory softly laughed again, grabbing hold of the teddy accompanist she had by her side.
“The truck only propelled me into the pit of glass, and for some reason, none of my bones even broke. There was no fracture in sight. Not a single one.”
Ivory now looked down at her lap, covered by the white hospital sheets.
“Instead, my entire back now is cut in half, the amount of blood I shed… Naomi.” She chuckled, leaning her head towards the ceiling.
“I don’t remember all of it. It was a genuine blur.”
“The bandages…” I muttered, trying to connect everything together.
“Oh, the bandages Naomi. My entire body is covered from head to toe with them, there are so many… so many… I can’t even feel a thing anymore.” Ivory deliriously smiled, trying to hold herself together.
“My back got the worst treatment you see… every single bit of glass…”
“Was all struck into the one thing holding me together.”
There was this sudden silence between me and Ivory, as her lamentful eyes glittered once more from the sun.
“It was like my entire life, spilled out onto that concrete floor. The amount of bags they used, Naomi. It was cruel to see.”
“How are you still alive?” I stammered out into the air. Ivory looked at me in both dreadful dismay and pursuance-like determination, both sides only surfaced from the deep iceberg of her personality.
“You know, when I was on the verge of passing out, there was this stupid glimmer in my eye.” She sighed.
“I felt like I was going to die right that moment, you know? I knew I was going to die. There was no other way to say it. I was in immense pain, and blood was all over the place.”
“And somehow I’m still alive.”
She paused for a moment, looking down at the hideous porcelain white bandages.
“I was forced to.”
“There was a bright light in my eye, something that kept trying to encourage me to move forward. Why would my war end here, you know what I’m talking about?”
“I don’t want to live anymore, Naomi.”
“But, there was a raging battle I always was fighting inside of me, and I don’t see a reason why it should end.”
“And there’s always a light that carries me until the very end. It’s like following stars until you find something.”
“When you’re in the dark, look for the light.”
“Well to answer your question again though…”
“I was forced to.”
Ivory was back at school normally without any difficulty. Today, I had Muay Thai training after school. It was a two hour session of breaking my body apart for some adrenaline that would run through my veins for a while, and that made it feel good. The school day surprisingly went by quickly and in an instant, I was already on the bus home, talking to Ivory again. Both of us were covered in messy off-white bandages. I was once again helping her with her accounting homework, after the two of us were stuck on one singular profit margin again. Accounting never changes, does it?
When I got off at my stop, and began walking towards my session today, there was this little prickle that was itching at the back of my neck. At first it was nothing but a small tingle, but the more I paid attention to it the more it consumed my entire head-space. I haven’t done boxing or Muay Thai for a while, what’s the bet I’ve completely lost everything and was going to fail miserably? It became an uncomfortable lump in my throat, as I was trying to gulp away any sort of tension leading up to the session. Once I creaked open the aged doors, the rubber smell of boarded walls and soft mats sent me through the past. They say, smell is the strongest sense when it comes to memories.
After I got changed, I scanned the entire room for faces. There of course were some veterans I still recognised from before, the older girls who coached me when I was younger. They were the ones who brought me up to their league, and then that’s where I began to fly. I dropped my bag in the corner like I always did, even though it felt weird because school accustomed me to reprimand people if they placed their bags like this. A lot of people came around and patted me on the back, acknowledging my presence and my achievements from last year. But, at the same time, I don’t even know who they are. I’ve been so detached from my own club, where my entire rampage began, that there are meaningless faces congratulating me.
Were they congratulating me, or were they congratulating who they thought was Naomi Sakana? My name and photo was hung upon the wall in the hallway, with the numerous medals dangling like stars below it. The name was written in white italic letters, while the background was a velvet red. Unfortunately, a sense of dread sent me back a little, drooping back into a chair. I sat down for a moment, trying to bring some sense through my head. What was me? What defined me? My badges? My performance? Or just the simple name given to me at birth that defined me?
“Naomi!” One of the older girls called out, one of them whom I recognised.
“Oh, hey there.” I waved disorientedly, wiping off my tired face. It was Alice, a lanky member who’s been here since she could walk. Alice walked over and sat down with me, handing a cup of water. I declined.
“You seem tired, what is it?” Alice frowned a little, still nudging for the cup of water. Obligated by her gestures, I took the plastic cup and dunked the entire thing in one go. The uncomfortable lump of fear was still not eased.
“Nothing, just busy with school.” I exasperated, trying to laugh it off. Alice laughed as well, she knows what I do at school. Head girl and all that nonsense.
“Take your mind off of it for now, and just have some fun with us. You haven’t been here for a while anyways. Better make the most of it before exams come.” Alice smiled and took me up, grabbing a spot away from the others. I haven’t spoken to them in a while, it was even a struggle recounting their names.
It’s been a good two months and a half ever since I placed my bare feet onto a mat. If anything, a good two months and a half ever since I placed my bare feet onto something because I needed to. Whether it was the formalities at school, or where my house’s floor would be so cold, I never had the chance to simply feel my surroundings’ objects. My skin was supple and thin, after creasing a little from the lack of training I’ve had through the past couple of weeks. Alice looked at me as she always did, casual, nothing really serious. But the burning lump in my throat swelled my vision up, and soon I was back in the rough survival mode I fought when I was younger.
I never understood why I started boxing or Muay Thai. My parents simply put me into it, and I guess the reason was to have fun. But, did I really have fun? Or, did I simply get my entire childhood ripped into pieces by bullies who would pick on me because of my height, my appearance, or just the way I was? Every single day, I would wake up, and fight for myself. Every single day, when I opened the rusted doors to this facility, I knew it would be the never ending battle that I would constantly be throwing myself against, just to live another day. I didn’t know ‘any better’ when I was younger. It was the simple reality I was thrown into. Either you fight, or you die.
There’s a core memory that’s been latched onto my brain ever since it happened. It altered my entire vision of the world, and everything I considered real. Around the time when I was nine or so, I was sparring with a kid slightly younger than me. Only by a bit, not too much. The match was going well, until it wasn’t. As always, my technique faltered and the only correction I received was being yelled at for losing. It’s a wonder how I haven’t turned deaf yet because of the obnoxiously loud lectures. There was a final hit from the opponent, whose face has been completely blacked out in my memory, and once again, I had to take the loss. I thought it was just going to be any other loss, getting yelled at by my parents, getting lectured by coaches, and I would do the same thing the next day. Rinse and repeat, if you get what I mean.
Even though that was my thought process for the time being, it wasn’t always how it worked out. Kids can be cruel sometimes. More cruel than you actually anticipate. While I was recovering from the vomit-inducing kicks from my opponent, there was a ray of light that glittered in the side of my eye. Something, that maybe would make my entire day better. My opponent reached out her hand to me, with somewhat of a blissful smile. It was something distinctable between friend or foe. The warm but blistered hands, and the tender smile that came from a kid younger than me. Surely, they are the ones with more heart, right?
I was wrong.
When I grabbed onto that hand, and gave it my support, I was immediately flung back in the most despicable push I’ve ever experienced. What was even worse was that I tumbled backwards, rolling into all the mats stored in a birch wooden box. My head clunked against the solid wood, concussing me for that day. I was fooled completely. What seemed like such a warm and kind gesture to help me out of my misery, only turned into humiliation and the most pain known to a nine year old. I haven’t even lived a decade yet, and already, I was put through the hellfire known as life. My skull vibrated in and through, shaking away while putting me through shocking tremors of pain. The more noise that reached my head, the more they collided with each other. Whether it was the startled cry of the older kids, or the hideous laughter of children, it all hurt. It all hurt to a point where I wasn’t crying out of the pain, but crying out of the gruesome fury that I was experiencing.
Just as I was about to be taken away by my parents to the hospital, the sound of their footsteps immediately gave me this fight or flight signal that rang through my entire body. My parents were coming, which meant I was going to get lectured again. There was already a point through my brain where I could predict their next points, either it was something about me losing such an easy match against someone who was younger than me, or being so weak. The last argument really made me lose it. I was crippled to be weak. No one chooses to be weak. They are always forced into a position where it would be logically the safest to cry into a corner and wait until it’s over. Not now, not here, not now, not here. No one would be able to make fun of my struggles now.
It was the exact same moment as my mom stepped into the room, I jumped from my hurdled state onto my opponent and tackled her. I heard the shocks from other spectators in the arena, but there were some issues I had to settle. Fight for myself? I am fighting for myself. This is the right thing to do. I am standing up for myself. My opponent’s head was bashed onto the hard wood panels below the soft dark blue mats, and a blistering dark crack came from my opponent’s neck. But nine year old me did not recognise such things. She just kept crying and crying, and the other kid kept crying and crying. The only difference was the two of them were crying. My opponent was crying because of the physical pain. I was crying because of the deep humiliation and rage built inside me ever since I picked up martial arts.
The exact rest was a blur I never understood myself. A series of ambulances came forward, and there was crying all around from the kids around me. I was taken into a room, where I heard the word crazy a lot of the time. It was a rubber room, a rubber room with toy rats in them, they made me a little crazy though. I never saw my opponent again after that one incident. From what I can vaguely remember, there was no lecture that night when driving home. There were no points of being called weak, or a loser, so I guess that underdeveloped brain of mine thought I was doing the right thing. Later though, I was removed from going to Muay Thai for three months, so I didn’t really care about the things that happened after that I suppose. Your own mind is your own maze that you can’t even solve.
But now, even when I’ve become taller than the corn maze itself, I still struggle to rule out the sense that somehow existed within every action I made. Whether it was clawing my hands into some teacher’s face because they were agitating me, or tackling that one girl, something always made sense. Something always made sense to do it. The logic came to me, sooner or later. I once again thought back to the time I tackled that one girl after she completely annihilated my ego, and it was still a struggle connecting the dots. Why did I tackle her? Because she was in a vulnerable state? Was it because people were laughing at me? Making fun of me? I knew what it was. And it was not a pretty thought.
All my life, I’ve been fighting a losing battle. I was a child of war, a victim of a tragedy I was never supposed to meet. I’ve been carrying this boulder of guilt and also the burden of being an absolute loser, I’ve been carrying it ever since I was born. And that was unfair. My growing body, trying to find what boulder to carry, was already given one for who knows why. There was no reason to be carrying such tremendous pain and anger at such a young age, there were more reasons against it than anything.
When the time was right, the boulder finally crashed down onto me. And that singular opponent was the reason for the boulder to crash. With the snap of my bones came the snap of nine-year old Naomi, a child who was much better off learning the times table again than learning how to uppercut someone. But because I was taught how to uppercut someone, I got the natural instinct to fight instead of the natural instinct of answering what is two multiplied by two. Such complex emotions like a labyrinth was casted over at such a young age, and simply boiled over a pot and let the deathly water sear everything in its way.
The anger, the aggression, the fear, was all covered up by an attack against my opponent. It was a sudden outburst that changed everything, from the projection of pain to completely altering my world view. There was one thing I attained from all those experiences, realising what the world was truly going to offer for me. Weakness. I was weak. And that’s why everyone bullied me. Again, and again, and again, and again. I was a weak, small child, and was left there, out to defend for myself like a baby in a wolf’s cage. Young and innocent, white like ivory. It was still only now that I understood how I behaved like a wolf and ripped apart that young girl’s neck, because I was simply raised in a cage of wolves. When children are not fed strength from silver-made spoons, they lick it from blood-stained knives.
Alice knocked me down to the floor, and I couldn’t even barely care. The heart-curling realisation of weakness took me down much earlier than she did, and I was left laying on the mat, all by myself, staring at the ceiling.
I was weak, Naomi.
I spoke to myself in a way like I was my own mentor. Like Naomi Sakana was my mentor. It was this split detachment from the idea of Naomi Sakana, and the actual me. Everything hurt more, and more, and more, and more. Until I completely went numb. Weakness, weakness… weakness is something that brought back the memories of the young. The shattered pieces of laughter, and the vicious mockery hidden behind every move I did. I was weak back then. And it still seems like I’m weak now.
I went home and let my mind wander for a bit, but I didn’t get far. It was quite tiring, endlessly, trying to find some sort of conclusion that could maybe bring me to peace. But truth be told, there was no peace to be found. The only peace I would find within the next couple of weeks is that damn rubber room with bags to kick, and for tears to shed. It was all the same. If I was going to be the same Naomi from almost a decade ago, then there was no chance I was going to win that competition in September.
I know why I fail now.
Weakness is my fear.
The ultimate goal was to do well in that martial arts competition. It was now September 31st, the day where I would either make or break my entire reputation once more.
I completely disposed of everyone who came my way.
Either it was the liver punches, or the horrible, there was always something that absolutely propelled me through all my components. Safe to say, I did get hit pretty hard. I can’t remember half of the fights I fought, the entire war was nothing but one singular blur that hurt me whenever I tried to think about it. Whether it was the small first year kid who I adored, or the towering year thirteen guy, I somehow completely managed to slam all of them out at once. But it was with every win, and every single applaud and cheer I got from the crowd, I was simply being burnt at the stake by myself.
When I got tackled once, the deep eternal fear of weakness hit. Though I was very familiar with such situations, it was only the recent flashbacks of that traumatising session that fueled me with nothing but disgust and anger. I was unable to contain the underlying feeling of pain and weakness, as such simple tactics were able to bring me down in a minute. However, because of the underlying pain and anger I refused to let anything slide under my watch. My eyes widened like a hawk, looking down at everything my opponent did. I didn’t care if the kid was two or four years below me, nothing would get in my way of keeping my sanity together.
No one’s going to shake my hand. And no one’s going to break open my entire skull.
When I walked towards the lobby, there were small little laughs coming from people all around me, looking at me. Those laughs eventually began to become louder, until they banged against my wall. It was destructive. Familiar faces became unknown, bright became dark, and the nice became the evil. In a matter of seconds my entire reality was being flipped upside down, shaken a few times, and thrown to the wall. What the actual hell is wrong with me?
“Naomi, go look here.” Someone chittered, pointing towards the tournament board.
“Naomi Sakana – Xander Rayde”
So that was why everyone was laughing at me.
When I found out my last and final opponent was going to be the one and only, Xander Rayde, I literally threw myself into a room, locked it, and absolutely did not want to come out.
It was all tragic, if I’m going to be honest with myself. Even though Ivory’s well and alive now, the intense anxiety of performing on a stage, and all the societal pressure that came with everything I do. Where is my mind, genuinely? Where was my mind in the time I needed it most? I slump my back onto the cold metal door, digging my blunt nails into my opaque skin, and projected all the pressure onto my own pain. Everything hurt, yes, I know it did. But it was going to be worth it in the end, I promise. I promised, and promised, and promised to myself everything would be okay. And it was just even more pressure to not break that promise.
My entire consciousness had fallen through the floor, most likely drifting apart somewhere to another room. I was left with no reason in my head, but the only reason to compete well. Even though there were several inhuman-like weeks of training, there was still something that hurt me more than the blunt trauma that made me internally bleed every single day. I was curling myself into a crumpled piece of paper onto the floor, with no explanation whatsoever. Everything hurt, bit by bit. I clutched my mouth to not make an inch of noise. It was a little hard, trying to keep everything to myself.
It’s three minutes to the final , and I don’t even feel like I’ve prepared enough for anything I’ve done.
Truth be told, I don’t actually know anything about the competition. I was told that Muay Thai was allowed and that was about it. I threw myself into a rubber room and put myself through physical hell. All just for me to not even compete well. Oh but, I haven’t even competed yet. Still, I don’t know what’s even going to happen. But I do know for sure, I’m going to completely mess up every goddamn thing I do. I wanted to rip my entire body apart, until blood came out of my spine, and my skin tore apart into places I couldn’t even find. I wanted blood to seep out of my eyes, after the intense wailing that I’m desperately trying to cover underneath my throat.
I slammed my fist down onto the padded floor, heaving for air.
If I’m going to lose, everything is going to be humiliating. Everything I’ve lived up for, and every single thing I’ve managed to do in this lifetime, everything will come crashing down. Every single thing I’ve worked through, this was the matter between life and death. Xander is going to absolutely destroy me in that next match, whether I like it or not. I mean, I don’t like being beaten up, especially by someone I should have more skill than. I should have more skill, I should be better, I genuinely should be fucking better than all of this. I’m not good enough, I’m not good enough, I will never be good enough. Everything became so loud, I couldn’t even hear my own heart pounding against my ribcage. The cold desolate floor, the non-stop doubts, those all led to one final fucking conclusion.
If I don’t win, I’m genuinely going to kill myself.
My entire head was numb after the ugly crying all inside of me, and I even covered my eyes like a little child for comfort. It was almost as if I was about to pass out, and never return. I didn’t even fight, and I felt like I was going to die. I was so lost and alone, fighting anything that came towards my way in order to keep my sanity in check. Blood coming from my own heart, being ripped apart just to feel something for once. Everything hurt, hurt, hurt, hurt, hurt, hurt, hurt, hurt, and I can’t even understand why it hurt like this. I cramped myself into a corner again, trying to hide from the blinding light. It hurt trying to face the rays of brightness.
At the same time I felt so pathetic. Contradictions became the norm for the past two minutes. It was whether I wanted to back away from such things, or I wanted to completely throw myself until blood came out of both of our mouths. It was at this point I was hysterically wailing on the floor, but somehow keeping everything quiet to myself. I actually was not supposed to make it this far, I should’ve been knocked out within the first few matches. But with my stupid luck I still won. I still won. I should’ve lost already, goddamn it.
It was in the wake of my own despair that I realised I had no choice but to move forward and compete, no matter how much I wanted to stay alone and cry until I couldn’t anymore, I was simply forced against my will. I had no other option but to continue this perilous journey, no matter what cost it had given me. I took in one final image of myself in the mirror before I went back out onto the battlefield again, while the entire crowd was coming for me with pitchforks and fire. It was a sweaty, blunt, and nervous person called Naomi Sakana. This is Naomi Sakana, and that was the simple truth to it. My face was all bruised, with my arms bandaged repeatedly throughout the entire competition, with the red and puffy eyes from the damaged crying.
There were still some trickles of tears in my eyes from the crying, and they could only produce more and more tears. I knew everything hurt. I’ve said it so many times. It hurt. It really did. When I finally came out of my room and faced everyone’s snake-like eyes, there was this humongous rush through my blood that told me I needed to do this. Though Xander was quite literally the top-dog of the entire school, I wasn’t going to let that silly reputation completely abolish everything I worked for. The final stage was bright, it was nothing of gloom. There was a striking bright light flashing through my eyes, and I took it as a sign of the one and only Ivory. I caught a glimpse of her in the audience, cheering me on.
I turned my eyesight back to Xander, who was directly facing me dead-on on the opposite side of the arena. This was the standstill that was quite literally going to make or break everything. His eyes were grey, unfulfilled and broken. It felt as if my defeat was going to be the one bringing them back to their usual ombre brown. There was an issue though, I was not letting my own identity be watered down just to fulfil someone else’s ego. I could hear the crowd chant on and on, but the noise eventually became so usual I began to notice some things. Xander was huffing and heaving air into his lungs, while his coarse arms were covering the lower part of his torso. After studying A level biology, I think I should know what that means.
Xander was using his forearm to cover up his stomach, but mostly his area. He was limp and exhausted, sweat dripping from the top of his forehead. Somehow, Xander still maintained a tight composure, but he was leaning forward. His body was most likely trying to cover the intense stinging pain from his last fight, where his lower body had been utterly destroyed. His legs were limp, his body exhausted, and his eyes watery. Xander was quite literally horrifically bruised up from his last fight, which meant I could easily take advantage of his compelled state. Once the fight was signalled to start, I capitalised on such observations as the A level economist I was.
As always, Xander’s upper body was unstoppable. His first miscalculated punch towards my neck sent me into an immediate frenzy, which soon knocked me down to the floor. Xander’s other hand bruised my nose. Yikes, now my eyes are beginning to water.
For some infuriating reason, he thought it was all over. Xander stood back and laughed a little, while I was only recovering from his awful jabs. They didn’t hurt, they were strong, but my skin was thicker than his.
“How did you already get defeated in a split second?” He laughed, trying to use some fancy vocabulary to impress the audience.
“Here, let’s just call it a truce.” Xander smiled, from his own narcissistic ideals. He reached out his hand to me, and waited. And it all sent me back, it all threw me back.
The same opponent that reached out their hand to me, and then I was propelled back and was in hospital for over sixty days. It pissed me off. That’s what it did. Every single irregularity I found within my life, I found something to rise and be mad about. Whether it was the awful haircut that Xander had, or how no one in the audience was cheering for me, and was only fueling Xander’s confidence, there was always something to be mad at. But most importantly, I was weak. The weakness, the feeling of being destroyed by another, and the inability to do anything. No, and I was going to get back at him.
What a coward. A complete loser.
I kicked his liver. He staggered back. There was no space or time for any reaction from his little pathetic cries. Xander breathed through his teeth, clearly showing signs of discomfort and pain. I saw that was nothing but something more to take over with my advantage. His stupid little fumbling on two feet, and his disoriented face. Without hesitation, I forced my lower-leg directly towards his diaphragm, and then right afterwards I punched real good at his stomach. He choked on his own breath, and was about to topple over me. It was like a skyscraper, imploding on itself.
This was not fear nor a weakness. This was the simple metamorphosis of transforming from destructed to destruction. His gesture of kindness was nothing but a plaster for his own needs, which I would never give into. Xander took me down with him as he fell. I kicked his abdomen, forcing him all the way to the other side while I bounced back up. My legs were near exhaustion at this point, so were my arms. But, why should that stop me now? Somehow, with his doll-like body, Xander somehow stood up once again. But this time he looked completely depleted.
I kicked. I punched. I threw every single thing I learnt from my life to throw against the top-dog who undermined every single thing I did. I proved him wrong, with the final blow to the kidney. It was the signature move I always ended everything with. A pointed foot, and a figure where I simply looked like I was kicking someone down lowly as a football. Xander crumpled to the floor, wincing in pain.
I didn’t even say anything.
I was tempted to reach my hand out in the exact same manner, but I held back. Showing gratitude for someone you hurt was a sign of emotional weakness, so I looked back out to the crowd. There were horrified gasps and shocked photographers, but my little crowd was cheering as hard as they could. While Xander was being carried away by the nurses, I was standing in the middle, basking in all of the light and glory given to me once more. It was the same every year. After a long period of bloodshed, rose petals from white to red were thrown onto the arena, while some spare bits of cash as well. My bruised arms, my ransacked legs, and my completely mutilated appearance was being cherished amongst the people.
When Xander was recovered enough to come back, the host grabbed our wrists and announced the final victory. My arm was shot up in the air, while I was bathing in such glory once again. I didn’t even know the host, nor did I care. This moment was about me, finally pinning down every single weakness I had. It was formidable, on how such a memory can control me for this long in my life. It was the simple moment of defeating Xander, a complete beast, that conquered my fear of weakness. It wasn’t exactly the moment of surpassing him, but realising the fact that every single person was weak in their lifetime.
On the battlefield, Xander was nothing but an injured soldier who would be the final one to kill to achieve ultimate victory. Many describe his strength as terrifying, and constantly avoided his tough gaze. But now, looking at him, there was nothing intimidating about him. This was his moment of weakness. And it’s going to completely change him. I looked at his eyes, they were directly looking at the floor in disappointment, and most importantly, fear. Fear that he would be defeated like this again, and then his entire reputation falling before his own eyes. This was his weakness. Maybe it was a similarity between head prefects, having such an ego and reputation to hold up it takes up your entire personality and life. I didn’t hate him for being weak. Everyone is weak at some point in their life.
But I finished him. Not because of hate, resentment, or guilt, but this was my war to win.
Once the entire speech was done, it was time for the medals and awards. Things passed in a momentary blur, most likely due to how my emotions were being regulated in this moment. I was quite literally getting hit from all sides of my body, so my thoughts varied from emotion to emotion. My eyesight was quite blurred from everything, but I still made it. When I finally composed myself to look a much cleaner version of myself, meaning, putting on actual clothes instead of the training uniform, I was put on a podium for everyone to see. I hadn’t felt this estranged euphoria for a long time. Taking me back to the times where I humbled everyone on that stage. But now, it didn’t feel like happiness. Instead, it was this peace that finally settled the lurching void eating the insides of me. I was at peace, and finally, what was mine, was mine.
My medal was slanged over my neck, I forgot how heavy it was. But the heavy weight of the plated medal would all soon be relieved by my bouquet of flowers. Not because they were all so fancy, but because of the person delivering them.
The one and only Ivory.
Her bright smile came forward on the stage, cradling a large bouquet of flowers in her arms. She walked up to me with the light glistening in her eyes, and placed them onto my arms. It was a little jump in my heart, knowing Ivory cared enough to deliver these flowers to me. Because, I know she was the one who was cheering at the top of her lungs for me, I know she was the one who began to rally for my win. And I know, she made this tournament just for me. My vision immediately cleared at the sight of her presence, the one and only. I brightly shone the delicate ivory coloured roses up into the air, representing the light that was constantly numbing my eyes.
“You made it!” I chuckled, looking at her below me.
“I said I would.”
“Why would I miss a giant achievement like you?” Ivory giggled, it was a little hard to hear from the loud roars from the crowd.
“I mean… don’t you have other things to do?”
“I can’t miss a bright light like you.”
I had a bouquet of flowers, a new badge, a new medal.
But those weren’t exactly the most important things.
Like the uprising of the light, comes with the uprising of me. I could find the light in the darkness. I could be the light for all those that needed it, including me.
My name is Naomi Sakana.
Written by Emma Li and edited by Lauren Timmins. Published on 6/8/2023. Header image by Amelia Hu.