“Where are you going?” Nancy calls out. Solace, still steaming at the eyes, runs pell-mell across his destroyed home and out of the compound gates.

Run. Just run. You know where to go. You do remember right? The monster whispers from his belly.

Somewhere between utter misery and Hornbrook Avenue a man walks into him. The man stumbles and curses “watch where your fucking going, you little prick!”

“I… I’m sorry.”

“Hey, your the guy all over the Internet. So-Lace something?”

“No.”

“Yeah, hey Carlos, look its that writer who used to live down Rickson lane. They blew up your house good didn’t they? Man if I had the chance I would fuck up those McCally brothers my damn self.”

“Get the fuck away!” Solace throws a punch but stops short.

“Whats your Problem asshole, hey can I get an autograph?”

“This Ain’t the writer, man.” Carlos says after casually lighting a cigarette. “That dude is like six foot tall. Look at this guy, all dirty and shit, he ain’t even rich.”

“Nah, he is the guy, aren’t you?” Carlos’ friend taps solace on the face.

“Shit if thats how writers look, I’m good working at the bank. Hey did I tell you I got promoted” Carlos puts an arm around Solace’s shoulder. “I’m head security now, got a gun and everything.”

“Let me go.”

“Speak up homie, I cant hear out of my left ear to well.”

“Let me the fuck go you spic fuck!”

“Shit I heard that one, Pinche mojado.” Carlos laughs and pushes Solace along.

The monster rears its head back, ready to strike, but Solace takes off again. He knows where he needs to go. He has to get there before the monster brakes free. A left into an ally, right at the intersection, right again after the deserted school. And into the bright red door.

The rhythmic pat-thwop of gloves, clink-thud of heavy bags, swish-tap of rope bring some calm, but Armando’s voice, even after all theses years, clears his head the most. The back of Armando’s shirt shows the gyms insignia, a Copperhead wrapped around a boxing glove. You can’t tell by looking at Armando but the old man is in his sixties. His build, though a little pudgy around the middle, still shows the tell-tale signs of a prize fighter. The only thing that gives him away is the hairline that starts at the back of his head. Someone taps his shoulder and he turns to face Solace.

“Madre de dios, Solito, is that you?” his slightly wrinkled face brakes into a rare smile. “Ven, con prisa, give this old man a hug.”

Solace does not move, the relentless stream of tears cascading to the floor. Some of the new boxers point to him then to a photo on the wall. Armando’s smile fades. “Solace, get your ass over here. If I ask you again its twenty miles.”

Instinct makes him move. He walks slowly up to his old trainer, back hunched like a wounded dog. He cant bring his gaze up to meet the old man’s. He mumbles an explanation, making Armando lean in. The entire gym is quietly straining to catch every word. then, after ten minutes he gets to the part where the McWrither brothers are caught, the whole room explodes in applause, leaving the final and most devastating news for Armando alone to hear.

“Silencio! Peter, y tu Doug, take him to the back and get him dressed. He fights in five.”

The assistant trainers take him by the arms and lead him to the locker room. Peter, a bald middle aged man, pats solace on the back “hey man, its great to see you again, its been months, hell maybe a year.”

“Hi, I’m Doug.” A black young man, close to Solace’s age, grabs his had and shakes it. “Armando talks a lot about you. You wrote the gym motto didn’t you? Advisarii, um, damn I new it.”

“defeat is the shadow your opponents casts on to your gloves as you brake him. I don’t think he got the Latin right.” Peter laughs. “Here Get into these.”

“Why is Armando making him fight anyway?”

“Same as when Dominic and his old lady broke up. Your no good in the ring when your head is full of day to day bullshit. Someones got to knock some sense into you.”

Less then five minutes later Solace is walking back to the ring in borrowed sweats and gloves. His heart pounds and his breathing quickens. The photo he was being compared to stares at him from the wall closest to the ring. In it he has his arms around Cas, who had just won his first competition. He tightens his fists.

“What do you need, Solito?” Armando calls from inside the rig.

“Consecutive.”

“Are you sure?” Armando asks, when Solace doesn’t respond he calls out the order of the fighters. “Dolarhyde , Ruth, Nilla, Fredericks, Tony, Simvo, Russia, Mark and Campos. In weight order you will enter the ring. If you drop to one knee roll out and the next one goes in. He wants a fight so give it to him. First one to drop him gets a night off at camp.”

Both Solace and the fist fighter, his shorts say Simvo, enter the ring. The whole gym gathers around, applauding, hooting and jeering. As Armando lays down the law and the fighter bounces around looses as a corner skin vendor, Solace begins to realize what a bad idea this is. The bell rings.

Simvo rushes in with a left hook, Solace ducks at the last second and scampers around him. Simvo, light on his feet, turns almost instantly to face him, but there is already a fist waiting for him. A straight right to the nose knocks Simvo into the mat. The croud hollers for the looser to get out and begin a chant for Dolarhyde.

A very muscular, tattooed man hops into the ring, barely able to contain his need to inflict pain. The bell goes off and so does he. Combination after combination lands heavily onto Solace’s gloves. The man only lets up when Solace ties up. Dolarhyde grunts a curse through his mouth guard and pushes solace off. Another wave of fists pelt solace, a few well timed jabs disrupt the rhythm and open a window for Solace.

The combinations are slower but much more devastating. Solace beats a hole through Dolarhyde’s guard and lays right after right into the man’s face. Finally after a brutal uppercut Dolarhyde wobbles and falls to his knee.

“My turn Muvafucker!” Campos leaps over the top rope and bangs on his chest. There is a collective groan from outside the ring. “Fuck off, imma kick his ass.”

Solace takes the initiative and lands two jabs right in his mouth. Campos grunts them off and circles. Taunting the whole time.

“Hey man, you gonna fall, watch your step. Nah better watch mine look at this.” He dances around a bit lifting his hands up in early victory.

Solace sinks his fist deep into his gut. The sound Campos lets out is somewhere between a laugh and a retch. But he doesn’t fall. Solace gives him a bit to compose himself before he returns to jabbing. Campos taunts again, but doesn’t dare let his guard down. For an instant Solace sees Cas taunting him Back at the Destroyers club house. The monster strikes.

Campos throws a beautiful left hook but is countered by Solace’s right fist. There is so much power behind the strike that it continues all the way down to the mat, as if Solace’s glove is glues to Campos’ face.

The next fighter has his back turned in the corner. Some one calls out Tony, but Cas is the one that turns to face him. They stare at each other for a moment before they cross the ring in two strides and beat the living hell out of each other. There are no combinations, no guarding, only exchanges. Left. Right. Uppercut, overhand, straight, body, body, body. Blood spatters the mat. Right to the ribs, jab, jab left hook to the eye socket. Cas’s back hits the corner of the ring and his head is split open with three jabs and a wild haymaker. He is dragged out of the ring as another Cas enters from the other side.

Solace meets him at the other corner, he throws his entire body into a vicious straight to the chest. Cas is knocked to the floor, agony painted on his face. But solace drops down and beats a shade of crimson onto it. Thousands of hands grab at the two men and wrench one off of the other. Solace bites and claws his way back towards Cas. One final right knocks the hallucination away and replaces it with the bloodied and frightened face of a young man.

Solace allows himself to be dragged across the ring and held down while the poor boy is looked after.

“Silencio!” All talk immediately stops. Armando’s black shoes are visible between the many legs still blocking Solace from getting to the young boy. “Good to see you still have that fire, Solito. We need to work on that rage though.”

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