Bottled Violence

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He washed his face almost violently, in a desperate yet futile attempt to recapture a look of
youthfulness. He was thirty-four today. He dried off with a towel, pressing his rugged, weathered
skin into the soft white cloth. He looked up and squinted into the mirror, making the wrinkles
around his eyes more defined. His cavernous brown eyes weren't innocent. He opened them wide to
look disgustedly upon the old, but not fading scar that ran from eyebrow to chin and the crooked
nose that had once been centered. He wasn't as lean as he had been in his fighting days, and gray
hairs had started coming in around his temples. Sighing, he set the towel down and shuffled into
the living room. He sat down slowly, trying to ignore his creaking bones, and flipped on the news.
He didn't dare step outside for a smoke even though he knew that a few deep drags would assuage
his restlessness. It was quarter after ten and already past curfew for all those over the age of
twenty-five. It was for his own safety, of course. Jason knew he wasn't as strong as he had been
ten years ago. He no longer owned the streets. He abandoned the news and went to his window. All
he really wanted to see was The Count and that wouldn't be on for at least another fifteen minutes
anyway. Jason opened the window, allowing the cool night breeze to permeate his sweatshirt, giving
him goose bumps. When he looked up he saw the mountains, distant and formidable. When he looked
down he saw blood, strangely comforting and familiar. The streets had been his life for a little
over a decade, from the time he became a teenager to the time he had a curfew to abide by. The pool
of scarlet glistened under the narrow beam of light coming from just outside the alley. Jason
missed that alley. Running his fingers along the deep scar upon his face left him with a feeling of
abhorrence. He stared fixedly down at the street where the fight was getting more violent. He
touched the smoothness of the disfigurement as he watched the fight. He could still feel the glass
of the bottle dragging along his face, ripping away a chunk of his skin. He silently cheered the
kids on as he imagined the blood drip down his own face and a sadistic smile played across his face.
His heart began to beat a little faster, not in fear, but excitement. He then noticed a girl,
passed out in the corner, abandoned after having served her purpose. Her dress was torn and hanging
off one shoulder. It was obvious that a man had dressed her. He licked his lips, thinking
lascivious thoughts and wishing he could go down there once the men had dispersed. It had been
years since he had had such fun. He was sure she'd be out for a while. She probably wouldn't
even wake up. He'd be doing some good after all, for most children these days were the byproducts
of such acts. Those kids would grow up with the same hatred that their mothers had for them since
the day they were born, making them strong and tough. Perfectly viable candidates for the oligarchy
when they were of age. Jason stood staring for some time, saddened by the fact that he could no
longer participate. Soon he wouldn't even be able to watch. This realization made his mind jump
back to The Count. As he walked back to the armchair, the number thirty-two popped up on the
screen. 'And today's Count is a little higher than average, coming in at thirty-two,' said
the newscaster. 'At midnight they will be injected.' Jason shut off the TV and stared blankly
at the darkened screen. One year from today, he too, would be a part of the Count. He wondered
vaguely who he'd die with. For in one year, he would be past his prime. Next year, instead of
spending his birthday in his apartment, he'd be in the government building doing his best to enjoy
his last day of life. There were worse ways to die. He knew that well, as he had seen plenty of
men go down in a hail of bullets under a streetlight, soaked in blood and hopelessness. But lethal
injection was not the way he wanted to go. He wanted to die a hero. He wanted to die in pain. A
masochist at heart, Jason didn't want a needle to bring about his end. Unless he chose the suicide
route, he didn't really have many options. He could go out and try to get himself shot, or go
outside past curfew, but that was far from valiant. Lethal injection was the standard, administered
daily to all who turned thirty-five. Not that anyone went willingly. No one went down without a
fight. They knew what the outcome would be, but they all went in trying to prove they were still of
worth. That their bodies weren't on their way to ruin. That they could benefit society. But
what they said didn't matter. Not even their fists made the slightest difference to the
omnipotence of youth. The government was made up of males, ranging in age from twenty to
twenty-five. These thirty-five men who made up the oligarchy were the strongest, the bravest, the
toughest. They earned their positions through violence and knowing how to survive. They served
until they either became to old or were overthrown. This was a world in which people created their
own chaos and knowing which battles to fight was the only hope for survival. Jason had left the
window open a crack so he wouldn't miss the dull thud of a fist colliding with a skull. After one
particularly loud thud, Jason let his mind wander back to his glory days. He saw himself standing
over a body, smirking, as an occasional low moan escaped from the throat of his victim who was lying
in his own filth, incapable of begging for mercy. It had been the first fight he'd won.
Nostalgia enveloped him as he thought of the many victories that had followed. There had been
nothing to fight against but everyone needed an outlet. He let his head fall back and he
surrendered completely to memories. The young were insatiable and he had been no exception. At
thirteen he fought because he didn't have a choice. At fifteen it had been because he was driven
by angst. At seventeen he committed rape for the first time. Propelled by hormones and the fact
that it was something he knew he could get away with. But he was never satisfied. Nothing ever
satiated his cupidity. He wanted something to fight for. He wanted something to fight against. He
needed something of substance in his life because chaos wasn't something that could be held on to.
He was twenty when he got the scar. After being beaten within an inch of his life in a desperate
struggle for a government position, Jason finally gave up his life of bedlam. He worked at the
factory during the day and stayed at home at night, wondering how things might have been had he won
that fight. Wondering if anything would have changed had he been given power. Instead of working
long hours in a cold factory, he could be watching others do it. He wouldn't have to prove
himself to society because he would have been at the top. But one fight was all it took to dash
that dream to pieces. Jason dreamt about it every time he fell asleep, but always woke up with his
scar tingling and a feeling of repugnance. It wasn't the violence that he hated; it was the fact
that he had failed. No matter what he did he couldn't drive that thought from his mind. He was
reminded of it every morning just by looking in the mirror. As he began to drift off in his chair,
he began to replay the night in his head. That night had been cold but Jason had agreed to the
fight. He was adamant about fighting the toughest guy there was. There would be no backing down. A
slight wind whipped at his face as he walked briskly into the alley, heart pumping and head
pounding. The adrenaline felt like ice in his veins and he carried the weight of the world on his
shoulders. He had worked hard for his reputation and it all came down to this last fight. Jack was
already there, pacing back and forth like a caged tiger. There was a glint in his eye, for he was
young and this was what he lived for. Stalking his prey, he circled Jason. 'Fair fight, standard
rules apply. Winner makes top thirty-five, a place in the oligarchy. You win, you get power. I
win, you're probably dead.' Jason looked Jack directly in the eye and nodded. Many people had
showed up to watch, but Jason hadn't noticed any of them. He was here to fight. He and Jack
stepped away from each other, never breaking eye contact. Jason swung his arms around a few times,
loosening up his shoulders. As he jumped up and down in place, his breath could be seen in the cool
night air. He started taking small, quick steps to get himself warmed up. In spite of the weather,
he felt nothing. Jack started towards him and he knew this would make or break him. As the two men
got closer, Jason prayed it wouldn't be the latter. They both put their fists up, blocking their
faces and Jason wondered if he should take the first punch. He didn't have time to make a
decision because Jack let loose and started swinging. Jason was no longer thinking. He had
everything planned out, but the moment the fight started, his mind just went blank. Jason caught a
punch to the face and was thrown off balance immediately. Staggering back towards Jack he felt his
fist make contact with Jack's head and Jack hit the ground. Seizing the opportunity, Jason jumped
on top of him and started punching him in the face with both fists. He felt his knuckles break but
the pain only drove him to hit harder. Blood spurted out of Jack's nose and mouth and spit flew
out with every punch. Jason felt his fists scrape along Jack's teeth as he hit him, like a
machete on concrete, and after a while Jason was no longer sure which blood was Jack's and which
was his own. The pavement dug into his knees as he sat firmly on Jack's chest, pounding away at
his face. Jason was wild with the thrill of it all. He wasn't even paying attention when Jack
reached behind him, grabbing a glass bottle and breaking off the bottom on the cool, hard pavement.
Jason heard the glass sprinkle to the ground and he saw Jack raise his arm above his head. Rules
clearly stated that only fists were allowed in competitive fights. Jason seemed to freeze as Jack
brought the bottle down with all the force he could muster, the jagged edges landing squarely on
Jason's face. This wasn't fair. Searing pain jutted along his face but the warmth of his blood
was almost soothing as it seeped down the side of his face. Jason remembered seeing his skin come
off on the bottle and he remembered Jack pushing him over. He began to fade and as he closed his
eyes he could hear Jack's footsteps getting further and further away. Daylight woke him the next
morning and he was unable to open his right eye. His face was sticky with blood and his whole body
ached. His bones felt like powder, as if the strength behind Jack's foot had turned them to dust.
Pulling his face off the pavement, he struggled to get it together. Pieces of gravel were embedded
in his skin. As he tried to get up his head started spinning and he had to wait several minutes
before he could right himself completely. His hand had been welded to his head by blood and hours
of motionless sleep. He ripped them apart like Velcro. His hands were covered with blood and his
knuckles were blue and swollen. As he tried to move his fingers, the cuts all over the backs of his
hands reopened and blood began to trickle out. Everyone who had been watching the night before had
left. He hadn't expected them to stay. That was simply how it worked. The winner got a pat on
the back, even if the fight wasn't fair. Violence ruled in this world and if you weren't the
strongest you had no grounds on which to protest. Jason was alone. He knew instantly that it was
all over. He knew he'd never see Jack again, nor would he have a chance at being a part of the
government. He limped back to his apartment, struggling to keep his left eye open while nursing the
right side of his face. He walked in the door, started for the stairs and then blacked out. Jason
always woke up at this point in the nightmare, his face salty with tears from the crushing feeling
of defeat. Jason snapped back to reality, sat up in his chair and listened. Silence. He went to
the window and shut it, trying not to look at the body down below. He rubbed his face, trying to
shake himself of the memory and headed back to his bedroom. Jack's face popped into his mind and
Jason remembered that he was dead now. Jack had turned thirty-five last year. He couldn't help
but wonder what he'd been like as a person. Maybe Jason was getting soft in his old age. As the
years passed he had gotten more nostalgic, more sentimental. But sitting around reminiscing
wasn't going to get him anywhere. He knew that and the government knew that, which was why he
would be put to death in a year. Society didn't need memories. It needed fear and desire and
bloodshed, for that is how countries evolve. Jason felt a slight smile creep onto his face as he
realized how pointless yet perfect it all was. He had wreaked havoc until he was no longer capable
of doing so, and in one year it would all be over. For him at least. The world would keep spinning
and time wouldn't cease to exist. It made sense. Why live if you had no one left to fight and
nothing to fight for? The youth are the future. Always have been, always will be. Suddenly
exhausted by the thought of it all, Jason shut the lights and climbed into bed, dreading sleep and
another birthday. He fell asleep as the clock struck midnight. He was one day closer.





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