Author : Jules Jensen

The gray fur was dry and dull. The small hollow horns on his head were curly and crooked. She stroked a finger over the horns. He closed his eyes, like he enjoyed the touch. The claws on his four paws were long. They needed to be trimmed at least once a week, according to her mother. But she couldn’t stand the thought of cutting his precious weapons that saved his life so many times in the arena.

He was contentedly curled in her lap, now closing his blue eyes and rubbing a paw over his flat, monkey-like face. She let him sleep, while she focused her attention elsewhere, looking out of her window. Her dad’s car just pulled up, and he was opening the back hatch. He was unloading the new battler.

She thought that they were done with the neighbourhood brawls when Mighty retired. She wondered what would happen now. It was illegal to have two battlers in one household.

As if sensing her thoughts, or maybe he smelled the newcomer, the creature on her lap jolted upright.

“Don’t worry, Mighty, I wont let them get rid of you.” She said, giving the creature a hug. He was tense and quivering.

“Stay here.” She got up and left the room.

Down the stairs, she stopped by the front door just as her dad came in. He gingerly held a cage that contained something roughly the same size as Mighty. The creature inside was an ugly thing, leathery black skin and six legs, white eyes and huge ears.

“What’s going to happen to Mighty?” She asked, but her dad ignored her.

“This is Shrill. I bet we can totally take out the Johansen’s bird now.” He explained to his wife, who smiled and clapped her hands together happily.

“Mighty could take out that bird.” She muttered in annoyance, too quiet for her father to hear, but her mother looked at her.

“Mighty is too old.” Her mother replied, and her father put the cage down on the floor and went to the kitchen, clutching a wad of paperwork.

“What’s going to happen to him now?” She asked, and her mother quickly looked away. She followed her husband into the kitchen, but spoke over her shoulder.

“You know the rules, honey.”

“But he’s a pet now. He hasn’t fought in ten years.” She followed her parents, feeling the teenage fury start to build up in her heart.

“Which is why we need a new fighter. The extra money will be quite handy.”

Her father was already reading over the papers. Her mother smiled, all happy and gooey at the thought of having a battler again, and being a part of the community after years of absence. Then she frowned and looked down at the floor.

Mighty came trotting in, claws clacking on the floor as he leisurely went to his food and water dishes by the fridge. He left behind paw-prints of black-brown gunk.

“What’s that he’s tracking in? Did he go in the garden again?” Her father asked, finally looking away from Shrill’s papers. She ignored him and curiously followed prints back out to the entryway, where her father had left Shrill’s cage.

The cage was open, and Shrill was dead, throat torn open and oozing blood. Her mother gasped and put a hand to her mouth while her father just stared, dumbfounded.

“I guess we really can’t have two fighters in the same household.” She tried not to smile as she said it, and then she calmly went into the kitchen to clean the blood from Mighty‘s experienced claws.