It was past midday. I don't know what the hell I was thinking but I woke up in the middle of a crowd. I hate crowds. What's the use of it? Why should I elbow my way? To see a cyborg fighting with a khamal? And the horrible smell of sweat which felt in the air and was amplified by the heat…I hate crowds yet I was in the middle of one. Who the hell made me pass through Zone 25?
"Hey you, step aside if not I'll smash your face!, a beggar with ragged and dusty clothes yelled at me.
"Leave me the hell alone you bastard! Mind your own business! What you son of a bitch!" and I rush to hit him.
But the bastard gets away and slides off. That's a good one smash my face! Damn it! I cannot walk peacefully in the street anymore! Besides what street? This is not a street, it's a swarm of people who murmur continuously and who stink! Who the hell made me pass through Zone 25? One would have understood if I hadn't known how things stand here, yes I would have had an excuse. But I knew. I knew that it was the zone of the beggars, of the immoral people, of the leprous. And I also knew that fights between cyborgs and khamals took place there three times a week. Speaking of khamals, I have never understood what the hell they eat. They don't have a mouth. It's true that I haven't been too interested in finding it out but I simply wonder. What the hell do they live on? A huge creature of two meters high and as much breadth! Their skin is so damn thick that hardly can a knife pierce it. I was told that they were brought from a planet of Kalix system three years ago.
"Griko! Griko!" started shouting the people around me. I look around to see what is going on, why the hell they are all shouting like madmen. About one hundred meters in front of me, four guys are setting a kind of stage. Actually it is a ring. A cyborg and a khamal are to fight to death there. But who the hell or what the hell is Griko?
I look about for a less stinky face to explain it to me if I am doomed to stay here, I should, at least, find out exactly what's going on here. I know that a fight is about to take place but I've never watched such a thing in my whole life. Somewhere, on my left, I catch the sight of a guy who doesn't seem to be one of those who hang about in Zone 25. I say this because he was pretty well dressed, he was shaved and neatly combed unlike the primitive who live in this damned zone.
"Hey you, do you know who Griko is? I happened to be here in the middle of this crowd and if I'm here I should at least know what's going on."
"Well, pal, If you don't have the slightest idea who Griko is you are definitely new around here", the guy answered me in a friendly voice. "Griko is the khamal who has been winning all the fights for the last two months. No cyborg has defeated him. He is as strong as an ox, this ugly face. Once, with one blow he pulled off a cyborg's right arm. It's a frightful creature, pal. He'll give you creeps, I tell you!" the guy told me.
So, this Griko is a cyborg-killing machine… a living machine. Damned if I understand how a khamal can kill no less than twenty-four cyborgs in a couple of months. On the back of it, these, the cyborgs are not beings and yet this animal beats the hell out of them! Devilish trick! I can hardly wait to see it for myself. However I think the fight will start soon. Listening to all these scamps shouting and taking into account that the ring has already been set, the fight will begin sooner than I've thought.
"You, man, give me some water!" I heard a voice near my left shoulder. I turn and see a ten years old kid staring at me and waiting for me to give him what he has asked for.
"How on earth do you think I can give you water! You…don't you see I have nothing on me?"
"Give me ten kharzes then and I'll slip out to buy you some water too" said the kid to me.
Like heck! He's telling me to give him money to buy water as if he would ever come back with it.
"Leave me the hell alone! I don't have money on me!" I shouted at him. I wish I could drink some water. I would give right now 20 kharzes for a drop of cold water. I'm so warmed up 'cause of the crowd! Who the hell made me pass through Zone 25?
"Hey you, kid, come 'ver here! Take 10 kharzes and buy some cold water. Buy me a half and keep the change for yourself. See you don't come back! I swear on God I'll raze you to the ground, you hear me?"
"Give me the money and don't cry over 10 kharzes. Do you want water or not?" the kid asked me. I felt like punching him in the face. He's telling me! He's got some nerve and the tone he uses! But I thought I was too thirsty and, after all, 10 kharzes made not a fortune. Hardly had I given him the money when the kid disappeared in the crowd.
I look about to analyze the crowd. I seemed to be in Hell. Shouts, horrible smells, suffocating heat. On brief it seemed as if I were right in the middle of Hell. Where the hell is this kid with my water? I dried up! I hear some gun shots on my left and I quickly look to see what's going on. Two bastards might have started a fight, this happens quite often in Zone 25 so it wouldn't be much of a surprise. These have nothing to eat but they have plenty of guns and munitions. The hell! To my mind I would shoot them all! But I didn't have time to think because something was happening on the ring. I was struck dumb. A hands raised giant of two meters high and as much breadth stood on the right side of the ring. Damned me this must be Griko! I've seen a couple of Khamals in my life but this one beats it all! This bulky has definitely about two hundred kilos. If he gave me one blow, he would level me with the ground. The cyborg who was on the opposite corner of the ring wasn't half bad, but the bulky khamal was obviously superior at least in weight and height. They both had their hands raised while the crowd was cheering. The guy in the middle of the ring fired a shot, and the two faced one another keeping a two meters distance between them. That guy showed them a red card, he got off the ring and fired another shot. The fight began. The two mingled their eyes then rushed into the fight. I could see nothing but fists and feet. Damn if this fight didn't remind me of those movies called cartoons. I had a movie like that from my grand-grand-grand…parents. It was about a dog fighting with a cat and at a certain moment the two were like a whirl and nobody could understand anything of it. The same thing was on the ring. The two were caught in a whirl and I couldn't see much.
"You! Here is your water!" I heard a voice next to me.
I glanced down and saw the naughty kid holding a plastic bottle, half full of water.
"Damned me! How did you managed to slip through these scamps? You skin must be all bruisers!"
"Not now! It's not your business! Take your water and leave me alone! Thanks anyway for the water!"
The kid slipped down and disappeared among the feet of the crowd who had eyes only for the cyborg and the khamal. A son of the devil, this kid! I didn't believe he would come back with the water, I could bet on 20 kharzes. I drank and life seemed different. Such a smart guy was the one who invented cold water, damn me if not. And I drank one more. And another and another one and so on till the bottle was empty. Now that's something else. I when I think I didn't want to give the money to the kid for the water! Such a fool would I have been if I hadn't given it to him. Now I would give double for it. This cold water is so damn good! Very good!
When I woke up from the sublime moment of tasting the cold water, the crowd of people was screaming like madmen.
I turned my head to see the fight that I have completely forgotten about. Griko was jumping like a lunatic on the ring holding the cyborg's head in his hands. Damn me! He pulled off his head! If this ugly face is so strong than why the hell they don't make him fight with one of his kind? Cyborgs are not weak, on the contrary, but this Griko is something! Whatever it's not my business. He may fight whoever he wants, or he may just die, it's all the same to me.
All in all I had to get out of the crowd. They were still screaming like madmen and they didn't seem to prepare to leave. Go to hell you, stinky people! If at least they washed themselves not to stink so badly!
"Move aside! You bastard! Let me get the hell out of here! Don't you see the fight is over?" I yelled at a guy, trying to elbow my way out.
I could hardly slip through that crowd. I screamed my lungs out. They'd better let me pass if not, I'll give them one to remember. A horrible smell of sweat was getting out of me and I wished so badly to take off my coat! But I have ten meters left to cross. Who the hell made me pass through Zone 25?
Written by Adrian Cadar
Translated by Adina Marc