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Selecting Faces Chapter 7: Trinta

Trinta - grummer character from Selecting Faces

art by Erin Cardwell

“Last chance, Trinta. You either make it as a grummer, or it’s back to the bordello.”

Trinta shivered at the ice in Arich‘s voice. She was wrapping long strips of fabric around her knuckles so that her thumb was bound to the side of her hand, and her fingers couldn’t spread apart. Grappling was strictly forbidden in Inverse Gravity Rumble, but the fighters could still turn their hands into hooks to grip the handholds — and each other.

Arich stepped around in front of her, his hands folded behind his back. She kept expecting him to touch her, for her to feel his breath on her neck. It had been nearly two months, and he hadn’t once laid a finger on her.

“I think you can do it. You’re tough. You’ve got more potential than some of the other grummers I’ve sponsored. You just have to want it hard enough. Win it all in this grum, and I’ll keep you.”

She felt her face flush.

“Time to go!” came the grum-master’s voice from down the hall.

Arich moved from in front of the door to let her exit.

“Go splash them,” he said.

She stepped into the hall, joining the other five grummers. Trinta’s blood felt alive, like all the nerves in her body were pulled taut. All six grummers strode down the hallway toward the turret. Kasi checked Trinta into the wall as she moved ahead of her.

They all bounded up a flight of stairs, emerging into the grum turret. There were hundreds of punters in the surrounding torus, crowded up against the glass walls of the turret. Even though she was a skinner — used to be a skinner, anyway — she’d seldom felt so naked as now.

Trinta slipped around the pool that occupied the center of the turret. Purple light emanated from the pool, illuminating the portion of the ceiling directly above it, which was composed of the same steel panels that made up the floor.

Trinta glanced around at the other fighters to make sure she was lining up properly behind a glass panel of the floor that read “Nova.” As she stepped onto her starting block, she could feel the electromagnets of her boots disengage from the floor.

She glanced up at the handholds on the ceiling. They were directly above her on the edge of the steel plating. When Arich had first got her, she didn’t think she could jump high enough to reach the bounder bars, but after weeks of training, mounting was second nature to her.

The purple light coming from the pool turned to blue, and everyone standing just on the other side of the glass wall around the turret raised their hands to the barrier.

Then the light turned to green, and the sound of a thousand open palms banging on the glass reverberated through Trinta’s bones. It took her a moment to remember the grum had begun.

Blushing hard, she sprung up and gripped the bounder bars with her mummified hands and jackknifed her feet up toward the ceiling. As her boots neared the steel panels lining the top of the turret, the electromagnets in the bottoms of them turned on and pulled them onto the ceiling. Then she let go of the handholds and straightened, feet planted on the ceiling and head pointed toward the pool below her.

By the time Trinta got mounted, the two grummers on her right were already engaged. On the other side, Kasi was trying to get a hooked hand under Trinta’s left armpit. As she spun to face her, Kasi lost her grip.

Kasi started to throw a straight punch with her right hand, but something drew her attention over Trinta’s right shoulder.

Trinta made the most of her moment of distraction. She pushed Kasi’s outstretched arm across her body, moving to Kasi’s dead side, then pulling on the back of her opponent’s neck with a hooked hand. The movement propelled Trinta away from — and Kasi right into — the oncoming Rhene. It must have been Rhene’s approach that had distracted Kasi in the first place.

Rhene crouched, allowing Kasi to stumble over her. Then she straightened quickly, pulling Kasi free of the steel. She tumbled slowly — her screams of rage drowned out by the crowd still pounding on the glass — and splashed into the glowing green pool below.

Trinta stepped back from the fight for a moment as Metis closed in on Rhene at top speed. This was probably intended to catch Rhene while she was still recovering from taking out Kasi.

Metis threw a diving uppercut at Rhene’s head, but she didn’t get her front foot planted before engaging her adversary.

Rhene was already firmly established, and saw the attack coming. She was able to deflect the blow overhead toward the pool. Metis swung backward so she was dangling from her right foot.

Trinta quickly stepped in behind Metis. She hooked her hand around the inside of Metis’s flailing left leg and gave it a shove. Metis tumbled into the pool below.

When Trinta turned to the last two fighters, Miranda had Rhene from behind in a bear hug. Trinta hung back, waiting to see who her final opponent would be.

Miranda pulled Rhene a few centimeters off the ceiling.

Rhene tucked her knees in, placing her feet on Miranda’s thighs. Just as her opponent’s arms loosened to drop her, Rhene doubled over, forming into a ball. Then she pushed off, forcefully separating Miranda’s feet from the steel and propelling herself through the air in a slight backward arc — her belly just centimeters from the ceiling — toward Trinta.

Trinta’s eyes widened in surprise. She tried to move to the side, but one of Rhene’s outstretched arms caught her around the waist. Rhene used this point of leverage to — by sheer force — plant her own feet back on the ceiling and pull Trinta’s off.

Trinta scrabbled at Rhene’s back with her bound hands, trying to grab anything to keep from falling, but without success.

She floated down slowly in the low gravity, twisting in the air, finally landing in the pool with her body spread as flat as possible. A fighter wasn’t counted out until they hit the water, so she could delay the inevitable by about half a second by laying herself out flat.

When she came up from the water, the thunderous pounding on the glass had subsided. As she raised herself out of the pool, Kasi walked by and used her foot to shove her back in.

Trinta finally climbed out of the pool. Rhene swung herself down using the bounder bars and went ahead of her out of the turret.

When she got back to her locker room, Arich was already there.

“I’m sorry I didn’t win the whole thing. I should have got out of the way… I–“

“You’ve got potential. I’ll keep you for now.”


Read the next chapter: Kasi


Selecting Faces Table of Contents

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A White Washed Tomb

Stephen looks around the family room.

“Where is it?” He says out loud, throwing stacks of paper around, turning furniture upside down, spilling out the contents on the floor. He runs his hands through the pile digging and digging until he was pulling up carpet.

“Where did I put it?”

He runs upstairs to his room. Checks his dresser drawer and then re checks it. He tears off the covers and flips over the mattress. He looks over the night stand at the picture of his wife Susan. He wonders what’s she’s doing.

Then he remembers why he’s looking for his keys in the first place. Falling down to the floor he looks under the bed, nothing. He springs back up.

“Where could they be?”

Feeling something in the palm of his hand he opens it to reveal metallic pieces hung together by a thin chain.

“There they are.”

Then he thinks of Susan his beautiful sweet Susan with her tan skin her black tasseled hair, her slender frame. He imagines her dancing, dancing, dancing. Not for money. Not for fame. Not for anyone but him. Stephen smiles, moving downstairs he ignores the mess he has made.

He opens the front door. He walks out to his driveway. He was ten steps away from his car.

“Stephen!” He turns around to see Mary and Jerry Fitzgerald approaching him the happily married couple, the perfect next door neighbors. Their smiles are shining sparkling ivory. Not a dent or scratch in their pearly whites. They walk in sync, her arm gently around him and his around her, her blond hair blowing in the breeze, the envy of the city, the evil in Stephen’s heart.

He swallows and thought what she looks like naked. Strangely enough he transposes Susan’s body on hers. Even stranger he did the same for Jerry. He shuts his eyes hard and opens them for Mary and Jerry to be fully clothed.

“Where you off to Stephen?” Jerry pushes up his glasses.

“Nowhere.” Stephen wants to hurry away opening his door.

“Oh come on Stephen. You never do anything with us anymore. You and Susan used to stop by all the time.” Says Mary. He is stuck.

“Yea. You guys never come over anymore. How is Susan? It’s been ages since you guys came to our last party.”

Stephen had more money then.

“Susan’s been busy working.” says Stephen.

“I’m actually on my way to pick her up. I’m sorry guys we should do something soon. But I have to go, I’m late.”

He slams the door as he gets into his car. He watches the Fitzgerald’s from the rearview mirror. They wave in unison with big grins. Then they turn and walk back into their home. Jerry looks back seeing his house. It’s white, the only white house in the neighborhood of brick. It’s almost obscene how noticeable it is.

“How can the other neighbor’s stand it?” Stephen says to himself.

He breathes a deep sigh when it was finally out of sight.

“God it is so horrible!”

“Day in and day out, it’s so glaring and obvious! A dung pile burning in their noses how can they tolerate it?”

Stephen stops talking as he enters the highway. He pays careful attention to the drivers around him. His eyes dart right then left. His hands become clammy and tense as he grips the steering wheel. His heart races as a car comes closer and closer to him from behind only to turn left and speed up.

“Bastards!” he mutters to himself. “Bastards all bastards, all dirty stinky miserable vain bastards!” His face is getting redder the more he mutters to himself.

“They’re all ugly. Stupid. Conceited..” He begins to drool a little. The fuel tank alarm sounds.

“Aaahh come on!” he shouts. In the business to leave he forgot to check the fuel gauge. He starts cursing everything, the road, the cars and the people.

“All are in my way!!!” He turns off to the next exit. Luckily there is a gas station not too far. Stephen pulls in and starts pumping gas. He looks around the station, remarking in his mind about its dirtiness. He then went on to comment on the stench.

“Never have my nostrils befell something so odious.” He says to himself, barely audible.

“Stephen!” Stephen turns around and sees Phil.

“How are you? You know I haven’t seen you in some time. It’s been ages.”

Phil is short and pudgy. His head gleams from lack of hair. Stephen looks into his beady eyes pausing for a proper response.

“I’ve been good.” Stephen checks the amount, ten bucks and still going up.

“Yea, well that’s swell. The office is still the same. You know pushing paper, crossing T’s and dotting I’s. You know how that goes. The new guy that’s in is doing an ok job. But that’s boring stuff eh. How’s Susan? How’s your wife?” Stephen’s gas-nuzzle clicks off.

“Sorry Phil. I have to go. We should talk some other time.”

“Yea we should.”

Stephen closes the door of his car and speeds down the highway.

Thoughts of Susan race through his head, Stephen entertains an old memory. Stephen is sitting in his chair reading the paper. Susan is sneaking up behind him. She lifts her arms high above and plops a big bowl of fudge on his head. Stephen jumps up and chases her as she laughs. The memory flickers out as the next exit approaches.

He turns in where all traffic ceases to exist. Only people on foot come where he is. Walking leaches with pale blotted skin, wearing over coats, trying to hide the burn marks from their cigarettes, a lot of the same that feed from the sewer, the refuse from the rich. The values from the shadow of diamonds, it sparkles and dazzles to hide what it does in the dark.

He turns down a familiar alley where vomit is the key to the right direction, old nostalgia for Stephen. Cat fights behind dumpsters, high art obscenity written on every building, the vulgarity in the tension of Stephen’s grip.  He turns the wheel.

He emerges from the alley. There they are. All lined up like peacocks for display. A vanity they need to sell what’s in between their legs. All shades of color mismatched and ill applied.

“They’re all clowns.” Stephen mutters to himself seeing how their looks fade from one to the next in an evolution of degradation. Not one peek his interest, but there are enough men on the street to take one and disappear into dark places. Some may not survive. If they’re gone no one cares to look, just another dead prostitute for the police to write up, put in a file and never look at again.

Stephen turns his head toward a familiar form. She turns. Her body dazzles in his mind. He stops the car and rolls down the window beside her.

“Susan!” She looks at Stephen with a sour expression.

“Oh, it’s you. Listen I can’t go with you anymore. Jeremy doesn’t like me going away for so long.”

“Susan please, come back to me. I’m your husband.”

“Listen, cut the husband crap ok. You still owe Jeremy money. He’s still pissed.”

“Susan.”

“I ain’t going with you.”

“But you’re my wife.”

“How many times do I have to tell you? I ain’t your wife. That was all role-play. You might have thrown a wedding and everything, but I ain’t married to you.”

“But I… But I…” Stephen stammers. “But I love you.” A tear rolls down Stephen’s cheek.

“Well that’s a shame because I don’t love you.” A man emerges from the dark in a purple jacket with rings on his fingers. He yanks open the door and grabs Stephen’s wrist flinging him to the pavement.

“You’re the fool, who took candy and hasn’t paid in full.” Stephen squirms against the man’s impressive bulk.

“Jeremy don’t. He’s just a sucker.”

“Shut up Candy! Every sucker has to pay.”

Jeremy dragged Stephen into the alley while Stephen kicks and screams.

“No don’t! Susan please help! Susan don’t leave! Susan please! I love you.”

A few moments of struggle and then silence.

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