A. B. Syed is a writer of children's middle grade fantasy tales. Find out more about her books and her rich cast of characters here.
Sunday, 24 July 2016
Short Story: The Ring [NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2016]
This is a story written for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge, Round 1.
It has to be 1000 words or less and my prompts were:
Location: Boxing Gym
Item: Neon sign
Genre: Ghost story
don't want to be here! I've been sent here!”
is new. Something happening.
guy is built like a wardrobe, but he's hiding his size, hunching his
shoulders. From my neon sign, I can see his t-shirt stretch as his
muscles strain in unnatural positions.
is taping him, but he's fighting that.
at the wrong time, my friend, save it for the ring.
pulls his other hand away as Joe reaches for it – nearly socking
Joe a belter. But Old Joe grabs it as if it is a dandelion seed he
has plucked out of thin air.
Joe is not 'Joe'. He is Stuart. But we call him Joe, to his face and
behind his back. Sounds return to the gym and it carries on as ever.
neon sign has been, 'We are the hampions' for as long as I can
remember. That sums up this place: No-one has ever fixed that 'C',
and it is true, the joint is full of 'hampions' – also-rans,
'could 'a beens'. The sign is where I live, mostly. It is my haunt.
is an old-style gym. But it is all I have known, so who am I to say?
I don't remember much. I measure the length of my time here by the
smells. What? You thought a ghost has no sense of smell? Ectoplasm is
not all we deal in. Yucktoplasm, has nothing on the smells that used
to hang around. Like the leather, seasoned and pounded. Once, to make
a leather punch bag, and then forever buffeted and belted. Biffed
until all the life was gone and then punched until even the ghost of
the bag gave up its creaking protests. Like me. The fresh
blood and old sweat are the same since Victorian times. My times.
now there's more smells: Sometimes there is a woman. Even when
boxing, she brings the aroma of flowers. Even some of the men
smell like flowers now, sometimes.
Joe used to box. I know he is blind in his right eye. It is a scar
wrought from battle: His sparring partner. That man was tiny. He
barely came up to Joe's chest, and Joe is not big. But he fought like
a strong little rat. Sneaky, looking for the chance to get one in. I
still remember that crack of canvas as Joe hit the floor, and then
the spray of sweat around him like so much holy rain.
never saw him again. Can't even remember his name, but he took Joe's
new guy has been sparring for a month. I'm not sure he loves the
smell of the ring like I do. He's scared of the ropes, scared of the
middle. He cowers like a new born kitten if anyone comes near him,
shiny with sweat. When they get shiny like that, they're slippery. If
you dodge at the right time, the punch loses its impact. Come on Ben!
That's common sense. There was another guy here for the first couple
of weeks. Dark. You could tell he wanted to be ignored. Big, black
coat he never took off. Kept a keen eye on Ben.
reminded me of my Master back when this was a proper house; same
eagle stare. That fly-ring followed Ben around for two weeks and
never left till he was done training.Then one day, he stopped coming.
But I'm glad Ben came back.
call him Bendy Ben. Everyone gets a nickname if they hang
around long enough. Behind his back, they call him Wendy. I wonder
what they would call me, if they could see me?
Fry. Its a proper, name.
solid name for a soft little giant. He cowers. He's only just learned
to hold his gloves up to protect his gurning gob. And he holds them
as if he is the stooge in a circus knife show. But, the poor sod
forgets to punch. He forgets to move. He gets hit so much, targets
have formed on his chest and his sides. But its the bit when he
closes his eyes – just before he gets hit, that tickles me. First
time I saw it, I nearly fell out of my sign! I had to dangle on the
'C' till I remembered I could float. So I floated over to the ring.
was his sparring partner that day. George was going for it, because
George is in the semi-finals of the Nationals. He needs to practice
and he's good, (still a hampion).
George wanted to get it over with. Two men, closely matched for age,
size, reach, power, and one of them standing, hiding behind his
gloves with his eyes closed.
saw George shrug! Then his steely eyes got a dead square look: He had
to practice, and all he had was Bendy Ben. He jabbed, then I saw him
pouring all his power into that right hook. Ben had no chance.
In that moment
between one breath and the next, I remember.
dress was too long. I said I di'n't want it. But the Master's
daughter was getting a new one and I should have this pretty one. And
it killed me.
fell down the attic stairs carrying a tray for Sarah. I heard her
yell my name: “Mabel!”.
punch lands. George's right hook: full of rocks. It would have hit
Ben's gloves, but for the first time in his life, he dodges. The
punch hits him square between the eyes and I hear a crack like a whip
and then a sickening squelch.
* * *
shaking me. I open my eyes. Old Joe's pockmarked nose is so near my
face that he looks like an old, inquisitive anteater.
looks away. “He's all right, get some water. Someone call an