Athena's Ring and Ares' Ring

       Krista Simcox / Science Fiction
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Athena's Ring and Ares' Ring
Published by Krista Simcox at Smashwords
Copyright 2016 Krista Simcox

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Table of Contents
Story 1- Athena's Ring
Story 2- Ares' Ring
About Krista Simcox

Athena’s Ring
“Welcome to Athena’s Ring everyone, conveniently located under Athena’s Loans and Services, where if you don’t pay then you had better pray! Today our main event features father against son…”
Michael blocked out the announcer’s voice. It was grating and didn’t help his peace of mind. Something at the back of his consciousness told him that perhaps he should have been listening, but it was ignored. Instead, he focused on an image of his son, the reason he battled to pay off a loan. His son had his looks, with black hair and light brown eyes. He could almost hear Mark’s voice, so like his own, quiet, but with resonating qualities. It was the only memory he still clung to. The others replaced by images of the ring.
Gazing up, he studied the ceiling. A white expanse greeted him dotted with harsh lights too bright to stare at for long. Long thin strips of gray curved down and behind the crowds holding up the ceiling. He grimaced in their general direction and took a step away from the whitewash wall he leaned against.
“Still hesitating I see”, the voice of fog, whispered in his head. “It must be wearying carrying all those emotions. Perhaps you will give in today?”
“Never!” Other debtors turned towards him, curious, and Michael lowered his voice before saying, “I made it this long, one more year and I’m free.”
“A year is still time enough for you to crack.” He didn’t bother to reply. The old argument only wore him down. He would need his strength later. The crowds cheered as he finally reached the center of the red-tinged ring and pulled his sword out of the assigned slot. The ring smelled of rust and salt from the many debtors who had paid with blood.
“Don’t worry, I’ll keep your body alive. It’s your mind I want dead.” In that moment he could see the voice, a black fog broiling in the shadows of his head. He’d seen what the fog had done to others. It festered brought on by the blood in the ring and ate them from the inside out until they were empty shells, their souls gone. They felt nothing and cared for no one, hope washed away. That was the price of paying off a debt without money. It would be different for him. He would resist and see his son again.
The gong sounded above his head and brought him back to his surroundings. He faced his opponent and reeled back. The fog had escaped his mind and molded itself into the general shape of a man with a sword not unlike himself. It shuffled its feet and held it’s weapon down at its side as if it didn’t want to fight, but the voice, deep and dark sounding whispered into his ear, “Catch and kill me if you can.”
Something isn’t right here. Another gong resonated through the walls and ground creating a slight vibration through his limbs. Out of reflex, Michael slashed at the fog and the battle began. White steel clanged and slashed as they swung, ducked and dodged. The fog took an early lead, swiping its sword haphazardly forcing him back against the wall he had leaned against earlier. Michael blocked a clumsy strike at his head and took advantage, pushing the fog back towards the middle of the ring. The smell of salt intensified as he sweated. It ran into his eyes, stinging, and he narrowly avoided a swipe to his abdomen. He backed off to the other side and heard the crowd hiss and scream as the fog backed off too.
“What are you waiting for? I’m right here.” Michael shook his head and studied the fog. It was still backing up. Is it really this easy? He replayed other mental battles. Never had the fog appeared before him. It had always attacked his mind. Would it be defeated if he struck it down with his sword? A grinding clink greeted his ears and looked over at the fog. It had dropped its sword.
“Perhaps I shall leave and find your son, Mark was it?”
“No!” Michael screamed. Horror over took him as he imagined his son with empty eyes. He rushed the fog and thrust his sword through it. A dull thud echoed back to him. It sounded as if he had hit flesh instead of the hiss of fog. He looked down at where he struck it and saw red flooding out around the sharp steel. Cold, cruel laughter surrounded him and the black fog billowed toward him soaked in blood. As it left and struck his mind he could see the blurred outline of Mark, with a blood stained sword protruding from his chest.
Michael collapsed to his knees. “What have I done?” He surrendered then to the fog. It swept through him destroying everything and with it came peace. No pain, no horror, no guilt… no hope.
“And there you have it folks. What a battle! Michael kills his unarmed son in a surprising twist. I don’t think anyone saw that one coming, especially because we all know he was paying off his son’s student loan. Unfortunately Mark fell behind payments on another loan giving us a fabulous opportunity. What a show! That’ll be all for tonight. And remember all this is brought to you courtesy of Athena’s Loans and Services where if you don’t pay, and say it with me folks, then you had better pray.”

Ares’ Ring
Michael lay in bed. Stark white surrounded him. All the rooms were like that. The sharp click of heels echoed down the hall, but it was muffled through the walls. He breathed in and out, in very measured points. He stared at the ceiling, mind wandering to the first day at Ares’ Health and Happiness Clinic.
They brought me in unconscious. I woke up in a white room. I started and attempted to jump to a corner of the room for better defense. My hands clenched uselessly around a nonexistent sword. My body didn’t obey my commands. White straps held me down at wrists and ankles.
“Where am I?”, I said reflexively to an empty room. The fog that haunted every day of my time in Athena’s Ring coalesced next to me finally free of my head as it had done in my last battle.
“You lost it”, it said. “I’ve won.”
“Then why am I still talking to you?”
“I enjoy reveling in my victories. It’s not really gratifying if you never know why your crazy now is it?”
“I’m not crazy. What happened? What did you do?” My words came out rushed, and almost intelligible. I fought against the straps that were tinged pink now. Distantly, I heard beeping and voices. The black fog roiled around to the other side of the bed and chuckled.
“I didn’t do anything. You’re the one who struck down your own son.” I stilled at its words.
“I..I didn’t.”
“You did.”
“You made me. All I could see was you.” The fog chuckled again.
“You let me in.” I stared at the ceiling. My muscles continued to spasm, insisting I was in the white ring, still battling against opponents. I tried to calm myself with the memory of my son, Mark, but the familiar image refused to come. The white expanse of arena was all there was. I screamed then.
“Michael?” He jumped, and sat up. “You were dwelling again weren’t you?”
“Yes doctor.” Doctor Brent leaned back in his seat near Michael’s bed and made a note in his out dated, paper journal, also white.
“What were you dwelling on?”
“My first day here.”
“You’ve come a long way since then.”
“I have.”
“This is your last day here, if your final evaluation clears.”
“Yes, doctor.”
“Have you heard from your… fog?”
“No, not for awhile.”
“Good. How about the nightmares?”
“Only every once in awhile now. The medication is working I think.”
“Also good.” There was a brief pause while Doctor Brent made some more notes. “How do you feel about entering the world again, debt free no less?” Michael stiffened and then shifted slightly on the bed. They sat in silence for a few minutes. Doctor Brent sighed and made another note. “You know that the subject of your son will come up in conversation like that out there. You will at least need an answer when people poke and prod into your life.”
“I don’t know”, Michael, said his words coming out in a huff. He stood and paced. Brent sighed again.
“You’ll need to still come in for weekly consultations.”
“I know.”
“Despite your avoidance of the death of your son and the circumstances surrounding it. I still feel that you’re ready as long as you come in regularly to continue therapy, I’m clearing you for check out. Congratulations Michael. You’re the first person to survive Athena’s Ring. I’m sure many reporters will be messaging you with questions. Just remember, if you become overwhelmed, please come in.”
“Thanks, I think.”
“Good luck, Michael.” Doctor Brent walked out of the room. Michael stood in front of a small mirror above his desk. The black fog filled the reflective glass and took a loose form of Mark. Light brown eyes and dark hair made him a younger version of Michael.
“Michael, you lied. You’re not
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