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the web-zine with a sense of (warped) humor
By Forrest Aguirre
Death scented the air. The lion carcasses from the earlier venatio had begun to bloat. The stench was strong in the arena, long forgotten by the chronologers of later years. Furrows in the sand marked where the corpses of condemned criminals had been dragged out by sandal-footed legionnaires. The crowd waited in anticipation as the portculli clanked open.
Cilantrix felt the intensity of the crowds silence, punctuated only by the rattling chains of the pulley. He hefted the trident in his left hand, testing its weight, then adjusted his shoulder piece with the other hand, careful not to tangle his net in the metal. These weapons were unfamiliar, clumsy. The arms of the Retarium were as foreign as his Roman captors.
Oh, he wished that he had his own spear and hatchet available to him, but those were taken away when he was subdued in the Romans raid on his little Gaulish village. He would have to make do with these weapons if he were to survive the upcoming engagement.
The opposite gate crept upward and out stepped Dilius swinging his gladius and sweeping his shield. The crowd suddenly roared as the husky Mirmillo entered the flats of the colosseum. This will be easy, he thought, an untrained Gaul, freshly arrived from the field fighting a seasoned gladiator of proud Etruscan descent. He spread his arms up to the crowd and they cheered louder and louder, chanting his name, causing the walls to echo for his sake. He pondered the probability that he would be re-instated into the legion after this victory. Besides, he thought, the killer of a superior officer ought to be rewarded with a promotion rather than condemned to fight in the pits for six years. The gods owed him this victory.
The competitors approached the high seat of the senator, who waved his jaded hand with such nonchalance that you might think he was simply shooing off a servant to take a dinner invitation to another dignitary. The audience knew, however, that this politician had overseen more death matches than any other leader in the Republic. His people had an insatiable taste for blood, gorging themselves on scenes of gore and mutilation. He always catered to their needs. Today was no exception. Blood had been spilled by the amphora full and would continue running until sunset.
The immensely overweight drummers to either side of the senators seat thumped their pot-bellied instruments in unison, a slow booming cadence matching the slow steps of the participants as they circled one another looking for the opportunity to strike. Cilantrixs slight but muscular frame shrugged up and down as he hyperventilated through clenched teeth to try to ease the nervousness. He was afraid. He knew it and he knew the Etruscan knew it as well.
Dilius was elated and seething with endorphines. He pushed exploratory stabs in the Gauls direction, careful not to extend his arm to its full length lest he be unable to parry the deadly trident. With the flick of his wrist he loosened and cast away the shield, realizing it was only a hindrance against a left-handed opponent.
Cilantrix saw his opportunity and thrusted just as the sheld left his opponents arm. But the veteran gladiator anticipated this move, arching his back to avoid the piercing heads while hacking at the tridents shaft.
The Gaul hesitated for just a moment, just long enough for Dilius to riposte. The crowd sprang to its feet, for it seemed that the killing thrust was delivered, Dilius pressing the gladius into the newcomers left ribs.
They quickly sat down when they realized that nothing had happened. An illusion caused by the heat waves rising up off the ochre sand, no doubt. The fight would go on. The observers were delighted.
The gladiators were stunned with disbelief. The challenger should have been on the ground by this time, writhing in the orange mud created by the mixture of sticky blood and hot sand. But the sword had bent upon contact with its victims flesh. Bent like a freshly dead eel.
The Gaul was the first to recover from his shock. He flung his net at Dilius, but it bunched rather than unfurling. However, luck was on the war prisoners side. The thick mass of netting hit the Etruscans sword hand, then spun around two, three, four times, inextricably entangling his fingers and the short sword. Though Dilius tried to run free, Cilantrix tugged and brought him to the ground with an arm-breaking crack.
The crowd was screaming, throats going raw. Cilantrix
stood above the defeated champion, arm raised in anticipation of delivering
the killing punctures to the throat. He paused to look up to the senator,
who stood for the first time that afternoon. The senator held his thumb
high in the air, sweeping the colosseum with his eyes, allowing the crowd
to think that they
"Iugula! Kill him! Iugula!". But this did not matter. The senator had made up his mind.
He pointed his thumb to the Earth, pollice verso, condemning the erstwhile champion to death. The drummers ceased their thumping and the crowd went silent. All stood perfectly still in an effort to hear the plea for mercy, the chunk of the trident and the gurgling convulsions of the dying as he vainly grasped at the prongs in his throat, feet kicking in agony.
But Dilius made no plea, He would die with dignity, as he was trained those many years ago when he joined the legion as a boy. He looked up at the triple-pointed instrument, waiting for the blow.
Cilantrix shoved the weapon at the defeated mans neck. But instead of an earthy thunk, the impact brought forth a long, loud "BOING!!" that filled the stadium. The spectators looked at one another. The senator looked to the crowd as if someone there might hold the answer to what had happened.
Dilius felt his neck - no wound. He giggled slightly at the noise.
Cilantrix thrust again. "BOING!" went the trident.
Dilius giggled some more. The Gaul chuckled, then laughed out loud. He
hit the head of the trident repeatedly with his hand. "BOING! BOING! BOING!"
Dilius was in hysterics. Cilantrix put his finger on one of the prongs,
pulled its rubbery tip back, then let it go. "DOYOYOYOYOING!" The sound
rung out over the pit. Cilantrix doubled over with laughter, the snot
flying out of his nose as he guffawed. Dilius pointed at the Gaul with
his free hand, barely
The crowd stood in silence, mortified.
The senator was livid. He looked to his right, catching the eyes of his most loyal centurion, who sat underneath an adjacent archway. As he waved his hand across his neck in a cutting motion, the centurion knew what to do. He signaled to a legionnaire in the archway, who transmitted the orders to another down the hall and so on. The crowd had begun a low mumbling by this time. When the portculli were raised and twenty of the centurions crack troops marched across the floor of the arena the audience chanted in cadence with the troops footfalls: "Kill, kill, kill, kill," rising ever louder, ever louder. Cilantrix and Dilius laughed on.
Quickly, the head of the column strode over to Cilantrix, sword in hand. He wasted no time in thrusting at the exposed abdomen. The crowd once again grew silent, straining to hear the slither of steel on bone. Instead an immense fart erupted, clapping out from between the war prisoners buttocks.
As the miasma rip, rip, ripped forth in time with Cilantrixs laughter, the captain began giggling, then laughing. He dropped his limp sword to the ground, clapped one roughened hand to the Gauls back, covering his face with the other. Tears streamed from his face as he chortled, hopelessly trying to stifle his laughter.
Dilius came to his feet, having unravelled the net from his broken arm. He lumbered up to the contingents second-in-command and playfully pinched his nose as he had done to his childhood friends. A mighty "HONK!" like that of a goose shot out from the mans nostrils. He began chuckling and was soon arm-in-arm with Dilius.
The contagion spread among the troops. They poked each other with bending pikes, squeezed noses and slapped buttocks in an orchestra of bizzare and silly noises. Even the troops who were sent in to kill off the first contingent were drawn into the friendly fray. Men spit raspberries like children, spears boinged and buttocks rippled with flatulence as the senator and spectators threw fits of rage among the stone benches.Soon the centurion himself was on the arena floor, laughing with his troops, an uproarous,
healthy laugh. Other gladiators,the slave master, even the lions and bears joined the throng of merry makers and flatulators.
Then they all left the arena, marching off arm in
arm through the Porta Sanavivaria, the Gate of Life,