Publish or perish

In the centre of the ancient ruins, stars whirling above, the champions of the Order met in deadly combat. This was a ritual battle that had existed almost as long as the stone monoliths that currently contained it, with an outcome impacting history itself. The opposing factions were lined around the circular henge, chanting, cheering, baying, for blood.

The two, a man and a woman, panted as they circled each other, early blows already telling on the fighters.

Loose strands of hair had escaped from the tight grey-streaked Chinese bun on the top of her head, hanging over her purpling and puffing face. A left hook from a surprise fist with solid silver class ring had done the damage. She spat blood and grinned, a pained grimace exposing gaps showing the teeth she had swallowed. Behind her thick glasses, Dr Cynthia Burton’s eyes narrowed as she watched for him to make a move.

“You know I have this. Give up. I’ll make it easy Larry . Make it quick.” Cynthia punctuated this with a nasty jab at the Professor’s throat, narrowly avoided, but forcing him to step back a few steps.

“That’s Professor Schmerl to you Dr Burton, you untenured witch!” This was a weak comeback, made weaker by the exhaustion in his voice. Her long nails had opened a nasty gash above his right eye, obscuring his sight. He had been struggling to protect this side, an advantage she continued to press.  A novelty tie with a picture of a grey-skinned large eyed humanoid on it had been repurposed as an emergency bandage, with limited effect. Larry’s tweed jacket was far too restrictive, and had been abandoned on the bluestone altar in the very centre of the structure.

At the beginning, he had entered confidently, he had both the reach and weight advantage (not difficult as Dr Burton was near skeletal) but it soon discovered she was far quicker, and far fitter. The result seemed assured – unless he acted now his own fat would wear him down until she could finish him off.

“Oh come on Larry,” the Dr taunted, “why so formal?” The Professor didn’t reply; indeed he seemed unable to reply. He had stopped circling, and his breath had taken on a wheezing, whooping, tone. Cynthia looked for signs of a feint, a trick, but Larry’s face had started to go a brightened red, and the cheers from his supporters had changed to cries of denial. Her own supporters doubling up the cheers in response. She stopped her circuit also, and with a slightly regretful, but mostly relieved, look, she reached down to grab a fist-sized rock to bash his brains in.

“I’m sorry about this Professor,” she started, ” but you know how this goes… Ooomph!” The moment she had bent down the Professor had charged, slamming Dr Burton’s birdlike frame into the altar. A loud crunch echoed around Stonehenge as nearly half Cynthia’s ribs cracked under the blow.

The suddenness of the attack took the crowd by surprise, as nearly three-hundred academics fell silent in shock, before the cheers and cries switched along with the reversal of fortunes. Larry didn’t move after the charge, keeping his weight pressed against her, keeping her pinned between his bulk and the altar, not allowing her the freedom to move or even catch a breath. Burying his face into her chest whilst crushing her against the stone, he could feel her blows getting weaker and weaker.

He was elated, he had this! He had won!

The Professor was still smiling when Cynthia slammed a long ivory hairpin deep into his ear, skewering his brain. His body collapsed away from her, twitching, still smiling. She knelt on the ground above him, watching his eyes roll back and his bodily functions stop. The noise from the crowd, the cheering, the weeping, whilst deafening, was lost on her now.

Medics ran forward, and began to lay the Dr down on a stretcher, providing first aid. A rough blanket was thrown over the Professor’s corpse. The Leader of the Order, the Emeritus stepped up on the altar, carefully avoiding the spattered blood.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he began, “as it has been since the Library of Babylon, thus ends the Peer Review. Arguments have been weighed in the crucible of conflict, and history belongs to the rightful victor. Ever has it been.”

He paused, looking out over the crowd of researchers and lecturers, who were in turn alternately thrilled and despondent. Those whose views, papers and articles had supported Dr Burton would be vindicated, would be published in journals of repute, would be cited. Those who had backed Professor Schmerl would be mocked and derided as fringe dwellers, would be unpublished except for the most disreputable rags, would be academic outcasts.

The Emeritus continued his speech, “And so, from this point on, in relation to the unanswerable question ‘Who created Stonehenge, druids or aliens’, the official position of the global academia is… Druids!”

Ah, another silly one that I belted out over lunch! This is in response to Jacopo della Quercia’s #PopQuizHotShot challenge on twitter, where he asked for a fight scene.  I originally was debating whether I would have fighting aliens or fighting druids, and then…. inspiration!

This one brought me back to another #PopQuizHotShot fight scene… my first! Click here to read ‘I choose you’.

I pumped this out in a real hurry (lunch only goes for so long) – so there is likely to be spelling and other errors. Let me know if and where you spot them, I will try to patch things up on the fly.

Let me know what you think!



Published by: wildbilbo

My name is Kristian Thoroughgood, alternately known as KT to my friends, or @WildBilbo on twitter. As of August 2015, I am forty years old. Australian. My blog is intended to be both a place for me to polish my creative writing muscles (not a double entendre) and for others to read and comment on my musings. Expect short stories, articles, essays and other brain dumps. My opinions are my own, and whilst I take care to be at least moderately informed about any topic I speak or write about, these opinions are subject to rapid change in the face of passionate arguments and greater evidence. Please note - on my blog, Evidence beats Passion.

Categories Fiction, Flash Fiction, Horror, Humour, WritingTags, , , , , , , 2 Comments

2 thoughts on “Publish or perish”

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