After years of wrangling with my epic fantasy: A New Breed of Dragon, I decided to entirely revamp the beginning. It almost seems sacrilegious to do so at this late juncture but I’m doing it all the same. This excerpt represents my newest attempt to mess around with a story that deals with parallel universes:
Gritting his teeth, Quentin tried not to wince from pain as he stood up to meet his last opponent. With five men already unconscious or incapacitated, Quentin could have taken solace from the fact that the young thug approaching him was roughly his same size. But he didn’t. Nor did he take comfort from the fact that he was standing instead of decorating the pavement like his other assailants – slowly curling their limbs like swatted flies that refused to die. Bruised ribs, a slightly bloody nose, and a swollen lip were negligible battle scars – all things considered. But he hated to taste his own blood and more might be coming. With advanced belts in karate and aikido and plenty of street experience grappling on the ground, Quentin knew the facts: no matter how efficiently you dispose of your opponent, you’re probably going to get hurt. The only question is: how much? Quentin was already sore. If he could avoid this last brawl, it was probably worth the effort.
Considering his options, he assessed the young thug: messy flops of dark hair dangling past the eyes obscured his face. Quentin could barely discern what he looked like. Baggy jeans, untied tennis shoes, and long sleeves pushed up past his elbows gave the impression of someone lacking confidence, someone trying to hide scrawny legs and artificially inflate unimpressive biceps. And he might not have much confidence with buddies moving stiffly or lying unconscious on cold pavement. Quentin unfisted both hands and raised them just above his shoulders, forcing a smile and briefly looking into the sky as the misty rainfall began to increase in pace.
“Easy bro.” Quentin pushed his hands forward to signal his opponent to stop moving forward. “Stay back and I’ll spare you the trouble of joining your buddies on the ground there.” Quentin nodded towards the last opponent he’d grappled with. A bit of luck and an easy opening had given Quentin the opportunity to torque an arm so badly that the young man hadn’t been willing to sport another round. Quentin hadn’t heard a pop so he estimated that the arm wasn’t broken but sometimes a good hyper extension hurts nearly the same.
“That’s my brother.” The response was terse and conveyed plenty more meaning than words implied. Quentin understood: I think you broke his arm. You look like your ribs are pretty busted up, your nose is bleeding, your lip is swollen, you look tired, and I’m gonna make you pay. Quentin, arms still raised, modified his forced smile into a smirk as he watched baggy pants raise his hands into a pretty poor boxing position. Then, he took a step backward to move his feet into a traditional southpaw guarding stance while dropping his arms as if to suggest that he wasn’t really willing to fight. But when the young man started to close the distance without rushing in, Quentin decided to make short work of this if he could.
He slid forward to deliver a relatively soft side up-kick to his opponents thigh to stop his forward movement and then jumped into a spinning side kick with his left foot. It didn’t connect flush; it didn’t matter. Quentin watched baggy pant’s head flop backwards when his foot connected. The young thug fell so quickly, Quentin worried that the kick had landed on the neck instead of the jaw but he couldn’t be sure and he had no time to find out. His back foot landed on a misplaced rock, twisting his ankle and throwing his body to the pavement where he landed hard on his arm. Ignoring the pain, he rolled over the same shoulder and away from his last opponent – both out of habit and out of caution.
But it didn’t matter. Baggy pants was down and he wasn’t moving. Quentin winced again as he got off of the ground and scanned the area to see if everything was safe and then to see if anyone may have seen what happened. It wasn’t dark yet but dusk was falling. It appeared he was all alone. Sometimes, that was a good way to be. At least that meant the trouble was over.
Quentin had felt his mouth filling with blood a minute earlier and now noticed it was uncomfortably full. He spit it out, grateful to see there wasn’t as much fluid as it felt like. That’s how bloody lips are, he thought. They seem worse than they are. His lip felt like it might be golf ball sized but when he reached up to touch it, it didn’t seem very swollen. Still, that did little to console him. His ribs hurt and his nose ached with that familiar stinging sensation – the one that announces a headache is coming soon. He pinched his nose to stop the bleeding and hurriedly made his way back to his pint sized truck before any of the fallen men decided they were ready for round two. Quentin didn’t have much fight left and didn’t want more trouble.
Moments later, he was turning the key in the ignition, pushing the heat controls to a warmer temperature, and putting the truck in reverse – all while keeping a steady hold on his nose with his left hand. His breath was already fogging up the windows so he adjusted the heat controls to defrost the window. Then, pulling out of the parking lot, he continued to survey the scene and saw the last fellow moving groggily. Good. Quentin felt a tinge of relief. Probably, he wouldn’t have let himself feel too guilty if he had broken baggy pant’s neck but it would have bothered him all the same. He wasn’t out to hurt people – at least, not when he could avoid it.