There is a place beneath the Magic Kingdom, in a corner of the utilidors long-abandoned by the park’s cast members, where the mines of sulphur burn in the hearts of the people—where malice is the common tongue and blood is the currency. It is here, amid the water-stained concrete and the terrified rats, the dusty crates of old costumes and multiplying roaches, that the Bay Lake Society Fight Club meets.
The club’s weekly feasts of pain and truculence are a hovel for hatred itself. Bookies exploit the desperate-hearted looking to make ends meet. The aggressors combat for glory and the honor of fulfilling violence’s commands. And in the air, the heavy wrath of mankind sits and waits: waits for the offerings, waits to be fed. Tonight it will consume a repast of fear and despair.
She stands in the center of a ring of zealous belligerents, all of whom are chanting her name: STUMP! STUMP! STUMP! Her grey 2009 year merchandise sweatshirt is caked with the blood of her past victims. Her fuchsia leggings are ripped from the countless times that past sufferers had clung to her, begging for a mercy they were never shown. One such fool knelt at her feet even now—battered and bloodied, drained of will—with the audacity to beg for hope. Defiantly, Stump scans the faces in the crowd. Did any of them dare ask for clemency for this pathetic waif? More egregious, had any of them dared to bet against her? She knew that look well. The look in the eyes of an unbeliever, as if they’d fallen off the edge of a great precipice, that said their choice was folly and now they would plunge eternally into a chasm of despondency from which there could be only one sickening end—faith in her, the Stump Cruncher.
Her eyes locked with a young man dressed in white, tears in his eyes. His eyes begged for tomorrow, but tomorrow was not a gift that she was willing to give tonight. She raised her voice to the crowd and asked, “Who wants to see Hermioknee Painger?” The crowed roared its approval and the young man let loose his soul in a howl of unbearable anguish.
In a single move, she grabbed the waif’s head with both her hands and thrust it into her swiftly rising right knee. A revolting, wet crunch. A soft crumple as the limp body hit the floor. The deafening cries of elation from the maddening throng. A brief twitch. The man in white ran to the corpse to savor one last moment of warmth before the cold of goodbye. And then the insignificance of death.
Stump turned to face the bookie as the crowds parted to giver her a wide berth. He inclined his head to her, flashed a smirk and threw her a towel. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and tossed it to a member of the crowd, who clutched it fanatically to his cheek.
“How’d we do tonight, Drunkie?” she asked the bookie, then turned to a boy in tattered rags and snapped, “Get me a Kungaloosh, kid.” The boy scurried off as she gave him light kick.
“A record night, babe. We’re rolling in it. Give me a minute to count out your cut. Should be over two grand.”
“Make it quick, Drunkie. I want to get outta here before the fans are up my ass.”
“Yeah, yeah, be right back,” he said and walked over to the flimsy folding chair.
The boy returned and handed her a skull with a straw sticking out of the left eye socket. She grunted a thanks to the kid and gave him a light shove, signaling to leave her alone. The crowd had begun to calm and gather at the board at the far end of the room, which listed the night’s schedule. The next match was the main event. Bets were in for the night, so she knew she had maybe five minutes before the throngs descended on her, asking her for her autograph. Some of them would beg her to name them her next opponent. Fight or be excommunicated—a fate worse than the pain of The Circle. She entertained the notion of staying, of giving the people her attention. But she was tired, hungry, and ready to indulge the triumph of her victory alone. She walked over to the buffet and grabbed a turkey leg, sinking her teeth into the salty flesh. She felt the grease run down her chin and onto her sweatshirt. She turned as Drunkie approached with a sweaty wad of green. She snatched it out of his hand and began counting it, getting it wet with the sticky juices of the turkey leg.
“$2,153. It’s all there.”
“Yeah, don’t blame me for checking your math, Drunkie,” she growled at him through a plentiful bite of turkey.
“Your call, Stump. Hey, you staying? Glover’s gonna slay Burgen, I bet. Should be fun to watch.”
“Nah, punk. I told ya. I’m outta here.”
“What are you off to do?”
“Same thing I do every night: Stump Crunchin’.” Then she clubbed him playfully across the face with the turkey leg, slapped him on the back, pocketed her money, and strode down the long utilidor hall into the darkness.
Behind her, the crowd began to amplify as the announcer called out, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Bay Lake Society Fight Club, where we fight to live and live to fight. Tonight’s main event is a duel to the death between two of the club’s most fearsome competitors. Let them do as demons do and all your wishes will come true!”
The crowd roared into the night, formed The Circle, and gave theater to the next two fighters.