Deep, resonant notes from expertly beaten kettledrums heralded the entry of one of the opponents to the arena.
As he took his steps into the makeshift stage, the kettledrums went silent, and everyone did too. All eyes turned automatically to the new entrant.
He was a monster of a man; with hands huge enough to cup coconuts in their palms, and a chest so wide, you could comfortably hide two men behind it.
He brought with him a faint smell of woodsmoke. He stood on the wooden platform, arms akimbo, as he waited for his opponent.
Everybody stared at him in awe, as he stood there, like a denizen of the deepest hells.
There was a short whistle and the kettledrums started again, but this time, a soft creaking could be heard. From outside, the wagon pulled a huge object covered with cloth. When the wagon got as close as it was ever going to get, to the stage, Mr. Stone, who prior to that moment had been riding the donkey that pulled the cart, jumped down, walked back and grasping a bit of the fabric in his hand, threw it off.
As he did, the cage swung open and Koby stepped from the cart to the stage. Again, the kettledrums went silent.
His body was covered in paint of different colours, depicting all sorts of devils, beasts and monsters. Of course, before the fight was over, it would be smudged, but the effect it had on the audience was instant.
Several crossed themselves, others called out to household goods for protection from the evil eye.
It helped that most of the inhabitants had not, before then, laid eyes on a man with black skin. Not to talk of the images he carried.
As he walked to his opponent, a pink ribbon fluttered from its position, securely tied to the little finger on his right hand
Soon the men were separated by only a few paces. A distance, easily closed with a leap or two. The crowd went quiet. The tension in the air was electric.
They had been promised death and glory and having bought the tickets, now they waited for Mr Stone to deliver.
“Ladies and gentlemen. What you are about to behold, has never happened before. And might never happen again.”
With a snap of his fingers, he signalled for the match to begin, and the kettledrummers began plummelling their drums in a frenzy.
With a huge leap, the giant closed the distance. He stretched his hand, intending to grab Koby by the head. Koby jumped back, his head just missing the grasping fingers. He bent down and shot a kick at the giant’s knee, but somehow he knew, and stepped aside quickly, and Koby missed.
The giant bent down, and grabbing Koby by the knee when his guard was down, threw him hard against the stage. Koby hit with a smack and rolled off the stage.
The crowd went wild, cheering and screaming. Koby climbed back up. There were slaves surrounding the stage, fully clothed, each holding a spear upright. Any attempt at escape would not be tolerated. Their lives depended on it.
So back to the ring it was.
The two men circled themselves warily. Koby feinted to the right, the giant sidestepped to the left and Koby launched himself at him. Grabbing him by the waist, he pulled him completely off the ground, turned him midair and hit him against the stage with a loud thump.
Once the giant was down, he beat him with his fists on his face, his chest, every where his hands could reach.
Briefly he had the upper hand, but then like a snake the giant’s hand shot out and grabbed him by the neck and with great force, threw him to the ground.
The giant rolled on top of him, and landed a heavy blow to his face.
His nose twisted out of shape.
A sharp pain in his side. Did something break?
Koby took a deep breath, pulled his knees to his chest and using his feet, pushed out with all his might. The giant fell backwards. Koby rose to his feet.
He swayed a bit. Blood dropped from his nose to the floor. The giant, seeing this, grinned at him. His teeth were stained with blood.
Koby looked behind the giant, and saw Ewatomi, hiding behind the cart, looking at him with huge, pleading eyes.
He remembered his promise.
Like a deer, he ran towards the giant, who spread his hands wide in welcome, to grab and crush him when he arrived.
But Koby had other plans.
Just before he got to the giant, he jumped and kicked the giant in the stomach. He doubled over and Koby slammed both his fists on his back. The giant fell to the floor.
Looping an arm around his neck, Koby began to pull and pull.
The giant stretched his hand out, and making a fist, slammed it on Koby who was hanging to his back, piggyback style.
Koby held on for dear life, struggling and tightening his grip as blow after blow rained on him.
Then without warning, the giant leaned forward and Koby slipped off. He raised his foot and slammed it on Koby’s exposed right leg. He stomped again and again.
The pain was unbearable. Koby closed his eyes and willed it to stop. As he did. He heard a voice scream
Ewatomi. He had to win this, for her. He had to live. He grabbed the foot and pulled. Hard. The giant fell down again and Koby dragged himself up.
Gathering what was left of his strength, he waited for the giant to stand.
As the giant rose shakily to his feet, Koby looked him directly in the eye and said.
And with a shout he kicked him far off the stage with all his might, straight into the ring of spears that surrounded them.
Slaves crumpled under the giant’s weight, but the spears did not.
The giant was impaled. He stretched his hand out, as if to grasp something, then it fell to the ground.
As Mr Stone’s voice announced
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!”
Koby closed his eyes, and overcome by pain, fell to the ground in a heap, totally unconscious.