Date: 24th August 2024
Place: Prague, Czech Republic
Although Oliver drank more than few beers, he woke up with no problems. He looked at his watch and saw it was 8.04am. The breakfast was till 9.30am, so he had more than one hour to have a shower. The cold-water shower invigorated him, he got dressed and went to have a breakfast.
Coffee, eggs, bacon, toasts and an orange juice. This was the cure for all Oliver’s nights. He was lucky that the hotel offered for breakfast everything he needed.
After the breakfast, he went back to the festival. He was eating a croissant on his way back to the festival, as he still had the feeling of low blood sugar.
Oliver couldn’t compete anymore, but the festival offered a huge scale of discourses on books, games and pop culture. The main competition, where Martin was playing and Oliver wanted to see it, started at 1pm, so he had a lot of time.
Oliver went to see several discourses over the time he had. He also got to know some people, who were admiring him and his game in the qualification, but he didn’t spend much time with them. He was sorry he didn’t meet Martin or Sophia.
It was 12pm and he decided it was lunch time. Near the place, where the festival took place, was a fast-food restaurant, but he wanted to have something else to eat. After ten minutes he found a restaurant called Apostle´s. It was nothing special, just a tavern, though still better than the fast-food.
The tavern was almost full. Luckily, Oliver found a table and ordered chicken soup, duck and a cola. He was in the middle of his lunch when a noise came from the other side of the room. He saw two bald men in camo suits insulting a guy, who clearly wasn’t speaking Czech. Since the Moslem immigration in 2015 and other complications in 2016 and 2018, in almost all states extremist and xenophobe groups had arose and it was difficult to get rid of them. Oliver didn’t like them. In Slovakia, he came across groups like these. For him, they all were narrow-minded. After several minutes of arguing, when even the waitresses were powerless, the cook came out of the kitchen. He was all covered in white, had almost two meters and, according to Oliver, he weighed more than one hundred and twenty kilograms. He grabbed those two men and kicked them out of the tavern, while the people inside were applauding. Oliver ate his lunch, paid the bill and went back to the festival. Nothing else unexpected happened.
He entered the main hall right in time. The introduction had ended and Martin was playing the first game. There was nowhere to sit down but he didn’t care, he didn’t have the mood to sit by strangers. He didn’t know why, maybe it were the butterflies in his stomach. He was standing in the corner by the stairs, leaning against the wall and watching the projecting screen.
Martin mastered all strong points of Oliver’s tactics. Although he saw those tactics only yesterday, he applied them almost perfectly. Without a problem, Martin razed his opponent’s base to the ground and the whole game didn’t take more than thirty minutes. Oliver was so gobbled up with the game and when Martin won, Oliver calmed down. He straightened out until the next game started, when he saw someone standing by him.
He didn’t know when she came, but Sophia was standing next to him. “Hi, I didn’t want to disturb you, you looked thoughtful.” “Your cousin was great. I have to tell you, yesterday I didn’t believe he could make it.” “None of us did,” she laughed. “It looks like Martin’s next game won’t be showed on the projection screen. Do you want to see the others? I don’t know anyone here and I will be glad if somebody is with me. I want to go to a discourse that starts in 10 minutes in Hall C.”
Oliver was astounded to hear that. He had to admit he didn’t have any friends here either and yesterday he was feeling very good with Sophia. He agreed.
Together they went to a discourse named Cliché in sci-fi novels. Later, Sophia found the schedule of games on the internet and they found out, Martin’s game will be showed on the projection screen only if he manages it to the finals. Sophia wanted to encourage him behind the scene, but the security threw them out. So, they spent the rest of the day together. They were visiting discourses, laughing at people in funny costumes and arguing about their favorite books.
It was 8.55pm when they entered the main hall. Now, it was even more filled than it had been before. Martin made it to the finals and should play the last game of the day. It seemed, that everyone wanted to see him. Oliver and Sophia edged through the crowd to the stairs, but because of the people in front of them, Sophia didn’t see a thing. Even for Oliver it was hard to see through them. But still he saw more than Sophia, who was about twenty centimeters shorter than him.
“This is absurd, come with me,” she said and went to the seats. She said something to boys sitting on the edge. Oliver didn’t hear what she said, but she smiled and casted sad looks. After few seconds one of them stood up. She sat down, looked behind herself, if Oliver was still standing there. “Sorry, it seems like you have to stand. They didn’t want to abandon the second seat.”
“What the hell did you say to them?” “Nothing, I just kindly ask them because I didn’t see on the screen and my cousin was in the finals and I really wanted to see the game. But the story about his mentor, who helped my cousin get to the finals, didn’t work out.”
Oliver shook his head as this situation was quite absurd. He held onto Sophia’s seat and watched the screen above people.
This game was neither short nor simple. It took about an hour and half. At the beginning Martin was losing. According to Oliver he did several serious mistakes. He trained this troops too late and in the wrong order. His enemy almost destroyed him with the first attack. Martin got through it thanks to his quick reactions and good tactics in the battle. The game started to turn to Martin’s advantage and suddenly the victory belonged to him. That meant he was going to be at least fourth. When the combination of the semifinals was known, the people started to leave the hall, but Sophia was too happy to leave with the others. She jumped through the seats, run to the stage and hugged her cousin. The guards didn’t look very happy, but the commentator let it go and Sophia got away only with an admonition and guards’ glower.
Oliver was waiting at the backstage entrance. Sophia and Martin went out as almost the last ones. One of the guards was walking along them and was still reasoning with them. When Martin saw Oliver, he ran to him and hugged him. “Dude, you are the King. If you would not help me, I wouldn’t be in the semifinals! Today, I will pay for your beer, again!” Oliver laughed and tried to get out of this deadly grip.
All three of them went to Overload because they already knew the place. Martin started to order alcohol for everyone at the table, sparing all his money. He described them games they couldn’t see and, of course, they were full of self-praise and, sometimes, Oliver-praise.
After three beers and a large amount of alcohol Martin was more absorbed with the girls around than with his friends at the table. He was the one who was ordering alcohol but his orders at the bar were getting longer and longer. So, Oliver and Sophia continued in their discussion, which had started during the day. Suddenly Oliver came out with a quick question. “I was wondering, why are you so rough at Martin? According to your reaction when he won, you were happy, but yesterday when you were arguing about the hotel, it seemed like you are really fed up with all his games.”
Sophia was quietly looking at Oliver. “It’s not as simple as it seems to be, you know. I like these festivals, but as a shop assistant selling toys I can’t afford to go on every single one. Martin is very superstitious, if I can say it this way. Every time he goes to a competition, he prepares everything, from his favorite T-shirt to his lucky toothpaste. And one day, it came out that I am the one bringing him luck, when I’m there. Since this, when I can’t afford or don’t want to go, he persuades me and pays me the trip. I only have to cross my fingers for him and cheer him up. After some time, it started to irritate me as he thinks I am a lucky charm for him. I’m alone during the day and at night, he goes chasing chicks in bars and leaves me alone, again. When I found out where my hotel was, I told him either he would walk me there every night there or I wouldn’t go anywhere. I’m really afraid of walking through Prague alone. Even when I take a tram or a taxi, it’s still a long way to go. These streets don’t look very safely. But when he got to the semifinals of one of the largest festivals I have ever been to, I was really so happy for him.”
Oliver’s grin while listening to this can’t be described as a smile. “You told me more details as I asked for. Now I get it.”
They spent the rest of the evening drinking, not as much as yesterday, and talking about their hobbies. Martin didn’t get back from his last visit at the bar and Sophia found him there, when she went to the toilette. “Martin is licking out a kidney of some girl at the bar so he won’t be joining us for a while” she said when she came back.
It was about 1am, when Martin came back with the girl Sophia was talking about. Apparently, he was totally drunk. “Dear friends, we’re going to the hotel. Take care.”
Sophia blushed to the roots of her hair. “Wait a sec, my dear cousin! I don’t care what you are doing in the night, but don’t you forget we got a deal! You are taking me to my hotel!”
“Oh, come on Sophi. You can make it on your own. You saw that nothing happened. Nothing happened yesterday, and nothing happened the day before yesterday.” Martin was leaning from side to side trying to focus his eyes.
“I don’t care if I can make it or not. We have a deal so deal with it!” For a while Martin was silently staring at her. Then he looked at Oliver, stared at him for several seconds and when he finally focused his eyes on him, his eyes popped out. “Oliver, I will be your debtor to the death, could you walk Sophia back to the hotel? Please.”
Sophia couldn’t believe what he said. “Now you are dragging Oliver into this?” She continued.
“Calm down, Sophi. Please. I won’t make it there and back. And I also have…” “OK, but that means you owe me for two good deeds,” Oliver interrupted them. Martin yelled his head off…or he just burped…it was hard to say according to the condition he was in.
When Martin and his girl left, Sophia stopped glowering. “You don’t have to help him. One good deed won’t compensate troubles you may have.” “Look, I really enjoyed this day, I was having fun and I would be pleased, if I can spend another minute with you. Taking one more taxi from your hotel is no trouble and Martin owes me another favor and that’s never a useless thing to have. I am pleased to take you there and I would have done it even if Martin hadn’t asked me. He’s desperate and that’s what I used as a pretext. But if you don’t want me to walk with you, I’m sure, we can still stop him.”
Sophia smiled at him. “I don’t want to stop him. I don’t know want the girl awaits from him, but I’m sure, he’s got fifteen minutes to unconsciousness. He always ends up like that in this stage of drunkenness. I only wanted to make it troublesome for him. If you didn’t say it, I would take a taxi and pay him more to take me through pedestrian precinct or something like that.”
They didn’t stay any longer in the bar as they were exhausted, so they agreed it was time to go. Oliver packed his backpack, Sophia got all her stuff into her handbag and they left.
They had to travel by tram, as the subway doesn’t run during the night. Oliver didn’t mind as he was glad to talk to Sophia, what normally didn’t happen because of his aversion to people. Sophia didn’t act like being annoyed with Oliver’s presence, too. After their fourth tram change, they went through a street behind houses and started to climb up a dark cobbled street. “After this street goes to another street and at its end is my hotel,” Sophia navigated.
It was a quiet horrifying district. It wasn’t because of the houses would be looking shabby, most of them were looking normally, but there were hardly no lamps lightening the street and out of pubs they could hear noise and shouting in a not very friendly way. As they were nearing one of the bars, they heard a group of people walking towards them. Because of broken lamps on the street, they couldn’t see them. The group of people approached the street light at the same time as Oliver and Sophia did. The drunk men became silent, when they saw them. The bald man in a camo suit, in front of the group, looked at Oliver and then at Sophia. Oliver recognized it was the same man he had met at Apostle´s today during the lunch. He was there along with seven other men, who were not looking much friendlier. Oliver and Sophia wanted to pass through them but one of them stood in their way.
“What have we got here? A couple of doves? Hey, isn’t it a bit late for a walk? It’s way after the bedtime.” Oliver looked him in the eyes with a look of someone not interested in a discussion with a person like him. He didn’t answer, he only wanted to get out of there. “Hey, man, don’t give me that look or you will taste the pavement below your feet. I have asked you something.”
Oliver had to answer. “Look, we don’t want any problems, we just want to get to our hotel. That’s all. So, it would be very nice of you if you leave us alone.”
“Slovaks, huh…” the bald man smiled. “There are lots of you here in Prague. We will let you go, we’ll just learn you some principles of good behavior.” He grabbed Oliver by the throat, but he ignored his provocation. “You’re in the Czech Republic so speak Czech, in the first place. Secondly, when we go along the street, you steer clear of us and we go as the first. Not the other way.” Oliver was trying to ignore him, but he couldn’t resist and turn up his eyes. The man punched him in the belly. Still Oliver didn’t want to fight him. “Or we can make a deal. One kiss from your girl and you can go.” He went around Oliver and went to Sophia, who was standing behind him. When she tried to back up, he grabbed her hand. “Come on, it’ll be fun.”
Oliver, who came to himself after the punch, stood up, stumbled him and grabbed him by his throat. He threw him to the ground without knowing what he was doing. The man didn’t expect Oliver would react that quickly. He wasn’t ready for an attack like this and he fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes. They could hear Oliver being totally mad. “Punch me wherever you like but leave her alone!” Somebody grabbed his shoulder and he got punched in face so strongly he could see the stars. “Don’t worry, dude, we will do that. You really screwed this up.” The men stopped having fun and they all went for Oliver. In spite of the adrenaline in his blood, he wasn’t strong enough to fight them all. Actually, he wasn’t able to hurt any of them. He tried to fight with them, but all seven men were hitting him till he fell on the ground. His whole body was in real pain, his headache was so unbelievable, he hardly saw in front of himself. He saw the bald man, who he had slammed to the ground, getting up. When Oliver saw him going towards Sophia, he stood up, though his whole body protested as it could. He was barely standing on his own feet, his back was bended, his arms were stooped and the only thing he was able to say was: “Let her be!”
“Look at the little boy and his martial spirit.” They hit Oliver in the face and he fell to the ground again. Afterwards, he stood up again and was punched again. As the stood up for the third time, they heard the police sirens. “Let’s get the fuck out of here!” Oliver was so weak he could not realize, what was happening. He was just standing there, waiting for another punch. Someone came from his back and grabbed him under his shoulder so that he didn’t fall. It was Sophia. “Oliver, stop it, please. They’re already gone. You’ll get yourself hurt.” Oliver wasn’t able to see it, but there were tears rolling down her cheeks.
A few minutes later a police car stopped by them. Sophia quickly explained them what had happened and the police officers called the ambulance. When it came, they laid Oliver down on the stretcher and drove him and Sophia to the hospital.
The doctors checked him, took his blood and did for him what they could. They checked Sophia as well and decided to take her blood, too, although she told them she was feeling fine. After this Oliver came to himself a bit. His whole body hurt him, but he was able to perceive the world around him. They were sitting on soft seats and two police officers were sitting towards them. They were taking down the statement about what happened. Sophia was the principal narrator, Oliver only added some details as Sophia was still crying.
“Could you describe those men? At least a bit?” Sophia became insecure. “It was really dark, although we were below a lamp. It happened so quickly, I’m not sure. The man, who started it, was tall, bald and had a camo suit on. I…I don’t know…sorry.” “That’s OK, maybe you’ll remember if you calm down.”
“He was tall, about a hundred and ninety centimeters and weighed about ninety kilos. He was muscular, had a tattoo on his right arm. It was a Czech lion under a Czech flag. He was bald, his nose was probably broken in the past because it was crooked and one of his eyes didn’t line up. They also caused problems in the restaurant Apostle´s today. The cook had to take them out, maybe they can tell you more.” All three of them looked at Oliver and no one said a word. One of the police officers said as the first. “You saw him only once and you remembered this all?” “I saw him two times and I remember the faces of people I have met. I can’t remember the names but I don’t forget the faces. Sometimes it takes a while to assign a face, but as I saw this guy two times today, the second time it was face-to-face, I can’t forget that. He had brown eyes, though this probably won’t help you.”
The police men wrote down everything and stood up. “Thank you, this could be helpful. If we need anything or we come to anything, we’ll contact you.” And they left.
The doctor came back, when the police left. “Mr. King, you have to stay here for the night. I don’t know whether the young lady wants to stay, too, but you’re looking pretty stressed and I’d like you to stay here as well. Come with me, please.” He opened the door next to them. It was a small room with four beds. There was no one in. “Mr. King, you can stay here, if you need anything, there’s a bell at the bed table. The nurse will come. She will be looking after you the whole night. If there are no complication, you can leave at the midday. Mrs. Farkas, come with me, please.”
“I can’t stay here?” she asked with a wavering voice. Doctor looked at her and it seemed as he was thinking about it for a second. “It’s against our rules. Men and women have to sleep separately.”
“Please, doctor, today a man, who I hardly know for two days, stood up for me when a group of nasty Nazis was annoying me. I am very stressed and I want to stay with him and make sure, he’s OK, as there is no other way how I can repay him.” It seemed the doctor agreed. “Look, I shouldn’t be doing this. I’ll talk to the nurse looking after you this night, but if the inspectors come, we’ll be in big trouble.”
“Thank you, sir.” Sophia thanked him with tears in her eyes.
“OK, please, don’t cry. The sleepwear is on the bed. If the inspectors come, you two are married. See you in the morning.” Saying the last words, Oliver thought he saw a shadow in the doctor’s eyes. He thought the concussion may have caused him hallucinations.
When the door slammed, Sophia closed the curtains around the bed and when she changed her clothes, she opened them and went to bed, where Oliver was lying. Looking at her filled him with love and worries. “Stop crying, please. Everything’s fine. We’re away from it all. You were right, walking you to your hotel was a good idea.” She looked at him and for a second it seemed, she was going to cry again. But she made it.
“You idiot! Why did you let them beat you so long? Why didn’t you stay on the ground?” “It was the only thing I could do so that they would let you be.” She started crying again. “Thank you. How can I ever repay you? If you didn’t come with me, who knows what would had happened to me. When I meet Martin, I will give him a piece of my mind. If you didn’t come with me, you’d be alright.” “It’s not his fault. Really, I’m gonna be OK. They’re only bruises, they ‘ll heal. Please, just stop crying. Everything’s fine.”
Sophia hugged him as soft as she could. “Thank you. If you need anything, just say a word and I’ll bring it to you.”
“Thank you, but I need some sleep now.”
Sophia lied in the bed on the right and turned off the light. In the moonlight, Oliver saw Sophia staring at him. He smiled at her and fell asleep in a second.
Oliver had no idea what time it was. The room was dark. His headache woke him up. But not only that. He had a fitful sleep full of violence and fights he was losing. When he finally had his head cleared, he realized, that this was one of the fights he lost. He couldn’t cope with it. He wasn’t a fighter and there was eight of them, but still he was angry about himself not being able to think of a better plan and not solving the situation.
Suddenly the door opened. Oliver thought it was the nurse. The lights turned on, but it wasn’t the nurse, who came in. The thing standing in the door did not remind him of a person. The small grey creature, which came in, had a body like ours, a body of a malnourished child. It had black eyes, a nose like a snake and it had a black glove on its right hand that was gleaming like metal. If the beds, they were lying on, had a bed head, he wouldn’t be able to see the creature because of its height.
Oliver was shocked, again. He screamed and jumped out of bed. Everything hurt him. The creature looked too realistic for a hallucination caused by a concussion.
“What’s wrong, Oliver?” His scream woke Sophia up. She looked at him standing by the bed. That woke her fully up. She sat down. She realized Oliver was approaching the door with such a fear in his eyes. She turned around and saw the creature Oliver was looking at. The creature raised its hand with the black glove and shot out a shining ball of energy. It hit Oliver and a huge pain went through his whole body. Sophia screamed. Her voice was the last thing Oliver heard before he fell into the darkness.