I stood in the shade of a tree behind the bowling alley, taking my last few deep breaths while I still could. “All right, Miss Seachop, are you ready?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Are you wearing contacts?”
“On your own time, give me a thumbs up and turn around, eyes closed.” I did. “Are you ready?”
“CLEAR! CLEAR!” I heard a hiss and felt something mist across my closed eyelids. I flinched involuntarily, expecting the worst, but felt nothing yet. “Okay, don’t move.” I kept taking deep breaths. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
I gingerly opened my eyes, only enough to see two fingers before snapping them shut again. “Two.”
“All right. First station. Go.”
Squinting through my eyelashes, I ran to the right towards my target. He was just standing there, but I guess you can only expect so much realism. My eyelids were starting to burn. I grabbed his arm in a Mach 2 hold, twisting his wrist up and pushing his shoulder down. “Get on the ground!” I drove down on his shoulder with my left hand, pushing his chest into the grass. I twisted his right hand behind his back and turned to grab the flex cuffs, somewhere in the grass behind me.
I couldn’t see them. All of a sudden, I couldn’t see anything. My eyes had snapped shut on their own, and I could not open them. “The cuffs are right there, Miss Seachop. You have to open your eyes.” I started strobing my eyes and managed to slide the cuffs home. “All right, you got it! Grab the baton and go to the next station!”
I reached out for the baton, and that’s when the knives stabbed me in the eyes. I staggered, arm still out. “You have to open your eyes if you want to see where the baton is.” I gritted my teeth and flailed my arm wildly, doubled over in agony. He kept shouting at me (or were there two of them? Suddenly I couldn’t remember if I was alone or in a crowd but swore the voice was coming from all sides). By luck I found the baton. I twisted my head and forced one eye open. I couldn’t pick out the details, but I could see the faint shape of someone holding a bag. I tried to run, but staggered again. Still shouting, but I couldn’t hear the words because AGH MY EYES WERE ON FIRE. I swung blindly. “GET BACK!” The baton connected with something squishy, following through under my other arm, keeping my free hand tucked up by my face. I began whaling back and forth, forward and reverse strikes. “BACK! GET BACK!”
“That’s enough, next station! Blocks! You have to open your eyes, or you won’t see them coming.”
My head was twisted up and back, the world reduced to a teary smear of light on the right side and nothing on the left, but it was enough. The bag came crashing down towards my face, but I deflected with the baton (darned if I’m going to let them hit me in the face now). Random hits from four directions, but I stopped them all. “Next station!”
Jabs. Easy day. I looked long enough to position myself between the two bags, then started jabbing forward and back while I desperately tried to blink my eyes and rinse them with tears. “Enough, last station. Take him down on your own, and it’s all over. If not, just show me enough solid hits.”
I don’t remember approaching the redman. He was just suddenly there, both arms outstretched towards me. “GET BACK!” I screamed with renewed vigor, thrusting the baton diagonally across his chest before driving my right foot into the back of his knee. It was a distinctly unsatisfying kick, but his knee did buckle ever so slightly. I thrashed left and right with the baton, shuffling sideways in a circle. “GET BACK!”
Then it hit me again. Maybe it was the sweat running down my forehead. My left arm stayed up, protecting my head while I tried to twist away from the pain. That was a bad idea. As soon as I turned, he connected with my shoulder, tossing me to the ground like a rag doll. “Get up! Get up!” All of a sudden, I felt sick. I couldn’t tell which way was up. I had no idea where the redman was. On my feet, left arm up, something smacked against my defense. I found him. I found a rhythm. Boot to the back of the knee. Baton shove against the chest. Two baton strikes against the leg. Side shuffle and repeat. One kick went high, smashing into his hip between the pads. He never went down, but each blow connected solidly. If he weren’t padded and if I had a real baton, I’d have broken both his legs easily.
“All right, that’s enough. Present your baton.” I held it out in a low, two-handed stance. The redman grabbed it. “Take your baton back!” I stomped on his foot and jerked the baton back towards me. I twisted the bottom up, then turned and slammed my entire body against him, forcing the baton out of his hands.
“Now take him down!” I wrapped the baton around his shoulder from the armpit up, grabbed the free end and threw me entire weight forward to pull the human tank to the ground.
“That’s it, you’re done.” Someone led me away from the field. The adrenaline drained from my veins, and the fire started anew. They led me to a hose, forced my eyes opened, and sent a stream of water into my face. My eyes were flushed, but the water just reactivated the spray and spread it across the rest of my face. The best I could do was collapse against a wall in the shade, make the occasional noise of protest harkening back to a time before humanity developed language, wait for a breeze, and hope the saying “time heals all wounds” applied to capsicum.
And that’s the story of Seachop and the pepper spray.