Catherine: The Novel - Chapter 2: Orlando, Part 2

Orlando had gone to watch a women's wrestling match by himself. The place was so hot that it was suffocating. There were no titles riding on the match, but one of the competitors was the company star. The match was to be the triumphant curtain call for the day.

"Come on!" he called, leaning forwards. The people around him sat up too, letting out hoots and cheers.

That day he'd reserved himself a pretty good seat, the second row from the front. The ticket had been expensive, but when he thought of how exciting it would be he didn't care. Orlando had been into women's wrestling for a long time now. He had also bet a lot more than usual on this match. He wanted to see with his own eyes, in the best seats, how it would go down.

"Cheers for Feather fill the arena!" the announcer said excitedly. "Well, look at this! Sirius, the Mad Dog of the Milky Way, is getting pumped too!"

Orlando was a fan of Sirius. As usual, she was wearing a devil-style costume. Everything about her - her large frame, showy moves and tragic past - drew him in. Feather - Feather Adonis - on the other hand wore a costume that closely resembled an angel.

"Don't fall for the butter-wouldn't-melt act! Go get 'er, Sirius!" he cheered, waving his arms. As he did so, someone sat down next to him. The seat had been empty until just then. Perhaps they'd had plans that had made them late.

Seems kind of a waste to only watch the last fight, but at least they get to see it, he thought, when he was poked in the shoulder.

"So, what are the rules?"

It was the laid-back, alluring voice of a woman. He could feel her breath on his neck, making Orlando shudder despite the heat in the room.

"What do you mean, the rules?"

Orlando kept his eyes on the match, but took a quick glance sideways at the speaker. He instantly forgot about the match. She was so beautiful that it gave him goosebumps. Her skin was somewhat dark, her features chiselled. Thick black hair hung to her breasts. She seemed to be Latin. Despite only looking like she was in her twenties, there was a dignified air to her that made her seem grown up for her age. He couldn't think of any other woman who better personified the word "gorgeous".

"How do you win?"

"Y..." He couldn't take his eyes off her, but somehow managed to squeeze out some words. "You don't even know that?"

"No, I don't."

"Why'd you come here, then?"

"A friend invited me. They suddenly called to say they couldn't make it, but I had the ticket and was interested, so I came by myself."

Looking up at the seat beside her, he saw that it was indeed empty. How much did the ticket for that cost? What a waste... he thought, but she didn't seem to care at all. She wore expensive-looking clothes, and the jewellery around her neck, though simple, had clearly cost a lot of money.

"A friend, huh..."

There was no way it was a woman. It was a guy with an interest in women's wrestling and a lot of money. Of course it was. She must be the guy's girlfriend, or something like that.

"Yeah. So...?"

"Huh? Oh..."

She asked about the rules, he thought. Orlando jerked his chin towards the ring.

"It's simple. Take a look."

Sirius threw Feather onto the ropes. On the rebound, she tried to execute a lariat, but was kicked in the chest with both legs, collapsing majestically to the ground. Feather leaned over. Grabbing onto Sirius' hair, she forced her to her feet.

"Well, basically anything goes. Cause your opponent as much pain as you can, then pin both of their shoulders to score a three-count. That's how you win."

"That's it?"

"Yeah. Basically."

Leaving Sirius tottering there, Feather ran towards the ropes. She shot back using the recoil, gripping the standing Sirius' neck with her arms and slamming them both onto the mat with a thud.

"Ouch, that looks like it hurt," the woman said uneasily, one eye half closed.

In the ring, Feather stood quickly, running in the opposite direction to before. Sirius slowly stood, though it would have been better for her to stay down. Feather bounced off the ropes again, grabbing Sirius from the front. Wrapping her arms around her neck, she thrust her legs out, taking her down and smacking the back of her opponent's head down on the mat. Sirius let out an animalistic scream.

"Shit. What's she doing?" he muttered. The woman beside him chuckled. For some reason, despite the cheers it was her voice he heard.

"You like wrestling, then?"

"Well... yeah, I guess so. Enough to come and see it."

"You like that one in the black?"

"I've been her fan for ages."

"The other one is cuter, though."

Not as cute as you, Orlando thought silently. "You've gotta be more than just cute."

"What do you mean?"

"The appeal of a wrestler is... mainly their strength. How strong they are. What kind of a show they can put on. What kind of career they've had is important, too. The key part is their drama. You choose based on all of these things."

"Oh, really?" He couldn't tell from her response whether she was actually interested or not.

Feather lay on top of the collapsed Sirius. It looked to be a near fall, but Sirius raised an arm before the three-count. Afterwards, the intense attacking and defending continued. Both took a flurry of elbow blows to the front, slapping each other, throwing each other down.

"What got you interested in this?"

"I wasn't, really, until my friend invited me. I'm glad I came, though. I would never have met someone so nice as you otherwise."

"O-oh..." Orlando gulped. He thought he had got too into it and talked too much, but she looked to actually be enjoying it.

Sirius climbed onto the corner post, but was on the receiving end of a dropkick when she turned around and fell out of the ring.

"Watch out. These seats are quite close to the ring, so we might get caught up in the brawl. She fell on the other side this time, though. If one falls on this side, get out of there."

Sirius pushed her way through the seats and stood, hurrying back to the ring. Putting a hand on the bottom rope, she checked out the inside of the ring. Feather stood there, approaching the ropes. Sirius quickly climbed up, jumping onto the bottom rope and bouncing off it. Next she lunged with both feet, a strong kick connecting with the approaching Feather's face.

Feather somersaulted and fell to the ground, arms and legs spread out, in the centre of the ring. Sirius raised her arms high, clapping her hands, stirring up the whole area. Orlando, of course, responded, as did those around him. The woman beside him clapped her hands, amused, looking at Orlando mischievously. Orlando smiled back. The clapping grew stronger, louder, faster. This time, Sirius climbed the post. Turning to face the outside of the ring, she looked across the arena, then jumped up high.

Orlando followed her trajectory with his gaze, narrowing his eyes at the bright lighting. Sirius flipped her body over in midair, curving in a U shape. She remained in flight for an unbelievably long time. Then she fell chest-first on top of Feather. The mat took the blow, bending with a loud creak. Sirius went for the fall, but was flipped over half a second later. The fans let out despondent groans, as did Orlando. The woman beside him drew herself closer to him. The action alone made him tense, his attention to the match flickering.

"Isn't that a shame?"

"Yeah. But..."

He felt as though he would get lost in her eyes, but exercised all of his self-control and looked back at the ring.

"It's the same old bad pattern."

"It is?"

"I've got a bad feeling about this."

Afterwards, Orlando's prediction was realised when Feather ended up winning the match. A mixture of cheers and groans rose around him. Orlando had lost a huge amount of money in just ten minutes or so. Despite this, he wasn't all that disappointed. To be frank, he wasn't thinking about how much money he had lost at all.

Right. First I've got to ask her out somewhere... he thought, but she spoke first.

"Is that all for today?"

"Yeah. That was the final bout just now."

"I'm the kind of person who likes to talk about what I thought with someone after I come to this kind of place." She stood, jacket in one hand, gently touching Orlando on the shoulder in a completely natural motion. "If it's okay with you, can we talk? Just for a little while."

If there was any guy out there who'd say no right then, he wanted to meet him.

They left the arena. The bars nearby are busy, and we can't go on the underground; maybe I should get a taxi, he thought, hearing a voice call out "Wait!" from behind. No sooner had the woman shut her phone than an expensive black car slid into view, coming to a stop beside the pavement.

"Is... Is this... yours...?"

"Kind of. Get in."

A driver whose age he couldn't ascertain got out of the driver's seat. He opened the back door and stood beside it.

"Are you sure about this?"

"About what?"

"What do you mean what?"

No normal girl would be riding around in a car with a chauffeur. Like he'd thought earlier, she must be the daughter or girlfriend of some rich guy. There was a very high possibility that the driver would tell her parents or boyfriend about Orlando.

"You mean him? Don't mind him. He's on my side."

"Your side...? You're kind of freaking me out here."

"What's wrong?" She placed one hand on the roof of the car, smiling bewitchingly. "So how about it? Are you getting in or not?"

Orlando only hesitated for a few seconds. He resettled his hat firmly on his head. "Yeah, sure." Maybe losing the bet had made him feel desperate.

Afterwards, they first had a drink in the car. The car had a minibar with an ice box bigger than his own fridge at home. The leather seats were unbelievably soft, his backside seeming to sink into the ground. Next, they drank at the bar of a swanky hotel Orlando had never so much as set foot inside before. He seemed to recognise the bartender who mixed his drink, but was too drunk to remember.

She was nice. Orlando had, in the past, invested in a deep sea fishery that failed. She told him that it wasn't his fault that it failed. She also agreed with him on his divorce and wife's affair. When he was quite drunk, she invited him for a drink in her room. Orlando seemed to remember accepting, if that was alright with her. His memories from that point on were hazy.

He seemed to remember that her room was several times larger than Orlando's house, and having looked out into the night from her tidy room. He also felt like he had danced a little, and of course drank what he was offered.

"Goddammit. So that's what got me here."

Orlando sighed. He had shot up the blocks so fast that he had put quite some distance between himself and the giant tuna. It attacked him a few times, but looked like it had lost sight of him for now. It could still appear at any time, however. Panting, he kept mechanically climbing the blocks. This was a curse. The curse of a woman who killed men who cheat. Orlando would suffer and die in this dream, never to wake up again. They would find his dead body in the morning.

Why me? I'm not cheating with or on anyone! he thought, but he had an inkling. Lately, Orlando had begun getting back in contact with his ex-wife. Their lives had both settled down, and they could look calmly at the past, even talking about meeting up again.

"It's her who brought me here."

That young, bewitching, amazingly gorgeous woman. It was dangerous to be around her, he knew in a rational part of his head. And still, Orlando had so easily given in to her charms.

"I never thought this would happen, though..."

Looking over his shoulder, he peered deep into the darkness. Sometimes he saw flickering, blinking lights. It was the light reflecting off the giant tuna as it swam about. The fear returned.

"Screw this!"

For a moment, he wondered if it would be easier just to jump right then and there, and be gobbled up in a flash by the tuna, rather than suffer any more. His legs stopped. But in the end, his fear of the tuna won out over his desire to escape from his suffering.

"This is just sad..."

Looking up again, he saw blocks towering above him that were slightly different from the ones he'd seen so far. They were basically the same size, but the designs on the sides looked very detailed. For some reason, a golden chain hung from above. It was long, and he couldn't tell how far up it reached. A golden statue with a sheep head hung from the end.

"The hell's that?"

Climbing and hopping down, he moved closer to the chain. When he tried climbing on a block beneath it, he found a red carpet spread out above.

"I... suppose I'm meant to pull this chain."

He tried tugging on the hoop. It looked like it was made of pure gold. Its shine looked like it would suit the woman from last night. He pulled it straight down. A huge pile of giant blocks fell from above his head.


He reflexively shielded his head with his hands, leaning forwards with his back facing up. There was a chain of crashes and loud bangs. There was no way he could escape. The chain had been a trap. He shouldn't have pulled it. He was going to be crushed to death - or so he thought, but he wasn't. The tremors suddenly ceased. He looked up timidly, and saw that the decorative blocks were connected only at the edges, piling up to form a staircase leading into the sky.

"I guess I'm meant to climb it..."

If he was going to die, he may as well see it through to the end. With this in mind, he climbed onto the first step.