Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

For the first time in my sheltered life, I pointed a weapon at someone and meant it.

I haven’t updated in quite some time, but this seems distinctly deserving of it.

I’m standing in the stairwell of my apartment building, between the third and the fourth floors, and pointing this very wooden sword (I could say bo-ku-to if that would make more sense) at the door to the third floor. Out of that door is emerging a dark-haired, swarthy fellow in a hooded sweatshirt, with a very metal knife in his hand. “What the fuck, man?” I ask. I’m pretty confused, and certainly I’m not interested in getting stabbed tonight. It would be a first, too, and some first experiences are better off un-had.

I don’t expect him to reply, “somebody get me to a walk-in freezer or something, there’s blood everywhere!” He’s shouting, clearly panicked, and suddenly turns. He runs down the stairs. I look at the wooden sword, look down the stairs, and find myself more confused than where I began.

All right, let’s back this up a bit.

I’m sitting in my apartment, a little before eight o’clock in the evening. Finals are next week, and I’m attempting to get some studying done, but there’s a distracting amount of banging coming from downstairs. At first, I assume someone’s moving furniture or something, and don’t pay much attention to it. Then, there’s a crash, a grunting noise, and that draws me to the window. I squint my eyes into the rain and glare of the streetlights in the night, and see clearly the third-floor apartment that the noise is coming from. Another crash, and a bang. It’s clear at this point that this is definitely not furniture-moving noise.

Okay. This is a pretty quiet building in an occasionally loud area of campus, at its west edge. There’s no businesses, only a couple of parking garages and a freeway, out my westward-facing window, so there’s not usually that much commotion, though occasionally some drunk kids or skaters make a racket on the street. This, then, is not normal Thursday-evening noise. As I’m picking up my cell phone, debating whether to call the cops, a man’s voice shouts “Oh my god, help me!”

Fuck that. The instinct is to bolt out the door, though, to be honest, my rational side still supposes that it’s nothing serious. I realize that, if someone is in some kind of trouble, I’m not going to be any good to them with no shoes, so I grab those. The amount of time it takes to tie them seems painful as the banging and crashing continues below, but the last thing I want is to heroically fall down the stairs or something. Then it’s weapon time. I’m aware of how much of a video game this sounds like, and how painfully geeky I am for owning a few swords. I have three that are made of metal, and one that’s double-sided, a little under three feet long, sharp, balanced: functional, not decorative.

That’s not going to work. Three feet of sharp steel is pretty fucking intimidating, and likely enough to inspire more violence than it solves. Besides, weapons are expressly banned in campus housing, and worse than falling down the stairs would be being handcuffed and dragged down them. So, it’s the bokutu, which is easier to get to anyway. I took ninjutsu classes a few years back, but it’s been a while. Nonetheless, a wooden sword is a pretty decent defensive implement when it needs to be. Think of all the things you can do with a baseball bat, but make it balanced, faster to swing, and hard enough to break bones instead of shatter. It can parry and block pretty well, too, and is part of some holds and throws that I don’t think I’m talented enough to attempt.

I’ve got the thing in a “carry” position, reversed behind my left forearm, (I’m left-handed, you know) and ask myself “you’re about to rush downstairs with a wooden sword. You’re most likely to either look extremely foolish because people are playing video games and very drunk, or, less likely, get shot.”

I rush down the stairs with a wooden sword.

As I get to the third floor, there are two people in the hallway. I’m surprised. The amount of racket this unknown assault was making, I would have expected half of the building to be here, but there’s just a red-headed girl in a green Campus Parking Enforcement polo, and a short, skinny guy with bleached-blonde hair, pale skin, and a very white button up shirt with exaggerated, pointy lapels. We all exchange “what the fuck?” glances. Clearly no one knows, except to find out that the police have indeed be called, but the banging and shouting continues.

I don’t know, but I’m not going to be the guy who assumes that someone else is going to help while someone fucking dies or something.

I point the wooden sword at the door and get about two steps towards it when it clumsily is swung open by the swarthy-looking character. He’s short, stocky, and has curly black hair everywhere. Also, he has this knife in his right hand, about four inches of blade. It’s not a kitchen knife, more like a bootknife. Both of the others turn and run down the hall.

At this point, I’m a little … concerned. I’ve never been faced with a bona fide weapon that someone might attempt to use on me.

“There’s blood all over the place!” he shouts.

The nice thing about my wooden sword is that it’s a whole long longer than a knife. I figure elevation is a good advantage to add to that, this guy is clearly not in any kind of rational state. I open the door to the stairwell, back up a few steps, and point the wooden sword down them.

So, we’re back to the beginning. He runs down the stairs, I decide there’s not much benefit in following him, and walk back into the hallway. The door to the apartment has been closed, and the guy and the girl who ran down the hallway have returned, accompanied by another fairly petite girl in a stretchy, long-sleeved tee shirt. This is not the cavalry.

There’s still some noise coming from apartment 309, and the smoke alarm’s going off too. No one else is doing anything, and there’s no cops yet. Well, what the hell I think. I pound on the door with the haft of the sword. “Anyone still in there? Hello!”

Nothing. I reach out and feel the doorknob: not hot. Okay, here goes: I fling it open, point the wooden sword inside. Somehow, I do not feel at all silly pointing sticks around any longer.

While the place looks like it’s been hit by an elephant, there’s no one visible inside. It’s a studio, and I quickly confirm that it’s empty. The place is a complete disaster; there’s broken trinkets all over the floor, a face-down electric guitar, overturned amplifier, scattered CD’s, a print of a stylized naked woman. Into the kitchen, I realize the sound is the water, turned fully on, and the smoke alarm has gone off because all of the stove’s burners have been turned on full, too: they glow angrily red at me. I squint one eye at them inquiringly. Listen, burners. You don’t make any sense.

I turn them off, and then the water. Silence.

Campus public safety is the next hero on our scene, all five feet and maybe an inch of her.

The guy, it seems, ran off down the street. The police got a pretty good description from some lady down there who saw it and called the city cops.

Maybe he found a walk-in freezer.

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