"The world is mine, in all but fact."
I cannot tell you where they were. It is a place that is beyond a place. You could say there is nothing, but to have nothing, you must also have something. There was neither of that here. It was a place beyond and these two great beings had come together to discuss the fate of the world.
To look on either would be to invite destruction. Not just physical or mental destruction, but pure annihilation. Terrible in their beauty, they shown brighter than any galaxy within the whole expanse of the universe.
And here they were, talking about one small world. A world among many, with souls among many manies. A pivotal world. A special world.
A smile spread across the others face. Though, smile is but the beginning of the expression this being wore.
"You believe so? Why do you feel so confident?"
The first, a creature of beautiful darkness, rushed forward, anger and hot hate brimming to the surface.
"They have forgotten you! They no longer worship you! They worship all the trappings of this poor, pitiful world, thinking it the best they can ever have. And in their palatial squalor they no longer consider you."
The other shrugged.
"These times have come and gone, what makes this different? The people will turn their faces back to me and all will be well. How would you propose an ending to this before the allotted time?"
The creature of beautiful darkness circled the other, much as a cat stalks its prey, biding it's time to attack when the opportunity is perfect.
"I propose a competition, one which the people will see and understand, one that is in the vernacular that they now speak."
"You mean blood, anger, violence, greed... Power?" asked the other.
"Yes, exactly. Here is what I propose. Three champions. Three competitions. You choose your best, I choose mine, and they meet in a way that the world will understand."
The other seemed to ponder. Time, here in this place, is without meaning, so it is hard to say how long the other pondered. Finally, he spoke.
"Yes, we could do this. The prize is the world, and with it all of creation. The three competitions will be Strength, Speed and Power. In the end, the people will choose."
The one of beautiful darkness laughed aloud in delight.
"You have sealed your fate, and the fate of those wretches you so love! They will be mine, and their torment will never end!"
The other nodded.
"It remains to be seen, pick your champions and they shall meet at the allotted time. But there is one more condition. Each winner will be granted boons."
"So be it!"
The Arena: Strength
The World Coliseum was enormous, perhaps the largest such structure ever built. It could not, of course, hold the billions of the world's population. Only the ultra-rich were there in person. But the entire event would be televised across the entire world.
Such a spectacle was not to be missed!
The announcers soothing, modulated tones swept the crowd.
"The first of today's events will be the event of Strength. May the champions come forth!"
From one side of the arena a pair of doors crashed open and a man well known to most in this world strode forth. He walked tall, back straight, head held high. He was Darius Kel, the single most successful prize fighter in the world.
Darius was known not only for his speed, strength and skill, but also for his cruelty. He typically went out of his way to cripple and humiliate his opponents, assuring they would never face him again. To say he was feared would be an understatement. He was loathed.
But he was also the darling of the masses.
From the other side of the arena, seemingly nothing was happening. Darius, his voice amplified for all to hear, spoke: "It would appear my opponent is too afraid to face me. Rightly so!" And with a fist pumping in the air the masses screamed their adulation.
Just then, one of the two doors moved. It was a timid movement. The door slowly crept open and a man emerged, but little by little. He blinked in the light and seemed to be carrying something under his arm, his body bent around it.
The man didn't really walk towards Darius, it was more of a shuffle. He had not a whit of hair on his head and his face was misshapen, almost like a face of wax that had melted just a bit. One ear lower than the other, one eye drooping.
He was, however, enormous, easily topping Darius by head and shoulders.
As he approached the center of the ring, the announcer spoke.
"There are no rules in this confrontation. The first to yield... or die... loses. BEGIN!"
Darius immediately jumped forward, snapping a front kick into the middle of the giant. The giant crumpled around kick and found himself on one hand and his knees.
Darius, not wasting any time, immediately rained several blows to the back and sides of the giants head, then kicked him square in the side.
The giant curled into a ball, that thing under his arm now at the center of him. His face was a mask of blood. His rib was likely broken. The match was all but over.
Darius took a step back, surveying his handiwork.
"This?!?! This is the champion sent to fight me? This imbecile? This moron? This freak of nature? He is hardly worth the effort I just expended to break a sweat!"
Darius began circling the fallen giant, occasionally prodding him with a toe or landing a sharp, hard kick to some delicate spot.
Strangely, all this time, the giant had uttered not a sound. It was as if his voice was locked away somewhere in his misshapen body. The crowd, ever a blood-thirsty animal, almost pitied the poor soul. But most just despised him.
As Darius completed his circuit around the fallen giant, he bent closer.
"What is this you have here? What is this thing you seem to be so careful of?"
Like a snake, he darted in and plucked the object out of the giants grasp.
Holding it aloft, Darius began to laugh.
"A teddy bear! You came to a fight to the death with a teddy bear?!?! What kind of idiot are you?"
At this, the giant uttered his first sound, "No..."
Taking on a mockingly sweet voice, Darius crooned, "Do you want me to give it back? Do you want me to take care of it for you and make sure it's all safe and sound and doesn't come to any harm, you giant imbecile?"
The giant again uttered a word: "No."
"Well, I'll tell you what I'm going to do, I'm going to take your little teddy bear here and choke you with his stuffing!"
And with that, Darius ripped the teddy bears head off.
The giant, the poor creature that he was, saw several things all at once.
First, he saw a beautiful woman, crying, placing Teddy Bear in his arms and turning away, never to be seen again.
The next thing he saw were nights of misery, nights of pain and loneliness, where Teddy Bear had been his only friend in the midst of cruel and angry children, children who taunted him, hurt him, hated him.
Last, as Teddy Bear's head was ripped from his tattered little body, the giant saw a life without comfort, without a friend, without solace from the hate that filled the world.
Before anyone had time to gasp a breath, the giant was on his feet, hand on Darius' neck, lifting him off the arena floor. This shambling, pitiful creature moved with lightning speed and with a single arm lifted the greatest prize fighter the world had ever known off of his feet by his neck.
The shock on Darius' face quickly gave way panic, and then to a purple tinge as he slowly strangled. He gave a few feeble kicks but had no leverage and could not make them count.
The giant, now suddenly a beast of immense strength and rage, screamed at the top of his lungs while he choked the life out of his opponent. For minutes, he just stood there, grasping his dying opponents neck.
As Darius' head lolled and his tongue swelled out of his mouth, as his face turned purple and then black and his eyes rolled back even as they bulged out of his head, the giant glanced down and saw the torn remains of Teddy Bear.
With one last immense display of strength the giant slammed Darius into the ground.
Falling to his knees, he gathered up the pieces of Teddy Bear, each and every bit of stuffing, brushing the dirt and grit from Teddy Bear's face and eyes, his body and limbs. Slowly, he curled in on himself and began to weep, heedless of the shocked and stunned silence around him.
A voice, not that of the announcer, spoke.
"The giant has won. Giant, what boons would you ask?"
The giant looked up, tears leaving streaks on his face, the etchings of grief plain for all to see. At first he was confused. Then, with a dawning of hope, he asked, "Teddy Bear... better?"
The new voice spoke again.
"So be it!"
The giant suddenly whooped with joy and held Teddy Bear aloft. Not a hint of the damage that Darius had caused was left and the giant danced a caper around the body of Darius.
"Are there any other boons you would wish granted?"
The giant, once he had controlled his excitement, stuck his tongue out as he thought. It took a while, but the crowd was so shocked that no one grew impatient or restless.
"This man, make him nicer. Make him happy."
As it turns out, the giant had stopped just shy of strangling Darius to death. Darius gave a sudden, harsh and guttural cry, his eyes opening wide in shock.
From that day forward, Darius never fought again. His spirit had been broken and in its place something new, something terrifying, welled up.