MUSIC: The Champ by Michael Prime – Playlist

What’s that? Music? Words? Welcome to STORGY SOUNDS.

Here is the playlist created by Michael Prime for his short story The Champ. Simply hit play, and read…

Marion Murdock; World Champion boxer best remembered for fatally defeating an opponent in 1962,executed his drills in the Emile Griffith Memorial Gym, the heavens outside unleashing untold chaos and confusion in the busy streets of Brooklyn. The dense air clung to the ceiling of the gym, small glimmers of light spilling down in the sweltering basement. ‘Drip Drip- POW, Left hook ‘Drip Drip– POW, Right hook. He pounded the heavy bag to the steady beat of water dripping into steel buckets strategically placed around the gym, the perfect fillip for straining flesh and wit. From within his altitude simulation mask, Murdock’s deep grunting breaths permeated the low hum of the pendant light that hung over the ring in the centre of the room. The title shot was fast approaching and Marion was pumped, mentally and physically primed for combat, not a supplement forsaken in preparation for the fight. Closed hours training had given him an edge; unbroken time during which he beat the bags and visualised every possible scenario, over and over and over again. Night after night he wrought himself into a state of delirium, devoured stimulants and oxygen deprivation empowering him to work towards the win.

The light above the ring flickered, distorted shadows scattering across the room as a gust of wind blew across the back of Marion’s neck, his body shuddering at the icy chill. He ripped the wrap from around his gloves and peeled the mask from his face, eyes darting around the room as he stood firmly planted in the ring, sweat dripping from his brow onto the filthy mat beneath. The door to the gym creaked ajar, the darkness of night beyond momentarily visible before the aged oak slammed shut. He stood consumed by silence, the dripping from the pipes absent in the room as a stray current blew across his body and encircled him in a peculiar unknown essence. A faint whisper broke the silence, “The Champ is here”, the words hanging in the air like a horrid pungent smell from which no escape is known. Marion spun around and stared at the dank substructure unsure of what he’d heard, or if he’d he heard anything at all.Minutes passed before Murdock’s muscles slackened,silence succumbing to the distant Samba drip and humming tube lights overhead. Mitts removed, his fighting stance returned as dummy shots sliced through the air;jabs, uppercuts and hooks forcing his mind to re-focus. The notion remained while he sparred, the thought he wasn’t alone in the gym, visual and auditory conflicts resonating deep in the depths of his mind.

The heavy bag suspended in the corner of the room began to judder, its swing inconsistent and changing direction as if in use, jerking and bopping to someone else’s beat. Marion stuttered. The instant he snapped his head around the bag’s movement stopped – stopped dead –existing rules of inertia rendering such a thing impossible, yet seemingly not so. Must be the wind, Marion reasoned, moving across the gym towards the skipping area, fists clutching the handles of a rope as he fought to dismiss assumed delusions. He danced, from left foot to right foot, scarcely laying a sole on the ground, as if protecting his feet from a pit of white hot coal. The leather strap slapped the concrete floor like the crackle of wildfire and cut through the air in a whirring pitch that ascended up the octave scale with the increased urgency of his exercise.Single slaps per leap became double slaps as the infamous brawler battled his demons and pushed himself towards his limit. “Ding Ding”

The ring bell chimed and disorientated Marion causing him to release his grip on the would-be whip, the leather band striking him across the face, a laceration below his left eye the lingering proof of the incident. The rope lay scattered around his feet; one handle fixed firmly in his right hand, the other sprawled before him. He stared at the empty ring, his left hand cupping his claret laden cheek. Years in prison had hardened a younger Murdock to take stock of all that could be seen, but right now, alone in the gym, the unseen troubled him immensely. Was someone – something – in the room with him? A cautious approach took the sweat glazed gladiator in a slow circle around the ring, his eyes inspecting every blood-stained inch as he searched for a cause to his confusion. The plastic handle scrapped across the floor as he dragged it behind him, the eerie sound echoing through the room as he continued to inspect the ring. The Gym was hollow like a discarded sea-shell, the only discernible sound that of dripping water and grating rope. Had he taken too many supplements, too many pills? Jokingly he told his coach that he sounded like a rattle, yet despite his flippancy; he had no idea what he was ingesting. A second circle around the ring confirmed there was nothing to be seen, but the human mind requires an understanding of logic to any given situation, and in that moment there was no logic, no explanation.

The clock above the ‘Tale of the Tape’ poster from the Emile Griffith Vs Benny Paret fight, no longer worked, the hands held at 1.15 am. Marion scooped a thumb full of Vaseline and smeared it across his cheek, the cut man’s work already essential, but not before a final workout. There was always time for one more set, one more strained exertion, efforts that would make the difference,crown him king, and Champion.

Straddling the bench press next to the overcast ring, Marion flexes his neck and stretches his taut muscles in preparation for the weights, a suitable way to round off the day. He rolls his body down, laying his shoulders and head beneath the bar, slowly releasing it from the iron shackle. Through gritted teeth and expanded cheeks a low guttural grunt escapes his lungs as the dead weight moves up and down, “one, two, three”. The speed with which he completed the first repetition deteriorates; “Four…five…” and snarling he continues, “Six…seven…eight”.His arms shake and blood flows from the greased gash as his voice bellows “nine”, the final press from his chest beginning its unsteady journey to the full extension of his reach. “I’m The Goddamn Champ” he screams, the accumulation of lactic acid devastatingly painful, his muscles straining under the weight,one final push all that remains.He grunts and pushes as hard as he can, sweat dripping from his quivering face, jaw clenched, teeth gnarling, the barbell slowly rising, until the ring bell chimes“Ding Ding” and the 80kg weight slips and crashes down atop his pounding chest. Time stands still;the vacuum re-opened as every atom of air escapes the room, taking with it any lingering hint of sound and smell. The barbell weighs down on Murdock’s throat, refusing to permit air into his lungs, doubled in mass as if held in place despite his efforts to remove it. A low murmur seeps into Marion’s ear; a count to counter his, “Seven…Eight…Nine…Ten” the room slipping into darkness with each passing numeral. “The champ is here” slices the silence like a pinpoint uppercut. The barbell crashes to the floor, iron weights shattering and scattering across the gym, the ring bell echoing within the void, “Ding Ding Ding”, Marion Murdock’s lifeless body sprawled atop the bench, the heavy bag dancing in the distance, ‘Drip drip pow’, ‘Drip drip pow’, ‘Drip drip pow’,

*

On the 24 March 2012 Marion Murdock was released from Adirondack Correctional Facility, having served four years for a manslaughter conviction in which 20 year old Sean Kennedy was fatally struck and killed by Marion, in an assumed hate crime based on Kennedy’s sexual orientation. The murder charge was dropped to manslaughter on appeal as the intention was not to kill the victim. During Murdock’s incarceration he became engrossed in the noble art for boxing and worked hard to attain the required fitness and discipline, before working his way through the prison boxing circuit with relative ease. Upon his release low level promoters turned a blind eye to his past and coveted the convict. In January 2013 Murdock moved to the pro-ranks and quickly worked his way to the summit earning a bout with Willie Nelson for the NABA Championship belt in Madison Square Garden’s scheduled for the 24th March 2016, the 4 year anniversary of his release.

Michael is a new writer inspired by a book he thought he could have written better. A writer of just three years, he has a collection of short stories and fan fiction novella completed. Finding time to write alongside running a successful DJ business and working as a journalist and presenter for an established boxing podcast. A sci-fi enthusiast, that’s coincidently a Transformers fanatic, he can usually be found with a book about xenomorphs or robots.

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