There’s blood on my hands yet I’m well nigh choking to death.

The weight behind me, somewhere I think near to my own, has that fishing line wrapped around my neck and is yanking hard. I’ve cut my fingers up trying to stop the wire slicing further into my throat—I can see bone sticking out from my left thumb.

How long has it been since I gobbled down a last breath of oxygen?

Feels like hours, probably only seconds. Passing out, I know—edges of everything blurring, head pounding, neck silently screaming on its sweet lonesome.

Desperation dictates my next manoeuvre, a frantic shove backwards that sandwiches my attacker between me and a mantelpiece stuck over the fireplace. I hear the wind come out of him, the wire loosens up the smallest fraction, and that’s enough for me to stick my left hand through the garrotte and take the pressure of the wire on my wrist—instead of further mutilating my fingers or my collar.

The blurring folds in on itself and there’s a moment of clarity. This is my moment, I realize, one final lucky chance prior to giving up the ghost.

So I lift my right arm high and quickly hammer back with the elbow, praying to some empty mead hall of Norse gods that I get this right and nail the bastard holding me, rather than smashing up my funny bone on the concrete wall.

I’m lucky.

I hit something soft, and it’s not a pillow.

The wire unravels from my neck, I swing round, and I lob a haymaker right where the head should be. Only it isn’t. This time I really do hammer the wall—I feel a few knuckles crack.

“Goddammit!” I hiss a croak, snapping my left arm free of the wire, and then cradling my busted up mitt in the fingers of the left hand while I hop up and down, trying not to bawl. I can still barely swallow and I gulp at air like a deranged guppy. Can’t quite recall when I remember about my assailant.

I try to pull myself together and look to the floor.

There, spread-eagled by my shoes, is a small man probably half my weight. I’d been  amiss. Looked also half my height. From the state of his right eye, which had ruptured, I could more accurately say my elbow had struck him there, instead of in the chest or stomach like I presumed. Messy. Currently out for the count, the bastard will need medical assistance and an eye-patch post haste.

I take my fine time as I try to clear my throat, making unpleasant sounds.

In addition, there’s the fishing line at my feet to inspect. I hold the weapon aloft, looking past the bits of skin and droplets of blood. Superior piece of workmanship—a strong, braided monofilament core wrapped up in thick, waterproof PVC sheathing. The perfect weight and mass necessary to cast an artificial fly with a fly rod, and not a bad choice for doing a Gurkha on someone.

I measure the length and make some quick calculations. Wondering about strength versus weight contradictions, I flex the wire and pull hard. It cuts again into my fingers. Actually, there’s blood everywhere, all over my clothes, mine, and I suppose I’ll also need medicating soon enough.

But in this day and age it’s difficult to find decent fishing line, so I carefully roll up the line and stick it in my coat pocket, and then squat beside the dwarf. He’s waking up. Hasn’t yet realized he now has two-dimensional vision. There’s one question to ask before I call in to Branch and rat out the silly prick.

I grab him by his shirt and yank him up into a sitting position. He swoons but anyway manages to focus the leftie my way.

“Any idea, mate,” I ask, “where I can find some decent live fish?”

~ fin ~

Andrez Bergen is an expat Australian writer, journalist and DJ who's been entrenched in Tokyo for the past 12 years. He published the noir/sci-fi novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat (2011), slipstream tome One Hundred Years of Vicissitude in 2012, and now Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? through Perfect Edge Books - combining classic comic books, noir, pulp, fantasy and sci-fi.

Bergen has published short stories through Crime Factory, Snubnose Press, Shotgun Honey and Another Sky Press and worked on adapting the scripts for feature films by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell), Kazuchika Kise and Naoyoshi Shiotani.