's 2013 Horror Write-off:

" The Coliseum "

Submitted by Prophet Storm

The coliseum has been here longer than anyone can remember. We have no peace. We must always fight. We have forgotten our names in the endless battle and we fight on.

The gates open, and the gladiators spill out onto the sand, stained now a permanent red from endless battles and gore.

I am known as Cutter, and my comrade as Basher. I wield a gladius and shield, and he wields a warhammer. We have seen more battles than any of the gladiators here. We tread on the moist, stinking sands as we approach our opponents.

There is no division anymore. Basher and I have fought each other hundreds of times, and killed one another more than once. As far back as anyone's memory stretches, this has gone on.

We ready our weapons. Our foes rush us--twelve men, a lion, a boar, and a small elephant. My gladius finds its mark in a man's ribs and he falls, black blood spraying from the wound with the force of a waterfall. I block a wild swing with my shield. I look to the fallen fighter. His arm is twitching. Basher brings his warhammer down on the lion's head, cracking it open and sending gore flying.

Once, death was possible.

I leap atop the boar's back, then drive my blade into its neck. I jump from it to the side of the elephant and scramble to climb it, hacking at its throat as I climb. I look down to the man I killed. His whole body is trembling violently, his flesh pale white from blood loss. His lip is curled up in an emotionless sneer.

Once, killing a man meant the end.

The dying red sun casts a sick light on the circle of pain. The elephant slides to a stop. My legs have been crushed underneath it. I look to the roaring crowds. Daemons and imps roar and cheer. Caesar, his laurel aflame, plunges his thumb downward. I look to the man I slew. His body rises into the air, then twisting and gyrating, his feet touch the ground again. Flesh splits and tears as his bones spear outward, staining themselves in his black blood. His muscle bunches and knots as it reshapes itself. His head swells into a monstrous shape, enormous tusks sprouting from it. Two more arms burst explosively from his sides, and a bloody, whiplike tail erupts from the base of his back. The newly-made creature's skull is immense, and its eyes are hidden in deep, cavernous, tunnel-like sockets. Tearing at its own chest with four bonelike claws, it rips out a rib, which swells and grows until it becomes an organic war-scythe.

Now, killing and death are only a means to rebirth.

It walks on backward-bending legs and swipes my head off of my shoulders with the sensation of a blade fo fire knifing through my body. I see the arena tumble, then smell my own blood as it oozes under my nose on the moist sands. I feel my body, despite its distance from my head. My legs seperate entirely, shriveling into husks as the elephant's corpse, too, begins to reform itself. From the bloody stump at my waist, I sprout four new legs--two with cloven hooves and two with wicked claws. A tail with an axelike blade explodes from the base of my spine. My now razor-sharp talons toss my head onto my shoulders, where tendrils of muscle reknit it to my body. A third arm protrudes from my chest, and bony spines lance outward from beneath my flesh, spilling more blood than my executioner had. I feel my skin being covered with scales, and the bones in my face cracking as they're drawn outward into a lizardlike maw. Each tooth lengthens. I tear a spear from my thighbone and roar triumphantly as I impale my tusked foe and tear from him his beating heart, devouring it. It is not to my taste, it is horrific to me, but my body dictates what I shall do, and not my soul.

To have his heart, the essence of his power, replaced, the tusked one is taken down into the pit through a hole that appears momentarily in the sand. The elephant and the boar have merged, now standing on a mass of tentacles and feelers, with two heads, one that of a boar and one that of a human-like beast. Tusks sprout wildly from its face and throat, and knifelike blades adorn its back. This, my friend Basher leaps upon, crushing bone and splintering tooth until he plunges his arm in up to the elbow and removes the heart. The chimaera is swallowed as well, but will return.

The lion, surprisingly small as I have gained stature, standing now at twice the height of mortal man, pounces upon my leg. Its wings beat furiously and its compound eyes gyrate. I trample it with my back hooves as I slash wildly with foreclaws and talons. Wings erupt from my back and I shed my back legs as I feed on its heart. It begins to transform, but lies still, and is swallowed by the sand.

Basher and I are left. His face is that of a bull's now, apart from the writhing feelers surrounding his nostrils; another eye also adorns his chest. Spiderlike legs have burst from beneath his waist, supporting him, and a scorpion-like tail with a mighty, dripping stinger has sprouted. One of his arms is a reptilian claw, and the other a crablike pincer. At the bottom of the haft of his warhammer is lashed a boneblade. We have cleared the battlefield, now all we have to fight is each other. We prefer it this way. This way we know that no matter how much we kill, we will not thirst for vengeance. We are simply doing what we must.

I hear the cries of women of the pit as they are force-fed the flesh of the competitors that were swallowed. This is how they are reborn.

I sharpen the edge of my spear on my scales, making it a glaive. I behead him in a swift motion, and a baboon's head replaces that of the bull. He hefts his warhammer and crushes my arm in the sand. It is shed and replaced with a bladed, winglike appendage. I tear his tail out with my teeth. He stabs me with the blade. I impale. He gouges. I trample. He crushes.

We must do this forever.

I drive my spear into him, carrying his heart out on the other side. I tumble, gasping in horror at what I've done. Basher will be swallowed and reborn. And this time, he will thirst for my blood. He will not remember me.

I tear at my forearm with my teeth, drinking deep of the blood, and gouge at my own heart. Tearing it out, I roar in defiance, as I too am swallowed.

We will do this again. And again.

We are the Gladiators.

This is the Coliseum.