Ed. Note: The MMA Corner’s very own Neil Rooke released a fictional MMA-themed novella this weekend. Titled “Keyboard Warrior,” the novella is about an aspiring fighter named Dave Cross, who has a beautiful girlfriend and a job he loves. However, Dave is addicted to social media, and his addiction is leading him away from those truly important things in his life and down a dark and horrifying road in this suspenseful tale. Below is an excerpt from Neil’s novella, which is available for purchase on the Kobo e-book store.

Dave left his house and started to walk down the road towards the bus stop. With his bag over his shoulder, he looked as though he was headed out of town and leaving all his worries behind him. It was only around one hundred metres to the bus stop.

It was empty, just as he had hoped. Leading up to a fight, Dave always wanted the least amount of distractions as possible. With everything that had happened the night before, he just wasn’t ready to be around other people.

Bus 856 had just rounded the corner and Dave stood up to hail it down. The bus stopped and he reached into his pocket for some coins. The elderly driver took the change and Dave went straight to the middle to take a seat. It was one of the city’s older buses, and it really looked that way. The seats were torn, the graffiti was ample and the smell, well, it was less than desirable. Dave sat there and tried to concentrate on what he was going to go through within the next few hours. It was going to be a long bus ride and he didn’t want to be sitting there thinking about Jamie.

“Goddamn it,” he said to himself.

He just couldn’t help it. The one time when he really needed to shut it all out it just kept coming back. He was helpless to stop it. He had spent months ignoring his feelings and trying to use his obsession with the internet and social media to mask what was going on. For the most part, it had worked. It cost him the relationship in the first place, so it was only fitting that it would help him work through the heartache. He reached into his pocket to pull his phone out.

Social media should fix this.

Not this time, though. Things just weren’t going to go his way today. His phone battery was about to die, only a small sliver of life left, maybe around ten percent. He forgot to charge it last night. He turned the phone off to try to conserve the remaining battery. Back in his pocket it went. With Dave having left his laptop at home and his phone not operational, things weren’t looking good for him. How would he ever take his mind off these distractions?

He couldn’t. It was now time to live with what was going on.

“The next stop is Caldwell Avenue,” the computerised voice on the city bus proclaimed. Dave had never been so happy to hear that voice. He reached over and pressed the stop button and took a deep breath. The bus came to a halt. “Thanks,” Dave said to the driver as he stepped down onto the pavement.

He looked around to get his bearings and started off south down the road. It was about a fifteen-minute walk to the training centre. Dave looked at his watch. It was 1:15.

He still had a while to get there, but being early was never something that could be frowned upon with this kind of thing. Dave set off down the street. With each footstep hitting the concrete, a new thought came into his mind.

It doesn’t matter who I get.

I am the best fighter in this city.

Nobody is going to stop me.

Nobody.

A feeling of relief came over him as he came to the realisation that his problems with Jamie were no longer his primary concern. The only thing left on his mind was the fight and where it would take him if he were successful. In his mind, Dave thought that it would finally see him be accepted on the forums and in social media. He thought that these trials were his one-way ticket to making mixed martial arts his profession.

Once Dave got to the training centre, he stood outside and tried to take everything in. Through those large wooden doors, his future awaited him. This was the time, and it was now or never.

All of the oldest and stupidest clichés that Dave could think up flooded into his head at once. It didn’t quite occur to Dave just yet that this didn’t look like any training centre he had ever seen before. It looked like an old-style medical centre combined with a house. It was nothing like the gym that he was used to and completely different from what he had expected.

Taking a deep breath, Dave walked through the front gate. It was strange that there were no cars around the place, but Dave thought that maybe everybody was doing exactly like he was, catching the bus with their life in a bag on their shoulder.

The place looked quiet for a training centre. Maybe classes were also off today to make way for the trials? None of this really seemed to bother Dave, who pushed one of the large doors open with his right hand and made his way around with an air of confidence, almost as if he had been here a thousand times before.

The reality was that Dave had never even stepped foot inside this building before. It showed straight away as he came to a halt as soon as he arrived at a t-intersection. Dave looked up for any kind of signage to work out where he needed to go. There was nothing on the bare walls to give any indication of where to go, so following his instincts, Dave went to the right.

As he made his way down the corridor, he found a set of glass double doors. The lighting on the other side was poor, but he figured that testing for the weigh-ins must have been underway. After looking through them carefully, Dave shrugged and entered the room.

It was at that precise moment that everything changed.

Everything was black for a while, but through his groggy eyes Dave could only just make out the room around him. There was no cage, no tables. There were no lights, cameras or action. It was much like a warehouse, and right in front of him was a pool of blood. Slowly, Dave managed to get to his feet. He wiped his right hand over his face and then looked down at the puddle.

Crimson red.

“Hello?” Dave shouted. The question echoed throughout the empty room. He frantically looked around. The large pool of blood he woke up in now surrounded his feet. His shirt was torn to shreds, and to his right he could see his bag and fight shorts smouldering in ashes. He looked down at his shorts and they were also heavily stained with blood.

What the hell happened here?

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