Monday, January 21, 2013

The Sound of a Pocket Watch

The Sound of a Pocket Watch
David Stout

I can hear the ticking of the pocket watch still, it’s how I concentrate and enter my own state of “zen”. My master told me each great swordsman had their own way, his was the sound of crickets, his master was the sound of a waterfall, and I chose mine to be the sound of the pocket watch my grandfather gave me. Each sound had its own meaning to each swordsman, the sound of crickets for instance was my master reminiscing a summer’s eve on the grassy plains. For me the sound of the ticking meant how a life passes in a second, and how close to my own end I can be within one of those passing seconds. Today though, today I do not believe my life will pass. No the one in front of me, the man that is standing with his rapier at the ready, this man’s life will pass within a second. I can see the sweat start falling down from his brow, I can hear the heaviness in his breath, and I can smell the mixture of fear, anxiety, and anticipation coming off him. I look into one of his eyes hoping that the reflection of myself was calm and collected. I am not, but not for lack of trying though, I seem to be shaking slightly and I remember what my master said again. I need to let go of it all, my own doubt, my own fears, and I need to just concentrate on the sound of the ticking. I slowly match the beats of my heart keep pace with the constant ticking of the pocket watch. I feel calmer, my own breathing giving me the reassurance I need by how relaxed it sounded. I am ready for what will come next, even if I am wrong and the next couple of ticks are the sign of my own end.

Slowly the two swordsmen circled each other, looking for any signs of an opening that they can use while sheathing their weapons. Derrick stopped and entered into a bushido stance showing an outward calm. Inward he was slightly nervous as this was his first duel and wanted to not lose more blood than was necessary. He had already forgotten half of the teachings his master gave him, which was one of his first lessons: you won’t remember everything in your first death match.

A regular sparring match between a teacher and student was something that would never really end in death, most teachers just threaten death as a way to gauge how serious their students wanted to learn, after all a dead student would discourage any real potential to ask for their teachings.  Those stories of brash heroes learning from the first excruciating moment of meeting their master are just that: stories. No true students are picked when they have learned the basics and have shown actual potential. That is when the actual training starts though and when they learn how life threatening the art is. Derrick’s opponent backed away a few feet, positioning his rapier in front of him and charged forward with a small cry of desperation.

Derrick waited patiently, his hand on the hilt of his blade. He closed his eyes and deafened the world around him a bit. He listened to the sound of his pocket watch ticking, matching it to the paces of his opponent’s feet.

He extended his hearing to encompass the shout of desperation from his opponent.
He widened his own stance and drew his blade.
Opening his eyes, Derrick relaxed his muscles.
He slowed his breath as his opponent’s blade was a few feet away.
Without a moment of hesitation Derrick moved like water and ended the fight in one blow.

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