Dan could hardly lift his head. His skull was heavy, as if each strike from his opponent had implanted a lead weight into his head. The lead weights built up and now he struggled to keep his head up enough to look at anything other than the carpet.
He cursed his lack of bulk. He was in shape, he went to the gym regularly. But this wasn’t about general fitness or muscle tone. His opponent was a force of nature.
Dan’s face received most of the blows but it was his legs that were shaking with the shock. They were doing their best to convince him not to get to his feet - only to be knocked down again. There was a ringing in his ears, like a dead phone line that he couldn’t hang up on.
His whole body was in trauma.
He wanted to reassure Sally that he was fine. He wanted to be steadfast, to give her confidence that he would protect her and their unborn child. But she only had to look at him to know it wasn’t true.
He imagined Frank reigning the same blows down on Sally, even kicking their unborn child through his wife’s enlarged stomach. It wasn’t hard to envisage Frank committing such a heinous act. If only Dan could channel that anger into giving him the strength to get to his feet. He begged his body to feel the rage of his spirit. But there was no response. His body was not at home to take the call.
He wanted to shout to Sally to run. But that was ridiculous in her condition. Eight months pregnant, you don't run. You waddle like a duck. Trying to run would be a final, futile gesture. His only option was to defeat his opponent.
Frank Tong was built like the muscle machines Dan had only seen in adverts for protein powder in health food shops. His long hair didn't soften the look either, it just made him appear more wolfish. It was man against beast. Frank didn’t have much fighting technique. There was no bobbing and weaving. No concern for his own protection. He fought with the subtlety of a bulldozer. And Dan didn’t have the resources to defeat a bulldozer.
Dan watched Frank’s eyes move across to Sally for the first time. But then Frank looked away, as if the very idea of her pregnant form disgusted him. It was probably the only thing that Frank and Sally might have in common, a hatred of pregnancy.
Dan tried to raise himself up. But his legs buckled.
He tried again.
He got to his feet this time but staggered backwards. Luckily, the wall was there to keep him upright. He used the wall, pushed back against it as much as he could, and his body slid upwards.
He was on his feet.
Frank could have killed him several times over but obviously wanted to make him suffer. Dan’s attempts to defend himself were pathetic. And now he had to go on the offensive. It was his only way of protecting Sally. But how? He felt so useless. He had to hope that Frank had no motivation in extinguishing Sally along with him.
Dan looked at Sally again. He wanted to tell her to go back to the bedroom but that might encourage Frank to go after her. All he could manage was a couple of nods of faux reassurance. In return, Sally attempted a smile. But her lips trembled and mocked her feeble bravado.
Frank walked towards Dan. To get to him, he had to walk past Sally.
‘Please,’ Dan murmured.
But Frank wasn’t interested in Sally. He lunged at Dan. As he lunged, his right arm was already swinging. It landed on Dan's left cheek with Frank’s weight fully behind it.
Dan was hurled back against the wall. Instinctively he grabbed Frank's shoulders with both hands, inadvertently pulling him down with him. They fell to the floor, Frank landing on top of Dan, winding him.
Dan tried to push Frank away but he was too heavy. Frank smiled at the pitiful attempt to repel his attack. He playfully grabbed Dan’s wrists when he tried to punch him.
Dan thought: this is it. He had nothing left.
He screamed at Sally, 'Run!'