Every so often, Gorr likes to rub the lump over his eye.
He presses hard against it, but it slides slickly under his thumb. He’s tried squashing it, picking it, even ripping off the skin, but it settles into the crook where his eye meets bone. Gorr refuses to give up. Somewhere, deep in those folds of scar tissue, a memory festers, and inside that memory, an answer.
A year ago, if you wanted to know who the man was, or what his name meant, he only needed to utter three words. Check my stats. The numbers said it all. 33-0, 33 KOs. But really, they were more like KTFOs, because everyone who stepped in that ring was Knocked The Fuck Out.
A year later, and the stats tell a different story. 34-0, 33 KOs. Technically, they were still unblemished. Privately, all he saw was a stain.
Somewhere, in that tiny pebble of flesh, is the truth of what happened that night. When he’s asked to recall that match, Gorr will tell you about the din of the crowd, and the hot, stink of the arena. He recalls the lights knifing down his brow, the rubber fuming up his nostrils. He recalls failing to land a single clean shot, every jab glancing off the Khajiit’s whiskers, every hook combing his fur. He remembers almost everything about that night. Everything, save for that punch.
In those final moments, the canvas starts to rumble as the crowd stands on their feet. Gorr hears them counting down, 5, 4, 3….as the blood drips from his gash and the sweat pours down his cheek. He feels the vibration saw away at his knees, but he’s not standing any more, he’s leaning, riding the anti-gravity that is a boxer’s pride.
The last thing he remembers is the sound of the bell.
When it was over, Gorr sat hunched over in the locker room, a cold towel draped over his head. They tell him he’s a winner, by unanimous decision – and still, undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Across the hall, the Khajiit is signing autographs, shaking hands, all smiles. A gracious loser to the end. As the press start to gather around the champion, the towel drops, and a barrage of flashbulbs hits his right eye. He reaches up to cover it.
And that’s when he notices the lump.