(I thought I’d break up my string of homework reading assigments I’ve been giving you and give you a puckering no-shitter.)
There’s no responsible way to train being hit in the head by a metal bar. Or any metal thing. So, needless to say, I did the best I possibly could when I finally got around to getting hit in the fucking head with a metal bar.
It was raining. It was night. I was in a shitty part of a shitty town. I knew the area. Had walked or run it all more than once. Knew which houses and buildings were empty. Knew which paths, back alleys, front alleys (?), and spaces-in-between-structures went where. But sometimes all your options turn to complete shit, and you’ve got no clear or readily accessible egress route–wicked prep notwithstanding.
Shit’s already gone sideways by that point. If you’ve painted yourself into a corner you can’t get out of correctly, that “point of no return” has long since passed. And even though you’ve got no radio contact with anyone anywhere in the world, you’re still frantically whispering, “…shitshitshitshitshit…” like that’s the code phrase for , “Get me the hell out of here!”
So no shit…there I was. I was full on fucking Gymkata through this town. My spatial [operational] awareness is not restricted to two dimensions: I climb. So as I was trying to unfuck myself from this particular situation, I was running, jumping, hopping, crawling, swinging, and climbing everything I could to break this guy off my tail. (The only thing I didn’t get to do on that particular evening, was jump onto the top of some antenna and ride it down to the ground as it bent. But you can go on ahead and put that in there, just for added visuals.)
One thing you need to add to your mental picture of this cluster, is that when Japan goes derelict…it’s like something out of The Walking Dead. Everything that once was shining glass is now shattered, jagged teeth. Everything that was metal is now mostly bent, broken, also jagged…and rusty.
So, I vault a cinderblock wall into what used to be someone’s back garden, and land on a pile of broken clay roof tiles. I’m not at all worried about being quiet at this point; I’ve been compromised and am trying to avoid contact. And, as I said, it’s raining. And this part of town is basically deserted anyway. As I land, I slip. (You don’t want to try to catch yourself with your hands in a place like this. And tactical gloves are just not at all a thing in this small slice of work.) My ass hits the pile right after my feet leave it.
I’m up instantly and moving to the wall on the other side of the “garden.” Once on that wall, I move along its top. As I hop up on the roof of the old house, my tail is on the first wall and looking my direction. This rooftop gives me access to the balcony of an empty apartment building next door.
With every axis change (climb up, jump down) and angle change (left turn, right turn) I can space myself further from my tail. BUT…I still have to keep myself moving in a general direction AWAY from the place I am full-on fleeing from. I’m not that athletic, but I *am* highly fucking motivated. I keep moving at the absolute top available speed.
At the “spine” of the roof, I hop over to the balcony. It’s only three feet away. I clear the rail and am through the tattered balsawood and rice paper door in one clean movement. The sliding glass door had long-since been busted out. This is, in reality, a generally stupid move. I am now in an enclosed area I am not 100% sure I can maneuver my self out of quickly. But I have also bottlenecked my pursuer, and I know he is not nearly as motivated to snag me as I am to not get snagged. Math, morale, and maneuverability will net you dividends if you can keep it all on your side. I am now about five tangential gambles into this math lesson.
Japanese apartments are notoriously not big. The front door 20 feet away from the back door was not locked, but it was rusted or jammed shut. I had to force it. I now had to further gamble on this fucking guy not just running around to the front of the building and waiting for me there. He was not coming up the roof, the last I saw.
Out on the front walkway three stories up, I looked down. No one. I headed for the stairwell (where he could also be, coming up). As I made for the stairs, cat shit was everywhere.
You ever wonder why they called old investigators Gumshoes? Here’s why: Back in the day, everyone wore hardsole shoes. They tapped when you walked. Traction was shitty. Noisy. No traction. Bad juju. PIs, and like professionals, opted for rubber-soled shoes…better to sneak with. Why do you think they’re called “sneakers”? So you can play basketball quieter?
In the tactical community–back when I was around that kinda shit–indirect support and admin-types were called Softsoles. Because they did not generally wear the hard soled issue boots that the rest of us had to wear in conventional field setting. Yeah…troops sometimes really do think they’re cooler because of the boots they wear.
I’m about as gumshoe as you can get. Even my old OD green jungle boots are basically mocassins; I can fold them up and stick them in my ruck. And if you’ve ever had to fuck around on broken glass in hard-soled kicks, you’ll know why I’m wearing these “dress” sneakers as I slip through rubble, broken bottles, and cat shit. I say dress, because they are not obviously sneakers. They’re brown leather high-tops that no one would look at twice, because they’re not bright green with an inch-thick slab of whatever space-age polymer magic sole the industry is telling you is going to make you run faster or jump higher.
I have had these shoes for years. They’ve been on my feet in nearly every interesting or insane story I have to tell. And nights like this one give these kicks a chance to prove their worth yet again.
Another bit of cultural shoe trivia here before we move on, is that the Japanese remove their shoes at the entrance to most establishments and homes. As a result, damn near everyone in the country has slip-ons, or they never tie their shoes all the way. This becomes advantageous for assholes like me who use elastic laces with drawstring clamps so my shoes slip on and off with a quick well-practiced slight of hand, yet are still snug enough to do all the dumb shit I am doing at this very moment.
At the switchback between the first and second floor, I hop the rail and run the side of the building (rather than pop out the only ground floor exit, you see). Still no one. I am now on the street, and basically in the open. But with no one obviously in pursuit, I opt for mobility over being surreptitious and haul ass to my prearranged egress route so I can get out of town.
I do not, by experience (and general pessimism), slow my pace or give myself any quarter when I am in situations like this. So, I’m not pulling some Hollywood stop-and-rest-in-an-alcove-and-pat-myself-on-the-back. I’ve said before: You ain’t clear until you’re back at the Bat Cave safe and no one is coming after you. I had a ways to go yet, and miles of rice fields to cover to get there.
As I ran in the rain, I tried to shift gears from Parkour Mode to Marathon Mode. I turned a corner down an actual street (still small, single-laned). The only thing that would’ve made this next scene go any better is if one of us was carrying a tray of hot coffee or a wedding cake…
I hit this fucker head on. He was walking, so went backwards. I was running, so rolled forward and past/around him. My ninja roll was definitely about a five out of 10. Probably less. But when I got up and started to reshift gears on all fours, lightning completely assaulted my field of view.
As I went down again, I knew I had been hit. Right in the fucking head. In the cold rain, I definitely understood that the warm feeling running down the right side of my head was blood. Maybe other stuff, too.
I’m not a medic. But I was pretty sure I had a few seconds before whatever was supposed to happen after a head wound (shock?) was gonna happen. The guy yelled something as he jumped at me. I wasn’t even sure it was the same dude. But I rolled onto my back and held up my arms and legs and prepared a defense I had practiced thousands of times in Judo and Jujutsu…but was sure I was never going to have to actually use.
As he came down on me again with the metal scrap, I deflected and trapped it. As he fell onto me, I reached my right hand up to try to grab him somewhere. Instead–rather inadvertently–three of my fingers went into his mouth, leaving my thumb and pinky on either side. I was past my knuckles in this fucker’s skull. He either couldn’t bite, or didn’t think to.
I used this leverage to swing his head to my left, as I shifted my weight on the ground to my right. I had no immediate knowledge of anyone else being nearby–and it didn’t matter. I needed to break contact and get off the fucking ground a.s.a.f.p.
The result of this tangle and pivot was me slamming this guy’s head into the street. (In retrospect, that was also the first time I had ever manipulated anyone’s weight from *inside* their head. Pretty effective, but I wouldn’t advise it.) As I got up, I pushed my hand deeper into his mouth to gag him, and keep him down as I got up. It didn’t feel like the dude puked, but everything was wet soft tissue that far in. He was definitely slack and not aggressively responsive after that first hit to the asphalt.
I got up. Looked around as I moved. Felt my bleeding head.
And the L-shaped indention in my skull that the blood was coming from. 🙁
I was kinda half jogging. I wasn’t sure what the wound would do if I ran. But I was bleeding, so a higher heart rate was probably not a good thing. So, as I tried to maintain consciousness and situational awareness, I headed toward the nearest bus stop. The students’ bikes would be lined up there.
As I rode through the rice fields toward my place, I held my tenugui (Japanese towel/handkerchief) to my head and tried to better assess my situation. Rolling dark through the fields meant I could maintain reasonably invisible movement *off* standard LOCs (Lines of Communication; movement lines and lanes, etc.) while simultaneously spotting any incoming vehicles from a great distance. I was pretty sure I was the only asshole on a bike at that hour, in the rain. (Rice fields also have these ditches that run around and through them, so if there was a car inbound, I could lose the bike and drop into that irrigation network and still move relatively safely/secretly.)
No one followed.
I rode onward. Thought about where I would seek medical attention…and how I would explain it. Once I got to my town (a few towns over), I ditched the bike near a river. With all the other unwanted bikes and umbrellas.
I took a roundabout–heavily countermeasured–route back to my place, still on the lookout for followers. There’s no way anyone I engaged that night could know who I am, so if a motherfucker wasn’t on me now, they wouldn’t be later.
I got to my place. Slid around to the back of the building. No one was out front waiting, but just in case…it’s not paranoia if they *could be* following you. Around back, I slid between the buildings, scootched my way down to the balcony below mine, hopped up, pulled myself up, and began the climb to my balcony.
Zero possibility of being seen entering my place from this “route.”
Once in, I made sure all my security measures were in place, put another brace on my front door, prepped my ice and bandages, and sat in my shower room with the lights out trying to fix myself and clean up by the light of my cellphone. Though bleeding had mostly long since stopped, that whole section of head was mushy and my hair was pretty matted. I was trying not to freak out.
As I did in times like this, I popped the single tile out of my shower room ceiling, pulled myself up, replaced the tile, checked my water and food, and zipped myself up in the sleeping bag I had hooched up in the space between my ceiling and the roof.
I know you’re not supposed to sleep with a possible concussion, so I tried to stay awake (chewing coffee beans), but was out cold before sunrise. I woke up to a wet red pillow a little after 2300 the following night.
After removing the tile and listening, I climbed down, cleaned up again, and slowly made my way back down the back wall of my apartment building. The rain had stopped sometime in the day. Everything was dry.
I had a hat on over my bandages. I moved towards a combini, grabbed some sammiches and a water, and headed to my car. Once there, I called a doc buddy, and asked if I could come see him.
Told him I fell running in the rain. I had already established running at all times of day and in all types of weather as a rock solid part of my profile. He sorted me out as best as he could. I refused stitches. Got a shot. He shaved off a patch of skull and bandaged my melon. He didn’t ask many questions.
I didn’t die that day. But easily could have, and no one would have ever known why. In fact, no one might have ever known at all. I just wouldn’t be around one day. Somebody would’ve asked questions, I suppose, at some point.
Even so, there was no way I could have ever responsibly prepared myself for getting hit in the head with a metal bar.
Don’t try this shit at home, kids.
Featured image courtesy of vice.com