He felt the air leave his stomach and crumpled to his knees. The world began to spin. A kick to the head...it was like a bucket of ice water. He could hear distant shouts and wondered what he was doing. Everything was stop-motion. He wanted out. That was all. He wanted to become weightless...to float above the dingy streets and look down upon the smiling monuments.
He could taste blood. He curled himself into a ball and absorbed the blows, covering his face with fingers like tide pool tendrils. It did not hurt anymore. It was just a mass of confusion. He felt himself lift. His body was not a part of him. His heart was aching. He knew that he would never be able to forgive this. And he knew that his inability to forgive would destroy him. Blacken his soul.
It was not what he had expected. He could not imagine standing up, arms raised like half-mast flags. He could not imagine hugs or pats on the back. He did not want it to end because then it would be real. He wanted to stay, curled and beaten, unable to question his choice.