Meltdown XXXIX & Fallout 039 || Promo Thread

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Jimmy King

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Promo deadlines:

Sunday 31st March, 23:59PM Pacific Time.
Monday 1st April, 03:00AM Eastern Standard Time.
Monday 1st April, 08:00AM Greenwhich Mean Time.
Monday 1st April, 16:00PM Australian Western Standard Time.

There will be no extensions! None! Ha!

GLHF.
 

AON

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Barbara:"Ah-ha, well, this is just a rather serendipitous turn of events. Everything's coming together perfectly, boss! We just need to set up your shop and add a few decor items for the general ambience. One must set the mood and give them that razzmatazz, and well, victory will be soon at hand.

The Scissor Sisters once again found themselves in Jack The Clipper's shitty little barber store...Only not, Confused? Well, I guess you didn't hear the news. Jackie Noble is moving up in the world. The states have a new business to invest in. Jack The Clipper is opening up shop in the good ol' US of A, and today was the moving-in day. The Scissor Sisters are helping him set up shop all day and are now resting in his office that overlooks the main room of the barbershop. Jack sits at his desk, feet up on it. He's dressed in a button-up and some designer jeans. His eyes look like he's been up for weeks, dark and baggy. Dyeanna stands in front of him (Even though it's impossible to tell which is which) while Barbera is to their left, organising a few of the boxes around that side of the office. They're labelled different things, obviously, so Jack can keep track of everything he's packed. The entire time his minon talks, Jack is off in his own little world. It's difficult to tell if he's ignoring her on purpose or if he just has a lot on his mind. She notices but doesn't let it stop him.

"Then we can start setting up for your Championship celebration! I can't believe…."

Championship celebration… The TV Championship Match. It feels like Jack hasn't been able to put his full focus on that in weeks. Even with every victory he got ever since he came to FWA, he's had other things to worry about. With his new barber shop opening up in the States finally coming together, it seems as though The Final Four has come at the perfect time. KDS doesn't know what she's in for, especially not after what happened at King Of The Deathman. Jack hates losing, and that was all he needed in terms of sheer motivation. Nothing gets motivated by spite and anger than Jack The Clipper. If Jack can get into the headspace that he usually does when he's fighting, pumped up to maim someone, imagine what he's capable of when there's gold on the line. Imagine what happens when he's under the bright lights in a match he's been fighting for since he arrived in FWA. Like the cookie, she'll crumble. How could he not-

Dyeanna: "We got the last of your office stuff."

The less cheerful and classless Dyeanna dropped a box directly on Jack's desk, and you hear the various items clang against each other in the box. Dyeanna's tone lets everyone in the room know that she's upset, with Barbera damn near snapping her neck to look over at her sister. But Jack doesn't even look at her minion. He just stares at the box on his desk - 'Family' on it in a black sharpie. Jack takes a moment before staring at the sight of the box.

Dyeanna: Oi, No offence, - but we ain't signed up to be your fucking personal movers. We ain't your servants, yes sir, no sir sign yah fuckin' shoes sir."

It feels like time stands still. The frustration Dyeanna feels might be a little justified. She and Barbara were promised they'd be getting their big break soon thanks to Jack - yet neither woman has even made it to FWA Television yet. There's been no mention of a match with the scissor sisters even happening, which isn't exactly part of the deal. Barbara silently pleads with Dyeanna to stop and receives Dyeanna's hostile sneer in return. The east-end barber… doesn't take his eyes off that box. His mind never leaves the memories and great times he had. The more he thinks, as the years pass in his trip down memory lane, he realises that the memories grow far and fewer. He realises the box may have been a bit heavier a few years ago. He doesn't even have to lift it up to know that. No, not now. Not here. Jack feels himself starting to get a little hot, but he can't lose his composure right now. As his mind wanders, it comes back to his beautiful da-

Dyeanna: I'm going to get a drink.

Jack The Clipper: Help yourself.

Dyeanna: ".... Wasn't asking."

Jack's tone was as monotonous as can be, the complete opposite of the pissed-off twin. His train of thought is on a round trip, with so many different thoughts on board that it's making his head spin. Normally, Jack The Clipper wouldn't tolerate disrespect like Dyeanna's just showed. Part of Jack doesn't care - or has to appear like he doesn't, but maybe part of him even thinks it's justified. That box of family knick knacks Dyeanna left behind, what if it's got him sentimental? Nah, not a guy like Jack. As cold-hearted as he is? That's why he bundles up for winter. In case you didn't know. Jack continues his staring match with the box, and this time, it's Barbara who snaps him out of it.

Barbara: Excuse me? Boss…

Jack The Clipper: She's fine. A little restless. She can use that soon enough.


Jack finally stands up, walking towards the large glass window to watch Dyeanna head downstairs and out the door. Is Jack just saying that part about soon enough? Is she worried that her sister might also begin to question this partnership? Before those questions get answered, Jack decides it's time to take matters into his own hands.

Jack The Clipper: You can go out and sweep the floors, haven't even opened the fucking thing up, and already there's hair all over the place

Barbara: Certainly, I will take care of it, post-hast-I'll-

Jack The Clipper:"I didn't say now, We need to Jack The Clipper: talk.


Barbara shifts uncomfortably; it seems like he noticed, but the two minutes of silence could've told the story just as well.

Jack The Clipper: Problem?

Barbara: Not in the least


Jack turns and looks at Barbara on the opposite side of the room, who has moved on to decorating the walls with whatever posters or photos he can find, almost like she wants to stay out of Jack's way. Can you blame her? Never knowing when someone was going to their breaking point is a terrifying feeling. But Barbara's "if I'm quiet, maybe he won't know I'm here" act doesn't work for too long.

Jack The Clipper: Help me set up over here.

Barbara: Yes, sir.


Barbara placed the rest of whatever she was unpacking down, quickly moving towards Jack to assist her as asked. Both of them grab a box each and take their positions on opposite ends. The way Jack's office is set up, the West Ham Logo picture that hangs up behind his desk? Has shelving units on each side. Barbara is at the left, one as far left as she can be, with Jack mirroring that. The two both open their respective boxes and begin to set everything up on the shelves. The things they pull out are something else. Different vinyl records from various eras of English music, various pictures or accolades from the past before Jack's arrival. We see Barbara stop and ask Jack a few times about how he wants certain things, and Jack answers rather cordially. Other than questions and directions, there's not much talking between the two, though. Jack is looking to change that.

Jack The Clipper: So, Barbara, how do you like how things are going so far?

Silence. It's not the most tactful way to get a performance review from your subordinates, but at least he's trying. As usual, the incredibly posh Barbera keeps her words inside, continuing to place things on the shelves for Jack. This time, a few scissors that have served Jack blows air out of his nose and smirks, finding this funny. He's trained Barbara well. Is it time to reward her?

Jack The Clipper: You can say what you like, speak freely. This ain't the army, I ain't your commanding officer, say how you feel.

Barbara looks toward his boss, a mix of curiosity and worry on her face. Jack seems to be getting out of whatever funk he was in, doing his best to open up and do a little more talking with Barbara instead of to Barbara. But is that good for Barbara? The posh half of the scissor sisters does her best to put a series of words together that not only don't offend Jack but might actually make him happy. How the hell do you make Jack The Clipper happy?

Barbara: It is fine. One sees what you have planned for my sibling and oneself playing out more as time passes.

Jack The Clipper: Do you feel like your sister does?

Barbara: No.


There's no surprise there. That answer doesn't sit right with Jack. Before, he was distracted by irrelevant thoughts; now, he can't help but replay the scene back in his head. Dyeanna slams the box down, getting stern and rude to Jack. Jack's blood almost starts to boil. Barbara may be seeing this and quickly speaks up.

Barbara: One does not feel the anger she does. But one does understand her impatience.

That doesn't make it much better. Jack stops putting his vintage Pablo Di Canio shirt on the wall, staring directly at Barbara with the utmost seriousness. Jack's paranoia may be beginning to kick in; maybe the major pressure of the upcoming Television Title match is getting to him. Whatever it is, it's not helping him. Jack wants to have an outburst. He wants to let go… but he can't. Even though he feels accused of being a hustler by Barbara, Jack must maintain the peace. Barbara doesn't seem to realise she struck a nerve, continuing to 'speak freely' as requested. Somebody should've taught her that there's such a thing as too much.

Barbara: We were promised an opportunity. The carrot was dangled in front of our faces, so to speak, and now it feels as though we chased it from sun up to sundown and got nowhere.

Jack The Clipper: But you're not angry?


That's what Jack can't seem to wrap his head around. He feels anger inside him just from hearing Barbara say she understands Dyeanna's' point of view. That bit of confusion in Jack is enough to diffuse his temper for the time being, yet part of him still wants to be upset. He continues to dig for a reason to be… why?

Jack The Clipper: Y'know. If I were you? I'd be furious.

Barbara: But what good does that do? Anger.


Jack scoffs. What a silly question to ask. He almost can't believe his minion is being serious.

Barbara: Not only is it an ugly emotion, it is uncontrollable.

Jack The Clipper: "How'd you figure that?

Barbara: "It's a topic that's been well researched. Every living thing has, at one point, been overtaken by rage. They become unrecognisable, no longer themselves. Their actions are reckless. Stupid. How do you control that?

Jack The Clipper: "You're asking me? How I'm I bleedin' meant to know? I guess- Time?

Barbara: No.


The two have stopped completely organising Jack's office, instead staring at one another. Jack's fury rests in his tightened jaw muscles that match his fiery eyes.

Barbara: Anger is a weakness. There is no controlling it.

Depending on how you look at it, Jack proves her right with the way that he snaps back in response. It's subtle, but the speed of the rebuttal is all you need.

Jack The Clipper: Who taught you that? Huh?! Who fed you that bullshit?!

This causes Barbara to pause; the stern look that rested upon her face washes away like soap in a bath. Her expression becomes more soft, as does her voice when he answers.

Barbara: "Myself and Dyeanna. We watched our father fall victim to it. Our uncle. Cousins, friends. Nobody taught us.

Barbara turns away from Jack, grabbing another box to unpack. She almost doesn't want to say the next part. The reality is still too much for her to face head-on all this time later. Yet she doesn't hang her head in shame or sorrow. She holds it high as she unpacks.

Barbara: We learned that lesson on our own.

You can tell from his reaction that Jack never knew that the sissior sisters faced any hardships like that. Anybody with eyes can also see that Jack doesn't do well when people start sharing information about themselves. Typical narcissist behaviour - or maybe he's just uncomfortable. No matter which it is, Jack switches the topic back to what they spoke of earlier.

Jack The Clipper: So you're not angry that I'm 'dangling' opportunities in front of you… what are you?

Barbara: Patient.


Barbara chuckles, trying to lighten the mood. Maybe lighten her own mood after revealing some less-than-pleasant things despite not getting too deep into them. Jack chuckles as well. It quickly goes back to being quiet between the two for the time being as they set up. Eventually, Jack is the one to break that silence.

Jack The Clipper: Has anybody ever told you two I was like you when I was younger?

Barbara: You have alluded to some things, but never more than that.

Jack The Clipper : I was angry. Like your da', your uncle. My da', he… he wasn't there like I thought he should be.

Barbara: Right, right. You've mentioned this once before: He was some kind of brute who didn't share your raw talent for cutting hair like you. That is not controlling your anger; that is growing up and letting go.

Jack The Clipper: Let me finish. Me da wasn't the only person I was mad at, especially after my dad talked to me about why he wanted to me to take over his shop.

Barbara: Something bigger than himself.

Jack The Clipper: You do pay attention. Yeah, something bigger than himself. He wanted to keep the family tradition; he wanted to make sure I did what he did, my kids, my kid's kid.... He worked night and day in that goddamn store, And you know how they repaid him?


Barbara's silence is confirmation that he does.

Jack The Clipper: Exactly. I can't even tell you the first time I felt it, but these people? These people that my dad tried to help? Looked down at him and me. Every day of his life. To this day, I hate them. The thought of my dad choosing them over me, Picking some upper-class pricks over his own son? Any time I think about it-

Barbara: The demon barber reveals itself.

Jack The Clipper: "It was a lot more obvious when I was younger. I'd stray from home a lot. Nothing ever really felt like home. I used to tell them all the time how much I hated London, England, Europe, New assignments, new towns, and new friends. The cycle never really stopped. I used to act out with no regard for anybody else's thoughts or feelings but my own. Get in trouble, just doing stupid shit. Why not? I needed to do something with it. I needed to find a way to get rid of it. But after a decade and some change, I was able to make it mine. I put that hate on a leash and make it do my bidding.


The more he speaks about it, the easier it is to sense that Jack has some sort of affinity for anger. Like it really is his pet. Barbera soft voice, even when she whispers, carries enough weight that the next phrase hits like a sledgehammer and has Jack immediately denying.

Barbara: It tricks you.

Jack The Clipper: No, no. To this day, I use that feeling to push myself. When things get tough, and I don't know if I should take that next step, my anger takes it for me. If I can't find a path, my anger will make one for me.

Barbara: You misunderstand. No.. Not with you, meaning that the anger is in control.

Jack the Clipper, is it, though? Think about it, Barbara. With as much as I've been through, I have to let the anger take control. Without my say-so, it's stuck inside, locked away with everything else. In the hands of anybody else, it's destructive. But anger in the hands of a man who can control it, who can use it to his advantage? It's a very powerful tool.

Barbara: It sounds like a very dangerous game you are playing.

Jack The Clipper
:: Me? I'll be fi-

Barbara: Not for you. For your loved ones.


Barbara holds up a picture of Jack's family, and Jack quickly snatches it away. It's Jack, his ex-wife, and their two daughters. Jack stares at the picture long enough for the Earth to revolve around the sun, and then he glances up at Barbara to see where the hell this came from. Barbara was still unpacking, and which box did she grab? The same one that Dyeanna brought upstairs - The one marked 'Family'.Jack was right earlier; there's not a lot in the box. A few pictures of his ex-wife and daughters, as well as a few pictures of his mom and dad,Jack places the picture he has down in his desk when Barbara has already dug out another picture.

Barbara: Your father was in the military?

Jack The Clipper: Sergeant first-class cook.

Barbara: A cook?

Jack The Clipper: Yeah. Ran that kitchen like a mad bastard, too.


This time, it's Jack's turn to lighten the mood. He's doing his best to suppress his emotions until it's time for KDS. Hopefully, some humour does the job. The two work on finishing the final touches on Jack's shelves, but Jack notices that Babara keeps sneaking looks at him.

Jack The Clipper: Got something else you wanna ask?

Barbara sighed, hoping it didn't come to this.

Barbara: "With respect, Do you really have your anger under control? Or does it have you, sir?

Jack stops mid-movement. Once again, Barbara seems to be questioning Jack at least in Jack's twisted mind. But not to Barbara; it was a regiment question.

Barbara: Anger has a way of blending the two worlds - reality and your worst nightmares. One does not doubt your strength, but sometimes the job it does is… too authentic. And if what you say is true? That you possess the ability to keep something as evil as that under lock and key, to use as you please?

A pause.

Barbara: One fears your inability to see what anger and hate has done to you will be the least of all our worries in the coming time.

These are daunting words from the minion, yet they ring true. Jack's lust for revenge against the world could very well lead to much worse issues with larger consequences.Jack stops himself once again as Barbera continues.

Barbara: And may Heaven forbid you lose this 'control' you have during your title match against Kleio De Santos-

Jack The Clipper: Barbara…

Barbara: Yes?

Jack The Clipper: "Shut up, the right to speek freely has been revoked.

Dyeanna: "The fuck are you two wankers gabbing about?"


Both Jack and Barbara's heads whirled around to see the second scissor sister having returned, drinking from the bottle, and still looking pissed off as fuck

Dyeanna: Didn't think you'd be here fucking around talking about feelings and anger, and all this boo-hoo shit, when you have a shot at the big time, at the television title. The thing you've been working towards since you got to FWA! And you're focusing on that shit and not KDS?

BANG-!

A fist bangs against the table with enough force to leave it shaking, which shuts up the scissors sisters.

Jack The Clipper:"You think I'm looking past the Coven? You think I'm looking past KDS? Nah, you're full of bullshit. KDS has gotten a stranglehold on that belt for the last few months. I've been in the ring with her; I know how tough she is, and you know what?

That's just going to make it all the better when I tear her to fucking shreds.

Jack The Clipper:I don't give a shit what came before. I don't care about how dominating she's been. I don't care about her magical shit. I don't even care about her drama with her little crew. The dregs of the wrestling world will arrive; hell, some of them are already here. But I ain't playing that game. But I'm not going to play that game. I won't sink to the Coven's level of bullshit. That shit is for the weak-willed. My will is unbreakable. My dedication is rock solid.

I am not here to be a cartoon, not like Kleio De Santos; she's a wrestler that is damn good, I ain't going to lie, but she hides behind all that for what? Pretending to be a fucking witch? Some harry potter shit? Because when I look at her, I just see a young Jack Noble, a stupid kid hiding behind a shitty gimmick...and you know what I want to do with that kid? That annoying snot knows, kid?"

Jack smiles almost to himself as he flexes his arm back and forth and walks out the door.

Jack The Clipper: "....You'll find out on Meltdown.
 
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Jimmy King

It’s Britney, bitch
Joined
Dec 12, 2010
Messages
17,497
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13,051
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118
Age
38
Location
Slam Diego
Favorite Wrestler
oAYiXZo
Favorite Wrestler
eAVr0ua
Favorite Wrestler
johncena
Favorite Wrestler
DjUmJN2
Favorite Wrestler
nock3cf
Favorite Wrestler
eIHNFff
Favorite Sports Team
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Favorite Sports Team
Zjaonp3
Jackson Fenix did not expect to spend the first half of his trip to Sapporo, Japan, in the Sapporo Grand Hotel bar, but that’s where he is now. He doesn’t normally spend much time in bars these days due to him trying to sober up and better himself, but again, here is in a bar. He is drinking ice water instead of an alcoholic beverage. It’s around 1 am, and he’s in the hotel bar sipping ice water when he should be resting before his big match with Gabrielle Montgomery.

He finishes the water, and before he can decline, the bartender refills it for him. He’s about to head back to his hotel room, where he’s going to try to reconcile things with his girlfriend Hazel, who kicked him out of the room, but he’s stopped by a young-looking American woman who sits down at the bar next to him.

“Excuse me, but you’re Jackson Fenix, right?”

Jackson would like nothing more than to go back to his hotel room and rest up, but he also knows what is waiting for him when he gets there, and right now, he doesn’t have the energy for that. He does his best to brush that off and hide his tiredness and politely responds to someone who is a fan.

“Yeah, that’s me.”

The woman, who appears to be in her mid-to-late twenties, reacts delighted to this news.

“OMG I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S YOU!”

“Heh, yeah, sometimes I can’t believe I’m me either.”


Remnants of the old Jackson Fenix sometimes slip out, and that causes him to shake his head at himself.

“Sorry, that sounded pretty stupid; yeah, it’s me.”

The excited fan waves it off and nervously laughs at him.

“Oh, it’s okay, I don’t mind! I want to say I’m a big fan of yours!”

“That’s cool. Do you live in Japan?”


“Oh no, I’m from America, but I like to try to follow FWA around the world when I can and attend shows wherever.”

Jackson can’t help but be impressed by an obvious superfan. He nods in appreciation and lifts his glass to her.

“Well, cheers to that. I can appreciate a loyal FWA fan.”

“Not just FWA but especially you in particular. I’ve been following you for so long.”


Okay, not gonna lie, that’s kind of creepy in a way but Jackson does his best to hide that he’s a bit creeped out.

“Well, I appreciate that.”

“What are you doing here alone in this bar? I thought you’d be in bed getting rested before your match with Gabrielle.”

“You’d think that, right? As a matter of fact, that’s what I’d like to be doing right now, but instead, I’m down at the bar.”

“What happened? Why are you here?”


Jackson considers whether he should tell this stranger the story of why he’s here. After all, it’s not any of her business, and she should probably know better than to try to pry into another person’s personal life, but for some reason, he brushes all of that off and decides to tell her.

What’s the worst that can happen, right?

“It’s kind of a funny story…”

********************


Flashback to about an hour or so earlier where Jackson Fenix is sound asleep in bed next to his girlfriend, Hazel Knight, who is also sleeping, but suddenly Hazel wakes up as she sits up with a jolt. She’s breathing heavily as she sits up and looks over at Jackson, who is still sleeping, having not been disturbed by her sudden movement. She seems sad at first and about to cry, but then that turns to anger. Hazel snatches her pillow and starts to violently hit Jackson on the head with it until he’s woken up.

“Hey, hey! What’s that for?!”

Instead of answering, she hits him again with the pillow. Jackson wears an expression of confusion while still half-asleep. Still, his reflexes kick in as he prevents Hazel from hitting him again when he blocks the pillow attack and takes it away from her.

“Hazel, what’s going on?! Why are you hitting me?!”

“I know what you did!”


That’s all she says in response, and Jackson looks even more confused.

“What are you talking about?! What did I do?!”

“You slept with her!”

“Slept with who?”

“Gabrielle Montgomery!”

“What?!”

“You slept with her after your match!”

“What are you talking about?! That doesn’t make sense! The match with her hasn’t happened yet, so how could I have done that?!”

“It happened in my dream, so obviously, it’s going to happen! I’ve seen the way you look at her and those requests you made for her on her Only Fans!”

“You wanted me to make those requests! You wanted us to watch the videos together, and we did!”

“That’s beside the point! You’ve always had a thing for her.”


Jackson rubs his eyes in disbelief and does his best to think about what he’s hearing right now.

“Wait, let me get this straight because I’m trying to wrap my head around this. You think that because of what happened in your dream that, it’ll come true? Do you have any idea how crazy that sounds?”

“Well…you cheated on your last girlfriend! What’s stopping you from doing that again, huh?”

“Well, for one, I’m not that guy anymore. I regret what I did back then when I hurt Britney by sleeping around on her, especially with her sister Ashley, but that’s not me anymore. I wouldn’t do that to you, I promise.”

********************

“...and the next thing you know, I’m down here at the bar after she kicked me out…”


We return to the present hours, where Jackson has finished telling the story to this complete stranger.

“Wow, I can’t believe she would overreact like that to something that happened in a dream.”

“I know, right?”

“I would never, ever do that if I were in her shoes and I was with you in bed.”


Jackson looks a bit weirded out by that comment, and it shows that the woman looks embarrassed.

“I’m sorry, perhaps that was crossing the line…”

“No…uh… it’s okay.”


He finishes up his second glass of water and gets up from his seat, which prompts the strange woman to follow suit.

“Where are you going?”

Jackson is rightfully creeped out now and doesn’t hide any longer.

“Uh, I was going to hit the john and head back to my room to make up with Hazel.”

The woman looks confused now, and Jackson is trying to think of an escape plan.

“Uh, it was nice meeting you…”

“Abby, my name is Abby!”


Abby…weirdly similar to Gabby like Gabrielle Montgomery.

Fenix nods and cautiously walks to the bathroom while keeping an eye over his shoulder. He finishes up in the bathroom and checks his surroundings before leaving. As he exits the bathroom, he senses he’s being followed by this strange woman, and out of the corner of his eye, he sees her following him.

He quickly jumps into the next elevator he sees and hits his floor button before the elevator goes up. Before he exits the elevator, he pokes his head out to check his surroundings. The coast seems clear, and he leaves. As he begins walking down the hall back to his room, he hears the elevator ding behind him. He glances over his shoulder, and it’s Abby, the stranger he met in the bar.

How did she know what floor he was on? He thought to himself.

Clearly, he has a stalker on his hands. He thinks back to the time when he used to creep on certain women, but he never resorted to stalking. Well, except for the one time when Britney Spears was at her Las Vegas resort, where she did her shows.

He thinks about the times he used to be such a creep toward Gabrielle and telling her how much he wanted to sleep with her. He regrets how he used to treat all women that he used to creep on.

Abby stands at the end of the hall and watches Jackson as he knocks on the door to his hotel room, all the while keeping an eye on Abby.

“Hey Hazel, can we talk?”

He says through the door, but there’s no answer.

“Come on, Hazel, please let me in. Listen. I’m sorry, okay? I know I used to be a jerk, but that’s not me anymore. Yeah, I used to be a creep toward Gabrielle and wanted to get in her pants, but again, that’s not me anymore. I promise you that nothing will happen with Gabrielle and me after our match….”

The door finally opens, and Abby sprints down the hall. Jackson brushes past Hazel to get inside and shuts the door behind him. The knob starts to turn, and he goes to lock it, but Hazel opens the door, and Abby stumbles backward. No words are said, and Abby nervously runs away down the hall.

“Haze, I swear nothing happened with that girl and I…well, uh, besides me telling her what happened…but nothing else happened…”

Hazel re-enters the room and shuts the door behind her.

“I know.”

“How do you know?”

“I thought about you said before I kicked you out and realized I was being silly about my dream, and hearing what you said outside the door helped that…”

“I promise you that the only thing I’ll be doing with Gabrielle is wrestling her and winning the match…”


She smiles and plants a kiss on his lips.

“You better win or else…”

“Or else what?”

She pushes him onto the bed, and things start getting hot and heavy as the scene fades out.
 
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Jimmy King

It’s Britney, bitch
Joined
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Messages
17,497
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13,051
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Age
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Location
Slam Diego
Favorite Wrestler
oAYiXZo
Favorite Wrestler
eAVr0ua
Favorite Wrestler
johncena
Favorite Wrestler
DjUmJN2
Favorite Wrestler
nock3cf
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Favorite Sports Team
Zjaonp3
Another KODM, another loss.

It’s something Jason Randall has become accustomed to these days. If he was booked in a match, he was bound to come up short. No matter how hard he may try to pull out the win and come out on top, it doesn’t matter because the result is always the same for him.

It’s gotten to the point that he expects the worst. He goes into a match knowing he’s going to lose. Maybe in his mind, it helps ease the pain of a loss; who knows? All he knows is he’s not going to get his hopes up anymore, and neither should the fans when they see him in a match.

Of course, none of this is going to stop him from competing. Despite the negative outlook, he won’t stop. He can’t stop, and no matter how hard he may try or how much his body tries to tell him to stop, he can’t do it.

No one knows for sure why he still does it. Some say he does it for the fans, but they must not be paying attention because he hasn’t given a shit what the fans think in months. That doesn’t stop the fans from showing him respect and cheering him on. They don’t care that he doesn’t care about them or what they think.

Maybe he still does it because it’s all he’s ever been good at. He’s said himself that it’s the only thing in his life he’s ever been good at is wrestling. He was never much of a fighter when he was a child. He kept to himself and kept a lot of his emotions bottled up for the majority of his youth. It wasn’t until he started getting older that he started releasing those emotions, letting out his anger onto others, unleashing his frustrations. He found wrestling to be the perfect outlet for him to do all of that and get away with it. It wasn’t always how he felt, and he still did his best to hide his emotions from the world, but as the years passed by, he began to care less and less.

The Wildcard losing KODM was the last thing on his mind, though. He returned home from the event to find that one of the cats that he and Penny shared had a stroke and had lost movement in his hind legs. The cat in question was Fred, the cat. No, not Penny’s beloved plush cat that she carried to the ring during her days as an in-ring competitor, but the real cat, Fred.

There was no other choice but to relieve their beloved cat of his pain and suffering by having him euthanized. This wasn’t an easy choice, but Fred was suffering, and they both felt it was right instead of letting him suffer any longer. He had lived a good life, surrounded by love from his human parents and other pet siblings, but soon, he could be pain-free and be in a better place.

This was the solace that Randall took when he thought about it. This was also one of those times that kept his emotions in check. He did that for Penny, who was an emotional mess. He did his best to console her after it had been done when they returned home without their beloved cat. It was a somber evening afterward, and Penny eventually retired to their bedroom, where she would cry herself to sleep. Randall went outside on the deck of their beachouse and looked out at the waves crashing into each other. He took a seat on their swing bench and leaned back.

“Pretty view, isn’t it?”

Randall looks to his left and there’s Fred sitting beside him.

“Yeah, it sure is.”

There’s a brief moment of silence between the two before Randall speaks up again.

“You know what? I’m going to miss you, buddy.”

“I know you are, and I’ll miss you too. I’ll miss both of you.”

“It’s not going to be easy with you gone.”

“I’ll always be here with you two. I’ll watch you guys; you can think of me as a guardian angel.”


Randall chuckles to himself at that comment, and Fred can’t help but chuckle at himself.

“I know, you don’t believe in that sort of thing, but you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I get it.”

“What are you going to do now?”

“Well, we’re not getting another cat if that’s what you’re implying.”

“No, that’s not what I meant, but if I can be honest, there’s no other cat that can replace me.”

“You got that right.”

“What I had meant was, what are you going to do now about your next match with Trixie Bordeaux?”


Randall looks at Fred in a bit of disbelief at that question.

“What? I can’t ask about that?”

“You can, but that should be the least of your worries.”

“Look, just because I’m not alive anymore doesn’t mean I still can’t care about your wrestling matches. I know how much that has meant to you and how this Trixie can’t be underestimated. She’s a former trios champion, and now she’s the X Champion, having won the KODM this year.”

“Thanks for the reminder.”

“Sorry.”

“Nah, it’s okay. I get what you’re saying. I know I can’t overlook this one despite my current outlook on wrestling these days.”

“Well, if you always expect the worst, the worst will usually be the end result.”

“What else should I expect then?”

“Nothing.”

“What?”

“Why do you still do this stuff after all these years?”

“I don’t know.”


There’s another moment of silence.

“Hey, is any of this real?”

“I don’t know.”

“Oh, well, it doesn’t make much sense.”

“Nothing makes sense.”

“Hey, I know I already said it, but I’ll miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too.”


Randall glances over to his left again, and Fred is gone.

He doesn’t know for sure if that was real or not, but he knows he won’t stop from fighting to win. He still expects the worst outcome, but that won’t stop him from trying to prevent it from happening.

Trixie may be on the top of the world right now, but pretty soon, it’ll all come crashing down.

Maybe it’s about time The Wildcard gives Trixie a little preview of that.

Do it for Fred.
 

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Trixie didn’t really know what she was going to feel when she won the King of the Deathmatch tournament and became the FWA X Champion. After all, for basically her entire life, the thought of achieving such a monumental feat was but a pipe dream for someone who had never excelled at anything. She had always been an ordinary and unexceptional girl… hell, maybe ordinary and unexceptional was too high a praise for Trixie. And yet; this lifelong loser had just accomplished something that no other woman in the history of the world had ever achieved. She had accomplished something that not even her Coven leader and friend Kleio De Santos could…

Trixie had become…

vGJttj_D1CdZ6fxDVnhJCs-biv9ORV0Cvv3RsL7f5UOHFGKizKEEPSBjrZ5QLv7vpdMdmfHxu-ze05tADV3QDj21ZiqA3HJ3-3cR_7_X-fwCrnRAxlW8DWfVtDvx98o4VaLupbOKY7UjKahiEkmyp6c


17th March 2024
Hotel New Otani
Tokyo, Japan
1:42pm


Wjiu-ZVJvTTPSL48rkzZPHQ-UKw6fSkViMIy6hadGZ_NYHJ_CPVpj9y2pe9X2QdA8T1oKsR_2qPEuGc6LsPNbNmQSEp67XWfC-l1YCHLUEYqfA3Ny5pL3YXebYqwHYdtlUV-_97hIrPTjDIAd6XZ3cE

Trixie stood underneath the shower head, her head down as the hot water slowly washed away the blood that had dyed Trixie’s luscious blonde hair red. The water ran down her face and body, stinging Trixie as it came in contact with the many open wounds that covered her ravaged body. Trixie welcomed the pain that the hot water had brought upon her, for compared to how she felt on the inside, the stinging pain felt almost pleasant. It was the only feeling that she was experiencing in that moment that she could understand. Beyond the pain, nothing else made sense. Where was the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment that Trixie felt when she won the Trios Titles alongside Blair and Celestia at Back in Business last year? Where was the rush of excitement she felt when she finally enacted her revenge upon Jeffry Mason on the last Fallout of 2023? Deep down, Trixie knew the answer to these questions. She knew exactly who was responsible for snuffing out any potential joy that Trixie could’ve and should’ve felt in this, her crowning moment…

… Kleio. It was all Kleio’s fault.

Trixie scowled as Kleio’s name and face entered her ever darkening mind. Trixie had made it crystal clear over the past several months that she felt a burning desire to achieve something great on her own, without the aid of The Coven, and yet…

“…that selfish bitch, Kleio. She knew I was about to do something that dwarfed anything that she had ever achieved in her miserable life. She just had to stick her big, stupid nose in, didn’t she?!” Trixie thought to herself, seething as she positioned the tap so that the water was at its hottest, so hot that it felt as though Trixie’s flesh was being boiled.

“She couldn’t just let me have this ONE THING, because that would prove to the whole world that I’m stronger than she EVER WAS! She couldn’t let weak, stupid little Trixie prove herself as the strongest one in The Coven, could she?! NOOoooooOOOOO, she just HAD TO MAKE IT ABOUT HER!!!” Trixie screamed the last eight words aloud as she drilled her fist into the tiled wall in front of her in rage, before letting out a guttural growl as she clasped her fist in pain.

The pain served to weirdly calm Trixie down slightly as she ran her now injured and bleeding hand under the hot water, though she continued to sulk and wallow in the self-pity of her grand, yet not so perfect triumph. Trixie had visions of two championship titles draped over her, with a crown upon her head as she sat on a throne in the middle of the ring as she was crowned “Queen of the Deathmatch”. But, the reality did not live up to her grand imaginings. Celestia had lost Trixie the Trios Championships, a championship that Trixie had earned them after one of her greatest performances in the Trios Battle Royal at Back in Business, and yet her titles are now in the hands of a Halloween mascot, a dumpster dweller and a joke, and it was…

“…all Celestia’s fault. Fucking wimp.” Trixie muttered in contempt of her Coven teammate’s performance at Fight Night.

To add to her lack of Trios title, there was no magnificent ceremony to crown her as “Queen”. Instead the powers that be in the FWA used her big moment to treat her like a joke and cut her celebration short. That brief moment where Trixie may have had even the slightest moment of joy, and it was stolen from her by higher ups that had done nothing but overlook her ever since she arrived in this horrible company. There was no throne. No crown. Nothing. Nothing but a cruel prank designed to make Trixie’s accomplishment seem even more underwhelming than it already felt after Kleio had placed an asterisk over Trixie’s entire tournament when she interfered in her semi-final match with XYZ.

It was clear to Trixie that none of the bosses in the FWA respected her or saw her as the big star she could be… if it was anyone else, they would’ve gotten a big coronation. The FWA would be singing their praises and lauding them as one of the best in the world, but no, not for Trixie. Trixie isn’t important enough to waste the time and money on. Trixie isn’t a big star like Chris Peacock or Jeremy Best, or that washed up old fool Cyrus Truth, who the FWA throws all their time and attention at with no thought to the fact that Trixie is better than all of them. When Trixie declared herself for the KODM tournament on Fallout 038, after she had just beaten the FWA TV Champion in the main event, Tommy Bedlam and Alyster Black interrupted her and stole her moment, and Trixie wasn’t given the chance to respond, because Trixie is seen as a joke next to those guys, even though that wimp Alyster Black couldn’t even make it out of the first round in the KODM, and…

“… Tommy was too much a CHICKEN to even show up and defend his title.” Trixie muttered in contempt.

This fact made Trixie’s triumph even worse in her mind, since she never got to kick Tommy’s bitch ass to win the X Championship. So, all in all, as Trixie stood in the shower, butt naked, battered and bruised, with the exact same amount of championship titles as she had going into that PPV weekend, no crown to go with her status as “Queen of the Deathmatch”, no big ceremony, with the feeling that the FWA bosses made a mockery of her after she had defeated Johnny Johnson in the final, AND with Kleio de Santos having sullied Trixie’s magnum opus with an interference in the semis, she couldn’t help but feel like the biggest weekend of her entire life had been completely ruined… and that she didn’t deserve to call herself X Champion.

Fed up, tired, furious and battered, Trixie switched the water off and stomped sulkily out of the shower. Now, she just wanted to sleep and forget about this absolute disaster of an ordeal for a little while, and so she dried herself off and headed for bed…

… but sleep remained elusive.


__________________________________________


23rd March 2024
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
2:32pm


With a two week break between the King of the Deathmatch tournament and the next Fallout event, Trixie elected to head back home instead of remaining on the same island as her once friend and leader, Kleio de Santos. Trixie and Kleio had engaged in a very public falling out on X (formerly Twitter) in the days following the KODM. Trixie had voiced her frustrations at Kleio interfering in her tournament match vs. XYZ, and had been quite harsh in her comments towards Kleio. Kleio threatened Trixie in response, advising her to remember her place, which the furious young blonde took exception to. What resulted was an argument that ended with Kleio letting Trixie know, in no uncertain terms, that she was OUT of The Coven… and frankly, as of this moment, Trixie couldn’t bring herself to care.

Trixie decided to head home during the two week break between the King of the Deathmatch PPV and Fallout 039 - where she will take on fellow KODM participant Jason Randall - in an attempt to keep herself from tracking Kleio down and driving her skull off a curb, despite her unbridled fury at the Matriarch of The Coven. The last thing Trixie needed in her current physical condition was to wage war on Kleio, who is at 100% after, like Tommy Bedlam, she had chickened out of competing in the tournament. In Trixie’s mind, Kleio knew deep down that, if she competed in the KODM, that she would lose just like she had lost the last one, and the one before that. That’s why Kleio had to stick her nose in and attack XYZ. She wanted to take the credit for Trixie’s victory in the tournament, and she had succeeded in that endeavor. Now, whenever anyone would talk about Trixie’s victory in the tournament, they will talk about how she needed Kleio’s help to get the job done.

-FUJAl9nIj9aEUEleD0HcHNSogxNXAixrya9jXjJJzY8Yype9TwPbVWLR8pgUqBbd5LIW7Db6XPj9MszP34upS28NKCSV4d9y4zkiuGzVK63htwSqRDd5-jpqn_1NDZ8Z2SP0OcxegssafFgGFAflY0

“... Bullshit.” Trixie muttered as she sat on the couch of her brother’s apartment in Baton Rouge, watching the finish of her semi-final match vs. XYZ over and over again.

Trixie had let herself in, since Bret was out somewhere doing god knows what, and so Trixie had attempted to take the time to watch some footage of her upcoming opponent, Jason Randall. But, after watching his loss to Kleio de Santos at Fallout 038, and also replaying the footage of herself and Blair eliminating Randall from the Cage of Death in the KODM opening match, Trix continued to watch her own journey through the tournament. After replaying Kleio’s interference a few dozen times, Trixie finally managed to move past it and skipped ahead to her battle with Johnny Johnson in the final. Trixie enjoyed watching the suffering that she had inflicted on Johnny. He deserved it after bad-mouthing her before their entrances.

She watched as the referee counted to three and handed her the championship… Trixie remembered that, for a brief moment before everything had sunk in, she almost felt proud of herself. Even if it was tainted by Kleio’s actions, this was still going to be Trixie’s big moment…

until…

CRYhkSlhl1kW2_lQDmHqmAZMWuAbO-aa5dEMFUEgtcpYo4AjFUajZYk5Sf814DO8fz3OhtbHOvR2BoPz1PIUV7C5AdiPfpMhD3cxTRv2AV7VPNEtTpDl-N4Q8bcJOAX24iD3a-JtAdswjvq-P310U0s


… and that was it. The show was over. Just like that, Trixie’s big moment, the biggest of her entire life, and she was made to look a complete idiot live on PPV.

Four matches. Trixie had put her body through hell to get to that moment, even with Kleio’s interference tarnishing her achievement… and the FWA bosses chose to make her look like a fool in front of the entire world.

“... no respect.” Trixie muttered as she glared evilly at the TV.

Trixie switched the TV off, which left the room in near darkness, save for a small lamp mounted on the wall. She sat in silence for a moment… Usually, when something was troubling Trixie, she could just talk to one of her Coven friends, but that ship has sailed. With Bret out doing god knows what, and having left her Great-Grandmother Amelie in her dufflebag up in her room, Trixie had no-one to talk to. In a situation like this, Trixie would usually just chat to herself, but well… Trixie had inadvertently killed any chance of that.

Letting out a big sigh, Trixie sparked an idea. She pulled her phone out of her pocket… there was an unread text from Celestia.

dj00tRQyn8KAddUctMtCEKrkNhIMsplMCFfu3EJt08uvGZIz2jArnJjtsVXGIN75RFYXA_bIB81rWKOgdwmT_0owXq3ngMVQE0-Ir9xf8xbnK2jkucfT2eglE6tCIvKjy0j-VqQyW808YnRP-8qS_A0


“You should be apologizing for losing me the Trios titles.” Trixie muttered spitefully to herself, before she activated the camera on her phone and set it to record a video. She took a deep breath and press record.



_1dWQFF3og3qaaORQPilQsLG3Ho3_nAl1PERw7f8Gm5a5cybcDpqopwUB4CuO78zyPcuundvKseIhnyiFpRLPhVL2W4ZalGatvJFL5j3qn9MZqQLcKRqfHeXWtsY3xnWmU0Nokjez5zwnKUnRAzw_bU


Trixie glares into the camera with a terrifying look, made all the more terrifying with the several stitched up gashes on her head and face, along with the slowly fading black eye and swelling on her forehead. She breathes heavy, frustrated breaths for a few seconds before speaking.

“Hello world, my name’s Trixie.” She said, not used to making videos like this. “I’m making this video because, well, I’ve got no-one to talk to, and I need to say this….”

Trixie pauses, trying to collect her thoughts as she seethes. She doesn’t yell, but the sheer venom in her voice makes her seem almost rabid.

“I didn’t want Kleio’s help in the tournament, and I didn’t need Kleio’s help. Put me in the ring with XYZ again and I’ll prove it. Kleio stuck her big, ugly nose where it don’t belong, so next time I see her, if she doesn’t say sorry, I’m gonna rip her nose off and shove it up her big, fat, pimply butt and make her sniff her own farts. I’m done letting her think she can boss me around, or that she’s stronger than me, because SHE’S NOT and SHE KNOWS IT. That’s why she stuck her nose in my match. She knew that I was gonna do something that she was never strong enough to do, and she just couldn’t take it. She couldn’t handle it that the stupid little girl that she brought into The Coven was about to become a QUEEN, because deep down, she’s just a selfish, jealous BITCH.”

Trixie looks downright spiteful as she continues her rant.

“And those big meanies that wanna try to make a joke out of me and cut me off in my CROWNING MOMENT? You think that’s funny, huh? ‘Oh, stupid little Trixie, let's cut her off, hehehe, she ain’t important enough to have a big speech! HehehehehahahaHAHAHA’- WELL I AIN’T FUCKING LAUGHING!” Trixie screams at the top of her lungs in fury, her eyes looking like she may need a few years in a padded cell. “You think you’re safe because you’re my bosses and you can just fire me? You think I won’t do nothin’, huh?... well you’re wrong.”

Trixie glares a hole through the camera, as though she’s looking Jon Russnow or one of the other higher-ups dead in the eyes.

“You’re gonna give me the moment I earned, because if you don’t, then I’m not just gonna beat up everyone you put in front of me… I’m gonna fucking kill them, starting with that Jason Randall dude. I won the King of the Deathmatch tournament. That makes me the QUEEN, so I want my crowning moment! I want my THRONE, I want my CROWN, and I want MY FUCKING RESPECT! And if I don’t get it before my match with Randall, then…”

Trixie pauses as many gruesome ideas pass through her mind.

“... I’m gonna bite his fucking pee-pee off.”

Trixie glares at the camera for a moment as she tries to figure out how to end the recording… After around 15 seconds of Trixie angrily poking her screen, she finally manages to end the video.

1FnOxzsxrZ8dZEItzpqsmR1joPUwg02j6jUz8alXwbniNBpVDAtkvvrYj26Ewqy6gVWrLe5jyYTA2V9zSqSVgjO7Ty7_4quq1-7oljKrykXP3HsUrEUfxLlYo0DOr_gGwx8bGc_8F1UYzK0KcROAQSs


Trixie angrily tossed her phone on the couch, before turning around to head towards the kitchen for a drink, when she is startled damn near out of her socks as she sees her brother Bret, two bags of groceries in hand - which fell out of his hands and crashed to the floor in a heap of mess - as he stared at his fuming, banged up little sister, his jaw damn near touching the floor.

“... uh, Trix… we need to talk about… whatever the hell that was…” Bret said, looking in complete shock at what he had just witnessed.
Trixie, realizing that Bret will definitely NOT understand what has happened to her since the last time he saw her a few months ago, put on her fake, haunted smile, and greeted her bewildered brother.

“Hello, Bret. I missed you so much.” Trixie said in her best impression of who she once was, before moving in and clutching her brother in a big hug. Bret flinched slightly as Trixie approached, but he hugged her back nonetheless, though he had a terrible feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach as he wondered what had happened to his sweet, innocent little sister.

“... I-I missed you too, Trix….”



*GULP*



THE END
 

ETE

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27th January 2024 11:04pm

Tough break Gabs, you were so close. You were incredible out there tonight.

I’ll get Cyrus next time. Bastard still seems to have my number.

You will. You need some company in Japan?

10th February 2024 10:23pm

That was rough, you’ll get him next time. Just an off night.


Hey. You need someone to talk too, I’m here for you. Remember long before all of this I was a huge fan of yours, I still am. You’re Gabrielle. You need someone to talk too, a shoulder to lean on I’m here. I’ll fly out to Japan right now and see you.

You dont have to do that. Give me an hour. Let me get back to the Hotel and have a shower, then call me.

If life was a fairytale then Desmond’s messages to Gabrielle would be entirely sincere. A friend, a ‘business’ partner, a fan reaching out to her knowing that she might be struggling a bit. Her battles with her self confidence and her mental state are well documented, and is what led to her getting involved in his line of ‘work’.

But life isn’t a fairytale, and while Desmond does genuinely care, and only want the absolute best for Gabrielle. He still recognises an opportunity when he see’s one…







“You know I thought about being a Wrestler years ago.” Desmond exclaims as he reclines back into his Sofa.

“mmmhmm.” Is the only reply he gets. It makes him chuckle as he glances downwards.

“But it all looked too painful, think I could have been a Manager though.”

Another “mmmhmm” is the reply he’s afforded. Once again making him chuckle.

“I bet I could cut some great promos. Hey, I could be your Manager, and I just thought of a great promo!” He exclaims. “I’ll show you.”

“hmm?” Is her questioning response this time.

Desmond still chuckles though. Before palming Gabrielle’s head in place in his lap as he leans forward over her and grasps one of the many handheld cameras he always has, and props it up on the coffee table, pointed back at himself and Gabrielle. She outstretches her arms quizzically, bemused at why Desmond is talking about promos at a time like this.

He leans back and releases his firm grip on her head as the camera then live feeds to the TV in front of him. “No that doesn’t work.” He sternly says. Leaning back over top of Gabrielle he adjusts the way the camera is positioned and then sits back. “Ah, still. Listen, just sink down on your knees a bit more.”

Gabrielle slides her head back, freeing herself of his appendage and then looks up at him. “What? I don’t understand.”

“My promo idea, just let me show you. You just need to be out of view a bit more.” He gestures at the camera, Gabrielle’s gaze following his hand. “Its not being uploaded anywhere, let me do this.”

Gabrielle rolls her eyes, but sinks down a bit lower between his legs as she kneels on the floor in front of him. He then leans over once again and adjusts the camera again before sitting back satisfied. He runs a hand through her brunette hair and guides Gabrielle back to his crotch where she can resume bouncing her forehead off his abdomen.

“Perfect!” Desmond moans as Gabrielle’s dark brown locks can only just occasionally be seen in the bottom of the camera’s view.

“Okay, okay…so this is our promo. Camera starts rolling…and GO!” Desmond exclaims blissfully as he claps his hands together loudly, startling Gabrielle who grunts out loudly.

“Oh…I guess everyone is expecting to see Gabrielle right about now…” He smirks gleefully. “What with this being a Gabrielle promo and all.”

He relaxes back completely into that Sofa. “Well…you see the thing is…she’s quite busy right now. But rest assured she’s working really HARD, and she’ll be working really LONG. She’s a committed girl that Gabrielle, when she sinks her teeth into…no…no!”

Desmond breathes a sigh of relief as Gabrielle can ever so slightly be heard giggling, though its muffled.

“See when Gabrielle takes something on, she takes it on DEEP! And right now she’s doing some…breathing exercises, and stamina workouts. Its really quite impressive. And I’m sure she’d love to be telling you all right now just how badly she’s going to kick some jabroni’s ass…but her mouth is kind of full right now. Very full actually.”

Desmond grins at that ‘witty’ comment. “But I guess if you all really want to hear from Gabrielle the Goddess, the Divine Diva, the Caramel Champion, the Sinful Siren, the the Queen of the Queendom, the Princess of Perfection, the Empress of…Eating Dick…we could try. Gabs…anything you want to say to your fans?”

Desmond runs a hand through her hair, and makes sure to tussle her brunette curls into view.

“ggggggggguggggggg. Is the only muffled response she can muster.

“She’s too busy, her mouth really is stuffed guys.” Desmond is beaming with pride at that comment. “But I’ve known Gabrielle for years, and I know just what she’d say…she can take it all! No matter what you try she’ll take it and CUM back for more.”

He loosens his playful grasp of her hair, and Gabrielle slides her head into view, glancing back at the camera for a moment she cant help but smirk and shake her head. “Not bad Des.”

“That could make it past the PG rating, we don’t see anything. Just the back of your head.” Desmond excitedly tells her. Before Gabrielle can chime in any further he continues. “And I figure every great Manager needs a dastardly move right?”

“Yeah…” Gabrielle replies.

“Well I’ve got the perfect one. I call it the Klaw with Mandible Claw.”

“That’s not very catchy.” She retorts with a playful laugh.

“Okay, okay. I’ll think up a better name later. But let me show it too you”

“Okaaay…you know what you’re doing?” She asks somewhat apprehensively.

“Oh yes, I know exactly what I’m doing here.” Desmond states quite bluntly. “It’s a two fold submission move…The Klaw…” As he says that he grips the back of Gabrielles head firmly.

Gabrielle looks up at him, kind of unimpressed, and then cuts him off before he can speak up again. “And the Mandible Cl-gggggg…”

Desmond applies the Mandible Claw as well on Gabrielle, though apart from the initial invasive insertion of his fingers in her mouth the hold now seems to have little effect on her. Gabrielle kneeling there as Desmond sits before her, both looking kind of awkward now. “So…maybe what we were doing here was actually training. This has no effect on you.”

Gabrielle nods her head in agreeance as Desmond stops applying The Klaw with Mandible Claw.

“What the fuck is on your fingers…whats that taste?” She demands.

“Cream cheese.”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“I had a snack earlier.”

“…”

“Listen Gabs…you’ve had my dick in your mouth for most of the last 10-15 minutes, you really going to complain about some cream cheese?”

“…” He’s got a point there Gabrielle cant help but think.

“Before you say anything else…” Desmond chimes in. “I need to get in the right mindset, a Manager cant have a cool Finisher move like that. I have to start over as a Wrestler.

“Start over as a Wrestler?”

“I have to cut a promo.” He states. “So…” He gestures down with one hand, as he reapplies The Klaw with his other hand.

Gabrielle slides down, until only the top of her head is visible in that camera Des still has set up. In time she’ll come to realise the control this man still wields over her. But right now she’s still having fun, and she needs it. “Oh no the Klaw, its unstopa-gggggg.”

Desmond pushes her head down and quickly Gabrielle resumes bouncing her chin off of his balls.

“Listen here.” Desmond begins. “I’m Dirrty D with the Big D. Don’t believe me ask Gabrielle. Oh…she’s a little busy right now, she cant talk, she’s dealing with a real mouthful.”

He pauses for dramatic effect, letting the back of her head ever so slightly bob in and out of view of that camera. “Dirrty D getting the Hall of Famer on her Knees, The Klaw cant be stopped can it?”

“nnnnhmmm” Is her response.

“One by one all the Wrestlers of the FWA will wind up just like Gabrielle!” He states quite proudly.

Gabrielle though, is a little amused by his wording, so after she dislodges him she chuckles and looks up into his eyes with a taunting smirk. “Des…I didn’t know you swung that way.”

“What?” He stammers. “No, I meant like everyone will bow before me! Not like that.”

Gabrielle just chuckles further.

“New idea.” He states before helping a nearly naked Gabrielle up to her feet, he leads her around to the other side of the coffee table, where they have a bit more room and he pushes her back down on her knees. With little more than Stiletto heels, some jewellery and a very mini, mini skirt adorning her body Desmond spins that camera around to face her.

“Des…” Gabrielle interjects. “I’m not filming a porno.” She states as she looks up at him kind of sternly.

“Its my promo.” He retorts. “Trust me, this isn’t porn, I just have a new idea.” He smiles down at her until she smiles back at which point he bends her over, pushing her down onto her hands. He adjusts the camera again, the beautiful features of her face taking precedence in its lens. “Now…let’s say we’re fucking. You’re on all fours, and I’m taking you to pound town doggy style.”

“Yeah…”

“But we film it like this, maybe you cant really see whats going on, like this…” He gets in behind her, dropping to his knees and resting a hand on the small of her back. “See, you cant see anything.” He says as he swings his hips back and forth a few times, with the sound of his hips slapping off her ass echoing in the room.

“So your promo…is just me getting fucked?”

“But you don’t see really anything okay. Just play along, we're not even really fucking, get into it, you’ll see.”

Before she can reply again, he clears his throat, and grabs her waist with both hands. “Dirrty D back at it again. Taking the FWA by storm week after week, night after night. I cant be stopped!” At that final word he brings a hand off of Gabrielles waist and then firmly brings it down on her ass, a loud ‘SMACK’ sound stinging the air as much as it stings Gabrielle.

“UH!” She groans.

“That wont do, you’ve got to like back me up when I do that.”

“I…wait…okay. I get it.”

He lifts her little skirt up off her ass a bit before starting over. “Dirty D, the FWA’s newest sensation, Pro Wrestlings BIGGEST new Star.” On cue he spanks Gabrielle hard again, another loud ‘SMACK’ eliciting a response from Gabrielle.

“The biggest Dirrrrty D!” Gabrielle purrs.

“I do this shit every damn night…literally!”

“That’s gross, are you really talking about my sh-.”

‘SMACK’

“Every night Dirrrty D!”

“I’m always at this, scaling to the top of the FWA, I’m standing tall over former Champions.”

‘SMACK’

“Don’t stop Dirrty D!”

“I can’t be stopped. I’m going to be here for as LONG as it takes!”

‘SMACK’

“So long!”

Desmond reaches a hand out and grasps a handful of Gabrielles luxurious brunette hair. “I know it wont be easy, everything in the FWA cant be as easy as she is.” He says as he firmly pulls on her hair.

“Oh Fuck!”

‘SMACK’

“I’m easy.” Gabrielle exclaims. “Was that better?”

‘SMACK’

“I’m easy.”

“And I’m HARD!” Desmond states. “dealing with me is going to be ROUGH for everyone else in the FWA. I’m just going to keep coming, I mean CUMMING until I get everything I want. I’ll train for it every day. An FWA Hall of Famer is at my use and I’ll learn every trick she knows…”

'SMACK’

“…” Gabrielle doesn’t say anything, unsure what he expects her to contribute at this exact point.

‘SMACK’

“I’m cumming?”

‘SMACK’

“I’m still easy?”

‘SMACK’

“Harder Diiiiiirrrtttty D!”

‘SMACK’

“Fuck my ass is sore!”

Desmond chuckles, then releases his handful of her hair as Gabrielle giggles.

“What do you want me too say?”

“Dirrty D is DEEP in my Hall!”

“Really?”

He just nods his head, and then brings his opposite hand down on her other ass cheek.

‘SMACK’

“Dirrrty D is so DEEP in my hall!” Gabrielle exclaims.

“Dirrty D, and his girl Dirrtier Double D’s are taking over the FWA. She went far a-HEAD, getting a-HEAD, even giving HEAD. And now on her BACK I’ll ride her HARD work, I will CUM along behind her and everyone will soon know my name…”

‘SMACK’

“Dirrty D!”

“And everyone in the FWA who opposes me will wind up just like Dirrtier Double D’s has!”

‘SMACK’

“…” No reply from Gabrielle, other than a growing giggle.

‘SMACK’

“Ow, the same spot!” Gabrielle hollers. “Des, that just didn’t sound right, you want to bend everyone in the FWA over and fuck them?”

“What?” He exclaims. “No, no, no! I mean they’ll be dominated and sore!”

The two of them share a laugh for a moment. Gabrielle goes to sit up but Desmond rests a hand on the small of her back. “That was my promo…you might want to turn the camera off now…”​
 
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The ScapeDubb

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BRYAN BAXTER

In

WAFFLES

49mtK6QQRBvzOkUtlahwMdG6jHUvxUkgAWV_80VtL6dxqgoBPmfNNOTUl5DHNqo7NUq5Xaw-aTp7QmZ3iyoK2QtPNrS7nCW_QcSJZ8CrPgJKx1njndcoA8uq8DdSL4XuNVNYAG_2iiRr9zRRFgQ1Md8




Click here for a Bryan Baxter Promo
“Hey! What do you think you’re doing?”

“Butt out of my business Poindexter. This is my house, you can’t question me.”

“Si, he has a point, senor.”

“Okay, but… what is that? What are you doing to him?”

“None of your damn business! Now get outta here.”

“I’m calling Jeremy.”

“Jeez,such a tattle tale. Let’s just say… Bryan has lost his way. And I gotta help him get back on track.”







Bryan Baxter found himself sitting in Uncle’s Diner, a quaint little restaurant with checkered tablecloths and a nostalgic feel. Now Bryan had never been to this establishment before. He only knew it was Uncle's Diner due to the signage around the building. He couldn't shake off his confusion. He had no idea how he got there.

As he stared blankly at the menu, a waitress approached him with a friendly smile.

"Are you ready to order, sir?" she asked, her pen poised over her notepad.

Bryan's eyes darted to the menu in front of him, "Oh... uh... right... uhhh," Bryan wasn't sure how long he had been sitting there but however long it was he hadn't even bothered to look at the menu. "I guess I'll have the steak omelet."

The waitress grimaced slightly. "Are you sure about that?"

"Uhh," Bryan expressed confusion. He doesn't typically get questioned when ordering his food. "Yes?"

"Eeehhhhh... I don't think you are."

"Okay... then how about the uh.... scrambled eggs with bacon?"

The waitress just shook her head. "Nope. That's not it."

Bryan huffed as his frustration grew. "Okay, before I read off everything on this menu... how about you just tell me what I should order then."

"Ahh! Well, the waffles are the specialty here."

"Fine. I'll take the waffles."

"Wonderful choice!"

Before Bryan could respond, the bell above the door chimed, and in walked Kristy Vance. Relief washed over Bryan as he saw her. Perhaps this was what this was about. He was meeting them for breakfast. Well, except Audrey wasn't with her. Bryan and Kristy hadn't done anything by themselves since they started trying to do this whole "co-parenting" thing with Audrey. "Hey!" Kristy said cheerfully, "sorry I'm late!"

Bryan was even more caught off guard when Kristy walked across the diner and proceeded to plant a deep kiss right on his mouth. As she pulled away, Bryan's jaw dropped.

What in the world was going on? He didn't even know if there was a possibility they'd ever be "a thing" again or get a platonic kiss on the cheek... much less whatever that just was.

But to Kristy, it seemed just as casual as her greeting.

"Are you okay?" Bryan said with concern. Maybe she hit her head on the way here.

Kristy waved off his question. "Of course, why wouldn't it be?" she replied nonchalantly as she glanced over the menu. "I hear the waffles are to die for here."

Bryan pinched himself. Maybe he was dreaming. That was the only logical explanation for any of this.

"Ugghh," she groaned, "your silence is telling, Bax. You can see right through me. I didn't think I was being so obvious."

"What? No, it's not—" Bryan started, but Kristy interrupted him.

"It's Jeremy," she blurted out.

Jeremy? What did he have to do with anything? They haven't even interacted since they reunited... or whatever it is that they've been doing. "What about him?"

"C'mon, Bax. We've talked about this. There's something off about him. He gives me the heebie-jeebies," Kristy explained, an uneasiness in her voice.

Right, there must be old feelings still boiling over. Bryan remembered now that Kristy never really liked Jeremy. This was making more sense now. She must be wanting to meet with him privately to talk about his association with the Friendship Wrestling Alliance. Bryan had to admit that he sometimes felt like he didn't quite fit with the group. He was certainly one of the least friendly people you'll ever meet. But he had a loyalty to Jeremy. "Yeah... I know, I know. But I owe him everything."

Kristy leaned in, her expression serious. "I just don't trust him. And when I'm around both of you, I can't shake this feeling like he's not happy about me being here. Like he's jealous or something."

The confusion returned. This wasn't about the FWA after all? Jeremy was never around them. Not anymore. Not in years.

"I mean... it's like he's possessive about our relationship and I don't know how much more I can take being around him." Kristy sighed. "I just want some alone time with you," she confessed, her voice barely above a whisper. "Maybe we could ditch him tonight and have some fun."

Bryan's eyes met hers. Her eyes expressed some flames of desire. Bryan shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"What? Why do you keep asking that?" Frustration was beginning to become evident in her tone. "Don't you want some time to ourselves to? Or are you just going to keep letting him control everything? Let's kick the third wheel to the side and have some real fun. You know that's what you want, babe."

Bryan hesitated, torn between loyalty and desire. "I'm just really confused," he admitted quietly. Mainly because of the conversation, the situation, and the setting. Okay, so about everything. But while this all seemed to make no sense at the same time, it felt oddly familiar.

“What’s there to be confused about? The guy drives everyone crazy. No one wants to really be around him. Yet somehow you put up with him. And for what? So you two can parade around a two-bit wrestling company as their tag champs? This ain’t the FWA, Bax. It ain’t gonna be. Shit, I know as well as you do… I’ve been goin’ at it just as long as you have and look how far it’s got us. We deserve better. You deserve better. But you’re just content sittin’ behind him because the crowd for some illogical reason actually buys his bullshit act. But maybe if you actually tried instead of ridin’ his coattails - you could do somethin’ yourself. Instead you’re lettin’ him make all the decisions for you. Both in wrestlin’ and in your personal life. And I’m about done with it.”

“What’s.. Going… on…”

It began to click with him. This wasn't the first time they'd this argument.

And not like they've talked about this before.

This EXACT argument. It's happened before.

In the past.

Though he’s certain he’s never been in this diner before. No… this argument didn’t take place in a diner. It took place inside a Mexican restaurant shortly before Jeremy would walk in and join them for dinner. Frustrated, Kristy would storm away from the table and leave Bryan alone with Jeremy for a meal. He could remember Jeremy being oblivious as to why she left so quickly, pondering that perhaps she was having a bathroom emergency.

“This… this isn’t happening.”

“It’s happening, Bax. I’m letting you know I’m tired of how devoted you are to this freak. And it’s not even about me. Sure, I could be selfish and say I want more time with you. Which I do, really I do. But it’s about what you could be doing yourself without him.”

“No.. I mean… this has happened before.”

“Yeah, exactly! I’ve said this all to you before! But here we are.”

“Here are your waffles sir.”

The waitress set a stack of waffles, slathered in butter and whipped cream down in front of him. As amazing as they looked, Baxter wasn’t hungry. He looked up from the plate.

And Kristy was gone.

Bryan rubbed his eyes, trying to make sense of the situation. He looked back down to his plate of waffles and they were also gone.

Instead it was just a menu. Which he stared blankly at.

A waitress approached him with a friendly smile.

"Are you ready to order, sir?" she asked, her pen poised over her notepad.







“Excuse me, Sir?”

Bryan snapped out of it. Where was he? A diner? Uncle’s Diner?

Wasn’t he just here? With Kristy?

“Where’s Kristy?”

“I’m sorry?”

“The woman. She was just here with me.”
“You came here alone, sir.”

“No… she was just here.”

“Well, then maybe she’ll be back soon. Would you like to order something while you wait?”

“Yeah, I ordered the waffles already.”

“Oh, the waffles. Wonderful choice, sir. I’ll get that order right in for you.”

How did he get here? He began to think. What was the last thing he remembered? He remembered losing.

Losing.

Again.

He’d been losing a lot lately.

Or at least not winning especially.

He remembered Peacock. He remembered Price. F1. His chance to get back to the North American Title…

He remembered…

Scorpane.

That lying sack of shit.

He cost him. It was his fault. He gave those brass knux to Peacock. The ones Peacock used to beat him with. Which… ironically were the ones Bryan had used to beat Peacock last year. Okay, maybe karma is a thing.

But it was because of him… it was his fault that his road to the North American Title was that much harder.

“Life is gonna be hard, boy. Might as well get used to it.”

That voice. No, couldn’t be.

Bryan looked up from the table and now sitting across from him was his father. He could already see the disappointment in the face of the large man’s eyes.

“Dad? What are you doing here?” Bryan’s voice was low and quiet. His father was the one person who always intimidated him. He still couldn’t figure out if this was a dream or a hallucination but it all certainly felt real.

"Bryan, we need to talk," he said sternly.

Bryan felt a knot form in his stomach. He knew where this conversation was heading. It was a familiar script that had played out too many times before. "I know what you're going to say," Bryan muttered, his gaze fixed on the table.

His father leaned forward, his eyes drilling into Bryan's. "Do you, now? Because from where I'm sitting, all I see is wasted potential. You could be doing something meaningful with your life, Bryan. Instead, you're throwing it away in that ridiculous wrestling nonsense."

Bryan clenched his fists under the table, the frustration bubbling up inside him. "It's not ridiculous," Bryan responded with a mere whisper.

"I'm sorry? What was that, son? Did you say something."

"I said... it's not ridiculous."

"Well it sure as Hell ain't payin' the bills. Hell, it ain't payin' shit. Me and your mother are payin' everything. And I'm about tired of it."

"You don't get it. It's all I got."

Bryan wasn't sure why he was going along with this argument. This one took place in the living room. Bryan had been watching some wrestling on television only to have his father walk in and shut the television off before uttering those same words, "we need to talk." But Bryan wasn't lying. Wrestling was all he had. Especially back then. He had done exactly what Kristy had said... he had cut Jeremy out of his life. Stabbed his back in the only friend he actually had. And it got him what he wanted. If only momentarily. He had become a champion. A champion of a low level fed that was lucky to get 200 people at a monthly show. But in the end he lost. He didn't hold the title long and his descent into alcohol lost him Kristy too.

So yeah, Bryan had nothing anymore.

Just wrestling.

And he barely had that anymore with fewer and fewer promoters willing to book him.

“Nothing? You could’ve had so much more. If you had just listened to me. I told you to focus on football. That would’ve gotten you a scholarship to college. Then you’d at least you’d have a college education to fall back on. But no… you didn’t want to do that.”

“I didn’t like football.”

“We don’t always do things because we like them, Bryan. We do them because it’s what’s best. For me, it’s about doing what’s best for my family. You should’ve been thinking about your future. But the only thing you care about is yourself.”

Bryan once again felt his fist clenching.

The words stung just as much this time as it did the first time he had heard them. And it certainly didn’t make it any less true. But he could feel his anger boiling up because Bryan knew what happened next.

“Look, you’re a grown ass man now. You’re an adult. You don’t have to listen to me. I get that. But your mother and I also don’t have to keep paying your bills and we certainly don’t have to give you a place to live anymore. So either drop this unattainable dream of wrestling and let me get you a real job. I can pull some strings and get you in on one of the construction projects my company is working on.”

Unattainable?

Look at me now, Dad. I made it. Not only did I make it to the FWA but I’ve been successful. I’m a former champion!

Former…

But none of that was thanks to him.

Because that ultimatum really gave Bryan not much of a choice. He had agreed because he had to. But he should’ve kept trying. He should’ve tried harder. Not standing up to his father proved to be a huge setback for him. Who knows, maybe he ended up in the FWA years earlier if it wasn’t for walkin away that day.

“No.”

His father’s eyes squinted, clearly not expecting that answer from his son. “Excuse me? Did you just say no?”

“I’m not doing this again. I’m not making that choice again.”

“Again? What are you talking about, son? See this is the problem, you’ve already taken one too many blows to the head.”

“Is this what this is about? Am I reliving moments from my past… things I should’ve done different? Is this what this is all about? Because I should’ve told you fuck off! I should’ve walked away. I should’ve kept going. Because whether you like it or not, Dad, I did make it. I became something. I was a champion at the highest level.”

“Was? Typical.”

“AAAAHHHHHHH” Bryan let out a cry of frustration, standing up and slamming his fists down into the diner table.

“Whatever all this is… I’m stopping it. I am not doing this. I’m leaving.”

As Bryan stood up, his heart pounding with frustration and confusion, he made a beeline for the exit. However, before he could make it to the door to exit the diner, the waitress quickly came over, blocking the door.

"Is everything okay, sir?"

"Outta my way, I'm leaving."

"But your waffles... they are ready. You must try the waffles."

"I said I'm leaving," Bryan repeated, trying to push his way past the dainty waitress. But as he reached for the door handle, his hand froze in mid-air. The door wouldn't budge. He tried again, putting more force into it, but it remained stubbornly locked.

"What the fuck? It's locked. Why is it locked from the outside?"

"Sir, please calm down. Your waffles are ready. Why don't you come back to your table and enjoy your meal?"

Bryan's temper flared even more. "I don't want waffles! I want to leave! Let me out of here!"

The waitress maintained her calm demeanor, gently placing a hand on Bryan's arm. "Sir, please, let's not make a scene. You are disturbing the other customers."

Bryan looked around the empty diner. "What other customers?!" Bryan's frustration turned into incredulity. Was this some kind of joke? Was this some type of FWA practical joke show?

"Please sir. Your waffles," the waitress motioned to the table. Her hand led his eyes back to the familiar table where the stack of waffles smothered in whip cream once again sat in the same spot he had been sitting. But now the table was once again empty. His father was nowhere to be seen, much like Kristy before him.

Bryan sank back into his seat, running a hand through his hair. Was he trapped here? How could he wake up from this awful dream?

"See? Isn't that better? Just take a moment to relax and enjoy your meal."

He reluctantly gave in. If he's here he might as well enjoy these waffles that this lady won't stop talking about. Grabbing the fork and knife off the napkin by his plate, Bryan proceeded to cut into the waffle. He got one delectable bite on his fork and brought it up to his mouth, closing his eyes as he prepared to taste the sweetness of the syrup and cream. He could imagine the richness of the butter melting across the warmth of the waffle.

He bit down.

CLINK.

Nothing but metal.

"God damn! These waffles are great!"

Bryan Baxter opened his eyes. He knew who was going to be sitting across from him this time.

Mr. Bill Scorpane had joined the table. Bryan's former agent now sitting across from him, his large frame barely contained by the leisure suit he was wearing. The plate of waffles had magically moved from Bryan over to Bill, the burly man holding the fork that Bryan once held. It was now empty as well, but because Scorpane was chewing that bite himself. "You gotta try these."

"So I've been told," Bryan muttered.

"Haha! Nice to see you too, old pal!"

Of course, Bryan was not happy to see Bill. He wondered which conversation was going to play back for him here. Like his own personal memories on display as some sort of show. Maybe the time when they first met. Bill bailed Bryan out of jail, telling him he needed to clean himself up if he wanted to make a name for himself. Or maybe the time he convinced Bryan to weasel his way back into Jeremy's life? Or maybe it was the most recent argument when Scorpane wanted to come crawling back after aligning himself with the Nephews last year.

"Nah, it's none of those things."

Bryan's eyes shot open wide. "What?"

"I said this is none of those things."

"What things?"

"The things you were thinking. In fact, this isn't any memory at all. Or past conversation."

"What the fuck is going on. What are you doing here? Where am I? What have you done to me?!" Bryan slid his chair back, now standing up and leaning across the table to grab Scorpane by the collar of his sports jacket.

"Easy there big fella," Scorpane said calmly, despite his precarious position. "You don't wanna make her mad," Scorpane motioned his head in the direction of the waitress. She watched on, tapping her foot in obvious frustration.

"Her?"

"Yeah, trust me on this one."

"Fine," Bryan released Scorpane. "I mean you're not even real anyway. If I'm gonna kill you it might as well be you."

"That's the spirit!"

"So I'll ask again... what are you doing here? Did you bring me here?"

"Uhh, sorta? I guess you could say that. Where is here exactly? That's a bit harder of a question to ask."

"Stop bullshiting me, Bill."

"Fine. I swiped some of the Nephews technology on my way back. This is one of their little simulations."

"Simulations? What the fuck are you talking about?"

"Well, my boy, you're reliving moments in your life, right? Moments in your life that sent you on paths that quite frankly, ended up being the wrong ones. And why is it that you went down the wrong path? Because you had people in your life that you listened to. People in your life guiding you. People in your life... telling you... what to do. It's almost as if you haven't gone a single day in your life without making a decision for yourself. Do you always need someone to tell you what to do, Bryan?"

"Isn't that what you do? Tell me what to do? You're no different than anyone else."

"Ah ha! You're not wrong. And here I was thinkin' you were the dumb one of the Buddy System. No, no, Bryan... you're absolutely right. But the difference between me and everyone else who has led you astray in your life... is that I'm the one that's right. I'm the one that has led you down the path to success. To fame. Fortune. Riches....."

"Championships."

"Exactly! Championships! Well, championship! Singular. For now anyway. I have been the one to believe in you."

"Bullshit. You brought me in to be Jeremy's heavy. To cheat for him. To do whatever it took to make sure HE kept winning. You never thought I would start winning as well."

"Ooooh OH! Bryan! You are so fucking smart! You got me again. Fine. But, did it work out for you or not?"

"It did. Until it didn't."

"You need me, Bryan. That's what this simulation is showing you. That you need someone in your life who is going to actually lead you in the right direction. You still have a chance to get your title back. You should've beaten Peacock..."

"No thanks to you."

"You lost because you didn't have me in your corner."

"I lost because YOU gave my opponent the brass knuckles!"

"No, you lost because you took your eye off the ball. Don't deflect your recent lack of success on me. I wasn't there against Xavier or Mitch Pair, now was I?”

Bryan opened his mouth to respond, but he had no defense.

“Mmhmm. That’s right. And now you’re running out of time Bryan. The clock is ticking. Do you want the North American title back or not? Because the next loss… It's game over. And standing in your way is none other than the woman who beat you last year. The woman you’ve never been able to beat. You lost to her in the F1 and you lost to her at Carnal Contendership for the tag titles. Let’s face it, Bryan. She has your number.”

“I’m not gonna let it happen again.”

“You won’t. And that’s because you’ll have me in your corner.”

“Why would you want to help me now? You’ve been running around with the Nephews for the last year. Michelle is a Nephew, right?”

“C’mon Bryan, you know me better than that!”

“Yeah, I know you’re a piece of shit.”

“Ouch! Let’s just say me and the Nephews didn’t really work out. I thought galavanting with them across the universe would be more… interesting. But they barely ever utilized me in any of their adventures. So I was mostly sitting around drinking beers and offering beers to others… which was fine… not a bad way to live I suppose. But on the bright side, I did get to learn a lot about the Nephews… I know their weaknesses….”

Scorpane leaned in with a wicked grin.

“I know how you can beat Michelle.”

Bryan leaned back in his chair, eyeing Scorpane with suspicion. "You expect me to trust you after everything you've done? You're literally a used car salesman, Bill. You'll say anything to try and get your way. I've bought into your bullshit in the past and I've seen the way you've treated people who supposedly trust you. How do I know you're not just setting me up because the Nephews sent you to play with my head."

Scorpane chuckled. "I suppose that's a fair thought. But really, what use do they have for me? They keep me around just for the occasions where one of them has a match against you? Seems like a lot of work for one person."

"The Nephews are a unique group. Who knows what lengths they'll go."

"Don't be stupid, Bryan. We both need this. With the Nephews I was hidden in the background... with you, I'm out there... basking in the glory. When you win, I win. It's as simple as that. Yeah, it's about me just as much as it is about you. I'm not gonna sit here and lie to you. I am a selfish person. But so are you. Or at least you used to be. And it's time to be again. So let's do this again. Let's go back out there and win back your title. You know people love a good redemption story... and this can be ours."

Bryan mulled over Scorpane's words, leaning forward and rubbing his forehead with his right hand. His head started to hurt from the war going on inside it between wanting to accept the offer and his distrust of his former agent. He did want this. He wanted to beat Michelle. He wanted another shot to redeem himself against either Peacock or Parr in the finals and get back the title he held for over a year. Baxter's motto has always been to win by any means necessary. And perhaps...

No, fuck this guy. Why does he deserve a second chance?

Scorpane, once again somehow able to hear the inner turmoil going on in Baxter's head, once again let out a chuckle. "I suppose I can't blame you for being skeptical. Maybe you need a little more persuasion. Maybe you need to see how little people really care about you and your best interest. Even the ones you feel so much loyalty to... maybe you should be questioning just how much they are looking out for you. Or is it really all about them? But just remember... when I bailed you out of jail... were you really someone who deserved a second chance?"

Bryan shook his head. Was this a mistake? No, he was right. Trusting Scorpane was a risk he was not willing to take.

"Hey! Waitress lady! Where's this guy's waffles?"

"What? I thought this was over..." Bryan objected.

"Oh you're just beginning, my boy." Scorpane laughed, taking another bite of his waffle.

Bryan turned to the waitress as she began to make her walk over with a plate of waffles. "No! Please, I don't want the waffles!"

"Don't be silly, sir. Our waffles are the best in the universe."

"Look I don't give a... did you say universe? What is going on..."

Bryan turned back around and found himself once again sitting at an empty table.

“Excuse me, Sir?”

The waitress once again stood behind Bryan, her pen poised over her notepad. The plate of waffles she had been carrying mere moments ago was nowhere to be seen. “Are you ready to order?”

“Go fuck yourself.”

“Excuse me. That is rude!”

“Yeah well, you’re not real. None of this is real. So just fuck off and let me out of here.”

“Sir, if you’re going to be so rude, I’m going to have to do something I’ll regret.”

Bryan narrowed his eyes at the waitress. “Was that a threat?”

The waitress simply smiled back at Bryan. “Maybe.”

“Come on, Bryan, don’t be so rude to this nice young lady. She’s just doing her job.”

Bryan breathed out with a sigh of relief. The voice belonged to his friend and tag partner, Jeremy Best. He turned around to face his friend, who himself had a plate of waffles, enjoying them with a big goofy grin on his face.

“Jeremy, I’m so happy to see you here.”

“Always happy to share a meal with a friend!”

Unlike the other meetings he had experienced in Uncle’s Diner thus far, he and Bryan never really had arguments. So this should be a much more pleasant exchange to remember. Though he wondered why this would be part of Scorpane’s simulation if it wasn’t going to fuck with his head some more.

“So… uh… what’s up, buddy?”

“I just wanted to thank you.”

“Thank me? For what?”

“For being here for me. And I know I’ve been distant lately… I’ve had a lot on my mind… because… well… you know the whole Krash thing…”

Bryan began to realize what this was…

“But… you won’t believe it Bryan… but… I know where Krash is.”

“Right, Krash…”

Of course, Bryan knew all this already. Bryan had been surprised to be invited to lunch with Jeremy on that day. They hadn’t talked to each other over the previous couple of months. Jeremy had been so obsessed with tracking down and finding Krash and Bryan had been on a roll in FWA including winning the North American title.

“I did it, Bryan. Everyone said it was impossible! Everyone told me I was crazy to try! Everyone was sure he was dead and gone. But he’s not! I mean… he’s in really, really bad shape… but we can fix that, Bryan.”

Jeremy was just as giddy here in the diner as he was the day he told Bryan all about his plan. His plan to save Krash.

“And just in time for Back in Town, huh? How convenient.”

“I know! It’s perfect! Everyone’s going to be so excited… but we have to do it right. There has to be the perfect amount of suspense. That’s why… I think…”

“I should bring him out and act like I found him for you?”

“Yes! You read my mind! People will be like… oh what a great friend Bryan is to Jeremy! That’ll get them to cheer you for sure.”

Jeremy had always been more interested in fan reaction than Bryan ever was. He was used to the boos. It didn’t really bother him. But Jeremy really wanted Bryan to be cheered too. See, Bill, Jeremy was looking out for Bryan.

“Whatever I can do for you, Jeremy. You know I have your back.”

“I’m glad you said that, Bryan. Because… the next part of my plan… well… it’s something that hurts me to say. Because, well, when I found Krash and I tried to talk to him… something wasn't right. And I think when we bring him out at Back in Town… he may not be himself. It pains me to see him this way, you know. It might take… some extreme measures to help him.”

“Extreme measures?”

“Yes. We may need to keep him away from people like Alyster Black and Violet Dryer… they aren’t gonna understand what needs to be done. But…”

“You need my help with the ‘dirty work?’”

Jeremy smiled with another mouthful of waffles, confirming Bryan’s question. Hearing the words come from his mouth, Bryan realized what Mr. Scorpane was going for here.

That’s what Bryan was. The one who did the dirty work. The one willing to get his hands dirty. Even as the North American Champion, when he was around Jeremy… that’s all he was. He wasn’t viewed on the same level as Jeremy. Jeremy was the ‘star’ of the show. It’s why Scorpane brought him in to begin with, after all. And despite Jeremy’s insistence that he was more than that, here Jeremy was… using Bryan for exactly that.

Because at Back in Town, Bryan would do just that. As expected, Krash was in bad shape. He had no idea where he was. He didn’t even recognize Jeremy. And so, Jeremy gave the word. And Bryan violently assaulted Krash. They carried Krash off and held him captive for six months. Jeremy was the mastermind but the blood was on Bryan’s hands.

And since then, Jeremy has main evented Back in Business and gone on to win the World Title.

Bryan does the dirty work.

Jeremy gets the glory.

“Yeah, I guess that’s all I’m good for,” Bryan finally responded.

Jeremy tilted his head, confused by Bryan’s response. “What? No, of course not! You’re my friend, Bryan. And I appreciate your loyalty.”

Bryan felt a bitter taste in his mouth. He had always been there for Jeremy, doing whatever it took to support him, even if it meant crossing lines that Jeremy wasn't comfortable with. Because who was Bryan? A former drunk. A guy Bill Scorpane brought out of the gutter. A guy who was a nobody. And when he’s with the Friendship Wrestling Alliance, he was a nobody. It’s the Jeremy show.

So now, sitting in this surreal diner, facing the truth of his role in their dynamic, Bryan couldn't help but feel a sense of resentment.

“Of course, Jeremy. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you…”

“And look at how much we’ve done together! And how much we are gonna do together! We are making the FWA a better place. A friendlier place.”

“That’s your goal. What about me? What about what I want?”

“What do you mean? You want the same thing.”

“Do I? Have you ever even asked what I want?”

“Hmmm,” Jeremy tapped his finger on his chin, “I’m sure I have. But this isn’t how our conversation went. You agreed to do what needed to be done and we were both just happy to be working together again.”

“I mean it when I say I owe being here to you. I’ve made some bad choices in my life… but we both know I’m the odd man out in the Friendship Wrestling Alliance.”

“Friendship Wrestling Alliance?” Jeremy questioned, Bryan realizing that they hadn’t rolled out that name yet at the point this conversation had happened. “What a wonderful idea for the name of our group! You’re so full of great ideas, Bryan! See, you’re more than just a grunt!”

Bryan sighed. There was no point in arguing with a figment of his past. A memory in his subconscious.

“Congratulations, Bill… you’ve made your point. You’ve fucked with my head. You have me questioning everything… bravo. Fucking bravo.” Bryan gave a sarcastic applause, which seemed to catch the attention of the waitress who now walked over.

“Is everything okay, sir. Are you ready to order?”

“Waffles! BRING ME THE FUCKING WAFFLES!” Bryan declared loudly and aggressively.

“What a great choice. Waffles just happen to be our specialty.”

The waitress left and Jeremy was now gone. Once again Bryan was alone.

Or was he?

He looked up from the empty table and found himself staring right across the table… from himself.

He tilted his head and the Bryan in front of him also tilted his head. Bryan lifted up his right arm and the other one did as well.

So now what? A conversation with himself?

Okay, fine, Bryan decided he would play along.

“Couple of assholes sitting at a table.”

“Speak for yourself.”

“So what now? What’s this part of the game, Bill?”

“Do we realize now what he wants?”

“Everyone in our life has tried to control us. Everyone has tried to tell us what to do. Used us. For their own success. For their own happiness. To be something that we’re not. We’ve been crafted into The Bastard… because that’s what we were supposed to be. Right? Was it because we needed to be The Bastard? Or was it because others wanted us to be?”

The waitress walked over and placed the stack of waffles down in front of him. Bryan grabbed a fork and knife.

“We aren’t a puppet, are we?”

“No, we are not. So what do we want?”

“Well, we want the North American Title back. And we gotta beat Michelle and then either Parr or Peacock to get it.”

“Right. And Mr. Scorpane can help.”

“Can he though?”

“Even if he’s just out for himself, he’s useful. Maybe it’s time we started using others for our own gain instead.”

“Or maybe… we don’t need him. We never needed him.”

“Maybe…”

“And why stop with getting back the North American Title. We’ve shown in the past two years… we’re a force to reckon with. We have been more dominant in the ring than even Jeremy. We have the better win-loss record. We’ve beaten former champions. We deserve… we deserve… to be… on top of the FWA.”

“You think…”

“Yes, I think we could be FWA World Champion.”

“But…”

“I’m not talking about turning on Jeremy. I did that before… it didn’t work out well for me. But he won’t be champion forever. And I think it’s time we started thinking for ourselves. We started seeing what we are really capable of. Just imagine… what people have seen so far from Bryan Baxter… is just the beginning. No one pulling our strings anymore…”

Both Bryans looked at one another knowingly.

“There are no strings on me.” Both Bryans smirked.

“Now,” Bryan said as he finally began to bring his fork up off the plate. “Let’s have some waffles.”

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” the other Bryan warned.

“Look, all I’ve heard about this whole time is how great these waffles are. I’m having the waffles.”

“But…”

His expression turned from anticipation to disgust as the taste hit his tongue. There was no sweetness. Instead his teeth squished through the soggy breading, unleashing a disgusting goo into his mouth. Bryan's face contorted in revulsion as a wave of nausea washed over him. He quickly spat the waffle out onto the table. "What the fuck is that? That's not a waffle!"

The waitress dropped a stack of plates she was holding, sending them shattering to the ground. Her eyes grew wide with rage. "What... did... you... say???"

"The waffles. They taste like shit."

The other Bryan's eyes grew wide as well, looking at Bryan... "I warned you. I'm outta here!"

His mirror image disappeared from the table, leaving Baxter unsure about what was about to happen...

The eyes of the waitress began to glow red.

Bryan stood up from his chair, stumbling to his feet as the waitress began to grow. Her skin turned green and tentacles began to emerge from beneath her shredding waitress outfit.

The now ten foot tentacled monster stared down Bryan....







“What’s going on in there? He’s convulsing!”

“This did not go as I expected.”

“End simulation.”

“Is he okay?”

“He’ll be fine…” Scorpane’s voice was clearly frustrated.

“Did it work?”

“I guess we’ll see.”
 

Mandalorian

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Chris Peacock in...

CANNED HEAT




(click on Jay Kay to view the promo)

Chris Peacock in…

CANNED HEAT


一 (いち)

Daisuke was a proud and family-orientated man with a very commendable work ethic. Fifty-eight years old, he had been transporting fare-paying customers around Tokyo for over twenty years after abandoning his promising career as a stockbroker in Tokyo. The change in vocation enabled him greater control over his working hours and as such granted him more time to spend with his wife and two children. Both had completed their studies and were working as a doctor and a schoolteacher. A picture of the nuclear family rested below the Honda’s central console. It served as a reminder to Daisuke of why he continued to work hard despite no longer needing to.

By accepting the flashy American tourist’s request to be driven for six hours across the large Honshu island, he knew that he would not be returning to them that night. A bed in a hotel on the outskirts of Osaka was waiting for him. Given the vibrant and clearly-expensive clothing and luggage possessed by his foreign passenger, he was anticipating a sizable gratuity for the long journey that would cover the cost of his accommodation for the evening as well as fuel for the return journey. The excess would go into the fund that he was putting together for his future grandchildren. The oldest of his offspring, his daughter, was expecting her first child.

During the course of the three hours or so that he had shared the car with the flashy man in the back, scarcely any words had been exchanged. Aside from a dismissive greeting and a command to place his bags in the boot of the car, the man had hardly spoken to the driver. The man in the back had a strange aura about him. He radiated intensity, but it was smattered with angst and nervous energy.

Chris made a point of not returning home to Brooklyn after his victory over Big Bryan Bastard at Fight Night in Tokyo. For the first time since his shoulders were weighed down by carrying a championship on each one, he was on what most would consider “a roll”. Winning three matches in a row was not a new experience to him, but the general undercurrent of elation he was experiencing still felt alien to him. Four heavy losses had taken a deep toll on him. In hindsight, they were necessary and critical for him to realign his goals and what he wanted to achieve in the FWA in 2024. As his eyes flitted across the Japanese countryside with Mount Fuji firmly in the rearview, he reminded himself of his mental checklist;

Win the North American Championship
Beat Michelle to do it
Rub it in her face
FTN reign of terror.

He looked pensively out of the window and told himself that item number four would have to wait until the F1 Climaxxx had concluded. Alyster needed some more time away after King of the Deathmatch. Thankfully though, unlike many other occasions, the best friends had kept in contact with each other despite one of them suffering a setback. Alyster had said that he would be in Osaka to cheer Chris on against Mike Parr, but Chris knew not to pin any firm hopes on that. He understood his partner.

Defeating ‘The Prodigy’ was of course a necessary step to achieving his first goal - it would be impossible without doing so. The North American Championship was Chris’s chance to become a Grand Slam champion. The second and third items on his list were partially out of his hands. It required Michelle von Horrowitz to defeat Big Bryan Bastard and inflict a third consecutive loss on the former North American Champion. He was thoroughly pleased with his victory over the Bastard and cared not that he had received a - possibly inadvertent - assist from Bryan’s former manager and current Nephew Bill Scorpane. What was important to Chris was that he had won.

Of course losing that match against Baxter would have meant that instead of Mike Parr, he would have been facing Michelle a week sooner than he hoped in the Semi-Final of the F1 Climaxxx. He would then of course be able to proclaim a victory over her en route to his Grand Slam has he had idealised. The turn of events that he had found himself in was his preference, though. A grandstand showdown against Michelle is how Chris - and likely Michelle as well - had envisioned this tournament ending. It seemed like the only true ending to the 2024 F1 Climaxxx; the two most successful people in the FWA in the last four years doing battle to see which one would become just the fourth-ever Grand Slam winner in the history of the FWA.

What was crucial for Chris to remember though is that none of his plans would come to fruition if he was unable to advance past Mike Parr. He sat in the backseat of the car he had hired to transport him from Tokyo to Osaka and slowly nodded his head as Cindy reminded him of this fact over the phone when they spoke following Fight Night.

“I know you’re on a high right now, but don’t get ahead of yourself… focusing on the man in front of you has worked for your last two matches. There’s no need to change a winning formula,” she told him in an assertive manner. She had become very comfortable giving Chris advice, and as far as he was concerned, she was yet to lead him astray.

There was no reason to doubt her intentions, either. He was well aware of her affection towards him. Many times he had thought to simply ignore the social constraints preventing their relationship from advancing to the next level. A common thought in his head was that even though there was a fourteen year age difference between them and he was effectively her boss, they wouldn’t be doing anything illegal. Cindy had made it clear that she did not care, because she thought Chris was a good and kind man. It was when she told him things like this that he grew concerned about advancing past a platonic level.

“If you knew me, the real me, you wouldn’t be saying things like that, Cindy.” Chris had told her on another call during his stay in Japan. It didn’t sway her in the slightest. As such, this evident lack of worldly experience affirmed to him that it would be the wrong thing to do to become involved with the beautiful young waitress. Paradoxically, his caring for her feelings and wanting to protect her was evidential of her perhaps being correct about him - even though he knew that he was largely unliked by almost all of those outside of his inner circle.

That same sentiment was held by the man in the front of the car, as well. Daisuke could appreciate that not everyone wanted a friend out of their taxi driver. However, Chris’s rude affront in their initial encounter had soured any potential kinship between the two of them. Occasionally their eyes would meet when Chris glanced into the rearview mirror. Daisuke relaxed his expression when this happened, just in case Chris decided to engage him in conversation. He always ensured to maintain as much professionalism as he could when taking a fare. But no friendly back and forth ever materialised.

But each time he locked eyes with the moustached man in his backseat and was met with dismissive ambivalence, he found himself getting annoyed. There was something about the way that the flashy American carried himself that angered him. He seemed entitled, groaning and tutting each time Daisuke sang a few words along with the song on the radio. Daisuke was as accommodating as he could be to the guest in his vehicle, but was met with nothing but ignorance.

This simmering annoyance came to a head when just outside of the town of Sekigahara in the Fuwa District - just under two hours from Osaka - a loud, whirring sound emanated from the front of the Honda. Both men inside noticed it and exchanged another look in the mirror, this time of shared concern. Daisuke sensibly pulled over and exited the car when it was safe to do so.

Chris watched from inside as the driver popped the bonnet and looked at the engine. Daisuke was engulfed in smoke billowing from the engine. It did not take long for Chris to realise that he was sitting in a car with a burning engine. He rushed out and stood next to the driver.

“What’s going on?” Chris asked, whilst looking into the bonnet. Some of the smoke had dispersed, but he still did not know what he was looking at, “Is it broken?”

Daisuke stuttered his words, not sure what had happened to the car himself, “Yes… I… I… think so.”

There was a moment that Chris looked at the driver with his eyes widened, as if to ask what was going to happen next. He grunted and gasped in an exasperated manner. Instead, Daisuke stood with his hand on his chin and muttered under his breath in his native tongue. Grumbling more, Chris grew quickly frustrated. He looked over his shoulder into the direction of travel and saw Sekigahara not too far away. After one more look in frustration at the driver, he retrieved his belongings from the boot and started walking.

“Where are you going?!” Daisuke called out. He watched as Chris walked towards the town ahead, and then remembered the purpose of their journey, “Hey! You! What about my money?”

Chris Peacock, who absolutely could afford to pay his driver for his time but had no intention of doing so, turned around with a smirk on his face as he walked away, “I’m surprised you don’t know how this works. You get paid if you take me where I want to go.”

“I can get this fixed - it won’t be long!”

The pleas of the abandoned driver were left unanswered. They quickly turned into loud curses in Japanese. Chris could not understand. This did not prevent him from finding some amusement as a result of them.

“Eat shit, pal.”

Chris wheeled his suitcase towards the town of Sekigahara. He wondered what Cindy would have made of that.


二 (に)

Sekigahara would not be considered a large place when compared to other settlements in Japan; it was positively dwarfed by the many city hubs on the island of Honshu. Roughly seven thousand inhabitants were able to sustain themselves with the amenities that one would usually require to abide by modern day-to-day living standards. Most of these amenities were situated on smaller roads which branched off from the three main highways which ran through the town.

It was via walking alongside one of these that Chris entered the town forty-five minutes after abandoning Daisuke at the side of the road. A few drivers on the road had tried to flag him down or expressed their disapproval whilst swerving to avoid him. A day job which involved arena-fulls of people heckling and verbally abusing him had left him with very thick skin. There was nothing that an average Japanese road user could say to him - in a language that he could not speak, mind - that would affect him in any way possible.

Once he had established a footing in the town, Chris’s first destination was the quickest way out of it; the train station. He did want to allow himself the chance to think that being driven from city to city provided, but by this point he had realised that what mattered more was reaching his destination. He could not beat Mike Parr if he could not even make it to Osaka, after all. A comparison could be made to Parr, Chris had realised and the more he thought about it, the more it made sense for him to just take the quickest available route. Chris Peacock, three years, one world title. Mike Parr, nine years, no world titles. Chris’s comfort zone was accumulating accomplishments at a lightning pace. His pursuit of the grand slam in such a short space of time was testament to that.

Taking the long way was definitely closer to Parr’s speed than Chris’s. But there was an interesting facet to their upcoming match; Parr had something that Peacock wanted. Their previous encounters had established the status quo between them and Chris nodded his head in understanding of Cindy’s words about keeping things the same. Things were beginning to click into place, or so Chris thought. When he arrived at the train station, he was surprised to see that the entrance was locked shut.

He shook the doors and they didn’t budge. The station, for whatever reason, was closed. “What happened to all of the trains around here being super efficient?”

Chris’s progress to Osaka had been ground to a standstill. With no trains available to him and his ride no longer available, he sighed. He had no choice but to acknowledge that he was stranded in Sekigahara without an immediate option to leave. Then Chris realised that Allen was already in Osaka and was a phone call away from being able to organise an extraction from this random town. However, there was another problem ready to rear his head. His phone had died. Guess he was staying there for the foreseeable.

Sekigahara had several hotels, the nearest of which being the Masuka Inn, which Chris was directed towards by a homeless man outside of the train station. He felt compelled to give the man something as a way of showing gratitude. But it never occurred to him to think about how little use the man could have gotten from eighty-nine cents and a two-for-one voucher for Dazzling Dave’s restaurant in Brooklyn, New York.

The Masuka Inn was run by a couple in their mid-forties; Akio Tanaka and his wife, Aiko. Business was slow. Online reviews would inform one that this was likely due to how the owners spoke to and treated the guests. The property was immaculate and the prices reasonable, but because of this, Akio in particular demanded a very high standard of cleanliness from his guests. So, there was only one way things were going when Chris trudged in along with his suitcase. Both the man and the luggage were layered in dirt after the walk along the highway. Cars had kicked up debris from the ground as they passed him.

Chris was inside the hotel for exactly two minutes and forty-two seconds before rushing back out onto the street. He could handle Akio shouting in his face - again, Japanese was unknown to him, so he could have been saying anything - but when the crazed owner brandished a mop at him and chased him towards the hotel entrance, he opted to leave instead.

Chris took a seat on the steps outside of the hotel, whilst considering his next move. There were presumably other places for him to stay in the town, but he had no other worthless trinkets to offer his homeless tour guide, nor did he fully remember his way back to the train station, either. He picked up a rock from the ground and tossed it into the road in front of him, watching it bounce haphazardly towards the other side. Life was throwing curveballs at him in a similar vein.

Whilst lying back on the steps and looking at the sky, he heard a large vehicle pull up in front of him. Immediately, he remembered that buses existed and that he would finally have a way out of this town. The elation subsided though when he found a fire engine parked on the road in front of him. The driver was dressed in full firefighter garb, which Chris could see through the window, which rolled down to reveal the man’s face. He was strikingly handsome and had a moustache which made Chris feel instantaneous envy.

“You need a place to stay?”

Chris nodded slowly. The fireman motioned with his head for the outsider to join him in the truck.



三 (さん)

Chris was initially confused when the fireman led him to the fire station in Sekigahara as opposed to another hotel after he had explained all of his setbacks on his way to Osaka. It was fortuitous that the particular firefighter that he encountered was the chief of the firehouse. Krazuchika Montada boasted the most impressive facial hair in the entire town and was universally loved and respected by the people that he served. Serving the people of his town was his primary focus and he expected everyone under his command to perform at their highest possible level. Because they adored him so much, they did.

The fire engine pulled into the hangar-like garage area at the front of the station. Before Montada allowed Chris to exit the vehicle, he cleared his throat loudly and set out the lay of the land, “You can stay here for as long as you need, but when you are here… you are part of the team. I am a person down, so I need the extra help. You do as I say, when I say. Make sure to listen well… I sense a great lack of focus in you.”

That last comment confused Chris greatly. As far as he was concerned, he had his goals in mind and was aware of the necessary steps to take in order to achieve them. All he wanted to do was clear them all as quickly as he could. That is what was going to cement his legacy and position as the best. Better than Michelle, Baxter, Parr and whoever the fuck else would try to incorrectly claim that it was them.

“One more thing,” Montada said as he opened the door and looked at Chris sternly, “Try to make the most of your time here. There could be something here for you in Sekigahara. A lesson to learn. Be mindful of that at all times.”

The last thing that Chris wanted was to have to be on the constant look out for some sort of epiphany or revelation. Doing so was, in his view, a monumental waste of time. He did not believe in the universe sending signs to people and for the most part, things have seemed to just work out for him without the need of some sort of otherworldly intervention helping him along. Any self-realisation that he made about himself in the past happened by circumstance. The last thing he wanted was to be involved in some kind of contrived scenario that was moulded to specifically cater to a life lesson that he needed at that specific moment.

Montada introduced Chris to the rest of the team once they had exited the vehicle together. Chris noted that they were all very different in appearance, age and any other definable metric;

Sairasu Shinjitsu. 57, the most experienced man in the crew. He was gruff, stern, opinionated and took an instant dislike to Chris.
Gaburieru Monto. 32, a beautiful woman who wore nothing but a cropped t-shirt and shorts. She took an instant dislike to Chris.
Danieru Tona. 34, the joker of the pack. He was loud and often made the others laugh. He initially seemed okay with Chris, but quickly grew to dislike him.
Jeremi Besuto. 28, the current firefighter of the month. He was in awe of the chief. He tried to befriend Chris, but was rebuffed.
Misheru Saiaku. 30, a very serious woman who was the smallest in frame. She completely ignored Chris.

The chief showed Chris to the living quarters, where he left his bag. Montada respectfully bowed to Chris and exited to allow him to settle in, but Chris called back, “Those guys downstairs seem to know their shit. You sure that they won’t mind having me around?”

“They are all very skilled. They all possess traits which allow them to succeed. I see it in each of them.”

“Why am I here, then?”

“Your determination, Chris. It is your greatest strength. But do not let it consume you. There was once one other-”

“Look man,” Chris interrupted, “I appreciate what you’re doing for me here, but I don’t need the parable. If you want some help with a fire or some shit, let me know.”

Montada respected Chris’s wishes and went to leave whilst the American unpacked his suitcase onto his bunk. They both froze when a bell from inside the garage loudly rang out. A small smirk formed on Montada’s face as he looked at the panic-stricken outsider, “I’m letting you know now.”

FTN’s entrance at Lights Out meant that Chris was easily able to adorn the firefighter’s outfit that Montada had set aside for him. The others seemed intrigued by how easily he was able to slot into the space that had been left by their previous colleague’s departure. Remembering the time spent with Alyster to customise an out of service fire truck so it would spray synthesised ejaculate over a crowd of people caused Chris to wear a goofy smile as he rode in the back of the vehicle along with the rest of the squad. Besuto drove the rig.

The silent reminiscing of an earlier time caused Chris to let out a small chuckle to himself. It was only heard by the person sitting next to him - Misheru Saiaku. Chris noticed that her face was serious and full of scorn; the mere thought of Chris taking any form of enjoyment from this experience seemed to erode her mood. He screwed his face upon seeing her disdain for himself. He was unsure what he was doing to so outwardly offend her. Was trying to make the best of a bad situation not how humans cope with setbacks?

On the way to the call, Montada addressed the team and informed them of the details of the call; a fire had broken out at one of the restaurants in town. The Teppan Dining Room was considered the best teppanyaki place in Sekigahara. The quality of ingredients used were second to none and customers had the option of grilling their food themselves at their table. An overzealous patron had accidentally caused a malfunction in one of the built-in grills and set the entire table ablaze. The fire was spreading throughout the restaurant, which was just a four minute drive from the firehouse.

Upon arrival, Montada led the team out of the fire engine and they began to mobilise. Before any action could be taken, the chief gathered the group and gave them the low down in their native tongue. Chris hovered at the back of the congregation, exasperated. He had no idea what was being said. If he did speak Japanese, he would have learned that all of the diners and restaurant staff had been evacuated and that the fire was actually under control and unable to spread further, contrary to what he was told when he responded to the call. The team’s instructions were clear; to ensure that the fire remained contained and let it peter out naturally whilst preventing further damage to the property.

Montada turned his back on the group to give them their directions to their respective stations. Chris was supposed to assist Tona in trying to keep the crowd back and away from the fire whilst they kept it under control. However, when the chief turned back to the new recruit and addressed him in English so he could understand, he saw that Chris had peeled away from the group and commandeered the hose on the side of the fire engine and was carelessly allowing the water to fire in all directions as he got it under control.

The team were too slow to stop Chris from charging into the restaurant with the hose. Once he was inside, he doused the flames immediately. To make sure, he placed the hose between his legs and used his simulated penis to cover almost the entire interior of the restaurant with water. He screamed loudly, enjoying the total washout of the restaurant and the destruction that he was causing. Chris had little regard for the property that was not his. By the time one of the shocked members of the fire crew had thought to shut off the valve on the engine itself, Chris had likely caused hundreds of thousands yen worth of damage. It was likely that none of the built-in grills would work ever again.

Chris did not even bother to carry the hose back outside, just dropping it on the floor in the middle of the restaurant. He expected a hero’s welcome from the rest of the crew and the onlookers that had gathered to witness the spectacle that he had provided for them. A fire had been put out. The job was completed. Therefore, his frustration was palpable when he was met with nothing but a sea of faces showing expressions of shock, anger and panic.

The firefighters had seen enough. All of them surrounded Chris and let their true feelings be known. They told him that he didn’t belong with them and that he never would. That he was not the same kind of skilled and dedicated person as they were. If Chris could understand Japanese, he would have heard about how he overestimates himself and is not the great man he portrays himself to be. They thought that he was selfish, and superficial. These very true comments were lost on the man that could not understand them, but like his driver and the hotel owner in Sekigahara and almost everyone associated with the FWA, this was yet another group of people that could not stand Chris Peacock.

As the restaurant owners ran inside and burst into tears, letting out screams of agony at their livelihood being decimated, Montada pulled Chris to one side. The chief had not joined in with the crew in giving Chris a much-needed dressing down, but he did not stop them either. It was when he looked into the chief’s face that Chris realised that perhaps he had gone a bit too far. There was no anger. Only the one thing that felt worse; disappointment.

“Chris, I told you that there could be a lesson for you here in Sekigahara and something that you could learn about yourself before you leave this town. You can see what these people think of you. But Chris, you do belong. I know why you did what you just did. You wanted to prove to everyone around you that you’re capable. Do you ever think that you are just trying too hard?”

Chris stayed silent. The words were resonating with him at a deep level and was something that he had heard said about himself before.

“No one is going to think any less of you if you do not achieve things at this lightning pace to which you seem to approach life. You do not need to keep pushing yourself just to prove your own worth. Just by doing what you can do, people will see. They may try to act otherwise, but they will know the truth.

“There is someone in this town that I think you should meet. It may help you gain some perspective. I think you can see that not just anyone can be a part of this squad. Each member possesses that special quality in a person that makes them stand out above everyone else. You need to appreciate what it is like to be someone who does not hold this undefinable characteristic.

“On the outskirts of town, two miles north from here, you will find a man. This man is a friend of mine. His name is Maiku. Maiku has attempted to join this team many times but has never been able to prove himself. So, he has decided to live the rest of his days as an outcast, never to discover that spark inside of himself that will drive himself forward. I have tried to pull Maiku out of his hole many times, but no matter how hard I try, he will not leave. If you wish to prove yourself as you are so determined to do, Chris Peacock, you will get Maiku out of that hole.”

Despite everything that Chris had done, he realised that Montada did not hold any resentment towards him. He had spent time wondering why everyone apart from the fire chief had been a dick towards him and disliked him for just being himself. It was after that conversation that Chris understood it was because Montada was one of the good guys. Someone that it was impossible not to like. Chris walked in the direction that he had been instructed; he was going to get this man out of the hole if it was the last thing he did.






四 (し)

Montada was very accurate with the distance between the location of their conversation and Chris’s destination. He walked across town and then out of it into a large wooded area at the bottom of a hill, where he found a trail. With the amount of walking around this town that Chris had done in just the one day, he felt like no further training for his match against Mike Parr was necessary. It was just walking, but to Chris it felt like he had completed an entire month’s worth of cardio in twenty-four hours.

The trail led him through a large thicket. A path had been carved out by a previous visitor - Chris thought that this was likely to have been Montada. He shimmied through the gap whilst walking sideways, earning himself a scrape across the face from a thorned branch on his way through. He had to endure roughly twenty metres of thorns and bramble which tugged at his skin and clothes. This happened consistently due to how quickly Chris was trying to navigate his way through. Were he to have taken more time and applied a greater level of care, he would not have been affected as much by them.

Despite the best attempts of Mother Nature to prevent him from advancing on the trail, he was clear of the greenery and turned a corner around a small hill to see the area that Montada had referred to. With the repeated mentions of a “hole”, Chris assumed that the chief was speaking of a metaphorical position of stasis that this Maiku character had found himself in. What he was not expecting to see was a man laying down at the bottom of a large pit.

“Are you okay down there?” Chris shouted, unsure whether this was actually Maiku or someone who may have accidentally fallen into trouble whilst on a hike. The man stirred, having been asleep and he looked up at Chris. Immediately, Chris was taken aback by his striking blue eyes and chiselled jawline. His shirtless body boasted the kind of defined muscle that any man would strive for. The man’s naturally good looks were countered by the absolute state that he was in. The most prominent thing that Chris noticed the closer he got to the pit was the smell; this man had clearly been living in the pit for some time and fulfilled all natural obligations inside of it.

There was no doubt in Chris’s mind that this was Maiku. Maiku shouted incoherently in Japanese at Chris, motioning with his hands for him to leave him alone. Chris was well and truly stumped; why would someone who seemed to have all of the natural gifts and ability choose to live in such a way? He was not given much chance to explore such thoughts as a terracotta pot soared through the air in his direction, and he had to react quickly to catch it.

Maiku seemed perturbed that Chris was now in possession of the pot and Chris examined it. He was no antiques expert so threw it back down into the pit and watched as Maiku dashed and dived onto the ground to ensure that it did not hit the bottom of the pit and inevitably smash into countless pieces. The deranged behaviour being exhibited by Maiku almost distracted Chris completely from his goal; to get this man out of the hole.

“Hey, get the fuck up here!” Chris shouted. Tactic number one was to try the most direct approach - the one that came most naturally to Chris Peacock, “Get up here, NOW!”

It did not occur to Chris that perhaps Maiku did not understand English and that he was tremendously lucky that most people he had interacted with since leaving Tokyo spoke some English and were able to converse with him. Maiku did not speak English, having lived in north Sekigahara his entire life and then in a hole in the ground. Duolingo and Rosetta Stone were hard to do without a phone or any other form of electronics. Regardless of whether Maiku understood him or not (he didn’t), Chris was adamant that the simplest solution was the best one.

Therefore, for the next two hours, Chris repeatedly told Maiku to just leave the pit that he called home. Every now and then the demand would turn into more of a request but the sentiment was exactly the same each time. Chris was going to tell him to leave until he did and there was nothing that Maiku could do about it. In fact, the only way that he could do something about it was to leave the pit and stop Chris. Maiku did not risk throwing any more pots.

Chris called for Maiku to leave the pit until his voice was hoarse. The repetitive droning seemed to have less and less effect on the man down below the longer this scenario played out. In fact, after four hours and the sun had set, Chris was the one beginning to feel trapped. He did not permit himself to walk away and admit defeat to the man who clearly had the stronger resolve than him. The demands became fewer and farther in between and Chris’s tactic soon morphed into outright begging for the scenario to end.

“Why won’t you just FUCKING LEAVE?!” he shouted down into the hole once Maiku had gone quiet for several minutes. It seemed like there was nothing that Chris could do to change this man’s mind. No matter what, Maiku refused to budge a single inch from the floor of the pit. Chris resorted to throwing things at him; some sticks, stones and even his watch and one of his shoes. Maiku retrieved each item with great enthusiasm and hoarded them along with his other possessions that he was keeping down there.

The satisfied murmurs of a man who was acting as if he was being reunited with a lost treasure or a loved one intrigued Chris. He stood up to get a closer look at Maiku in the moonlight. The man was content in the hole and despite the objectively dire situation of it all, it seemed as if he felt comforted by being in there. Then it puzzled Chris why Montada said that he had tried to get him out of the hole many times before and acted as if Maiku could hold the same form of personal potential as Chris and the other firefighters.

The closest thing that Chris could use to relate to Maiku was Drew. His brother had suffered with addiction for years, and there had been a marked increase in both Drew’s alcohol consumption and the frequency of his bingeing sessions in the last several months. Alcohol fed Drew’s addiction, but given how depressed his brother was, Chris was rather confident that satisfying the cravings caused by his addiction did not bring him any joy. In fact, giving into the temptations and succumbing seemed to make Drew feel worse about himself.

Chris compared Maiku’s pleasure over receiving the trinkets to how he has seen Drew act when a beer or spirit would touch his lips for the first time in a day. Drew did not feel better for leaning into his situation and the same could not be said for Maiku.

“You’re not doing this because you have to, Maiku. There’s nothing actually keeping you in this position that you are in… you don’t have to be here, to keep coming back to this place. No, no… you’re not addicted. You’re scared.”

He snapped his fingers and began pacing a couple of steps back and forth, slowly nodding his head. Chris had figured out the code and the lesson that he did not believe was waiting for him in Sekigahara, “I know what Montada was trying to tell me now and why he thought I should see this. He knew that I would waste fucking HOURS here trying to convince you to get out of there by force or pressure. But you’re in that hole, because you chose to be. You believe deep down that is where you belong and you know that no matter how hard you try, you’ll never survive out of it.”

“Call it a comfort zone or a happy place… that’s where you belong and that’s what Montada wanted me to see. Yes, that’s it. Some people are just supposed to live in a hole and not achieve their goals. That’s just how the world works…

“I’m one of the lucky ones.”




五 (ご)

Allen Price panted in exhaustion as he jogged onto the hotel roof in desperate search for Chris Peacock. Chris was due to arrive in Osaka the previous day but no one had seen or heard from him. The genuine concern that Allen had for his friend meant that he did not have the time or purpose to maintain the ruse of him requiring a wheelchair. In reality, he did suffer a minor neck injury as a result of being dropped on his head by Cyrus Truth, but Chris was quick to pay for the surgery to fix it almost immediately. Price was in no condition to stand in ‘The Exile’s way again any time soon, but he was well enough to assist Chris in his matches as and when required as displayed at Fight Night.

The hotel roof seemed the most apt place for Allen to look for Chris after exhausting all other options. He had watched The Hangover the night before and the film’s conclusion was fresh on his mind. With no other options left, he picked up his phone and called the only other person that may have an idea where Chris Peacock could be;



“Allen, what the fuck do you want, man?
I’m trying to sleep.”

“Alyster?!
Are you with Chris? Have you seen him?”

“What do you mean?
You’ve lost him-”

“Alyster… just hang on a second…
I’m getting another call.”

“Huh? Don’t you dare hang u-”



“Allen?”

“Chris!
Sorry, I’m just on the other line with Alyster-”

“Alyster? Why?”

“We’re trying to figure out where you are.
No one had heard from you since yesterday-”

“What do you mean-”



“Sorry, Aly. That was just Chris.”

“So you know where he is now?”

“OH! OH! CHRIS! That was him!”

“Yeah, is he okay?”

“Sorry, Aly. I gotta talk to him.”

“You motherfu-”



“Allen, what the fuck is going on?”

“Chris, where are you?
I’ve been worried sick.”

“Just… come down to the lobby.
I’ll be there in two minutes.”



Allen waited patiently outside of the W Osaka Hotel which was located in the city it took its name from and where Meltdown. He was seated in his wheelchair once again and watched the road eagerly, awaiting Chris’s arrival. The sheer awe that Allen felt for his friend could be closely compared to a child’s adoration for Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Price truly revered his friend and got giddy every time he knew that he would have the chance to spend time with him. This was a vital piece of Chris’s support network; with the swathes of people that hated him to his core, Chris knew that he could always count on the kinship of his closest friends. The ‘FTN Family’ was a loosely banded term for their collective, but it was how they viewed each other.

A loud horn blared out which took Allen by surprise as he was looking in the opposite direction. When he turned to see where it had come from, he saw a fire truck charging down the road and it skidded to a stop in front of him. With eager anticipation, he avidly watched the window roll down and saw that Chris Peacock was in the driver’s seat. Allen let out an excited gasp and clapped his hands like a seal and marvelled at the large vehicle in front of him as Chris stepped out, still wearing the firefighter garb from Sekigahara. He was all grins and walks towards Price with his arms outstretched, “Just when you thought I couldn’t get sexier, huh?”

The last time that Allen had seen Chris dressed as a firefighter was at Lights Out as part of FTN’s semen-influenced entrance. He doubted that he would ever see Chris playing dress-up ever again after that incident but a return of sorts to the carefree Chris Peacock who held the FWA World Championship was a welcome sight for Allen Price. “Chris, what has brought this on? You seem… like you again.”

“Allen… I’ve had a strange couple of days, but a very smart and very cool guy helped me learn a couple of lessons about myself. Allen, I’m a winner. Winning just… suits me. Being a champion suits me. I’m sure that being a Grand Slam winner will suit me pretty damn well, too.”

“Is it such a good idea to be getting ahead of ourselves like this?” Allen asked, wisely. A broken clock is right twice a day, after all. “We know Mike Parr isn’t going to be a pushover.”

“No, he won’t be. He’s probably the best at what he does in the ring. He’s tied more people in knots than I have tied shoelaces. But I’m going to beat him,” he said with great confidence. “It has nothing to do with my record against him and nothing to do with Baxter. No, it is because we’ve hit Mike Parr’s limit, Allen. His comfort zone allows him to be the North American Champion and nothing more. I’m not going to get all emotional about facing him like Summers did. Every time Parr has had the chance to make that next step… he’s fallen. Fallen into that pit of wrestlers that we might all want to be the top dog one day, but simply just can’t do it.

“I wish Mike all the best; I really do actually quite like the guy. But that doesn’t change who we are. What Mike Parr is going to get across from him in that ring is a winner. He’s getting the fucking guy that proved that he had what it takes to be considered one of the best ever despite what everyone else thought. Me and Mike are similar in that regard… neither of us are where people thought we were going to be. The difference is that in the eyes of the people, one of us has overachieved and the other has failed to live up to his potential. How many fuckers have asked how this guy is still a prodigy now?

“The people don’t like me and the roster doesn’t like me… so fucking what? I’ll cry myself to sleep with the North American Championship on my pillow right next to me once I’ve won this tournament.”

As per usual, Allen Price was entranced and mesmerised when listening to Chris speaking with full confidence. He started rubbing his hands together, already concocting a cunning plan to ensure Chris’s victory.

“Allen, I love ya… but this is one I’m going to do on my own. Yeah, it bit Baxter in the ass twice, but that’s because that fat fuck has plenty of ass to bite!” Chris smirked as he delivered the insult and then looked at the fire truck that he had liberated from Sekigahara, “Some people just have what it takes… that’s just how the world works.”

Chris was fully aware of the challenge that Mike Parr was going to pose to him once the bell rang. As per Cindy’s initial instructions, his focus was firmly on ‘The Prodigy’ but he would be lying to himself if he stated that he wasn’t beginning to eye up the finishing line that was in sight…

 
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Mandalorian

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HALLOWEEN KNIGHT

TRASH MAMMAL

and

JUAN TOTHREFOR

are…

YOUR BRAND NEW FWA TRIOS CHAMPIONS!

TR1CK OR TR4SH

in...

"UNDEFEATED, UNBROKEN, UNSURE."


HEY. YOU. YES. YOU. READING RIGHT NOW, DID YOU HEAR THE NEWS?! THREE VERY BIZARRE LUCHADORS WON THE TRIOS TITLES. WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU DONE IN THE LAST MONTH?! HUH?!

It's fair to say that the bizarre pairing of TR1CK or TR4SH has exceeded any and all expectations. I mean, sure, Halloween Knight and Trash Mammal practically stole the show in Ground Zero despite having absolutely nothing in common, so we knew not to sleep on TR1CK or TR4SH, but who knew that all they needed to be an unstoppable team was a lucha school teacher?

There's a moral there about education but damned if I can think of it.

In any case, the FWA exclusive video opens up, as you might expect in bizarre circumstances; yes, we're at the back of the arena where all the dumpsters are, but we don't see Trash Mammal sitting in one.

Instead, we see him with his feet (Paws?) up, reclined and lounging in a deckchair, his title laid down on his lap and a pair of black sunglasses over his mask; he basically ignores the camera as he continues relaxing and stroking his newly won title like it's the most important thing in the world.

The camera pans out to reveal that his trio's partners, Juan Tothrefor and Halloween Knight, are standing in front of him, looking slightly nonplussed by his friend's attitude. Their championship belts are around their waists. Halloween Knight has a note in his hand and looks over to Juan as if asking him if he wants to do this. But Juan just shakes his head, so Halloween Knight sighs and begins to read from the note.

“This is a message to the FWA from your brand new FWA Trios Campeones TR1CK or TR4SH and their leader, Trash Mammal-”

Halloween Knight groans and turns back to Trash Mammal, who slightly lowers his shades inquisitively. He is not happy about his message not being read. “Basura, amigo... you’re not our leader. We don’t have one… we’re all a team here. Equals, huh?”

“Si, Basura. One third for each of us. One for me, one for you and one for Knight. Three thirds equals one whole! The team wouldn’t be the same if any of us were not a part of it!”

Despite the very fair and reasonable requests and explanations by his teammates, Trash Mammal seems aghast by the suggestion that he is on equal footing as his stablemates, “Well, I don’t remember either of you goiys winning us these toitles! Need I remind you both that I’m the only undefeated person in the entire company? Now, read the message!”

Begrudgingly, Halloween Knight shakes his head and continues to read the message that had been hastily scribbled on a piece of note paper by Trash Mammal.

“We would like to announce that our rain-”

“Basura, did you mean ‘reign’, as in ‘title reign’? Reinado? You spelled it here like the weather, amigo. lluvia.

“I can give you some spelling lessons if you want, amigo. Maybe whilst we’re at it, we can talk about the way you speak as well? Knight and I aren’t native English speakers and we seem to have a better grasp of the language than you do…”

“THERE’S NOTHIN’ WRAUNG WITH HOOW OI SPEAK!”

“Come on, Amigo. Tell us what is bothering you..”

“Nothing… I’m sorry. Just no one seems to care about what I… I mean we did, that’s all. We dethroned The Coven. You see the teams that couldn’t do that?”

“Listen Basura. I understand, amigo. There’s an easy fix to this problem we have… if they don’t care, we go out there and give them a show that they can’t help but care about. We make this record of yours go on and on…”

“Exactly. That’s right. This is the start of a very good thing for us, amigos. Let’s keep this party going, eh?”

Out of seemingly nowhere, Halloween Knight produces a boombox which plays ‘Spooky Scary Skeletons’ very loudly and the FWA Trios Champions all get down to the beat as the vignette ends. They are ready to face the challenges waiting for them together.

 
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Wiseman

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Bad Meets Evil
iLZ3I5Ld5uyV2l8IUOJPiuZ8g6YDpMrajz3GyDxM6EXqGAiovqfDC-iPTtluGnVJCvuRjwfBhVtWN6FVzq8xEbiqiBLm2vjhUVtfSIUWYcyib5SwN2NfNl-VNi4543dq6DFbhbWPQOhQGL9sTTXH0z8

We find ourselves in a dimly lit room. The only real light comes from a desk lamp and emits from a computer monitor. With the small amount of space that this amount of light is covering, the only thing that can be seen in the darkness is that of the face of Johnny Johnson. His face stares blankly into the computer screen. Behind his eyes are feelings of anger, sadness, regret, and above all else, disappointment. He begins to speak to himself, the words leaving his mouth through clenched teeth.

“You weren’t there for me. I needed you and you weren’t there. I was alone on that island. Why couldn’t you understand, through all of me speaking out your name these past weeks that, you above us, were the reason I was there? You were my prize, you were my reward, you were my motivation. However, more than anything, you were my strength to go through it all. Through all the blood, the pain, and the torture, that I knew my body was going to be put through, I knew I needed you there.

Maybe I was an idiot to put such stock in you. Just another person that disappointed me in my life. This wasn’t the first time though. Guess, in the end, I should have known that you were just going to let me down. In the end, you were always going to be my downfall, Tommy Bedlam, weren’t you?”

It looks like Johnny is almost being brought to tears as his eyes begin to water up. Either because of sadness or from anger, there really is no way to tell, completely. He leans down, setting his elbows on his desk, bringing his hands up, and holding his forehead in the palm of his hands. He begins to drift off, his mind fading back to a previous time and place.

—-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

September 21-2021

“I don’t give a shit if the old man is in or not. With you and me together, Tommy, this place doesn’t stand a fucking chance. There will be NO ONE that can challenge us.”

Johnny Johnson is sitting at an undisclosed bar. He sits there at the bar and there is only one other person that occupies a space in this bar, with him. That person is Tommy Bedlam. The two of them are next to each other, Tommy with a beer in front of him and Johnny with a glass full of dark-colored liquor in front of him. Tommy picks up the beer in front of him, takes a sip, and then sets it back down on the bar. He mulls over Johnny’s words as he continues to talk.

“All it takes for you to do it is to make sure Reagan Cole doesn’t make it out of that match without, at the very least, being put on the shelf for a few months.”

Tommy finally interjects between Johnny’s last words. “I’ll tell you this, I’m not scared to do what it takes in this business, but I know that I refuse to think you don’t have more nefarious intentions. I get it that you aren’t a fan of Reagan, but it’s a little coincidental that the first chance that we find each other in the ring against each other, you’re wanting me to turn on the kid and form some sort of alliance with you and your father. “

The look on Johnny’s face changes from the once jovial look to where anger begins to seep through a little bit. Tommy can feel the mood changing in Johnny but he pays it no mind.

“If what you say is so factual, and if we form this alliance, someone like Reagan Cole should be small fries to us. Yet, here you are urging me to take him out, essentially taking money out of his pocket that he won’t be making and food off his table. It almost feels like you’re looking for someone to be your muscle, so you don’t have to get your hands dirty. I ain’t no person’s muscle and I don’t really need someone to hold my hand in order to be successful in FWA.”

Johnny grabs his glass of liquor, gripping it tight enough that it almost feels like he will break the glass as he holds it. He begins to speak through gritted teeth as he is clearly bothered by what Tommy is implying.

“I really hope you’re not just trying to piss me off. I don’t need you as my muscle. This offer I brought to you, why we’re having this meeting. It isn’t about what benefits me. I’ve never been someone that has needed anyone else. My father abandoned me years ago and I never needed him since the…..”

“You really going to play that same song and dance with me?” Tommy interrupts Johnny as he continues to babble on. “Johnny, I’m not an idiot. It’s called a divorce and you as shit ain’t the only kid that their parents split up. I don’t need to hear about your daddy issues, and I sure as hell don’t think you need me either.”

“I ain’t here to piss you off kid. I’m here cause despite us being from two different sides of the road I respect you. I respect what you’re able to do. You asked me here, and I came because I figured I’d at least let you show me exactly what you had up your sleeve.”

Tommy then reaches down, taking another sip from his bottle of beer. Johnny seems to have calmed down a little bit, he turns to face Tommy,

“This world is full of snakes, EVIL snakes. There isn’t a single person I fully trust, never have, never will. I know in this story, IN EVER STORY, I’m the bad guy. I also know that it’s usually people that aren’t the bad guy who can be the real evil pieces of shit in the stories. That’s why I asked you here. That’s also why I’m asking you to take out Reagan Cole. I need to see that what I think I see in you, is actually there. I need to see that you’re just not some good cowboy riding around on a horse with a shiny sheriff star. Everyone knows those goody two shoes get clipped in the movies before the first act is over. I don’t want to be aligned with some pansy who doesn’t have what it takes to do what is always necessary, no matter what moral line it crosses.”

With that last sentence, Johnny takes one final sip from his glass. Putting the empty glass back on the bar. He then gets up from the barstool he was sitting on, reaching into his pocket as he does.

“Like you said, Tommy, no I don’t need you.” Johnny takes his hand out of his pants pocket with a wad of cash. “But, I definitely could use your help in molding the FWA into our vision. Something where the old bastards that have been clinging onto their past in the place. Trying the best to hold us back.”

Johnny starts thumbing through the wad of cash, grabs a few bills, and throws them onto the bar.

“I don’t need an answer now, think about it, then show up with some balls and do what needs to be done at Light’s Out. Before that, have a drink or two on me, might help you to find them.”

Tommy pauses for a second with the beer bottle almost at his lips. Thinking of maybe taking offense to what Johnny just said, but he refrains, instead choosing to take another sip from the bottle and then signaling to the bartender to get him another beer. With that, Johnny makes his way out of the bar, leaving Tommy behind to mull things over.

—-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“If only that would have lasted longer than it did. I can only blame myself for that.”

Johnny still sits at his desk back in his home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After thinking back through the years he has now grabbed a glass of dark alcohol and is sipping it as he ponders through things.

“I didn’t need him then, and I shouldn’t have needed him to be that trophy at King of the Deathmatch. Now this week I find myself facing the same enemy that I beat at King of the Deathmatch. A man who wants to label himself, evil.”

Johnny takes a sip of his drink as he continues to talk out his thoughts.

“That isn’t what I saw back then. I saw a man trying to convince everyone else that he wanted to be evil, but clearly, he wasn’t someone that has convinced himself that he was truly evil. Evil would have done whatever it took to make sure, not only that he defeat me, evil would have made sure I wasn’t even able to make it back to the locker room under my own power. He would have buried me in the ground on that island we did battle at.”

Johnny now sets his glass on his desk, opens up his laptop, and prepares to start typing on it.

“I’ve seen true evil, I’ve road with it in the form of the Pale Rider himself, Tommy Bedlam. Few know the man like I do. I know what he is capable of, I know exactly what he’s willing to do. Colby Sol couldn’t walk a day in the life of Tommy Bedlam and not shit his pants from is in that man’s head. On Fallout, it’s time the bad man shows up again and make sure Colby meets the real evil.”

Johnny takes another sip from his glass and then focuses on the monitor screen to begin typing something.

iLZ3I5Ld5uyV2l8IUOJPiuZ8g6YDpMrajz3GyDxM6EXqGAiovqfDC-iPTtluGnVJCvuRjwfBhVtWN6FVzq8xEbiqiBLm2vjhUVtfSIUWYcyib5SwN2NfNl-VNi4543dq6DFbhbWPQOhQGL9sTTXH0z8
6svR2RnJH5GOr8p-qtzU9ZIMEma3W_MTwOsImxhMqRmT2c-PxCd60QqoXWVchVXe3Y0ulqeXu4lxOX0G6KJlPscGreUZEgzD_KDeqN5CDWfGeOLHaCrg4s2iP9t3K2cLjEHwZghNDwDudS4Ibo0CAFk


I’ve been left behind, so many times before. My father, my mother, laundry list of loose women that have tried to get me to fund their lavish lifestyle just cause they had a pretty face and a set of tits. This time it feels worse, it feels like a shot to the gut that I’m not sure if I can heal from. Is Tommy Bedlam the ying to my yang, or is he just the last great hurdle for me to feel like I’ve actually accomplished something in this business? I’m a patient man, and I know one day Tommy will return until then it’s time for The Legend to start making sure to leave a breadcrumb trail of bodies for him to follow so he can find me on his way back.
 

TOP GUY TIME

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"I don't want to be in Japan."

Sawyer muttered to Oliver Kemp, as the two sat inside of a diner. Sawyer stretched along the backboard, as his talent manager shot him a judging glare.

"What do you mean you don't want to be here? It's one more show, then we're back to our home, land of the free!"

"Kemp, I don't want to be here. Is that too hard of a concept for you to understand?"

"Is it because of the tournament? I assure you, nobody is judging you any differently. Besides, your official account gained a couple thousand followers, you're growing in popularity."

"The account I don't post on, yeah. It's not because of the tournament, I could care less about that."

There was a clear scar in the dead center of Sawyer's forehead, scarlet red. His battle wounds were apparent as he grabbed the glass of water from the table and took a few sips.

"It's just common for an adult to not want to do something."

"It's just one more show. Hold out for it, I know it's been a while since you've seen anyone besides me daily, but still."


"You don't know why I want to go. You don't need to know why either."

The two stayed silent for a minute, awkwardness filling the booth as both plates of food are left untouched.

"It's one more show, yeah?"

"mhm."

"After the show, get me the first plane home."

"Alright. So, you're up against the XX kid. What you got in mind?"

"Don't talk like that, reminds me of my old manager.
"

"Sorry about that. You know I'm just trying to do what's best for you. I'm in charge of your marketing after all. Knowing you can put your best out and win kind of makes me do better as well. If I can't guarantee that you'll be doing your best and putting on a show, then my job is at risk."

"Tell me, how long have you been apart of this company?"

"Ahh, a good decade now. Of course, you're my first actual client, beforehand I was just handling a very vague field of guys."

"Well, what puts me on that pedestal? What's stopping you from finding a job with the next schmuck that takes me spot? I'm not exactly the most favored individual around, it's a shock I still work here."

"You have your benefits, Sawyer. Think about how fired up the crowd gets for you. They cheer your name, isn't that enough?"

"Do they get fired up for me? Or are they already fired up and I have to make sure they stay fired up so the big dogs can play with them. I'm a D-Minus player, always have been. I've learned that over the years, no matter what you do, it'll never amount to enough because someone is going to be larger than you. Someone is going to be hungrier, more vicious, more violent. Someone is going to do what you aren't willing to do."

"I'm sure you've done the same, taken jobs nobody else is willing to because it puts you in a better position. I don't blame you. I ditched my entire world for this business. I'm only here because I gave up any semblance of an outside life to become a wrestler. Yet, I'm not hungry enough to come out on top. You always need someone you can rely on to lose because that's the way the game works. I'm the guy they rely on to lose. I fail, and I keep failing over and over and everyone knows that. It must be a euphoric joy when someone finds out they get to face 'The Mighty Sawyer Xavier!'"

"I'm a loser, and that's why I don't want to be here. I failed at the tournament, I failed when I had my highest moment years ago, and I'll fail against XX. Because I'm a perpetual loser. No matter how hungry I am, that kid is going to be hungrier. Yet, he'll soon learn he's going to be a loser just like me. If I manage to pull another "underdog" victory, that's going to hurt him. Maybe that is a good thing. If I can detest him and make him regret everything he's done in life, I'll be a little better myself."

"Fuck, I don't know Kemp. Why do I still wrestle? I can't be on the same playing field as Peacock, or Best, or Ramon, or Black. I'll never be good enough for anyone, and if I can't be good enough for myself, then what's the point."


Sawyer had finished his short rant, sitting down. For a few minutes, the two sat in silence, the only sounds being utensils hitting their plates as they ate. Sawyer would set his fork down, and spoke yet again.

"I'll stay, because I want the kid to know that he's going to be something special. If he can take me out, he won't have to deal being labeled as a loser. Because the one thing that hurts more than being a loser is losing to a loser."
 

Doc Sulliday

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Celestia's Constraint

l3nWVHL.jpeg


The vote was called to order.

As The Coven met in an old church, their new hangout since Knockdrin Castle burned to the ground, things were as tense as they ever were. Kleio was already aware of Blair's betrayal, and Trixie was not among them. Kleio De Santos, Blair and Celestia Ravenwood, and Grandma Ethel all were there. But Trixie was not.

Of course, this was by choice.

Kleio was who called this gathering. She called for it sometime last week, as a response to her spat with Trixie Bordeaux on Twitter. That's right, it wasn't a meeting to get things back on track or regain the trust of Blair and Celestia.

This was about Trixie.

"I've called you all here today, to inform you...I have decided to remove Trixie Bordeaux from The Coven. I know this may come as a shock, but her behavior as of late has gone past what we can control. She is too unpredictable and too dangerous. Her mental capacity has always been an issue, but we were all able to manipulate it. Blair, you especially had a good grasp on her. But unfortunately, we're past that now. She can't get over what happened at King of the Deathmatch...she thinks it's all about her. That I "helped" her win...as if that wasn't the purpose of this group, to help each other. But, alas...that's what she's obsessing over now. I don't care, but what I do worry about is...what's next? This group, is already too unstable as it is. Therefore, it's with a heavy heart that we must see her go..."

Kleio ends it there.

There's an awkward silence in the room. Kleio is okay with it, as she's about to bang her gavel and end the meeting.

That is, when Blair stands up.

"No." she says coldly.

Kleio is taken aback, but not surprised. The conflict with Blair has been ongoing, and resistance is something she expected.

"This isn't up for a discussion, Blair." Kleio retorts.

Blair doesn't skip a beat. "Yes, it is...it literally is. This group isn't just a dictatorship for you to run like some orange Cheeto. You can't just kick out a member because you feel like it. We had an initiation, she's sworn in. She's apart of our group. If you could just kick her out, what's stopping you from kicking me out...or my sister, or Ethel? What's stopping US from kicking you out? No, this has to be brought to a vote".

Kleio bites her lip.

She stares daggers into Blair. Ethel and Celestia stay silent, not getting involved.

"Fine. We'll have a vote...we'll take some time to deliberate, and then it'll be decided. Trixie's fate in The Coven."

With that, Kleio sends the meeting into recess.

A short period for the members to talk amongst themselves. Kleio was sure enough going to try and sway Celestia and Ethel to vote Trixie out of The Coven. She knew Blair wasn't going to budge. Blair didn't even like Trixie, but now she chooses to oppose her on this...just for the sake of opposing her.

Celestia walked up to her sister, who sat alone in a church pew in the main part of the rundown church.

"I'm glad you did that. I know that you didn't like Trixie at first, but she really has become one of us. We can't let Kleio push her out like that, just because of this little issue they're having. She's our friend..." Celestia tells her sister.

But Blair turns to her and laughs.

"Actually, Celestia...I think I'm voting to kick Trixie out." Blair says sternly.

Celestia is shocked.

"You're joking, right? Why would you do that, after just standing up to Kleio?" Celestia asks her sister.

Blair responds "Standing up to Kleio was about making sure she knew her place. This isn't a dictatorship. If I let her just decide everything this group does, I'll never get her out. But sister, she's right about Trixie...that girl has always been a loose cannon, and have you seen her lately? She's not even in her right mind. I'm trying to reform this group. Kleio is an issue because I can't control her...once I get rid of her, I don't want to be stuck doing the same shit with Trixie."

Celestia can't believe what she's hearing. After all that, her sister is just up to the same schemes. She is no better than Kleio.

"But sister, Trixie is valuable. She's upset now, but...she is 100% against Kleio. With the three of us, we can push Kleio out of this group entirely." Celestia says, trying to convince her sister.

Blair ponders it for a moment.

"Perhaps you're right, but I don't know...I think you're being optimistic. I can see Trixie spiraling, and it's not good. We don't want to be around her when she hits rock bottom. It's going to get ugly, but I do see the merit in what you're suggesting. I'll think it over...and I have. I'm voting to kick her out. " Blair says.

Celestia gets up, and storms away...unhappy with the conversation.

She walks over into the other room to see Kleio and Ethel in a similarly heated debate. When Kleio sees Celestia walking her way, she ends the conversation with Ethel and greets her.

"Hey Celestia...let's talk" the Witch Queen says.

Celestia is already not in the mood, but maybe Kleio is more reasonable than her sister.

"I wanted to touch base on some things..." Kleio asks.

Celestia isn't shy.

"I think this is ridiculous. This group, as you know...is barely hanging on right now. And you want to get rid of one of it's members? The only with one a championship and with the most strength on the roster? To me, it seems like you're scared of her...like you think she'll take your spot, take your future title opportunities. Well Kleio, this isn't about you..." - Kleio eventually cuts her off.

"No, Celestia...this isn't. This is about the group. It has nothing to do with Trixie's abilities or her power on the show. Despite what you or her may think, I am not concerned about her. One on one I would destroy her, and I'll affirm I did her a favor in itself by being out of that tournament. My concern is the threat she poses to this group. She is not mentally stable, and she shows that more and more every time we see her. You guys can choose to vote me out, and I'd still say the same thing about her. She's a threat to us, she's a threat to this group. And yes, I'm saying that with the knowledge that Blair, and probably you...have been planning a coup on me to take over this group yourselves. I'm aware, and yet I still see her and her mental state as a bigger threat to us right now.

You and Blair? I think that's something that can be resolved. We have our issues, but I think we can fix it.

Trixie?

She's going down a dark road. She isn't the same little girl we brought in.


So, if you and Blair want to get rid of me...by all means we can have that talk. But, Trixie is an issue that needs to be addressed one way or another."

Kleio says it all out loud.

Celestia knew she would

But she still isn't ready for it. It's all very similar to what Blair said. As much as Blair hates her, Kleio and her are one of the same. And now they're both on the same page? Trixie doesn't stand a chance.

Celestia gets up. It's almost time to vote...and it's not looking good for Trixie. Blair, Kleio, and probably Ethel all want her gone.

Before Celestia sits down, Kleio has one more thing to say.

"Oh, before I forget...I wanted to talk about your match. With Sierra...it's imperative that you win. I was watching some tape of hers, and I wanted to tell you what I saw-"

Celestia cuts her off "I don't care."

Kleio bites her lip again, as she lets Celestia walk away.

Everyone has sat back down now.

Kleio picks up her gavel, and calls The Coven's meeting back into order. Things are tense, as Kleio looks everyone at the table down and begins to talk.

"Alright, we had time to deliberate. A vote for this matter was requested, and so it shall be received. I am proposing that we vote to kick Trixie Bordeux out of our group. Since King of the Deathmatch, Trixie has become unpredictable and unhinged. Her attitude and demeanor has changed for the worse. She isn't controllable anymore, and quite frankly it doesn't appear like she appreciates the benefits a group like us can provide her. She wants to do things on her own, so I say we let her...

My vote for kicking Trixie out of The Coven...yay.

Next, Ethel..."

Ethel stares Kleio down.

"This group is far too broken to continue breaking it up even more. Nay." she says.

Kleio is shocked. It's clear she thought Ethel would vote with her, but nonetheless, she gathers her composure.

"Celestia?"

Celestia still hasn't decided. She knows that Blair is going to vote to get rid of Trixie. She thought it was a lost cause, but now that Ethel has voted nay, Trixie has a chance. If she votes with Ethel, the vote is deadlocked worst case...but she'll be going against her sister Blair. Blair has been her guide for everything.

But Trixie has become a friend.

She can't betray her.

But she can't betray her sister.

She takes a gulp.

"Yay" she says. With tears welling up in her eyes. Kleio lets out a sly smile.

Blair looks over at her sister impressed. She did not think she had the guts to do that.

"Nay" Blair says immediately after.

Kleio is furious.

"That is not what you told me you were going to vote!" Kleio shouts at Blair. "I changed my mind" Blair says snarkily in response. "Vote is deadlocked, Trixie stays" Kleio says, begrudgingly.

Celestia can't believe it. She just betrayed Trixie, and for what...Blair tov vote Nay after all that?

Celestia chased Blair out of the church, while Kleio stayed to have words with Ethel.

"What the hell was that!" Celestia screamed at her sister.

"Watch your tone child" Blair says back with no remorse.

"You told me you were voting to kick Trixie out" she said.

"Yeah, and you told me you wanted her to stay...so I did you a favor." Blair says.

"No, you did yourself a favor. All you see Trixie as, is a pawn. A pawn to help you take over this group. But I've seen it, clear as day...you're no better than Kleio." she tells her sister.

"Of course not. I'm worse...don't you get it sister? This isn't about who's better or not. Kleio doesn't have the true backbone to be a leader. She gets herself caught too much in emotion. Whether that's with having silly feuds with XYZ, getting into fights with Trixie on Twitter, or getting distracted by...well me. She just doesn't have the emotional numbness to do it. I do...you were right sister, you convinced me. Trixie can be used, and use her we will...but as soon as she helps us achieve what we need her to, she's gone. In the dumpster with Kleio De Santos. And you sister, need to get your own emotions in check. Or else you can join them.

This whole vote wasn't about Trixie. It was to show Kleio she isn't in control, I am...and now she gets the message"


And with that, Blair walks away.

Celestia slumps down on the steps of the church.

She just betrayed Trixie.

She was still in the group, for now...but for how long? And then, there's no measure to what Blair will do to use her.

All her principles are gone. To Blair, maybe she'd consider that a vulnerable emotion. But to Celestia, it's more than that. Whether or not she'll be able to channel that against her match with Sierra...remains to be seen.

 
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TheProdigy

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The Duel


885d154b-b1a2-4b04-9bb2-707db3952a7e.jpg


The Academy
Do you hear it?



To the untrained ear, it might be the mismatched clanging of various instruments making the least harmonious sound known to man, but the beauty of what was happening here was in the detail.



The Academy stood atop a hill overlooking the village below. The village, which in truth should probably be classified as more of a hamlet, had few things to really hang its hat on, but the Academy was the envy of the music world. It was where the best went to hone their skills, it is where the best trained the next generation to become even better. Just outside of this unremarkable little village in the middle of nowhere, the center of the music universe lay. A sentiment that has never been truer than at present, where all those who reside within are in the midst of preparing for the biggest show of the year, the Grand Audition, where if you played and impressed you had the right audience to facilitate you becoming the next big star in the industry. Fail to perform at the Grand Audition, however, and you can forget about those dreams of superstardom and those wishes for better things.



The Academy had a bunch of prospects, all of whom are individually putting in the preparation that is producing the collective ear bleeding sound that you can hear currently. One would think if one of the architects could bring everyone together then the symphony would be other worldly, but everyone knows that there is no money in the group game. It’s all about individual success, the drive for fame and glory and magazine covers as solo stars.



As the night of the Grand Audition approached, there were two prospects that the world was going to travel or tune in to see. The first was Chris, the charismatic pianist who stormed every room that he entered. He captivated the crowd, holding them in the palm of his hands as he steamrolled through his diverse back catalogue of hits and styles, elegantly transitioning between them all. Chris was the explosion, he was the main event, he was the type that would take your breath away and leave you gasping for air and you would almost be thanking him for it.



The other prospect?



Mike, a diligent violinist, was measured and precise. He was exact, but exact doesn’t bring the crowd along with you on the journey. Precise isn’t the adjective that you are going to put on a poster to sell out an arena. Technically, he could perfect any sequence that was given to him and execute it with unnerving accuracy, but the applause and acclaim was always relatively muted, particularly in comparison to Chris’ flair and diverse performances. The rest of the Academy had talent sure, you had Michelle’s unique melancholic twists on classical harp arrangements then also Bryan’s niche guitar and vocal accompaniment, but the truth is that while they are capable of sporadically reaching the peak performance that Chris and Mike can, they don’t maintain it. They have to exert so much energy into reaching that peak that it’s impossible for them to maintain – their base level just isn’t where it needs to be to challenge Mike or Chris at their best.



The Grand Audition

A long evening was ending, the field had been whittled down to just two and they were about to participate in a duel for which there would only be one winner – that winner would be recipient of a deal that is the equivalent of having a rocket hitched to your backpack and ignited. Mike is first out on stage, and rather meekly waves in appreciation at the polite round of applause that he receives before he takes his seat and rests his violin on his shoulder.



Last onto stage is Chris, who comes strutting out and raises both hands in the air to soak up the response from the crowd. A few whoops and hollers, the source of which you would have to assume would be family members or relations given how inappropriate that conduct may be in this circumstance otherwise, but the reaction is certainly more boisterous. Chris takes a seat behind his piano and rattles his fingers up and down the keyboard lightning fast which further encourages the ovation that he is in receipt of. Mike shakes his head at the same time, trying to remain focused on the task at hand while inwardly judging Chris’ show of confidence as arrogance.



Mike started, bringing his bow to his instrument and played his heart out. The crowd were engaged, the judges nodded along as he hit every peak and crescendo with an accuracy and style that could not be questioned. He brough the audience on a carefully crafted journey with him, and a carefully plotted journey to the point of the changeover in the duel, and he teed up Chris perfectly. Chris dazzled, his music swirled around the auditorium and the crowd rose to their feet and clapped their hands and stomped their feet accordingly. The judges even broke their usually stoic demeanor to turn to one another, eyebrows raised, and provide a knowing nod to one another. Chris’ brought his career defining performance to a close.



Mike’s stomach clenched and his heart dropped. He didn’t need to look up at the judges, he didn’t need to look at the crowd. When the judges proclaimed Chris unanimous victory, there was no suspense or tension, it was a conclusion from the moment that Chris hit the first key during the changeover. As confetti fell from the ceiling and the world’s media started to dote on Chris, Mike slunk off behind the curtain with his violin in tact and shut the door of his dormitory firmly shut less than 15 minutes later, slamming the noise and universal praise of Chris out of his life until he could do something about it.



The Ascent

Victory at the Grand Audition sent both Mike and Chris on two separate trajectories, Chris soon took his leave from the Academy and was gracing magazine covers and releasing more pieces of music than there were days in the week – and the audience was soaking up everything. The strategy appeared clear, saturate the market to the point where you cannot turn on a radio station without hearing about Chris, cannot pick up a newspaper without a story about Chris. He wasn’t just on the path to superstardom, he was a bonafide superstar already.



As for Mike? He diligently worked on his craft at the Academy, working at perfecting his melodies and telling his own stories with his work. He worked largely in solitude, not wanting to face the public again until he felt ready to show them all what he is truly capable of. Sporadically, others at the Academy would get a glimpse of what Mike was working towards and would try to engage him to no avail – there was simply no interest from Mike’s perspective in engagement until he got the chance to make up for his last performance not quite hitting the mark. Mike’s compositions could be compared to a reserve, a thing of natural beauty with a unassuming and enduring legacy, compared to Chris’ highlight reel fireworks display, with continuous eruptions capturing one’s attention.



Mike was meticulous in perfecting his craft, and finally, when the leaflet for the Grand Audition Anniversary Gala, headlined by Chris, dropped into his dormitory, he knew it was time to take his best efforts to the word once more.



The Anniversary Gala

Chris, the returning hero, and headline act, had just bounced his way back on stage to a rapturous ovation, shaking the Academy to its foundations. Across the stage from him for this duel, the same opposition as the year previous. Chris started to play, all the pop and arrogance from last year magnified to its highest level as the crowd again rose to their feet and the judges began to shake their heads in disbelief – the entire auditorium having their breath taken away.



However, Mike knew how this story ended and he didn’t like it, so instead of politely waiting for his turn Mike began to play, his bow dancing and weaving stories and complexities into Chris’ existing hits. Initially unsure how to react to the interjection, the crowd began to really listen to the additions and were taken aback by the emotions that were being evoked – rather than just the flashy, chaotic, and engaging party that they were expecting and had grown accustomed to. As Mike continued to embellish Chris work, the judges and the audience liked it even more. Both men finished and received a standing ovation. This year – there is no stomach clenching and there is no sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, this year he sat upright and felt filled with pride. He looked at the crowd, and he could see the adulation, mixed with the confusion. How, for months, had those in the audience not realized what they had with Mike – how had they let themselves get distracted by and enamored with the talented and flashy Chris.



Not any longer.



As the confetti from the ceiling fell upon Mike as he was announced as the winner of the duel, Chris was seething in the background. Not just the reputational damage that had been done, but primarily now that he had been exposed. The flash, the show and even the headline hits are good for a while, but if you scratch beyond the surface what you really find with Chris is very little substance.



Chris would play the equivalent of the flashing neon sign in the downtown core – it would get your attention and keep it in the moment but over time it would naturally fade as it becomes less and less effective until you forget that it even existed in the first place. Mike – Mike is the cathedral in the corner of your eye, an echo that runs through time yet remains somehow timeless.
 

SupineSnake

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volume one twenty.
ONE FLEW OVER
THE TULIP PATCH.



[click the flowers for the promo]

volume 120
ONE FLEW OVER THE TULIP PATCH.


“He who marches out of step hears another drum.”
- Ken Kesey.






July, 2039.
Cherry Hospital.
Goldsboro, North Carolina.


ACT I.

“It's been almost a week now,” the Doctor continued, whilst scrawling frantic notes upon his notepad and intermittently pushing his spectacles back up his nose. “Since you traded your orange jumpsuit for a white one.”
“Orange was never my colour,” the patient answered.
“Perhaps not, Patient V,” the Doctor replied. “But a change in wardrobe is only one of many reasons one might wish to transfer from the state penitentiary to Cherry Hospital.”
“What are you implying, Doc?” she asked. She knew what he was implying.
“Very well, Patient V, if you wish for me to be direct,” he went on, whilst finally placing his pen down onto his papers and leaning back in his chair. Physically, there was only his untidy desk between them, but a much wider chasm existed in her mind. “There are some here at the hospital who have raised concerns that your symptoms may be simulated.”
“And why would I do that?” she asked, with a cynical smirk that the Doctor found disconcerting.
“Most would agree that our hospital is a more pleasant environment than the local prison,” he answered, eliciting a sharp, involuntary scoff from his patient.
“You don't get to our ward often enough, Doc,” she said. “If you knew the Nurse and her bedside manner I'm sure you'd recant that statement.”
The Doctor narrowed his eyes slightly. Picked up his pen. Continued to write in his notepad.
“When we spoke yesterday,” he continued without eye contact. She was only sure he was talking to her because she was the only other person there. “We talked about regret. You spoke about an experience - a sexual experience - that occurred fifteen years ago. One that you're ashamed of.”
The patient didn't reply immediately. Something about the manner that the word sexual slithered off the Doctor’s forked tongue repulsed her.
“Sixteen years ago,” she corrected, eventually.
“Would you like to talk about that some more?” he asked, with eyes only for his notes.
“Would you like to talk about that some more?” she returned, suggestively. The question lingered in the air, the repetition sharp with accusation. The Doctor felt the need to justify himself.
“Yesterday, you framed your experiences in Mexico City in August, 2023 as the starting point of your descent,” the Doctor surmised, in a fashion the patient felt overly matter-of-fact. “Defeat to one man in the ring and another between the sheets. You point to another defeat in April, 2024, this time in Osaka, as the moment of implosion. I believe these two events are more closely related than you're willing to admit.”
The Doctor's evocation of those three men was sudden and unexpected but the images were not difficult to conjure. All three of them had left such an imprint upon her that the memories weren't really memories at all. She closed her eyes in Goldsboro in July of 2039. She opened them in Mexico City in 2023, another part of her being awakened from a long but restless slumber.
The array of drinks in front of Michelle was a familiar one: a neat, straight Jameson's and a cold bottle of Heineken. This is what she used to drink. This is what this part of her drank. She sipped at the beer and winced. A network of bruises sang across her torso, fresh and angry. Cracked ribs. A broken bone or two. This is what defeat tasted like, even if she hadn't actually lost.
In a blink of an eye she was in Osaka in April, 2024. She was half the world away but her surroundings hadn't changed all that much. Dive bars were much the same wherever you were. She sat at the bar and nursed the same tandem of drinks that she'd nursed for much of the last decade. An empty stool stood next to her. Twice someone had tried to occupy it and twice she'd told them she was saving it. That was half true. She didn't know if he'd really come. To here of all places.
The feeling of defeat was less urgent in Osaka than it was in Mexico City. There was, of course, the fact that she hadn't lost yet. She had ridden the wave of her return to a few wins against notable opponents, and her next one was wallowing in successive defeats. She was expected to win, almost. Even now, though, with the match still a few days in the stubborn future, the stench of her own failure was thick in the air. She was submerged in it, oppressed by it. Mexico City felt like yesterday, defeat and shame the twin harbingers of her downfall.
“Patient V?” the Doctor urged. She opened her eyes. She would allow the conversation to wash over her, safe in the knowledge that she wasn't really here.
“You're wrong,” she said, simply. “They both might be Bastards, but they are different men. Mexico City and Osaka are different things.”
The Doctor smiled. The patient found this curious. He almost appeared as though he thought he'd won a point.
“We'll leave it there for today,” he concluded, triumphantly. “Perhaps we will continue this thread in the morning. Return to your ward.”
By the time she returned to the ward, the other patients were already in the yard for the meagre provision that the state deemed recreation. About a week was enough for her to figure out the institution’s routines: those in place on account of the authorities and those that the patients had installed themselves. The yard was no different. Today she found the men that she cohabited with engaged in the same menial activities that they conducted every other day.
Most of the men on the ward were entirely unresponsive. They were dubbed the Chronics by both the orderlies and indeed the other patients. One of these, Patient X, stood at the fence around the yard’s perimeter and gazed towards the dense forestry that lay southwards. The other patients called him Chief on account of his heritage, but Patient X didn't answer to that or any other name. In fact, not a word had gone in or come out of the huge man since V had arrived (or long before). None of the others considered him much at all. They knew he was deaf and dumb, and surmised there wasn't much sense left in him anyway.
Patient T was attempting to play basketball with the orderlies, and the way he bounced the ball implied he possessed some athleticism in his long-forgotten youth. Now, though, the staff threw the ball around in an ever expanding triangle, T hustling to retrieve it but never quite quick enough. The arrangement didn't really seem fair. Patient R, meanwhile, walked in wide circles around the neglected gym equipment, muttering to his imaginary friends that had taken the places of the real ones he murdered. Patient B was nowhere to be seen, and she'd quickly learned that he spent his time inside with the Nurse, helping her with errands too tedious for even the orderlies.
She took a seat on a bench next to Patient A, who hadn't had a drink in the eight months since he'd been here but whose breath still stank of whiskey. He was fidgeting nervously like he always did. V watched the Chief as he gazed towards the trees.
“What do you think he's doing?” she asked, whilst lighting a cigarette. Patient A was a fool but he'd been here a long time, with nothing to drink and nothing to do except watch the other patients.
“The Chief?” he replied, almost confused by the question. It had been a while since he'd thought about Patient X. “I wouldn't pay him no mind. He's not thinking about you. None of the Chronics are. They're somewhere else entirely.”
“Maybe I am, too,” V said, mostly to herself. “How’d he come to be here?”
“He was sent here,” answered A, with a shrug. “Committed. He was Chief out there, too. Some bigshot tribe, respected across North America. Important guy, I heard, until he killed his wife. Would've done the same to his kid, too, if they hadn't stopped him. Hasn't said a word ever since. They say he cracked.”
“Did everyone here try to kill their whole family?” V asked. A shook his head.
“Just him, and R of course,” he corrected. “But R actually pulled it off, the son of a bitch. Still, two out of ten does seem a high percentage.”
As Patient A finished his thought, the smell of cheap whiskey that he drank eight months ago dripping off him, the orderlies began to usher the patients back towards the building. Time for group, they announced. V winced at the thought of it. Group was less frequent than her daily conversations with the Doctor, but it was also longer and a shared experience that made it altogether more unbearable.
“I guess that's why we're here,” V mused.
A didn’t hear her response. He was already scurrying back towards the building, heaving his large frame up the small hill between the yard and their first floor ward. Outside of the Chronics, her fellow inmates - or patients, as the staff euphemistically termed them - seemed to share a number of characteristics. They were each large and hulked about the place one step removed from dragging their knuckles along the floor, but these overlaps extended beyond the physical. She knew that they were all violent men, or at least had the potential to be violent men. She had heard enough about their histories to know this. They had all been trusted once, too. This is where their own paths departed from her own. Each had been betrayed and betrayed in turn, trust broken alongside their fragile grip on reality.
This was a dangerous place, perhaps. But why then did V feel at home?
The anonymity helped. Shedding the name that she'd carried around all her life like a burden fit for Atlas (or probably Sisyphus) had brought with it a sense of freedom that was easy to explain. V was a blank canvas to everyone but the Doctor, who had her file and thus a picture of who she was before. More than the anonymity, though, was the sense of clarity that came with being surrounded by such a fog of confusion. In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king, she'd once heard a priest or a politician say. In the land of the mad, the sane woman is king, she'd repeat to herself each night, sleep elusive and the sanctuary of her Dreams beyond her reach.
“And wouldn't you agree that your drinking, in this situation and in many others, has only kept you further from the truth? Further from clarity?”
The Nurse spoke softly and calmly, though her words carried a subtle edge. She was sterile to the point of hostile, speaking about connectivity and clarity and friendship whilst all-the-while staring right through you - into you and out the other side - with unblinking, cold eyes.
Meek and submissive, Patient A nodded his head. A small gesture of his defeat. None of the other patients were going to help him. They each knew this from experience. The twice weekly sessions masqueraded as group but were, in fact, individual interrogations at the hands of their blunt governess. You were on your own when she had her headlights upon you. Most of the others winced and flinched from her gaze. Patient B was the only exception, who sat up attentively like a secretary at the meeting. He would often forget that he was a patient. Even V knew this from her short time on the ward.
“You agree?” Nurse Best pressed further. A nod wasn't going to be enough. She wanted a verbal submission.
“I agree,” Patient A agreed.
“To what are you agreeing?” the Nurse asked. She scrawled a short note onto her clipboard, part of the act to conceal the torture as therapy. Patient A began to stammer and gently rock himself forward in his seat.
“I’m agreeing…” the beleaguered patient started, before trailing off into silence. Twice more he repeated the same two words before twice more managing to get to further. He recoiled from her unflinching gaze, the ends of her mouth unfurling into a smile.
“How can we expect to rebuild trust, both the trust of others and trust in ourselves, and eventually build those friendships that we crave, if we can't be honest with each other about our past mistakes?”
The patients felt that the Nurse’s question was rhetorical, each engaging in their own brand of weak and deflective silence. Nurse Best shook her head at their surrender.
“A little honesty will bring a little connectivity,” the Nurse said, finally releasing Patient A from her vice-like grip. “And that's exactly what you need.”
“Speaking of what we need,” Patient V interjected, drawing the Nurse's cool stare onto her and eliciting a sigh of relief from A. “I was talking to a few of the guys about a certain wrestling event that's taking place over in Raleigh tonight, and we were thinking that maybe we might be able to fire up that old television screen over there and watch the live feed.”
At first, the Nurse's only response to the change in subject was her gaze, alongside another thin smile that barely concealed her contempt.
“Patient V, I'm sure you're aware that the schedule allows for television time during Wednesday and Friday afternoons, and that we follow a carefully vetted schedule so as to not upset your fellow patients.”
The Nurse followed up with another note on her clipboard. Her demeanour suggested she considered the matter closed.
“Well, what I'm suggesting is we alter the schedule,” V continued, digging in her heels. “You see, some of the boys have never even seen a wrestling show, and I haven't missed a Back in Business since they started doing them. Even in prison, they let us watch Back in Business.”
Another pause. Another sinister smile.
“The schedule that we follow, Patient V, has been carefully put together by medical staff who work tirelessly for your own wellbeing and the wellbeing of your fellow patients. Many of them would find it very upsetting if we just altered the schedule, as you're suggesting. Not to mention the suitability of a live wrestling show, which I’m not sure would be appropriate for viewing here.”
“And that's the end of it?” V snarled, derisively. She folded her arms as if to further illustrate her disdain. “So declared Nurse Best?”
The Nurse was still smiling, but now her eyes almost seemed to contain pity. For what, the patients couldn't guess.
“Would a vote satisfy you?” she said, finally. V nodded her head, waving the Nurse on. “All those in favour of altering the carefully planned schedule to screen a violent wrestling show this evening, please raise your hands.”
V raised hers first. After a few moments of inner turmoil, A followed. Perhaps this was more to thank her for distracting the Nurse from his interrogation than any inclination to watch the show. V didn't care what his motives were. When it became clear that nobody else was going to show their support, even those that had agreed to do so privately before the meeting, she felt grateful for even one person's support, useless though it was.
“I think we can table that matter,” the Nurse declared, victoriously. “That's all we have time for today, friends. I think we should all reflect upon our own regrets and our own shame. That is the path to redemption and clarity.”
That was the end of the meeting.
At a little after ten, Patients A and T were playing cards on the floor of the ward. The orderly in charge of their night care was much less diligent than those present during the day, and so long as they didn't make too much noise or hurt one another he mostly just slept away his shift in the office. A was winning, much to the chagrin of his highly competitive counterpart.
“You're cheating?” T insisted, whilst handing over a cigarette to settle the debt of his latest defeat. “You must be cheating. It's the only logical explanation.”
“Then why are you still playing?” A asked, with a chuckle.
“Maybe I'll stop,” T replied.
“Maybe you should stop,” A agreed.
Meanwhile, V leant against a large unit in the middle of the room, the top of which was dominated by a huge, domed sink. Arranged around the basin was an elaborate series of faucets, which she idly played with whilst the others bickered, turning them on and off and watching the water pool in the basin. She did this until the squabbling of her cohabitants became too much for her, at which point she collected a nozzle shaped like a small handgun that was semi-detachable from the main unit by a long chain. Water gushed out of the end of it and poured onto the ongoing card game, before its stream was directed onto Patient T, who tipped back in surprise at the sudden barrage.
The ruckus caused Patient B to sit up from his bed and bark a hushed whisper. He insisted they keep it down and go to bed, but his words had no power during the night. Nurse Best had her real life in her real home with her real friends to go to, and during those hours Patient B was as lost and alone as the rest of them. She doused him next, much to the delight of Patient A, who howled with laughter. He didn't escape her crosshairs, but he accepted his dousing with glee and encouragement.
She turned the tap off when the call came from the nurse’s office. The night orderly implored them to keep it down and then muttered to himself about the braindeads under his care. His words echoed around the ward but soon turned back to snores, at which stage V punctured a lingering silence.
“Only one of you showed any kind of spirit today,” she announced, grimly, with a shake of her head and a dull but unresigned expression on her face. “The rest of you aren't men. You're slaves. Serfs of that Empress who calls herself Nurse.”
“It doesn't matter what you think of us,” Patient B returned from his sodden bed. He, at least, was a willing serf, and seemed to wear this dishonour proudly. “You lost your vote. You're here in the mire with the rest of us and the television is off.”
“That's not the only television in North Carolina, tulip,” V replied, dismissively.
“It's the only one that matters to you,” B declared, whilst lying back in his bed and squelching as he tossed and turned.
“I think I'll just go out and watch the show,” V said. She looked out the window, as if determining a route across the grounds. “I think I'll go watch it in a bar somewhere. I know A likes that idea. How about it? Who's with me?”
B simply scoffed from his bed. A shuffled awkwardly and began to collect the damp cards. Even X had come over to watch the scene, lured in by the commotion and now looming over it like a silent, solemn giant. T shook his head dismissively, emboldened by B’s disbelief.
“You're just gonna walk out of here?” T asked, sarcastically.
“They lock the doors at night,” A advised her in little more than a whisper, leaning in as if taking her side and sharing a secret.
V, for her part, continued to look out of the window. She placed her fingers against the thin, metal bars that latticed across them, rattling them gently and listening to the echo.
“Seems pretty weak,” she said, absently. “I'll put them through with the sink. And then yes, T, I'm just gonna walk out of here.”
“Good luck lifting that thing,” T replied, with a sneer of his own. He began to deal another hand with the wet cards. A, though, wasn't interested in continuing the game, and joined the others in watching V as she positioned herself with a wide base next to the huge, metal sink in the middle of the room.
“You know, you could help me,” she said to T, as she adjusted her grip around its base.
“You're on your own,” T insisted, although he at least afforded her his attention, and placed the cards down on a dry patch of ground.
With a grimace and a grunt, V writhed under the exertion of the lift, attempting to unfasten the sink from the ground. It remained steadfast and stubborn, though, refusing to budge even an inch, the laws of physics too much for her slender frame to overcome.
“Giving up already?” B asked from his bed. V took a step back from the task. She was surprised that he'd delayed his sleep to watch her fail.
“Just need a better grip,” she said, returning her focus and her hands to the sink. Once more she wrestled with the task, her hands slipping into various grips along its cold, metal surface. Despite her efforts, it remained in place, defiant and even passive in the face of her struggle.
After a time that none of them measured, but at which all of them knew she'd been defeated, she gave up on the task. Her shoulders heaved as she sucked in the first few lung-fulls of oxygen afterwards, her eyes still fixed on her inorganic foe. The fact that it didn't know that it had won seemed to wound her more.
She walked away from the scene and climbed into bed.
“Well, I tried, didn't I?” she said, as she closed her eyes. “At least I did that.”

*







ACT II.

“You mentioned the Nurse yesterday,” the Doctor said, eyes intent upon the notes spread out in front of him on his desk. The change in subject was abrupt and marked. V surmised that the Doctor was through with talking about her childhood for the day. She came back into the present kicking and screaming. “And not in the most flattering terms.”
“Yes?” V affirmed, simply. Although the memory of the failed vote the day before was fresh she remained at least somewhat guarded. They were in legion, afterall.
“The Nurse told me about the vote yesterday,” the Doctor announced, immediately confirming B's suspicions. “It seems strange to me that you should wish to watch that particular show, given what happened in Mexico City in 2023.”
“I always watch Back in Business,” V insisted, a repetition of her futile argument with the Nurse yesterday. “I didn't expect to win the vote. Hell, I didn't expect the Nurse to even agree to one. Guess she wouldn't if she thought I had any chance of winning.”
“I'm not really interested in yesterday's vote,” the Doctor began, licking his lips with his forked tongue. “So much as what it says about that night sixteen years ago. We have been discussing feelings of shame and regret associated with what happened in Mexico City, both in the ring and later that night, at the Four Seasons.”
He allowed the silence to linger, as if hoping the memories would be stirred up within her. Little did he know, she reminded herself, that she wasn't really here. She didn't need to remember Mexico City. Another part of her was still there.
She had only intended to leave the dive bar for a cigarette. She still had half a bottle of Heineken and the dregs of a Jameson's waiting for her behind the counter. The bartender looked like a good, honest sort. He'd no doubt keep them safe. She didn't return for them, though. The buzz of the city and the shadow cast by the tall hotel were enough to draw her away.
She knew what was in there. Who was in there, if she was to afford the man begrudging personification. She found it unhelpful to do so. It was better to think of him as an object to be used. Safer. Easier.
“You know where to find me,” he'd said, oozing in sleaze and superiority, as they'd passed one another in the hallway of the arena. She found his air of triumph uncomely and unearned. He'd been defeated himself, after all, for the second year straight and in eerily similar circumstances.
She held the card for the hotel - the Four Seasons - between outstretched, trembling fingers. He flashed her a smile that both repulsed and excited her.
“If you should change your mind, Dreamer.”
In Osaka, in April of 2024, she sat amid oncoming defeat and stank of it in a different dive bar that was the same even if on the other side of the world.
She didn't believe he'd really come until she saw him arrive. He looked at odds here in this sort of place but she supposed at least one of them would look misplaced in any location. He was dressed as she expected him to be dressed, in a sharp, grey business suit, and looked exactly as she remembered him. Not that they were ever more than distant acquaintances, but he cast a long shadow, and she had for a brief time danced beneath it.
For the man's obvious unfamiliarity with his current environs, it was difficult to say he was uncomfortable with them. If anything, he remained neutral towards the drab and dreary dive bar that he found himself striding through. It almost appeared as though he existed on a different plane altogether, and in his mind a higher one. He briskly arrived at the seat she'd been saving for him all night. He didn't order anything.
“I shouldn't have let you pick the place,” he said, whilst carefully removing his gloves.
“I wouldn't have come if you didn't,” she replied, draining her bottle and ordering another one. “I scarcely believed it was you. Especially when you agreed to come to a place like this. You must be desperate, Rupert.”
The old man didn't say anything. Eventually he shrugged, a taciturn acceptance in itself.
“Why are you here?” she asked. She hasn't put it together yet.
“Wouldn't you agree, Patient V?” the Doctor asked, once more bringing his counterpart back to the present. “It appears to me that your eagerness to watch this event contradicts your feelings towards this company and, more generally, the industry, based on the events of Mexico City and Osaka.”
“Seems you have it all worked out without me,” V allowed. She found these daily reminders of a past life better off left behind uncomfortable.
“I'm interested in your opinion,” the Doctor implored.
“Osaka was only a loss,” V insisted, defiantly. “I've had others. Worse.”
“But it led from Mexico City,” the Doctor began, as if in summary. “And it led to New York. To your Basterd, who had already humiliated you privately a year before, and would now do the same publicly.”
If there was a response, V didn't care to search for it. She simply watched the Doctor, observing his heavy breathing, his heart rate quickened by the excitement of his analysis. He was voyeuristic and predatory and she abhorred him. She refused to play into his daily fantasy.
“Can I go back to the ward?” she asked, after a period of silence too long to measure.
“Whenever you're ready,” he allowed.
“I would think that your competitive spirit is what drove these people away,” the Nurse continued, slicing through Patient T’s defences with deadly precision. He had been reduced to a quivering, whimpering wreck by her sharp and cutting appraisals. “Your parents, your wife, eventually even your children. Remembering them is painful because of what you did to them, but that is why we are here. Painful memories must be confronted if we are to rebuild trust.”
V felt that the Nurse only paused in her onslaught because of her arrival from the Doctor's office. Her unique situation meant more regular one-on-one sessions, but the tedium of the ward’s schedule continued in her absence. Nurse Best turned to face V as she entered the room. There was an implication that she should take the empty chair. The rest were occupied by the other patients, arranged in a horseshoe around the Nurse and her assistants, except for the free-roaming Chronics who had little time or need for group. V resisted the non-verbal instruction for as long as she could before taking the seat. Her rebellion couldn't be so obvious and so pointless. She folded her arms and sunk into her chair.
“Thank you for joining us, V,” the Nurse said, in her calm and quiet tone that sank into the patient like a knife between the shoulder blades. “We were just talking about competitive spirit. About how it's fine in small doses, but that winning isn't everything. Sometimes taking the long road and doing things properly can lead to a much richer reward.”
“I wanted to talk about competitive spirit, Nurse Best,” A began, finding his confidence and with it his voice.
“You have something you wish to share with the meeting?” The Nurse asked, barely concealing her surprise.
“Well, yesterday, Patient V raised the issue of altering the schedule so that we could watch a wrestling show,” A continued, stumbling slightly over each of his carefully constructed words, but speaking slowly enough to properly convey his meaning. “And I got to thinking that I've never even seen a wrestling show. Not once in my whole life, and I'm fifty eight years old. And I thought maybe I'd quite like to see a wrestling show, at least once. And Patient V told me that tonight we've got a new show?”
He turned towards her for back-up, and she knew that it was all that he could manage. He was buckling completely under the pressure, but he'd at least come this far.
“That's right, a new show,” V said, taking up the cause. “Night Two. And we want a new vote.”
The initial response was another cold, sly smile, the sort which Nurse Best reserved only for these infrequent and ultimately brief moments of defiance. V held firm, folding her arms and matching the Nurse's gaze.
“Would one more vote satisfy you, Patient V?” the Nurse asked, finally.
“One more vote,” V affirmed, before sitting up in her chair. “Let's hear you this time, tulips. Don't go forgetting you've got arms to raise.”
“All those in favour of disrupting the schedule, so that we can watch a violent and reprehensible portrait of moral decay misrepresenting itself as sporting endeavour, please raise your hands.”
A raised his hand almost before V. They were followed soon after by R, along with E, and eventually even T. B remained stubborn with his arms folded, of course, but even he couldn't rain on her parade.
“I'm not interested in the pre-show,” she announced through a wide grin. “Main show starts at ten.”
“I'm sorry, Patient V,” the Nurse interjected. “But the result of today's vote is the same as yesterday's.”
“You're kidding, tulip?” V replied, nonplussed and bemused. “It's a landslide, is what it is!”
“There are ten patients on this ward, Patient V,” the Nurse declared, triumphantly. “You are short of the majority needed to change ward policy.”
“You're counting these guys?” V asked, incredulously, whilst gesturing at the Chronics that roamed the ward around them, oblivious to the events of the group session. “They don't even know what we're talking about!”
“Those patients rely on the schedule more than anyone, Patient V,” the Nurse explained, calmly and quietly and with the resounding triumph of a thousand trumpets. “To disrupt it might prove catastrophic to their already fragile mental states. Every member of this ward should get an equal say in ward policy, I'm sure you'd agree.”
“Okay, so I need one vote?” V asked, staring defeat in the face but not quite yet willing to accept it. “That's all?”
“It's time that we drew this meeting to a close, Patient V,” the Nurse said, clutching her notepad to her chest. If V heard her, she didn’t show it. Instead, she began to approach each of the Chronics in turn, desperately trying to drum up support for her motion. Her pleas mostly fell upon deaf ears, and those who did react to her protestations did so with bemusement or ambivalence.
V was about to give up when she got to Patient X. She began by patting the Chief on his shoulders and grinning broadly, employing open, warm, and positive body language that she hoped even he would understand. The Chief considered her as one might a fly with a peculiar insistence on buzzing in front of their eyes.
“So what do you say, Chief?” she asked, whilst modelling the act of raising one’s hand. “Want to watch some wrestling? Big, burly men throwing one another around? Or little, scrawny women, if that’s what you’d prefer. They’ve got it all under the big tent! All you’ve gotta do is raise your hand. It’s easy, Chief, look! Just like me. That’s it – put your hand in the air!”
“Patient V,” the Nurse declared, rising from her chair and projecting her voice so that it rolled through the ward like a hurricane. “This meeting has been adjourned. Please stop disturbing the other patients.”
“Just raise your hand, Chief!” V continued, undeterred. It seemed she was getting some traction, too. Patient X watched on with increased curiosity as she repeatedly raised her hand in demonstration, her barked orders that he should follow becoming louder and more insistent.
And eventually, he did.
“Yes, Chief! You beauty!” she declared, jumping up onto him to kiss him on the cheek. Then, she ran to the window to the nurse’s office, banging on the window and pointing at X. “The Chief raised his hand! 6-4! The Chief raised his hand!”
“I’m sorry, Patient V,” Nurse Best said, after eventually opening the window to the hatch. “The meeting closed a number of minutes ago. At that time, you didn’t have the majority that you needed. Therefore, the schedule can’t be disrupted this evening.”
“Oh, come on!” Michelle cried, her breathing heavy and her rage incurred. “That’s horse shit, Nurse! We got a majority!”
“The decision is final, Patient V,” the Nurse insisted. V clenched her fist as if to punch the wall, but after a couple of light taps on the plaster with her knuckles, she gradually unfurled her hand. Resistance in this form was futile.
Instead, she walked across the ward and sat down on one of the low couches in front of the television. The screen was turned off, and all that stared back at her was her own distorted reflection, scowling on the face of the black mirror. It was difficult to say whether she hoped it would be turned on. Such a hope belonged to a fool, and the V that we’ve come to know by another name is a long way from one. Perhaps time amongst the lost and the addled had cut through her own good sense and frail nerves, too.
A couple of minutes passed by. The television screen remained off, but V was steadfast in front of it. The intensity of her gaze, directed at a blank rectangle, drew a crowd of the other patients around her. They, too, were beginning to find themselves victims of a contagious fool’s hope.
And then, eventually, Michelle began to talk. Under her breath at first, but gradually rising in both volume and excitement.
“Ding! Ding! Ding! Ladies and gentlemen, the following contest is your Back in Business XXXIII: Night Two opening match, and is scheduled for one-fall with a sixty minute time limit! Introducing first, weighing in at one hundred and eighty pounds… Samantha Sullivan!! And her opponent… from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, weighing in at two hundred and eight pounds… ‘the Prodigy’s Prodigy’... Michael Parr Junior!”
As she concluded the introductions, the sudden excitement of her curious cohabitants only grew. Some of them even went so far as to cheer. Emboldened, Patient V continued with renewed vigour, painting a picture that she and (eventually) the others could see unravel before them.
“We’ve seen these second generation superstars butting heads constantly over the past two months,” she went on, assuming the role of generic play-by-play commentator, The voice was an amalgamation of several that she’d known during her tenure. “And it all comes down to this, with the winner said to be the next in line for a shot at the Undisputed World Championship.”
“Patients should disperse from the lounge area!” came the announcement over the speaker system. The Nurse’s voice sounded uncharacteristically shrill, as if compromised by panic. “Anyone still gathering in the lounge area will face consequences!”
“I had the opportunity to talk to Samantha Sullivan earlier today,” V continued, undeterred and unrelenting. She now embodied a third role, conducting the generically-witty commentary dynamic that her old company was known for. “And she spoke about Parr Junior as if he was a stepping stone. I admire the confidence, Jean-Rod, but I’m sure young Michael will have other ideas. Like father, like son!”
“Security!” went the frantic call on the speaker. “Security to ward one!”
“Both competitors are in the ring, and - Ding! Ding! - there it is! The opening bell! Sullivan and Parr circle the ring, a torrent of noise surrounding them here in Raleigh, North Carolina!”
As the gathered patients picked a side and began to cheer their chosen horse, a quartet of burly security men appeared on the scene. Nurse Best pointed at the commotion and continued to shout from the other side of the glass.
“There!” she declared, her voice conquered by rage and relief. “Take the disturbance away for processing, please!”
“And it’s a -- yes, I knew it would be!” V bellowed, still in character, as her cohabitants hooted and the security team grasped her in their strong arms. “A collar and elbow tie-up! What a start to Back in Business XXXIII!”
She continued to call the moves to rapturous applause, even as she was dragged away.
A while later, the cheering had subsided. Many of the patients still wore wide smiles, but A’s countenance belied his concern.
“Processing?” he asked, when the others had calmed enough to consider what they’d just seen. “She means the Third Floor?”
R shrugged his shoulders. T nodded his head. B laughed heartily as he climbed into bed.

*






ACT III.

“We considered at great length whether it would be best to cancel this trip altogether,” Nurse Best said to her assembled crowd. The patients were positioned around her in a horseshoe, each of them intermittently glancing at the ominously empty chair at the end of the formation. Patient V still hadn't returned from the Third Floor, with those that remained on the ward greeting this news with varying levels of discontent. “However, it was decided that the visit has been scheduled for a long time, and many of you were looking forward to your grand march. To cancel the excursion on account of the actions of one individual would be unfair. As planned, the whole ward will take recreation time early today. Those of you able enough to go on such a visit will assemble by the outer gates at nine. There, you will await transport to take you to the zoo.”
“And what about V?” asked A. He folded his arms, an affectation of defiance he'd learned from the woman he referenced.
“I believe that Patient V will return to the ward any time now,” the Nurse informed them. “Perhaps even in time for recreation.”
“That's not what I mean,” A continued, agitated and emboldened. “Will V be able to come on the trip?”
“I'm not sure that would be appropriate given her outburst last night,” the Nurse said, softly and simply.
“If V doesn't go,” A replied, resolutely. “I don't go.”
“Be that as it may,” the Nurse answered, dismissively. “You will go to recreation. You can stay here afterwards with those unable to attend the excursion, if you so wish.”
It was as they prepared themselves for the yard that Patient V reappeared. A was pulling on his mittens when she was led through the main entrance, her eyes distant and her mouth agape. She was pale and absent, walking as though all of the life had been drained from her.
Even X turned away from his window to observe her entry. She tilted her head to face him, offering the Chief a slight smile and a subtle wink.
She continued to lumber like a zombie towards the group, eventually coming to a halt in-between A and T. They gazed at her in shock and awe, not quite believing that the fight had been zapped out of her in one visit to the Third Floor.
Just as they were beginning to accept this truth, V reached out and pulled hard on T’s nipples, making a loud buzzing noise as if she was transferring a current into the unexpecting receiver. T jolted backwards in shock of another kind. A allowed himself a bellow as V threw an arm around him.
“Great to be back home, tulips,” she said, with an eager and cunning smile. “They just put a spark in me, is all.”
“They're saying you can't go on the visit, V,” A informed her, as they emerged into the yard. T raced over to the basketball court, where three orderlies began to evade him with their passes.
“I wouldn't go to a zoo in any case,” she replied. “But I might make an exception today. I think I'll meet you there. In fact, that sounds like a great idea. I'll meet you there, A!”
“And how do you expect to do that?” A asked. “The nurse… she said…”
“It's about time you boys stopped putting stock in what the Nurse says,” V advised, before nodding across the yard. A followed her gaze, observing Nurse Best as she walked along a path on the other side of the fence and climbed into her car. “Besides, it's Sunday. The Nurse doesn't work Sunday afternoons. Which means…”
“Which means nobody's in charge,” A concluded.
“Which means I’m in charge,” V corrected. “I'll meet you there. Don't worry about me. In fact, I insist you don't think about me. You'll only give me away if you worry too much.”
A was hurt but understood, and soon disappeared to take his recreation time with the others. V walked around the perimeter of the yard, eventually finding X staring into the forest to the south beyond the fence. The Chief had his hands in his pockets and a pensive look on his face. The gigantic man's eyes were on a level with the barbed wire that ran across the top of the mesh barrier.
“How's it going, Chief?” she asked, whilst listing a cigarette and glancing back at the court. The three orderlies on duty were busy throwing the ball around in a triangle, easily and cruelly keeping it away from a hapless T. “You know, I had this idea. I don't know if you'll like it, but I just need you to hold still. Can you do that for me? Just hold still, big guy.”
By a happy accident, at the exact moment that V launched her escape plan, a distraction was forming organically (albeit somewhat predictably) behind her in the yard. It was at this point that Patient E, an elderly military man who fashioned himself as the Captain of the North American Friendship Battalion, chose to stage another of his rousing battle speeches. He did so every morning at half past eight. The rest of them thought that perhaps the change in routine might break that habit, but the great outdoors - meagre as they were for the patients of Cherry Hospital - only invigorated his sense of endeavour.
“Lovely morning for it, men!” he declared, whilst pacing back and forth along the edge of the basketball court. The other patients and, eventually, even the orderlies began to gather around him, hoping to find out which city they were laying siege to that afternoon.
Utilising the diversion that the Captain had both haphazardly and expertly laid, V began to clamber up over the silent giant’s frame and onto his shoulders. She hoped that the Chief would remain steadfast and compliant, as he unexpectedly had done during the ill-fated vote the day before. Her belief in him was well-founded, and soon enough she found herself standing on his shoulders, reaching out for the highest row of barbed wire as the Captain’s battle cry built through its crescendo. She hopped up and over the wire, straddling it carefully before lowering herself down on the other side. She dropped to the floor and rose with a wide grin, inspecting her torn palms before glancing up at Patient X.
“I'm sorry I can't take you with me, Chief,” she said. “Maybe next time.”
Then, she ran away with urgency towards the parking lot. The Chief leant against the fence, watching her disappear behind a large yellow bus
“Next time,” he mumbled.
Shortly afterwards, the gates to the yard were opened up and five of the patients - those deemed capable enough to go on the day's outing - were shuffled out by a single orderly towards the transport. The orderly began to fasten the gate to the fence when the doors of the yellow bus swung open. V was in the driver's seat, beckoning the others on with a sense of urgency. They scrambled in dutifully, Patient B requiring some prompting from A and R, who took their own seat at the windows to watch on as the orderly turned around. The bus doors closed before he could work out what was happening.
“Hey!” he shouted, dropping his bundle of keys on the ground and marching towards the bus. V slammed her foot on the gas and away they went.
It's fair to say that some of the patients were more willing kidnapees than others, but the excitement of those that had taken V’s hand and thrown themselves in was infectious. By the time they had reached the end of the road, they were all in for the ride. And it could have been any road, for all the joyriders knew or cared. They simply assumed that V knew where she was going.
And it appeared as though she did. She made a short stop at an apartment block in the suburbs of Raleigh, picking up a woman she'd met during a previous visit to the city. To listen to the stories that V told whilst driving the bus towards the state capital, she'd been there plenty of times in the past, and had at least some sort of emotional attachment to the place. They didn't push her too much on the point. The woman was in her thirties, slender, and pretty. Her name was Beth. She sat in the unoccupied seat next to the driver, staring back at the grinning faces of the other patients.
“You all crazy?” she asked, punctuating the question with a naive and innocent giggle. Most of them simply gazed back at Beth dreamily. Patient A went so far as to nod with excitement.
They arrived at the bar as it was opening up for the day. The middle-aged man preparing the premises for its first customers seemed to recognise V, and although he couldn't possibly have seen her for at least a year he let her in and gave her what she asked for. She ordered seven beers, passing them along the line to an awe-struck and cautious procession.
Each of them held their bottle into the air, as if waiting for a signal. A was the one to jump the gun. He could last no longer, pouring the amber into his mouth and breathing in deeply the memories that it stirred. He could hear the music of an orchestra. He silently toasted V, his saviour and leader, before greedily taking a second pull.
“Better follow suit and drink up, tulips,” V advised. “I don't know how long we have.”
An hour and a half later, T lined up a long and challenging shot at the pool table. The attempt was valiant, the black ball cannoning off the jaws of a pocket before ricocheting back into a central position. The patient had some skill at the table, but he was rusty and his senses weakened by the four beers he'd already worked his way through. V was fairing noticeably better. There were avenues to retain one's tolerance in prison, where a thriving black market could sustain almost any addiction. She potted the black ball and sealed T’s defeat. He winced and scowled, the pain of the loss too much for him to bear in silence.
“Cheer up, T,” V consoled him whilst ordering another round. “You should enjoy this whilst it lasts. And what is it your beloved nurse says? Winning isn't everything?”
“You sound like the rest of them,” the hulking, sulking man said as he retrieved the balls and arranged them within the triangle. “Mother, father, sister, wife, children. All of them said that. Not just the nurse.”
“Calm down, you're beginning to sound like R,” V said. She nodded towards the least cognizant of her contemporaries, who was in the middle of an intense conversation with the jukebox.
“They all saw eventually, though,” T continued, obliviously. He was grinning from ear to ear as he leant over to break up the balls. “They all found out in the end. Winning is everything.”
They played another game, which he went on to lose, unfortunately and ironically.
Another two hours went by, during which they convinced the kindly old bartender to stream a repeat of last night's Back in Business. They roared with delight when the opening contest, a grudge match between Samantha Sullivan and Michael Parr Junior, kicked off with a collar and elbow tie-up. None of them besides V really had much idea what was going on, but their camaraderie and the reprieve from the asylum’s tedium had them all in high spirits. T even managed to forget about his eight losses at the pool table, if only for a little while.
With the rest of the patients either passed out, blind with booze, or engrossed in a particularly gnarly steel cage match between Malik ‘the Milk-Man’ Garcia-Montgomery and WOLFPUP, V retired to the bathroom with Beth. She hopefully enquired whether the girl had remembered the stuff and was relieved to find that she'd remembered the stuff. She took two quick bumps using the key to Beth's apartment. It wasn't great coke but beggars can't be choosers and she'd been locked away for so long that any memory of good coke was just that a memory and for her good coke was whatever coke she had. She embarked on the task of preparing a proper line on the top of the toilet cistern, Beth's incessant affection a distraction, her hands creeping across her shoulders her back around her waist.
“You got a bill?” V asked.
“I spent out, Dreamer,” Beth answered. V lamented her position when a soft knock on the cubicle door disturbed her privacy.
“Um, V,” a shaken voice muttered. “I think you better come out here.”
“You got a bill, A?” she asked, after opening the door a few centimetres.
“I've got that ten you gave me earlier,” he said, nervously. “You said not to spend it all at once, and we have a tab here. But I really think you should come out here, there's –”
She reached through the gap in the door to snatch the note.
“I'll be out in a minute,” she said, eagerly. A heard the crinkling of paper from within the cubicle as his esteemed leader rolled the note up into a thin cylinder. “There's nothing we can't overcome together, A.”
It turns out she was wrong. Three state troopers awaited her in the bar, and try as she might, V could offer little resistance.
“These men say that you're in charge here,” their captain said, motioning to the other five patients. Some of them were unconscious, the rest frozen with fear. “Is that right?”
“That's right,” V confirmed. “We're from Cherry Hospital, the mental institution up in Goldsboro.”
“Is that so?” the captain asked, bemused by what he considered to be unexpected candour.
“I'm Dr. von Horrowitz,” V continued, without flinching. “We're in town for the 82nd annual convention of the North Carolina Psychiatric Association. These are my esteemed colleagues: Dr. Brontë, Dr. Adams, Dr. Teneson, the renowned Dr. Ellis, and Dr. Riolu. I'm sure you've heard of him. We only wish Dr. Xiang could be here with us, but he's presenting our work in Hong Kong. Will you officers stay for a drink?”
For a moment, none of the interlopers moved, as if they had been cast in a spell by the woman's smooth, almost-believable words. The small gesture of one of them, the short, bald, nervous one at the back of the group, tightening his grip on his nightstick was enough to dispel any magic she might have woven. The captain remained unmoved by the tale.
“I know exactly who you are,” he said. “Let's get you back to the hospital.”
The officer's word was good. It took him just over an hour to load them into the back of a riot van and transport them back to Goldsboro. They left the yellow school bus behind and none of them gave it much thought after they'd made it onto the highway. Back at the hospital, most of the patients were returned to the ward, where they excitedly discussed their exploits from the day. They mostly didn't realise that V was taken directly to the Doctor's office, along with X, who sat next to her for reasons she didn't fully understand.
“You must understand the danger that you put your fellow patients in?” the Doctor asked from the other side of the untidy desk. The Nurse was standing at his shoulder, a scowl upon her face to demonstrate just how much trouble the pair were in. She’d come back to the hospital on a Sunday evening, neglecting her real life in her real home with her real friends. She didn’t look particularly pleased about this fact. “Nurse Best tells me that she's gone to great lengths to explain to you the importance of the schedule. An experience like today could prove traumatic for some of the men on your ward.”
The Doctor continued in this way, with the occasional illustrative interjection from the Nurse, but as was often the case in this office she wasn't really here. She closed her eyes, allowing the one-sided conversation to wash over her.
Mexico City, 2023. She stands in front of a hotel room door on the seventh floor of the Four Seasons. The numbers on it are obscured by her own lack of focus.
She lingers here for a moment before knocking the door. She knows what such a gesture would mean. She knows that there is no going back from the other side of this moment.
Finally, she knocks the door three times. Softly but clearly.
He answers the door.
“I knew you'd come,” he said. The relieved smile on his face suggests otherwise.
She says something in response but it's inaudible. This part of the memory is incomplete. It's been drowned out by the noise. A flood fills her ears as she follows him into the room.
Osaka, 2024. The old businessman looms over her, the small piece of paper in his outstretched hand. He holds it in front of her. She can count the zeros. Not a bad pay day. She reaches around it to collect her drink.
“I know what you did with my sons, Michelle,” he says, redundantly. “Both of them. This is the carrot, next is the stick. You won't like the stick. Take it.”
She grasps the cheque and pulls it from his fingers.
“It shouldn't be too difficult,” he adds as he leaves. “You already stink of defeat.”
Cherry Hospital, 2039.
“You're just going to sit there in silence?” the Doctor asked, indignant at her lack of reply. “You have nothing to say in your defence?”
V stared up at her two captors, and then across at the Chief.
“What's he doing here?” she asked. “The Chief didn't do anything.”
“You involved the Chief in this mess the moment you climbed over him,” the Nurse replied.
“If you've nothing else to say,” the Doctor added. “Then you'll go to the third floor for processing.”
“Of course,” V said, as they shuffled out of the office.
V and X sat on a low bench in the waiting room next to the third floor reception. A fat, elderly nurse worked behind the station, doing her best to completely ignore the two newcomers as she went about her business.
“They should get me a bed here,” V mused, as she stretched out her legs and folded her arms. “Two nights in a row. Guess I'm a regular.”
The Chief’s countenance remained as solemn as ever. He slowly shook his head.
“A fine mess,” he muttered.
It took V a few moments to realise the significance of these three words, but when she did she turned to face him with a broad, knowing grin.
“Jesus, Chief, you can talk?!” she asked. She kept her voice down so as to avoid the staff's attention but a glint in her eye belied her excitement. “You old, sly dog! Can you hear me, too?!”
“I can hear you,” he confirmed. V allowed a short burst of laughter to escape her lips.
“You old, sly dog!” she repeated. “You've got ‘em all fooled, Chief! Jesus! You know, I'm only sorry I couldn't take you with me, Chief. Like I said at the fence. Maybe next time.”
“Maybe,” the Chief replied, noncommittally. “I don't know. I'm too small for something like that. You're much bigger than me.”
If Michelle intended to respond, perhaps to point out X’s notably gargantuan size, she didn't get the chance. The Chief was summoned to his room on the Third Floor. He got to his feet and considered V with a sad, searching look.
“What about me?” V asked the woman at the desk, as X lingered by the bench.
“You're going upstairs,” the nurse explained. “To the Fourth Floor.”
She said no more and disappeared into the backroom. V glanced at X, the look of a lost child about her.
“What's on the Fourth Floor?” she asked. He only shrugged in response, and was led away to his room.
The Chief had returned to the ward before the sun rose, where he did his best to pretend to sleep. His mind was racing with thoughts on the day behind him, which were complicated and without resolution. He gave up on even trying to feign sleep when footsteps were led through the room. They were unmistakable as hers, light and delicate as they were, but they were accompanied by heavy boots and traversed the room in a slow, laboured shuffle. She was placed into her bed and the heavy boots walked away without her.
X carefully removed his bed sheets and, as lightly as his huge frame would allow, crept across the room to her bedside. It was her alright. For the briefest of moments, the Chief thought that she was awake. Her eyes were wide open. But when he filled her vision with himself she stared right through him. There was a distance in her eyes that he’d seen only once before.
“Oh, no, no, no,” he muttered, as he pushed her hair out of her eyes. The act revealed a thin, fresh scar running across the length of her forehead, as if her skull had been cracked open like an eggshell.
He shook her shoulders but he knew it was useless.
It didn't take him long to work out what to do next. He could hear the drums from afar. Drums from the mountain. Drums from his home.
He placed the pillow over her face and clamped it down with one huge hand. She didn't offer much resistance. She struggled for a few moments, and then she left. He intended to follow.
With the drums gathering and pipes joining the song, he crouched beside the large sink in the middle of the ward. He gripped onto the bottom of it with his hands and, heaving with the exertion, dragged the structure free from the ground. Nuts and bolts tore out of the fixture and rolled across the floor of the ward. He didn't worry about waking anybody up. He'd come too far, and nobody would be able to stop him now that he had decided.
The bars and the window itself collapsed beneath the weight of the sink. He was through. The pipes whistled above pounding drums.
The grass felt soft beneath his bare feet. Only the forest lay before him.
 

Doc Sulliday

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Kleio De Santos sits quietly in her hotel apartment watching TV.

She is surfing through the channels. Just as she did the last time she worked to claim a TV Championship. She had to go through several TV shows to figure out how to beat...god what was his name? Big scary dude in the mask?

Oh it isn't important.

What is important is, she has been granted another shot at the title she lost to Brooklyn Steiner. A man who called himself The King of TV after his win he was oh so proud about. Kleio had a strong hatred for kings, couldn't tell you why, and the regicide of Steiner was something she was planning for some time. Yet, no regicide was needed. He took himself out of the competition.

And with that closed door, another opened.

Kleio turned the TV off.

She got up off the couch and turned to the imaginary camera in the room.

Kleio De Santos: I, Kleio, am going to speak to all of you right now...there is a lot on my mind. At the moment my entire faction is falling apart. As I speak even. I've lost the trust of my friends, and I've lost control of the group...and I lost faith in myself. But one thing is for certain...I do not plan on losing this match to Jack The Clipper.

I've lost a lot of matches in this business.

I've lost to XYZ at Back in Business.

I lost to Shawn Summers, in that first Fallout tournament we had...the one I humbled Krash in.

I lost when I was the last pick of the FWA draft.

I've lost, I've lost, and I've lost.

But, on Meltdown...I don't plan on losing again.

I plan on-

"OH JESUS CHRIST.

Is she really doing a monologue?


Morty, I thought we told her about this shit."

Morty: Aww jeez, we did Rick I remember.

Rick: So why is she doing it?


Kleio looks shocked as the two characters hop right out of the portal in her hotel room.

Kleio De Santos: Oh no, not you guys...I can handle this by myself.

Rick: Oh really? Because from where we're standing it looked like you were blowing it.

Kleio De Santos: I didn't need your help last time.

Morty: Uh, that's because that El Demente dude no showed and stuff. I doubt this guy will.


Kleio begins to rub her temples, clearly a migraine coming on.

Kleio De Santos: Alright...alright fine.

Rick: AWWW YEAH! LET'S GO! RICK AND MORTY FWA PROMO SEQUEL BABY!


Rick opens up a green portal with his portal gun, and the trio all jump through.


The FWA Return of Rick and Morty

viafetg.jpeg


The three jump through the portal into a dark and rainy London.

Rick: By the way, we hate sequels. We don't do them, ever, so the fact that we're even here is something you should greatly appreciate.

Kleio De Santos: Why are you here?

Rick: It's one of Morty's adventures.


Morty shows his punch card, and that he was entitled to one free adventure.

Morty: Hehe, yeah...I like wrestling and stuff I guess. And I wanted to see you win.

Rick: And what kind of grandfather would I be, if I didn't help my grandson do just that. But that's not the only reason why I'm here...it's also your opponent.

Kleio De Santos: Jack The Clipper?

Rick: Oh, is that what he's calling himself now? Sure, him, whatever. But you know him as something else.

Rick takes out a holograph device that projects a laser image of...

Kleio De Santos: THE MONOLOGUE MONSTER!

Morty: Aww jeez I thought we took him out when we showed up in that last promo.

Rick: We did Morty. And now for some reason he's back, infecting these poor FWA stars. And he almost got to Kleio too. Before we stopped it, you're welcome by the way. One more paragraph and you would've lost the reader's attention for good.

Kleio De Santos: So the Monologue Monster is back, and he's disguised himself as Jack The Clipper?

Rick: I mean, have you seen the Monologues that guy goes on? It's the only thing that makes sense. And he almost pulled you right into it!

Morty: Jeez I don't know Rick. I feel like maybe this Jack guy isn't him. I mean did you see his promo at King of the Deathmatch? It was only one line.

Rick: He's disguising himself Morty. It's what those guys do. It's like baseball Morty, a pitcher throws a couple off speed pitches like changeups and curveballs, then hits you with a 99 mile per hour fastball.

Kleio De Santos: Oh careful there Rick, the mods apparently don't like baseball references.

Rick: OH HO HO! That's a bold one Kleio. Careful there, we're getting a little too dangerous with some of these jabs now.

Morty: Hehe yeah, pull it back some. Haha.

Rick: I like the energy though, really, but just...that's a touchy one. Tread carefully, all I'm saying.

Kleio De Santos: Fair enough, so tell me then...why are we in London?

Rick: We're not just in London, are we Morty...

Morty: No Rick, we're in Jack The Clipper's last promo!

Rick: His last...actual promo. The last time he tried.


Kleio, Rick, and Morty all watch the flashback from 2011. It elicits a few groans as we see Jack The Clipper in his training ring.

Rick: God, a training flashback. How lovely.

Morty: And it's filled with F-bombs.

Rick: Ah yes Morty. You know, the magic word people use when they can't think of a better descriptive word to put in there. But sure, let's pretend like it enhances your sentence.

Kleio De Santos: Ok, so what...he did a flashback? Is it really that bad?

Rick: Just keep watching...


The three of them watch, unseen from the side by the other characters, as Jack and his trainer argue. Soon enough the flashback ends, and we find ourselves on the streets of London, more present day. They see Jack walking down the street.

Rick: Oh here we go...we're into the real meat of the promo now. Get ready for it...

Jack begins to talk.

As they continue to wait.

Rick: GET READY FOR IT.

Jack continues to talk.

Rick: KEEP GETTING READY BABY! Wubba lubba dub dub!

Jack continues to talk.

Kleio De Santos: WHAT exactly are we getting ready for?

Rick: Oh, have you not read this before? This is it...he just...he just talks.

Morty: Aww.....jeez.

Kleio De Santos: He just talks? This is what beat Home Alone? Some douchebag standing in the street talking?

Rick: Oh yeah. And honestly, me personally once I saw those blocks of words I just started scrolling.

Kleio De Santos: This has to be the work of the monolgue monster.

Rick: Oh NOW you see it as an issue. Scroll up, and you'll find yourself standing in front of a freaking TV about to do the same damn thing. Chris Kennedy is gone. Gabrielle Montgomery is gone...like...every few months or so. The era of monologues is over. What wins Kleio? Good stories. Creativity. Not this boring monologue shit with some dude giving haircuts and whining in London about everyone about his life.

Kleio De Santos: Ok, I'm convinced. Let's go to another promo...

Morty: NO! This is my adventure. We're not doing the El Demente thing again where we go through a bunch of shitty promos, and honestly I checked, and like...there isn't much there anyway with this one. So let's just skip this part, ok? Can we do that? Skip to defeating this bastard once and for all.

Rick: I like it Morty!

Kleio De Santos: Fine. Yeah, let's defeat him. Where is he..

Rick: A terrible dark place...Monologue City.


All three gulp as they head into yet another green portal.


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As the three pop out into the busy city, Kleio is overwhelmed with what she sees. The alien like city is buzzing with activity.

They walk past what looks like a newspaper stand.

Vendor: Monologues! Get your monologues here! Five paragraphs! Just give me five paragraphs of words that nobody will read as you continue to go on and on about the same old boring shit in circles! Literally that's all I ask for. Five easy paragraphs!

Another alien is standing on a soap box.

Soap Box Alien: When I was a young boy, everyone used to monologue. It was how we got by. Now people think they're better than monologues. They think they can just write some masterpiece without having it consist of one character talking for the entire damn thing.
And at what cost?
Do you know there once was a man somewhere in the universe, who had a dream...he had a dream that monologues would be appreciated by everyone.
He did them better than anyone could ever.
Bring back the monologue!

The trio continue to make their way through the city.
Rick: God this place is worse than I thought.

Morty: Did he really just try to reference Martin Luther King there?

Rick: Yeah Morty, really poor taste.

Kleio De Santos: So...what's the plan? Where is this bastard?

Rick: Hold your horses there Kleio. Aren't you forgetting something?

Kleio De Santos: Uh...no I don't think so.

Rick: Tell her Morty.

Morty: Well um, you sort of...are forgetting about the grading categories a little bit.

Rick: Let's go over it shall we? First, you have creativity. Which, obviously is a 10. Because *belch* we're Rick and Morty baby. You can't get more creative than this.

Morty: I mean yeah, if The Office can get a perfect 40/40 just for being a beloved TV show I'm sure our weight should carry us far enough there.

Kleio De Santos: Ok, I'm thinking more of an 8 to be a little more realistic, but I'm sure it's still better than whatev

Rick: Next we have presentation. Which, is what is it honestly. I think you'd be lucky to get a 3.5, but depending on the typos you could get hit hard here.

Morty: Don't sweat it Kleio dawg, it's just a 5 point score. Plus you've got all the nice color coding and pictures, you'll be fine...plus I'm sure it's still better than whatev-

Rick: Moving on again....character portrayal, you're awesome Kleio don't change. That's obviously a 5. Quality of Content? I'm sure that's probably at least a 13! I mean again, we're Rick and Morty baby. Plus they love this breaking the fourth wall shit. So that leaves us with one thing. Morty?

Morty: Uh...


Morty begins to count on his fingers.

Morty: Character development!

Rick: Thank you my genius grandson...yes...character development. Right now Kleio, as we speak...what is yours.

Kleio De Santos: Uh...to defeat the Monologue Monster?

Rick: That's not character development, that's an arc. We need you to have an arc. You need to be one way at the beginning of the promo, and develop along the way, to where at the end you're changed for the better. Think of one of those Disney after school specials. What's the moral life lesson you learn at the end?

Kleio De Santos: Uh...not to do monologues?

Rick: Ugh...alright. We'll work on it.

Morty: I like it.

Rick: Of course you like it. It's simple and watered down. Whatever, at least it won't go over Dubb's head.

Morty: Who?

Rick: Let's GO!

Kleio De Santos: Go where?

Rick: It's time for Morty to get a haircut.

Morty: Awwwwww jeez.


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We cut to the inside of the barber sharp where a nervous Morty is sitting inside. Unlike the rest of the city which was bright and flashy, this barber shop was dark, and Morty was certain he could see blood on the walls.

Never the less he sat in his chair like a good little boy.

That is when the barber came out.

Barber: Hello little boy? Would you like a hair cut?

Morty goes to open his mouth but he cannot speak, for the barber has already continued.

Barber: Of course you'd like a haircut. Why else would you have come to my shop? For a lollipop? Or an autograph? I am a great wrestler you know. The best. I can go on and on for paragraphs and paragraphs about why I'm better than anyone else. Especially that child Kleio De Santos. So naive she is. And yes she may have humiliated me a few times, and maybe even carried me to victory in a tag team match, but still I will continue to talk for paragraphs about why I am the greatest. To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub: For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause—there's the respect That makes calamity of so long life.

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, Th'oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The pangs of dispriz'd love, the law's delay, The insolence of office, and the spurns That patient merit of th'unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscovere'd country, from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will, And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all, And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard their currents turn awry And lose the name of action.

The Barber continues his rant as he grabs his hairclippers, going to work on Morty's hair.

But he realizes Morry has stopped paying attention.

Barber: Excuse me!

Morty jolts awake.

Morty: Aw, uh, I'm uh sorry but I think people stopped paying attention when you started quoting Shakespare.

Barber: Oh? Would the Bee Movie script work better? According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway, because bees don't care what humans think is impossible.

Morty: Uh, no...not...really...

Barber: Yellow, black. Yellow, black. Yellow, black. Yellow, black. Ooh, black and yellow! Yeah, let's shake it up a little.

Morty: Ok you're literally just copying and pasting the Bee Movie transcript. That's not...helping.

Barber: FINE! You want to unleash my full power? Well you'll have it. I can rant on and on about this, I can-


Suddenly, the Barber is interrupted by Kleio De Santos and Rick Sanchez!

The two of them bust through the door, much to his shock!

Kleio De Santos: STOP RIGHT THERE MONOLOGUE MONSTER!

Barber: NO! You will not defeat me again Kleio De Santos. I will not allow it! I am better than you. You're nothing but a little orphan girl. Hiding behind your trauma. And I don't care. I literally don't. Everyone has trauma Kleio. It doesn't make you special.

Morty: I really enjoy how you're able to do this without dropping an F bomb.

Barber: Shut tha fuck up!

Rick: Oh there we go Morty you just had to say something.

Barber: Kleio you're not better than the rest of us. You'll soon learn that. You're an impotent fraud. Listen to me and my shitty accent. Listen to me whine about how my mommy had to work shitty jobs. Listen to it! I am whining, and you're going to listen to every single bit of it. Don't you dare scroll! Oh your parents died Kleio? SO DID MINE. I'm a desperate asshole who will do anything to win a title, because I promised my dead dad. You have no idea what that's like Kleio, you were so young when your dead dad was around, like Batman? But me? I'm the fuckin Joker. Sure I'm 42 years old, and I may or may not be the guy that they based the 40 year old Virgin movie on, but that's ok because I am totally okay with being a joke. That is my entire gimmick. You wrestling purists can bugger off and shit and whatever, because I'm the best. Me, and my scissors. I'm going to stand here and make fun of your over the hill gimmick while I pretend like I'm a fucking barber named after a serial killer. Isn't that funny? I think it is. Don't scroll, I'm still going on. Am I butter? Because I'm on a fucking roll. That's right another F Bomb. Winning that TV title is all I need to do to not feel like a loser anymore. And yes I'm aware of the fact that even if I were to somehow magically win, out of pure luck, don't scroll dammit, even if I do win, I know deep down it won't cure that feeling inside. That boohoo feeling I feel when I think I've let mother down, or my dead father is rolling over in his grave. But I don't care, because Kleio it'll mean that you can't do it again. It'll mean that empty feeling you feel won't be cured.


You think that paragraph is long enough? Because I feel like I've got a second in me. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM KLEIO! I AM A CURSE! YES...THIS IS ALL THAT SERIOUS TO ME. I AM TYPING IN ALL CAPS NOW TO SHOW YOU HOW SERIOUS MY CURSE IS. YOU CAN PRETEND TO BE A WITCH. I CANNOT PRETEND TO NOT BE A CURSE. These people have no idea the things we sacrifice for them...for the sake of entertainment. Well I will be your huckleberry. I will be your entertainer. You want a war? You want someone to go out there and bloody some knuckles? Sure, Jack is your guy. I'll bring my scissors, and my gimmick, and my whiny attitude, and you're going to sit there and read every fucking word. Because I am the greatest wrestler there is, and I am the greatest barber there is!

AND THERE ISN'T A FUCKING.

DAMN.

THING.

ANYONE.

CAN.

DO.

ABOUT IT.

See what I did there? I made my monologue even more powerful by having a bunch of one word lines. That is the kind of power I have Kleio, that you will never have. I am going to bring monologues back. And when I beat you for the TV title I am going to prove it. There will be no questions after I am done beating you...that the monologue is king. I'm going to write a big monologue to beat you, then I'm going to write a big monologue after I've beaten you, and then I'm going to continue beating others with my monologues until there's no one left to beat. And you, and Rick, and Morty are going to have to all sit there and watch me do it as I hold your eyelids open.

And-

Suddenly, the Barber is zapped by Rick.

Just like that, he's turned to ash.

A big pile of shitty ash.

Rick: Look, I'm really sorry to just Deus Ex Machina this, but I mean...holy shit that was a lot worse than I thought it was going to be.

Morty: It was probably for the best Rick. The deadline is coming up soon and we still have to format anyway.

Kleio De Santos: No honestly I don't know where else that was going to go. You know...as sad as that was, watching that...like a homeless man, ranting on the street. I think I actually did learn something.

Rick: Right, we agreed...your moral lesson was that monologues are bad. Boom, character development.

Kleio De Santos: No, I don't think it's the monologues specifically. Like all of them are bad. I think a well timed monologue works really well to be honest with you guys. Usually right at the end, when the main character does learn that lesson. And I think, speaking of which, this is actually a bit enlightening too with my current situation with my group. I haven't been listening to them as a leader. But seeing things from the barber's eyes have sort of shown me of how I can come across. I can see now why Trixie and Blair are against me...and Celestia too now. And Ethel...and...wow jeez. But, no for real...I think this is really my chance to turn it around.

Morty: You're full of shit.

Kleio De Santos: Yeah, I know.

Rick: It's good enough for me. Let's put a wrap on this thing. End it with a wise quote or something. And that's the wayyyyyy the news goes!


Morty spits into the barber's ashes, as Rick opens up a portel.

All three jump through.

But when Kleio comes out the other end, she's alone again in her hotel.

Rick and Morty are gone.

For now.

But Kleio remains. What she'll do with her new knowledge however, is a mystery...


“A word is a lot.”
― Etgar Keret