BURYING THE BARBED WIRE BAT
Dr. Astrid Fihlguud’s office was busy with Great American Nightmare. Most wrestlers passed in and out, but currently, The Anglo Luchador and Ria Nightshade both have spent more time than anyone else in that office after their encounter not only with each other, Mortimer Kjedelig, and Anna Daniels, but with Balaam after that match. Dr. Fihlguud is doing the last part of the concussion protocol test to the old luchador. As she finishes up, she looks over at Ria with a glance trying to center both wrestlers in her line of sight.
Dr. Fihlguud: Both of you passed initial concussion protocol tests, but I would feel a lot better if I had you both checked into Sunrise and stayed overnight for observation. I doubt they’ll find anything, but I just want both of you to be checked out as thoroughly as possible.
TAL: Well, you’re the only one they call starts singing in the tune of the Motley Crue song FIIIIHLGUUUUUD.
Dr. Fihlguud: I swear to God, the next person that does that to me, I’m putting Ivermectin in their IV. Jesus Christ…
As PRIME’s chief physician walks back to her desk to start making arrangements for an overnight stay, the old luchador turns to his foe from earlier.
TAL: Hey, uh, thanks for at least trying to save me back there. I know it wasn’t much, but like, the fact you came back means a ton to me.
Ria is dead silent.
TAL: I meant what I said though. If you want to be done with me, I understand. I have a lot to make up for. I don’t know if me forcing you to see my song and dance would be fair to you.
The silence lingers a moment longer before Ria speaks.
Ria Nightshade: I wasn’t gonna come back for you, not at first. I figured you had what was coming to you. But when Balaam put his hands on you, I felt that anger rising… I remembered what he did to your hands…
Ria still has yet to turn and face TAL. Her expression is solemn, serious. Her focus is downward. There’s no way of knowing what exactly she’s thinking. Is she embarrassed over the beating both had received? Maybe it’s embarrassment over the way she has handled their relationship?
TAL: Well look at you; there IS a human behind all the homicidal urges and Hot Topic makeup.
TAL: Sorry, I am who I am, and that’s a jackass. Look, I didn’t initially choose you to, well, use you. I had some kind of match in the back of my mind all the time. I always respect people who make their way in this industry, who reach for what they want. I could tell from the Jabber pokes and the press conference, you had a fire in you. I had to see how hot it was. I know you don’t give a shit if you earned my respect tonight, which you did, but man, did you hear all those people? They love you.
If you were to follow her eyes, you’d be forgiven for thinking Ria hadn’t heard a single thing The Anglo Luchador said. Her gaze is still locked onto the floor when she speaks again.
Ria Nightshade: I’m fueled by emotion. Emotion is the reason I exist. I might say biting shit from time to time, but I have feelings. Those feelings can get hurt. I can try to shield them, try to hide them away, but I can’t completely protect them.
Ria finally looks towards TAL. It’s a sideways glance, one where she still isn’t making eye contact. It’s progress from burning a hole in the ground with her sight, but one who can read people can tell this is a struggle for her.
Ria Nightshade: It’s cool having support, but I wasn’t looking for it. I’m just being me. I am who I am, too. You think I don’t give a shit about your respect? I might not say it out loud, but there’s people I look up to around here.
The old luchador lets out a muffled laugh as he drops his head, looking at the scars forming on his chest.
TAL: I mean, yeah. Anna. If she’s not on the most powerful, next-level LSD unknown to anyone else, she’s apparently surfed the cosmos. Hard not to look up to her.
Her eyes return to where they once were. There’s a different air to her now. It’s subtle, but if you look close, you can see the faintest hint of pink to Ria’s cheeks. Almost as if she were… blushing?
Ria Nightshade: It’s not just Anna. There’s Cally and RK, who have a kindness and optimism that just seems unbreakable. There’s Baron Von Blackberry, a guy going out of his way to help his students grow. There’s Sykes, who constantly fights through his past for a better future. Timo could use whatever shitload of money he has to do a ton of things, but he tries to use it for others. Then, there’s you…
The tinge of pink deepens closer to red. Ria shifts uncomfortably. You can tell there’s more on her mind, things that she could and very likely does want to say. That door stays closed, at least for the moment. Quiet has slid back onto the scene, capturing attention and inserting awkwardness back into the conversation. The old luchador closes his eyes slowly, bitterly. If you could see into his eyeholes, you’d see a tear forming.
TAL: I’ve thought a lot about the concept of penance over the weeks. Power. What I needed to do to slay monsters and be the best person I could be. I don’t need your forgiveness to move forward. If you want to give it, I’d be happy. Probably not deserving.
He clears his throat a little.
TAL: But no matter how much I try, I can’t change shitty things I’ve done, or in some cases, tried to do and was stopped. The only thing I can do going forward is do things that would make me deserve people like you, Ria, looking up to me. So let’s start now…
He kicks his feet off the gurney he was brought into Dr. Fihlguud’s office on and hops off. He extends his hand to Ria.
TAL: Why don’t we get outta here. Hospital’s not my scene tonight anyway. Timo has the night off from officiating the last match on the show, so let’s go see him. And I’ll give you my friend Pom’s number too. I think she has a lot she could impart to you too. I think the right people in your ear? You could be Universal Champion here. And I’m not just saying that to try and butter you up after all the crap I’ve pulled either.
Ria’s hand moves slightly, but she hesitates. Finally, she looks the old luchador in the eyes. Maybe she’s trying to assess the truth in his words? Perhaps it’s a way to show that respect before she takes his hand? Or there’s a chance she’s giving him a look at her eyes. If they are a window to one’s soul, there’s no better way to show respect and trust. Ria does have one better way to do that. She finally takes hold of The Anglo Luchador’s hand with a gentle grip while hopping off her own gurney.
Ria Nightshade: You might be full of shit… But that all sounds really good. Too good to pass up.
The old luchador looks now the same way he did when his first son was born. At peace. The narrator is not sure here whether he deserves to feel that way, but life works out sometimes in screwy ways. He pulls Ria completely off the gurney and lets go.
TAL: Alright, let’s make like a shepherd and get the flock outta here before the doc gets back with marching orders.
Ria nods and they leave the office. A few moments later, Dr. Fihlguud reemerges into the patient area with some files.
Dr. Fihlguud: Okay, I talked to Sunrise and… what the heck?
She notices both her patients have left, both gurneys as empty as Jesus’ tomb three days after the first Good Friday.
Dr. Fihlguud: Next performance review, I’m asking Lindsay Troy for a goddamn 50 percent raise. I can’t with this roster. I CAN’T.
The camera cuts back to the Grand Garden Arena. It’s MAIN EVENT TIME.