WHAT COMES NEXT
Let’s go to where the action is!
The locker room!
Sorry, that’s where the inaction is. And also where we are, so…sorry, again.
Anyway, let’s meet our players.
Here’s Nate Colton, in his street clothes. The Next Diamond has lost some of his shine as of late, both between his personal struggles and his first-round exit from the Almasy at ReV36. He sits on a bench and watches the monitor, waiting to see what comes next for him…if, in fact, anything does.
And here’s Rich Patterson, also in street clothes, black tee, black jeans, black boots. Phone in hand, distracted in equal measure by what’s on the monitor and what’s ongoing in his text thread. He hadn’t expected to see action at ReV37 but found some, anyway — an inauspicious in-ring debut followed by an inauspicious water-cooler interaction with one of the company’s top pricks. It could be going better.
Nate Colton: Kenny and Hayes…man, who do you root for here?
Rich Patterson: They’re both so likable.
Nate Colton: Right? Who better to represent the company–a stooge, or a stooge who thinks he’s not one?
Rich Patterson: There’s a surfeit of those round here, it seems. People who don’t want to be what they are.
Nate Colton: Ain’t that the truth. Seems like the only folks proud of themselves are the ones that shouldn’t be. Stanislav, Jiles, Gamble…
Rich Patterson: (looking up from his phone) Paxton Ray.
The name draws a deep breath and a slow exhale from Colton.
Nate Colton: That guy. I saw you ran into him at the last show too.
Rich Patterson: Your phrasing’s doing a lot of work there.
Nate Colton: Yeah, well. Can’t say what I really think of him, just in case there’s kids watching.
Rich Patterson: I get the feeling the next time Ray “runs into” me, it’s going to be with a car — just in case there’s kids watching.
Nate Colton: Heh. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea of him actually apologizing to people.
Rich Patterson: I get that. Like one well-timed mea culpa might make a man walk again.
Nate Colton: Right. But…
Nate trails off, as he tries to twist two different belief systems around each other so they can fit together.
Nate Colton: Like, saying he’s sorry isn’t enough. It’s nowhere close. But it’s not nothing, either. And it’s a damn sight more than I ever thought I’d see.
Rich Patterson: You know the man better than me. What’s he done by way of apology? Look, if I lived in the desert, and I do, and someone tried selling me sand, I wouldn’t make an offer.
“So he spent about nine months last year trying to kill me in some capacity. Almost succeeded once or twice, too.”
Here’s Jared Sykes, casually leaning against the wall in his ring gear. Hands buried in his pockets. One ankle crossed over the other. For someone known for driving a forklift through a densely-populated casino it’s a minor miracle that he managed to arrive without being noticed. Maybe it was all that time spent amongst spies and spy-adjacent colleagues so many years ago.
Jared Sykes: And then he approached me a few weeks ago and didn’t throw a punch, so who knows. Maybe what he says is true, and he’s trying to be better. Still…
He reaches a thumb inside the collar of his tee-shirt, one still mostly hidden under a hooded black sweatshirt, and reveals a single alligator tooth mounted on a black cord. It’s the same tooth that was still lodged in his back when he returned backstage after his unsanctioned fight with Paxton Ray at Colossus.
Jared Sykes: Not a hundred percent sure I buy it. Old wounds, y’know?
Nate Colton: Yeah, I do. Not sure I buy it either, after everything he did…what he would have done to my sister, if good people hadn’t been there to stop him. It’s just…either of you guys go to church on the regular?
Rich Patterson: I do not.
Jared Sykes: Not counting the random visits, I haven’t been regularly in… Jesus, thirty years? Maybe longer? It’s been a while.
Nate Colton: I don’t make it as much as I should, but…that ain’t the point. I just had one of our pastor’s sermons pop in my head, is all. She was going on about how important forgiveness is… “love thy enemy,” “forgive us our trespasses,” all of that. And told us to think about the person who’d done us the most wrong, and whether they deserved to be forgiven. Now, I had someone in mind for that, and I guess most of the congregation did…and the pastor says, “I bet you’re all thinking that they don’t deserve it.” And we all kinda agreed.
The Next Diamond shakes his head, a little smile on his face.
Nate Colton: So she says, “But that’s the point. The ones who deserve it the least, are the ones who need it the most.”
Nate Colton: Guess that always stuck with me.
Jared looks down at his hands. At some point during Nate’s story, Jared’s hands had escaped their pocket prison, and now his right thumb was tracing a slow circle over a spot on his left forearm that’s hidden by his sweatshirt. He takes in a long breath, and nods.
Jared Sykes: It’s… yeah.
He lets his head fall back against the wall.
Jared Sykes: It’s a good way to live, it really is. The hard part, at least for me, has always been letting go of the anger and the hurt. I mean the parts that stick with you, that nobody talks about. But it gets complicated, right? Like let’s say I accept his apology for everything that happened to me… for what happened with the mannequin… for the fact that within minutes of getting into that ring, the dude tried to do the same thing to me that he did to Jon. If I can be okay with that, then how do I reconcile it with all the people I know who can’t?
Jared Sykes: Being an adult is the fucking worst.
Rich Patterson: This brand of talk feels like the talk of survivors — people living through profound tragedy, constant grief — the kind who need to take lessons from their suffering so what happened to them is not just understandable but meaningful. That speaks volumes. What happened to you two doesn’t have meaning. Paxton Ray’s a drooling terrorist. If you forgive him, good, but for yourselves. Don’t do it for him. Anything he’s ever done here deserves only what he’s done to others.
Nate Colton: Eye for an eye, right? Makes for better TV, I guess. But as much as I’d love to strangle that bastard, I think I wanna see if he’s on the level. I doubt it…but there’s always hope, right?
Jared Sykes: I don’t know if I’m ready to go all-in on the guy, but I’ve been surprised by people before.
Nate Colton: Look, this whole thing might still be some kind of trick…and if it is, I’ll be the first in line to kick him back into whatever pit he crawled out of. But if my faith is gonna have any meaning, then I have to believe there’s good in everybody. So unless he’s…I dunno, Wyatt Connors or something…maybe he can actually turn his life around.
Jared Sykes: Well then…
He pushes away from the wall and turns towards the door.
Jared Sykes: I think that’s my cue. Y’all have a good rest of the night.
With a nod of acknowledgement to both men, Jared steps through the doorway and out into the corridor.
Rich Patterson: What I know about that man — Rhine’s paralysis, shock collars, the like — is what everyone knows about that man. You’re an insider; I can’t imagine what else you’ve been privy to.
He’s in the doorway now, too.
Rich Patterson: I hate to see good faith punished. But what involvement with Paxton Ray hasn’t ended in punishment? Be careful is all. I know you know.
And into the corridor with a brief token of farewell.
Nate Colton: Good talk, everyone.
He turns his attention back to the monitor, waiting to see what comes next.