“There was a man in the land of PRIME, whose name was Nova; and that man was pretty cool and upright, and one that loved PRIME, and eschewed evil.”
A red curtain rises over a dark stage. As two small figures trot out onto the stage a large white spotlight blinks over them, bathing them in light. Their shadows dance behind them dramatically as they move into position. They are clearly children.
One is dressed in flowy white robes, gobs of cotton balls glued around her face and neck to create an impressive beard. She holds a cardboard jagged thunderbolt in her hand, its shoddy golden glittery surface actively sprinkling off onto her costume. A gold chain hangs around her neck, culminating in the word “PRIME” spelled out in large cubic zirconias.
The other is clad in an unfortunately tight red bodysuit, plastic horns protruding from his temples courtesy of the painful headband he’s wearing, red face-paint clogging his pores and creating a sense of warmth that is both alarming and comforting at the same time. He waves a plastic pitchfork defiantly, deliriously, into the air.
Flowy Robes announces her presence, thrusting her lightning bolt into the air.
GOD: “Behold! Have you seen my servant…”
“LOUDER!!” one of the parents shrieks from the audience.
GOD: “Behold! Have you seen my servant Nova, so pious, so devoted to me?”
The other child spastically waves his plastic pitchfork.
SATAN: “And why shouldn’t he be devoted? You have given him everything he could ever want…’But forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.’”
GOD: (Stepping forward angrily) “Will not!”
SATAN: (Meeting her nose-to-nose) “Will too!”
GOD: “Take it back, bitch!”
SATAN: “Who you callin’ a bitch, bitch?!”
They both look up as a cauldron of animal blood teeters in the ratters at the behest of a rope tug before turning over, sending a cascade of blood raining down upon them both. As it splashes across the wooden stage around them, they flee to their parents in the audience, who collectively run screaming from the auditorium.
The camera pans up into the rafters, where Hoyt Williams sits, one hand on a long rope, his legs dangling happily into the space above the stage.
“I love the theatre,” he says with a contented sigh before winking into the camera.
“I think I’ll take it from here.”
April 21, 2023 (After ReVival 26 concludes)
Oklahoma City, OK
In the shower room, water sprays down over Nova’s face and through his beard. His eyes are closed tightly and he reaches for the left knob, shutting off the water. He pauses for a moment, then shakes his head back-and-forth before stepping out onto the black rubber mat in the room. He grabs a towel.
Nova is alone in this particular room, and approaches the bench that divides the space in half, where his duffel bag is located.
No gear bag.
Years from now a rumor will emerge that Nova was birthed onto a piece of wrestling canvas that his mother intended to repaint with an anti-imperialist protest message, pushing every bit of 9 pounds, 6 ounces, and fully-clad in bootsies, lightning bolt tights, gloves, and elbow pads.
No one alive can recall seeing him in anything else.
“What…the…fuck,” Nova says, scratching the back of his head. “Where did…what’s going on?”
He stares at the blank space on the bench where his bag should be, recognizes his situation, and shrugs before giving himself a once-over.
“Alright, let’s see. There were other ways of doing this, right?”
Nova looks around the room, eyes fixing on a burgundy button-up shirt hanging with a pair of black slacks in the cubby directly across from him.
“Ah-ha!” he nods confidently, approaching the cubby, “I knew there’d be some cloth pieces laying around somewhere.”
He towels himself off and reaches for the clothes. He spends a few minutes working out how to deal with a button, and pries the shirt off its hanger. He tangles himself in the sleeves, flailing about in mildly claustrophobic fashion before managing to slip his arms down and poke his head out.
The pants are easier work (zipper and clasp notwithstanding), and before long, Nova stands in front of a defogged locker room mirror, giving himself a deflated grin.
“You look…great,” he manages.
Turning around towards the door, Nova’s eyes scan the empty room, feeling the absence of his right-hand man.
Silver places a hand on Nova’s shoulder.
“You’re still that guy,” Sonny affirms, locking eyes with the Risen Star. “You may not see it, but you are. So get after it.”
The sound of a raucous SUV rolling up distracts them both. Two women hang their heads outside of back passenger windows, beckoning to Silver to join them. He gives them a wink before turning back to Nova, his devilish grin melting.
“If shit goes off the rails, you know how to get ahold of me, right?” he asks.
Nova takes a drag of his cigarette. “Yeah.”
“And you’re good?” Silver asks.
Nova takes a last drag, stomps it on the ground, and gives his friend a nod
“I’m good,” he responds with a nod, “Everything’s gonna be okay.”
Nova sighs. “Everything’s gonna be okay.”
He feels something in his pocket, and reaches a hand in. He pulls out the selection ball from Hoyt Williams’s Torment Machine with his name on it.
“Huh,” he cocks his head a bit, staring down at the ball, before focusing back on the exit and approaching the door.
As Nova steps out into the hallway of the Paycom Arena, he looks to his right and sees a man, leaned back in a crouched position against the corner of the concrete wall and column next to the shower room, who resembles an Eastern Kentucky moonshiner’s off-beat nephew, his wild spiky brown hair outdone only by his long, flowing beard.
He slowly looks up at Nova, his blue eyes wide as they roll around and focus on the Risen Star.
“One day!!” he shrieks, looking more through Nova than at him, “When Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house!!
The man reaches his arms back against the wall, attempting to grip at something. “A messenger came to Job and said, ‘The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!’”
Nova recoils and moves around the man, keeping an arm’s distance as he continues down the hallway towards the exit.
He lights a cigarette, making a point of not looking back towards the man in the distance behind him.
“While he was still speaking!!” the man screams, “another messenger came and said, ‘The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!!’”
“Jesus fucking Christ,” Nova mutters, pushing open the double doors to the parking garage and walking out.
He scans the lot for his rental car, trying (as always) to remember where he parked it. He doesn’t have the goddamn common sense to take a picture on his phone of which floor and designated area the car is located in, so he meanders about for a minute before turning a corner past a large garage column.
He is instantly bathed in a warm glow.
In front of him, his rental sedan is completely engulfed in flames. Nova steps back, shielding himself from the heat with his arms.
The Starchild’s head whips around to see the man from earlier standing in the distance in front of the only light emanating from the Paycom Arena.
“While he was still speaking!!” the man screams, his voice echoing through the garage, “Yet another messenger came and said, ‘Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house!!’”
Nova increases his stride as he walks away, before breaking into a full sprint.
“When suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house!!” the man goes on. “It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!!”
As Nova continues to flee the scene, he reaches in his pockets for his cell phone.
Of course it’s not there.
Fifteen Minutes Later…
21c Museum Hotel
Oklahoma City, OK
Nova pushes through the entrance of the hotel, drenched in sweat, and approaches the front desk.
The young lady manning the fort recoils at the sight. “Can I help you?”
Nova manages to cough out his room number, offer a sweaty signature on the office form, and turn down the right side of the hallway. He touches his card to the reader, and the light flashes green before he pushes open the door.
Nova scrambles to the landline phone in the room and dials a number.
A voice answers.
“This shows up as a hotel number and I just want to say, I wish you well, our time together was special…”
“Hayes,” Nova interrupts, “Hayes, it’s Nova.”
“Nova, man, what’s going on?” Hanlon smoothly redirects.
Nova runs a hand over his scalp, trembling. “I don’t know, man, I just, um…some weird shit has gone down tonight and for whatever reason, I just wanted to check in.”
“Alright,” Hanlon responds quickly.
“Make sure you’re okay,” Nova goes on, frowning as he recognizes how crazy he must sound.
“Umm,” Hayes says, “yeah, I’m okay. I think everything is okay. You good, bro?”
Nova takes a deep breath before lighting a cigarette, the phone receiver leaned against his ear.
“Yeah. Yeah, man, I’m good.”
Later in the evening…
Nova sits on a couch in his hotel room, ensconced in a bathrobe. He lights a cigarette and watches as the TV pronounces the next ReVival’s lineup:
“NOVA VS. IVAN STANISLAV!!”
“Ivan…I may be the only person right now in PRIME who specifically understands what you’re going through.”
He pauses. “I mean, less the meteoric second act of your career that returns you to a place of interfed-wide prominence…and more the disappointment of failure. I can understand that part.”
“Okay, so Tony Gamble also understands that part.”
“And Matt Ward. Me, Tony Gamble, and Matt Ward understand that part.”
Nova waves a hand.
“Disappointment is part of this thing for us. We know that there’s beauty in showing up to the fight, in continuing the search…”
He takes a drag.
“…not for the validation which folks are quite happy to heap on us for yesteryear’s accolades, at every turn, but for our own confirmation that we are still capable of accomplishing something extraordinary.”
“And we are, Ivan. I don’t have to tell you that. You not only have a hype man who would offer you boner pills if you were the only living human left on the planet, but you also benefit from delusional personality traits that no doubt sent endorphins of moral victory coursing through your veins even as you saw Elvis Nixon raising Hayes Hanlon’s arm at Culture Shock.”
Nova pauses, sniffing the air.
“I…what is…,” he says, looking around, “is something burning?”
The sound of something rubbing across glass causes him to turn his head, and he falls out of his seated position on the couch and onto the floor as he looks over and sees the man from earlier pressed against the glass of his hotel window.
On the fifth floor of the hotel.
“So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord!!” the man screams through the window, his voice muffled, “and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head!!”
“WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU?!” Nova shouts back.
Before the man can answer, the wind outside buffets him from side to side, and he loses his grip against the glass, falling away into the darkness.
Nova looks over to the TV, which he forgot to shut off before addressing his opponent for the upcoming show.
The Soviet flag flies on-screen before shifting to images of Stanislav flinging opponents into, across, and outside of the ring. The screen begins to bubble around the corners, shades of yellow and brown seeping into the frame as cigarette burns form over the picture.
The TV screen shorts out as a puff of smoke drifts up from behind the unit. Nova stares at it for a moment before snuffing out his cigarette in a makeshift ashtray and shaking his head.
“Soooooooo, that’s gonna cost these folks a half-star, and Window Buddy is gonna dock ‘em another full. Not trying to go full Karen here, but enough is enough.”
He lights a fresh cigarette.
“Look, Ivan, ReV 27 is going to be an opportunity for both of us to…um, for both of us to…”
Nova stares down at his right hand, where a boil has emerged in the space between his thumb and forefinger.
“…for both of us, um…”
On his left, multiple boils are visible across the back of the hand below the wrist.
Nova drops his cigarette and rushes out of frame to the bathroom, his robe falling to the floor.
His scream reverberates throughout the hotel suite.