Gentle Meadows Home For Old Timers
June 9, 2072
There’d never been a better time to be older than death. The seniors at the Gentle Meadows hadn’t achieved immortality quite yet, but most of them lived to be over 100, and advancements in medicine kept centenarians in good enough shape to live relatively active, lucid lives. Despite all that, technological discoveries made virtual living a much more appealing option, and the accessibility of VR implants made that technology easy to navigate, even for the most ornery, decrepit retirees.
As such, most of the residents stayed within their virtual lives the majority of the time. The difference between virtual and actual experience was nearly imperceptible. While that afforded them the ability to be anywhere and do anything without impediments from the aging process, most of these old schmucks just spent their time in various sex simulation programs–maybe 10 to 14 hours a day for the most depraved–plastering the floors and walls of the Gentle Meadows Home For Old Timers with wad after dusty, sputtering wad.
“Why does it smell like old man jizz in here?”
The question came from a gawking, pale young man who couldn’t have been old enough to legally drink. He was lanky in some places and chubby in others. This was Lil’ Jon Puddings-Johnny, whose interjection was punctuated by the quick smack of the long end of a cane against his mullet-covered cranium.
“Shut your dumb hole, you nitwit. Is that why you came to visit? You get your jollies sniffing the homes of your elders and betters?”
Garbage Bag Johnny was one of the younger residents at a spry 87 and a half, and he had the feistiness to match. His cane swinging mechanics were still sharp enough to concuss at full bore. He watched his unimpressive grandson rub the side of his head.
“Leave the kid alone. He’s already ugly, and genetically speaking, that’s partially your fault.”
Nova, on the other side of 90, sat in a rocking chair smoking a cigar. The three of them were on the small patio outside of the elder Johnny’s unit. The summer sun glistened off the golden belts that adorned the old men’s waists.
“Genetically speaking, I know my kin don’t just show up out of the blue to visit their grandpappy without an ulterior motive.” Johnny’s glare hardened as he shifts it from Nova to Lil’ Jon. “So spit it out. What do you want?”
“I was hoping you could help me out with some money…for school.” Lil’ Jon was too timid to maintain eye contact while begging.
“Money, huh? What business does a rube like you have going to college?”
“Oh, I didn’t mean for college. I want to go to wrestling school.”
Laughter filled the patio, and Lil’ Jon, who already looked dumbfounded enough as it was, wore a visage of further confusion. The laughter ceded to coughing as both Nova and Johnny started doubling over and hacking up mucus from decades upon decades of pulmonary disregard.
“There ain’t no such thing as wrestling anymore, boy!” Johnny managed to stifle his coughing enough to belil’ his grandson. “You just plug into the simulator and think about wrestling nowadays.”
“Makes me sick thinking about it.” Nova spat out something brown and gunky. “In our day, you couldn’t just think of a triple moonsault. You had to climb the turnbuckles for real, and you could only do one moonsault on account of the laws of physics.”
“Sounds boring.” Lil’ Jon earned himself another cane to the temple.
“Mind those manners around us old folk! Now, you don’t need money for wrestling school when you got a font of wisdom right here.” Johnny took a drag off a saggy joint. “You listen up and you might just learn something.”
“Hey!” Nova lit up, tapping the title he still wore around his waist. “It’s coming on 50 years in about a month or so. Why don’t you tell him about when we won these belts?”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea.” Johnny passed the joint to Nova, bypassing Lil Jon’s reach. “What did we call ourselves again? Oh yeah…”
…THE LEGENDARY MUSCLE BROTHERS
I remember it like it was yesterday. Nova and I were putting in another late night at the gym to keep our physiques in tip-top shape. At the time, I could only rep about 25 pounds more than Nova on the bench press, but I was putting in the work to double that while he posed in front of a mirror.
We both had fantastic hair, which was important because despite impeccable pecs, bulging biceps, terrific traps, quality quads, and buttocks so firm we could crack walnuts between our cheeks, our biggest muscles were our brains. Our luscious, flowing locks not only made us a hit with the ladies, they protected our encyclopedic knowledge of in ring strategy and ever growing catalogs of holds and reversals.
Yes, sir. We were the hottest ticket in town. We mowed through the rounds of the Survivor competition, dominating challenge after challenge until Great American Nightmare. We were getting in our last workouts before the big day.
“Hey Nova,” I yelled. “Help me get this up on the rack and then let’s mix up some protein shakes and discuss wrestling theory.”
Nova blew one last kiss to his reflection before helping spot the quarter-ton I was pressing.
“How many walnuts do you want in your shake, brother?” He extended a hand to help sit me up on the bench.
“Six.” I slapped my abdomen. “One for each of these bad boys!”
Nova flexed his well-fed pythons, military pressed a vending machine, and said, “Wait. That’s not how it happened. And that wasn’t our team name, either.”
“No, we called ourselves…”
Don Nova leaned back in his leather chair, a dissatisfied smirk on his face, the weight of an empire on his shoulders, as he watched thin trails of smoke wind their way up to the ceiling. He ran a hand through his neatly-coiffed slicked back hair and pensively rubbed his clean-shaven face. His eyes wandered around the deep crimson walls of his office, adorned with large, garish golden frames that encased paintings of old women. The carpet followed the theme, a deep red laced with criss-crossing lines of black and gold.
Deep red. Blood red. Appropriate for a night like this.
A knock at the door.
“Come in,” Don Nova said, instinctively rubbing the handle of the pistol at his hip but recognizing the knock pattern as one of his most trusted capos.
Vinnie Fingers stepped into the room and quickly shut the door behind him. “How you doin’, boss?”
Don Nova shrugged, pushing back his chair and standing up. “It comes to a head tonight. This Survivor thing of ours…”
Don Nova looked out the wide window behind his desk at the bright lights of Sin City. Las Vegas, the MGM Grand, it had all provided an enormous opportunity for his organization to expand its criminal enterprise. But week by week it felt like law enforcement and rival groups were circling in closer and closer, surrounding the Don and his crew and cutting off the exits.
“…and not a moment too soon, Vinnie.”
“Yeah, that’s somethin’ I been meanin’ to bring up, boss,” Vinnie said nervously, scratching the back of his side. “Our alliances fracturing…the Bruvs…our friends from the Multiverse…we didn’t control that. The other families moving in around us…that’ll be what it’ll be. But the extra attention from the heat…”
Vinnie paused, searching for the words that never came easy for someone with a third-grade reading level born into a criminal enterprise. “…I’m thinkin’ it has to do with all the murders, racketeering, and drug deals we been doin’ on national television since you wanted to start back with the wrestling thing.”
Fingers gestured in frustration to the cameraman standing in the corner of the room. “I mean, who is this guy? Who is this guy filming us? Boss, this is not how we are used to handling our affairs.”
Don Nova was unfazed. “This thing of ours…requires a certain level of visibility.”
Vinnie rubbed his temples. “Boss, I know you love this thing. I’ve never understood it, but I know you love it. But the level of risk that accompanies the routine commission of state and federal crimes while maintaining at least a regional celebrity profile…I mean, this isn’t even for, like, the biggest belt or whatever, right? This is like the one you have to share with…”
Don Nova’s eyes narrowed and Vinnie Fingers immediately knew he’d gone too far.
“Where is Waste Management Johnny?” the Don wondered aloud. “It’s almost time.”
“He’s, uh, handling the thing,” Vinnie replied.
“What thing?” Don Nova asked.
“The, uh, the thing we talked about,” Vinnie said, his eyes darting back and forth between the cameraman and his boss.
“I don’t remember talking about any thing,” Don Nova said, shaking his head, “there’s nothing on Outlook.”
Vinnie sighed, shoulders slumping in defeat. “The thing with illegal interstate commerce that involves guns, drugs, and conspiracies.”
“Right, the thing,” Don Nova nodded.
Suddenly the door exploded off its hinges and a group of men in trenchcoats flooded in, semi-automatic weapons drawn. Vinnie dove for a corner of the room, quickly realizing on search that he wasn’t armed. “Boss, a gun!”
The Don sprung onto the surface of his desk, rising up and whipping off his suit coat. “I had a feelin’ tonight might be the night.”
“Aw, not this shit,” Vinnie moaned, “boss, please! Throw me a gun!”
As the group of assailants opened fire, Don Nova sprang off the desk, catching one of the men on his way down with a double-arm DDT, bonking the man’s head off the carpeted floor. Bullets shredded the wall around Vinnie’s head as he shielded his face with his arms. “Not the wrestling moves, boss! Your mat work is adequate at best! Throw me a gun!”
Don Nova caught another man across the throat with a rising clothesline. He turned, coming face to face with the barrel of a third man’s shotgun…when the man was suddenly jerked out of the door frame, legs flying into the air before loudly slamming against the hallway floor. Waste Management Johnny stormed into the room, hands flying, the sounds of enemy gunfire now drowned out by the loud cracks of knife-edge chop after knife-edge chop until finally all was still and the floor of the office resembled the fitting room of a Men’s Wearhouse.
The Don stepped over a fallen assailant, putting an arm on his partner’s shoulder. His eyes turned to Vinnie, crumpled in a bloody, bullet-riddled pile, his mouth still open calling for the firearm that never came.
“Good kid,” Don Nova said.
“Good kid,” Waste Management Johnny agreed.
“Couldn’t run a business to save his life, though,” Don Nova shrugged. “Anyway…we got a couple ‘a belts to win.”
The Don gripped Johnny’s shoulders and kissed him on both cheeks. “Famiglia,” he whispered.
Waste Management Johnny in turn gripped both sides of Don Nova’s face and kissed him on the lips. “Famiglia,” he whispered back.
“Famiglia,” Nova whispered as he emerged from the VR simulation, wiping a tear from his eye. The vast landscape of his liver-spotted brow suddenly crinkled up. “No, no that wasn’t it, either.”
“Definitely not it!” GBJ replied with dismissive snort. “It was darker than that…”
“Darker than that?!” Lil Jon squeaked, “the guns, and the blood…”
“Oh there was blood,” GBJ said, cracked yellow lips peeling up into a sadistic grin, “what did we call ourselves? I think it was…”
When you feast off the blood of mortals, you cannot stay in one place for very long. Thus, wrestling was the perfect career. I was always on the road, moving from town to town, and there were always myriads of fans, eager to be wooed and unable to resist my devilish charm. Some thought it was all a ruse…that we were actors, puppets. Many of the fans were virgins.
Unfortunately, my employer had landed an indefinite residency in Las Vegas. I had to go days without sustenance to avoid suspicion, even though the town’s sinful proclivities allowed more evil leeway than would have found me in many other cities. Still, foregoing my insatiable bloodlust weakened me. I found myself on the losing end of matches I should have won. It was a conundrum of vampyric proportions.
I resumed feasting, but it was only a matter of time before the authorities caught on and sent someone after me: a world renowned vampire hunter named Novan Helsing. As I perched atop the Bellagio bell tower, cloaking my face with the length of my cape, I noticed him. Novan and his men carried torches as they marched in formation down the Vegas strip. Daybreak wasn’t far, so I turned into a bat and flew back to my clandestine quarters on the 28th floor of the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. I climbed in my coffin to get some sleep, but my dreams were too disturbed! They were so vivid that I could feel my skin burning under the sunlight, Novan Helsing standing over me bearing a golden cross with which he had driven me asunder!
Night after night, I would wake from this dream to stalk for prey, and night after night, I failed. Helsing and his men were always closing in. If I were to unfetter myself from this grim fate, I would need to eliminate them. Their frequent proximity allowed me to study their movements, to devise a nefarious plot to pick them off, one by one, until only Novan and I remained.
The most important movement in my diabolic concerto was the first. My success all banked on it. For the first kill was not a kill at all, but a key to all others. Novan had five men in total, and they often marched in the pattern of a blade with Novan at the tip. I studied his entourage, trying to determine who was most susceptible to fear, who most doubted his charge, who would most easily cave ‘neath the grim specter of death. Death loomed heavy in the hearts of all men, and the curse of mortality was that the only alternative to death was its slow, steady approach. O, how cruel the gods were!
“Lil’ Jon!” I smacked him again. I could tell he flipped his implant from my story over to a sex simulator. Damn near broke my cane. “Pay attention or next time the business end of this cane’s gonna be a foot up your squishy parts.”
“With all due respect, I have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.”
I feigned another smack from the cane, and he flinched instinctively and paid attention.
“Anyway, where was I?”
I singled out the weakest among them, and it was only a matter of time and fleshly torture before I had the information I needed to decimate Novan’s patrol. I had promised to free him once I had dealt with the rest…when his life was proof of his treachery. But when the deed was done, I decided I needed his blood more than he. The world has no place for cowards.
Novan was no longer hunting me. Instead, I found him retreating. He fervently packed his suitcases as I floated outside his hotel room window. Using black magic, I osmosed through the wall in a very menacing way and appeared unto him. He was taken aback.
“You’re a worthwhile adversary, Mr. Helsing. So worthwhile, in fact, you may even be a keener ally.”
Novan was still breathing more heavily than normal. As a vampire, that’s something your heightened senses can detect.
“I can give you the dark gift of life eternal, the kiss of the vampire! We can become PRIME tag team champions and keep the belts until oblivion reigns supreme!”
“I accept your kiss.” Novan knelt before me and extended his wrist. “But promise me one thing.”
“Can we wear matching capes?”
“No, but you can wear a slightly less impressive cape.”
“That’s it! WOO! Ride that wrinklewurst!”
This time it was Nova, ignoring me in lieu of his VR implant. Lil’ Jon was back at it, too, but at least he was quieter about it. I cleared my throat, respectfully, but there was no stopping him, so I waited for one of them to finish up what they were doing. Nova was first to return his consciousness back to actual reality.
“Are you done with your virtual experience?”
“Are you done with whatever vampire nonsense you were on?” Nova fired back.
“Are both of you done telling stories where you kiss each other?” The cane smack was brutal and automatic, but I was invested in arguing with Nova and had no time for pageantry.
“Nonsense? If we’re not immortal bloodsuckers, how have we held onto these titles for 50 years?”
“Vampires live a long time,” Nova nodded, “but art lasts forever. Don’t you remember our existential comic phase? What was it we called ourselves? Weren’t we…”
“Those were the days,” Nova sighed wistfully, his eyes refocusing from the simulation, “the culture, y’know! The music, the all-night discussions and arguments, the drugs, the toxic shared-living arrangements, the drugs…”
“Save your arthouse circle-jerk for the community center’s Show & Tell,” GBJ grumbled, “that wasn’t it at all. I could’ve sworn we were…”
…JOHN BON NOVA (FEAT. RICHIE SLAMBORA)
The crowd was so large I couldn’t see where it ended, and every last one of them knew they’d seen something special. Richie and I were pretty wiped from the two hour set, but the audience refused to go home. They wanted more, and I could hear them out there, chanting our name…well, my name. You see, I was John Bon Nova: the lead singer, the star of the show.
JOHN BON NO-VA…*CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAPCLAPCLAP*
“Great guitar work out there, Richie. You got one more solo in you?”
“I’m John. You’re Richie. So you better keep those fingers loose because we have to get out there for the encore.”
JOHN BON NO-VA…*CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAPCLAPCLAP*
“You’re right. These guys deserve an encore. Go get your guitar.”
“What? I’m the singer. I just sing. I don’t even have a guitar..”
“Neither do I.”
JOHN BON NO-VA…*CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAPCLAPCLAP*
“Look, man, we can’t keep these people waiting. We gotta get out there for one more tune. We can figure out who’s who later.”
The crowd went wild as Richie and I came back out, neither bearing a guitar. The rhythm section backing us would have to hold it down. They laid down a simple beat as I grabbed the mic to thank the crowd.
“Hello again, Las Vegas!”
Cheap rock pop.
“Thank you for coming to support us on our Rocking the Ring Tag Team Title Tour. The boys and I are going to lay down a few more tunes for you all, and if you know the words, feel free to si-”
“Richie Slambora everyone! Well, said Richie. Now as Richie was saying, we love and appreciate you all. It’s an honor to be in the biggest rock group in America AND the biggest wrestling promotion in America and we couldn’t have won the belts without the support from y’all beautiful souls. This one’s for you. It’s called Liv-”
“Ha. Good one, Richie. Don’t mind that. It’s a little inside joke we’ve got going in the band where Richie pretends that he’s me, John Bon Nova.”
The drummer and bassist look at each other with confusion as they’ve been vamping on the same intro riff for quite some time now.
“Alright, Richie, let’s stop squabbling and just sing the song.”
“Not sure why you’re talking to yourself, but that sounds good to me.”
“Tommy used to work on the docks! I’m John Bon Nova, and that guy is not!”
Gentle Meadows Home For Old Timers
June 9, 2072
And it went on like that. You get the picture. Even Lil’ Jon would’ve gotten the picture if he wasn’t knocked unconscious. Emerging from the simulation, Johnny sat mumbling to himself and humming old timey rock anthems. He looked over at his partner of fifty years, but Nova had fallen asleep.
“This is gonna drive us crazy till we remember. And our own memories are too compromised to filter through the VR simulator implants. No…”
GBJ shook his head resolutely. “…no, if we’re gonna remember who we were…we gotta actually go back…”
Johnny looked at his incapacitated grandson and then at Nova, snoring loudly.
“…but since I got some privacy…”
Johnny returned to the implant, but luckily, the word count was up.