Three Months Earlier
Day broke, slivers of light breaking through the wooden shades of the master bedroom. The light lands carefully upon the face of a bearded man, laying on his back. The man is still, his chest barely rising with each breathe that he takes. He lies there, stiff as a board, his eyelids fluttering slightly.
As the rays rest upon his body, warming his body up, his eyes shoot open and he lays in the bed for a moment. A grey sheet covers up his right foot, a pair of dark blue pants, made out of linen, covers his bottom half, leaving his top half exposed.
There are lines where his abs are, faint, but there. There are scars littered across his torso, a long one that runs horizontally against his rib cage, another underneath his right pectoral muscle. The man’s beard is completely white and the lines on his face tell the life he has lived.
Slowly, he sits up and as he does, he feels every ache and pain across his body. His knees, shot to hell, his hips stiff and tender to the touch, his shoulders hardened from years of scar tissue built up, his neck painful every time he turns his head. He moves his legs across the bed, shaking the bedsheet loose from his foot, and places his feet onto the wooden floor underneath him.
As he feels the cool wood against his feet, a jolt is sent through his spine and he feels the exhaustion settle into his body. Grabbing the side of the bed and the night table next to the bed, he pulls himself up and hears the snaps and cracks as his body elongates.
Each step is painful, nearly driving him back to the bed, his only solace from the never-ending pain he feels. As he takes his time walking across the room, heading towards the bathroom, his head drops and with his right hand, he begins to knead the back of his neck, hoping to loosen the painful spurs that built up over time.
As he presses his fingers into his skin though, he is met with resistance as his body continues to betray him, continues to let him down. He can feel the frustration as it builds in his chest and eventually makes his way into the bathroom.
His hands rest upon the porcelain sink and he looks at himself. He takes a long look at the fragile man that he has become, a wind threatening to knock him over and keep him laying there until the dust settles over him.
Gone are the days where he could fight and beat a man within an inch of his life; the days where he could soar from one end of the ring to the other end. His body is breaking down before his very eyes and it is a difficult subject for him to wrap his head around.
He turns the knob on the faucet and lets the cold water run for a few moments before he places his left hand under it, catching the water in the palm of his weathered hand, and splashing the crisp water against his face. It soothes him, for only a moment, as he closes his eyes and lets the sobering reality do the rest of its job.
As he reopens his eyes, he sees the cuts around his eyes, the lines digging deeper and deeper with each passing day. Moments pass as he stands there, hatred building with each passing second.
‘Fuck,’ he mutters to no one.
He turns back around, his knees begging him to sit down, but he ignores the constant sharp pains that course through his body with each step. The aged man walks back into the bedroom and grabs a shirt off the top of his dresser. He works to get his arms through the shirt but struggles with it.
The frustration explodes in his chest as he balls the shirt up and throws it across the room, landing in the bed, next to a stuffed animal, one that his granddaughter got for him a couple of years ago.
He looks at the shirt and then at the stuffed animal, shaking his head as he stands there, disappointed at himself as he stares at the doll, before turning his back to the bed.
It is almost as if he can hear it laughing at him, taunting him. A reminder of who he used to be. He hated it when they came out, but now, it’s grown on him.
The Baby Dusk doll had grown on him.
* * *
One Month Previous
The man formerly known as Dusk, Craig Maloof, sits on his front porch with a white ceramic mug in his right hand. The chair he sits in, a rocking chair, seems to be moving all by itself to the naked eye. He looks out at his twenty acres of land, takes in the serene quiet that comes along with it, and takes a sip out of the mug.
His eyes are intense as he looks out at the horizon, his mind buzzing with multiple conversations he’s had in recent weeks. The crisp Texas air settles nicely upon the skin of his arm, just below the rolled-up sleeves of a red flannel button-up shirt he is wearing. His left-hand rests upon the denim of his dark blue jeans while his feet rest upon the wooden frame of his deck.
As he sits there, taking in the morning air with little pressing upon his schedule, he sees a white sedan turn into his driveway and slowly pull up to his custom-built home. There is no emotion on his face as he takes another sip from his white ceramic mug, no urgent need to get up and greet the person in the car.
The driver-side door opens and out steps a tall, slender woman with dark brown hair that runs past her shoulders, strands of her hair resting against her cream-colored jacket that sits over her black button-up shirt. A cream-colored pair of pants and a black pair of flats finish her outfit. A simple pair of prescription glasses rests upon her face and as she walks up the steps of Craig’s house, she is carrying a manilla envelope that she is tapping against her right leg.
‘Morning, daddy,’ she says softly before leaning over and kissing him on the cheek. ‘Enjoying the morning?’
Craig nods at first before he looks over at her. ‘Morning, Rose. I can’t imagine what would bring you all the way out here this morning.’
Rose shakes her head, her brown hair moving flawlessly with the movement of her head. ‘Like I need an excuse to come see you.’
‘Wouldn’t mind you coming out here more often if I had my way.’
She smiles. ‘Of course you would, but some of us have to do that thing, what is it called, oh yeah, work. Not all of us have made a living out of being a professional wrestler for thirty years.’
Craig’s dark brown eyes look over at her. ‘Twenty-five years. I’ve been retired the last five or so years.’
She puts her hands up. ‘Sorry, didn’t mean to offend you,’ she jests. He cracks a smile at her.
‘I’m just happy to see you.’ Craig then takes another sip from his mug. ‘Makes my mornings better.’
‘Well, when I tell you why I’m here, you might not agree with me making your morning better.’
Craig slowly nods his head as he looks over at the envelope in her hand. ‘I assume the bad news rests inside of that envelope.’
‘Yes, and you won’t believe who it is from.’
Craig takes another sip from his mug.
‘Lindsay Troy,’ he responds, no emotion in his voice.
‘It is from Lindsay Troy. Can you imagine that? I have not the slightest clue as to why she would be—‘ she then cuts herself off as she takes a long look at him. Rose stands to the right of her father, looking out at the horizon as her old man was doing prior to her arrival. She turns towards him and places her body directly in front of him.
‘How in the hell did you know that Lindsay Troy sent you mail?’
Instead of answering, Craig takes another sip from his mug, his eyes looking past Rose.
‘So, do you know what is inside of this envelope?’ Rose asks while holding the envelope up. ‘Something tells me that you do.’
‘Why don’t you tell me?’ his tone remains flat, unknowing but knowing at the same time. His eyes meet hers and she cocks her head to the side.
Rose then opens the already-opened envelope and takes out a single white sheet of paper.
‘It is a contract, for you to join PRIME. Again.’
Craig nods his head. ‘Then yes, I knew what was inside of the envelope.’
Incredulous doesn’t begin to describe the look on Rose’s face.
‘And why is there a contract to PRIME in this envelope?’
‘Well,’ Craig begins before taking another sip from his mug. ‘Killean called me and told me she was bringing back PRIME. Told me she thought it would be good if I came back for a stint.’
Rose shakes her head. ‘This is fucking ludicrous.’
‘I said the same thing if it is any comfort to you.’
She snorts. ‘Comfort to me? Comfort to me?! The only comfort to me is if you told her no. That would comfort me because right now, the thought of my father stepping back into the ring is scaring the living shit out of me right now. How many injuries have you sustained in your life? How many surgeries have I seen you suffer through? Ankles, tendons, knees, hips, ribs, hell, you name it and you’ve had it.’
Craig nods. ‘Sounds about right.’
‘Don’t get cute with me right now, I’m not in the fucking mood.’
‘You know,’ he starts before taking another sip from his mug. ‘The fire breathing from your nostrils was starting to give me that idea.’
She rolls her eyes before throwing the mail at him. ‘You told her yes already, didn’t you? You can’t ever say no to her.’
‘To be fair,’ he continues as he picks up the mail off his lap. ‘She didn’t call me. Killean called me.’
‘Oh Dad, fuck off with that. Nothing goes on without her approval. She signed off on the entire thing. Of course she didn’t call you, Dad, because she hates your fucking guts. She only wants you back so she can destroy your legacy and laugh at you. To watch you fall on your face.’
Craig cocks his head to the side and looks at Rose. ‘That’s what you think is going to happen, Rose? I’m going to embarrass yourself?’
‘No, Dad, that’s not what I meant—‘
‘Fall on my face, isn’t that what you said?’
’Dad, I’m just saying. You two have never gotten on, you know? She doesn’t like you. What would be the purpose of her signing off on you getting a contract?’
Craig simply shrugs his shoulder.
‘And what’s the benefit for you?’
He holds up the single-page contract. ‘Well, I think this contract is benefit enough. Money. Benefits.’
Rose laughs. ‘Money? For what? You’ve got more money than you’ll ever spend in this lifetime.’
‘I’ve got a granddaughter to look after, you know.’
‘Adeline has more than enough and Brian has a great job to boot.’
Craig nods his head, his expression turning sour. He takes another sip from his coffee mug.
‘Dad, I know you can still go out there and compete. My point is, you don’t have to. And you don’t have to do it for her. You know how your body is these days. You wake up in the morning and can barely get out of bed sometimes. What’s the point of doing this?’
Craig sighs. ‘Because we only have so much time left on this planet and we’ve got to make the most out of the time we’ve got. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. I’m here, just growing old and watching the world pass me by. There is one thing in this world that I can do. That’s fight. That’s compete. That’s wrestle. I’ve done it all my life.’
Rose walks over and kisses her old man on the forehead. ‘I know, Daddy. And you did an amazing job of it, traveling all over the world and being one of the best. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Not anymore.’
She looks at him.
‘You going to do it?’
Craig shrugs his shoulders. ‘You’re not wrong. This decrepit body of mine, I don’t know if I can take that beating night in, night out. So, I don’t know.’
She smiles. ‘Just take your time thinking about it. I know I’m not going to be able to talk you out of it. Just know we’re going to love you no matter what.’
‘Well, I certainly hope so,’ he jests as he takes another sip from his mug.
‘Coffee any good?’ she inquires.
Craig grunts. ‘Taste like shit.’
She laughs as she walks into the house, leaving Craig there as he looks at the letter in his lap, pondering the decision before him.
A decision he doesn’t know that is on borrowed time.
* * *
Inside of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, there is a palpable buzz in the air. Fans from all over the globe have made the trek to Vegas for simply one reason and one reason only: the ReVival of PRIME.
With the first show in the books, returning to rave reviews and plenty of shocks, many wonder what could possibly come next for the legendary wrestling promotion. After the returns of the likes of Garbage Bag Johnny and Brandon Youngblood, many were excited to see two other returnees wrestle for the first time on ReVival 2, Hall of Famer Nova and legend Dusk.
One of those men (hint: Dusk), sits inside a conference room with a room full of fans while being interviewed by touted wrestling journalist, Wade Sauce Rapp. Dusk sits at a table, elevated thanks to a platform, as hundreds of fans pack into the room as part of programming the MGM Grand has put on in recent weeks to hype the return of PRIME.
Dusk sits there dressed in a white short-sleeved t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans. His hair is cut short and he has a full beard he is now sporting, both a mix of grey and white. Dusk has a smile on his face as he leans back in his chair, his arms leaning against the table, with a black sharpie in his right hand.
In addition to being interviewed, he’s in the process of signing hundreds of Baby Dusk dolls to hand out to all of the fans.
‘So,’ Wade Sauce Rapp begins, speaking in a raspy tone, ‘before we start discussing your return match against Bobby Dean, let’s talk about what you have been up to the last few years.’
A chuckle escapes from Craig’s mouth as he continues to sign away. ‘You know, that’s a fair question. In all honesty, outside of a few month stint for Legacy of Champions, I’ve been at home on my land, just watching the world pass me by.’
The gathered crowd, including Rapp, laughs at this. Craig smiles at everyone. ‘I know it seems impossible when you see so many other wrestlers continue to wrestle into their forty’s, you start to think that they’ll wrestle forever. The idea of one of us just sitting around has to be a foreign concept. Yet, that’s what I’ve been doing. Spending time with my family, my granddaughter in particular, and getting to enjoy that time with her.’
‘That’s really sweet,’ Rapp continues. ‘It’s great to hear that you’ve found a balance for yourself in life while being out of the business.’
Craig nods, signing another Baby Dusk doll. ‘In all honesty, it was tough at first. Not going to lie about that. Walking away when I did from PRIME, it was something I honestly needed to do. I was burned out, exhausted. I came back for a match here and there afterward, but for me, I’d missed out on my daughter growing up because I was on the road so much. So being there for my granddaughter was important to me. Plus, the business is not kind to the body. Even though I haven’t wrestled on an active basis for ten years now, I still feel it every day getting out of bed.’
‘So,’ Rapp picks up from there. ‘What did bring you back?’
Craig takes a moment to consider this question and his eyes scan the room, landing upon her daughter. ‘It was to prove something to myself, that I can still compete in this ring against the very best and at the level I expect to be able to perform at.’
‘Has the training been more difficult than you could imagine?’
A smile appears on Craig’s face as he looks over at Wade. ‘You have no fucking idea.’ This elicits a howl from the crowd. ‘Nothing has made me think twice about doing this crazy idea of mine than the relentless workouts. Talking six to seven hours a day of just punishing my body. The first couple of days, it was a miracle you didn’t see my face with an ominous headline on TMZ.’ Another laugh rips through the crowd, though not so much from Rose.
‘How is your family feeling about this?’ Wade Sauce Rapp asks.
Craig shakes his head. ‘Not going to talk about that in any kind of depth. That’s between my family and me.’
Rapp nods his head. ‘Fair enough. So, your first match back will take place on ReVival 2 and you will square up against Bobby Dean. What are your thoughts about him?’
Craig takes a moment, signing Baby Dusk doll after Baby Dusk doll while the silence envelopes him. He then stops signing, puts a cap on his sharpie, and puts it down on the table. ‘You know, he’s a big dude that needs the job so he can pay for his kids… that he’s never met before.’ There are a few chuckles in the room at that one. ‘It’s going to be a test. I wish I could come out here and say that I’m going to be able to take care of him quite easily, but nothing is going to come easy to me. The management team here has done a great job of bringing in top-notch talent. Each night I compete is going to be a struggle and is going to require me to bring my best.’
Rapp smiles. ‘So what is your gameplay so to say?’
‘Well,’ Dusk begins. ‘Just hit him and make sure he hits me less. Let’s be real, I’m a fifty-year-old wrestler in that ring against a man who is twelve years younger than me. He’s been actively competing. I’ve got to pick my spots and be smart. What he makes up in youth and, well, I imagine a bit more agility than I have to offer these days, I have to make it up in being smart, patient, and picking my spots. I know I want to go in there and put on a show, that’s always my goal, but I’m not going to lie to anyone. I want the Universal Championship. I want to be on top. Bobby Dean is in my way and I’m going to give him everything I have to offer. If he walks out the winner, he will have earned it, but I intend to get that victory, to move on in this tournament.’
‘Final question,’ Wade begins. ‘What is your dream match in your return?’
‘Nova,” Dusk responds, wasting no time. ‘We’ve teamed up once before, but never stood across the ring from one another. If it’s meant to happen, we might be able to see that match take place sooner than later.’
‘That is right,’ Wade responds. ‘It could happen in this very tournament. Well, that’s all of the time we have today. Any final words, Dusk?’
Dusk stands up and looks out at the crowd. ‘Never take for granted that tomorrow will be there. Seize today. Thanks to everyone for coming out today.’ He then waves at the fans as a few handlers come over, grabbing the Baby Dusk dolls he signed, and begin to hand them out to the fans as they stand up, applauding him while he disappears behind a side door.
As he stands there, he walks over to a nearby wall, taking a moment to gather himself.
His mind focused upon one person and one person only.