Private: Larry Tact
Backstage at ReViVal 13, I walk the hallways with a surge of satisfaction flowing through me. Funny enough, it wasn’t from something that I did in the ring, but out of it. Granted, I’m pleased with the outcome of my match with Jacob Mephisto – getting the zero wiped off my record was a necessary step for any of this to begin moving with some momentum. I had been maintaining a relatively low profile in PRIME due to the challenges I’ve had in the ring, and it turns out what I may have needed was to do the opposite. That’s where my true achievement of the night takes the stage.
As I’m caught up in my thoughts, I don’t notice passing through the PRIMEporium until I’m already there. I look over and find Anna Daniels’ booth with no one present, and shake my head.
“There’s someone whose head I hope never gets cracked open too widely,” I muse, “Let’s not give a reason for any of the crazy to leak out.”
I’ve no desire to be accosted to, “Buy the Damn Shirt” from someone who seems more of a conundrum than the PRIME faithful’s unwavering dedication towards the Lost Soul, Dusk. I’m working on shining a blinding light on that misdirected adulation, of course, with my encounter just moments ago with the supposed PRIME legend. I stop for a moment, looking at the PRIMEporium, then down at my scathed hands. A couple of knuckles are split and there’s still bits of Dusk’s genetic imprint left on my humble hands. The violent connection of my fists on his face – and a brick wall for good measure – in front of these PRIMEates watching in this third-rate city was only an example of my potential. It wasn’t taking things to a new level for me; quite to the contrary. This issue with Dusk has begun to click things into place for me, and the bludgeoning he received signaled the unlocking of a code. With each new wound I open on the Lost Soul, I’m going to find my own, and cut my teeth on the miscreants and smooth operators of PRIME.
I approach the merch stand and pick up a shirt that is purportedly on display to entice potential customers. I decide it serves a better purpose, and wipe Dusk’s blood off my hands before dropping it on the floor. If they check it, they’ll more likely than not blame the disrespectful Lost Soul for defiantly damaging an otherwise merchable shirt. I give a lookover of my hands, which are clear of the smeared blood and left with the minor scrapes and cuts from the force of blows landed with a disgust-fueled intensity. It seems like Ms. Daniels has been doing well with her shirt sales, and she scored a win recently over The Anglo Luchador, to boot. It seems like she’s got plenty going for her, and if she aims that momentum at Dusk, it only helps my cause, now doesn’t it?
It’s about time I did something nice for myself, and I don’t mean buying a shirt that’s practically become a dank meme at this point.
After catching a shower in the locker room, I throw on an untucked black button-down shirt and slacks as I prepare to leave. Opening my travel suitcase, I begin packing some things from my locker into it, when I pick out an envelope that was patiently waiting for me. I had told myself I wouldn’t open the letter from Cesar until I had my match with Jacob Mephisto, so I could focus on what needed to be done here tonight. Now, that was past.
“Alright, Cesar. What were you waiting for someone to come upon?” I whisper quietly to myself before twisting my head in either direction, not wanting someone to hear me talking to myself. That’s probably more common in PRIME, with all the nutjobs and basket cases lurking in the hallways, but I shouldn’t be lumped in with those people.
I slip a finger under the corner of the envelope and with a flick, it tears open. After making a sufficient tear, I pluck the paper out and, to my surprise, find it’s a single page. Not even, though; it’s a single line.
“18.2208 / 66.5901”
“What the hell is this?” I wonder aloud, no longer caring if anyone hears. “Some kind of prank? I went searching around for him and find he left behind an obscure, vague clue for whoever to find?” I rub the back of my neck with my free hand, feeling disappointment seeping into my gut. Shaking my head, I replace the paper into the envelope and stuff it into my suitcase.
“Maybe he’s better left alone. I have other business to handle, and this feels more and more like a wild goose chase every day. I can find my way,” I affirm, but it sounds passionless.
I close my suitcase and head out of the locker room, kicking a trash bin and scattering its contents on my way out.
The following day, I head to the airport and clear through TSA to head over to my flight back to New York. It still stings a bit that I don’t have a solid lead on Cesar, but just a line of numbers that equates to a dead end unless and until I can decipher their purpose. I may rather have to tangle with Jacob Mephisto and his cult followers again. At least they bring a slightly clearer indication of what they’re about.
The overhead intercom in the airport is playing an ad for JetBlue, the terminal I’m in, and listing a bunch of places they service flights to. The droning tone and rehearsed lines barely get my attention, save to serve as white noise for the walk towards my gate. I decide to get a water bottle from one of the convenience stores. Heading over to the shelves, I pick up a Vitamin Water and head over to the counter, placing it before an attendant dressed shabbily in a vest and wrinkled shirt underneath.
“Just this,” I say, digging out my phone to access a payment app.
“Hey, aren’t you Larry Tact?” the attendant replies with a droning, sedate tone that immediately makes me wonder if they’re a Rezin fan.
“Yes, and I’ve got a flight to catch, so…” I motion at the bottle without bothering to look back up.
“Dude, I heard you’ve got an Intense title match with The Anglo Luchador in PRIME next show. That’s rad, you gonna win?”
I sigh, looking up at this chatty gnat. “Are you going to ring me up or am I going to have to entertain you first? What do you think I’m going to do, go into the ring and lay down for the man?” The incredulous tone should be enough to ward off this common sclub, and for emphasis, I motion again to the Vitamin Water.
“Well uh, I mean, you haven’t exactly gotten a lot going here. Seemed like an honest question to ask, if you’re gonna be able to beat a champion. Especially since the Intense title is—”
“Is what, exactly?” I cut him off, feeling the hairs on my forearms begin to stand. “You think that the Intense title is out of my reach? Do you think I’m going to have my hands full with The Anglo Luchador because he beat me before in PRIME? You don’t have to worry your empty head about that, chump. In fact, you’re not that far off from the size of that luchasnore. If I wanted to, I could give you a live demonstration of ReViVal 14’s main event. Would that satisfy your curiosity?” I sneer at the smaller man, who raises his hands in placation.
“Hey dude, chill, okay? I was just asking a question.”
“Yes, and you know what? I was asking if you were ever going to take a few moments out of your meaningless shift here, standing around and reading whatever dirtsheet fodder magazine you gravitate to, and actually do your damn job and ring me up!”
“Oh, is that all you need, bruh? This store is self-checkout, it’s over there,” he points a crusted finger – no doubt caked with some snack he pilfered ‘gratis from the store’s inventory – over towards a couple of self checkout stations.
“Self checkout? What do they even pay you to do here, eat all of the profits?”
“I’m here to provide exceptional customer service and quality assurance for your experience!” the guy cheerfully recites.
Having wasted entirely enough time and oxygen on this trained puppet, I turn without another word and pay for my Vitamin Water, only to find several people watching our ‘conversation.’ I spot at least one mobile phone pointed in my direction, no doubt capturing the exchange, and sigh as I complete my transaction and get out of that little slice of purgatory.
Later on, as I sit waiting for the boarding announcement and think about anywhere else I could be – it dawns on me. “Anywhere else,” I think as I dig through my suitcase, and pull out Cesar’s envelope. I take a look at the paper and unlock my Samsung phone, punching the numbers into a Google search. A Google Maps result pops up, but when I click on it all I find is a random point in the Arabian Sea.
“That’s not right, something’s missing,” I mutter and begin adding directions. It doesn’t take long for me to land on ‘18.2208 N, 66.5901 W’ and refresh the Maps result. I snap my fingers.
“Holy shit, it worked. These aren’t random figures– they’re coordinates.”
Zooming out, I see before me on the Maps result is a more tangible and accessible clue to the whereabouts of my protégé. The island of Puerto Rico.
“He went home.”
“There’s nothing like jarring a bit of the past to guide you into the future, wouldn’t you say, TAL?”
I’ve taken my aisle seat on the flight and decided to make use of the time I have ahead of takeoff to record something for the craven PRIME faithful. I keep my hair tied back, confirm the collar of my white shirt isn’t out of place, and focus on the little round black hole that is the selfie camera.
“It’s been quite some time since I addressed the voracious, ungrateful PRIMEates ahead of a match, but this one is special for a couple of reasons. First off, it’s for the main event of ReViVal 14, and a match for the Intense Championship. This will be my first main event in PRIME, and my first title match. Neither of those is lost on me, and the significance of the timing is fairly notable, too. We’re heading towards Ultraviolence, of course. It’s right around a month away, and as you all should know by now, I’ll be putting a rather painful exclamation point on the bitter end of Dusk’s career at that event. We’ll figure out the details to finalize things soon enough, but rest assured, there won’t be a more brutal and agonizing match for you all to witness at that event. It makes this main event hold a certain symmetry, wouldn’t you say? I anticipate the brutality it’ll take to put down The Anglo Luchador will be a precursor for you all, and another fan favorite that I’ll show lacks the teeth to pierce my armor. Meanwhile, I’ve only been sharpening myself and this match is going to serve as a marker for all of PRIME to take note of. I’m going to make it plainly obvious that Dusk has bitten off more than he can chew, and The Anglo Luchador will get first dibs on what I have in store for Ultraviolence.”
I wrinkle my nose as a particularly odious passenger walks by. They smell of cigar smoke and alcohol, likely from a night on the Strip. No shower, probably no direction for themselves, and invading my space. Three hallmarks of what Vegas embodies.
“In fact, TAL, I don’t need to wonder if I’m ready for this match, but you may want to think back to what you were saying on ReViVal 13. Namely, whether or not that voice in your head is so easily overridden with the bravado of a strong fist. I’m sure the PRIME faithful ate up your waxing philosophical to that psychedelic mess of a Five Star Champion Rezin, and his over-the-hill caretaker, Daymon. Forget a throwback, that guy should be a throwaway. But your diatribe on the little voice of doubt was all so predictable, given you came to the conclusion you could overcome it to win and hold onto that Intense Championship. To be honest, I can’t take away the credit for your battling through the other competitors at Great American Nightmare to win that belt. You did, and you showed you still had some substance behind that mask. Sadly, you’re already on your own path to be put in the ground at Ultraviolence, by Balaam. Maybe he and I can just make one big hole to bury you and Dusk. Nevertheless, the Intense title won’t be going with you, as I intend on sparing it that miserable spiral out of this mortal coil. Instead, I’m going to take it from you at ReViVal 14 and showcase it versus The Lost Soul. It’s a humble gesture on my part: I’ll relieve you of the title, so you’re freed of one more excuse for why Balaam lays your rapidly shriveling career to rest. Simultaneously, I’ll be granting Dusk a title match in his last hurrah, and of course using the Intense title to make our one and only match as I said I would: Ruthless, cold-blooded crippling of a man who never should have returned to a PRIME ring.”
I nod, knowing that this will be reality come Ultraviolence. It isn’t hyperbole, especially when becoming the Intense Champion will open up a great deal of possibilities. I can use it quite effectively as one more instrument of Dusk’s destruction.
“Secondly, this isn’t the first time you and I have tangled in PRIME, isn’t that so? We went toe to toe and you did manage to escape with a victory, TAL. I can’t deny that, but the way you did it is something you and I both know was a bit out of character for you. It seemed like you were wrestling with something inside yourself at the time, and believe me, I can relate. I’ve been on a journey in PRME that I never intended to venture out on, myself. I’ve had to fight through loss after loss, feel the sting of others getting the turning point moment of a match that lead them to victory. In your case, that was the use of a weapon in a match that didn’t sanction them. I won’t even fault you for it, given I would have made good use of it myself, should the glove been on the other hand. However, it’s a moot point now, TAL. We’re now in a situation where we can pretty much do whatever we need to in order to obtain that elusive dub. There’s clearly no love lost between us, and I’m glad that I have a chance to not be the one to beat you after you lose a title, but rather be the one to TAKE the title from you, this time. When your seemingly weekly verbal diarrhea at ReViVal shows includes ‘Empire Boyz,’ I have to say it stirs something form the bottom of my hardened heart: A pure desire to punch you right in that masked mug of yours. You think we were in some fraternity, when the truth is you were simply trying to find a middling space to occupy among some of the greats. Yes, you were an Empire Pro World Champion, but like the rest of your career it was a pathetic footnote, a bad joke nobody wanted and got anyway.”
I scoff, thinking back to the opportunities I could have had with the Empire, had I entered during the time TAL was there.
“The fact is, I arrived in the Empire when its roster was loaded for bear. Things were running hot and, yes, it drew my eye to join in. However, I didn’t have the run I wanted to there, only winning a secondary title. In that sense, PRIME is not too much different, as there is an even more stacked roster here. We’ve got the best wrestlers, bright youths gearing up to blossom into stars— and then those like you and Dusk, slathered in mediocrity and waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well, the other shoe is here to take what you can’t say for certain that you do deserve more than I do. I’m going to prove that in real terms, when I tenderize your creeky body and turn your mask into a collectible: “The Tactilizing Knightfall of The Anglo Luchador.“
I chuckle and look around, making sure no one takes the seats in my row. Being this is a regular flight with a horde of normals, I took the liberty of buying out all three seats in my row, and the three across from me. I didn’t need any disruptions anywhere near me on this flight.
“I suppose you could say that my win over Jacob Mephisto helped justify my getting this match, but I think the truth is actually more painful than Jacob Mephisto helping me to do anything. You challenged me, and the pain of PRIME granting your request truly stings. I would rather grind my way through the ranks and find my way to a title match, but sometimes we have to accept the truth: You aren’t cutting it, and PRIME needs a change for the Intense title, stat. They saw what you did versus Anna Daniels, and they see what I’ve done to Dusk, and the math is simple. One of us has displayed the intensity and will to go the lengths that that title should find mandatory, while the other has wilted and shown his age. ReViVal 14, I’ll capture the Intense title and preview what Dusk will have waiting for him at Ultraviolence. I’ll also lock you on course to be cast to the feeding frenzy of Balaam, and perhaps meeting your career’s end.”
I adjust the camera and look out the window.
“Enjoy the fleeting days of your title reign, Anglo Luchador. The voice in my head is telling me that it’s quit on trying to make me relent in my quest. It’s dealt me setbacks and losses to no avail, as I’ve shown perseverance unlike anyone in PRIME to date. The doubts I’ve had cast upon me go even further than within the mind, as I have people trying to tell me all the things you only hear from your anxious conscience, which understands you aren’t cut out for this belt. I’ve beaten down my critics, and at ReViVal 14, you’ll be brow-beaten for their insolent transgressions.