Some people say that losing builds character.
These are the people that teach their children that losing is ok, that it somehow makes them better for the experience.
These are also the people who either never win in life, or they’re the people who tend to win a lot and want to keep the losers content with their place.
THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMPTHUMPTHUMP
Enough loss can weigh on the mind. It can eat at the psyche. It can drive a man to violence… or to ruin.
Jacob Mephisto? Well, he doesn’t take loss very well.
We open to the basement level of The Family’s rancher in the suburbs of Las Vegas. Jacob Mephisto stands in the middle of the room, bare feet grounded on the concrete floor. His shirtless upper body gleams with sweat and his breath is shallow and ragged. We catch a glimpse of his hands – red and raw – as he shakes them out.
A heavy punching bag lies on the ground a few feet away, the chain in the ceiling broken and swinging. Mephisto places his hands on his hips, sucking in air. His left eye twitches exactly once as he catches the scent of cigarette smoke from behind him.
“Letting off some steam, eh?”
He bows his head slightly, lips turning to a snarl.
“Not now, Kara.”
Kara Mephisto stands near the stairs leading up to the main level of the house, leaning against the wall, an all-to-familiar smirk playing at her lips.
“As if you could shoo me away, little brother. It’s been a bad ride for you lately, hasn’t it?
Her voice is honey coated poison. He knows this game. He’s played it a million times. Jacob pinches the bridge of his nose, trying to ignore the shade of his twin sister.
“Oh, we’re back to this again? Going to try and just pretend I’m not here? That worked out great for you last time, didn’t it?”
Mephisto doesn’t answer as he walks to the workbench built into the concrete wall. He checks his phone, glancing over messages coming in from his Coyotes.
Guy’s supposed to be sober five years now
Jack saw him having a drink a few days ago
Looks like he’s off the wagon maybe
Mephisto nods, taking in the information. The eye twitches again as he can feel her presence closer. Kara stands behind Mephisto, looking over his shoulder.
“Ooh, juicy! Looking for a way to worm into this one’s head, Jakey? Do you think that’ll work on him? Seems like it doesn’t work on anyone anymore does it?”
He doesn’t respond. He knows where this leads.
He swipes the messages away and pulls up the public PRIME profile for Buster Gloves, taking a moment to read it over. His pale, gray eyes simply assess. They take in the information, filing it away. Kara hops up onto the workbench sitting with her legs dangling and swaying back and forth. She cocks her head to the side playfully.
“Oh, I get it. The silent treatment.”
Her words are a sing-song.
“Jakey is angry at the world. He’s angry that he lost again.”
She throws her head back and laughs. That eye twitches again. Kara lights another cigarette, blowing smoke into the air.
“All that anger. You’d think you could find a way to put it to good use.”
He turns his head away. She’s baiting him. She’s always baited him. She’s always pushed him.
“You know, like rounding up those Twins of yours and teaching them not to make fools of themselves on live TV.”
“Or, you know, like defending your Iron Fist Championship in SHOOT Project without worrying about someone showing up and getting in your head. She does it better than you, by the way.”
Mephisto bows his head again, letting out a breath and gripping the sides of the wooden work bench. He tells himself not to rise to the bait. He tells himself this shade has no power over him. That’s what he tells himself.
Kara is smiling again, familiar bad intentions swimming in her hazy, gray eyes.
“Deal with Haskell, Ignatius, and Lexi in SHOOT. And then? Deal with Buster Gloves. Forget getting into his head, Jake. Rip him apart.”
Her voice turns to ice with those last three words. Mephisto grips the bench tighter, controlling his breathing, pale gray eyes turning dark.
“As for Anna Daniels? She’s right, Jakey. You’ve got to do it yourself.”
Mephisto whirls around to face Kara, but she’s not there. Of course she isn’t. She’s never there. Not really. Still, Mephisto responds to the empty air, every word dripping with venom.
“Don’t presume to tell me how to go about my business. You’re not even real anymore!”
The scent of cigarette smoke comes back strong, causing Mephisto to cough and instinctually wave his hand in front of his face. He doesn’t see her, but her sing-song voice floats to his ears.
“I’m still real to you.”
Mephisto looks down at his raw hands before calling up the stairs.
“Patience! Decius! Pack your things. It’s time we take a visit back to the desert. Call the Coyotes. Tell them we have a Family meeting.”
Two Days Later…
A roaring campfire lights the darkness of the night in the Mojave. Jacob Mephisto sits cross-legged, illuminated by the orange glow of the flames. Patience and Decius sit to his right and left. Johann Dietrich and KC Rockefeller, the tag team tandem known as KHARRION, sit to Patience and Decius’ right and left respectively. This is the foundation of The Family.
Several other smaller campfires dot the landscape. The Coyotes have come home. They come from all walks of life, really. What started as a collection of the dregs of Las Vegas society has grown into something much greater. Bikers sit in small groups, rival patches adorning their kuts. White collar corporate types who were just looking for a thrill at first now sit with former junkies who’ve turned in a needle for a sermon. School teachers, sex workers, and even the occasional member of law enforcement all mingle together. Out here, they shed their individual identities. Here they are Coyotes.
This is the Family. This is the power that fuels The Patriarch.
Mephisto stands, the Twins and KHARRION following suit. The Coyotes take notice. Their attention is rapt. They are drawn to this man.
Mephisto begins to slowly pace back and forth, turning each time he is just about to leave the light of the fire. The Coyotes gather in close, eager to listen. Eager for a sermon. Eager to come and see.
Mephisto stops and begins to speak to his Family.
“It’s been a while, my Coyotes.”
There’s a rumbling among the people. Mephisto nods.
“Too long, too long. But, here we are, gathered in the desert, the place of tribulation and triumph. Here we are, together again.”
There are a few shouts from the crowd, voicing their pleasure. Mephisto begins his deliberate pacing once again. His voice shifts in tone, drawing them in.
“When I brought this family together, I told each and every one of you that you had a role to play in this family. I told you all that I would never promise you perfection. I’ve taught you that utopias are a fool’s dream and that this world is always going to try and stamp out your greatness.”
Another murmur rushes through the crowd. His voice goes soft.
“But, I also told you that we’d never let that happen. Now, I know you’ve all been tuning in to watch your Patriarch. And, I know what you’ve seen! I know you’ve seen that things have been rough lately.”
He chuckles, more to himself than to anyone else.
“Things haven’t exactly been going our way, have they?”
Another murmur. Another nod from Mephisto.
“But, that’s ok! We know that this world is full of liars. We know this world is full of fakes. We know that people like Anna Daniels will always try and make us hurt. And that’s ok too!”
There’s an angrier murmur pulsing through the multitudes gathered here. Mephisto stops in the full glow of the fire and raises his hands, silencing the rumbling.
“It’s ok, my Coyotes. Your All-Father has a plan. We will stand up for ourselves. We will not allow these cheats and false idols to ruin our place in the world.”
There’s a cheer from the crowd.
“But, I’ll need your help.”
A heavy silence slowly falls throughout the crowd. Mephisto slowly renews his pacing, head moving as he surveys the gathered Coyotes like a serpent surveying a meal.
“I need to… sharpen my skills. I need to release this stinking pall that has fallen over me.”
The Twins and KHARRION slowly begin to fan out, walking among the Coyotes.
“Who will be my whetstone? Who will be my cure?”
There is an immediate rush of voices, each trying to talk over one another. Mephisto smirks, the gesture never meeting those pale eyes. Finally, after a few moments, Patience and Decius move forward, arm in arm with a young man. His sandy blonde hair is tied up into a fashionable bun and the blonde stubble on his chin looks to be well groomed. Mephisto smiles.
“Tell me, my Coyote, what is your name?”
As Mephisto speaks, Dietrich and KC have begun drawing a circle in the sand around the two men.
“Andrew. My name is Andrew.”
Mephisto nods, his smile fading into a more solemn look.
“And, Andrew, you know how this works? You know the rules?”
Andrew nods as Patience and Decius leave the circle.
“Stay in the light. The darkness is fair game for the Coyotes.”
Mephisto nods again.
“You are no longer a Coyote in this moment, Andrew. You are prey. Do you understand?”
Andrew nods solemnly. Mephisto holds out his hand.
“And what am I, Andrew?”
The newly declared prey takes a deep breath.
“You are no longer my Patriarch. You are my executioner.”
Mephisto claps his hands together and laughs, the wicked sound carrying on the desert breeze.
“Only in spirit, child. You know that.”
Mephisto backs up to the edge of the light. Andrew does the same. Patience Montgomery wanders to the center of the circle, raising her right hand into the air, painted a vibrant red.
And then the scent of stale cigarette smoke hits Mephisto’s nose. His eye twitches. He hears her voice again, something he didn’t think possible out here.
“Did you really think I was confined to suburbia? I’m your shade, dear brother. But don’t worry, I’ve come to see your work.”
There’s that laughter again. That horrible cackle he’s lived with for too long. He hates giving her satisfaction. Patience looks to her Father and begins to lower her arm.
Mephisto’s voice is cold, clear, and authoritative. But, this time… this time there’s the barest hint of a tremor in it.
Patience pauses. A murmur breaks out in the gathered crowd. Andrew looks confused. Mephisto walks to the center of the circle and whispers to Patience, sending her back to her brother. He turns to the gathered masses, placing an arm around Andrew.
“Let tonight be a lesson to you all. Andrew was prepared to sacrifice his bodily well-being for his Patriarch. He was prepared to forsake his status as a Coyote… for me.”
Mephisto squeezes Andrew’s shoulder as he hears Kara’s laughter, fading in the distance along with her stench. He turns to address Andrew directly.
“You are no longer prey. You are no longer a Coyote. You are no longer Andrew. Tonight, and henceforth, you are my Isaac. You are my to be my collector of souls. You, Isaac, are to be my Reaper.”
A loud cheer erupts from the gathered Coyotes and a chant of Isaac breaks out. Mephisto beckons the newly christened Isaac to a spot around the large fire, to the left of KC. His eye twitches one more time as he hears her.
“Well played, little brother. Well played.”
You know, Buster, I actually don’t have anything against you. I really don’t. In fact, I actually appreciate you. See, you get it. You understand. Other people? They’re so quick to scream “cult” and “following.” But, you? Nah. You actually get me. We’re two of a kind, really. We’ve both had a rough night at ReVival 13. We both have a chance to get back up at ReVival 14.
Birds of a feather, right?
We both do this for our families. Sure, yours is more traditional than mine, but family is family, right?
There’s just… one small problem, Buster. Our chance to redeem ourselves? Well, it puts us across the ring from one another. I’m sorry for what I’ve got to do to you. I really, really am. You seem like such a nice guy.
Me? I’m not a nice guy. I’m the bad guy, after all. I’m the villain. I’m the guy people are here to watch you take apart. Or, I should be. See, here in PRIME I’m a bit of an afterthought with the fans. Not that I blame them. They’ve only seen me take down Balaam. Everyone else I’ve crossed paths with? Well, they’ve gotten the better of me one way or another.
I should be the one people yearn to see destroyed. I should be the one people get behind you for. But, I’m not. Not yet. You’re the key to that, Buster. I’m going to make the PRIMEates rally for you. I’m going to make them draw special signs that tout the virtues of Buster Gloves.
But, I have to hurt you a little bit to do that.
That’s something we both understand.
But, I’ve really got to disagree with you, Mr. Gloves. You said that I want to win this match and you need to win this match. You’re wrong. You presume to refer to me as a bottomfeeder. You invoke the name of Anna Daniels.
I really thought you were genuine there for a moment. But, you’re just like her. You’re just… like… them.
I’ve got to break you, Buster. I’ve got to make an example out of you. It’s not personal, I promise. See, I know what everyone is thinking of me, going into this. The industry talking heads have said what everyone else is thinking. They say Anna Daniels is in my head. They say that she’s a distraction.
To be fair, they’re not wrong.
But, don’t get excited. That’s not an advantage for you.
It’s a death sentence
Anna Daniels embarrassed me at ReVival 13, Buster. I need to send a message. I need to set an example. I need to remind these Las Vegas fans that there are consequences to making me… what did you call it? Ah, yes, “upsetti spaghetti.” I could bring my Twins to the ring with me to give me an advantage to do that. I could even call on KHARRION.
But not this time.
You see, you put your faith in the wrestling gods to determine the outcome of this match.That’s a mistake. There are no gods but men in this world, Buster. So, while you pass on staking your claim for a win, I plant that flag firmly. While you wax poetic about doing this for a cause, I say this is my cause. While you say whatever happens in Vegas can stay here, I say I’m always here!
I’m going to beat you, Buster. I’m going to put you down. I’m going to send you back to the bottle you crawled out of, assuming you’re not already drowning.
And, yes, if you’re listening, Anna, I’m going to do it myself.