You really think you’ve put yourself in a good position, don’t you? Anna Daniels, the Time Lord of PRIME, the keeper of the Multitudes. You presented that leather and chain as a “gift.” You allowed the metal to drop with finality. And, you thought that sound would haunt my nightmares.
To be fair, you’re not wrong. Well, not entirely anyway.
See, Anna, I’ve got a long, scarred history with leather and chains. But, you knew that. You knew exactly what you were doing when you asked for this match. At least, you thought you did.
Does my soul scream at the sound of clinking chains? Yes. Yes it does. I’d be a fool to lie about it.
Do my scars start to itch when I see the metal bound with leather? Absolutely. The flesh remembers most of all, Ms. Daniels.
But, do I fear this nightmare of a match?
In fact, you’ve overlooked something in your concussed calculations.
I’ve never lost a Dog Collar Match, Ms. Daniels. I see no reason to start now.
“You can’t ignore me forever, you know.”
The scent of a freshly lit cigarette greets Jacob Mephisto’s nose as his eyes flutter open. He doesn’t respond to the shade’s voice. He stares up at the night sky, lit brightly by distant stars. The embers of the desert camp’s fires cast a hellish, but dim glow across the various sleeping figures that have amassed here in Red Rock Canyon.
“Come on, Jake. You need me. The fun and games are over. It’s time you paid me some attention.”
Her voice has become hard and haggard. Kara Mephisto, hallucination, shade, or simply a figment of imagination to Jacob Mephisto, sits against the wall of the canyon. She doesn’t look well. Her hair is matted, her skin sunken in. Only her pale, gray eyes, mirrors of Jacob’s, show signs of life.
Jacob doesn’t respond. He sits up, slowly stretching his neck and shoulders.
Kara takes a long drag of her cigarette before blowing the smoke into the night sky.
“You think you can just fucking ignore me and I’ll go away? Is that it?”
There’s no response, not even a twitch. Mephisto simply looks down at the scarred palms of his hands, lost in thought.
“Wrongo, Jake. I’m not going anywhere. You fucking need me. You know it, I know it. Prudence Collins knew it too.”
The name causes a single, solitary twitch of Mephisto’s left eye. Kara smiles, breathing more blue-gray smoke from her lips.
“There we go. What’s wrong, Jake? Did I strike a nerve?”
Mephisto drop’s his head and sighs.
“We don’t speak that name out loud.”
His voice is almost a whisper.
Kara’s lips curl into a poisonous smile.
“Prudence… Fucking… Collins. The NOTHING.”
Summer of 2016
Mephisto drags himself to his feet by the ring ropes. He’s tired, bleeding, nauseous. The leather around his throat has left a nasty, already purpling bruise. He asked for this. He knew this would be hell.
He hears the crowd roar in approval and his eyes go wide. Mephisto can feel his opponent coming. He turns just as the links of the chain strike across his chest for the third straight time, opening a wound and sending him down to the canvas.
His vision is blurry, though he can’t tell if it’s from blood in his eyes or the concussion he’s pretty sure he has. Through the blur, he can see Prudence Collins… no… NOTHING… slowly wrapping the length of the chain around his knee.
He knows what comes next. The shining wizard. Lights out. Good night, Mr. Mephisto.
He starts to laugh. Mephisto has no idea why. He just can’t control the laughter. It rolls out of him and he sees NOTHING hesitate. It’s then that he hears her voice.
He must be imagining it. She died a year ago. But, there it is again.
I said get up you idiot.
And so he does. Just as NOTHING rockets forward and brings his knee up.
There’s a hush over the crowd when Mephisto wraps the chain around NOTHING’s throat with a modified sleeper.
The hush turns to a gasp when he drops back and hooks a bodyscissors, cranking on the chain.
The gasp turns to a chorus of hatred when NOTHING’s arm drops for a third time and the bell sounds.
Mephisto doesn’t remember much after that. Just the smell of stale cigarette smoke and a single twitch of his eye. And he vaguely remembers hearing something about still being the EWA Network Champion. None of that seemed very important at the moment.
But, that was the beginning of a haunted legacy.
I want you to know that I don’t think you’re bullshit, Anna. A lot of people do. In fact, I’d say most people think you’re just a gimmick with a Dr. Who fetish.
I don’t believe that.
I think you’re the real deal.
Or, at least, as close to it as possible. I truly believe you are the vessel to the multitudes. And, I know, deep down, somewhere in that legion of yours, there’s a storm of violence and bad intentions scratching at their prison. They want out.
This is the moment you set them free, right? You let out the monster and you let it feast. You use that monster inside to defeat the evil Jacob Mephisto and then you lock it away again, right?
I’d tell you to ask Prudence Collins how that worked out for him, but I know you have no clue who that is. I won’t bore you with the details, Ms. Daniels. He let out the entity called NOTHING. He couldn’t put it back in the box and it consumed him. Prudence Collins hasn’t set foot back in this industry since 2016. At least, not in any major way.
Maybe we need a more recent lesson then. Go and ask Azraith DiMitri over in SHOOT Project how easy it was to lock The Sandman back away after REDEMPTION. Since you’ve become so fond of walking around in my territory, I’m sure he won’t be hard to find.
Except he hasn’t allowed himself back into the ring since REDEMPTION. He’s done some PR work for the SHOOT Project, sure. But that’s about it.
Why do you think that is, Ms. Daniels?
You see, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’ll repeat it until someone finally understands.
I don’t just beat people, Anna. I don’t end people.
I change people.
I make people rethink their own existence.
Especially when they play my game.
You thought yourself clever, bringing that damned dog collar into this. But, really, you’re a fool. I knew that, somehow, it would come to this.
I knew I’d have to change who you are. But, you know what’s interesting to me?
I don’t know how many of the multitudes inside of you I’m going to alter in the process.
And that, my dear Anna Daniels, makes me wonderfully curious.
“You know you need me.”
Kara doesn’t look haggard anymore. Her hair is sleek, braided behind her back like a warrior’s. Her skin practically glows in the moonlight.
“Every time you’ve been lost, I’ve pointed the way. Every time you’ve been alone, I’ve put you where you needed to be. The Twins? Who was it that made you go back to Nazareth in that godforsaken state we were born in? Your newest Reaper? Who provoked you?”
Mephisto’s eye twitches. Just once.
“You’ve helped me, sure. You’ve also tormented me. You’re not a boon, Kara. You’re a fucking curse.”
She laughs. It’s cold and cruel, just like her twin’s.
“I’m such a curse that you exiled yourself to the desert and built what damn near amounts to an army while trying to avoid me. Sounds more like a blessing to me.”
Her voice goes into a sing-song cadence as she speaks those last few words.
“I built this Family on my own.”
“You did, Jake. You built a better family than we ever had.”
There’s a serious, almost sisterly tone to her voice.
His eye… doesn’t twitch this time. Instead, he raises an eyebrow.
“You know you’re not real, right? Like, I know whatever you’re supposed to be? It’s all up in here.”
He taps himself on the head.
She laughs, but this time it’s warmer.
“Yeah. Yeah, maybe. But, if I’m just in your head? That means you want me there.”
The Patriarch falls silent for a moment.
“Maybe you’re my monster.”
Kara shakes her head, lighting another cigarette.
“Nah, Jake. You don’t need a monster. I think you know that. You’re not like these others. Pretenders, every one of them. Including The Sandman.”
The name brings back a rush of recent pain.
REDEMPTION 2022 – SHOOT Project
Mephisto stands atop the diabolical structure famously known as the hell in a cell. He’s connected at the neck for the second time in his career to a hated rival. This time, it’s Azraith DeMitri, The Sandman. The blood has flowed once again. New scars are forming.
He doesn’t have time to think about these things though. Right now, all he can think about is breathing. Or, really, that he can’t.
The monster he’s unleashed in Azraith has hung him from the cell by his collar. Mephisto’s feet thrash as he tries to save himself.
This is it. This is the end. He knows it.
But then, The Sandman falters and remembers his own humanity. He actually pulls Mephisto back to the top of the cage. That’s when he hears her again.
Fool. Get him. Make him regret it.
He knows she isn’t real. She can’t be. But he smells the smoke again. His skull is splitting as she screams at him.
SHOW HIM WHY YOU DON’T FUCK WITH A MEPHISTO!
The All-Father springs into action, he jerks the chain up, going low.
The rest is a blur. There’s a shining axe kick. There’s a horrible fall for both men.
In the end, neither man answers the bell. But, Mephisto survives.
He hears her laughing as the supple leather of the Iron Fist Championship is rested on his chest.
He knows he’s changed another soul.
You know, Anna, I don’t think anyone really understands how dangerous you are. They look at you and they see a cute marketing slogan and a t-shirt. They see someone that may or may not be delusional. They look at Anna Daniels and they see a sideshow.
Do you know what I see when I look at Anna Daniels?
I see the potential to end anyone in PRIME.
You’ve got so much inside you, just gnawing to get out. You could unleash that and take your place here.
I look around PRIME at the Julian Bathory’s and the Cancer Jiles’ and I see big danger signs. I look around and I see The Anglo Luchador and guys like Brandon Youngblood as beacons of hope, ready to stave off the darkness.
It’s the same old story.
Then there’s you. You, Ms. Daniels, walk the line of the multiverse. You have the potential to tip the scales.
Does anyone else see it? No. They’re too busy fighting for their spot.
But, I’ve seen it firsthand.
When you crossed over into my world, I felt your impact. I’m short one Iron Fist Championship because of it.
I know what you’re capable of, Anna.
But, and this is the important part, you really and truly have no idea what I’m capable of.
If you did? Well, you wouldn’t have asked for this match.
You got a taste of it at ReVival 14. I’ll deliver a full course of it at Ultraviolence.
“So where do we go from here?”
Mephisto stares quizzically at the shade of his sister. And, he swears she looks more solid than she ever has before. Must be his imagination, though.
“You know what you need to do.”
Her voice is colder now and goosebumps form on Mephisto’s arms.
He shakes his head.
“Anna Daniels isn’t Azraith DiMitri or Prudence Collins.”
Kara smirks, the gesture somehow full of bad intentions.
“Then what is she?”
The Patriarch thinks for a long moment.
“She’s something else.”
There’s a heavy sigh from The All-Father.
“I have to change her, too.”
Mephisto’s voice is cut off. He tries to speak again, but his voice doesn’t come. There’s the sensation of something tightening around his neck as his vision blurs. He can see Kara smiling a smile wider than should be possible. His nostrils fill with the scent of rot and cigarette smoke before his vision blurs to darkness.
Jacob gasps for air as he sits bolt upright on the desert floor. His shirtless body, lined with scars, is covered in a sheen of sweat. Nearby, Patience and Decius Montgomery stir. Patience eyes her Father with concern.
“Is everything alright?”
He breathes slowly, absentmindedly stroking his throat.
“Everything is fine, Patience. Go back to sleep.”
“But, I’m worried about you.”
“We all are.”
This time, it’s Decius who speaks up. Mephisto can hear their tones and he knows they’ve rehearsed whatever it is they’re about to say. He holds up a hand.
“I said don’t.”
Mephisto’s voice takes on the hard edge of authority his Family is accustomed to.
“Where is my Reaper? Where is Isaac?”
There’s a stirring in the darkness and the young man newly christened as Isaac enters the lowly lit area around The Family’s inner circle.
“You called, All-Father?”
“How long have you been awake?”
“Long enough. You speak in your sleep.”
Mephisto nods solemnly.
“And does this worry you like it does the Twins?”
There’s a long pause, Isaac’s face betraying no emotion. Finally, the young man responds.
“No. It’s not our place to question the mind of The Patriarch.”
Mephisto lets out a hearty laugh.
The Patriarch looks to the Twins.
“Gather round, all three of you.”
The Twins and Isaac move closer to Mephisto, sitting cross-legged and attentive.
“It’s time you learned about the beginning of The Family. I had a sister once, you know…”
This has been fun, Anna. It really has. We’ve played this little game over the past few weeks and you’ve seemed to come out on top time and time again.
Do you think that’s a coincidence? Maybe you’re just smarter than me and mine?
Or, just maybe, do you think it was by design?
Well, not all of it, I’ll admit. I didn’t think you’d get under dear Patience’s skin so thoroughly. And I certainly didn’t think you’d be responsible for putting me in position to lose my Iron Fist Championship.
Still, sacrifices must be made. After all, I’ll be seeing that gold again soon enough.
But, overall? This has lined up exactly the way I needed it to.
It was so very convenient that Bucky… the goodest of boys… kept the Twins so utterly distracted.
I’m sure you and the rest of the PRIMEverse had a good laugh. I know I did.
You came to the SHOOT Project. You caused chaos.
You really had me reeling, didn’t you?
But, who was really distracted, Anna?
Let me set the scene for you.
Your protector was off swinging a sword and playing Scooby Doo with my children. Meanwhile, out of sight, my Reaper watched. He waited. He reported to me.
And there you were. All alone. No backup. No help.
There were no bright lights, no theatrics, no spotlights shining down as music played and the crowd roared.
Just you in a parking lot.
I did it myself, Anna.
So here we are. Anna Daniels. Jacob Mephisto. Dog Collar Match. Ultraviolence.
We’re not the main event. That doesn’t matter.
They’ll remember us.
They’ll remember what happened that night forever.
You were right about one thing in particular, Ms. Daniels. Ultraviolence will be the moment that springs us into the limelight.
I’m just sorry it’s going to have to cost you so much.
Remember that you asked for this match.
It’s going to haunt you.