SUCCESS IN FAILURE
IN THE RING
Bonk, bonk, bonk, bonk, boooonnnnnk.
What a soft skull you have.
Like a baby’s.
He could hear the front row pleading for him to stop. But their begging fell upon deaf ears as he had no intention of letting up with his onslaught. Not before he made hamburger out of Sykes’ face. Their desperate pleas were music to his ears, though. This was what he was all about, after all. Arthur Pleasant, through all the mind games, triggering, penchant for bloodletting, was an absolute beast inside that ring. He hadn’t earned the moniker “Plaguebeast” simply to push merch sales, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t grateful for the one or two deviants who bought the stuff.
That’s why it was all the more shocking how, after dominating Jared Sykes for nearly thirteen minutes straight, all it took was a bigger BONK to Arthur’s head to send his infernal consciousness into a technicolor haze and go unresponsive for those oh-so-important three seconds. Laying on the canvas, Pleasant saw everything via instant replay on PRIMEView. Like he was glued to the roof of another dimension and saw this inverted image from an upside-down world, he witnessed Sykes hit that amazing finisher of his. “Omega 13”, he called it. What a beautiful wrestling move it was, too. Credit where credit was due, much to his own vexation over getting caught with it.
Goddamn! He spiked me right on my head! Touché, Sykes. Touché.
For a moment, Pleasant was upset that he once again felt the great sting of defeat inside a PRIME Wrestling ring. That damn elusive first win was quickly becoming his white whale, and what a formidable chase it was proving to be. He had nobody to blame but himself. Pleasant went for the Calamity Pain, and Sykes must’ve done his homework well enough to find a way to slip out into a go-behind. Shit happens. Not everybody had been gifted with the Best or Colton genetics.
Three losses¹. Three different ways.
Tossed over the top rope.
1.Two losses if you count the Culture Shock Battle Royal. Which he does. Because he lost. Which is the opposite of winning. Mulligan be damned.
Maybe, just maybe, he needed to get it all out of his system. Akin to vomiting his guts out instead suffering through nausea for hours upon end. Perhaps this was the quick purge en route to finally feeling good again.
Or maybe this was a much deeper issue.
That masked moron.
Maybe he was having a bit too much fun at The Anglo Luchador’s expense. Sure. It made sense. For all the effort he put into making TAL’s life as uncomfortable as he could possibly make it, he was taking equal amounts of focus from lacing up his boots and getting the job done in the ring. Classic scales of justice syndrome. His father had it, so in all likelihood he inherited that character flaw. Or could it have been the entire PRIME locker room and their endless parade of Jabs toward Ivan Stanislav and their overall snarkiness toward the rest of the wrestling world? From A(be) to Z(ion), it could’ve been anybody and everybody.
But then he saw the eyes of the fans. They were wide with terror, see. Shoulder to shoulder with shock and dismay inside the sold-out T-Mobile Center at ReVival 27. They were collectively taken aback by the aberrant nature of his skill set. For years, Pleasant had been often condemned, rarely lauded, for the manner in which he could inflict harm upon another human. Upon getting to know Arthur Pleasant, his destruction was unparalleled, and they were finally beginning to notice.
That’s when he smiled. Arthur knew the camera caught it for the perfect photo-op, too. Maybe he’d make the front page of the Hammerlock Herald, even in defeat.
Success in failure.
It didn’t matter that he lost to Jared Sykes. Not in the grand scheme of things, anyway. Pleasant delivered the message he intended all along. Loud and clear. The imprint left on PRIME’s forehead—as well as Jared’s— by showcasing his sadistic nature was unmistakable. Malicious, even.
And he knew they knew it.
They all fucking knew it.
The world, as they knew it, was SHOOK. To its fucking core.
This was the very reason Lindsay Troy, in all her infinite faux-wisdom and inherent hypocrisy, did not want Arthur Pleasant in PRIME Wrestling. Because she knew exactly what Arthur Pleasant was capable of both outside of the ring and when that bell finally sounded. Whatever little regard for humanity and the human anatomy he had on a non-work day, turned disturbingly non-existent when the lights and cameras turned on for ReVival or a crucial PRIMEium Live Event.
Pleasant was a destroyer. Winless after three attempts, but a destroyer nonetheless.
He was the venomous snake in the garden of the gods. A serpent waiting to sink his fangs into the unexpecting flesh of those who walked in the weeds. Soon, his malignity would be suffered unto those who had neither the wherewithal nor the decency in looking down to check and see what lay beside their feet.
Jared’s chest would throb for days. Weeks, even. Each kick had been more lethal than the last as he attempted to cave in The King of Blueberries’ chest cavity. One more and he would’ve snapped that sternum to pieces, he was sure of it. One more surgically precise kick and Sykes was dead in the middle of a PRIME wrestling ring after a bout of impact-induced cardiac arrhythmia. One more smashing head-butt and in a few short years a doctor would be performing an autopsy, looking for CTE, after the Jared Sykes Memorial Show.
Note to Self: Send orchids to Justine Calvin at the Jared Sykes Memorial Show.
Then there was another egregious display of disrespect as Vince Howard didn’t even give Arthur Pleasant a proper entrance. Sloppy. Pathetic. It was something he might’ve expected from the sanctum of trash at HOW or SHOOT Project, but never from the extolled genius bar located within PRIME’s staff directory. Combine that oversight with Elvis Nixon making a conscientious effort to not touch him with a ten-foot pole throughout the entirety of the match– despite feeling compelled to check an honest man for weapons in his invisible knee and arm pads–and you have the makings of obvious bias towards him.
Sniff, sniff. What is that wonderful smell?
The aroma permeating the air surrounding the ring was undoubtedly fear.
Not fear from the lingering aftereffects of the violence they just witnessed. No, not at all. It was fear for what Arthur would become the longer he planted his feet into the wet cement of the goings-on of PRIME. Once the soft, gray binding transcended into concrete, there was no way out from the madness he would spread. So while some might’ve looked at another loss as a failure, everyone’s friendly neighborhood Provocateur did not.
From this notion of self-preservation, Pleasant sat up while listening to the echoing beats and hideous screaming of Northland’s “Plenty”. Criss-crossing tomato-saucing his legs after the former and final PRIME Tag Team Champion disappeared behind the curtain, Pleasant just sat in the ring alone.
No Elvis Nixon.
No Vince Howard.
Nothing was even up on the PRIMEView.
It was just Arthur Pleasant.
“Alone” in front of thousands.
Humming something beautiful to himself that only he could hear.
So much work to be done.
So much blood to be spilled.
So few fucks to give.
CASA DE VAN WARREN
HOURS BEFORE REvIVAL 28
“Chto, chert voz’mi, zdes’ proizoshlo??” demanded an outraged Yuri Reznikov in his native tongue.
“Huh whaa…” moaned a voice in the distance on a long and fancy twelve-seater dining room table. The voice carried up into the echo chamber of the double high ceilings within the spacious dining room before dissipating. Yuri’s behemoth steps crunched on various particles of food and rogue pieces of dinnerware, and the closer the Siberian Silencer came within the vicinity of the moaning voice, the more debris he found under his size twenty military-style boots.
“I said what the fuck happened here?” repeated Yuri, this time in English, with a thick-as-solyanka-soup Russian accent. Clearly, he was less than enthusiastic about what his eyes laid upon. The trash was boundless within this bona fide palace the patriarch of the Van Warren family had recently purchased. Empty bottles of Jewel of Russia Ultra Black, dirty plates, and accompanying broken glass littered the hardwood floors from beyond sight.
Yuri knew the attendees of the dinner party from the night before as he attended and monitored it himself, but unlike the company Arthur Pleasant had entertained, he left relatively early. So how the fancy schmancy dwelling of one Eryk Van Warren nearly turned into a scene from ‘The Hangover’, he did not know.
“Ohhhh man. My head.” Pleasant said, half-laughing and half-groaning in obvious discomfort.
A lone hand slammed on the edge and toward the middle of the dining room table. Its fingers tensed up as it clawed at the furnished oak, pulling Arthur Pleasant’s scarred, half-shaved long haired head into full view. His other hand grabbed at the edge of the table like the first one did as he pulled himself the rest of the way up from the floor he passed out on. Shirtless, Pleasant inverted both hands behind his back, and arched himself until an unnatural, loud cracking sound emanated deep from within his soul. Had anyone but Yuri seen the scars across his chest, abdomen, shoulders, and face they would be taken aback by it, but the seven-foot Russian knew it was all just a road map for the uncrowned King of the Japanese Deathmatch.
Pleasant’s next words changed the mood in the room like smoke inside a log cabin.
Yuri was immediately incensed.
Grabbing a wooden chair that had been pushed in properly under the dining room table, he hurled it across the living room with startling strength, causing it to smash a porcelain vase that held a glossy Moses-in-the-cradle plant. Purple and green leaves scattered everywhere, which sent the room into even further tumult.
“Ty izdevayesh’sya nado mnoy, Artur?! IVAN SDELAL ETO?! O, eto budet rassmotreno nemedlenno s-”
Arthur waved his hands and made a “T” shape with his hands, signaling for a time-out.
“Haaaaard stop, Yuri. English. It’s too goddamn early and I’m too goddamn hungover to listen to your fucking Russian bullshit.” Arthur said, pleadingly.
Ignoring the ’Russian bullshit’ part of Arthur’s request, Yuri took a moment to calm himself before speaking again. Still, his anger with the situation, as he read it in real-time, had never been as overt as it was at that exact moment.
“Did Ivan do this?!” Yuri asked plainly with his booming voice.
The Provocateur laughed immediately at this. He even snorted a bit and Arthur is not a snorter. At least, not in the laughing sense!
“Don’t be silly, Yurster. Ivan Stanislav is one of the most misunderstood human beings in all of PRIME. Keyword: HUMAN BEING.” he enunciated loudly before wincing from the obvious torment of an enormous headache. Arthur continued, “Once the other guests left, Ivan and I talked. And drank. And talked some more. And drank some more.” he said as he rubbed his temples.
Shaking his head, PRIME’s Worst Nightmare sucked his teeth before lowering his voice a few decibels.
“That man knows his brand of vodka like I know my strand of barbed wire. OoOoOoOooWEE.” he exclaimed in agony.
Walking away from the table, it became apparent that Pleasant was not wearing pants. Just boxer briefs with a caricature of Lindsay Troy’s face on them². Arthur’s immodesty was incomparable as Yuri gave it the ole college try to not look directly at his crotch. It was almost like her eyes followed him³.
2.This would be the only way he’d ever allow LT’s gross chapped lips on his dick.
3. He paid extra for that.
“Bozhe moy…” Yuri said mostly to himself as he trailed off at the end.
Pleasant gave him the stink eye as he turned to walk out of the dining room area and into the kitchen. While he made his way to the fridge, and just before he could reach the double stainless steel doors, Yuri bellowed at him.
“Something on your mind, friend?” Arthur asked glibly.
“I don’t know what went on after I left last night, and I don’t want to know. What I do want to know is this: do you need my assistance for this Anglo Luchador pridurok or nyet?”
“Perhaps. Perhaps not. To be honest, I haven’t decided yet.” Arthur replied, yawning.
“How long do you plan on toying with him?
“C’mon now, Yuri. You know as well as I do that we haven’t even begun to toy with him. His blood hasn’t even stained my gear yet!”
Yuri heaved an aggravated and exasperated sigh.
“All in due time, comrade.” laughed Pleasant as he attempted to assuage Yuri’s annoyance as best he could.
“What is the number one weakness of a bully?” asked Arthur, somewhat rhetorically, before finishing the thought out loud, “Low self-esteem. TAL’s is so low that he has to tie buoys to his fragile little arms so he can actually float UP to the levels of false bravado. This is why he persecutes and gaslights everybody that will listen to him.”
Arthur motioned toward a pot of coffee that brewed days ago with just his eyes. Yuri declined the silent invitation before Arthur continued.
“Just look at his Jabber history! I’m betting it’s as horrifying as what I can only surmise to be a home life brimming with abuse and outright neglect. Those poor kids of his. What a bleak future they have with an absentee father who’ll be disgraced behind a mask and ruined from a web of lies that mired his family in shame.” Arthur chuckled insidiously.
“Well, whenever you want to push the button? You let me know. Do svidaniya.” he said with a dead inflection to his gruff-sounding voice.
After a moment, Yuri crunched his boots way back to the front of the Van Warren residence. With one foot out the door, Arthur called to him.
Yuri stopped. Arthur, noticing a draft coming into the house– probably between his legs, first and foremost– tilted his head while biting into an unpeeled, unpitted avocado that he nabbed from a latticed bowl on the kitchen counter.
“Consider that button pushed.” Pleasant added.
Yuri turned to Arthur.
“Da?” Yuri asked.
A malevolent grin surfaced.
“Da, baby. Da.”
LOCAL GYM IN THE A-B-Q
FUCK KNOWS THE TIME
As he looked ahead, Arthur saw a bevy of stuffed animals with their child owners, all laughing amongst their glitter crafts inside a colorful room. There was a merry-go-round with dancing unicorns riding it, lifted about six-feet from a lively ball-pit. With the slight tilt of the head he could see a rainbow in the sky with a giant bulging heart-eye emoji that hovered above it. Suddenly, the super-duper iconic J-Pop song ‘Ultra Soul’ by B’z played while a random cell-shaded fawn pranced around a family of cute little forest creatures to his right.
Everything was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and absolutely adorable.
Pleasant’s mind stopped wandering with kaleidoscopic imagery and proceeded to hit the heavy bag with three precision-styled quick kicks. Back to reality.
Bang, bang, bang.
A river of blood sentiently roamed across a floor made up of broken skulls as it filled every crevice it could find. Soaking wet hands rose up from the crimson pool, all reaching toward an unidentifiable man that swayed back and forth after having recently hung himself with a noose made of barbed wire. Screeching caws emanated from a murder of crows that had perched themselves on the dead man’s shoulders. He tilted his head curiously while they pecked out his eyes and feasted on the sinewy tendrils of his dead, rotting flesh.
It was an atmosphere fit for the macabre, and the levels of violence he could see were beyond harrowing. Hell looked like it had been waiting rather impatiently from his point of view.
The Provocateur’s trip into the recesses of his own mind once again came to a screeching halt.
This time, he felt vitriol pulsating like a charge ready to burst, indiscriminate of who might’ve been on the receiving end of its destruction. He couldn’t block out the images, mightily though he tried. It was a daily struggle to do so, in fact. Suffering from hyperphantasia and maladaptive daydreaming since he was an adolescent, the images never ceased to disturb him. The erratic symbolism of something sinister always held the hairs on the back of his neck hostage until he managed to scratch and claw his way out of it.
Three more kicks. Unlike before, they were all heavy-heeled.
BANG, BANG, BANG.
The bag swayed much like the body from his chaotic flashes. Noticing the similarities, he reached forward and stopped the heavy bag from moving.
“Heh.” he grunted through his plain white mouth guard before he spit it into his open right hand. Arthur had no idea just how long he had been hitting the heavy bag, but his shins, feet, elbows, and fists all felt like they were on fire. Sweat made its home all throughout his body as he practiced his Muay-Thai strikes for hours on end.
Remembering there was a small analog wall clock hung on the painted cement wall of the gymnasium behind him, he turned around.
It was six-thirty PM.
No fucking way!
Pleasant started hitting the bag around six-thirty AM.
Collapsing onto his plain black gym shorts, sweat flew off of him like someone slapping a foam noodle on the surface of a swimming pool.
The exhaustion swept over him as he slowly but surely came back to reality.
“Hey, are you okay?” asked an unknown man who had been working out nearby for who knows how long. Time stopped for twelve hours, as far as Arthur knew. Who had been coming and going inside that vacuum was absolutely lost on him.
“Hey man, you alright?” this man asked again.
Who the fuck does this asshole think he is?
Sucking up as much snot and saliva as he could, he spit it out into the open palm of this man who simply tried to help another he deemed incapable.
“YO!! What the FUCK, dude?!” shouted this annoying bystander.
“I’m quite alright, thank you. Now get the fuck away from me.” Arthur responded as he looked up at the man, flashing a grin with his fanged implants.
The man said not another word to him and slowly backed away, shaking the filth off of his hand, no doubt regretting the offering of assistance he just made.
Nearly startling him, Yuri’s unmistakable voice echoed throughout the gym.
“You good?” he stated plainly.
Arthur thought about this question for a moment.
ReVival was right around the corner and he knew he was in for a fight with Kohime Mori.
It didn’t matter that they were complete opposites.
It didn’t matter that he had the height, weight, and experience advantage.
None of it mattered.
They were worlds apart from each other in terms of personalities and respective histories in the wrestling industry. Yet, as the match loomed on that fateful horizon, they may as well have been siblings cut from the same umbilical cord.
Soon, they would both be battling down in the dirt of the garden as the towering Gods went about their business, barely acknowledging their existence.
“I’m good.” he said breathily, trying to recover his strength after what appeared to be a zombified workout session.
Liberating his sweaty wrists from the Velcro of his plain black MMA gloves, he tossed them aside.
This time, a much larger hand reached out for assistance.
A smile crept out from Pleasant’s exhausted features as he reached out and accepted Yuri’s hand.
“Thank you.” Pleasant said, closing his eyes.
For a moment, he saw skittles and kittens in the middle of a field of lovely dandelions…
…and then a great black stormcloud hovered over this sickening landscape of happiness before the sound of what could only be described as a blender started to hum.
Mmhm. Good, indeed.