He knew what awaited him when he opened his eyes, but he still wasn’t looking forward to it. With a long, deep breath through his nostrils, David Roger Troy, Jr. woke up, to find himself buried alive, just like he had regularly for the past six years; since he had come closest to the actual grave, once and for all. Some weeks more often than not, and some months not at all, but they did come, and with some sort of regularity, to the point where he was able to hash out a pattern of when to expect them.
The first time, he screamed in fear until the air ran out. The second time, he lay paralyzed in fear and confusion. After that, he had realized he was in a dream, and started telling a professional about his experiences once he got to the waking world. Before long, he had started to grasp the concepts of lucid dreaming and also realized that his attempts to escape from the coffin he found himself in every night, while inevitably ending in failure just in time for him to wake up, would progress just a little more each time. He knew that one day, he would escape, it was just a matter of when.
With that knowledge, he immediately got to work. Feeling around in the darkness, he was able to grab the flashlight he willed into his vicinity on the one hundred twenty-seventh visit to the grave some four years ago, and when he turned it on he saw the crowbar he had managed to dream into being on the one hundred seventy-fourth time just before the election, and the oxygen tank he finally managed to imagine on the two hundred sixth attempt a few months ago. Calmly slipping on the mask that would give him several hours to dig his way out, as well as literal breathing room, he pinned the flashlight between the side of the tomb and his hip, and started knocking around underneath the lid in search of the best place to start poking and digging his way out.
“Yeah, we just touched down in Vegas about an hour ago. Did you know they have slot machines in the airports? I didn’t know that.”
David Fox stood outside the Harry Reid International Airport, over 1,700 miles away from his wife Saori, who was on the other side of this conversation on David’s cell phone. She was still in New Orleans waiting for the dogsitter for their beloved Welsh corgi Albert before heading over to support him, and she’d made him promise to call once he touched down.
“”Yeah, the hotel’s like five minutes from here. Mushi and I are just waiting on the shuttle. Lindz is going all out for the Survivor contestants.”
“Yeah. Survivor. That old concept from the fWo days. What’s old is new again, I guess. She said we’d get a briefing on it once we got settled in the hotel. Uh huh, just go in, shower, hit up whatever place tickles our fancy, and get to training. Apparently they have a Morimoto in the hotel. Something worth looking into once you get here.”
David gives a long, wanting sigh. Ten feet away from him, the massive Mushigihara is looking like an oddity, towering over most everyone else in sight while looking over tourism brochures with delight.
“I miss you too, baby. You’ll be here soon and we can paint the town red. And if Mushi and I win this whole shebang and get those PRIME tag team belts? Gonna be one hell of an anniversary.”
The towering ex-sumo called out to David with an abrupt, blunt “OSU.” as the van started pulling into the driveway. With a nod, David closed his call.
“Our ride’s here. I’ll call you when we get settled in. I love you too. Bye.”
Almost as if he were powered by clockwork, David Fox grabbed his suitcase, loaded his phone into his carry-on, and double-timed it to the van, as Mushi followed suit. David declined help with his bags from the driver, all the better to get loaded in quickly. As they finally got seated and the van drove off, Mushi turned over to his tag team partner with a grin, pointing at a picture of the world-famous Las Vegas Monorail.
Activating Character Development-to-Promotional Material Transistor Program…
“You would like that, ya fuckin’ tourist,” David said with a grin.
Transition 35% complete…
Mushigihara simply shrugged and nodded, before uttering a low, agreeing, “osu.”
“Well, I guess now’s as good a time as any to formally introduce ourselves.”
Who knows where we are right now; a basement, a room in a building in the middle of some vast remodeling, it doesn’t matter. The beige walls struggle to be seen under the dim lights, leaving the focus on our subjects.
On the left, a Caucasian man with short, spiky black hair, dressed casually but sharply in jeans, Chuck Taylors, and a black T-shirt with the Ramones’ “presidential seal” logo printed on. He seems restless, but energized.
On the right, sitting hunched over on a folding chair is a boyish-looking man with Asian features in a rather plain black suit; common wisdom would probably describe him as overweight, but he carries himself with a poise that suggests he is hiding great strength. He doesn’t look as restless as his companion, but he does look a bit on edge. The man on the left continues on.
My name is David Fox. And this big lug over here, you can call him Mushigihara.
David Fox gently puts a hand on the shoulder nearing to him on Mushi, before giving him a facetious pinch on his cheek. Mushi, on his end, seems a little nonplussed, as he annoyedly rolls his eyes and groans a low…
Don’t let the chubby babyface on him fool ya; Yamazaki-san’s baby boy’s got both bark AND bite. We’ve been doing this wrestling thing for a good long while before we touched down on PRIME, and we have the gold to show it. Some of you on the PRIME roster know us. ‘Sup.
David chuckles and winks.
But we’re not here to rehash the past, or revisit old feuds and other conversations. No, we’re here because we answered the call PRIME sent out for this Tag Team Survivor Challenge that’s starting up on Culture Shock. Twelve teams, in three tribes, vying to become the sole survivors and with it, the first tag team champions of the new era of PRIME. And Mushi and me? We like challenges, so we packed our bags, flew out to ol’ Sin City and are getting put up in a swanky hotel while figuring out just how the hell we’re gonna roll boulders down the street. Not exactly how we envisioned making our big debut in PRIME, but it is what it is, I suppose.
A pause of about ten seconds. It’s almost awkward how nothing seems to fill in that void, really.
But I’m not going to talk about how good we are at rolling boulders, because frankly, I have no clue exactly HOW we’d do rolling boulders. But if you wanna know why Mushi and I are so confident in our chances in this Survivor shindig, then it’s as simple as this. Mushigihara and myself?
David slaps his chest, classic “showing off manliness” style.
We ARE survivors.
Survivors in this business. Survivors in LIFE. No matter what comes our way; even if we didn’t necessarily WIN, we still lived to fight another day. We know how to survive in the harshest circumstances. Being put up in a swanky hotel room, stepping outside once in a while to train, compete, and maybe catch a magic show here and there?
Piece of cake.
Reverting Character Development-to-Promotional Material Transistor Program…
July 23, 2011.
Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan.
Ryan Andersen had just completed a seminar with some trainees at the Sapporo Pro Wrestling dojo, as a friend to his long-time friend and former tag team partner Alex Markham. Now going by the stage name Eddie Dante since a tour of Mexico invigorated his spirit and love of the wrestling business, Andersen was taking a moment to catch up with his old friend, trade some road stories, and talk about the future. Markham, on the verge of turning fifty years old, had already begun winding down his in-ring career, with intentions of completely retiring sometime in 2013, after a wrestling career spanning thirty years, thirty-seven countries, and four continents. Andersen had turned thirty-five not long ago, and felt like he had a few years left in him before he started about maybe getting out of the game and starting a family.
“Gotcha teaching all the scrawns, eh, old-timer?” Ryan cackled. Despite Alex Markham’s age, he still looked as intimidating as ever, at six-one and around two-forty. Ryan looked at Alex’s right arm and saw it was as pumped and taut as ever, perfect for delivering that dreaded lariat that he saw many a time, but thankfully never firsthand. The man known throughout the business as “The Sentinel” merely shook his head and sighed.
“Not all scrawns,” Alex bemoaned, “you saw that one big guy, right?”
“Yeah, I did. Has potential, honestly. He could move real well for that size.
“Came in from sumo and he’s having a little bit of a hard time with the bulk.”
“Well, that definitely explains the weight.”
“Yup. A buck-eighty easy.”
Ryan had that classic “wait, what?” moment when your responses are completely shut off by something the other guy said, and had to collect himself before saying “what, pounds?”
Markham scoffed coyly, “sorry, so used to using metric, being away from the States and all. It’s kilos.”
“I gotcha, but… so he’s what, four hundred pounds?”
“Yup, he’s trying to slim down a bit, but you know how these ex-sumo guys are, set in their ways. He could learn to do a style suited for that kind of mass, but I really think he wants to do more than just be an immovable object, you know?”
The two friends looked at each other for a moment before Ryan Andersen broke the silence he started.
“Maybe I can take him in. You know I train college athletes as a side gig. Getting them into game condition after the offseason is practically a specialty of mine. How about it, big dog?”
The Sentinel seemed to chew on it a little, and nodded, seeming to like the idea.
“You think you can get him in fighting shape?”
Ryan looked over to the training ring down the way, where a rather large man was throwing his weight around and knocking down several much-smaller trainees, but constantly needing to stop to breathe. He could already see the kid had some problems, but nothing that he couldn’t fix. With a grin, he turned back to Alex.
“Betcha a bottle of Yamazaki 25 Year Old I can.”
His eyes widening at the prospect of a free bottle of expensive Japanese whisky, Markham reached over with an outstretched hand which Andersen shook with zest, before they both stood up and started making their way to the training room. Ryan nudged the old veteran and asked, “by the way, what’s the kid’s name?”
“Well, his real name’s Eiichiro Yamazaki, but he likes to go by his sumo name.”
Activating Character Development-to-Promotional Material Transistor Program…
“His name is…“
Transition 42% complete…
David Fox is now standing over his beastly partner, both hands on his shoulders, smiling with a confident glee. Mushi is silent, simply staring into our eyes, intently.
Before he was a professional wrestler, he cut his teeth in the dohyo of traditional sumo.
Yeah. The wrestling with half-naked fat guys on a clay ring or whatever you wanna joke about it. But the truth is, those boys are strong as hell, and there’s a reason why those matches are so quick. And the thing is? Mushi’s dropped about a hundred pounds since then, so he might not be carrying that much baggage anymore, but he’s still got all that strength, all that power, AND he’s got the kind of gas tank that’ll keep him going.
Fox smacks Mushi’s shoulders before stepping away to his own side of our scene.
So a minute in a ring with him is like a good four or five matches with him in the dohyo. And now, he’s ready for more while you’re reeling from getting smacked and tossed around by him. Not a good position for you to be in, not at all.
Mushi simply smolders at the camera and rumbles a low, intimidating…
He’s trained with some high-caliber athletes too, like the Japanese Olympic weightlifting team. So he knows how to utilize every ounce of strength to its fullest. And if we’re really gonna be pushing some big rocks, and doing what Kate Bush called “runnin’ up that hill,” then you KNOW he’ll be ready for the challenge.
So I guess we can consider that a warning to the rest of the tag teams in our tribe if you can’t carry your weight. Me? I was a kickboxer in a past life. A damn good one too. And if we ever meet in the ring I got a whole lotta kicks waiting for you. So, ah… you’ve been warned. If we’re all gonna end up fighting each other eventually, it’s up to you to decide just how mad we’ll be atcha when it comes. But it doesn’t matter, because whether it’s in the ring or in one of these cockamamie physical challenges?
You and all of PRIME are going to see just what a Dangerous Mix we really are. Until then…
Reverting Character Development-to-Promotional Material Transistor Program…
Las Vegas, Nevada.
David Fox made a beeline for his queen-size bed the second he and Mushigihara got into their suite. They both traveled light as a rule, so it would take maybe five minutes tops to organize their clothes, gear, and other necessities however they wanted. Mushi simply looked at his partner laying on the bed and simply muttered, “osu.”
“That’s cool, big guy. If you get a chance, tell me how big the pool is. Might try and get some laps in after I finally settle in.”
“Y’know what, yeah. Let me know what kind of whiskies you see in the bar. Grab me a couple menus too, I wanna see what’s available.”
David has been a vegetarian for a solid two decades, with occasional forays into pescetarianism, and Mushi knew that he meant “find me stuff I will eat.” Many moons ago the two men had been at each other’s throats, and in fact had fought a particularly brutal match in another company, but now their bonds had gotten stronger. Having left so much behind when he left sumo and became a pro wrestler, Mushigihara was often solitary in nature, his crippling shyness keeping him from making many meaningful bonds in and out of wrestling, but the few he had made were worth their weight in gold.
“Osu,” Mushi said as he walked out the door, letting it close on its own.
It had been a while, but David was making progress getting himself out of this grave. He had been able to keep track of how long he had been working by checking the gauge on his oxygen tank. If he hadn’t willed it into this coffin with him, he surely would have suffocated hours ago. He made great efforts in keeping the dirt above from covering his lifeline, both because dirt getting into it could cause a leak, and because the act of breathing in the loosely-packed dirt was very unpleasant.
He had been covered from the ribs down in the stuff, and although he knew he was dreaming, the thoughts of a hot shower when it was all over gave him comfort and confidence. With an adjustment of his weight, David started to feel a gentle breeze of cool autumn air, a sign that he was almost free. The excitement and anticipation of putting this long-recurring nightmare to rest spurred him on, making him jab at the wood directly above his face with hope and some reckless abandon.
As he heard some shifting above him, he would quickly realize he’d made a mistake. A mistake that hammered its point home when dirt would pour into the casket, fully burying him and his tools from the neck down. As he realized his error, he howled in frustration and sorrow, until the lid of his coffin started to bow above his face.
The last thing he saw before the lights were fully snuffed was a heavy stone, breaking through the weakened wood and landing with all its weight directly on his head.
The last thing he heard was what sounded like a rotting pumpkin being smashed under a hydraulic press.
David Fox snapped upright in bed, freezing in sweat and caught between the desire to scream and the feeling that his mouth was paralyzed. He turned to the shrouded window of his hotel room, but could tell by the slight sheen of Vegas neon and by his sleeping roommate that night had fallen. He scrambled for his phone on the nightstand, but instead found a few pieces of paper.
As he shuffled off the bed and navigated the darkness of the hotel suit, he was consumed by a burning need to get these dreams under control before Survivor began. Could he become a champion without bringing those old anxieties to rest? Without coming to terms with that time six years ago when he looked death in the eye?
He stumbled into the bathroom and turned on the light. On the slip of paper pulled from what looked like a hotel stationary notepad where words like Evel Pie, El Dorado, Halal Guys, Madhouse Coffee.
He closed the bathroom door and gritted his teeth, choking on the sobs forcing their way from his aching chest and out his throat.