“It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.”
It’s night somewhere, and snow is falling.
“All winter, there’s been a beast stirring within me.”
Something lurks through the dark.
“Pacing the length of its cage. Peering through bars. Hungering. Starving. Seeking a swift release from the constant torture of its own instinctual needs and wants. And every day that passes where that ever increasing appetite goes unsatiated, its functional mind loses yet another battle with the creeping madness of pure, animalistic fury.
“By ReVival Forty-Two, it will have been seven whole weeks since it last had a chance to feed.”
A human shape approaches, feet crunching into the snow.
“And when the bell rings… the door to that cage will finally open. The beast will at last be free. itself on the first sack of meat it finds on the other side. No restraint. No remorse.
“Adam Ellis, I have some bad news for you…”
Kerry Kuroyama steps into the light.
“You’re that poor, pitiful fuck that’s been fingered to open the door.”
The days were long, dark, and bleak over at Casa del Kuroyama across the winter break.
For most, the time off brings with it much needed rest and rehabilitation. A well-earned vacation following a year’s worth of strife, pain, and emotion. Maybe even an opportunity to be with family and friends, as a reminder of what it is they suffer for.
Kerry Kuroyama found no such solace.
A workaholic by nature, it was important for him to constantly keep his body and mind busy. If there was a free moment to be had, it was always going to be spent working toward the next clear and distinct goal.
But in the days that followed Colossus, he found himself entrenched in ennui. Emotionally pathless, and mentally wandering.
Outside of the daily workout regimen, he could think of no other way to pass the time other than sitting in his chair and watching the weather change, one glass of liquid gold after another. All the while, his thoughts continued to fester.
The self-reflections were unkind. It was becoming painfully obvious that this migration from DEFIANCE to PRIME was not quite panning out in the way he’d hoped. Despite walking through the door with high expectations and even greater ambitions, his first foray in the company had ended with an uninspiring two-and-two record, a loss at a major Pay Per View event, and a complete and utter failure to “click” with the new audience.
Gradually, a silent anger consumed him. The passage of time made the whisky flat and the view through his window static. He was feeling a bit less like an Emerald Apex, and more of an Emerald Average.
“The important thing is having a willingness to adapt.”
Sunk into his chair, still embanked in his own private spiritual limbo, Kerry groaned. The words, like always, passed through his head in the voice of Rocko Daymon.
Their chance meeting at his father’s grave last month had left him unsettled. And since the encounter, the esoteric platitudes of his former mentor and trainer would continuously resurface into his headspace. As though the piece of shit was still trying to proffer his advice by way of inner Daymonologues.
“Many would be happy to just be batting five-hundred.”
“There’s no shame in going the distance with a former Five Star Champion.”
“Practice, patience, and persistence. All things come in time.”
All the kind of bullshit a youth league soccer coach tells his team after a hard loss, buttering them up before he takes them out for pizza. But Kerry took no consolation from a slice of pizza and a pat on the back.
All he wanted was an opponent. A name and a face. A living vessel to receive the rage building within him that was on the verge of pouring forth into the world. Just some sort of fucking direction he could set himself on.
“The warrior who forges his own path–”
Kerry’s palm slapped his forehead, cutting off the voice from finishing whatever banal message it was attempting to get across. But the silence wouldn’t last, as just then, soft, ringing tones filled the air.
Briefly, Kuroyama suspected that the combination of prolonged solitude and a steady intake of Suntory had finally pushed his mind beyond the brink. But then they sounded again a moment later, lilting in sequence to the tune of Grieg’s masterpiece “In the Hall of the Mountain King”. He could scarcely recognize his personalized doorbell chime, given how little he regularly received visitors.
Which begged the question: who the hell could possibly be out there ringing?
Fighting against the prolonged stiffness that had settled his body, Kerry pushed his way out of the chair and up to his feet, beginning the sojourn from the lodge’s living room to the foyer at a wary creep.
The doorbell chimed a third time as he reached the front door, briefly studying the silhouette in the clouded glass window standing on the other side. Pulling it open, he balked in surprise.
“Kerry! Bro! What up?”
Absolutely unannounced and uninvited, Scott Hunter was standing there on his front step
Kerry blinked in bewilderment. “…Scott?”
Hunter beamed proudly, looking genuinely excited to be there. No, he was not a hallucination. Kerry had not yet lost his sanity. Though, given his present company, he partly wished he had.
“Everything was cool with you up here, dude?” asked Scott. “Been quiet in the group chat the past few days. Just wanted to make sure you got that joke I sent you, cause you left it on read.”
Kuroyama was speechless. He stood listlessly there in the doorway with his mouth slightly agape. Based on his tousled hair, five-o-clock shadow, and unfocused eyes, one could probably draw the conclusion that things were far from “cool”.
Contrarily, Hunter was invoking the spirit of Sonny Crockett in his choice of drip, slightly shivering from the chill of the Pacific Northwest in his white leisure suit and aqua undershirt ensemble. Past him, a cherry red ‘86 Ferrari Testarossa was wedged into the snow covering the driveway, a snaking trail of tire tracks in its wake.
“Scott…” Kerry began. “Did you drive all the way from Miami… to Seattle… just to check in on me?”
He delivered the question slow and deliberate, as though to point out the heavily implied absurdity of the situation. Naturally, however, it was lost on Hunter.
“Yeah, dude. Been slamming Monsters every thousand miles to stay awake. Hey, on that note, can I use your john? I really need to rock a piss. I don’t know why we ‘rock’, though. Like, could someone country a piss? Also, I don’t know who John is, but I’m glad he invented toilets. Anyway, you down to hang, man? Not like hanging clothes, I mean. Like, we could lift weights, or something. I could even spot you, but I’d probably need to find a marker first. Or maybe we hit the clubs? Which is weird because usually clubs hit people. How the turntables have turned, right? Or like, we could go surfing? Seattle got waves up here? Or–OH DUDE! Do you dig Schwarzenegger? Man, I LOVE Ahh-nold! I keep a BluRay of my favorite movie on me at all times in case of emergencies! KINDGERGARTEN COP, dude! ‘IT’S NOT A TUMOR!’ ‘THERE IS NO BATHROOM!’ Total classic, my man! But no, seriously, I hope there is a bathroom, cause like I said, I do have to piss.”
Again, Kerry was speechless. His knee-jerk reaction was to say not only no, but fuck no, and to order him off his property before slamming the door in the simpleton’s face. However, something gave him pause.
Right then, the familiar voice entered his head.
“A king is nothing when he’s the prisoner of his own castle.”
Willingness to adapt. Blah blah blah. Goddamnit, Rocko…
Kerry sighed in surrender and turned back into the house.
“Sure, man…” he said, leading Scott inside. “Let’s hang.”
The slope was laid out before him. The air was cold and crisp as he cut his way through it. With perfect precision, Kerry leaned into the turns, white mist spraying forth as his board weaved a path through the snow. Errant skiers, taking their time managing the grade, were passed by with an almost savage impunity.
A prolonged ‘WHOOP’ to his right caught his attention. In his periphery, he could see the yellow-and-blue streak that was Scott Hunter, slicing down the slope alongside him. He hit a ramp and took to the air, whooping once more.
Kerry couldn’t resist the smile forming on his face. He could almost imagine hearing Loggins’ “Danger Zone” being played.
Initially, he had zero interest in going to Buffalo. It was never his business to go where he wasn’t booked for action. No point in wasting money on a plane ticket to spend an evening sitting in catering.
But Scott persisted. Wasn’t Vae Victis’ style to be apart from the action, as he put it. Kerry couldn’t think of an argument to that. Not to mention, it would probably do him some good to get out of the house. So he went, and much to his surprise, he was finding that he did not regret the decision.
Yesterday, they braved the lake effect to see Niagara in all of its glory. Today, they were checking the trails at the Buffalo Ski Center. Because while New York had no waves for surfing, it did have plenty of hills.
Below them, the slope evened out. The flanking treelines blurred into a single image as Kerry straightened out and shrank his body to pick up speed. Fifty yards ahead, a bump appeared in the snow.
“If you aren’t willing to take the risk, how can you claim your own reward?”
Kerry grunted, but wasn’t about to let the thought break his flow. Seizing the opportunity, he listed in its direction, pivoted hard when he hit the ramp, and rotated the full three-hundred-and-sixty degrees through the air.
Hiiiigh-waaaaay tooo theeeee…
The landing was picture perfect. The board skidded to a halt. Kerry exhaled deeply, heart pounding, feeling a rush of released endorphins. Fucking APEX.
The stunt drew the attention of a number of the skiers still loitering in the area. One of which, a copper-skinned beauty in a magenta ski suit, offering a possibly-more-than-friendly smile. Another, the man with her, whose own expression was a look of reproach colder than the snow around them.
Kerry quietly hoped he’d be stupid enough to try something. He’d been itching to beat the shit out of someone for a long time. Plus, if she truly liked what she saw, then there was no better way to get his foot in that door than by giving her an immediate reason to trade up.
Then Scott was there, interrupting his train of thought with a slap to his shoulder.
“Another go, dude?”
“There are more important things to your life than what you’re trying to do.”
Kerry resisted the urge to sneer, but was grateful to be brought out of that mindset. This was hardly the time or place to pick fights with random bums at ski resorts. Two weeks, and he’d have Ellis. Then that itch would finally be scratched.
For now, Kuroyama nodded to Scott and smiled. “I’m game.”
They picked up their boards and trudged back to the ski lift. By then, they had been hitting the slopes for a few hours at least, but showed no signs of tiring. Kerry relished in the much-needed adrenaline rush his body had gone weeks without.
His outings with Scott, surprisingly, were not the headache-inducing affairs he initially expected. Hunter was certifiably an idiot, but all the same, the man harbored an unparalleled and indiscernible zest for life and action that the Pacific Blitzkrieg had never encountered before in anyone else.
Odd as it was to admit it to himself, Kerry had finally found some form of rest and rehabilitation in their newfound bro-ship.
Arriving at the lifts, they flashed the low-life employees their specially laminated “VVIP” cards, and skipped the queue, drawing annoyed grunts from the skiers waiting in line. Moments later, the automated chair pulled them up from the staging position, and up the hill they went.
Hunter fitted his capped head with a set of retro headphones hooked up to an old-fashioned Walkman tape player to ride out their ascent. In the lingering silence, Kerry could again hear his subconscious speaking to him. Again, in the voice of an imposter.
“Practice, patience, and persistence. All things come in time.”
Kuroyama shut his eyes to tune it out, and attempted to drown out the words in his head with his own voice.
“I have a confession to make, Scott…”
Expectedly lost in his tunes, Hunter said nothing, and continued to bob his head to the music. Kuroyama continued, in any case.
“When I first met you, I hated you. I mean, I really hated you.”
Scott grinned, but was perhaps applying Kerry’s moving lips to the lyrics in his ears.
“I mean, no offense, but you’re… well, you’ve got a way of pushing buttons, I’ll just say that. And unlike your friend Craig, I feel that I have very little patience for people who can’t think before they speak.”
Scott was strumming the air, imagining himself playing the riff. Still completely oblivious to Kerry’s admission.
“I failed to understand what the others saw in you, let alone why they let you into the fold. Likewise, it felt in some ways like a slap to the face that they’d saddle me here in PRIME with an imbecile like you. Could’ve sworn it was some elaborate rib on their part.”
Hunter’s gloved fingers were held up into horn signs while he enthusiastically continued banging his head.
“But honestly, Scott, after getting to know you better these past few months… I think I’ve come to envy you in a lot of ways.”
Scott screeched as the song entered its guitar solo. Despite the cold, one could almost imagine smoke rising from the invisible strings off his air guitar.
“It’s not that you don’t think; you just don’t allow yourself to get bogged down into it. You have that weird and unique ability to act without thinking. And most of all, it’s like nothing gets to you. No matter what your record is, no matter what obstacles you face, you just keep being yourself. Twenty-four seven Scott Hunter. And I wish… I wish I can be like that.”
The song reached its drum solo, as evident by Hunter rapping his fingers against his board in irregular rhythms.
“I’m beginning to understand that I let a lot get to me, and it hasn’t quite been healthy to dwell on it. This War Games horseshit I’ve been conscripted into… that has been getting to me all day. Because truth be told, I hate every single one of those motherfuckers,and anyone with half a brain can see that this team is doomed to fail.”
The top of the hill comes into view. Scott’s fingers continue to noodle through the air as the music carries him somewhere else.
“That’s what I’m wanting to think, in any case. But after watching Kindergarten Cop, and seeing how even a serious, no-nonsense police officer like Detective John Kimble opened his heart and mind to a bunch of stupid kids? I feel like anything is possible.”
They clutched their boards close as the chair reached the drop off point. They touched down without any trouble. Heading for the trail, Kerry continued to speak, while Scott continued to rock.
“But Adam Ellis? I can confidently say that he doesn’t get to me in the slightest. I’m going to bury that vanilla fuck. For no reason other than I’ve been especially pissed off as of late, and I need someone to take it out on. I want to leave that fake-ass, hollow-wholesome piece of shit into such a bruised, bleeding, pants-pissing mess, that every single one of those other dipshit team captains come to realize how badly they fucked up by passing over the Pacific Blitzkrieg.”
Hunter looked at him questionably as he removed his headphones. “You say something, dude?”
Kuroyama shook his head.
“No, nothing important,” he said, and nodded down the slope.
“Have you ever seen Kindergarten Cop, Ellis?”
It’s still night, but the snow has stopped falling. Enclosed within a long black Phillipp Plein overcoat, Kuroyama is standing somewhere in a densely forested area.
“Because I think I’m beginning to understand what it means to live life under the philosophy of ‘there is no bathroom’.”
“That’s the world I’m taking you to in that ring, Adam. No piss breaks. No excuses. No escape. Take the pain, suck it up, then stand and fucking deliver.
Kerry cocks his head to the side.
“There’s a lot in you that I see in a younger version of me. Like me, you’re a straight-shooter. You don’t see a need to compromise who you are to become a part of the constantly loud and annoying cartoon that permeates this company. I can respect that. And the fact is, I want to respect you…
“But the fact is, when I look at you and really think, I see everything I dread to become myself.
“Someone treading through the shallow end of mediocrity, while still struggling to keep a batting average above five-hundred in the win-loss column.
“Someone who keeps getting stepped on and used as a platform by better and more interesting talent, while you continue to take it and push your plain Jane ‘give it my gosh-darned best’ act.
“Someone who has apparently either lost the will or the capacity to get angry and make a fucking change.”
He sneers, and shakes his head pitiably.
“I promise you this… that’s not going to be me. And I’m going to make that point clear when we face off down in Philly.
“Unfortunately for you, Adam, I’ve been holding onto a lot of rage as of late. And you, being my next opponent, are the perfect candidate to help me unload that burden.
“I could list off the reasons I’m angry, but I’m painfully aware that we live in a world where the line between being outspoken and being a whiny bitch is razor thin. And the deciding factor usually comes down to personal bias.
“Be as it may, I’d rather show than tell. So simply put, Adam, I’m going to kick your ass.
“I’m going to kick your ass in ways that make you rethink your life. I’m going to kick your ass in ways that will make Ginny rethink her life. And how she could be doing much better for herself.
“Because frankly, the only ring I care to feel on my back is her wedding band digging into the skin while I’m pleasing her in ways you can only dream of doing.”
As the smirk spreads across his face, the shot fades to black.