January 12th, 2024
As the sun timidly peeked through the grimy windows, casting a dim light on the disheveled room, Arthur Pleasant slowly opened his eyes. The first thing he felt upon awakening was the sharp tips of an unfamiliar metal poking at his midsection. He’d regained consciousness on a lot worse surfaces than a bare, unpleasant mattress, though, so he didn’t give the odd pain coursing through his abdomen much thought.
Soon, as his arms pushed down on the yellowed, crudely padded surface with enough inner strength to turn himself over, Pleasant saw the coils poking through various spots throughout the sleeping space. Looking down, he saw the imprints dug all over his bare upper body. Had he been a single pound heavier, they might have been puncture wounds instead of dark impressions that scattered across his pale skin.
What time is it?
Searching for the timepiece he found in the parking lot back at Colossus while fruitlessly looking for Rocky de Leon, Arthur felt a disorienting fuzziness in his head that obstructed his hand and eye coordination. The stench of stale cigarette smoke and unwashed laundry assaulted his senses, causing his nose to wrinkle in disgust. Groaning, he struggled to sit up, his head pounding from the remnants of the previous night’s alcohol-fueled escapades.
There it was. An empty bottle of Popov. Dry as a bone. Not even a plashet of clear liquid languishing in the radiant morning light could be seen glistening within. The apartment, cluttered with empty beer bottles, discarded takeout containers with dried noodles sticking out of the sides, and piles of dirty clothes stacked on multiple piles of even dirtier clothes, mirrored the chaotic state of Arthur’s mind.
The floor was littered with discarded cigarette butts, due in part to an overflowing ashtray that sat by the black mildewed windowsill. The air felt heavy and suffocating as if the filth had seeped into every nook and cranny. Upon a single gaze, one could taste the acrid atmosphere and gag heavily upon their tongue’s touch.
Eventually finding the silver pocket watch after enough patting on the old, splintery nightstand, Arthur looked down at the hands on the clock.
One forty-three PM. Shit.
It was a lot later than he wanted it to be. Sleeping in on a day when he should be hitting the gym to work out any leftover stiffness that amassed on his muscles and tendons during the winter break was not an option. Rust would undoubtedly be a bitch to deal with during his first match back in about a month, and he did not want this newcomer to PRIME gaining any sort of advantage from it. Already proving himself worthy enough as a competitor by going undefeated in two matches upon his entrance to PRIME– something Pleasant himself hadn’t even accomplished– he would not sleep on this guy.
Goddamn. Are those… crow’s feet?! I feel like how Rob Williams looks!
Arthur’s head throbbed. He rubbed his temples as he tried to piece together the events of the previous night. Flashbacks of raucous laughter, blurred faces, and hazy memories swirled in his mind. How did he end up in this squalor? How did his once cozy apartment become a breeding ground for chaos and neglect?
Yeesh. I need a new place. Glad the rotting dog smell is gone, though.
As he swung his legs over the side of the bed, his feet landed on a sticky, stained carpet. He cringed, longing for the cool touch of clean hardwood floors. With every step, the floor creaked beneath his weight, a reminder of the years of pure laxity that had taken their toll on the place he inhabited.
Making his way to the kitchen– if you could even call a small, six-by-six area tucked away in the corner with a toaster an actual kitchen– Arthur was greeted by a sink overflowing with dirty dishes and their putrid smell mingling with the lingering scent of burnt food. Flies buzzed lazily around the room, drawn to the remnants of forgotten meals. Opening the refrigerator door, he was met with a wave of cold air mixed with the odor of spoiled dairy and decaying produce.
Quickly shutting the door, its rusty hinges squealed out to the rest of the apartment. Pleasant clearly had enough of this tour of squalor, feeling an overwhelming sense of self-disgust come over him. The feeling did not come from the physical conditions of his apartment. Not even from all the rancid defilement contaminating the vicinity. No. Instead, Arthur realized that his living conditions were a definitive declaration of his own state of mind.
Trundling along to the bathroom, Arthur grabbed a sweatshirt. But upon seeing and smelling the vomit encrusted onto the front of it, he tossed the sweater aside and looked desperately for something else to wear. There was a certain level of attention to personal hygiene required when going to the gym, unfortunately, and he was well aware that foul aromas permeating the nostrils of meatheads would certainly banish him from such establishments. It had happened before, after all.
Can’t have this bible-thumping thrift store disciple outwork you, Arthur. No fucking way.
Finding a plain gray sweatshirt amidst the heap of clothes, he smelled its fabric for any indication of further vomitry. In the clear, he concentrated on one thing and one thing only.
You’ve got an unbeaten newcomer looking to continue his streak at your expense. What are you gonna do about that?
Winter Break was over, and it was time to get back to the gym…
You’re gonna beat his old crusty ass into the goddamn ground.
…and he had the perfect gym in mind.
December 25th, 2023
Heavy clouds loomed overhead, casting a great shadow down upon the quaint Alaskan town of Utqiagvik (known locally as Barrow). This northernmost American town, native to about ninety-five percent of the indigenous Iñupiat people, four percent wayward Russians, and about one percent of the standard check-marked “other” demographic had a depressing feel to it upon first glance.
There was a thin bi-layer of snow and ice that crunched beneath his feet with every measured step from his fast-paced six-foot three-inch stride. The unpaved and unevenly graveled road was a direct result of decades of unrelenting permafrost. Though it might’ve been twelve degrees fahrenheit then, more often than not, the town would see zero or far below it during the sometimes incredibly brutal winter solstice.
He approached the residential area within minutes. Rows of ranch homes— the majority of which were adorned with gorgeous decorations dually representing the Iñupiat culture and Christmastime—dominated the proximity for as far as the eye could see. Wooden umiaks were placed upside down over two stone posts every five or six houses.
Arthur couldn’t remember this many homes in the area as a child, but given how that was some nineteen years removed from the last time he was in Barrow and the oil business being as lucrative as it was then as it is now, it was no surprise that the area had gone through a steady economic climb.
Pleasant walked further down icy streets until he finally came across a larger home. This house, with its chipped paint and caved-in stoop, was the fulcrum of his journey back home.
“Hi, Mom,” Arthur said, looking straight ahead at the ramshackled house that had been long bereft of any upkeep or inhabitancy. “Been a long time, hasn’t it? What… nineteen years? Yes. Long time indeed.”
Pleasant’s eyes closed as he imagined every hallway, floorboard, and crack in the ceiling throughout the home as an eight-year-old boy– his favorite year as a child from which he could remember. Through the power of olfactory memory, he could smell the peppery aroma of homemade cabbage soup cooking on the gas stove. Soft meows of Hutchinson, his loving gray British Shorthair cat, telling Arthur he wanted to be rubbed and scratched under his soft, furry chin, echoed loudly inside his mind.
Opening his eyes, he sighed as the ruins of childhood brought him back to reality.
Lowering to his knees, he bent them inwards so that he could form the lotus position. Clad in a thick gray leather trench coat with a lighter gray fur lining, he sat on the back vent flap where two button tabs had kept it closed to protect his body from the cold Alaskan ground. Steam escaped his mouth from the hot air of each exhale while Arthur continued speaking to his Mother.
“So, uh, I’m not very good at this, but I felt compelled to come here and talk to you. First thing’s first, though, sorry about what happened, Mom. You know, you getting shot and all,” Arthur said with equal parts wistfulness and spuriousness. Putting his hands together, palm to palm in prayer hand pose, “Can’t take it back though, as they say. Not that I would, even if I could,” he smirked ahead.
A strong gust of wind blew his long black hair to the side, whistling softly in low, almost euphonical tones from the neighboring trees.
“All these years later, if you’re hoping for an apology? It’s never gonna happen, Mom. I did what I did for reasons nobody can possibly comprehend. Least of all, your shitty, abusive husband. That… fucking guy. Man,” he said irritably, pausing to regain composure.
“I’ve looked him up, by the way. Yes, a couple of years ago, in fact. It brought back some very bad memories. I thought of that time the piece of fucking shit knocked three of my baby teef out of my jaw just because I left a few toys out of the toy box. Yeah. No matter, though. Turns out he died a couple of years ago, actually,” he said, stifling a laugh after sucking his teeth.
“Never remarried, either. No real kids. Probably a good thing If you think about it. Hell, doing what I did to you could’ve possibly saved lives down the line. Women AND children, too. So, in a way… I guess one could say that I’m a domestic violence savior.” he chuckled.
Snow fell from the caved-in roof, spilling to the front porch. Some of the loosely hanging wood creaked as it clung onto the remnants of the home with all the might of a stalactite hanging from a vast cavern.
“That poor bastard, though. Coronary. Probably ate his fat ass to death. Broken heart, clogged arteries, and diabetes finally selected him for that golden ticket straight out of this hell hole. I would rather have a runaway bus doing the job, but ehh, I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth on that one. I’ll simply take the assist on it.” he said, dripping with sarcasm and, at times, shielded vitriol.
“They know now, Mom. I hope you’re fucking happy now. Arliss. Alexei. I know what happened there,” he said without much of a transition as his kaleidoscopic thoughts all fought one another to make their way out of his scarred head.
“Arliss got a hold of my files. I’m not really sure how, but, well, money talks, connections scream, and they have both. Dolores-you remember the Doc from Western State-probably isn’t too happy about everything she tried to do for me leaking out, but c’est la fucking vie. I don’t really give two shits when it comes right down to it. If people are that concerned about my past, then God help them when it comes to my future.”
He scowled, his fangs almost looked like they had protracted inside his mandible.
“But betrayal is betrayal, and there will be consequences.”
Arthur felt himself on the precipice of going off on a tangent. Still uncertain how he would handle the breach of information, Pleasant continued.
“I suppose it shouldn’t surprise you that I’ve waited until now to come and see where it all happened. I just wish–,” he paused for a moment, swallowing back any sort of emotion before finishing the thought, “– I just wish I hadn’t waited so goddamn long. Because this IS fun, I must say!”
Mindlessly scooping up some hardened, ice-encrusted snow, he tossed it back and forth in his hands for a moment.
“It is what it is, though,” he mused somewhat glibly, “I’d go visit your grave, but, to be honest, I’ve always been of the belief that, while the dead speak loudest where they’re buried, they listen the most at the site of their demise. And I really want you to listen to me, Mom. I mean, really… fucking… listen.”
He tossed the well-packed snowball at the house so that it hit hard against the front door, which was already off its hinges and standing at a thirty-degree angle. The snowball hit it with such force, combined with the years of rot coursing through the weakened wood, that a hole opened up in the door, sending wet splinters in every direction.
“I’m glad they sent me away, Mom. Had they not simply dumped me in some catacomb to forever be forgotten, I never would’ve seen the underside of humanity. The horrors of the human element in all its disgusting glory. I never would’ve been exposed to the depravity that exists so freely out there, and thus been inoculated by it. I guess it’s true, that old adage. Everything DOES happen for a reason.”
Another gust of wind. It was almost as if each time the wind howled, they were words being spoken by a ghost. The gales were so strong that a piece of one of the shutters from the kitchen window broke off, adding to the heap of debris before him.
“I’m sure you’re wondering what I’m up to these days,” he cogitated before continuing, “I’m a pro-wrestler now. Just like Dad. Well, my REAL Dad, I should say. Not sure if you were ever aware of him, come to think of it. I don’t know what the protocols of these adoption agencies were when it came to the transparency of lowlife scumbags being Fathers.”
He snickered, having thought about his Hall of Fame, Seven-Time World Champion father in SHOOT Project, Eryk Van Warren.
“Turns out I’m somewhat of a gifted athlete too. Shaved years off of my life in Japan in my mid-to-late teens. Ugh. If you saw some of the shit I had to do, it’d curl your bones. But that was a long time ago, Mom. Now? I’m a part of something greater. I have a new family. You would like Ivan, I’m sure of it. He’s one of the greatest men I’ve ever known and someone who actually inspires me to do better in life. Kenny and Randall are cool, too. Kind of like weird cousins, but they’re alright I guess. Then there’s Alexei. Hoooo boy,” he paused.
“Truth is, I’m not so sure how you would feel about HIM, but he’s okay too. Sometimes I think we’re too much alike and get in the way of each other, but otherwise he’s a good, decent person at the end of the day. I’m sure of it!”
Arthur took a few moments of silence. A lot of things had been lifted from his chest, and it was all new territory for him.
“I don’t have anything else to say to you, Mom. I’ve said my piece about us and, on the off chance there is such a thing as ghosts, I hope you heard what I had to say. If not? Well, at least this was a bit cathartic. For me, of course.”
Standing up from the freezing cold ground just outside the old, abandoned, debilitated property, Pleasant brushed off the snow and ice that had collected on his coat and knees.
“See you on the other side, Mom. Then again,” he paused, laughing at the realization there was a good chance he WOULDN’T see her again. Continuing, he sighed, “Maybe I won’t.”
Blowing a kiss in the direction of the remnants of his childhood, he turned away and never looked back.
Merry Christmas, Mom.
January 13th, 2024
Arthur approached the imposing building with caution. Looking to his left and right like a black ops agent on a mission, he felt a surge of energy and determination coursing through his veins. The sleek and modern architecture before him exuded confidence and strength, reflecting the very namesake that was etched across the glass wall of the lobby.
Walking up to the sign, Pleasant took a drag of his cigarette. The orange embers could be seen glowing from the reflection in the glass; a testament to its cleanliness and spotless upkeep. For a moment, he could see his own toothy grin before the lit end disappeared in the reflection, giving way to the rays of light shining down from the heavens above.
“Heh,” he chortled, looking directly at the very word that brought his focus to what he was about to do.
K I N G
It was the perfect place to loosen up. Shake off the undeniable ring rust that came with a double-edged sword like winter break. Do everything he could to maintain his cardio–cigarettes be damned–and push his own limits as hard as he could. The Red Army would be watching this one closely, of course. Starshy Praporshchik Stanislav, Kenny, Randall… and, of course, Alexei Ruslan. All of his comrades were looking to see whether or not Arthur Pleasant was a worthwhile investment into the ranks of the Red Army. Whether he could begin to pull his weight for the family moving forward or wash out of the entire family like an utter disappointment.
Especially with the tragedy and injustices that happened to Ivan at Colossus. They didn’t need the ramifications of Arthur taking yet another loss in PRIME. At least, not at that juncture.
Let’s fucking go, Legend.
He pantomimed holding a rifle with his hands.
Closing one eye, he acted as if he had his kill in his line of sight. Quietly, Pleasant said spoke loudly.
“Kings indeed, David. Kings indeed.”
So I hear you like to read the Good Book, Robert. Or, at least, it seems that way, as evidenced by all the tongues you’ve spoken since you first arrived. I haven’t been able to make much sense of it, considering God, religion, and any of its ancient scripts are hypocritical, hoaxer trash that has caused more war and famine in this world than tribalistic pro-wrestling egos and Bobby Dean unleashed on the world.
But I understand. A man’s gotta have something, or someone, to lean on to help navigate him through the corridors here. Otherwise, it’s a steep drop into the thresher you go. I admire that, Robert. I truly do. Your work has been exemplary thus far, and I trust you will draw the best out of me come ReVival. Hell, we might even steal the show and give ACE Network a reason to feature us in a future commercial together!
But, I digress.
I’ve felt that thresher time and time again. When I first waltzed in here, I was the complete opposite of you. I was winless after two matches. I had my neck collected by our current reigning Universal Champion and was dropped hard by a man who made it all the way to the semi-finals of the Almasy.
That’s when I realized I needed to take a step back and regroup.
Reassess what I needed to do in order to restore myself to my once-winning ways.
Then the bodies started falling, my enemies started retreating from PRIME, and I started rising through the ranks. Am I in the top ten or at a place where I feel comfortable in knowing what I am capable of beyond what anyone has seen from me this far? Absolutely not.
But it’s a new year. Slates are wiped clean, and everyone hits the ground running at the same time.
Now? Anything’s possible.
We’re going to tear the house down, Robert. I’m sure of it. But do us both a favor and tell whatever voice is in your head telling you to do things like you’re its puppet, to stay the fuck out of this match. Because if it doesn’t? This won’t be a show stealer.
It’ll be a trip to the goddamn thresher.
And I will be the one separating the sinewy tendrils and infected organs from your body like so many grains in the wheat field.
Now, I had my lawyer drudge up a verse in the bible that he found fitting for this match. Maybe you can make more sense of it than I can, but I found the basic message behind it, or so I understand it, to be 100% appropriate given the dogmatic zealot complex you obviously suffer from.
“And have cast their gods into the fire… for they were no gods… but the work of men’s hands… wood and stone… therefore they have destroyed them.”
That’s Isaiah 37:19.
Catch you on ReVival, Mr. Wood and Stone.