Private: Balaam the Mask of Malice
Cut To: Black screen with white font displaying a quote.
“For some people, being free means being free to keep their feet on someone else’s chest.”
Cut To: Interior Office day time.
John Kennedy Royko Jr. lays on a red couch in a sterile psychologist’s office. The camera allows us to see him but not the doctor as the camera shot is behind the doctor’s chair. Basic modern impressionism art hangs on the walls, the only other thing that seems out of place is a Teddy Rexpin doll sitting in a wooden chair against the back wall.
John Kennedy Royko Jr: I never could tell the difference between a nectarine and a peach. I like both of them, but I never know which is which. Does it have something to do with the hairs on the skin?
Doctor: I don’t know either.
JKRJR: Doesn’t that bother you?
Doctor: Not really. Why does it bother you?
JKRJR: I don’t know aren’t you supposed to be helping me?
Doctor: You brought up the peaches.
JKRJR: You asked me what I was thinking about, so I told you.
Doctor: So, what brings you in here?
JKRJR: I haven’t been feeling like my self lately. I feel like I’m floating like one of those unicorn floats you find in rich peoples pools. Like my life is passing me by and I’m watching it happen with no say or control.
Doctor: You feel disassociated?
JKRJR: I guess. I don’t know. Like it feels like just yesterday I quit wrestling and told my fiancé to get the car. Yet life has been going on and I’m watching it in a movie. But at the same time, I remember nothing. So weird. So frustrating.
Doctor: Like not knowing the difference between a peach and a nectarine?
JKRJR: I guess. Yea exactly.
Doctor: Tell me about your parents.
JKRJR: My mother was the sweetest lady who died of cancer a few years ago and my father was a wise kind soul, but he stepped on a rainbow a few months ago.
Doctor: Tell me about his death.
JKRJR: He died peacefully in the house I grew up in. I was with him holding his hand when he faded to the great unknown. It was hard but it was also a release from the misery he was living.
Doctor: Nobody should suffer. How did it effect you? When he died you lost both parents that’s a powerful black swan event John.
JKRJR: Black swan? Isn’t that a movie?
Doctor: No, it’s a theory of dealing with an unexpected tragic event that’s rationalized wrongly after the fact to cope. So how did you cope?
JKRJR: I guess I kinda put on a mask and went to work. You know what I mean? Like I put on this happy face and smiled. I had to show my friends and family (what’s left of it) that I’m ok. I’m strong. I’m brave.
Doctor: But it was a mask? What were you feeling inside?
JKRJR: A burning uneasy fucking feeling in my stomach, and a chill in my spine. It feels like the drop of a rollercoaster, only it never goes away. Panic. Always panic. It’s like I keep waiting for the next…black swan to fly into my life. I don’t trust the daily predictability of life because I feel like as soon as I get comfortable something horrible happens.
Doctor: Both your parents died young from sickness. The very people who protected you gone, just like that, leaving you alone in this world just as you’re ready to leave the nest. The truth is unless you die young everybody deals with the death of their parents. It’s not as unpredictable as one would believe living in the moment of the tragedy. You’re no different or worse off than anyone else.
JKRJR: My friends have a place to go next Thanksgiving. I have nothing and I’m not even 25 yet. How is that normal?
Doctor: It’s certainly not normal in the timeline you live in but in the whole it’s a common human frustration. You’re not alone in your feelings of waiting for something bad to happen causing anxiety. We just need to get you past this blockage. Your disassociation seems to correlate with the death of your father?
JKRJR: What do you mean??
Doctor: Did you start feeling like a rich guy’s floatation device before of after your dad’s death?
The large man thinks for a moment.
JKRJR: Ok. I guess shortly after my father’s death.
Doctor: You put on a mask and suddenly your life is no longer yours. What else can you tell me about that day?
The wrestler closes his eyes and tries to think of something more.
JKRJR: Oh wow. Yea. My girlfriend texted me that she was pregnant. Just before my father’s death to boot. I can’t remember if I told him he was going to be a grandpa or not. Weird. I just can’t remember. His final words were telling me to be a good person.
The wrestler has tears streaming down his face.
Doctor: So, it sounds like you won’t be alone on Thanksgiving?
JKRJR: I guess life does march on. I can’t believe I didn’t even remember my girlfriend is pregnant. I feel like I haven’t seen her in months. What the fuck is going on?
Doctor: She drove you here. She’s waiting for you in the lobby.
The wrestler jumps up from his laying position.
JKRJR: Where is she, I need a hug. I need to go hug her.
Doctor: Relax we are almost done here, and I feel like we’re getting somewhere. Lay back down.
JKRJR: I really need to hug her right now.
Doctor: How are you feeling on the inside. Not the masked man but the man inside.
JKRJR: I don’t know? Panicked, I guess. That free falling feeling cranked to a ten.
Doctor: Your breathing is all over the place, let’s wrestle this attack down. Deep breath in, and deep breath out, and tug on your ears lightly. Trust me just do it.
The big fellow starts to control his breathing with deep breaths in and out and he lightly tugs his earlobes.
Doctor: Now count backwards from ten.
JKRJR: 10. 9. 8.. 7.. 6.. 5.. 4.. 3.. 2..1
The big man lays back on the couch.
Doctor: How do you feel?
JKRJR: Actually, better.
Doctor: Use that whenever you start feeling that panic. Do you remember anything else from the day your father died?
JKRJR: Not really.
A moment of silence.
A longer moment of silence.
JKRJR: I mean there was the cowboy in the cold, but I don’t think that matters.
Doctor: Cowboy in the cold? Sounds like a Townes Van Zandt song.
The doctor chuckles softly to himself.
JKRJR: What town?
Doctor: Never mind. You said it doesn’t matter but you remember this man. Tell me more.
JKRJR: I was chatting with Aurora on the phone when a creepy old man wearing a cowboy hat and a big duster caught my eye. It was a really cold night and in Prospect Heights nobody wears cowboy hats especially in the cold. It’s Bears, Blackhawks, or Bulls knit caps or nothing.
Doctor: No Cubs or Sox?
JKRJR: That’s baseball caps backwards in the summer only.
Doctor: Go on.
JKRJR: So, umm this strange man has a box in his hand.
Doctor: A box?
JKRJR: This weird wooden box that I think was a game. I got my binoculars out and it looked like that child’s game where you try to get a bunch of marbles into the tiny holes.
Doctor: Like you tilt it around and just when you think you have them all the last one is next to impossible to set in the final hole before they all spill out again.
JKRJR: That’s the one.
Doctor: Interesting. Tell me about this guy.
JKRJR: He took a swig from a flask. You know in my mind’s eye he kinda looked like that old wrestler “The Malice Man” Duke Williams. Do you know who that is?
Doctor: Wrestling was never my thing I’m more a cricket man. So, this guy appeared how long before your father’s death?
JKRJR: Like five minutes.
Doctor: So, a mysterious man in black appears and moments later your father dies. It’s very strange.
The young man sits back up and looks at the doctor with fire in his eyes.
JKRJR: Do you not believe me?
Doctor: I need you to be open to the idea that maybe the man didn’t exist.
JKRJR: I know what I saw.
Doctor: I’m not saying you’re lying. I can tell that you believe you saw this man. What if he’s a manifestation of the grim reaper. What if you created this vision of death?
JKRJR: Go get Aurora from the lobby she’ll tell you about him too.
Doctor: Was she there?
The big man starts tugging on his ears roughly.
JKRJR: No, she was in Alabama, but I was texting her about him.
Doctor: Ok. I’m just saying be open to the fact that maybe it was just a figment of a fragmenting mind.
The big man lays back like he’s taking a bump in the ring.
JKRJR: Holy Hoyt I don’t know what to believe anymore.
Doctor: Whose Hoyt?
JKRJR: The man who was fired from PRIME to pay for all our sins. The Piety of pro-wrestling. The savior the king of kings. Do you not know who he is?
Doctor: Of course, I do. I was just testing your faith.
JKRJR: I feel like sometimes he talks to me?
Doctor: A god speaks to you? Like texts or how?
JKRJR: Like sometimes I feel like he’s in my head and telling me what to do.
Doctor: In your mind? Like the voice inside your head.
JKRJR: I hear voices in my head they talk to me they understand*
*Copyright titan sports and the WWE.
Doctor: Go on.
JKRJR: They talk to me. Well, he talks to me, and sometimes……
Doctor: Sometimes what?
The big man starts to sweat and appears panicked.
JKRJR: The cowboy. Duke Williams. He talks to me too.
Doctor: The man you saw before your father’s death?
JKRJR: Oh my God I’m losing my mind. What is happening to me? I should just kill myself.
Doctor: Why do you feel like that’s an option?
JKRJR: I can’t get these voices out of my head and I’m not sure what is reality anymore. I just want it to stop. Maybe I’m not meant for this world.
Doctor: This is some heavy thinking, John. I may have to send you for some deeper help.
JKRJR: Please help me Doc I don’t know what to do.
Doctor: What about your forthcoming child?
JKRJR: I feel like I haven’t even seen Aurora in months. I have no recollection of any time with her since that night I retired. Can I PLEASE hug her? Please.
Doctor: She’s dead John.
The big man jumps to his feet.
JKRJR: You’re lying you sick fuck! You told me she was in the lobby.
Doctor: I never said that.
JKRJR: THE FUCK YOU DID.
Doctor: Sit down John you are scaring me. You are losing your grip on reality, and I have a stun gun that I will use. Let’s talk through this. Please. Sit Down.
The wrestler looks for a moment like he’s going to lunge at the unseen doctor but drops his stance and sits back down.
JKRJR: Things better start making sense here Doc, or you are going to see a side of me nobody has seen before.
Doctor: We may need to see that guy to get where we need to go. First take me back to your last memory of Aurora.
JKRJR: Ok. My knees were destroyed in a bad car wreck. Ruined my football career.
Doctor: Another black swan swoops in.
JKRJR: Fuck. Yea, I guess so. After all the years of rehab I got back to be able to wrestle again. Another dream.
Doctor: But the shoe drops again.
JKRJR: Indeed. After a few matches my knees started flaring up again. The doctors told me I could never wrestle again if I wanted to be able to walk. With a kid on the way I had to make a hard decision and give up a dream. I don’t know what I was going to do for income if anything. Aurora wanted to go back to law school. Her father is a powerful attorney in Alabama. I guess I was going to be a stay-at-home dad.
Doctor: A home maker?
JKRJR: Yea, I guess. What about Aurora. You told me she’s dead I can’t do this.
Doctor: We’re getting there John, I’m bringing you back to your reality. This takes time. So, the last time you remember seeing her was the night you had to retire. You didn’t want to become a homemaker you are a warrior. So, when did you last see her?
JKRJR: I just went on air and retired. I was walking backstage holding her hand and some weird little man approached me about putting on a mask to model for a Halloween action figure. I didn’t want to do it because the mask smelled ripe. How come we say ripe when things stink? Ripe fruit smells wonderful.
Doctor: Like peaches and nectarines?
JKRJR: What the fuck am I even talking about here Doc? What about Aurora.
Doctor: Stay with the strange man. So, a man wanted you to put on a mask, and you’re telling me your life feels like you are walking through life with a mask on. This is interesting. We are almost there.
The big man sits back up.
JKRJR: I put the mask on and suddenly that cowboy from my window on the day of my father’s death appears and clips a chain to a ring on the nose of a mask and it all goes blank.
Doctor: I need you to do me a favor. Put on this mask
The shrink holds up the Mask of Malice.
JKRJR: Fuck you. I’m not putting that thing on.
Doctor: This is the only way you are going to remember Aurora’s death. This is the only way we can start the healing process.
JKRJR: The baby? Oh my god the baby is gone too.
The big man falls to his knees and starts trembling like an earthquake shattering his world.
Doctor: Yes John. I can deliver their murders just put on the mask.
JKRJR: Murder? I will kill who ever did this. Tell me doc, please just fucking tell me already.
The big man starts to ball, shake, and howl. Like a law firm.
Doctor: John, just put on the mask, and all will be explained. Please we are almost there.
The big man reaches up and grabs it. He stares at it before taking a deep breath and putting it on.
Doctor: Yes, my child. Take all that anxiety and bring forth the man you told me I didn’t want to see. Bring him out.
The crying stops and his fists ball up turning them into weapons.
Doctor: Now lay back down.
The monster does.
Doctor: Who am I talking to? Who are you? Who who? Who Who?
JKRJR: For I am Balaam. Holy avenger and first knight in the church of Malice.
The monster speaks in a deep more affected voice.
Doctor: Let me speak to John.
JKRJR: He is me and I am him. I am listening.
Doctor: That night. Aurora went to get the car. But you heard a crash. A crunch. A loud sound of twisted metal. You ran outside.
JKRJR: I remember.
Doctor: Smashed between a peach truck and a semi full of nectarines was your car and wife folded up like an accordion. What do you see John?
JKRJR: Like an anime drawn cartoon of my wife’s face smashed into the steering wheel and blood flowing from the door as peaches and nectarines spill and roll through the crimson river of her draining life.
Doctor: She and the baby were dead instantly. Do you remember the drunken faces of the drivers of the death trucks?
The big man growls and shakes his head.
JKRJR: I want to die too.
Doctor: Wouldn’t you rather wear the mask and seek revenge from everyone involved. Let Balaam in. Let him be the avenger so you don’t have to. Let your promise to your dying dad of being a good person float on while the monster does the dirty work.
Doctor: Let me show Balaam a picture of the two truck drivers.
The doctor hands two photos to the visibly shaken monster.
Doctor: You want revenge, don’t you?
Balaam: I WILL DESTROY THEM!!! THEY WILL PAY!!! I WILL BREAK THEM. I WILL CRUSH THEM LIKE THEY DID AURORA.
The monster drops the photos as they float down to the ground like leaves in the fall. They land on the ground, and we see the familiar faces of Mortimer Kjedelig and Ria Nightshade.
Balaam: RAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH~! Another CHEAP MASK and a GREEN HEADED LADY who must PAY.
Suddenly an out of place Teddy Ruxpin doll starts singing from an old tape of Elvis’s “Devil in Disguise”
“You look like an angel
Walk like an angel
Talk like an angel
But I got wise
You’re the devil in disguise
Oh yes you are
The devil in disguise”
Doctor: You know what that music means. We are out of time. I feel like we got a lot done here today.
“I thought that I was in heaven
But I was sure surprised
Heaven help me, I didn’t see
The devil in your eyes”
The monster seems to be in a trance just staring at the pictures on the floor. The camera cuts to the wooden door outside his office which is in a long hallway with no lobby. The sign on the door says Reverend Dr. Katz Professional Therapist, Indoctrination Therapy room. Hoyt Williams walks down the hallway and knocks on the door before sticking his head in.
Hoyt Williams: Doctor Katz after three weeks of this gobly gook I hope he’s ready to return we have a match next week.
Doctor Katz: He’s cured. Balaam is back. This time meaner than ever.
Hoyt Williams: You ready to play 18 holes?
The doctor stands up to where we can finally see him, he is a man wearing a white lab coat, and The Anglo Luchador’s mask. He lovingly pats the monster on the shoulder as he leaves the room turning off the light and shutting the door leaving the beast alone in the dark staring at the two photos with the look of murder, in his eyes, behind the gruesome mask of malice as the camera fades on the end of the song
“You’re the devil in disguise
Oh yes you are
The devil in disguise
Oh yes you are
The devil in disguise
Oh yes you are
The devil in disguise
Oh yes you are
The devil in disguise’
Cut to: Fade to white