No Cure for Cancer
Posted on 04/01/23 at 2:13pm by Nova
Event: CULTURE SHOCK 2023 NIGHT ONE
March 24, 2023 – ReVival 25
The Starchild’s hands ball into fists and he advances on the Bayou Butcher’s manager, bathing him in shadow as Nackedy’s eyes grow wide and the scene cuts to ringside for our main event…
…except it doesn’t.
Nova stares across the otherwise-unoccupied arena bathroom of the Freeman Coliseum at Foster Nackedy.
“Why?” he asks, shaking his head, “why did we have to do any of this?”
He lights a cigarette, taking a long drag before his gaze returns to Foster. “Right now, we’re talking. That’s all. I just…I wanna know what this was all for, Nackedy.”
Foster’s body relaxes in a slump against the wall. His eyes roll back as he takes a deep breath. In the meantime, Nova holds up his protective facemask and grips it in his hand.
“I just want to why-” Nova begins before he’s cut off by Foster’s wheezy laugh.
Nackedy, racked by pain, still manages a bloody grin as he rolls onto his side and looks up at the Risen Star. He mumbles something, and Nova steps closer, kneeling down in front of him.
“There…is no ‘why’, Nova,” Nackedy hoarsely whispers. “We do it…because we can.”
Nova slowly shakes his head, his eyes narrowing.
“We fuck with you because we can.”
A sad laugh escapes Foster’s lungs, his body wracked by spasms of pain as Nova stares down at the mask in his hand…
…before he thrusts it forward, slamming the hard plastic into Nackedy’s face, rocketing his head back against the wall with a wet THUD!
Nova swings the facemask down against Nackedy’s face again, tears gathering in the corners of his eyes…
…until the wet, fragmented plastic remains of his mask literally fall between his fingers, clattering to the black-and-white tile floor.
Nova wipes the tears away from his eyes, unaware that in doing so, he smears blood across his cheeks like warpaint.
Nackedy weakly waves a blood-speckled hand towards Nova’s shadow.
The door behind them rattles and Nova’s head whips around at the sound of voices.
“FUCK YOU, IVAN!!”
Nova looks back at the crumpled mess of Foster Nackedy, sliding slowly down the wall to the floor, then again towards the source of the commotion.
“Fuck, Hayes,” he mutters, running a bloody hand through the back of his scalp, creating streaks of red through what’s left of his hair.
The Risen Star stands and walks over to the sink, looking hard at his reflection in the mirror. Nackedy’s blood dots the whole of his visage. He begins rinsing his arms, then his chest, then finally his face and scalp.
He takes another moment with the mirror, meeting his own gaze, water dripping down his cheeks and off the end of his beard, before ripping a paper towel from the dispenser and running it over his face.
Nova lights a cigarette and spares one last glance over at Nackedy. Then he walks to the door, unlocks the bolt, and slips out into the hallway.
April 1, 2023
Somewhere the Fuck in Texas, Jesus That Place Is Huge
Warm air blows back strands of Nova’s wiry hair away from his scalp as he takes a drag of his cigarette, pinches it out the window of the Hertz rental sedan, and looks over to Sonny Silver in the driver’s seat.
“Yo, I said I was down for a field trip but we’ve been on the road for hours, Sonny,” he says, unable to keep a slight whine out of his tone.
“Three hours and fifty-seven minutes,” Silver confirms with a nod, his eyes stoically focused on the road. “We’re almost there. Take a nap or something.”
“Alright,” Nova nods, leaning his head against the interior door frame and letting the outside air continue to flow over his face.
He closes his eyes.
Nova opens his eyes groggily and winces at the sun coming through the windshield. His eyes try to focus as he turns to Sonny, whose face carries an uncharacteristically somber expression as he nods to Nova and opens the driver’s side door.
Nova does the same and steps out of the car, immediately taking in a breathtaking canyon before them that is transforming in real time with deepening shades of pink and purple in the diminishing sun of the late afternoon.
“Where…” Nova begins breathlessly.
“Palo Duro Canyon,” Sonny says, his eyes surveying the majesty of the landscape.
“Fuck,” Nova whispers, lighting another cigarette.
“The site of one of the last battles of the Texas-Indian Wars,” Silver continues, shrugging, “if you wanna call it a ‘battle.’”
Nova leans back against the hood of the rental, taking a drag.
“As I understand it, for centuries the High Plains of the Texas Panhandle were considered to be ‘Comanche Country,’” Silver goes on, “and nobody could fuck with those guys. Their warriors rode on horseback, and they built an empire around their knowledge of buffalo herd migrations and how to navigate an absolutely brutal environment.”
Sonny takes a step away from the car, gently drawing the toe of his shoe across gravelly sand in front of him.
“But,” he says, “bit by bit, encroaching U.S. army forces successfully oppressed the plains tribes until all there was here in 1874 was a gathering of Comanches, Kiowas, Kiowa Apaches, Cheyennes, and Arapahos.”
Silver’s eyes sink into the canyon. “The army forces ran them off the land, stole over a thousand of their horses and slaughtered them in this canyon. The ones they didn’t kill they kept for themselves. They left the tribes without homes, winter supplies, or a way to mobilize…basically, faced with certain death or forced relocation to reservations.”
“Were you listening to an audiobook while I was asleep?” Nova asks.
“Ground down,” Sonny shakes his head, “just…ground down by the inevitability of what they were facing.”
He turns back to Nova, concern etched into the lines of his face.
“Are you ready for what comes next?” Sonny asks.
Nova takes another drag of his cigarette, arching an eyebrow before offering a shrug.
“I mean, this needs to end,” he says, “this shit with Pax and Nackedy, it needs to end. We can’t just show up every two weeks at a random arena in the Deep South and pound on each other. Then they come after you, then I’m using Foster’s face as a janitor’s mop, then what the…”
Sonny waves a hand. “I’m not just talking about Paxton Ray. You two get to drag each other all over Arlington and put paid to this feud and then hopefully that chapter is finished. Seems to have worked for Jared Sykes.”
Nova’s eyes narrow. “Sonny, I don’t…”
“It’s not just about Pax,” Silver interjects, “he’s the Intense Champion. There’s a belt on the line here. A belt that carries certain…stipulations.”
He looks back at his friend. “Frequent defenses. Extremely violent caveats. That thing is a fucking albatross wrapped in kerosene-soaked barbed wire.”
Nova steps away from the rental car, squaring up his shoulders.
“I know what it is,” he says defensively, “I’ve done it before.”
Silver offers an amused grin. “Yes, you did…almost twenty years ago.”
He holds out his hands in a disarming gesture. “Look, Nov, I’m not trying to break your balls here. You’re my fucking ride-or-die. There’s nothing I don’t think you can do, alright? Nothing. But…”
Sonny wrinkles his nose. “…you’ve been through a lot. And I know you, and I know none of this is about validation. You’re not Brandon Youngblood, hellbent on getting your flowers after all these years. You’re not Matt Ward, trying to recapture the Glory Days. You’re here because this is home, and you’d be fine stretching your legs against solid competition every once in a while and maybe helping some up-and-comers shine in the meantime.”
Nova doesn’t really have a response to that, so he lights another cigarette.
“This is not that,” Sonny says with a sympathetic grin. “This…is a potentially never-ending series of bloodbaths. And I just wonder if that’s the road you need to go down.”
Silver turns his gaze back to the grandeur of the canyon.
“We spend a lot of time in this business wondering what happens if we lose,” he says before turning back to Nova, “but have you thought about what happens if you win?”
Nova leans back against the hood of the car and takes a drag.
“It’s too late to worry about that now,” he says with a conclusive nod, “this is happening.”
Silver walks over to the car and leans on the hood next to Nova, crossing his arms.
They stare out at the canyon together.
“Yes, it is,” Silver agrees.
March 29, 2023
Coleman A. Young International Airport
The entrance doors to the terminal open and Nova steps out into the cold, bundled up in a coat, sunglasses, and a beanie. Overlaying the scene is the sound of his voice.
I’m sorry for what you’ve been through, Pax. With Nora’s illness.
Nova cranes his neck, as if to check for an available taxi, and then thinks differently of it and begins walking down the sidewalk.
I understand. Everyone knows my wife is dead…occasionally hallucinating her presence will really drive the point home to folks, y’know?
But I lost my daughter, too.
It was 2006. I was on a tear in PRIME, and I was absolutely obsessed with my shot at the Universal Title. I mean obsessed. I had come so close before. I knew I was the best, and I ignored everything else in my life except Tchu, at the end of the tunnel, holding my belt. My validation. My ticket to Valhalla.
That meant ignoring my wife’s panicked phone messages when Lulu got sick.
Nova approaches the gates of Gethsemane Cemetery in Detroit.
She was begging for help. She needed me. Lulu kept getting worse and worse, the doctors didn’t know why, and all Ariel could do as a mother was watch her baby, our baby, wither away.
I completely ignored it. All of it.
I just thought about Tchu, and how I could hit harder than him, faster than him, stronger than him.
That glittery metal plate sewn into a leather strap – the one everyone mentions when they talk about me as a ‘legend,’ a ‘Hall of Famer’ – that was more important than my family.
It was the worst thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve done some shitty things.
Nova walks a dirt path past row after row of gravestones.
Ariel couldn’t live with herself afterwards. It wasn’t her fault – frankly, it wasn’t mine, either – but eventually she downed a bottle of Vicodin and drowned in a bathtub while I was on the other side of the door trying to beat it down and stop her.
So fucked up.
SO fucked up.
Nova veers off the path and approaches a small headstone.
SAMARA LUCINDA VEGA
3/23/04 – 12/16/06
He sits down cross-legged in front of it.
You fought for Nora…for a while, anyway. You, and Jon, and really, everyone.
I think Nora’s going to be fine, at the end of the day.
…you’re a different story.
You may have thought this whole time that you were fighting some external evil, some demon or shadow that you could best if you were tough enough and strong enough…
…but it’s you, Pax. The cancer is you.
And as tough and strong as you are, this is not a fight that you’re ultimately going to win.
There is no cure for the cancer in you. For what you have.
I’m afraid only death will bring an end to what is rotting inside you and slowly hollowing you out.
Obviously I’m not going to kill you, Pax.
I don’t have to.
What’s inside you will eat you alive.
Nova lights a cigarette and hangs his head.
I know what it means to come through absolute, life-altering, world-destroying tragedy and emerge on the other side with at least a shred of your humanity intact.
I don’t see you emerging on the other side, Pax.
I just don’t see it.
Nova kisses his fingertips and touches his daughter’s gravestone.