Your recommended auditory companion: PISSED JEANS
DOCTOR AND COMPANION
For the past week, Rezin has been staying at the Arsvinnar household.
Missus Arsvinnar’s idea, obviously. Ollie fought it tooth and nail, but Becky insisted.
“It’s part of our Christian duty,” she reminded him.
“I used to behead Christians, you know,” the Viking accountant retorted.
He caved, on the condition of mandatory daily showers.
But it actually wasn’t the disaster he was expecting.
After one night on the sofa in the study, Rezin migrated to an inflatable pool raft in the garage. He was apparently more comfortable in dingier environments. That worked for Ollie, after he spent a pretty penny last year recarpeting the house in champaign beige, and he’d be damned if that imbecile ran tracks across it.
Surprisingly, he got along well with Ragnar and Bjorn. “Uncle Rezin”, as the boys had affectionately taken to calling him, had mutual juvenile interests in cartoons and video games. Ollie didn’t personally approve of Rick and Morty, but Rezin insisted it was “research” in his upcoming match
He also considerately agreed to keep the smoking outdoors.
Of course, this meant that much of his time would be spent sitting on an overturned bucket behind the tool shack, out of sight of the family. “Tendin’ the grass,” he would tell them.
It’s here now where Ollie finds him, seated like usual on his bucket. Rezin flicks a roach aside as he notices a bulky cardboard box cradled in the Viking’s mighty arms and an excitable smile peeking through his thick golden beard.
“Just got back from Timo’s, and look at what came in!”
The box hits the ground at his feet. Ollie kneels down to pry it open, revealing several rolled bolts of black fabric.
“Here… have a look!”
Arsvinnar lobs on in the direction of the Goat Bastard. Instinctively, Rezin’s hands go up, but it instead bounces off his face and lands in his lap.
…if you think about it, there have been Superbowls won on worse catches.
His fingers go to work unraveling the cloth… revealing it to be a black t-shirt. Screen-printed in white across the front is the same logo he tagged on the chest of that nerd, Simon: a jagged letter “R” with a circle around it, stylized to look like spray-paint.
It was just something he came up with on the fly. A half-assed imitation of the oft-overused “Anarchy” symbol. Shit he’d probably draw in white-out onto his binder, back in high school.
A sigh escapes him, as he comes to the woeful realization that this was going to be his logo now.
“Check the back!”
Per Ollie’s suggestion, Rezin flips it over. Six white words are printed across the back in a plain font:
TOO PUNK ROCK FOR
He can’t quite tell if this is cool, or cringe.
Probably the latter.
But then he looks up at the beaming smile on the face of the former “Butt Dominator.” It’s probably the happiest he’s looked since his old friend unexpectedly stumbled back into his life. This whole merch thing is clearly something new and exciting for him.
It wouldn’t be right of him to piss on that.
“Looks great…” is all he can think of saying.
“Plus, our page on Big Cartel is officially open for business!” Arsvinnar went on. “We’re already at FIVE-HUNDRED shirts sold! Most of them from New Orleans!”
That made sense. The good ol’ Faithful of NOLA were perhaps the only crowd in the world that didn’t outright reject him.
“Any here in the Vegas area?”
Here’s where Ollie’s smile falters.
“Uhh, well, I think King Blueberry wanted something with a ‘bong wizard’ on it. Maybe that can be the next design?”
Fucking hell, there’s no stopping it now. The branding train has left the station. For better or worse, the Escape Artist finds himself unequivocally along for the ride.
“Sure, whatever. So, we sold five-hundred shirts. Cool. How many more we need to push until I can buy my house back?”
Ollie’s brain goes to work at making calculations. Millions of brain cells that were once chemically aligned to crunch skulls are now attuned to crunching numbers.
“Let me think here… at fifteen dollars a shirt… minus materials and Timo’s cut… divided by two-hundred thousand… round up… behead the seven… let’s say, in the ballpark of forty thousand?”
Forty. Fucking. Thousand. Shirts.
He drops the one in his hands, and his head falls into them.
“Fuck, man… this is hopeless.”
Ollie’s smile is gone. Now he wears a confused frown.
“I mean, five-hundred isn’t bad! The PRIME market should pick up… eventually… I think.”
“No, not this shit,” says Rezin, waving his hand over the merch he could care less about. “I mean… I dunno, fuckin’ everything. Like comin’ here to PRIME… what the fuck am I doing, man? I got no business being here.
“The fans, the staff, the locker room… seems like all they get outta me is a nice little chuckle from ‘the Rezin and Simon Comedy Hour’, and that’s all I’m good for. They look at me and see a fuckin’ clown. That’s all anyone has ever seen in me. And the harder I try to get past that, the more I fail.
“LIke, what the fuck could I ever accomplish in starting this dumb ‘revolution’ against Lindsay Troy’s company? Who would be stupid enough to actually believe in that? In what world could I EVER come out on top in that scenario?
“It’s like trynna take down a brick wall with a fuckin’ toothpick. Here I am, thinking I’m being a ‘heroic’ and ‘defiant’ fighter of oppression, when really it’s just stupid and desperate.
“Story of my life…
“Now here we are, stuck in this never-ending series of half-baked ideas and convoluted schemes, but all I’m doin’ is just spinnin’ wheels, embarrassing myself again, and I ain’t any closer to gettin’ my house back than when we started.”
Remorsefully, he shakes his head.
“…FUCK, I am such an idiot for comin’ here. Ma would be laughing her ass off, if she could see me now…”
Rezin goes quiet, and Ollie lets it soak in. It grieves him to see a friend in such a pathetic state. When he finally finds the words, he overturns another bucket and takes a seat next to his friend.
“You know, Rezin… I can’t say I know what it’s like to be in your position, but just in my personal opinion, I don’t think anything is ever truly ‘hopeless’.
“You remember who I was years back. My life was… you know, constant berzerking and buttsex. And sure, it was a fun time. Threesomes every night. Horn was always filled with mead. The Gods blessed me with a grand life of pleasure. But after a while, it got old. And I began to realize that I wasn’t really happy in that life.
“There was an emptiness inside me that I couldn’t fill. I thought it could ignore it with a life of pillaging and poontang, but I was wrong. So as time passed, that emptiness just ate away at me. I was spinning my own tires back then. I wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t growing, so to speak.
“But then I met Becky.
“And… I don’t know, something changed after that. She looked right past this burly Viking body that the ladies crave, and saw the man that I truly wanted to become. With her help, I realized what I needed to do to become that man. So I began to make some real, positive changes to my life.
“I know all this might seem boring or mundane to someone like you, and that’s fair. But believe me, I’m truly happier now than I’ve ever been. I wouldn’t say I’m ‘complete’ or anything like that, but I know where I’m going. I’m grateful for what I have. And I’m relieved to know that I was able to accomplish all this by simply taking control of my life.
“All I’m saying is… so what if you’re flat broke? So what if the people of PRIME won’t accept you? These things you unfortunately cannot control. And also, you must eventually come to accept that you are the only one who is responsible for the situation you’ve put yourself in.
“But there’s a silver rope to lead you out of it. There is something that you can control right now.”
Rezin raises his head. His face, for once, is completely sober.
Arsvinnar puts his mighty paws onto the punk’s shoulders and gives him a light shake.
“YOU, Rezin, are going to fight for the Five Star Championship at Great American Nightmare.”
Something clicks in Erik Black’s mind.
“Yeah… I am.”
Beside him, Ollie nods. “So, brother, forget about what anyone thinks. Forget about whatever may be at stake. Just forget about trying altogether. If you are ready and willing to be the wrestler you want to be, then go into that ring and prove to the world that you can be that wrestler!”
Rezin picks the shirt back off the ground and reads the slogan again.
Too “punk rock” for pro wrestling.
Is that who he really wants to be?
“Olvir, let’s go for a ride?”
“I dunno. Somewhere. Grab your camera first.”
“Here I am.”
The historic Woodland Cemetary.
The view rotates a constant and steady three-hundred and sixty degrees, building a panorama of rows of tombstones and gray overcast.
“I can remember (surprisin’, yes, I know) ‘bout a year ago, a friend made me come to a serious revelation about myself.
“Well… former friend now, I guess… but I ain’t here to dwell on that.
“Basically, what I realized was that trying to be ‘punk rock’ is like the literal antithesis of actually BEING punk rock.
“And maybe that’s where I fucked up when I first came to PRIME.
“I got so caught up in establishing an image, that kernel of wisdom slipped from this ol’ Dopesmoker’s mind like so many names, faces, and dates.
“And because of that, there came to be a fixed perception about me. One that I am not really fond of, after watching it spread through this company like a wet fart in an elevator.
“Which is why, from this point on, nobody’s gonna hear those two words in conjunction outta my mouth again.
“So regardless of how anyone sees me…
“Here I am.”
From an angle, one object stands out among the stones. It’s tall, pale, and humanoid. A second later, it orbits out of view as the rotation continues, passing over more aging, nondescript tombstones, bearing names that have been long forgotten.
“Believe it or not, I was gonna do a whole ‘Back to the Future’ thing.
“Stuff Olvir into a padded orange vest. Pop outta the back of a smoke-filled trailer. Show ‘em my new time-traveling bong. Buncha lights and tubes and shit fused into it.
“‘When this baby hits eighty-eight rips per hour, you’re gonna see some SERIOUS SHIT!’
“Woulda been hilarious right?
“And then we’d go to the past, where maybe we’d witness an endearing, weepy-eyed moment in my childhood that proved to be pivotal in my growth as a wrestler and human being.
“That was the plan, anyway.
“And yet, here I am.”
The view comes around again. The object is closer. We can see now that it’s a statue. A winged angel, hands held up and obscuring its face. There’s something weird going on here. It shouldn’t be in that position. But it’s gone again, as the view keeps on its slow cycle.
“We’re gonna stay confined to the present, cause I ain’t got anymore time to waste on gags.
“What is there to see anyway?
“The day I was sold my first ‘joint’, which turned out to be a dude’s pubes?
“My stint in juvi, when the correction’s officer broke my jaw when I refused to suck his dick?
“My first match, where the promoter paid me fifty at the end of the night, instead of the previously agreed upon amount of twenty, because I was ‘so fuckin’ pathetic’ to watch in that ring, that the whole building couldn’t stop laughing? The beginning of a career of gettin’ paid to bust my hump in the ring, all for a few hyucks?
“We all know the moral to the story by now: shitty things happen, and shitty people are created by result.”
“And so, here I am.”
The statue comes back into view. It’s only a few meters away now! What is happening? How is it moving? Too late; it’s gone. Like night into day, the cycle continues…
“All my life, I just wanted to be wanted. And what this industry wanted was to see a clown get its ass whipped.
“So for years, I accepted that fate, cause pride be damned, that was the hand I had been dealt. I took it on the chin, like a pro, believin’ I was fulfilling some sort of an important role in this industry, giving the stars of the future a reliable jackass to jumpstart their careers.
“At the end of the day, somebody’s gotta get kicked in the face.
“But these past few months here in PRIME have taught me that I’ll never get respect by being that guy, so I’ve come to shift my perspective on my career trajectory.
“I look at the situation I’m in right now. Wins over dudes twice my size. Banked title match at the Pay Per View. Number five in the rankings. I can’t remember a single time I’ve been that high in anything…
“I can’t ignore what’s happening. I can’t just write it off as the work of a buffoon failing upwards.
“I can’t readily dismiss the idea that maybe–just MAYBE–somewhere deep down in this bag of meat, bones, and shit, one of the greatest wrestlers on the planet can be scraped up outta the filth and set the ring on fire.
“So, whether by intention, or by accident…”
The view comes back around again, and stops. Instead of seeing a “statue”, or a trans-dimensional time-devouring monster in the form of one, we’re served with the shit-eating grin of Rezin. Uncomfortably up close and personal.
“Here I am.
“Looking at a solid opportunity to change the perception of what I really am, at Great American Nightmare.”
He backs away and takes a seat on a gravestone. As he speaks, he rolls up a spliff.
“But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’re still confined to the present, remember?
“After all, not all of us are fortunate enough to be a ‘Time Lord’.
“We’re just mere ordinary human beings. Born on and confined to this insignificant blue dot we call ‘Earth’. Saddled with all the petty baggage of thoughts and feelings that either hold us back or push us forward.
“Fears. Doubts. Vulnerabilities. Dreams. Hopes. Ambitions.
“I dunno, maybe to some people, that’s a sign of weakness. But I can at least say I never tried to pass myself off as some unflappable, unflinchin’ superbadass, like every other Tom, Dick, and Harry in this company.
“The Mask of Malice has certainly been nothing short of that. All the same, I ESCAPED his punishment.
“But now, here I am…”
Finished with the joint, the Escape Artist plucks it into his mouth and lights up.
“Out of the bowl piece and into the fire, so to speak, being pitted against a pissed off Anna Daniels.
“At least, I assume they’re pissed off. They oughta be, given their recent string of shortcomings.
“Shall we review what got us here?
“The plurality of personas that make up the Time Lord arrive in PRIME. They talk a big game, back it up between the ropes, and carry themselves with a sense of authority and purpose. They pick up some solid, decisive wins in the Almasy Tournament. Heads turn, as expected.
“People take notice. Even the future Universal Champion Brandon Youngblood gives them his specially approved pat on the head, like a god bestowing a divine gift upon his choice of prophet. Everyone comes to expect big things from Anna Daniels.
“But then Teddy Palmer happens, and suddenly they get bumped from the tourney.”
“Eh… flukes can happen, right? Seems to be what people wanted to believe at the time. No easy wins in PRIME, so the saying goes. We come to assume it’s just an inconsequential delay in an inevitable rise to the top.
“But then, they come up short at Culture Shock.”
“Again, no shame in that. Impulse gonna be Impulse. I can even relate to that, given I had the same bad luck that night in my own multi-competitor match. Still, the people hang onto the hope of seeing the multitude of madness to finally pull it all together and fulfill their expectations.
“But then, earlier this month… an elbow gets put into the vessel’s face, and down they go for the three.”
“Can’t say that’s a good look, after months of projecting this overplayed ‘my-shit-doesn’t-stink’ attitude, and making countless hollow threats to people backstage and on Jabber about kicking in heads and punting off faces.
“This is a wrestling company. Literally everybody here is trained with the skills and abilities to defend themselves. In the ring, backstage, wherever. Did the Time Lord really think they wouldn’t drop like the rest of us when someone finally stepped up and kicked in THEIR head?
“Turns out, Anna Daniels’ shit does stink. Just as bad as any weak, flawed human being.
“And look, I’m not trynna downplay Cece here, cause there’s no shame in losing to someone with the last name ‘Ryan’. Kid’s got skill and spunk.
“So does Anna Daniels, I’ll admit. I’ve been in this racket long enough to know talent when I see it.
“But do they have the ability to see MINE? Cause it doesn’t really take much for confidence and self-assurance to bleed over into blind arrogance.
“They’re talented, yes.
“But still human.
“Their flaw is that they have every one of their heads firmly wedged up their one collective ass. They believe themselves to be on an entirely different level, but can’t be bothered to look around and see that they’re in a federation that’s filled to the brim with the greatest wrestling talent on the planet.
“EVERYBODY here is on another level.
“Myself included, whether any of you choose to believe it or not.
“And so now… here we are.”
His joint, now burnt to a roach, gets tossed to the side, its purpose fulfilled.
“On completely opposite trajectories. Livin’ in this paradox of time and space.
“Since I got dropped from the tourney, I turned my shit around. I scored a win over the legend, Nova. I made a splash at Culture Shock. I got a date with the to-be-determined Five Star Champion at Great American Nightmare.
“Turns out, the one risin’ to the top is the one they least suspected. The ‘shit-his-pants’ guy that everyone wrote off as a joke.
“Forget bein’ from the planet Gallifrey; I’m a goddamb WEEPING ANGEL.
“When you ain’t lookin’, I strike.
“And the great and almighty Anna Daniels ain’t lookin’, which is probably why they’re on the slide.
“Are they even aware? Do they care? Do they have the ability to reflect and reassess themselves? Do they even have the capacity to change or grow?
“Fucked if I knew… though it seems like this match would be the perfect set up for the Time Lord to bounce back. And who better to take the beatin’, other than this ol’ stinky, stupid Goat Bastard that everybody just LOVES to watch get kicked in the face?
“I know the people want to see it happen…”
He solemnly shakes his head. Rezin comes to his feet and approaches the camera.
“But unfortunately for those pullin’ for Anna Daniels in this match… HERE – I – AM.
“Pissed off in my own right, and looking to send a message before I walk into Great American Nightmare to fight in the most important match of my career.
“And I don’t need to look into the future to know where I’m gonna be standin’ when ReVival Nine comes to a close.
“It’ll be over the broken vessel called Anna Daniels.
“Fuck the ‘New Era’. I worked there for a year, and it was trash.
“Fuck their false promise of spreadin’ chaos. I do it better.
“Fuck the hope you scumbags put into them. Get used to disappointment.
“And fuck bein’ the stooge they use to turn their shit around. It’s time for someone else to be MY steppin’ stone.
“So without further adieu…”
The Escape Artist grins in a way that makes the skin crawl. Then his hands cover his eyes, and…
“…here we go.”
Fade to VOID.