I reach out with a creased hand, wiping the steamed glass with a couple swipes. What I see looking back at me is the face of a work in progress. It isn’t easy to admit, but I need to make some changes in order to elevate myself. Of course, they won’t be anything cosmetic, as I peer at the wet, golden locks of stringy hair sticking at my shoulders and neck, the full beard that accentuates the look of disdain I hold as I think about the path that has led me to even consider taking a change in course. But as far as PRIME is concerned, changes are rarely insignificant nor telegraphed. My progression will be no different. Grabbing a towel from the hook it rests upon, I drop it on my head and run it over my hair as I think on Dusk. With the towel covering my face, I close my eyes and envision the path forward. It’s as if I’m back in that cave, looking at myself, where I was and where I am. What I should be.
While everyone seems alright allowing him to go on, and on, and on, and on… I doubt I’m the only one thinking it’s a sight to forget seeing Dusk eat up precious minutes of airtime, and for what? Essentially, projecting to the world how pathetic he’s been since this reboot. He never deserved the match for a Universal Title shot, and it shows in the type of appearances he makes. “Standing around with ‘Jimmy the Valet,’ he thinks that’s a good use of his time when he’s floundering in the ring?” I laugh to myself, recalling the conversation that crust-in-his-nose veteran stopped to engage in. “What a farce. But at least, he may have given a hint of his intentions. Ultraviolence? One on one? Oh, I’ll have something to say about that,” I say to myself in the mirror, my mouth beginning to form a smirk. I erase it from sight. It isn’t earned, not as far as this issue with Dusk. Not yet. First, I need to show PRIME and its simpleton Faithful who Dusk truly is, leading up to Ultraviolence. In that way, I see Dusk exactly how he is, a wrestler who can’t try hard enough anymore. He does seem to have a case of retire-itis, but here’s the catch. The PRIMEates, in all their basic glory, still accept the man for who he was. So a victory over Dusk still holds value, which makes him a perfect target. When the time comes, I’ll cement my own revival with a victory to lift me out of the dreg tier where I’ve been pigeon-holed.
I tilt my head a little, considering the face looking back at me, and utter a menacing chuckle. “Dusk, you have no idea who’s coming for you. This is the man you challenged at Ultraviolence, but it won’t be the one you find there. That’s an ironclad agreement I’m making with myself now, and you’ll find out too late.”
As I finish toweling my hair, I leave the towel on my shoulders. The cloudy visage of myself in the mirror is becoming clearer.
Today is the first day I force myself to face a reality I realized I’d been avoiding for months. I’ve been falling in a weightless limbo since my friend and protégé, Cesar Salvador Ramon, went missing. It’s jarring to have someone enter your office and berate you, generally, especially considering I’m the one who does the berating of others. One of the reasons I so enjoy wrestling, however, is that I am tested and challenged. I find paupers like Dusk who think they’re better than they really are, and I enjoy exposing them for nothing more than a little lucky and a lot overrated. Then there are others, like Jacob Mephisto, who do wield some power and influence with those who would follow him. However, that isn’t the type of power that will allow you to win a wrestling match, at least not that alone. It’s this type of opponent who I’m going to enjoy eviscerating in a creative way. Those like Jacob, who believe they have the power needed to trample me? They fall hard when you show them that their beliefs and their Word don’t hold the sway they would like them to over me. Even being winless in PRIME only radiates my passion further for what I do. If I didn’t have that at my core, I would have left long ago. Taken my lumps and losses and looked at myself and said, “Larry, you just aren’t as good as these kids anymore. You aren’t able to hack it at that level you once were.”
But then I would call myself Dusk. I’m not Dusk. Instead, Jacob Mephisto is going to find out how little my record truly reflects my actual ability and potential at ReViVal 13.
At the same time, when Cesar railed at me and quit his role at Tact Enterprises, it was a complete shock. That had no context of the parking lot promo, the arena hallways, or even the squared circle. It was simply a man-to-man dressing down of a mentee to his mentor, and I had lost a stabilizing force for my affairs. When you’ve crafted and educated someone for as long as I had Cesar, they become a veritable extension of yourself. They share in your vision, your intent, and they’re able to represent your interests. That’s what makes his leaving so effecting. I didn’t think I’d have to step up my own representation, all the while trying to handle my family and wrestling commitments, including getting on track in PRIME. But today, I’m going to set things right with my young, fiery friend. I’m going to approach him openly, and hash out whatever issue he was led to believe existed between us.
As such, I left the Mercedes and the Lexus in their paid parking spaces… okay, and the custom Mustang I now park in the spot I grifted off that second floor fool of my apartment complex. I still laugh thinking about how little I claimed that spot for. I told them the same thing Tom Brady told that fan who willingly forfeited his 600th touchdown pass back to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: “I’ll make sure you get something nice in return.” Sure, that fan got some good swag, but nothing compared to the life-changing money he would have gotten for auctioning off the football. That’s about the same intellect and foresight as this second floor halfwit has. Their spot is being put to much worthier use. I don’t need fancy cars to meet with Cesar, though. In fact, it would only show the difference in our respective statuses. He lives a simpler life, and I can understand he’s trying to pay attention to where his money goes. I gave him the advice, after all. Rather than flaunt, I humbly step out from the New York City subway on this day – really, what could be more humbling than riding those death cans? As I walk on the platform towards the escalator and stairwells that lead up to the exit of this station, I’m reminded of how little I appreciate this particular one: Roosevelt Island. As if I didn’t have enough on my mind with what I’m going to say, I need to endure the hellish ascent from the bowels of this station. It’s one of the worst in the city. There is a certain symmetry between this station and PRIME, since I’ve suffered in the bowels of both, and need to climb my way out. Seeing New York’s unwashed clambering up the stairs, I realize the escalator may actually be a quicker route, and get on behind a few common penny pushers in cheap suits before sidestepping to the left side of the escalator – roundly understood as the ‘passing’ lane of the escalator for city dwellers. Undoubtedly, someone will be blocking the way, and they will be dealt with when I reach them.
As far as the PRIME reboot to date, it may as well be a Jacob Mephisto orated debacle of a sermon – the type I suspect he’s used to giving his empty-headed followers. He managed to escape with a win over Balaam, but every stray dog finds someone unsuspecting enough to throw their obscene face a bone to sink their teeth into. Lindsay Troy found time to toss Jacob a bone while Balaam was focused on other matters, and it seems fairly obvious that’s true. Now she sees I have Dusk in my sights, and perhaps Jacob can tally another dub for Team Two-Faced. Sadly for JM and the Twins, they’re going to find I’m content to tee up Dusk down the line. The steps to reach that point are of the utmost importance to me; the bricks I will lay to stage my grand reintroduction to PRIME, when I devastate the PRIMEates by breaking Dusk, once and for all. Mephisto is that first brick to lay on the road.
Suspiciously, I find no one blocking my path to the first landing of this god forsaken station. It’s a minor miracle, and a fallacy I come to see a moment after I step on the second escalator, which will lead to the gates. Yes, this station is so deep down below ground that there are two long staircases or escalators leading up and down to the platforms. Utterly depressing, much like this island, which sits in the East River. That says all it needs to. On the second escalator, a clog that I can see someone is causing, but that I cannot reach as nobody has abided by the unwritten subway etiquette on this turn. I look to my left, where the stairwell is relatively empty. I grab hold of the side of the escalator and vault myself over to the stairwell, to the gasps of those around me. When I land on the stairs, I find a flaw in the form of a daredevil teenager, trying to ride their skateboard down the railing of the stairs. In their obtuseness, they allow themselves to be distracted by my landing and lose balance as they head down the railing.
“Holmes, watch yourself!” he has the nerve to tell me as I see the skateboard tilting too far towards my side of the stairs, and he begins falling off. Towards me. What is it with people finding ways of engaging with me in the worst ways, lately? It forces me to make a snap decision that befits the situation.
I duck and the kid goes sailing overhead, screaming in surprise of my not catching him.
“Learn something today!” I call out as he smacks on the stairs and begins smacking every other step with his body. Serves the brat right.
I look at the escalator, where more than one person is giving me a disapproving stare. “What?” I shrug, “Oh, relax, the landing isn’t that far.” With that, I take the stairs two at a time and find the cause of the escalator clog: A man, likely in his 60’s, standing on one side of the escalator – the right – with a small shopping cart propped next to him – on the left. “This bag of bones is holding you all up?” I comment as I proceed upwards on the stairs. On the other hand, this is the life Dusk will have to look forward to after I’m done with him.
Finally reaching the top, I burst through the emergency exit door that not a single person bothers to respect, and use it as an additional exit. The alarm sounds and, predictably, nobody bats an eye. New York in a nutshell. From there, I hop a Red Bus that’s about to take off and take a seat without paying. That’s right, in 2022, the bus that goes around the loop of Roosevelt Is still free. May wonders never cease.
Reaching the apartment building I know to be Cesar’s, I stride through the doors and to the desk, giving a nod to the husky attendant, who recognizes me on sight. “Well, well, well. If it isn’t Larry Tact. Long time, brother,” he says in a friendly baritone, not unlike my own voice.
“What’s going on, Knux?” I reply with his nickname. “You still got one more knockout in you?”
“Maaaan,” Knux gives a belly laugh, “I got some stories for you from the club. Some of these jokers want to feel that power punch, but you know how it is, I’m retired. I just want to see my direct deposit and I can handle their nonsense all night.”
“I’d love to hear all about it, but I’m going to need a rain check. I’m looking for Cesar, if you seen him today?”
“Cesar? Nah, man, haven’t seen him here for… weeks, maybe longer,” Knux shakes his head.
“Really,” I feel a pit in my stomach grow, sensing something isn’t right. “Did he let you know anything? Is he traveling? Holding his mail? I could really use a hint here, Knux. I need to get in touch with him.”
“Larry, man, you know I’d let you know if I knew, but he left like he was coming back one day, then didn’t,” Knux shrugged. “And you know I’d know if he did. I don’t miss a day of work, or a good cash tip from the fine people of this building.”
I chuckle at that, “Yeah, we’ll agree to disagree on the people, but I feel your hustle,” I rub the back of my head. “I just wish I had an idea—”
“Shoot, you know what?” Knux snaps his fingers. “It was a spell ago, but I remember Cesar did leave something here. He said if someone came looking for him to hand it over.” With that, Knux took out an envelope and I cocked an eyebrow, the pit in my stomach shrinking some in the face of a glimmer of hope. Knux reached out and I took the envelope in hand.
“You the man, Knux. We’ll catch up, but this could be just what I need.” I bump fists with the man and go to leave, but turn back. “If you do see Cesar, let him know I’m looking for him, and that he’s got backpay waiting for him if he wants it.”
I turn to exit and look down at the envelope as I go through the doors again. It’s blank, but I can feel there’s likely a letter inside of it. As much as I want to get to the bottom of this, the truth is Cesar is doing what he’s doing. He’s got some plan in mind, especially if he left this. I need to stick to my plan, too, and that means handling business at hand. I place the envelope in a pocket, determined to wait to open it once I get through ReViVal 13.
“Jacob Mephisto, you have my attention. No mask here, no shadowy figures or entourage. There’s just the man you see, the intentions you know, and the will to continue towards a breakthrough that you won’t be able to stop – whether you see it or not.”