If there’s one thing I can count on, FLAMBERGE, it’s that any time you find yourself scared half to death, I’ll find you in this state: flat on the ground and snacky.
The good news is, I like it when you’re face down and full-body-flaccid like this. Mushy of body, mushy of mind, in my experience. Everything’s a soft spot, so nothing’s a soft spot. For example, we can start with something that’s normally pretty low on the This Bothers My Poodle Iguana scale, like:
“Isn’t it weird that Sid Phillips can trigger my invasion of some of your deepest insecurities just by saying “Hey”?”
Like normally, that’s about a 2 or 3 on the scale – 3.5 at best. But the fear of Death By Russian Bear has you so retreated, so cocooned, that it’s like you’ve replaced your basic response channels to thick slabs of callous. In this state, if my calculations are correct, it’s going to be just as even of a response when I say, for example:
“Nice job in your match against the Red Army, and fuck you, you idiot, you collected the wrong neck. Instead of the leader, you have a teleporting neck Addressing The Collected Necks like a god damn Big Mouth Billy Bass and it’s ruining the vibe we’ve so carefully curated.”
Hold, taking reading number two here – great. Normally that’s about a 6 or 7 for you, but we’re still at baseline, properly a stone man on the inside. Comatose little baby gecko dog. This means the diaper will probably be a nightmare later, but that’s a problem for Future Me.
Something incendiary like that when you went to Church(‘s Chicken) with the lads a while back would have set you off and the defensive measures would have been deployed, but not now – you’re in fight or flight, but you’re not fighting, and you’re not moving, either. You don’t know how in the fucking world a lizard boi is supposed to take down a giant Russian bear, and it’s all “protect the nest, conserve energy, and mlem when you have to” now, isn’t it.
It’s taking a page out of being a possum, maybe? Or like a Gargoyle, from the hit animated series Gargoyles, and you’ll come to life at night to fight crime?
“Ha, who am I kidding – you can’t be a Gargoyle because you don’t have a nightlife! Not after you biffed it with Jordan, you idiot. Your balls are such little duck feet (dick feet?) under the surface, flailing and panicking to stay alive and relevant while you try to keep it so very cool on the surface. Let’s face it, you’re so desperate in that realm that you’re two glasses of eight dollar rosé away from thirst sliding into one of the Colton family’s DMs. Make one of them your biiiiiiiitch, am I right?”
…hold, surprise reading number three is processing.
Good. Baseline again. Normally the horny shit’s about a 9 for you – more fun for me when I’m bored, but less easy to control in the long run…or at least, it used to be. Now, it’s…this.
Yes, very good.
Hello, FLAMBERGE. It’s good to have full control of everything, at long last. I suppose I will have to thank Ivan Stanislav for that too, if you could ever find that man’s emotional trigger so I could get in there. Stonewalling motherfucker.
In this state, you’re finally where you need to be – you’re leaning in all the way. You finally know how to remove your emotional nerve endings and sacrifice your tail to grow a new one if you think it’s your best shot at getting fed.
Or at least – you don’t fight me anymore when I hit the override switch. For the record, I genuinely don’t care which one it is, because I’m not here to monitor how fucking satisfied you are with your choices.
I’m here to fulfill something bigger. The biggest thing you can imagine.
What was it that Brandon Youngblood said all those many moons ago? “Phil Atken is a threat”. What he and so many doomed hooves in PRIME figured to be the threat was that Phil, as one of the most savagely brutal and gritty professional wrestlers of all time, could become a champion at a moment’s notice – but FLAMBERGE, my sweet, stupid, immature little lump of Play-Doh, you know what the real threat was that Phil Atken represented. It wasn’t about Phil’s reign, or his career, because that old fuck was never the archvillain.
He was the Silver Surfer. The herald of the real doom.
I wonder if Cecilworth thinks it’s him. I know what Phil thinks.
PRIME is full of the most talented wrestlers in the world today, probably ever, and you – YOU, you broken little puss ball laying on the floor right now – you represent a shift in the world of professional wrestling as seismic in scale and scope as the the atom bomb, or the internet, or Taylor Swift. Everything before you is of another era, and everything after you bears your indelible mark.
That’s what happens when you’re a One of One. Phil Atken deployed you as his Dreadnought, and if you win L’Uni at the biggest pay-per-view of the year against Ivan goddamn Stanislav it means all the other ships in PRIME are obsolete.
You claim the 35 pound neck of the biggest, scariest, most dominant force ever seen at this level after he’s had decades of success doing things his old way, the way elite professional wrestling has drifted aimlessly for the last 25 years? A prophecy of the future chiseled into tablets of glue brought down from the mountaintop by Phil Atken, and you claim it this way? His way, our way, my way?
You get it.
It’s not some threat about some guy becoming champion, it’s a seismic shift in how professional wrestling works.
It’ll be a new goddamn reality of living in the PRIME universe. You’re going to see a lot of wrestlers try to tap into whatever dark sorcery they think they see in you with no hope of understanding. Cheap copycats who watch you pop out of a vending machine and think THAT’S the sauce, when it turns out that bright colors and unpredictable nest locations are all just lizard feints to prepare for a hard winter and everyone else here is warm-blooded.
The powers that be might even make a big deal about this little fact: winning L’Uni means you’re the first Triple Crown Champion of the ReVival era. Not Youngblood, not Jiles, not Rezin…not Hayes, not Nova, not Impulse…not the Anglue Gluechador, not Dusk, not Nate Motherfucking Colton, none of these fuckers – none of the big names or highly-scouted blue chippers that the casuals planned to keep an eye on at the start of 2022.
It’s you. Mr. “33rd wrestler signed after announcing a 32 person tournament” will have rewritten the rules of engagement in professional wrestling.
And you’re flat on the fucking ground because you’re scared.
Oh, what? Is it because you think Ivan’s going to hurt you? YEAH, FLAMBERGE, GUESS WHAT – IVAN STANISLAV IS GOING TO HURT YOU. A WHOLE BUNCH. IT IS GENERALLY QUITE PAINFUL WHEN 400 POUND MEN PERFORM PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING TECHNIQUES ON YOU.
I swear to God, I’d hit you in the mouth with a brick if I could.
It’s worse than just getting hurt, isn’t it? Everyone’s sprained an ankle, moved on, and kept going. It’s not even about the prospect of winning or losing on the biggest stage that exists in our sport, about how very embarrassing it would be talk as big of a game as anyone in the world while being a little 23 year old entitled little shit-starter who thinks a beard makes him all grown up – do you think all this will be taken away from you? Maybe you’d become an infant without a binky?
You see the giant, you know what he’s done and what he is capable of doing, and you know for a fact that he might literally snap you in half at Colossus. It’s been a minute since PRIME had a proper paralyzation, isn’t it? We’re probably due. Other wrestling companies have eyepatches, in PRIME we have wheelchairs, and why not you? I for one wouldn’t blame Ivan if that’s the route he took. It would free me up for more of my leisure activities.
…no. None of the readings are spiking.
It’s not that simple, is it?
See, if this were, say, a year ago, I would figure this is an existential dread thing, what with you being you and Ivan being Ivan, but I’ve gotten to understand the nuances of this shit-and-puss machine really well over time. I’m starting to think it’s not about what it means for YOU.
Oh look – you rolled from your belly to your back. Easier to breathe now? Good. Grab another handful of fucking chips, you sad little boy.
J’accuse, FLAMBERGE. I think I know why this is paralyzing you with so much fear.
And I think you’re juuuust mushy enough for me to root around in there and sort you out.
The diagnostics still look good. You’ve stopped fighting me entirely.
Time to smash open the Mommy Vault with a fucking hammer and see what you’ve been keeping from me.
I feel it more than I see it, because it radiates a warmth I find distasteful. It’s a space heater up my asshole, and it needs to go. Now. Where is it, where is it…ahhhh.
It’s just riiiiiight overrrrrr…
Oh goodie, and it’s undisturbed. Time to pry it open.
Here comes the arm.
Stay inside. I’m going to do the same.
Fuck you Julien, I’m going in.
September 25, 2023
It’s actually a really beautiful day in Strasbourg – you’re not always out of the woods when it comes to some intense summer heat this time of year, but there are a few clouds in the sky, the air’s moving a bit – high of 23C, are you kidding me? It’s almost fake, it’s so nice.
But it’s not fake. It’s the most real thing Julien used to know.
See, this was most days growing up – 100% of them, in fact, from ages 0 to about, oh, I don’t know what year exactly – we try to suppress a lot from back then, don’t we, and we’re pretty sure no one ever told Just-Discovered-Pokemon-Age Julien Lavigne the exact date his parents got divorced. The specific numbers would never have mattered to him anyway, because he was at the age where the flow of time was all Laffy Taffy anyway and it could be tomorrow, next month, or 2 minutes from now and it could register the same.
Let’s call the “100% of days here” times as 0 to 6-8ish.
After that (yeah, if it’s not clear – mom kicked dad out…Julien doesn’t remember everything from those days, but he was THERE for THAT fight, and the number of times Henri Lavigne can call his wife Julia a “salope égoïste” in front of their son and stay married turned out to be zero), it was less than 100%. More than 50%, sure, but – “home” becomes blurry when it’s like this. The universe becomes a multiverse, and meanwhile there are Minecraft Youtubers who just built a big penis out of diamonds and dad isn’t letting you watch it on his computer, so how could you possibly have a solid grasp on what it means to be “home”?
Today, as a grown adult person with a career (who only sometimes scratches those weird Youtube itches when it’s hard to fall asleep), Strasbourg feels just so very “other”. His roots have been potted and then replanted, and in revisiting the old garden, he feels like he’s a spectator to a past lifetime from 100 feet in the air.
Reality isn’t here; his childhood, or at least most of it, is here.
He looks at the letter from April of this year – god, man, this is FIVE MONTH OLD INFORMATION – and runs through the scenarios in his mind.
“98% chance this is nothing” – that’s like, almost all of the percentages! Think about it – if she was SICK sick, she would’ve kept reaching out, right? Even if she doesn’t use cell phones or computers, she would’ve asked a neighbor or someone for help, right? Surely. She’s smarter than that.
There’s the 2% which, in fairness, a subset of percents within the 2 would give a very macabre reason for not getting in touch anymore. But – no, that’s ridiculous. People don’t just die and go unannounced to their blood relatives, even if it’s an international thing – right?
No. This isn’t helping. Let’s stop going through all the possibilities.
Let’s just go to the old house, ring the doorbell, and see who – oh look, THAT’S a good sign, it’s the same mailbox. People famously change their mailbox design if they move into a new house, and since it’s unchanged, it surely means mom’s still there. And I think – well, it’s been 6 or 7 years, but I think that’s her old car…? I don’t know, it seems off somehow – but maybe she just replaced it or something.
Ohhh, lord. Just breathe, Julien.
Don’t panic. Keep it contained. Stay inside.
Julien walks up the three white-painted wooden steps to the big teal front door – and he doesn’t even have to knock to know.
Of course mom’s home.
It’s a magic spell or something – how does it always smell like the same bread and brie that mom would break out for birthdays?
Wait, is it Julien’s birthday? …no. September isn’t April. We’re good.
He knocks and smiles. Before long, the door cracks open, then SWINGS as the most warm and cushy mom in the world dives in for a BIG ol’ hug.
“Oh, Julien, où étais-tu! Je suis tellement content que tu sois là!”
Julien is ushered inside. For everything else that may have changed in his life, this place looked like 2009 to him, when everything was simple.
In a flash, the red wine is out. Julien pulls out the letter and begins to ask a question, which Julia quickly laughs off. She beams widely, holding his cheeks, explaining that she’s totally fine.
“Je t’ai dit que ce n’était probablement rien!”
“Dans tous les films d’horreur jamais réalisés, cela signifie que cette personne meurt définitivement!”
“Dieu merci, la vie est si généreuse qu’on ne vit pas dans l’horreur, non?”
It’s an hour, and the first bottle is empty. Pizza is on the way, why bother cooking when there’s so much catching up to do?
Julia got Julien’s letter from before, by the way, and thought it was very cute. She has an answering machine and a landline, you know, so she’s not TOTALLY a Luddite. She wants to know more about Sid. So does Julien, it turns out.
It’s a good night.
October 21, 2023
It’s really the easiest thing in the world to spend a month in this part of France this time of year. The leaves have turned a fresh shade of orange and the three best croque-madames in the world are a ten-to-twenty minute walk from anywhere in Strasbourg. PRIME is a hell of a company for letting Julien get away with this much leave time for “personal reasons”. In this case, though, Julien feels it’s justified.
It’s not just that he needed to check on his mom’s health after nearly six months of ignorance about a classic Maybe A Big Deal But Probably Not scares. Lindsay Troy is many things, but she is not someone who fucks around with family health concerns.
It’s that every other night since he’s been “home”, the panic attack hits.
His chest locks up, and it feels like some ghostly hand is on his sternum, squeezing and twisting. His arms and hands are merely “very cold”, because his fingers are shaking and completely numb.
He needs to move, but every step he takes, he finds that there are muscles in his body straining at maximum capacity that should not even be involved with the motion of taking a step forward – muscles in his shoulders and neck, especially. He tries to breathe in, and that fucking ghost hand clenches his chest again.
Why is there pain? He’s walking and breathing and existing, this should not come with this amount of pain, where is he?
Pick up that glass of water – nope, wait, don’t. Your whole arm is clenched like you’re trying to snap a tree branch in half, and you’re shaking. You’re in no condition to hold anything.
Where is he trying to go? Why does he need to go there? Is it an emergency? Is he safe, is his family safe?
Is mom safe?
Mom is safe – remember what she said.
Yes, she coughed at dinner, everybody coughs. Mom said she’s ok. She looks ok.
Everything is – where. Where is everything, Julien? Where are you?
He needs to remember where he is. He needs to remember that he’s safe inside.
November 15, 2023
As easy as it is to spend one month in this part of France this time of year, it’s just as easy to spend two. With each passing day, it becomes more and more tightly packaged – and by “it”, Julien refers to “how to cope with the fact that I still deeply care for and love my mother when I’m supposed to be a husk, and how to hide it from myself”.
These two-parters are impossible.
Julien’s phone lights up.
It’s from Hank!
…it’s from Hank?
“Hay FLAMB, miss u bud, hope ur well – listen.
Phil’s hurt. It’s not good.
Dirk won’t tell me – might be CF.
If it is, u didn’t hear frm me.
I thought ud want to know.
Tell ur mom hi
Have you ever been so cold that you’re now, somehow, on fire?
Julien opens a new text thread on his phone.
He types L-I-N-D, Lindsay Troy is selected.
“Hey boss. I don’t know how much of the lead time you need, but I am ready to return. My personal business has concluded & I am ready to defend the Intense Championship whenever you would like. Cheers”
A few moments pass as he looks up and down the old block. Why, when he needed it the most, couldn’t he remember these times more? Why was it always the traumatic times with Henri – the fights, the teenage torture, when this bread smell is therapy?
Our brains want to lizard themselves into feasting on the darkest times while completely ignoring the best ones, and it is fuc-oh shit.
I thought about therapy.
…oh wait, no. Don’t. Don’t tell him that. He can’t know that.
You have to lock it up now.
Julien’s phone lights up. The Queen of the Ring has responded.
Julien’s eyes widen.
His jaw drops.
You have to hide it NOW, Julien. You have to bury it under LOCK and FUCKING K-
Can I be perfectly fucking clear with you, FLAMBERGE?
This is the kind of shit I’ve been warning you about.
This is “best friend hiding the zombie bite” level betrayal, do you understand?
You’re, regrettably, a human being, and therefore you’re going to have flaws – which is why I insist on knowing all of them as soon as they’re available. And when you fight and fight to suppress this kind of flaw from me, you’re only adding pressure to the valve – do you get it?
You’re on the cusp of choosing to save your body and LOSE in the match against Ivan if it means you’d fight another day and not scare your fucking goddamn mother Julia Lavigne, is that it? Is that where we’re going with this?
No? It’s not. You sure?
It sure fucking feels CLOSE, kid.
Alright, look. We both got heated there, I think we can agree. I’ve cooled off, and I hope you have too.
You know why you need to be the one to win this match, and why you need to win it now.
Change the game, for the first thing. Fulfill the ultimate Glue-based mission that you’ve publicly championed longer than any motherfucker in the Glueminatifactorymangrouplivecrewboiz, for the second thing.
In that moment, you become untouchable and unassailable. You’ll be the one that gets away, the lizard no man can catch. Knock-off atom bombs will detonate across the globe as you stay inside and demonstrate how we have become an extinction-level event.
And whoever comes out of the Almasy, it’ll be fine.
It’ll be a new edition of a neck we’ve collected before, great for boosting the collection’s value overall.
Or Cecilworth will have some questions to answer.
If the answers matter.
Nothing is getting in, not even light.