Your recommended auditory companion: MISFITS
It’s Saturday night, and Hakkasan is hopping.
PRIME’s Halloween party is in full swing at the MGM Grand’s famed nightclub. A layer of dry ice mist blankets the dance floor beneath a veil of purple, orange, and green lights. Giant foam spiders and jack-o-lanterns hang from the mezzanine rail. A menagerie of boogeymen, beasts, blood-thirsty killers, and pop culture references undulate en masse to the two-step beats of horror punk and spooky surf rock.
The faithful have arrived in droves in their best costumes. Sid Phillips and Ria Lockhart are bopping together on the dancefloor, dressed as Metro City’s undisputed power couple of Hugo and Poison from Street Fighter game series. Joe Fontaine grooves with himself nearby, appropriately dressed as Dan Hibiki, master of the Saikyo Style.
Standing near the bar are Timo Bolamba, dressed as Bo Darville, and El Temblor, dressed as Buford T. Justice. Smokey naturally talks about himself while the Bandit looks around and plots his escape. He strikes up a chat with Jared Sykes, who is the surprisingly most underdressed person in attendance, clad in a simple t-shirt with jeans, and pointed a witch’s hat for festive flair.
Off in a secluded corner, toting a chainsaw and wearing a mask of human skin, someone who can be none other than Tim Mephisto quietly watches the party-goers. This Leatherface appears more interested in raiding the catering table than engaging in the other festivities.
The master of ceremonies himself sits in a booth on the upper mezzanine, dressed as a mossy-bearded corpse in an outfit that was presumably made entirely of Dusk’s pants. Draped over his shoulder is the Five Star Championship. Draped across his lap are the luscious legs of a high-priced courtesan dressed as Elvira.
The Mistress of the Dark is at present massaging her lady humps from the sides, until she hands over a heroically thick blunt procured from her cleavage. He lodges it between his teeth, lights, and puffs, reveling in the taste of dopesmoke, death, and tittysweat.
Sitting up there, belt out in the open, smoking his spliff with a buxom goth babe on his lap, the Escape Artist looks like the king of the underworld. He surveys his wacky kingdom of oddballs and outcasts below in pensive silence.
A couple dressed as Gandalf the Grey and Lady Galadriel approaches the table. The wizard is rocking some sizable horns through this pointed cap.
“Hey, Erik!” says Ollie Arsvinnar, Rezin’s loyal Viking accountant. “Nice Beetlejuice outfit!”
“Ollie… Becky… thanks for coming,” Rezin welcomes them with a nod, then pats Elvira on the thighs that have him pinned down. “Doll, do me a favor and take Mrs. Arsvinnar down for a drink while us boys talk shop. The pumpkin spice Jello shots are fire, so I hear.”
Indifferently, she rises off his lap. Mrs. Arsvinnar is all smiles as she takes to what comes naturally whenever she meets another woman.
“Hi! I’m Becky Arsvinnar! Pleased to meet you!”
“Yeah, well I’m Cherri, and I’m on the clock, hon, so let’s make this quick.”
Becky’s soccer-mom smile slightly falters as the ladies head to the bar.
Meanwhile, the good-with-numbers Norseman can’t help but notice his friend is looking a bit pent up. He doesn’t need to ask anything to know there’s something on his mind. He also knows the best way to figure it out is through natural conversation.
“So… how was Indiana?”
A heavy sigh escapes the Escape Artist.
“Took two days and two thousand miles to get from LA to the state line,” he begins. “And the minute I cross the river and look up, there’s this billboard. ‘Welcome to Indiana’, it says. ‘The proud home of wrestling star Nate Colton!’”
Just like that, the dam breaks.
VILLAGE OF THE DAMBED
Indiana is known by some to be the Crossroads of America.
Which is a fancy way of saying it’s a place people only visit in order to get somewhere else.
America simply comes and goes. The gutters lining those roads likewise fill with all of the runoff and refuse that gets left behind, becoming the troughs from which the parasitic natives feed.
The cross in those roads is clearly one that has been inverted.
Outside of urban pockets posted along the sprawling spider’s web of highways, much of Indiana can be summarized as a split of insular communities of white-bred Bible thumpers and straight up meth country. And Lebanon sits right in the crossover between those two worlds. Not really a suburb to the state capital Indianapolis, but more of a satellite. A leech sucking off the vein that is the I-65 corridor leading to Gary and Chicago.
Tonight, many of the houses sit dark. But not all is asleep at this late hour, as three young boys walk with purpose down a street at the edge of the town. Their whispers can barely be heard over the roar of the highway.
“They call it ‘the Black House’.”
“Nobody really knows or remembers.”
“And it’s really haunted?”
“Dunno. Some say there was this crazy old woman living there for years. Story goes that she went insane when she gave birth to a deformed mutant baby, and she kept it locked away for years in a room by itself.”
“Dude, it gets worse. They say she was keeping it alive by feeding it living things. First, neighborhood pets like dogs and cats… eventually working her way up to stealing kids.”
“Crazy. Didn’t the police do anything?”
“Oh, the law eventually caught up with her, yeah. Thing is, when they finally dragged her off to the nuthouse, there was nobody else in the house. Almost as if her mutant child had… disappeared.”
“Since then, the Black House has sat empty.”
They finally arrive upon a nondescript one-story home, somewhat apart from the other houses and resting before a brown and dying cornfield. Its outside shows signs of deterioration and rot from years of neglect. It’s clear that it has sat unoccupied for many years.
“Sounds like a load of bull butter, if you ask me.”
“Think so? There was this kid ten years ago who swears he heard someone moaning inside one night.”
“Probably just another tweaker.”
“Oh yeah, well if you’re not scared, then why don’t you prove it? Walk up there and knock on the front door.”
“Then wait. For like, a whole minute.”
“We’ll be timing you.”
“Whatever. Fine. Watch and be amazed, wussies.”
Brimming with confidence, the courageous volunteer starts up the concrete pathway to the front stoop. Without hesitation he pounds to the door loud enough to wake the dead.
From within, he distinctly hears an inhuman moan.
He’s stunned. Paralyzed. Did he really just hear that? It almost sounded as if someone–or some thing–was being roused awake.
“Sixty seconds! And no chickening out!”
The call comes from the sidewalk, where the other two anxiously watch and wait.
The knocker swallows hard, trying not to lose his cool. Internally, he ticks the seconds away in his head.
Nine… ten… eleven… twelve…
A breeze picks up. The branches of sycamore trees groan overhead. Something crackles from within the rows of corn. Beads of sweat are forming on the boy’s brow. He suddenly feels as if he’s being watched.
Twenty-seven… twenty-eight… twenty-nine… thirty…
Halfway there. But the seconds grow longer with every passing moment.
He intently watches the doorknob, hoping he doesn’t see it turn.
It had to have been his imagination, he thinks to himself.. Or maybe just the house settling. There’s no way some crazy old lady’s mutant kid could still be living here.
Thirty-nine… forty… forty-one… forty-two…
Are those footsteps he hears shuffling around inside? Or is that just the sound of his heart pounding away in his chest like a jackhammer?
This is weird. Too weird.
Fifty-one… fifty-two… fifty-three… fifty-four…
So close now. He’s already pivoting himself around, one foot off the ground, ready to head back to the safety of the sidewalk at a moment’s notice.
The door suddenly opens.
He stands frozen before the void-filled rectangle before him. A babe gazing into the abyss.
Then all at once, something horrible emerges from the Black House.
He’s off, like a bat out of hell. His friends are not far behind him. The boys run back up the street, screaming in terror.
“Fuckin’ kids, man…” Rezin mutters, still half asleep, and wanders back into the house. “I gotta get the power turned on.”
“But yeah… other than all that, things have been pretty quiet at the house.”
He downs the last of his Jack and Coke and taps the glass to the bartender for a refill. Over the course of recounting his great homecoming experience, the Goat Bastard has migrated from the mezzanine to the bar downstairs.
“Although there was a whole lotta drama at the bank at first,” he continues. “Because I guess when a dude wanders in wearing nothing but a stained hospital smock and wanting to deposit a briefcase stuffed with cash, they get their panties up in a twist. But, ya know… eventually we got it HASHed out. They took the money, and in return, they gave me the key. And there you have it; at last, I’m a proud homeowner.”
He says this last line with zero enthusiasm.
“Gee whiz, I can only imagine how great that must feel!” replies the person Rezin is speaking to.
It’s only now that he’s noticed that Ollie Arsvinnar has somehow shrunk himself into a smaller and younger bespectacled man, and exchanged his wizard’s outfit for Spider-Man pajamas.
“Ahh, shut up, Simon,” Rezin curses back. “Nobody asked what you think. Anyway, the place is still an absolute piece of shit. Would’ve rather just burned the fucker down, but what I thought was a gas can ending up being a watering pail. So all I ended up doing was getting the floor all wet.”
“Burn it down?” Spider-Tillier asks with a grimace. “Why would you want to do something like that?”
Rezin has no answer, so he shakes his head and plows forward.
“Anyway, shit just got worse by the time I got back to Vegas. Was meanin’ to head back after ReVival, but nah… Her Majesty suddenly yanks me into her office and tells me I gotta meet with this network suit…”
Let’s roll the tape.
IN THE MOUTH OF RADNESS
“Hello, Erik! Alexa Van Horn, from the ACE Network!”
The greeting was polite enough, but fell short of a formal handshake. He wouldn’t have accepted it anyway, given his distaste for strangers referring to him by the government name.
But he can see that Van Horn is a corporate agent, through and through. She dresses sharp and professional. Everything in her body language exudes energy and zest. Her smile is one that comes from years of practice.
They were alone together in one of the conference rooms at the PRIME offices. Rezin isn’t feeling great about this “meeting”, given his innate distaste for these types. So he falls into a seat and braces himself for the worst.
“What’s this about?”
Alexa is all smiles.
“Just wanted to get to know our Five Star Champion,” she says, head endearingly tilting to one side. “As ACE’s new Vice Director of Marketing & Public Relations, I feel it’s important to bring the talent and the network closer together for the sake of having a mutual understanding.”
Rezin shakes his head. “I ain’t all that innerested in a mutual understandin’, thanks.”
Her head tilts the other way. “Naturally! That’s all part of your rebellious, anti-authoritarian image, right?”
“Image.” Like this whole thing was an act.
“That’s exactly what I wanted to discuss with you today, because we’ve had some ideas as it relates to your overall presentation.”
She presses a button on her laptop. A screen descends on the far wall. The projector lights up.
What Rezin sees drives his nails into the chair’s armrests.
“Don’t say anything yet. Just take a moment to yourself. Let the idea soak in for a bit.”
There’s an artistic rendition of him on the screen, stripped down into something clean and completely alien. Gone is the iconic skullet and beard combo, exchanged for a clean-shaven dome and neatly trimmed goatee. Gone also are his battlevest and loose-fitting slacks, replaced with a garish set of red and black long tights with “intense” designs tearing up and down the legs.
He’s never seen himself look so… normal.
“What do you think?” she asks, quite pleased with herself. “We drew off all of your best qualities to create something that still maintains that ‘rough around the edges’ attitude that resonates with your core fans, while at the same time presenting you a star that mainstream audiences can take seriously!”
Rezin grumbles, giving some serious consideration to the idea of pulling his pants down and farting in her botox-infused face before promptly taking his leave. But that would obviously bring on more problems with Owl Boss just down the hall.
He clears his throat. “Can I ask you a serious question?”
“What makes you believe I’m the kinda guy who would go along with this bullshit?”
Her smile doesn’t falter. It almost seems to grow wider. It’s not a rejection to her, so much as it is a challenge. And Alexa Van Horn loves a good challenge.
She flips the laptop shut. The screen goes blank. Suddenly, that friendly salesperson’s front is gone, and all that’s left is the cold businesswoman underneath.
“Very well, Mr. Black,” she says, making it clear that he’s not “Erik” to her anymore. “We can drop the charade, if it pleases you. I’m only going through with this formality because there are some at the network under the delusion that your image can be rehabilitated. Of course, this was a waste of time, as I expected.
“I personally have a great respect for Ms. Troy and how she operates her business. Giving her talent the freedom to be themselves is exactly what makes PRIME’s ReVival the number one sports show on the planet.
“But if it were up to me, Mr. Black, I’d tear up your contract in a heartbeat, and fire every jackass who had a hand in the decision to put you on syndicated television.
“The truth is, your recent successes have given us at the network a number of headaches. Both with the sponsors, and with the board of standards and practices. A good many people are not happy that we’re promoting a debaucherous, drug-crazed hooligan as one of our featured athletes. It makes our product look like a trashy carnival attraction, as opposed to the competitive sports show we want.
“I expect this is of little to no concern to you. But considering it’s the network’s money at stake, it becomes a great deal of concern to me. Granted, we have no control as to what you do out there. But we can control other things. Like screentime. And promotional reach. And merchandising. All the things that go into making a successful sports star. Things you clearly know nothing about.
“We aren’t trying to force anything upon you. If anything, we are trying to help you make the most of your position. It’s a win-win situation for the both of us. Otherwise, we’ll just eat the cost of the inconvenience and patiently wait for a champion who is willing to play ball. Someone like, oh, I don’t know… Nate Colton?”
Rezin rises out of the chair, not interested in listening to any more of this.
“We done here?”
The entire time they’ve been together, the smile hasn’t left her face.
“You may leave if you want,” she answers. “But our dealings together are only just beginning, Mr. Black. Whether you like it or not is irrelevant. This is how the business works. This is how it’s always worked.”
He heads for the door.
“Oh, one other thing…”
He stops as his hand touches the handle.
“You’re defending the title against FLAMBERGE next week, right?” she chirps. “That young man is going places, I feel. Should be an amazing match. Break a leg for me, will you?”
PRINCE OF DANKNESS
“bReAk A lEg FoR mE wIlL yA?! Fuckin’ nightmare, man…”
He’s in the mens’ room, at the counter, doing what fellas do in the mens’ room other than their normal bodily functions.
“Leeches, trynna suck me dry…” he says, laying out another rail on the counter and rolling a Benjamin into a tube. “By the way did you see the Amazing Amarettos out there as the two girls from the Shining? ‘Avanti, Rezin! Come assist us with our magic! Forever! And ever! And ever!’ Fuckin’ lunatics, those two. Gomez better take it easy at the bar tonight.”
“Can’t say I’m familiar with them,” says Indiana basketball legend Larry Byrd, washing his hands in the sink next to him. His new unwilling partner in conversation. “Did I hear you say you were from Lebanon? The name of that place rings a bell…”
Rezin doesn’t hear him. Instead, he bends over the line, inhales, and lets the chill overtake his mind.
“I mean, I don’t wanna be a sell-out…” he continues. “But ya know at the same time, I feel like I’ve already gone and done that, whether it was intentional or not. I hate to admit that she’s right. This is the business for what it is. And it sucks. Cause it feels like I’m becomin’ everything I’ve hated for all those years.”
“It kind of is inevitable, isn’t it?” says the former power forward for the Boston Celtics. “The more you succeed, the more attention you get. And the more people are going to find a way to make that success prosper for them.”
Rezin nods, staring at his reflection in the mirror while the cocaine takes effect. “Ah, well… at least I see it for what it is. Some of the kids in that locker room would just lap up an opportunity like that. Like that Nate Colton kid. Clean-cut white-bred boy scout. Everything those scumsuckers could hope for in a star. Buncha bullshit if you ask me…”
The former power forward remains silent as he shuts off the sink and begins drying his hands.
Rezin cleans up and puts the Five Star Title back over his shoulder as he heads for the door. “Anyway, good talkin’ with ya, Mr. Bird! Enjoy the rest of the party!”
Rezin is sprawled out on a pile of trash in the alleyway. Dressed as Beetlejuice. Or Dusk’s pants. Take your pick.
The Five Star strap is with him. Despite its bearer looking like a rotting corpse, it remains absolutely untouched.
“J’essaye d’apprendre le français. Can ya tell?”
“I mean, just bits and pieces.
“Like, ‘Non, officier, ce n’était pas moi.’
“And ‘Où puis-je acheter des ingrédients pour des explosifs artisanaux?’
“And ‘Désolé, je pense que j’ai chié mon pantalon.’
“And “En fait je ne suis pas désolé; respire profondément les fumées de mon cul!’
“…ya know, important phrases that have applicable value to my everyday life.”
Pardon his French, folks.
Rezin rises to his feet, but there’s a distinct swagger to his step. He’s partied a bit too hard tonight.
“Here’s a phrase to remember on the subject of yours truly: ‘Livin’ ten years ago with a state of mind that’s two decades past its sell-by date.’ Words spoken by someone who, unfortunately, ain’t around to answer to ‘em anymore.
“Only reason I bother bringin’ it up, FLAMBO, is to demonstrate to you that I know exactly how it feels to want another shot at some fuck who got the better of you between those ropes.
“It’s how I got me this strap, in my rematch against that handsome prick, Hayes.
“And I nearly lost it to that roid-ragin’ renegade SCOTT when he got another crack at takin’ it from me.
“So believe me when I say that I know what’s goin’ through your mind as you walk into this, kid. Second chances are difference makers. And for you, this ain’t just a chance to settle the score.
“For you, this ain’t anything less than the opportunity of a lifetime.
“And it’s just this one stupid, stoned, and absolutely REZILIENT sum’bish standin’ in the way of that.”
He smirks with strange and unsightly confidence.
“Understand, FLAMBO… this whole run I’ve had in PRIME is a second chance at making a meaningful career for myself. It took a lotta years, and a whole lotta gettin’ knocked around, but I’m finally at a place where I ain’t gotta worry about makin’ it anymore.
“All I gotta worry about is young bucks like you, trynna do the same.”
Launching a snot rocket from his nose, Rezin heads for the door to return to his party.
“Bonne chance, kid.
“I gotta go motorboat Elvira…”
Fade to VOID.