The Anglo Luchador
“Okay, who are you, and why are you wearing my mask?” The PRIME Intense Champion, The Anglo Luchador, dripped indignance off his voice. “You’re making me miss the Atken/Youngblood match.”
“You still haven’t figured it out?” The masked figure with the impossibly perfect rear end stood, one hand on his hip, the other behind his back, resting comfortably on said posterior.
“Well, if you are who you think I am, you’re lucky to be alive, and you owe me fifty grand. Take off my fucking mask.”
“You didn’t say the magic word!”
The figure removed his mask. Roderick McRatrick, in the flesh.
“Where’s my money?” the luchador demanded. “You fucking nerd, WHERE’S MY MONEY? I’ll call Lindz into this office immediately.”
“Relax, relax,” Roderick said in his most soothing voice possible. “Your money is in good hands.”
The old luchador’s lack of amusement could be seen from space, even behind his own mask.
“What, you don’t…” Roderick stammered. “It’s in the hands of the guy who gave me this!”
Roderick turned around to show off his new derriere.
“Do you like it?”
“Why am I looking at your butt? You spent my Super PAC campaign money on a Brazilian butt lift?”
“Not just any Brazilian butt lift.” He was beaming. “An illegal Brazilian butt lift.”
The luchador stared a hole through his head.
“Okay, what the FUCK does that matter to any of this?”
“You get the good stuff put in there,” Roderick explained like he was the teacher’s pet giving a presentation. “Experimental chemicals that really make the ass POP. Yeah, there’s some seeping that happens from time to time, but I’ve only had a staph infection two weeks out of the last three since I got it.”
“I don’t care about your new ass!” the luchador was visibly pissed now. “I told everyone on Jabber I wanted to go out in the crowd and watch the Universal Championship match.”
“But you didn’t account for an old friend showing up with a hot new ass and a cheat code for your current problem.”
“Friend?” The luchador slowly rose to his feet. “FRIEND?!!? You tried robbing people the moment I let you into this company as a favor! You stole thousands of dollars from me that I earmarked to use for modern equipment for my campaign. You fuck off to God knows where without so much as a text, and now you waltz back in here, seek me out knowing that my boss has a goddamn fatwa on your ass and if I’m found out to be harboring you, I’ll get owls clawing my eyes too! DO FRIENDS DO THAT, YOU SELFISH MOTHERFUCKER?”
The Anglo Luchador grabbed Roderick by his armpits and threw him against the wall of the locker room.
“No,” squeaked Roderick, “but friends do give their friends super-powerful artifacts like these!”
The two-bit con held up what was in his one hand as much as he could. It was a black mask, no pattern. The luchador put his on-again, off-again friend down.
“What is that?”
“Thought you’d never ask!” Roderick again started to beam. “It’s the Tupi Mask of Horrors!”
“The what… how is a mask of horrors the answer to my problems? How the hell do you even know what my problems are? Do you?”
“Of course I do! You don’t become the Prince John Reverse Mortgage Company Employee of the Year without trying to sell them to the most decrepit of people. And a lot of those people? They’re not people at all. They’re imps. Demons. Escapees.”
“This better not be salty or else…”
If Coral Avalon on Jabber was to be believed, The Anglo Luchador had been afflicted with a salt curse. Everything he’d eaten since the morning of July 6 tasted unbearably salty. At first, he thought it was Cancer Jiles playing some kind of prank. The top eGG probably had not left Vegas in months, but his tentacles spread everywhere, especially in their shared home area of Philadelphia. The taste of salt contaminating even packaged foods disabused him of that thought. It was supernatural. It had to be.
He looked at the muffin in front of him, a chocolate chocolate chip muffin, no salt to be seen anywhere. A treat at a Las Vegas café, right off the plane, before getting to his suite at the MGM Grand, and he was dreading it all the way. As he was just about to pick the muffin up, he heard a voice.
“Is this seat taken?”
Without looking up, he responded to the unfamiliar voice asking him for company. “Sorry doll, I’m married.”
“In a manner of speaking, so am I, Anglo Luchador.”
“I’m not wearing my mask, how do you know…”
He looked up at the figure standing over him. Impossibly tall and somberly dressed, all in black. A black dress, reined in at the waist by a black sash with black ruffles streaking from the neckline down the chest and all the way to the hem. Her skin was milky white, almost porcelain in appearance, and her face looked as intricately patterned as the sugar skulls painted and used as decoration for Día de los Muertos.
“Who are you,” the luchador asked, “What are you?”
“May I sit first?”
The luchador nodded. She continued as she took the seat across from the newly crowned Intense Champion.
“I am known by a few names – Lady of the Dead, Santa Muerte, Lady Micte. Formally, I am called Mictecacihuatl.”
“I had a good run,” he said, wrapping his muffin up. “Can I take my snack to go into Mictlan?”
“You always were a jokester,” she replied. “But this is a serious matter.”
“Well, if you’re venturing out of Hell…”
“Mictlan is not like your Christian Hell,” she interrupted. “It’s not punitive. It’s just… there.”
“Regardless. You’re here instead of there. Of course it’s serious.”
“I’m not the only being that should be there right now who isn’t.”
The luchador mouthed the word “fuck” under his breath and let out a sigh.
“I think I know where this is going. I’m not sure I like it.”
“You shouldn’t, Anglo Luchador,” she replied. “See, there are many realms of the undead and many caretakers. But as there are a lot of humans and animals who have lived on this and other realms, well…” she trailed off momentarily to compose herself. “There are also creatures who are contained in these areas, the byproducts of the way in which gods such as myself came into being.”
“That’s one word for them, but they come in many shapes and sizes.”
The luchador moved his muffin on the table out of nervous energy, thinking of what he’d ask the goddess next.
“So why are you coming to a wrestler to get the job done?”
“I think you know why.”
Silence. She continued.
“If you want to play coy with me, you can, but it doesn’t change the fact you’re the one who can get close to the person who stole something from my partner.”
His eyes rolled in the back of his head as he let out a deep sigh.
The Lady of the Dead nodded.
“Fuck,” he said mutedly. “So not only do I have to save lucha libre in America, I have to take back the Mask of Malice for Mictlantecuhtli. You guys sure do like to ask a lot of wrestlers.”
“If it makes you feel any better, we’re not in agreement on anything,” she replied. “I had nothing to do with Huitzilopochtli and his given quest to you. There’s no communication among the realms. This is the first plane other than Mictlan I’ve walked upon since before the Third Sunset.”
The luchador wasn’t into small talk at that particular moment.
“So what’s my objective here? How do I get this mask back?”
“Only two categories of people can remove a mask like that from the head of the possessed. The first is the one who placed it there. That category is narrower, obviously.”
“And the second?”
“A tecnico, true to their heart.”
“Lady, you’re barkin’ up the wrong tree. I’m rotten. I almost hurt someone I care about a lot for kicks. I ran a political campaign. No one who has ever run a political campaign in history can be called a tecnico.”
The goddess chuckled to herself.
“Do you think that heroism is like a video game? Or a movie? That you can possibly level up your soul?”
“I mean, I don’t know? You’re about step away from having me relitigate Calvinism vs. Lutheranism in the middle of a café in the debauchery capital of the United States. The will of the gods is ineffable, especially, as you just told me, none of you nerds can agree on anything.”
“I’ve peered into your soul. In every human, there exists a battle…”
“I swear to fuck, if you start talking about two wolves, I’m going to throw this muffin at you and start seeking out the Greek Pantheon.”
She looked at him with the stern coldness of a mother, yet her gaze, despite being an eternal deity, could not match the icy glare of Lindsay Troy.
“Okay, okay, keep talking. Sheesh. A guy’s not allowed to make some comic relief?”
She sighed as she continued. “The battle isn’t between good and evil, and there are more than two combatants at any given time. Good and evil are in the eye of the beholder, but traits can be concrete. Feelings like malice, melancholy, anger, sexual passion, kindness, they’re all in a constant flow, trying to attain an equilibrium that the human soul can rarely, if ever, attain. Sometimes, one feeling wins out over others, and that might define you momentarily. Few people are rudos all the time. Even fewer are tecnicos. Some people spend their entire lives close to the center of in nextiueyatl…”
“Oh, the grey sea. I forgot Nahuatl isn’t the language people associate with Anahuac anymore.”
“I understand being a stranger in a strange land, like no one understands you. Sorry.”
She gazed upon him with soft eyes.
“In you though,” she continued, “it’s different. There’s always movement, even if you don’t realize it, like there.”
“You don’t even realize it. I believe you can remove the mask from John Royko and return it to me, to make my partner whole again.”
He shot a dead-eyed glare back into her direction.
“And if I can’t?”
“Well, then prepare to have your realm overrun with more imps and shubs and whatever it is you call might call them. Your salt curse would happen more frequently and to more people. I’m doing all I can to slow it, but once I’m overrun, the domino reaction will be swift.”
“So THAT’S why everything’s salty. Shit.”
“Well, for you, not anymore.” She rose to her feet. “Farewell, Anglo Luchador. Good luck.”
As Mictecacihuatl walked away, she seemingly faded into the aether. The luchador took his muffin to his mouth and bit, sighing as crumbs flew haphazardly from his lips to the table below.
“Thank fuck, no more salt.”
“So, are you just, like, doing good deeds to level up?”
Timo Bolamba was already five beers deep when he asked that question.
“No, no, she made it a point that it wasn’t some culmination,” the luchador fired back, pointing his finger at his friend like any Italian a few beers into a bender would. “She said it’s something about, I dunno, always moving? Some shit that a hack sitcom writer probably would have a shaman type dude say.”
“You really should’ve started relaying this before we started drinking, uso.”
The luchador laughed as he took another slug.
“You know what really bugs me though? The thought…” the new champ trailed off. “Just like… what if I get the chance to rip his mask off, and it doesn’t budge.”
He drops the bottle on the table. It lands flush on its bottom after some turbulence, splashing some brew into his face.
“I know you are. You told me as much.” Timo spoke with the same frankness that a guy with a buzz would when he was about to be sappy but encouraging. “We don’t need to replay the gym. You’re a Champion in PRIME Wrestling.”
“It’s not about my ability, at least not this.”
His eyes grew wider.
“I feel… insecure. What if I’m not a good person?”
Timo looked at him as if he had grown a second head and his skin turned bright orange.
“Are you going to confess a murder to me right now, uce?”
“I’m being serious.”
The luchador sighed.
“Deep inside of me, there’s always this nagging voice, not even a supernatural one, just an internal one, one that just keeps telling me that everything I do is wrong.”
“You want the number of my therapist? My doctor has openings.”
“I mean, is therapy going to unpack everything in my head that I need to get straight before Ultraviolence? I have to do it there, and I don’t know if I have it in me. This voice, it keeps nagging at me. Making me second-guess everything. I feel… like…”
The luchador looked in his friend’s eyes and slowly nodded.
“Look, Tom,” Timo continued, “I can’t jump into your brain. And I know if you’ve faked this entire last seven-month friendship that you know the consequences of it.”
“I still feel something radiate out of my jaw from that, you know.”
“Good. A powerful reminder is the best deterrent.” Timo chuckled. “But seriously, I think you’re just in the midst of a really bad case of impostor syndrome. Nothing a few more beers can’t shake off.”
“Alcohol isn’t going to bury this feeling,” the luchador somberly noted as he picked the bottle back to his lips. “Besides, I’m done burying bad desires under bottles and cans.”
“So, what are you going to do then?”
“The mask. What does it do?”
“Put me down and I’ll tell you, sheesh.”
The luchador pushed Roderick slightly further up the wall as a means of menacing him before acquiescing to his request. Number one on Lindsay Troy’s most wanted list dusted himself off performatively before getting into yet another one of his practiced soliloquys.
“The Tupi Mask of Horrors grants unimaginable power to the one who puts it on. They can lift up two manatees without breaking a sweat. Piranhas will be unable to pierce the wearer’s skin. Their penis grows five inches in length and a whole quarter inch in radius. They will be able to resist the charm of even the…”
“Stop fucking with me. If this mask is so powerful, then why aren’t you wearing it?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about; I’m an upstanding…”
The luchador slammed Roderick’s right shoulder against the wall with his palm. The force caused at least half-dozen plastic forks from Chipotle to spill out of his pocket.
“Okay, okay sheesh. There are dire consequences for the wearer. The person who gave me this mask told me that only death or a painful Tupi tribe ritual that involves tapir droppings and frog venom can remove it.”
“But I would be able to do supernatural things, right? Like harming an invincible automaton? Or maybe forcing a certain member of the Williams family to… remove… NO.”
The luchador stepped back, holding his head.
“Look, TB, uh, my Portuguese is a little rusty, and I owe the Duolingo owl 80 grand right now so I can’t really verify. Maybe I just heard it wrong.”
“Wait, how do you owe a computer owl… no, I’m not getting into these wordplay games with you. Just get outta here.”
“You don’t want the mask then?”
The luchador looked back at the one bane of his existence he can stand to be in the company of without retching with wide saucers for eyes.
“I don’t know.”
He sat on the bench and put his masked head in his hands, utterly defeated. The war inside him grew too tumultuous for him to think straight.
“Look,” he replied to Roderick, “Don’t go giving that mask to some rando. Let me sit on it for a little bit. I’ll call you.”
The luchador looked at Roderick.
“You still have the same number, right?”
“Yeah, yeah, just give me time to charge my phone, it’s been dead since, uh, July 2.”
The luchador stares a hole through him at that statement.
“Look, it was either buy a new phone charger or get that value size of trucker speed at that bodega in Brasilia so I could get through across the Panama Canal in one shot without stopping.”
Still more of that good Justin Timberlake stare.
“Look, that trucker speed works REAL GOOD, okay?”
“Keep your phone charged and get out of my sight, you infuriating man you. FUCK.”
Roderick finally took the hint and left, making sure to sashay emphatically in case someone he could scam with his brand new, only partially infected ass was in eyeshot. The luchador slumped over on the bench further, his mind racing at Mach 3. The maze he ran through in his head was so labyrinthine that he didn’t even hear how the main event he swore he was going to watch from the crowd ended.