Your recommended auditory companion: NEUROSIS
Kicking and screaming, Rezin is dragged out of the VOID.
Senses come back one at a time. Light coming from above. Screams all around him. The taste and scent of blood. In his mouth. On his face.
The last comes hardest: PAIN. Everywhere. All at once.
In the distance is a sea of blurred faces. Beneath him is sweat-soaked canvas. He’s woken up in a lot of strange places in his life, but he’s done it enough times in the ring to always recognize when he’s within the squared circle.
When did these rings come with six sets of ropes?
A force stands above him. Looming like a black, burgundy, and olive tower of wrestling destruction.
He’s had those crown-embroidered boots kick him in the face enough times to know just who they belong to.
His legs are gone in a storm of pins and needles, so he drags himself closer.
The canvas might as well be made of razor blades. But the pain doesn’t matter. Not while she was still standing, sneering down on him like an insect.
Lefty clutches her heel. Righty forms a ball and begins punching the ankle.
There’s barely any force behind the blows at this point, but he pounds away regardless. Better to let them know he went down swinging.
Sic sever TROYranus, ya goddamb parasite…
Then he hears the voice.
He freezes. It’s not the notoriously brassy, commanding voice of his opponent. This is dry. Bleak.
Fire crawls up his neck as he lifts his head. He’s no longer punching the ankle of the great Lindsay Troy.
Rather, he’s lying at the feet of an emaciated old woman affixed to a respirator.
Her dead eyes stare into nothing.
“There ain’t a damb thing you could ever do right…”
Is this really happening? He didn’t recall eating that tab of acid earlier…
She bends down, hand outstretched, reaching for him. That dying, joyless face gets closer and closer. Her eyes are empty, but somehow he knows she can see him. See through him.
“You were a mistake,” she rasped, as her hands grabbed the sides of his head. “You ruined my life.”
He’s pulled up, powerless to do anything. His body is spent. His mind is paralyzed.
“You ruin everything, Erik. Everything and everyone.”
Her arms drew him closer to her thighs. He could feel himself being formed into the fetal position.
He closes his eyes and accepts his fate. It’s a long-overdue unbirthing.
This is fine. She’s probably right. They’re all right. It’s better this way for every–
Then comes the gravity.
Then comes the bump.
Then comes black.
Choking and coughing, Rezin is dredged up from the VOID.
It takes a few moments to process his surroundings. Definitely not a ring this time; he’s in his room at the Shoshone Inn.
He discovers the source of the buzzing noise that broke his feverish slumber to be his phone, vibrating on the table beside him.
The person ringing him is saved under his contacts as “LLAMA TANGO”, with a custom photo of a certain Queen of the Ring, glaring at the camera while mid-bite in a taco, crumbs of meat, cheese, and lettuce in the beginning stages of spilling out of her mouth.
We don’t know who took this remarkably unflattering photo of Lindsay Troy, and we may never know. He’s probably at the bottom of Lake Mead right now. But somehow, it ended up in the hands of the Goat Bastard.
He sends it to text, unable to shake the creeping dread that if he answered, that other voice would be on the other line.
It’s been this way since DEFtv 175, when she put him down after two consecutive cradle piledrivers. The nightmares were bad enough, but waking life feels worse, given he has to keep on living with the memory constantly replaying itself in his head.
He had failed to depose the Queen. But there was still UltraViolence. There was still the Five Star Championship.
The phone buzzes again. One new message.
“DIPSHIT. MONEY. NOW. DO NOT MAKE ME COME FIND YOU.”
A sneer crosses his face. Was beating the ever-living shit out of him not enough? Now she has to twist his arm and rub salt in his wounds?
He really wants to tell “Llama-Tango” that she should go Foxtrot-Uniform-Charlie-Kilo herself, but knows well enough by now that it would probably not help the situation in any regard. Because neither of them knew when to quit.
Rocko said he was handling the fine.
He checks the time. Well past noon. Where the fuck was that old fart anyway? Weren’t they supposed to be running?
His stoner sense is tingling.
Something is amiss.
He throws on a shirt and steps out.
He takes note of a strange bike in the parking lot as he briskly strides down the walkway to Rocko’s room.
The curtains are drawn, but the light is on inside.
Rocko must have forgotten that the doors of this ancient motel aren’t the kind that lock automatically when they close.
Rezin likewise forgets to knock when he twists that knob and lets himself in.
Rocko is there, as expected. Standing in the center of the room.
Only there’s no cane in sight.
Pretty impressive for a man with a supposedly broken hip.
Someone else is there also.
Based on the leather jacket, the bandana, and the “1%” tattoo on his neck, one would assume he came in on the bike.
In Rocko’s arms is Rezin’s briefcase, wide open, filled with cash.
The biker has an open briefcase of his own.
Only his is filled with plastic-wrapped bricks of tawny powder.
It sure as shit ain’t brown sugar.
Awkward seconds pass while Daymon and his “guest” stand like deer in headlights, frozen in time while Rezin takes it all in.
Then it clicks.
“…what the FUCK!?”
Rocko tries to soften the situation with a friendly grin, but the former wrestler once billed as the Legend, the Myth, and the MAN has spent too many years scowling beneath the heavy weight of philosophical ruminations for any smile of his to come off as genuine.
“Hey Erik! Let’s… let’s just stay cool here for a minute, okay?”
Did he really just say “let’s”?
Did this fucker just use a CONTRACTION?!
“Fake. Ass. Piece. Of–”
The Escape Artist snags the cane, carelessly left leaning on the wall by the door, and walks further into the room.
The dealer, keen on the incipient signs of shit hitting the fan, briskly shuts the lid to his attaché and breezes by him on his way out the door. Scarce moments later, his Harley can be heard peeling out of the parking lot.
Then chaos fills guest room 101 at the Shoshone Inn.
Loud, violent, eruptive, beautiful chaos.
“Erik, let me explain–”
“YOU FRAUDULENT SONNOVA BISH!!”
Rocko jukes just as Rezin pounces. A table lamp shatters into dust beneath the head of the cane.
“YOU WERE NEVER SENT BY LINDSAY TROY!!”
Daymon eyes for the door, but Rezin rolls across the bed to cut him, swinging the cane at his head like a roided-out 90’s baseball slugger. Rocko ducks again, and the screen to the motel’s outdated tube television explodes.
“Goddamnit, Erik! Watch where you’re swinging–”
“IT WAS A SCAM FROM THE BEGINNING!!”
Rocko’s cane puts a gaping hole into the cheap plaster wall when he ducks another wild strike. His feet likewise nearly put a hole in the floor as he scampers through the doorway to the tiny bathroom and bolts the door behind him.
“AFTER ALL THE BULLSHIT YA PUT ME THROUGH, YA TRY TO RIPPING ME OFF FOR SMACK, YA JUNKIE FUCK!?!”
Rezin plants his heel against the knob, shattering the lock and kicking the door open. He sees Daymon’s feet slipping through the tiny window leading out back.
“GET BACK HERE, MOTHERFUCKER!! YOU CAN’T ESCAPE ME!!”
“Welcome to Dublin Gulch!”
The tour guide’s voice is high. Bubbly. Trying ever so hard to convey a sense of enthusiasm for her work.
Fat chance. Her small audience stares back at her like the walking dead.
There’s not many in this particular group. Which is understandable, given that outside of rocks, rusted cans, and several crudely made doorways leading into a shallow cliffside, there’s not much to see of Dublin Gulch.
Just another obscure plot of historic insignificance, an underground ghost town a quarter mile away from Shoshone.
“Behind me, you can see the remains of the underground caverns that served as the abodes to miners and railroad workers in the early twentieth century.”
She recites the trivial facts like it’s part of her programming, knowing the futility of it all. These people will wake up tomorrow and forget everything they’ve been told. They’re yokels from the Midwest, passing from the casinos of Vegas to the tourist traps along the coast.
“While never officially incorporated as a recognized settlement, these caves still had ever-changing groups of inhabitants well up until the nineteen-seventies. In fact, rumor has it, members of the notorious Manson… Family…”
She trails off when she spots the running man off in the distance. Going further into the desert.
“Sir!” she instinctively calls out. “Please remain with the group…”
Was he part of the original group? She couldn’t quite remember. Nor could she remember anybody carrying around a big metal briefcase like that.
Was this it? Was she seeing things? Did the years of monotony from working this pointless job finally cause her to crack?
No, not quite. But the night is still young.
The oncoming roar (purr?) of an electric motor shatters her confusion. Soon, it becomes apparent that he is not running into the desert, but away from something else.
Then IT comes lurching over the nearest dune. A vehicle. Too bulky for a golf-cart, too electric for a buggy.
And a crazy looking son of a whore behind the wheel, wailing like a banshee, barreling toward the tour group.
“YOOUU SOONNOOVVAAA BIIISSSHH!!!”
The mouth-breathers scatter like bowling pins when the UTV dauntlessly plows its way through them. Men curse. Women scream. Children cry. Seniors complain about their joints. A tour guide frantically tries to tell everyone to remain calm amid the tempestuous chaos.
Sweet, beautiful chaos.
One hand on the wheel and the other recklessly swinging the cane out the side, Rezin chases down Daymon in his own side-by-side. Screaming. Braying. Cackling. Leaving ever more ruin in his wake.
“I WANT MY MONEY, ROCKO!! GODDAMBIT, I WANT MY MONEY!!”
Rocko Daymon runs further into the desert. Very well for a man who was convincing everyone around him that he’s partly crippled for the past seven years.
Rezin has come to know Death Valley well over these past two months. He knows there’s nowhere for Daymon to go. There’s no logic to running further into the wasteland. And there’s certainly no escape.
But desperation drives desperate men to do desperate things.
Logic be dambed.
Barely two miles of futile scampering through the sand later, Daymon finally collapses.
Rezin puts the side-by-side into neutral. He brings the cane with him as he steps out and approaches his quarry.
Rocko’s hands go up, pleadingly.
“Erik, my God, please hear me out…”
Rezin keeps advancing.
“You motherfucker… here I was, believin’ all this talk about bringin’ out the best of myself…runnin’ through this fuckin’ desert day and night, thinkin’ it would pay off in some way and get me somewhere. But it was all bullshit, wasn’t it?”
Daymon trembles like a leaf. He doesn’t have to answer the question, because the guilt is plainly there on his face.
“Look, I know I fucked up here, okay?” he blubbers. “I admit it… I’m a fraud, and a coward, and whatever the hell else you want to call me. I fell back into the shit when I went back to New Orleans last year, found a connection out here in Nevada, and thought I could make something work, you know?”
Rezin stops when he’s close enough that his shadow falls over the dolorous retired vet, literally down on his knees.
“It was going to benefit all of us! I swear! I know it was a mistake to go behind your back, but please, Erik, you gotta understand… I got nothing here!”
“What about your wrestling school in Seattle?!”
“I SOLD IT to Sonny Silver!” wails the veteran wrestler, finally breaking down.
This actually came to Rezin as a bit of a surprise. Daymon was a notorious windbag, but that school had produced some damn fine talent in its short lifespan. Shame to discover it was now kaput.
“Kerry won’t talk to me! My own SON won’t talk to me! Erik I just need… five–no, SIX hundred dollars! Six-hundred and fifty dollars to just get myself by these next few months, and I SWEAR, you’ll never see me again!”
Rocko buries his face into Rezin’s feet, weeping uncontrollably.
The Escape Artist can only shake his head, seeing someone who at one time was considered a World Heavyweight Champion of wrestling reduced to such a level of depravity.
Fuck, man, at least I’m not THIS pathetic…
“Come on, get up.”
He extends his hand.
“Thank you, Erik. Thank you so much. God bless your so–”
Then comes the backhand.
Then comes the cane.
Then comes black.
Grumbling and grousing, Rocko Daymon is rustled up from the void.
He’s in the passenger seat of his Oldsmobile. Rezin is behind the wheel, but the car isn’t moving.
They’re in the city, parked at the curb outside of a large white building.
“Where are we?” he asks groggily, head still throbbing from the blow that put him out. Some time has passed, as it’s now night.
Rezin nods to the building. “Where ya need to be.”
Rocko turns in his seat and sees the sign out front.
LANDMARK RECOVERY OF LAS VEGAS
Rocko shrinks into his seat with defeat when the realization hits him.
Rezin sighs. He’s had enough of watching this bastard wallow in self-pity.
“What’s that stupid shit ya had painted on the wall of your place? Patience, progress, and whatever?”
“Patience, practice, and persi–”
“Whatever, I don’t care. Just go in there and prove it ain’t bullshit. Arright? The fact that I have to be the one that brings ya here is fuckin’ absurd. I got the title defense of my career at UltraViolence to be worryin’ about, and I don’t have time to be babysittin’ assholes. Hard enough just trynna manage myself.”
Daymon remains silent for a moment to think things over in his head. He nods. Nods again a beat later.
Then the door opens, and he exits. Ready to do what’s right.
Before Rezin can pull off, Rocko sticks his head back in through the window.
“Look, Erik… I really am sorry about everything. But I do want you to know… I wasn’t lying when I told you that you had the potential to be great. And you have every right to think it’s all bullshit, but… seriously. If you get anything out of this, I just hope you finally recognize your worth in that ring.”
“Whatever, asshole. It’s time for ya to fuck off outta my life.”
Rocko nods sullenly.
“I see… then farewell, Erik. And thank you. Good luck against SCOTT.”
Rocko pulls away and walks dolefully toward the rehab clinic. Rezin waits until he’s through the front door before pulling the Olds into gear and driving away.
“How does it feel to be hated, SCOTT?”
Sunrise in the desert. It’s vast and open.
A UTV pulls up to the end of a pathway to nowhere. Rezin steps out and surveys the horizon.
“It’s liberatin’, ain’t it?
“Like ya can finally just be yourself. Not havin’ to worry about the burden of the guilt. Not havin’ to give a fuck about the lives you ruin in your pursuit of fame and fortune.
“Feels a lot better to kick someone in the balls than to be kicked there yourself.
“Certainly felt that way for me years back, when the fans up and decided they didn’t care for me anymore.
“I embraced that hate. Indulged in it. Took delight in trollin’ anybuddy and errybuddy that crossed me.
“By the time I got to PRIME, though, felt like that shit had run its course.
“Still, after ten years of bein’ a shitlord, it’s hard to wash away all these stains.”
He takes a swig off a canteen, straps it to his belt, and… starts running.
“So it came as no surprise within my first few weeks here, someone from my past all but exposed me as a walking cliché. A relic of the past. Someone holding this sport back.
“He insinuated that my idea of PUNK ROCK isn’t the ‘right’ kinda PUNK ROCK. That I’m the GG Allin of wrestling. I’m the vulgar, toxic side of this industry that gives it a bad name. Remembered only for causin’ scenes and shittin’ my pants.
“Can’t say I blame the PRIMEverse for believin’ it. When I heard those words, it was hard not to believe in ‘em myself…
“It felt like there was nothing I could offer this place, other than another warm body in the ring. Likewise, it felt like there was nothing here that could be offered to me.
“Eventually, I began to feel like comin’ to PRIME was a mistake.
“But slinkin’ away in shame ain’t my idea of PUNK ROCK… so HERE I AM. Still.
“And lookin’ back, I see now that the real mistake was not believin’ in myself.”
Rezin runs. Still believing in this bullshit.
“Cause with a little bit of (ugh…) patience, practice, and perseverance, I eventually proved those words wrong.
“PRIME couldn’t help but see what I was puttin’ out there between the ropes. PRIME couldn’t ignore the blindin’ light of my inner fire, on display for the world to see whenever I was on that blue and white canvas.
“And in time, PRIME came to understand just what I mean when I say I’m the most PUNK ROCK wrestler in the industry.
“It ain’t just cause I wear black t-shirts and a patch vest.
“It ain’t cause I namedrop a bunch of bands to flex my trivial music knowledge.
“It ain’t cause I got kicked out of ANTIFA for being too much of a pyromaniacal badass.”
Rezin runs. Still observing this ritual.
“It’s walkin’ into hostile territory. Nobody at my back. Knowin’ the fans hate me… and management hates me twice more.
“It’s takin’ my hits in stride. Keepin’ my mouth shut when someone gives me good reason to keep it shut. Waitin’ for the opportunity to change hearts and minds in the ring, instead of gettin’ embroiled in catty little pissin’ matches on Jabber.
“It’s gettin’ back on my feet when I get knocked over. Never giving up. Never laying down. Fightin’ to my last fuckin’ breath. Gettin’ my ass kicked three times within a twenty-four hour period and still findin’ a way to peel my ass up and find the win.
“This is my way of doin’ things. THIS is the brand PUNK ROCK I bring to this sport.
“And it’s what I’m bringin’ with me to the ring at UltraViolence, SCOTT.”
Rezin runs. Still going nowhere. Still putting miles behind him.
“I wish I had given up my love for hate before I spat in your face, SCOTT.
“I wish I hadn’t opened that door and brought out the asshole inside you.
“I wish I hadn’t introduced you to your path of ruin.
“I can’t undo that mistake, and I’m gonna carry that guilt for a while.
“Be as it may, here we are. And you have only yourself to blame for continuing down that road.
“So enjoy it. For however long it lasts.
“I can tell ya from experience that nothing good will come from it.”
It’s sunset. Rezin walks the last few feet back to the UTV, leaving the desert behind him like another fallen opponent.
“I’m gonna level with ya here, bud…
“I’m livin’ in a weird time where a lot of people I used to look up to have been exposed as fuckin’ worthless frauds. I don’t know who to trust anymore. I don’t know who or what to believe in.
“So fuck it. I can still believe in myself.
“This ain’t about me trynna be my ‘best’ anymore.
“Cause now I know I don’t have to try.
“I know I’ll ALWAYS the best of what I am, one way or another.”
He hops behind the wheel and begins the voyage back to Shoshone.
He wonders if the diner is open. A slice of cherry pie would really hit the spot right now.
Fade to VOID.