Post by David Sanchez on Jan 8, 2017 20:54:44 GMT -5
IX: Ruby Tuesday
Iron rusts from disuse;
water loses its purity from stagnation…
even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.
Leonardo da Vinci
The Iron Price
French Polynesia, South Pacific Ocean.
Friday, March 13th, 1998
I remember the water most. The sea and the rain. - it always comes back to that.
Down it fell like the ricochet of tiny bullets.
Over, and over again. The rain had been falling for a fortnight, I recall a ship with purple sails - a big commercialised freight hauling motherfucker. It isn’t what you’re thinking, that cruise-liner, no this was a former military vessel; grey from mast to mast but for the solemn sparsity of purple in the ship’s sails. Victor had said it should take eighteen days to reach Alaska, if we were to avoid all known lines of sight between the U.S and Colombia, and this was an absolute must. We were to sail a route mapped through though South Pacific Ocean, passed Hawaii and French Polynesia before finally docking in the farthest state from home: Alaska. I recall the way he spoke of America most of all; his enthusiastic but hollow tones were akin to my own, even before they sealed my head in this iron tomb.
Here, I stand, Nanakia - The Man in the Iron Mask. Breaker of Chains...
I was free, or so the prisoners were led to believe. This too was vital if their little side project was to remain undetected. I don’t really blame him now, looking back; I understand now that sometimes people just need a little something to believe in. It was his ideas that won my heart. He had a very cunning aura to him; the man was a paradox and he shifted faces within himself depending on his company.
To most workers aboard the ship, he was courteous and distant. To those in tattered rags he was charitable, and to me - he was rapidly becoming the father I never had.
I barely broke breath for the first week. The prison was giving me nightmares and, in truth my quarters here weren’t too much better. Even my own room, which Victor described as being “spacious and comfortable compared to a hammock and a leaky pipe.” I guess I couldn’t complain, when I finally left my room on the fifth day for anything other than a bowel movement I learned to appreciate the little things I did have; like a ceiling for example. It was fucking wet everywhere, the moment I opened that door and stepped out into the new world I was soaked in both rain and perspective.
My internal monologue was talking in a terrified tone. Would they scream and flee? I had been a good looking man before this entire ordeal; I wondered if this somehow showed through the metal around my skull. Like that way that when people get old, you can still tell they’ve been attractive in their prime. I didn’t have a clue though, I hadn’t bothered to try. I believed they had made me into a monster, and now that was how I saw myself. Except, that they did not gasp and look at me with shock and raised alert. No, they were no better off than I.
It was a sideshow of disfigurement and mutilation. Amputees, abominations, purebred slaves. Human traffic of a very particular colour, I made no mistake. These too were people who had been spared the rod, perhaps they too were made an example of like I had been. Victims of circumstance. Other people who had been in the wrong place, at the wrong time. That’s exactly how it was with Castro though; I myself had only been arrested once. I say arrested but I don’t think these guys were cops; until Victor, they had all looked like bandits with halos of wicked thorn.
Being able to see the limits of the ship was alarming to me as I waded through the crowds of tortured natives, their bloodied rags and pained expressions followed me. Yet, they did not gasp in horror; these were my people now, the broken people. They seen me as God, the Iron Idol. I was Nanakia - The Man in the Iron Mask, infamy followed me now wherever this ship was docking. The one who had single handedly escaped from The Devil’s Throat; this was the apparent name of the little slice of paradise I’d been treated to.
That’s how the legend went anyway. We all know that’s not really the case; I was David, I was a twenty-one year old who had just endured more than any man could stand in three lifetimes, but as I looked around, I wasn’t alone. These were my brothers and sisters now and we were all of us, his children. It was the kids that got to me the most, there was maybe only three or four, but when rumor of my metal mouthpiece made it to their infant minds; only then was I truly a monster.
I never seen such terror again for twenty-three years: Sam thought it would be funny to let Kayden watch Salem’s Lot. I’d never seen it either but we endured and the kid was spooked senseless. They too looked petrified by my very presence. For a few days they had been brave, adventurous even. They would knock the door to my cabin and then flee before I could make it to the door - my injuries at the hands of the guards had me in a tremendous amount of pain for the majority of the journey.
This didn’t phase me - boys will be boys at the end of the day. Besides it’s not like there was a whole variety of amusements to keep their little moods lifted, and so I played along. Stomping my feet and growling; pretending to rush towards the door from inside my quarters and feeling a warming sense of compassion as they would giggle and scarper back to their mothers, fathers or strangers who had been given such roles - I wasn’t exactly sure of which was the actual case at this junction.
Here we were in the middle of the Pacific Ocean aboard this decommissioned military cargo liner, the waves hammering against the hull as the weather continued to have it’s way with us. Still these little tykes were finding ways to make mischief, even after the torture they’d suffered; all the gruesome things they’d seen. They knew me only in name then, and it wasn’t so much a name as it was an insult. Nanakia; it was a word the soldiers used for pests of a savage nature. That slur; it had stuck to me since my incarceration. Now it was my entire identity. It even came from the mouths of babes.
These children were classed as such only in appearance, the single digit number of years they had spent on this earth made longer by the depravity of what they had witnessed. These little men and that little lady were the ones that stopped me throwing myself overboard and into a turbine; but alas, sensibility and self-preservation prevailed. The very first day I ventured out turned into the first night and I spent the evening hours embracing the storm. Feeling the sound of splashing pitter-patter against the iron mask was haunting at first, but soon it soothed me and absolved my worries. In this echo chamber I could be alone, even when I was surrounded.
I listened to some of their stories and marveled in awe as they told me of their particular plights. - People who had their hands removed for stealing, a man who’d be castrated and sewn back up to live as a unic for committing adultery, and even the little girl who had simply be born at the wrong-time, a product of guards raping a woman in broad daylight and forcing her to keep the baby as a reminder of their time together, a walking scar. She was fifteen now going on thirty-three, and had been raised inside a prison not unlike mine. Her mother had killed herself the moment she knew the child would be safe; and safe she was with us, we were all proven survivors, and Victor our heroic leader.
Little Samantha beamed up at me, and saw through my welded mask of metal. She was so small. So pure and innocent. The only untainted specimen among us, and honestly, as weird as it seems. I fell in love with her on that day, in the middle of the ocean, even as a fifteen year old child looked back at me though those dazzling emerald eyes that had already seen so much. I didn’t know what Victor Saint wanted with this adorable creature but I knew it couldn’t be anything good, based on how I’d met this man and what little I knew of him. For some reason, my conscience was heavy here.
That was the first night he visited my quarters for an actual conversation too, I remember it word for word. I finally grew tired of the rain and the nausea from the choppy water at around nine in the evening, and after eating a cold can of condensed chicken soup I’d been given by another survivor I started to yawn for the first time in months. I hadn’t been able to in the Devil’s Throat; tiredness was a sign of weakness. Victor had given me some tips on the way that prison worked when first he visited my pit. I only wish he would have got there a month earlier, then I might not have been left a faceless metal monster.
“I see you’ve finally decided to venture out from behind your walls of solitude.”
“... and into the brave new world.”
He smiled at me with a hidden depth, and no real commitment showed through his chortle. As though he was still mulling something over in his mind as related to me. The rain was easing up a bit now, the drops which had previously been pelting against my cabin’s roof were now calm; few and far between. Victor looked glorious in his white suit with that ridiculous yellow tie. He looked so out of place, his shiny bald head making him look like Agent Fifty-Two, whilst we all resembled some spare-parts take on the Children of the Corn.
“I see you found your sense of humour.”
“No, but I’m learning to appreciate the little victories.”
Victor beamed at me again, this time offering me a cigarette; Lambert and Butler - a British smoke that I’d never sampled before.
With a click of his lighter, the cherry was orange and carbon monoxide poured out of my mouth. This time last year I wouldn’t have entertained the thought of a world where-in I’m a smoker; now I can’t imagine my life without the little, cancerous bastards.
“Like, oh I don’t know - the fact that I’m actually alive? That seems as good of a thing to be thankful for as any.”
This sentiment must have been news to his ears because it caused him to produce a dusty bottle of rum from inside of his buttoned jacket. The label was so water damaged and decayed that the particular brand was unidentifiable, but compared to the contaminated water I’d gotten used to as of late; it tasted like honey and magnificence. He took a swig himself, wiped the lip of the bottle and passed it to me as though we were equals. This was more courtesy than compliment I feared but nevertheless; it was what I needed at the time.
“You see, that’s what I love about mankind David; no matter how far we fall, there’s always an air of optimism available for a small price. You have seen death now, and you have brought it upon your fellow man in a bid to spare your own. Yet still, you fear dying. Even with nothing left to lose, here in the middle of the sea; a man with no name. Why is that I wonder?”
The rum was bittersweet, I could feel a warmth in my hands and temples already after one drain of the bottle. The aftertaste danced on my tongue, lingering like condensation on a frosty morning. He was never happy. He always wanted more.
“I don’t want to die as nothing, a nobody.”
I was honest with him, and myself for the first time in that moment.
He raises his glass to this point, and I smiled at him like the proverbial student and teacher cliche’ would suggest. The bottle graces my hands again. I’m lost in this moment, in that it was the first time I’d felt human in months, even if the glass did clink awkwardly against my haunting helmet, the thin slits in the iron allowing only the smallest measure of rum to actually enter my mouth.
“I want to be remembered. I want to be known.”
The alcohol stirs my ambitions into motion and suddenly, I’m less brittle. I’m alive. Hello world, good morning; it’s me, David - I’ve missed you.
“You feel you deserve this because you have paid the Iron Price. The ultimate cost for the ultimate reward.”
He was right. Ever since my punishment, this little hat of mine. I’d pretty much given up on living. I was feeling as though the world and its sister owed me something for nothing. Like; were I to die, the winds of karma would blow through the land and everything would somehow be wonderful once more. This it seems was not the case, as dying now would only grant me release, and for what? To die another nameless, halfcast casualty, washed up on a beach in French Polynesia - what a tragedy.
“I will be somebody one day. Somebody who matters, someone with people to mourn him and remember his life’s work. I won’t die on this ship. Fuck that noise. I’m a survivor.”
Where the hell was this sudden optimism stemming from? It was too soon for the drink to be behind it, and I was quite certain I hadn’t eaten any mysterious berries lately. Call me crazy, but sitting there in that little sardine can sized cabin with Victor, floating on that useless hunk of scrap metal. I felt somehow humbled and liberated. Like the old me had to die in order to become the new me. Or some of that caterpillar/butterfly nonsense. Victor drank back another mouthful and waited for me to finish before he addressed this new found lease on life I had adopted.
“The things I’ve endured, the things I’ve done - they make me different, they make us all different. We’re not like them anymore, are we?”
“Son, You have paid for whatever you go on to achieve in this life with something more valuable than diamonds. You have paid with your soul, your innocence, your moral compass. You have held death in your hands and embraced it as an estranged lover, not some beast to be feared. You have paid in blood, paid in sinew, paid in tears of pain and sorrow.”
He was really hitting me hard with this empowerment speech, was Victor. And even though we were just sitting on that steel bed-frame, our legs dangling carelessly so that our feet hung just above the puddle of water that was forming on the floor at the door where the seal was not quite intact in this old ship. Despite the aesthetics and all that waited for us behind the door; the rain, the pain and the plethora of broken-but-beating hearts. We were relaxed.
“The Iron Price… I think I get it now.”
He studied me up and down once more, smacking his lips together to enhance the spirit’s flavour.
“You don’t, but you will soon.”
I don’t know why, but this was the first time I ever cared to ask.
“Victor… Where do we go now? We don’t belong in society.”
A moment passes and the rum is handed to me once more. I drink some back, returning the bottle just as he leans in and wraps his arms behind my back, hugging me close. What seems awkward at first, soon feels like warmth. The rain continues to fall against the tin cabin. I count the drips until he lets me go.
"The streets outside the arena last night, shit... they were trashy as fuck, - and the people on them were twice the ticket at half the bill. Those kinds of people with dirty faces in dirtier shirts. The ones your mother always advised you to avoid even though you thought you knew better. It was just some Southern piece of shit peckerwood camp in the middle of the wilderness. The sort of town that the recently terminated Thomas Bates would probably have referred to as a throwback to when the world was white and wonderful. Why the fuck we even work house shows in these sewers with state-flags I'll never know. What do you think?
The prisoner tests his restraints and attempts to lash out at his captor, feeling only the cold iron which keeps him cuffed and chained to the wall’s support beams. Once more the hose is sprayed at this hispanic youth, a lad of perhaps only nineteen whose only known crime was fitting a stereotype. Cold water blasts against his naked flesh, feeling like a million tiny blades cutting through his skin, or a vat of acid being slowly poured over his body.
"No opinion on the matter huh? Not a problem, I’ll do the talking. A mild case of speechlessness is normal in this situation. It was pretty cagey out there for a minute you know, I forget how quick you little tribal fuckers get all feisty when your ass gets backed in a corner. That’s not on you though, it’s my fault. I guess I’ve not been paying as much attention lately, these are exciting times for me after-all..."
The water forms vapour that dances a sweet foxtrot on the cool night air creeping in through a lone window. It wasn’t much, but it allowed the slightest of draft to vents
the workshop when it was quiet. Quiet like it was tonight, when he could let his passenger out to play. His shadow-self flexed and looked up at moon, that hungry, slutty moon in all her glory, she was almost begging him to do it already. He was daydreaming, it was sad but hostage situations were becoming a bit dull since he entered politics. The gangbanger’s agonised screams bring him crashing down from the clouds with a sharp and decisive thud however, and he stammers onwards, ranting in his usual expressionless tone.
"That kind of thing can't ever happen again now, do you understand that? What you are doing, it's stupid. It is essentially trying to fight against nature's law. You’re on the wrong side of the fence on this one son, and this is your only chance to rectify that fact. MS-13, the tattoos, the leather jackets, the arson - it lies here in an unmarked grave, never to be disturbed. It's just not an acceptable vocation for a young man, and nor is it a wise one."
The two guards in their pristine black uniforms and tinted visors begin to reel the firehose back in now, satisfied that the prisoner is now awake. Stepping out of the corner, David removes the mask of Nanakia from his face with a slight struggle; the iron clasps had rusted slightly over time, making it a minor mission to take it on and off. The Mayor lights a cigarette, exhaling the smoke in the young man’s general direction; as if to try and kill him slowly through passive smoking.
"Kid I'm hoping for your sake it all comes down to a few stupid choices, or being led around the wrong corner by some shady types. Whatever caused you to wind up where you have, you have that to thank for the situation you find yourself in at this minute. All of that though? Is simple semantics. - The point is, that after this; you don't get to go back to how it was before, you won’t even want to, nobody ever does after they pay the toll..."
David pulls the man's face close to his, so close that the fluid on their respective retinas almost touch in a brief moment of sympathetic observation in which Sanchez scans his prey from eyelash to toenail; taking it all in, assessing it and shrugging his presence off before taking another generous drag from his Marlboro Red.
"That you, I’m happy to report... is all but dead now. R.I.P - degenerate drain on society. Thankfully we hardly fuckin' knew yee."
His teeth still chatter too much for his first attempt to reply to be understood, enamel clashing against itself at an alarming, hypothermic rate. Something about a knife, his Spanish wasn’t what it used to be either so this is all David can grasp. Regardless, the young MS-13 foot soldier tries to compose himself as the icy water drips from his flesh, leaving only goosebumps and raised hairs behind.
"'MS-13 is going to fuck you up gringo, just wait."
A laugh escapes David’s mouth, although he is able to stifle it rather swiftly as it only serves to enrage his involuntary guest; this would not do. If he had learned anything from Victor it was that you can catch more flies with honey than you would with vinegar. The wisdom he had attained over the years fueling him, he shifts his lips into what passes as a smile in his world and acknowledges the first words his new found friend has uttered.
"Charming too? Quite the little catch. No wonder the old man likes you. He's always given me a sort of Paedophiles in the Catholic church vibe. Anyway, good morning sleepyhead, how was the first night of the rest of your life?”
Davis pauses now, and with a tilt of his chin his facial features soften. Now, he is that friendly face on the billboards around Chicago - David Sanchez, friend of mother earth. A glorious beacon of light in an otherwise dark and depressing world. His pearly whites shimmer under the fluorescent tubes inside the stripl lighting. It was that sparkling Hollywood smile that was only available to those who could afford it.
The youth spat, the translucent wad of saliva hitting his captor in the face.
"You ess muerte.. Muerte!"
For some reason, the Mayor's complexion grows softer once more, even as he blots the spit from the trimmed and tidy stubble upon his chiselled jawline with a silk handkerchief bearing a Burberry pattern that he then discards after considering the contamination implications if he was to keep this item.
"I'm far from dead young man. I'm very much alive and prospering, and I fully intend to keep it that way. Life... after-all can be fleeting, or so I've heard."
He smiles for effect, that sultry serpent's tongue lashing his lips, sharpening his jagged words like sword on stone.
"So what do you remember about before padre? Bend my ear.”
The man fights against his chains once more, the pardoning of his need to resemble a reasonable human being, a moment of subtle beauty. He pisses in the direction of David who in turn sidesteps the arced stream gracefully before driving a left hook into the young man’s kidneys. Disgusted, Sanchez picks up the dropped handkerchief from before and wipes equal parts piss and ice water from his fist; all the while cursing under his breath.
“Yous a sneaky motherfucker ese’... you were tailing us?”
David looks offended, more so than when the man had outright tried to piss on his fine suit, or worse the rusted iron mask he now carried. This item from his past he now held in front of him, ensnared by its lure, a siren’s call that only he could hear, but for how long? Could others share in this divine experience?
“Well, to be fair. You were doing the same, weren’t you? Following me around, taking notes, you’re working for the old dude! He sent you to kill me. I already know…”
“He sent us to scout you! Fucking psycho!... For a wrestling match.. Where is Ricky anyway? Ricky! Ri...”
Clarity; the eagle has landed. David chokes as he exhales the smoke once more, this time he can’t control it though, he just laughs for a minute, maybe longer before finally straightening up, lifting the five pound iron mask onto his captive’s cranium and tightening the clasps. The man shouts, kicks, and screams - but is ultimately powerless to Sanchez who acts flawlessly, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up as he hears the mask buckling shut.
“Snug.. isn’t it?”
He isn’t laughing now. He’s shouting, and then without warning he kicks the man in the head, his Italian leather shoe doing practically nothing against the iron headgear. The restrained man in the iron mask no longer fights, he no longer needs to. He knows and he accepts that his time has come.
“... Just fucking kill me.”
“Tell me what you know about the old man, and I’ll let you fight for your freedom. One fight, one opponent - a complete random, nobody you’ll know…”
For some reason, he thought this to be a choice and even went as far as to object.
“I won’t fight for you.”
A courageous display of morals.
“Bare knuckles, ‘til death or stoppage. Last man standing gets to leave in one piece. How does that sound champ?”
Staying true to his outburst he defiantly holds his ironclad head high once more.
“I won’t fight. Just fucking shoot me. I won’t do it.”
“You will die slowly then. In chains and on your knees until my dogs get hungry enough to see you as a snack.”
Sanchez leans in closer, his breath was reeking of scotch and butter-mints. The man can feels his arms weightless by his side - the restraints now severed.
“Wait!.. I’ll tell you whatever you want to know about him!”
“Him? Gravedigger? I already know everything that ever he ever did with his miserable little life. I just wanted to see if I could break you - Your friend already talked like he had tourettes. This… this isn’t optional. It’s fate. You don’t have to fight for me, but if you don’t defend yourself then you’ll certainly die for me.”
He lunges forwards, kicking the man in the gut before applying a choke, unfastening the iron mask as he does so before ripping it from Pedro’s skull, once more exposing the youth’s hardened but still softening complexion, stupid teardrop tattoos and all.
“The fight starts when the cage door opens. If you’re not going to defend yourself then I suggest you pray to whatever deity appeals to your type.”
He cries out, but it doesn’t really get given all too much camera time. Instead what we see is David releasing the choke before extinguishing his cigarette on the captive MS-13 members cheek. With the iron mask of Nanakia cradled in his grip, he leaves - the cell remaining open as a new figure marches forwards from the shadows, his head concealed entirely in a burlap sack with eyeholes.
It was time to face the music, Goodbye Ruby Tuesday by the Rolling Stones plays somewhere in the background, as it always did in his head on these occasions. Sanchez clicks his fingers to the rhythm of the song as he brushes shoulders with the second combatant on his way out of what was soon to become his arena.
These little events always brought out his jovial side…
A Hearse for Hector.
I don’t bother shaving on Wednesdays. Never have, and never will. It’s strange how we develop habits over time. Learned behaviours are everywhere in my life; everything I do - I do to appear normal. This routine was nothing more - so when I lifted the razor this morning, seemingly on auto-pilot, it got me to thinking.
What causes us to differ from the day-to-day and delve into unfamiliar territory? Furthermore why after burning our hands on this proverbial hot iron time and time again do we continue to grab at it? This bothers me so much that I phone City Hollow and push my appointments until tomorrow. Chicago could run itself for a day surely, I had philosophy to ponder.
It’s everywhere around us. People abandoning their mundane schedules to try something new. Dead are the days where people could be classified or stereotyped based on their appearances, or even their lifestyles. I decide to sit at the bar for a while, hitting channel up on the remote control so many times that I can’t even enjoy the twelve year old Balvenie in my tumbler.
Static. Lies. Reality TV. Lies. Tennis. Static. Gameshow. Lies... I might as well have been channel-surfing in a puddle.
Still this thought bothers me as I swirl the glass so that the ice cubes clink against the crystal. I used to hate noise, but lately with so many voices floating around, it was becoming a bit of a comfort. My thoughts drifted to Friday, and the fight I’d been waiting for since first I’d crossed paths with ole’ Gravedigger. I wasn’t worried, call it anxious if anything.
For a few days I’d been trying to record a video package for submission to no avail. Something, anything; just three minutes of calling him a relic would suffice. Yet, until now… I couldn’t get started. It was only when I realized that I could possibly twat two birds with one rock that I immediately set my Samsung on its side atop the mahogany bar in front of me and started to record a promo in my dining room. My choice of attire? A
A grey fur housecoat my ‘guise of choice. I think it was made from seal pups - so I’m still waiting to hear from PETA.
“Here… sits… David… Sanchez.”
One more swirl of the glass for effect before I talk to this cunt in that tone and pace you keep for your grandparents.
“So I’m upstairs going through this fucking timeless dossier of information that a scout put together for me on Gravedigger. This shit could have been sold in monthly installments like an encyclopedia, man. I don’t even know where to start here, is that how you’ve gotten to where you are? Everybody just straight cuts their throat whilst trying to work through the decades of useless information on your weathered ass? You get the win by technicality, or forfeit?
I’m not going to lie, a part of me wishes that I’d thought of that shit. So for that you have my attention. The way you conduct yourself though, is a joke; John. At forty-one you can only find it in your dick to get it up what… Once a year? Am I meant to feel special?... I’ve been asking for this match since two-thousand fifteen.
So, you come back and attack me at One, and again on Slam; but during the latter - that’s when you fuck up. You finally decided to grace me with an actual match; that was your first mistake, and something tells me it will lead to your downfall. You might have came off looking like a pussy for turning a blind eye to my challenge, but at least you’d be alive to deny it, like those arson charges and that affair with Rick Mad.
I’m not even sure if that whole firebombing thing wasn’t just the set-up to a six minute excuse-filled vignette this week where you tell us that; regretfully you can’t make it to XIII because you’ve been arrested or some shit.
I can smell your pussy from here John, and it reeks of fear, salt and vagisil. You’re going to be far too upset that you shit bed and couldn’t get it up for Flash. So, like a fumbling virgin you’re going to get your dick stuck in your zipper when it comes down to the brass again with me on Friday.
It’s common among men in your age-group though, Borroughs - don’t threat. Shit if happened to Pele’ it could happen to us all. I’d find that a lot funnier if I wasn’t thirty-seven myself. So yeah, that’s probably quite enough hating on you purely for being old before it comes back to bite me in the ass and I need two Viagra to stay hard long enough to strangle a whole hooker.”
I sip some scotch from my glass, but unfortunately - the anti-depressants clear the clouds for a moment and I remember my philosophical query for John. I was just starting to get into gear as well; it was a shame. I really wanted to know what it was like sucking Seth’s dick for so many years just to be tossed aside to the indys for forming an opinion; and then to come crawling back. That must have been sore on the knees, and the soul in stereo.
“I have a question. It’s something I can’t quite get my head around if I’m honest but it’s something that’s been eating at me since you stepped into the ring with Jared last year. Dick move by the way, but I digress… Shit, maybe even longer than that actually if I’m honest, but we’re not going to get hung up on the when and where; what really matters is the why? Why-oh-why do you keep coming back into the ring and taking a stand? Surely by now you must know that you are becoming your own undoing.
Maybe I’m just being one dimensional, like I lack the perspective required to see the full picture or something but to me, all you seem to be doing is rubbing a giant eraser across your legacy. For as long as I’ve been working with the WCF, you’ve been a vital cog in the machine; a legend, part-of-the-ship, part-of-the-crew. Yet every single time you see fit to lace up your boots; all that ends up happening is another part of your illustrious career is left Sitting on the Dock of the Bay, waiting for a ship that never comes. All the while Otis Reading cries and Playing for Change makes the alleged original and best, seem like the faulty prototype.
I guess I’m probably starting to ask questions above my paygrade. I think that walks hand in hand with a certain measure of success though. Wouldn’t you say so John? I mean, I’m talking to the master of juggling too many balls here after-all. You’ve never just been happy to keep a steady commentary income coming into the Borroughs household, have you? Those Hall of Famer credentials are now a distant memory; a forgotten friend from middle school who shows up on your doorstep after ten years to flaunt his success, and that’s all you see now when you watch those tapes. The old you might as well be a different person entirely. You’re always looking for the next exploit, a way to regain what you lost. The next hot commodity that waltzes through the revolving doors of talent, but lately. Lately - you seem to have developed a mild case of one’s eyes being bigger than their belly.”
I pause and stare around at my empty parlour. It was still difficult; not seeing Kayden playing with his toys in the corner as Sam busies herself with some fashion endeavour that she’ll ultimately give up on and join me at the bar. I missed here, even if she was a flake. There were some things that I’d lost in my life which could never be replaced. Kayden; shit I probably had hundreds of kids - it only hurt because of how much he reminded me of her. My wife though? This loss had left a scar that would never heal.
There was no lego now, no happy family to provide a contrasting backdrop to my sinister internal monologue; just fractured memories - Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground. Something Jack White could be proud of. Funnily enough; on the contrary though I don’t think if I could just see her pretty face, anything would be any different. In truth I was dead behind the eyes long before she met her maker.
“The thing is John - other people see this as you desperately trying to hold on to the past - unable to accept that you just can’t cut shapes with the class of today. But me? I can feel what’s happening to you in my fucking bones. This shit does get harder to do, I can only imagine the toll it’s taken on a big lug like you. Knee problems? Forget about it. We all grow old, and we all die John - sooner or later you’re going to have to accept this fact and start picking out your own burial plot.”
I seen what you did with Jared on South Street, and I seen what you and those MS-13 teabaggers tried to do to Joey last week. I’m not an idiot John - far fucking from it. I might be the one that’s walking into an ambush; but you’re the one who’s walking with a skip in your step, right into your own unmarked grave.
You want to talk about Power like it’s something you still have. Settle down sunshine, you don’t even matter anymore…”
I gulp down the last of the booze; that watery bit at the bottom of the glass that’s mostly melted ice.
“... and just to prove that to you John. I’m going to beat you in the smallest venue, on the smallest stage, when it doesn’t even matter to anybody watching. - Right where you belong now. Right where you belonged from the beginning - in a fucking bingo hall.”
My phone flashes that it has low battery and so I hit stop; a mental note made to edit this shit before I submitted it.
Don't question why she needs to be so free
She'll tell you it's the only way to be
She just can't be chained
To a life where nothings gained
And nothings lost, at such a cost
Goodbye Ruby Tuesday
Who could hang a name on you?
Ricky had sung so easily and for so long; with such conviction that I’d almost considered just leaving visiting Pedro altogether. His willingness to abandon hope endeared him to me. But, yet... It always left me feeling satisfied when I broke a man’s spirit and so I danced that same old tango I tangled with each and every time some poor souls wound up down here, ringing my dinner-bell.
Still that whole ordeal with the mask now seemed a little pointless, it was part of the routine though, and so many of my family had been born this way. The mask picks the person, it talks to some people, to others it is mute. There was no need to tell Pedro the truth, his blood brother had already told me everything I needed to know about John Borroughs and his merry band of mongos and mancattle. Now all that was left to do was watch nature take it’s course. To watch one of these MS-13 stragglers die and rise from the ashes as a new and improved specimen.
He marched past me and thanked me like a son to a father after a life-lesson earned. Lie I had to Victor all those years ago. He nuzzled the hand that had given him the tools to feed.
“Do I really have to kill him?”
Ricky enquired with compassion lacing every syllable.
I replied, giving my best fake smile and trying to ignore the mask’s siren call.
I couldn’t put it any nicer than it was; rules were rules.
“On if you want this place to be your womb... or your tomb.”
Something clicked inside him, the same way it did in me back in that prison. The two former gang members were tossed into the makeshift arena; a concrete room no bigger than a managerial office. Pedro pleaded, but it fell on Ricky’s deaf ears. He’d been hearing his life skipping tracks on monotone for sixty minutes now. Ricky had left the building Goodbye Ruby Tuesday, he was all but one of us now.
I shouted so loud that the sound of Ricky popping Pedro’s arm out of socket went by relatively unnoticed. It didn’t matter anyway; he had spoken to me now. Neither man could allowed anyway. Ricky choked his friend still, and still the body of Pedro became.
“I said stop!”
Just as the last breath made to escape Pedro’s lungs, I had the guards spray them with freezing cold water once more for good measure. Soaking them, separating them and ultimately sparing them both death and rebirth.
My passenger had seen enough; the show was over. All animals back in their cages. I heard him speak loud and clear; his voice resonating from the mask I knew was mocking me.
“Take them to the Sanctuary, the good doctor begs at my door for a few new subjects.”
Danco could make good use of these men, I had other matters to attend to, and a reputation to uphold. Image, above all else is everything I have come to rely on. Bodies were messy - police, reporters, forensics; none of these types I could afford to entertain with my life being so closely scrutinized by the public.
So they would go to the good doctor, and he would would do with them what he does. Sew things here and there, open the skull like a coconut; move a few things around, plant an idea or two and seal them back up. Repurposed as fully functional and entirely agreeable slaves. I only had one thought left now; the man himself.
Gravedigger; John, he wasn’t going to care that two nameless, faceless crew members went missing. Why the fuck would he? Gangbangers went missing all the time, it was a big wide world out there with teeth like you’ve never known.
This motherfucker man,
just won't shut up will you?
Talk about I owe you?
Bitch you owe me!
I'm promoting you right now,
man lets put the nail in his coffin
“The night is dark John, and full of fucking terrors you could only imagine.”
I stroke the cat; Sinn. She had somehow managed to claim the arm of this particular couch as her own over the years. I wasn’t even a cat person if I was honest, they had been part and parcel with Sam though. Still I had them fed, and looked after - felines liked me for some reason. Dogs on the other other hand, they barked whenever I crossed their path. I think they could sense him there; my passenger.
It’s dark outside; probably not as dark as my tone would suggest but I’d finally caught up on Game of Thrones and that phrase was stuck in my head. She purrs in my lap, this pussycat; her head nuzzling into the cuff of my sports jacket. The fire was getting low, I could feel the Chicago wind creeping into the stately mansion I’d taken residence in; it’s former owner, the ex-city treasurer still mysteriously missing to this very day.
Sinn stirs as I get to my feet and circles the leather arm, meowing in the hopes that I either return soon or with sardines.
“John-boy it’s been lovely finally getting to spend some time up close and personal with you lately. Honestly it’s been an eye opener. When first I tried to get a match with you - people looked at me like I’d just challenged Achilles to a duel. Now they’re giving me distasteful remarks and frowning on me for supposedly victimising a legend in this sport? This man is a fucking criminal - he’s the bad guy here; not me. I’m the fucking hero in this dynamic so nut the fuck up and choke it back
When I wanted this match a year ago, in all honesty I thought I could beat you and use the victory to launch my career; I don’t even need to tell you that. So, again now after stepping into politics. - I understand why we never got that match. - Seth had to keep you safe, keep you pristine and boxed so that it nuked the fuck out of people’s nostalgia when you finally did come back to active competition. Not a lot of things have changed since I left but I’ve definitely got a better understanding of how this all works. The familiarities to politics are astounding really.
Except, you didn’t come back to make me look good did you? You came back and jobbed to Jared; eating a bottle of champagne and a poxy piledriver like the glutton you are. So when you came back this time, you couldn’t help yourself could you? You had to get that one more little dig in there; jobbing to Joey too. What the fuck is this shit, do I even exist? Am I talking to my fucking self? Someone book this fucking match before he starts selling his asshole to Sebastian Knight or Ethan King.
Finally we got to set our date though, and I for one couldn’t be happier. The thought of taking you out to pasture in the middle of nowhere and ending your suffering with a single bullet is much more appealing to me than doing it in front of ten, or twenty thousand people. Too many cooks, as they; will spoil the broth. I have trouble enjoying the moment with the prying eye of onlookers in their swarms. So what we have at XIII, suits me perfectly. A fitting place to bury your miserable career in an open casket. Body-bagged by a Brazilian on an iPPV only available on the WCF Network; RIP you wily old dickhead. Enjoy retirement, again.”
I thought of ending it here.
“The stupid thing I keep coming back to is how much you remind me of my furry friend over there.”
I gesture towards Sinn; the jet black cat who flexes her balloon knot looking hole right on cue. With a poker I stir the embers and a small flame bursts into life. I place a log front and centre; returning to my proverbial throne with a gentle clap of my feline friend who purrs and rubs up against my fragile fucking hands, apparently approving of my homemaking skills.
Apparently I wasn’t done talking. I knew what was coming, but I’d been trying to fight the curiosity; not wanting to sound like I was repeating myself. Fuck, it was only Gravedigger though, it’s not like I was going to struggle. I could afford myself this treat. The fireplace roared now and I felt the warmth reach my seat and lift my mood a little. With a tilt of my chin I spoke once more, this time in a softer tone; I liked cats after-all.
“Are you a pussy Gravedigger?”
I smiled a guilty grin, like a child caught talking to his imaginary friend.
“I won’t tell anyone, it’s okay you can trust me.”
Sinn lets out a louder purr; and I mumble something in babytalk. Her green eyes meet mine, and for a moment I’m lost.
“John, the reason I mention this is purely a product of my eccentricities. I get something in my head and I just have to put it out there. Sometimes it’s a blessing; and sadly yes, it often proves to be a curse.”
She bats her paw at my hand and I’m back. Emerald green eyes, it didn’t matter what they belonged to - would forever be my true Medusa’s Touch.
“They say a cat has nine lives, and I ask how many do you possess? If we count matches where you’ve done the job and rubbed up some flavour of the month chump like Flash, or Jared, yes even me.”
They remind me of…
The collar, her fucking phone number was still on Sinn’s collar. I gulp heavily and remove the suede necklace from her nape. Stuffing Sam’s digits into my pocket before I try to continue on as though nothing has happened.
“You sell your rub in this industry to the highest bidder; it just so happens that finally I’ve earned enough of this fucking Disney currency we use around here to be that guy. Good times for me, but not so good for you. Now assume the position, it’s time to use another of those nine lives. It’s time to die so that I can live. Don’t worry though John, there’s always a seat next to Freddy Woah for you. Lord knows you’ve fucking earned that much rope. Nobody’s going to blame you when you finally see fit to hang yourself with it.”
I sigh and sign-off with a wink and a blown kiss. It was feeding time. Not for me of course; I’d already had my oats. Now it was time to let the passenger feed. To do his bidding.
L O S T ?
I close my eyes, and immediately my face melts into my hands.
“It’s time David.”
Jack had spoken and my world had ceased to exist.
The darkness eats me alive.
Suddenly, I see him.
He smiles at me, but says nothing.
The blood is back, it’s everywhere.
He dies in front of me.
A neat slice forming across his throat as all the blood rushes back into his neck in reverse.
A neat slice forming across his throat as all the blood rushes back into his neck in reverse.
I’m laughing now, only. This laughter was not mine.
I blink and I’m alive again, but where am I?
There’s so much sand here. Wherever here is?
L O S T ?