A LINK BETWEEN WORLDS

A LINK BETWEEN WORLDS

Posted on October 26, 2022 at 8:20 pm by Conor Fuse

The halls, narrow. The roof, tall. The lights, dim. Some flicker on and off. I’ve walked through this place before, a few times. The loud buzz of the radiator, even though it’s always so cold here. When you’re inside this structure, you’re a prisoner in many different ways.

They scream for me as I walk through. My enemies; my Rogues’ Gallery. There’s the man with the big cowboy hat and large frame sneering at me as I creep by his two-way window. The hockey goon shoots pucks into an open net holding a stick wrapped in barbed wire. The eGG man is back, writing dead baby jokes with chalk on the side of his wall, a measuring tape at the soles of his feet. I can only imagine what he’s been trying to ‘measure’. The milkman also resides. Perhaps I’ll see him soon as we have eyed each other every time I pass his cage. I know a further interaction is inevitable. Make no mistake, there are empty lots, too. A walk by the next prison cell last year at this time and I might have heard a heh or two. Now? Nothing. Even the Best dungeon has no son or grandson committed.

The guard leads me through the mayhem. Many of the inmates are too busy doing their own thing but then I arrive at the room I’ve been yearning for. The 64-bit rendering shows a muscular arm and pectoral muscle, the picture frame was too small to fit his whole body.

“Surprised he isn’t playing volleyball or the guitar,” I turn to the guard and say with a chuckle.

“Inmates only receive an hour of activity a day,” he replies, not realizing my comment was tongue in cheek.

“But he…” The guard nods in the direction of the cell. “He hasn’t been out for a couple of weeks. Grounded, on bad behaviour.”

You’re telling me.

I slowly creep to the stained glass and peer inside. The nameplate is a given, if the picture wasn’t a give away itself. This cell is harder to look inside than the others but as I squint closely, I can see a volleyball laying on the floor. Vaseline… opened, tipped over, gel spilling out. Of course, I see the dumbbells. So many. A rowing machine. Treadmill. Elliptical. Resistance bands. The room is flooded with equipment. There’s also protein supplements. An exercise mat. A Bowflex PR3000. Yeah, I work out too, ya know.

“Jesus…” I can’t help but mutter to myself. I see what looks to be an outline of a box of syringes. I’m sure there’s a lot more shit I haven’t located. And yet, I can’t find the biggest item in the room.

My opponent.

Maybe he’s buried under his blankets or something. I’m sure he needs rest. I speak up anyway, assuming he’s there.

“So it’s you and I in a couple of weeks. Boy, that was a fun lil’ message Choi put out for you.” I hope he can catch my sarcasm, the dude is practically brain dead. “You’re a funny guy, eh? Well the comedy stopped when you tried to fuck with my friend and attempted to make me look stupid.”

I tap on the glass.

“Do you know what you’re getting into? That’s not rhetoric, it’s an actual question. Because I walked into High Octane in a similar situation years ago.” I allude to the shit scattered across the power lifter’s floor. “I doused myself in video games. Still do. If you were visiting my cell in some exotic steroid induced dream, I’d have a PlayStation, at least five Nintendo Switch Lites, one for every colour. Yes, even the pink Switch, I don’t discriminate. I’d have a shelf for the old school Nintendo Power magazines. Real vintage shit. But my cell would change over time. It wouldn’t merely be a video game playground because I received a couple of rude awakenings in this land. I had to level up and realize I couldn’t only be the cute, adorable little scamp I was meant to be. I had to be something on top of a one trick pony.”

I’d like to think two World Championship reigns would speak for that but in wrestling, you have to continue to prove your worth, particularly when new blood arrives. You can’t be complacent or rely on the past to speak for your current disposition.

And I don’t intend to.

I’ll evolve.

“This isn’t a simple match,” I continue into the glass. “It’s not only about my friend and what you did to her. It’s not squarely about whose side you’re on, either. It’s also not about me versus you.”

A chill runs down my spine. It’s hard and fast, it’s practically crippling.

“This is Rumble at the Rock.”

My hard dose of reality. Twice.

“Alcatraz.”

My heart races. My head feels light. I’m driven back into the times where I have failed… really failed.

My eyes scan the cell again. I see CHOI’S STORY written on a poster and taped to the edge of the wall. Five points, all false, stupid, nonsensical ramblings of an idiot who doesn’t know what awaits his talent. And I have my doubts ‘the talent’ knows what awaits him, either.

“Yeah, sure, you’re bigger than me. You manhandled me. From behind. A blindsiding, post match attack. And yeah, you’re talented. Very talented. Because of your physical stature, you can handle a lot of damage.”

I’d roll up my sleeves if I was wearing any.

“Take on me, dickbag. Face-to-face, man-to-man and throw the funny shit aside. Try to knock me out, drag me out…”

I spin to the open hallway and scream into it for the other inmates to hear.

“BECAUSE EVERYONE HAS TRIED BUT COULDN’T.”

This is my world, Stronk. I’m the vet now. I’m the bar to press, not with weights on the end of it, no. An actual skilled, talented wrestler.

Sit behind your glass, wait for your turn in line, then jump into the ring with me, get your ass handed to you and go directly back to this cell where you belong.

It’s my High Octane Asylum, Stronk.

It’s my HOW. World Title or not, I am its gatekeeper.

“You have no idea,” I scowl. “All caps STRONK GODSON won’t save you, bud. The Board. Squats. Deadlifts. Arm curls. One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three… oh, it’s a deep burn, you can barely lift your right arm because you did so many.

Nice little Anchorman reference for ya, funny guy.

“Anything you can fucking think of, it won’t save you from Alcatraz, Stronk.”

Nothing will.

— — — — —

October 30th, 2021.

Empty. The entire building has been evacuated.

Except for seven men.

A referee. A couple of camera guys. Two friends who’d show up later for social support. Plus a challenger and its champion.

Even the announcers work remotely.

Never in a year’s time would I consider myself on this level. The big castle, the end boss… as definitive of an end boss as you can get because the man in front of me murdered a good friend of his the year prior, in the name of creating a legacy. It worked. An event of that magnitude lives in eternity.

I know Alcatraz is no joke. I faced my first hardship in this building and therefore, this penitentiary has lived rent free in my head for a full calendar year and it’s about to go another round if I don’t up the ante and push myself further.

He’s killed, I have only killed from a graphical sense. A Finish Him to me means the sprite on the other end of the screen is wobbling back and forth.

No. Tonight I have to be on the top of my game and even then…

Pray for a miracle.

We battle, I don’t back down. He nails my hands to a cross for “fall” number one, I fight through the physical and psychological pain, electrocuting the arrogant egomaniac for “fall” number two. We move to the roof of the building, I consider throwing him off. The fight is tense, it’s the hardest battle of my career. Like I knew it would be. As I envisioned.

With every move, I etch my place in the High Octane timeline as a legitimate threat and no longer the video game n00b I’ve been known for. I thought this happened long ago when I put my hero out to pasture, followed by caving the skull in of the son who’s dad was murdered on these grounds last year.

I recognize I’m not giving specific names. I don’t think formalities have to be mentioned but just for the sake of the story… the GOD among me… Mike Best… is beyond comprehensible.

Finally, I knock him down. The rubber match isn’t via crucifixion or electrocution, it’s a straight up pin or submission.

As wrestling should be.

In an environment conveying anything but.

With the greatest wrestler HOW has ever seen, I collect my thoughts and charge with a well timed, Weapon Getted knee.

That misses.

I sprawl into the ropes, spin around and-

BAM!

— — — — —

October 30th, 2021. Maybe October 31st, 2021. I’m not sure TBH.

“I didn’t do it, huh?” It takes me a minute to open my eyes. I’m staring directly into the stars, back on the mat, head spinning. I had no business asking this question. As if my position and pain isn’t absolutely clear.

My older brother, Tyler, rests in a corner of the ring. I assume he was waiting for me to come to.

Gone is #97, away is the referee and the newly crowned champion. His best friend isn’t present, either. The cameras are off, the broadcast has ended. I’m left to pick up the pieces and two blood-gushing palms in my wake.

I sit up, albeit slowly. Eyeing my brother, I can tell he’s proud of me and wants to say something… but he doesn’t have the skills to put those thoughts into words. I guess it’s a gesture in itself to have waited and not left with the others, even if we are blood related. I wouldn’t have blamed him if he fled, though.

My eyes now wander the rest of my surroundings. The canvas has spots of blood, the rest of the environment is swarmed into a darkness. I’ve been out for a long, long time.

“I can’t compete at this level, Tyler,” I mumble, hopefully soft enough he doesn’t hear. Then I realize with silence in the air, it’s hard not to have heard the quietest of whispers so I continue on. “Mike destroyed me. Alcatraz has brought me down again.”

You know I almost quit a year ago, after Jatt Starr was the first person to put me in my place. I walked into this building completely overwhelmed. The screaming of inmates, the rabid fans watching. Jatt, too, made me bleed. He cracked my skull open. To be honest, I don’t think I lost more blood in my career than that night.

And this time, my heart breaks even more. I found success, the TOP of the world and it was taken away from me almost immediately.

“Buddy, there will be other days,” Tyler mentions, still seated in the corner of the ring as I rest on a knee. “You can’t give up now. Not after what you’ve accomplished.”

Yes I can. I can do whatever the hell I want.

“It’s over,” I exclaim, shaking my head. “I should’ve walked away after Jatt.”

Tyler is having none of it. He stands from the corner and marches over.

“If you walked away when Jatt beat you, what type of gamer is that? What time of noble wrestler would you be? You’d have never been pushed to the brink of War Games… or challenged for the World Title after. Never overcame Cancer Jiles or Jack Harmen. Never made these fans cheer your name or be World Champion.”

Tyler’s shadow looms over me. And I said he didn’t have the skills for a statement like this.

“Never had The Prodigal Son come back FOR you.”

But I’m in no mood to hear it.

“You’ve accomplished more than half this roster could dream of in ONE YEAR.”

Whatever.

He offers me his hand. Reluctantly, I reach out and he pulls me to his level. Face-to-face, I can see the passion in his eyes as he tries to get through to me.

“But I’ll tell you what…” Tyler’s facial expression changes. He doesn’t sugarcoat things so I doubt he would now when I’m feeling significantly down and out. “You didn’t go for the kill. You got cute. You did your typical Weapon Steal Move Shit, or whatever you call it…”

Weapon Get, Tyler. It’s not hard to understand.

“You failed to have the attitude required,” he continues. “You’re right, HOW is tough and to be the World Champion is the toughest test to endure. But I’ve watched you on the outside now for a few years and I have paid close attention to the Lee Best World.”

Tyler opens his arms to my surroundings.

“This place is different. You’re not ready for Alcatraz.”

A point we can both agree on.

“Tell me how you won the World Title to begin with, Conor?” Tyler asks.

“Well, I beat Sutler Reynolds-Kael for it-”

“No, tell me how you won it,” Tyler cuts me off with a sigh. “I don’t care who you beat. That’s meaningless.”

Okay. I give a shrug and play along.

“I won by knockout.”

“Knockout?”

“Yeah, knockout.”

Tyler shakes his head no. “You won by pummeling another man until he was unconscious. You went to a dark place.”

“Yeah, I Weapon Got-”

“No!” Tyler cuts me off again. “I don’t care who’s move you stole or why you stole it. The fact of the matter is what you DID. And the ref called the bell or else you would have committed murder.”

He stops and allows me space to think things through before picking up again.

“As for tonight… yes, you electrocuted somebody. I’ll give you that. But then, when you had Mike on the ropes… when you had a LEGITIMATE chance to get it done… you caved.”

Again, silence.

“And you went back to the ‘mid-level Conor Fuse’.”

Tyler changes his demeanor from hard nosed, to his attempt at a lighthearted moment by patting me on the shoulder.

“You can do this. You can ‘play’ at this level.” He looks at the blood stained canvas and then scans my busted palms. “But you have to go to an unknown place.”

I take another look at the spot I was pinned, where I lost the World Title.

“At least to be successful in Alcatraz you have to go further than you would like,” Tyler adds.

I know my brother’s words are important but right now a sense of depression builds inside of me and I can’t grasp his narrative. I can’t reach that depth.

I smile and nod to Tyler. Under my own power, I exit the ring and we make our way out of Alcatraz. I know I’ll revisit this day when I can. Not anytime soon, however. This loss will haunt me for decades.

— — — — —

“Ready?”

To be honest, I’ve never known how to answer that question. Giving my arms a shrug, I follow him down the dark lit stairs and into the basement. Narrow halls, tall roof, dim lighting.

“We’re not too far off,” he reminds me while I stick close by and take in the surroundings. We continue through the desolate hallway as a buzz of the radiator rumbles in an otherwise silent space. Perhaps a year ago this environment would rattle me but I’ve come to terms with it. My hands don’t waiver, my mind is clear and focused. My muscles are as relaxed as could possibly be.

I need this.

“Here we are,” he states as we arrive at the ominous dwell in front of me. “Set up to exact specifications.”

“Thank you,” I reply, boldly walking into the space, ready for what it’s about to provide me.

“The room will be padlocked, as you wished. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will come down at your required times. Are you sure you don’t want a safe word?”

I feel my eyes roll. “No, man. I don’t want any of that shit. Lock me in and throw away the key, okay?”

He rolls his eyes in return. “Okay.”

“And under no circumstances do you let me out until the 29th.”

“Okay.”

“Because I have a flight to catch at night.”

“Okay.”

“And a match to win the next day.”

“Okay.”

He closes the cell door and then I hear a turn of the key.

“You’re locked away,” he announces.

“Thank you.”

Giving a nod, he exits to where we came from.

“Oh and Walt?” I raise my voice, hoping he isn’t out of an ear shot. With his hearing gone to shit, it’s a 50/50 chance he doesn’t register a thing.

“Yes, Conor?” To my surprise he does hear me and approaches the front of the cell.

“Thanks for putting me up in the Dearness boiler room,” I remark. “Helping me construct this whole prison and whatnot. I need to spend two weeks here.”

Walter tells me this is no problem.

Voluntary solitary confinement.

“That’ll be all, Walter,” I declare as the old man nods and carefully makes his way out of sight through the dark lit boiler room. “I’ll see you when it’s dinner time.”

In the past, HOW wrestlers have been forcefully locked away for two weeks or more, subscribed to only their thoughts… and then they are released upon the Rumble in Alcatraz. While this isn’t Alcatraz, or my High Octane Asylum (HOA) dream sequence, it’s still sufficient. A dungeon by my own hand. A cell to which I will be the prisoner.

They said in order to prepare for his Joker role, Heath Ledger locked himself in a hotel room for months on end, emerging only after he ‘lost his mind’, finding AIDS hilarious. Well, this is no hotel room and I am no clown character. But I’m certainly planning to take apart a clown character.

And give him the real, fucking sobering welcome to High Octane he deserves. The one he hasn’t experienced yet. The welcome everybody eventually goes through.

Only now am I able to understand Tyler’s pep talk, the rant he made to me at the end of last year’s RATR. In order to succeed on the highest level possible and push myself to the absolute top of the mountain again, Conor Fuse, The Video Game Kid, The Vintage, The Power-Up King, The Ultimate Gamer or whatever bullshit moniker I give myself… to be the most feared and successful wrestler in this organization…

I have to go beyond my boundaries.

I have to be willing to take a life.

Actually, not figuratively.

Doesn’t mean I will take a life. But it means I have to mentally get there. Full blown, no distractions. When my opponent is down, I ain’t looking to Weapon Get a move.

I’m looking to Weapon Get a soul.

Stronk, this isn’t just about Bobbie. Seriously… it’s not even a personal grudge.

It goes beyond your funny demeanor or quaint little jabs by your henchmen.

This is Alcatraz. It is the world that’s cost me so much, the land that humbled Conor Fuse and forced me to contemplate my abilities. The environment which placed me on my back and ripped the heart out from my chest. The event I am not cut out for. The show I can’t seem to win.

But I promise you Stronk… this time I am going to beat it.

I am going to beat you.

No pins or submissions. A drag out, a knock down. A match where I can’t simply hit a move in order to win.

Beyond a crucifix or electrocution. Past a smashing headbutt. 

I have to do something drastic. Go to a place I haven’t.

Find a new depth; channel a different psyche. Not only defeat the mammoth muscular freak, fucking humble him and make him rethink his entire existence. This is my task, this will be my outcome.

You will feel what I have already, Stronk Godson.

Now excuse me until I find AIDS hilarious…