They say that when you die, you’re life flashes before your eyes. In a split second, Shane became definitive proof that that was true. What they don’t tell you is, that among all the gleeful and glum glimpses of the past, you also see the future. If you still have one that is. Thankfully for Shane, it turned out that he still did. And what he saw in that future brought a smile to his face. As a result, he immediately became eager to return to his body. Unfortunately, whatever entity governed the rules of the universe opted to make him wait for what felt like an eternity.
As such, he was forced to watch in a ghostly fashion as his body succumbed to the morphine overdose. He watched still as the ambulance arrived and loaded him onboard. He travelled with the paramedics and Riley as they went to the hospital. And he sat in the bedside chair as his body lay in a coma for three days and three nights. In that time, Shane’s spirit tried anything and everything to wake himself up. He yelled in his ears and tried to pull his eyelids open. He even climbed onto the bed and tried to lay back inside the body. Nothing worked and there was only so many times he walked the halls – enjoying the misery that permeated the facility and spying on people in showers.
“Come on!” Shane again yelled, having exhausted every option he could think of. “We have a World Championship to win!”
That was when Shane’s spirit or consciousness or hallucination of his slumbering mind, whatever you wanna call it, felt a painful tug. Instinctively, he tried to fight it, but then, realising, allowed the force to take him. He pulled him sharply back into his body, the eyes of which suddenly opened. He his winced against the bright light overhead and his throat felt like sandpaper.
“Master?” Riley’s familiar voice called.
Shane turned his eyes, a sharp ache still gripping his head and keeping it in place.
“Where am I?” Shane managed to say in a strained whisper.
“You’re in the hospital,” Riley said, clearly hesitating over what she wanted to say next. “And it’s all my fault!”
Riley bowed her head, pressing it against Shane’s leg under the bedsheets. Like Shane’s ghost, she had been these past few days waiting and fretting over Shane’s eventually reawakening. After all, it had been her secretly dosing him that had led to him taking way too much. Riley had expected punishment, admonishment, revenge – all of which would have come in the form of severe pain. It never came, however. Catching her by surprise, Shane’s hand fell against her head gently rather than vicious. His fingers delivered strokes of her bright red hair rather than backhanded slaps elsewhere.
“No,” Shane countered hoarsely. “It’s my fault!”
Riley turned her eyes back towards his face, glaring out from beneath the mask with a glint of curiously blazing within them.
“I should have told you I was still taking it,” Shane continued. “You’ve earned that level of trust. Besides, what’s happened needed to happen.”
“What do you mean?” Riley asked, curiosity still raging.
“I mean that I forgive you!” Shane answered, pausing as Riley audibly gasped at those most unexpected of words. “And that we have a lot of work to do!”
Where time had previously moved achingly slow, the next two weeks passed like a blur. During that time, Shane had fully embraced his vision of the future – and his newfound purpose – with insane determination. He had moved his begrudging followers out of the asylum they’d called home for over a year and into a disused church somewhere in Miami, Florida. That, after all, was where he believed the next stage of his destiny would take place. It was the doors to this very church that Shane approached via the concrete steps leading up to it. At the top, he took a deep breath and pushed open the large, double oak doors.
Shane was greeted with the warm air rushing out from within, carrying the sharp scent of incense with it. It also brought the sound of the organ playing melodically as a disciple named Rorschach expertly worked the keys. The rest of his followers filled out the pews, their heads bowed as their lord and savior made his entrance. Pulling the doors closed behind him, Shane made his way down the central aisle. He wore his usual wrestling attire and mask, but both were now accompanied by a black, ceremonial robe. The hood hung around his masked face as he slowly put one boot in front of the other.
“Praise by Shane Reynolds,” he could hear several of his followers muttering into their clasped hands. “The patron saint of HOW! The vessel of the everyman!”
Shane had expected some resistance to his new approach, but his flock had taken to it like a duck to water. In fact, he had even accrued several new followers since his speech against Charles De Lacy. New followers which had passionately subscribed to his new ideology and agreed with his hatred of the British elite invading their shores and industries. Shane wondered if she was how it felt to be Christopher America, though he remained determined to take such mentalities to a whole new level.
“Blessed be Shane Reynolds, the warrior of all” he heard more followers utter in prayer tones. “Cursed be Charles De Lacy, the blasphemer of
Shane’s thoughts briefly drifted to Charles De Lacy. He had expected some kind of response or retaliation for the attack Shane had perpetrated upon him. But there had been nothing. Like a cowardly worm, he had slithered back beneath whatever rock he had originally emerged from. Did that mean he’d emerge this week? Would he target him during his own match with Xander Azula, a literally eye for an eye? Shane had no idea. Nor could he allow himself to be distracted. After all, he had attacked De Lacy after a loss and he refused to lose to such as Xander Azula. He had to be prepared on both fronts and could not let his guard to drop even for a second.
“My children,” Shane intoned loudly as he reached the front of the church. He ascended the steps to the throne that had been erected there, turning to greet everybody in attendance with his arms outstretched on either side. “Today is a blessed day!”
Shane pulls his hands together and clasps together himself as he slowly sits down. His throne is seemingly carved out of a block of marble and looks not dissimilar from the Iron Throne in Game of Thrones. Shane waits for the cacophony of praise to subside by a few decibels.
“As you all know,” Shane continued. “Our focus of late has been on the one known as Charles De Lacy!”
A torrent of boos suddenly rises up from the gathering of followers and then rains down in endless torrents. The analogy is a fitting one given how Shane views High Octane Wrestling as a storm to be survived and conquered. Shane, again, waits for the reaction to subside.
“Unfortunately for us,” Shane yet again carries on. “Charles De Lacy has vanished like this coward that he is. He may believe himself to be descended from William the Conqueror but he is nothing but a worm. And, like a worm, he has slithered back under the rock he was conceived. For a while, I thought we should chase him – make him pay for his cowardice. But no…”
Shane chose to let that declaration hang in the air for a few moments before continuing.
“What we are going to do is send him a message. And not just any message but the most brutal message possible.”
The excitement that suddenly rose up within the masses Shane had accumulated. Though they didn’t give specific voice to it.
“And we are going to do that through one Xander Azula,” Shane concluded. “Now, granted, his name doesn’t carry with it the same weight as Charles De Lacy, but it will have to do. Fate has willed it so.”
Shane’s thoughts were once again pulled the vision he had experienced during his near-death experience. The crux of the image had been he, Shane Reynolds, with the World Championship wrapped around his waist. That image was, as far as Shane was concerned, was the only reason he was alive. He knew his tenure in High Octane Wrestling was to be short-lived, but he knew it couldn’t possibly end without holding the World Championship once last time. And, as much as it sounded silly and foolish to believe, defeating Charles De Lacy was a stepping stone towards that goal. But, before that…
“Xander Azula is an inevitable step on my inevitable journey!” Shane pushed on. “If I somehow lose to him this Sunday night, we may as well kiss that aforementioned dream goodbye. After all, he’s a jobber. He’s somebody that has only won 2 matches out of the last 13. That, for those that can’t do the match, means that he has lost 11 matches. We need to make it 12…or else. Or else I will not be fit enough to hold the World Championship going forward!!!”
Shane suddenly pressed his hand down on the arms of the throne and pushed himself back up to his feet. Each of his follower’s heads turned to follow him, even as they remained on their knees among the rows of pews. Riley, however, stood up alongside Shane, as befitting his designated right hand.
“You and I both know that this is my last run in High Octane Wrestling. And you equally know that which has been prophesized. The HOW World Championship will be back around my waist before that run is concluded. But until that day comes, I need to keep proving my salt. And that starts with a rank nobody called Xander Azula…”
The amassed crowd of followers immediately begin booing at the sound of his next opponent’s name. Shane smirks beneath his mask, soaking in the aggression and contempt.
“Exactly! I have no idea who this man is and I don’t care,” Shane eventually carried on. “The only thing I know about him is that he wears a Satan tattoo on his chest. And, as far as I am concerned, that is tantamount to blasphemy. You all know what I experienced recently and the crossroads I found myself at. And, at that crossroads, I gave my soul over to the Lord of Darkness that I might be restored and put back on a path towards the World Championship.”
Shane ran his eyes over the crowd, making sure he hadn’t lost any of them with his new found religious rhetoric. It didn’t seem as though he had. Nonetheless, he knew he had to build his speech back towards those who may doubt, thus keeping them in the fold.
“Now, I obviously can’t get away with flaying such a blasphemous tattoo from Xander’s body during the match,” Shane said, kicking off such conversion of the potential doubters. “But I can make an example out of him none the less. I can beat him in a fashion so dramatic that Charles De Lacy – coward that he is – can’t ignore. That Conor Fuse can’t ignore. That the lord almighty Lee Best himself can’t ignore. I can crush Xander Azula with such fury and skill that none of them, and none of the audience in attendance, can doubt that, outside of Michael Best, I am truly the best there is within High Octane Wrestling.”
Shane’s smirk widened beneath his mask.
“And that’s what I am going to do,” Shane continued, building towards the conclusion of his sermon. “But I am not going to crush Xander Azula just for myself. Not just to push myself up into the top three of the rankings. Not just to prove myself worthy of the World title contendership. But for each and every one of you.”
Shane pointed as several of his followers in turn.
“I wasn’t lying when I said that I was the patron saint of the everyman. For each of you that strived in service of others – as plumbers and waiters and gardeners – I will beat the hell out of Xander Azula for each and every one you. For every fan of High Octane Wrestling who works their ass off for a ticket, I’ll work my ass off this Sunday to give you not only a hell of a show but the kind of violent beating you haven’t seen within HOW in years.”
Every single member of the amassed congregation suddenly rose to their feet and began cheering. Shane once again held his arms out to the side, embracing and absorbing every single iota of the favorable reaction. Swiftly, the cheers turned into a chant of Shane Reynolds own name.
“Let’s show Charles De Lacy and the rest of the roster just what kind of hell they have in store when they face off against me in that ring!”
Shane’s words fuelled the cheers and chants on to fever pitch. Shane continued to absorb it with a smirk as he and Riley exchanged a knowing glance. A brand-new era had finally begun…