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What did you do today, Darin?
You eat a little sandwich? Watch a little TV? Rub one out in the shower? I mean, I hope the answer is “trained my ass off for the most important fight of my life”, because anything less is personal and professional suicide, but truth be told I don’t really care and it doesn’t really matter. This is just a little foreplay where I pretend to give a fuck about you before I stick it in and tell you what *I* did today.
And boy, it’s a big one, kiddo.
I hope you took our little fireside chat seriously, but the way. I know you’ve found yourself a couple of good trainers this week, and got yourself from help. Next time, though, maybe enlist the assistance of someone who can hold my fucking jock, not just someone who can’t help but ride it. You’re definitely learning to talk the talk, but we’re just a few days from finding out if you can back it up– you getting nervous? Not me. See, this is what I do for a living. I push motherfuckers like you bring me their best, because I’m at my best when the pressure is on.
Though I admit, you got to me for a minute there.
You made me pull out a big gun and go nuclear. Once again, fucking kudos to you, Darin. You almost had me shook. Almost got into my head, and that shit is usually Fort Knox when it comes to mind games. “I am the one who knocks”, and all that. You had me really believing for a second that maybe Darin Zion was going to fuck up a whole pay-per-view main event, but I’m cool now. I shook it off. I’m feeling good. And do you know why, Darin? Do you want to know what *I* did today?
I became a God.
“What do you mean it’s not a bestseller?”
The dark bags under his eyes are the only color in the face of the HOW World Champion, as his slack jaw swings beneath his nose like a hanged man. The voice on the other side of the phone is droning on with legalese, but he’s only absorbing about half of it.
As usual, Michael Best has fucked up.
He sits cross-legged on the floor in the middle of his office, which is about the only open space for him to sit. Surrounding him on all sides, cardboard boxes are stacked halfway to the ceiling, making him look more like a toddler in a box fort than one of the most notorious professional wrestlers on the planet.
“I don’t get it.” Michael grumbles, starting out into the sea of boxes. “I’ve sold a lot of fucking books. How many people are even buying fucking books in 2020? I should be number one. Double number one. Fucking S-tier.”
And he should know how many books he’s sold.
The boxes surrounding the champion aren’t his personal belongings— ninety nine percent of his possessions burned up in the fire that destroyed his townhome in July. Memorabilia? Gone. Clothing and electronics? Gone. Replacement selfie blankets that hadn’t already been burned by Lindsay Troy? Well, they’re burned now, for sure. Essentially, much like Jesus himself, the Son of God was now living bereft of material possessions— all he’d been left with was his gear bag from the trunk, and by proxy, the HOW World Championship.
Oh, and exactly five thousand and one copies of his book.
The precise number of books sales needed to be eligible for the New York Times Bestseller list, and all it had cost him was a wallet-wrenching one hundred forty nine thousand, nine hundred seventy nine dollar and ninety nine cents. A year and a quarter’s salary investment in getting a special gold seal on the bottom corner of his autobiography, “I KNEED JESUS” (available now via THE HOAX!).
A gold seal he apparently wasn’t actually eligible for.
“The fuck is a diverse sale?!” he roars, shooting up to his feet amidst Fort Autobiography. “What, not enough fucking black people bought my book? I WANT MY GODDAMNED GOLD SEAL, DICKHEAD. I SPENT A LOT OF FUCKING MONEY!”
By all measurable metrics, his book was destined to fail– not only had it been panned by critics for the very same newspaper that publishes the list, but it turns out that you can’t buy your way onto it in the first place. Diversity of sale isn’t about the race of the purchaser, as the voice on the phone explains very condescendingly to him– it’s about diversity of retailers, diversity of geography, and diversity of… you know what? It’s pretty fucking simple. You can’t buy five thousand and one copies of your own book and make the New York Times Bestseller List.
It seems like pretty common sense info.
And yet somehow, the man who never learns from his mistakes had done what he always does— he assumed that if he wanted it badly enough, he’d be able to get it with as little work as possible. As the trucks had rolled into his office at The HOAX one by one, he’d quietly celebrated exactly how clever he’d been, patting himself on the back at the prospect of adding yet another title onto his list of accomplishments: Michael Lee Best, New York Times Bestselling Author.
Instead, he was the General of Fort Autobiography.
“I mean,” the Son of God blinks, blankly. “Obviously you’re fired. You have to know that, right? Your whole job was to make sure that I didn’t fuck this up. You KNOW I can’t be held responsible for my own actions.”
The voice on the other side of the phone is perturbed. He’s probably trying to plead for his job. Maybe even sobbing. Michael isn’t quite sure, because he is not at all invested in this person as a human being, and he’s already moved on to trying to figure out what to do with five thousand and one copies of his book. Another failure, in a long line of them, that had begun to make Michael Lee Best question whether or not he’d ever been a success in the first place. His return to action in 2019 hadn’t exactly been the heroic resurrection of a legend– it was more like the pathetic last ditch effort of a man who had nothing else to contribute to the world.
And it wasn’t just the shitty book.
SixTime Academy had been a flop, let’s just call a spade a spade. Sure, he’d been making enough to keep the lights on, but in an era where every fucking wrestler has a wrestling school, he was running on margins that had turned his accountant into a parkour specialist. The HOAX was already bleeding money, which was bound to happen when you release nineteen new products every week to a fan base that gets smaller every year. His habits were costing him more than he was bringing in, he didn’t have a place to live, and at the tender age of thirty three, the closest thing he had to show for a relationship was an on-again off-again exchange of orgasms with a menopausal Amazonian who stood a full two inches taller than him.
But hey, he wrestles real good, right?
The sounds from the other side of the phone sound like yelling, now— this suddenly former employee is obviously dealing with his firing via all twelve steps of grief in a very short time.
“Hey, hold on.” Michael interrupts the diatribe. “Before you pack up your desk, do you know anyone who collects books? Like, not a bunch of different books. Like a lot of the SAME book.”
There is silence on the other end, and then a click.
“Yeah,” the champion sighs, putting his hands on his hips. “Seems about right.”
“Come on, motherfucker. Think.”
His knuckles white against the counter of the hotel bathroom, Michael Lee Best stares at his own reflection in the mirror– the sides of his head are freshly shorn down to the skin, while what appears to be a tinfoil yarmulka tightly covers the rest of long, uncut hair. It’s an annoying ceremony that must be done every couple of days, but then, you know what the Bible says:
Kneesus dyes for your sins.
He slowly peels the foil back, carefully exposing the new coat of platinum beneath. He smirks at his own reflection in the mirror, as he turns to both sides and admires himself. Nothing says “this guy fucks” like a John Wick henchman haircut died up like a Backstreet Boy, and he can practically smell all the pussy he’s going to get– call him Nostril-damus.
That’s a good fucking joke, show it some respect.
“Fucking critics.” the smirk falls off his face, as he stares into the mirror. “Nobody fucking understands me.”
Well, nobody but Cecilworth, anyway.
Even that relationship was in danger of becoming strained, as of late— for as much as the bee eff effs did indeed subscribe to the “4 lyfe” component of that phrase, there are only so many ways to share a small hotel room before eventually, someone needs to have a wank. And after the incident at the McDonald’s around the corner two days ago, it would be awhile before the Son of God was welcome to rub one out in their bathroom again.
“You almost done in there buddy?” Cecil calls out, from the bedroom. And the living room. And the kitchen. It’s all the same room.
He wasn’t almost done.
It takes a lot more work than most people realize, to really look like you don’t give a fuck what you look like. The time hours sunk into hair dying, selfie jacket making, and obnoxious t-shirt designing could be a full time job in and of itself, were it not just one small facet of who Michael had become. He eyes the trimmer next to the bottle of bleach, deciding whether or not it’s worth the time and effort to have another letter “M” in the center of his beard.
God, how pathetic.
All of this dogshit was fun, back when he actually didn’t care what people thought of him. It had almost become his brand, as of late– being the most hated man in the room wasn’t so bad if you could convince yourself that it was because you’d willed it yourself. Maybe it was what gave him such a soft spot for Darin in the first place– he wasn’t kidding when he said he saw a lot of himself in Zion. That cringe-inducing optimism he has, that “someday everyone was going to like him” hit a little bit too close to home for the Son of God. The death of that optimism was the thing that helped to create Michael Best in the first place, and maybe a small part of him hoped he could do the same for Darin.
Kill him, to make him stronger.
“Yeah, buddy.” Michael shouts back, the frown lines growing across his lips. “Almost done.”
Begrudgingly, the HOW World Champion gathers his various grooming implements with a swoop of his arm, shoveling them over the edge of the counter and into a cheap looking travel bag. As important as it is for the champion to keep up appearances, there is a lot more weighing on Michael Lee Best than beard art, at the moment.
The weight of five thousand fucking books.
“Okay, it’s just…” Cecilworth goes on, trying to remain polite. “It’s been an hour, buddy. And I don’t mean to be difficult with you, but you know… really need to have a poo.”
The Son of God grits his teeth.
“I gotcha, buddy.” he closes his eyes, taking a deep breath. “All yours. Poo away.”
As Michael turns to exit the bathroom, he practically runs right into the HOW LSD Champion, who is standing directly in the doorway now– he shifts about from his left foot to his right, doing the immediately recognizable “gotta shit shuffle” in an effort to not shit himself right there on the spot. They awkwardly juke left and right at the same time, continuing to get each other’s way before finally Cecilworth is able to slip past into the bathroom.
In desperation, the door slams behind him.
“I THINK WE NEED A HOUSE.” Cecilworth shouts, over the noise of the bathroom fan.
At least it cuts the tension. A baffled grin spreads over the face of the Son of God, as he shakes his head and plops his ass down onto the closest twin bed. Yes, they’re sleeping on twin fucking beds. HOW’s two most prestigious– and currently only— singles champions, sleeping in matching twin beds at the kind of place that ‘leaves the light on for you”.
“YEAH, NO SHIT.” Michael laughs, shouting back. “YOU GOT HOUSE MONEY? CAUSE OTHERWISE WE’RE MOVING INTO FORT AUTOBIOGRAPHY.”
The silence that follows is a knowing one. Two best friends, caught in their own perilous financial circumstances, doing the best that they can— for Cecilworth, the rejection of his inheritance, and for Michael, the delusion of his own aspirations. One hundred fifty thousand dollars on a failure of an autobiography– the hubris is so incredible that he’s almost impressed by it. Maybe it doesn’t sound like a lot of money to some folks in the professional wrestling industry, but it’s a lot of fucking money to a man who was dogshit at saving it in the first place. He’d lost his entire savings on a fucking gamble, because at the end of the day, it was just like he’d told Zion– you can yourself whatever you want, but it doesn’t change who you are.
And Mike Best is a degenerate fucking gambler.
It’s been worse than this before, but at least he was still young enough to look at it as a learning experience. When he was living out of his car in the old days, he could close his eyes and think about how some day, it would all be worth it. How someday, his name would be up in lights and he’d be doing backflips into pools full of gold coins, like Scrooge Goddamned McDuck. A whole lot of comforting thoughts of “someday”– and then “someday” came.
Both men are quiet, seeming to reflect on the decisions that put them where they are today.
A loud plop in the toilet.
Nevermind, he’s just shitting.
“IT’S TOO BAD YOU’RE NOT ACTUALLY JESUS.” Farthington strains from his porcelain throne. “WATER INTO WINE AND ALL THAT. COULD JUST TURN THE BLOODY BOOKS BACK INTO MONEY.”
They are perhaps the most dangerous words ever uttered.
Michael’s ears perk up, like a dog who has just heard his master slam the car door in the driveway. In that moment, all the tension of the last few weeks seems to melt away— it’s as though he remembers what made them such a good team in the first place. Even as Cecilworth Farthington clearly works to destroy their only shared bathroom, he feels nothing but grateful for his best friend.
This was the answer to their problems.
Turn the books back into money… just like Jesus.
“BUDDY,” Michael grins. “YOU’RE A FUCKING GENIUS. I GOTTA RUN, ENJOY YOUR POO.”
A decade ago, he’d set about creating his magnum opus, and it fell apart in his hands. He’d worked so hard to compile it all together– doctrine and history, congregation and services. But one thing had been missing. One thing had left him incomplete. One thing had left him unofficial, but more importantly, one thing had kept him from being tax exempt– he didn’t have a sacred text.
But he sure as fuck had one now.
Five thousand and one copies of it, in fact.
In a rush, the Son of God snatches his wallet and keys off the shared dresser by the television. He beelines for the mediocre door of the mediocre hotel room, in the most mediocre part of Chicago.
Ten years ago, Mike Polowy fell through the floor of the Roman Coliseum, and it spawned a movement that could have taken over the entire fucking city of Chicago. They had worshipped him as a God, and the only mistake he’d made is that he’d believed it too. He believed that he could help people. He believed that he could make a difference, and he drank his own Kool-Aid. The world had accepted ChristPlow with open arms, and he’d been too young and too stupid to accept their open wallets, too. But he’s not so young and stupid, anymore.
High Octane fans are rabidly fucking loyal to their own.
This was the answer to everything. The money, the adulation, the fucking hero worship. And on top of stuffing his bank account so full of cash that he’ll have to move it offshore, it will do the one thing that’s perhaps more important than any of it– it will show the fucking Minister that anything he can do, Mike can do better.
“HAVE FUN.” Cecilworth grunts, plopping another load into the bowl. “WHERE YOU OFF TO JUST NOW?”
Hanging in the doorway, Michael doesn’t yell back this time. His words are quiet, but inspired.
Everything is going to be okay.
“Buddy… I’m starting a fucking religion.”
It was a lot easier than you’d think.
Apotheosis… the glorification of a subject to the divine level. In theology, it is the idea that a human being has been raised to the status of a god. I’m sure a guy like you, who has assuredly Googled whether or not Elmer’s glue is non-toxic for humans, isn’t willing to get lost in the weeds in religion any deeper than “Jesus cries when I masturbate”, so let just give you the basics, Darin: I went on my own version of the Heroes Journey, and I didn’t even have to climb a fucking mountain to do it.
All I needed was a credit card on file.
You think that you know what it means to be a loser, don’t you? I can assure you that you don’t. Not being the HOW World Champion doesn’t make you a loser. Not being in the Hall of Fame doesn’t make you a loser. Shit, LOSING doesn’t actually make you a loser, Darin.
It just makes you not special.
It makes you average. It makes you like the rest of them. Maybe that’s why deep down, everyone loves you so much— you make them feel like if you can do it, maybe they can do it, too. It’s the quality you have that gives you the ability to succeed in this business no matter what, and to get the crowd behind you no matter what. Because when you’re out in the ring, you make them believe that if they want it badly enough, and try hard enough, that someday they can do it too. You’re a feel good kind of wrestler, man. You’ll have a long career in the middle with that attitude, and there are worse places to be.
Me? I haven’t been so fortunate.
It’s because I’m special, Darin. It’s because I’m not average, and I’m not like them. And it’s why deep down, they hate me so much. It’s why, at the end of the day, everyone roots for me to fail. People will buy your underdog bullshit– I see right through it, but they lap it up like thirsty babies gasping for a tit. Making yourself out to be the underdog is such a fucking RUSH! Feeling like the odds are stacked against you, and there’s nothing you can possibly do to overcome them, is the greatest kind of gambling that you can do. And I can’t fucking do it, Zion! I CAN’T. FUCKING. DO IT. Because no matter who they put me in the ring with, I’m the favorite. No matter how much they stack the deck, I shit on them and pull the Royal Flush. And the older I get, and the more I achieve, and the further I get from that hashmark over the word “average”, the harder it is to get that rush. The harder it is to push myself. The harder it is to feel that risk in the ring, so do you know what I do?
I destroy my own fucking life, just to feel something.
I get off the wagon after eight years sober. I fuck up and burn down my own apartment, and watch my business ventures fail. I write a shitty book that no one wants to read, without a proper understanding of the rules that will make it a hit. I put my career on the line, I accept fucking deathmatch challenges, and literally do everything a man can do to make failure feel like it means something, and I KEEP. FUCKING. SUCCEEDING. The more I succeed, the more it makes me want to fail, and before you know it, I’m going to end up dead in a ditch with a fucking heroin needle in my arm.
And then today, I had a realization.
Today, I had a revelation.
Maybe the reason that I can dig my own grave for ten years without ever making it to Hell, Darin, is that I’m not meant for the fucking grave. That I’m not meant to lose. That I’m not meant to fail. That my purpose on this Earth is to shepherd men like you, the shit stinking sheep with the wool hung over their eyes. Today, I filed the paperwork, and by the powers vested in me by a non-optional donation in the amount of $9.99 to the non-accredited Apotheosis Institute which is ABSOLUTELY AN I’M NOT SHITTING YOU REAL FUCKING THING, I would like to introduce you to the first and only DIVINE BEING IN HOW BOUND BY ACTUAL LEGAL LAW FOR LAWYERS.
Because I’m special.
Because I’m a hero. Because once the IRS has filed my official 501c application for the non-profit incorporated house of worship, OUR LADY OF THE KNEE, I will be motherfucking tax exempt. And while Mike Polowy may have been sweating you for a couple of minutes, Zion… and while Michael Lee Best may have been setting himself up for spectacular failure after spectacular failure… let me assure you that there is one entity on this earth who is happy to disassemble that house of cards before it falls. One entity who sees you not as an obstacle to overcome, but as the first sacrifice at the altar of our church. One entity who, above all, understands that the way to salvation is to save thy-fucking-self.
It’s time to rebuild this franchise from the ground up, Zion.
In Kneesus name we pray.
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