TICK. TOCK. TICK. TOCK.
It’s a Tuesday. It’s always a Tuesday, at 11 am. Standing appointment. Same red velvet couch I’m expected to lie on and spout my feelings. But I’m not supposed to lie. Always tell the truth. Heh. Mostly tell the truth.
I really hope she doesn’t ask me what I’m thinking.
“Jack” She starts, uncrossing and re-crossing her legs. Gotta give it to Doc Cambridge, she’s always been a beautiful woman. “What are you thinking about right now?”
“Uhhh.” I stammer, looking away. I probably shouldn’t say your legs. “I have a match coming up. It’s important. I’m trying to build momentum, make a comeback of sorts after a rough patch, and I just…” I look up earnestly to Cambridge. “I just really need this win.”
“Why do you say that? What makes this match any different than any other?” She says, biting the little piece of metal that would let a pen hang in a pocket.
“It’s a big opportunity and I just…” I sigh, standing up to my feet and looking out from the overview. It’s at least fifteen stories up, and I can see the clouds aligned with the mountains in the distance through the fog. “I might not get another chance. Look, I’m 45 in December, I’ve always been known for acrobatics and fifty year old men aren’t doing cartwheels yet alone 450’s with a twist. I got a shelf life Doc, my career’s not forever, as much as I’d like to lie to myself and think different. When it’s all said and done, when I can’t go in that ring anymore, what’s left for me? I threw away my family for this business…”
Dr. Clarissa Cambridge tilts her head to the side with an inquisitive question. “… And now the business is gonna throw you away?”
I look at Clarissa. There’s a tear being held back. She fucking explains it all.
The Jack Harmen in me resonates with HOW like a tuning fork. I feel the electricity set my goosebumps into a bed of nails. Every Refueled I get to enter that ring, the hairs on my arms shoot out like porcupine spikes. I haven’t felt this elated to enter a squared circle in ages, and yet, my excitement hasn’t particularly transferred to success. Doesn’t matter. The fever pitch of the crowd desperate for bloodshed and valor sends my internal temperature to boil, and I feel all the ingredients are there for quite the bloody feast.
Every Saturday, every time I get a chance to get on that camera, even if I’m just jabbering with Mills Jr. on the stick… I feel alive… I don’t know what a home even is anymore, but this is what I imagine it feels like.
So, it’s hard when I see the man in the mirror, HIGH FLYER, an echo of the past, a shallow copy of a copy, looking back at me with his sunken empty eyes. His slumped shoulders, unable to look his peers directly due to inferiority. A man who’s garnered the self confidence of a dateless virgin on prom night. I mean, I’m not the person I was back then. I should have realized that, before I promised Lee something I can’t deliver. I can’t be the cheerie family friendly snow selling relic of the past… jolly mother fucker living in 2001, running through his greatest hits. It’s twenty years later. My body isn’t the same. My brain is wired different. I’m not High Flyer. Not anymore. Haven’t been in ages. I’m sorry Lee. You paid for something that doesn’t exist anymore. I can’t be that weak, stupid, selfish idiot child version of myself…
“I CAN HELP.”
Shit. When did I take my pills last?
“IF YOU LET ME.”
Nope! I’m fine. Thanks! Please go away and come back the fifth of never.
“Bullshit. You’re not fine, loser.”
Listen, I’ve gone through a lot of trouble to suppress you since I’ve gotten here.
I’ve had to work extra hard on making sure I don’t think in pretty yellow boxes anymore. I get to see my family, and I get to wrestle. It’s the best of both worlds.
“Is it, loser? I’ve been watching, waiting, lurking in the shadows of your mind. Waiting for you to call on me.”
I don’t need you.
“Pfft. Look at you. What even are you?”
I’m one of the greatest wrestlers of the 21st century.
“Were. You just said it yourself. You’re not the man Lee hired.”
I… so? I’m still awesome.
“Awesome? You’re not even ‘The Lunatic’ he paid for. He paid for me. Not you. You should have called on me, long ago. Back at War Games, I would have helped you win, curry favor with Lee Best. But you threw that opportunity away so you could drown Halitosis’ with mouthwash.”
It was a pretty good moment, all things considered…
“During your war with Max Kael. I could sense his other inner selves vibrate, call out to me. I wanted to meet them. All of them. But you refused.”
I don’t need you stupid voice in my head that’s me. I know you’re me. I’ve been told you’re me. Stop trying to convince me… me?
“Heh. You two are quite similar, you know that?”
You’re just a silly manifestation of my urge for chaos.
“That’s the truth.”
… No. It’s not.
“But you hesitate.”
I’m not Max Kael. And I don’t need you. The fact I’m trying to convince myself that I need you is just stupid. You’re stupid. I’m stupid. We’re both stupid.
“I thought you’d ask for help against the Group of Death, after they tossed you away like a used tampon. I thought we’d enjoy our game of vengeance together, but you limp dicked purposeless heathen, wandering around woe is me-ing everywhere you go. I can give you a purpose Jack. I can show you the way, because I see all the purpose in the world for you. It’s just waiting beyond your morality. Give in. You’ve never taken your gallon of blood. ”
I’m a better man than that.
“Better man? Better loser.”
I… that’s just not fair. I’m a good man now, I’m trying to be. I’m there if my family needs me. I’m not cheating or lying or scheming anymore. I’m defending the downtrodden, fighting with valiant honor and the principles of Superman. I want to be good.
“You want to be loved.”
“HOW doesn’t care about good, or bad. Champions are loved. Losers are forgotten.”
“Your body’s clock is ticking. I sit here, waiting.”
Look, you make a compelling argument, but I’m pretty sure I should probably call my therapist…
“LISTEN TO ME. You’ve been placed into an LSD contendership match. Violence is something we’ve always agreed on. Let me have this one. Let me feast. The eggs will be battered. Freeman will be sent unconscious back to Alcatraz. Then, you can take out Cecilworth for us both. I know you want to. Rip his arm out of it’s socket. He’d do that to you. He’d really like to do that. Wouldn’t you like to beat him with his own arm until he’s a bludgeoned pile of viscus mush? Or… you can let me do that too. If that’s not… a good thing.”
No. That sounds good to me.
I guess it’s finally time…
… to kill the Group of Death.
MULTIPLE bursts of static interleaved with the HOW97 logo. FADE IN to Jack Harmen, standing in front of a waving HOW flag. He leans on an upright ladder, his expression a dazed glare. One of his hands dangles through the steps.
Jack Harmen: Doozer-Man, sat on a ledge.
Jiles shoved him and now there’s a wedge
And all the Zeb Martins & all the Bobby Dean’s,
Couldn’t put the Egg Bandits back together ageeenn…
MULTIPLE bursts of static interleaved with the HOW97 logo.CUTTO: Jack Harmen sitting on the very top of the ladder. We get an angle of just to the side, to show how far above the ground Harmen is.
Jack Harmen: I’ve wanted the LSD championship my entire life. Before I even knew it existed, I’m pretty sure my career has been built for this moment. There’s a certain, vibration, a resonation I have with the championship. I feel it’s meant to be mine, in every universe, in every way. It may not always be mine, I may only have it once… I could have it many times… but I know… I KNOW, the title will be mine one day. It always is. I just… feel it. And if ever there’s an opportunity that is tailor made for me to fall over ass backwards into… This is it. Everyone knows it-I’m not denying it-I shouldn’t be here. But I am, and to be honest, I don’t care how I got here, if I win, no one else will care, and I get to enjoy my favorite past time of rearranging other people’s faces. Plus! I’ve got the advantage! Yeah. I said it. Everyone else did too. My other name is High Flyer! Honestly? I might not even need a ladder to reach the prize.
Harmen looks off, gently stroking the metallic edge of the bright 97red ladder.
Jack Harmen: I’m a man who’s made his career out of heights. I feel calm up here. There’s a sense of purpose, a perspective that is otherwise unobtainable. I had to go through all of that pain and strife, those loses and tribulations, to get to this point, to know the value of what is bestowed upon me. A chance, to get the prize that has most eluded me here in High Octane.
Harmen grips his fist tightly.
Jack Harmen: After I lost to Max, multiple times, and had to be put to the back of the line… I tried to be mature about it. I tried to force myself to understand HOW’s position. To take a moment and breathe, focus, enjoy the sights. But that moment became a disillusion of alliances. It became infinite inaction. It became tangential Flair. It became, “that’s good enough.” And to become the LSD champion, I can’t just say, ‘That’s good enough.’ Not like I’ve been.
Harmen snarls at the top of the ladder.
Jack Harmen: So now, I have to go through hobo Superman, cosplay Johnny Cage and Hipster Johnny Cash to get my shot at Cecil. To get the chance to be on Pay Per View and hear those words echo throughout the arena… “FOR THE L-S-D CHAMPIONSHIP…” One. More. Time.
He smiles, lost in his imagination, no doubt.
Jack Harmen: In another life, I could have been an Egg Bandit. In this life, fuck you no. I want to mash them into a paste, a jokey yolky paste. I usually love games. Well, not me, but me. You get what I mean. Listen, here’s the deal. The High Flyer you knew, the one you were prepared to fight? The one Doozer was so excited to step across from? He’s gone. Weak man, tossed aside easily. He’ll atrophy into memories, echoes of the past. I, stand before you, changed and molded by HOW into my perfect image, ready to rain unfathomable destruction upon you and yours. Lifted from my burdens, shackle free, Omega level ready to supernova in an explosion of pain. I want to invent new forms of punishment with a ladder. Will you be the constant in my scientific theory? How I use the ladder will be the variable, and your brains will be the result. I bet I could crack a few of your eggs before I cracked the whole dozen. No one needs all their brain cells. You two are proof of that.
Jack Harmen looks up, and the camera follows his gaze to see a clipboard hang in front of him.
Jack Harmen: Then there’s the convict to contend with, the man who thinks you have to leap off a ladder to grab the prize, who thinks I’m willing to avoid a conflict, EVER. Hughie, if there’s something I want to get across to you in this matchup, it’s not my flippy doos, it’s not my speed, it’s not my charismatic nature… I want you to see, to FEEL, to finally KNOW, that I enjoy violence. This is my element. I seek conflict like this out. So I joined HOW not to help Lee Best beat Mike Best at War Games. I did it for the promise of VIOLENCE. To think I would EVER give up a fight, for any reason whatsoever is the most ludicrous thing I’ve heard in my entire God damn life. The only reason I’m still here is because this place has given me more fight in the past year than anyone else had in the decade proceeding it. You want to step up and fight the best, I now know you come here. Now I got the chance to… I got to fight the Max Kaels and the Mike Bests, the Cecilworths… I came up empty against ‘em, but I didn’t stop just ‘cause I had a speed bump. I learned, I grew, and even as old as I am, I adapted. Now, I sit on top of his ladder, reach to make my mark in HOW. Ready to do WHATEVER it takes, to defeat Jean shorts, sunglasses and whatever the fuck that hat is Hughie Freeman wears and probably never washes. When I say do whatever it takes, I mean it. You see… High Flyer had limits. He had … morality. Jack Harmen doesn’t.
The camera cranes away as Harmen’s leg just dangles off the ladder’s edge.
Jack Harmen: While I may not go out a Hero…
The camera keeps craning downward, ten, fifteen…
Jack Harmen: I’ll go out the LSD champion…
… twenty feet before resting at the ladder’s base.
Jack Harmen: That’s more important anyway…
Harmen lowers his head in a solemn bow and throws up his devil horn finger taunt, as the image fades to black.