The Birthdays marched on through the years and without fail the Son desired nothing more than an ever growing number of Plastic Parrots. Every year the requested number of Plastic Parrots grew from four to eight to sixteen and so on and so forth. Every year the Son seemed to mysteriously lose his Plastic Parrots over the course of about two weeks. What started out for the Father as a curiosity soon turned to concern.
Finally on the Son’s seventeenth birthday having delivered the sum of 2376 Plastic Parrots the Father finally indulged his curiosity.
“Son, you know I love you?” the Father asked cautiously.
“Yes, Father, of course I do,” the Son said cheerfully, looking up from his various boxes of Plastic Parrots that sat around him. Literally thousands of Plastic Parrots. “And I love you too!”
“I am glad to hear it,” the Father said with a hesitant pause.”Son, I must ask, why do you always want Parrots and how do you manage to lose all these Plastic Parrots every year?”
The Son’s expression darkened as his eyes darted to the side. For the first time the Father and Son felt.. Tension. The Father immediately saw the change in disposition and, as parents often do, they sought to end this uncomfortable strain.
“I apologize, Son, forget I asked the question. So long as you are happy, I am happy.” the Father quickly interjected. The Son’s face immediately brightened and he went back to looking over his parrots.
The Father’s eyes lingered on the Son, his smile was there but it lacked the same warmth. Behind his eyes there was worry, fear.. Anger?
He felt he knew everything about his own Son but this? This was a mystery, a thing he didn’t understand and couldn’t explain. What kind of Father doesn’t know their own child?
Another Birthday came to a close and the Son was happy.
Max could feel the power drill thundering away over his head but his body wouldn’t respond. Instead his body seemed to vibrate on the table he had been strapped down to, numbed by some strange concoction of drugs Max was pretty sure were not legal back in the States.
God he loved countries with more pragmatic ethical codes.
That said, even when he couldn’t feel what was happening to him, the small Chinese doctor standing over him holding a power drill to his head ripping away the metal eyepatch was still unnerving. Sparks soared into the air and he was pretty sure he smelt the scent of charred human flesh waft by his nose. It was with a sudden loud pop that Max saw the metal plate fly through the air and imbed itself in the operating theater wall.
He would have giggled if he could but again, his body didn’t really seem to respond to what his brain wanted. It was like having your car stuck in an automatic car wash, he was just sitting back and enjoying the show. All that was consistent was the slow rasping breaths of his mechanical mask.
“We have your eyepatch removed,” the calm voice of a Chinese doctor said, she had a slight accent that Max thought sounded weirdly British. “Your sponsor, Supreme Leader Kim, has instructed us to fit you with a new artificial ocular implant which should return your vision completely as well as serving a few other potential functions.”
Maximillian wanted to reply, ask a few questions, maybe try to hit on her, the mask over her face hid her age but she sounded attractive. In a potential mad scientist who was going to implant an artificial ocular implant? The fuck was that? Max was pretty sure that meant he was getting a cybernetic eye. Oh God, he really was really hoping for that cybernetic eye.
“First you’re going to need to go into a specialized bath that’s going to help with healing your body. Usually we’d be doing simple transfusions but we heard you wanted this all done before the end of the month. You know that’s impossible, right?” the Doctor said as she began assuring that Max’s harness was secure.
The full metal brace that had held his body together for so long had started to bruise his skin, his pale withering flesh covered in the scars of his battles in High Octane Wrestling. Over a decade of Solitary Confinement, LSD defenses, War Games and every other variation of bloody brutality wrestling offered. The Doctor prodded at his body with gloved hands, a look of horror and surprise splashing over her eyes now and again.
“But I like a good challenge. Who are you Mister Kael, that you would have these kinds of injuries? I see signs of stab injuries, burns, permanent bruising, tears, broken bones and a litany of spinal operations. Including your obvious cranial injuries, I’d say you should probably be dead, I’m surprised that brace is holding you up.” she said before turning away speaking in Chinese to her four lab assistants. They all offered nods of affirmation before they scattered in all directions.
The Doctor returned her attention to Max, loaming over his face as he looked down at his eye. Before Max could get any particular detail of her a bright light snapped to life over his head blinding him. The sting was probably intense and Max imagined it was all quite painful but then the drug cocktail he had been given left him feeling nothing.
“Your sponsor was insistent that we get you into functional. I’ve been wanting to test the limits of our abilities and fixing broken legs on pigs was getting tedious. A willing subject? One with a body like yours? If you were younger I would like your chances better. At your age? Generations to come will appreciate your sacrifice. Now, I’ll need this.”
Latex fingers wrapped around the mask covering Max’s mouth as no small amount of panic started to well up within Max. He couldn’t scream, he couldn’t escape, he couldn’t emote in the last. There was only one thing he could do.
And so, as the mask let loose one final hiss before it was pulled from his face Max’s eye grew wet as tears started to stream down his face. He could feel his lungs begin to falter and while he was spared the pain he could feel his chest begin to tighten. His breathing began to become strained, disrupted.
“You’ll be thankful now that you can’t feel anything Mister Kael.” she said before two of her assistants appeared with two long syringes containing a strange, nebulous red fluid that looked similar to those the North Korean doctors had injected him with before ICONIC.
Both were suddenly plunged into Max’s chest, the sensation of pressure on his chest was uncomfortable enough and indeed, the Lord Supreme Dictator was pretty happy he couldn’t feel what was happening. He could feel the liquid coursing through his body before the needles were pulled out of his chest. Hands appeared around his head as some kind of oxygen mask was secured tightly over his nose and mouth.
The Doctor barked at her assistants in Chinese as he started to feel something. A kind of intense burning, welling up from his chest and moving throughout his body. He could feel the chemical snaking its way through his blood, spreading like fire through his muscles, from the tips of his toes to the patchy top of his head.
The world moved as he felt the bed he was strapped to was pushed forward. The light above his eyes shut off as the world slowly came back into focus as he burned up within.
He felt the cold before he released his body was being submerged into some kind of blue hued liquid. As his eye slipped beneath the oil thick fluid he felt the fire in his veins react with the frigid substance he found himself submerged in.
The oxygen supplied to his mouth kept the fluid from drowning him as his eye stared forward lifelessly. The world started to darken as doubt slipped through Max’s mind. Outside the glass of whatever tube they had dumped him into he could see the Doctor and her assistants looking up at him.
Electricity coursed through his body.
For the second time this week.
For the second time this week Max Kael dies a little on the inside as he sees his audiences recoil in horror and disgust.
Picking up the pancakes from the Moon’s Over My Hammy Max dumped them unceremoniously into the blender that had been set down at his small table at the Denny’s press conference.
“You’ve got to start with the pancakes, their bread just gets kinda stuck at the top unless you weigh it down real good,” Max says in a reassuring manner as he lifted the rest of his plate and shoved it over the pancakes. Tossing the plate over his shoulder it landed on the ground shattering into several pieces. “Don’t worry, they love cleaning up broken dishes here.”
The various “Press” standing by exchanged glances before they focused back on the Lord Supreme Dictator who had yet to answer his feelings on the LSD Cage Match at March to Glory. He seemed to be taking his time, drizzling a little syrup into the top of his meal before snapping the cap on.
The Frappe setting went to work filling the Denny’s dining room with it’s angry blending sound. Within the blender the pancakes, hash browns, eggs and ham became indistinguishable from each other as they became a brownish mush. Toggling the blender off Max removed the lid and stuck a thick metal straw down into the breakfast goop. A small hole opened in the side of Max’s mask allowing the straw to dock.
A few guttural pulls off the straw let a grotesque soggy slurping sound filter through the mask’s speaker. Pulling the straw away Max let lose a satisfied sigh before leaning back in his chair patting his stomach.
“Let’s talk about the LSD Championship first before we even approach the match itself. Out of the other three men in this match only Chris Kostoff knows what the real score is here. The LSD Championship isn’t just some second tier curtain jerker championship or some extreme trashcore title. It’s Lee’s Special Division, which translates roughly to hold this title you need a special kind of sick. Maybe it’s breaking you down technically like Silent Witness, a name well inked in the Legacy of the LSD.”
His hand slipped forward as it stirred the straw in the Moon’s Over My Hammy muck. His strange blue eye glared forward locked on the man in the trench coat who had asked him the question originally.
“This is a Cage Match for the LSD Championship. This is an LSD Championship Match that just happens to be confined to a steel cage. Chris Kostoff knows what that means but Deacon? Alex Redding? They don’t know the first thing that is expected out of them for this contest. They don’t know what it takes to claim the victory here. I’m sure you’re both quite qualified farmers, outstanding in your fields but this is the LSD Championship. The World Championship has changed hands four times. Two of those hands were members of the Group of Death. I was one of them. The ICON Championship has changed hands three times. All of those hands were members of the Group of Death. The Tag Team Championships have changed hands four times. Two of those hands were members of the Group of Death. I was one of those. The LSD Championship has only exchanged hands TWICE. The final hand is ME.”
Max’s hand comes down hard on the table loudly in a dramatic attempt to drive his point home. His blue eye glares out at the gathered reporters before he takes a deep breath.
“Deacon, what the fuck is up with this guy? He looks like he was getting really excited to cosplay Sub-Zero at ComicCon this year but lost interest after his girlfriend made fun of him for it. By the way I’ll have everyone know that I was wearing the Bane style rebreather mask a full DAY before he showed up at ICONIC to stick his nose into the end of my Victory over Harmen High “Jack Flyer”. Was he wearing it before he came to HOW? Don’t care, he’s here now and all that matters is HOW history now so I call gimmick infringement! And I don’t even know why he wears it, does he need to wear it? Is it just for show? When is Deacon going to have a press conference where he supplies me with easy to access Exposition so I can give a fuck about why he wears a mask?”
Pulling up his breakfast slushie the Lord Supreme Dictator takes another heavy pull, another payload of ham slop guzzled down happily.
“I will take a moment to say the other day I ran into Kostoff at the All-State Arena and let me tell you that man has aged like a fine prosciutto. I want to preface this by saying I do not want to get forcibly raped by anyone but if Chris Kostoff ran into me in a back alley and decided today was the day I don’t think I have the power to stop him. I mean literally, I’d probably be better off just laying there and accepting my fate. I don’t recommend anyone just accept being raped but honestly, in the case of Chris Kostoff you’re just praying he has a small pecker. In that cage for the LSD Championship? I’m not letting him rape me for the LSD Championship obviously and thankfully he’s a lot like any dumb predator. He’s going to go after the weakest guy in the match, Alex Redding.”
There was a flurry of questions after Max’s final statement, hands waving in the air as more flashes sounded off. It was strange that in the digital age the sound of camera flashes was still something you heard but I guess you might not realize it was a real press conference if you couldn’t hear them right? Maybe we’re asking too many questions. Max’s eye settles on an older female reporter wearing cat eye glasses and bright red lipstick. She looks fresh out of an episode of Madmen so Max immediately makes assumptions about her sexual orientation.
“What do you want to know, Heather Homemaker?”
“My name is Megan Tiller, Mister Kael,” the reporter snapped back at Max. “And why do you consider a man who made it as far as Group of Death member Lindsay Troy and whose opponent, Teddy Palmer, managed to also defeat you to win the Lee Best Invitational to be the weakest guy in the match?”
Blindsided by the question Max glared at Tiller for a solid few seconds imagining what an impromptu LSD title match with Megan would look like.
“Listen, Teddy Palmer got very lucky. He figured out an attack angle that I wasn’t ready for, he got me in the center of the ring, what other fucking choice did I have? Out wrestling Max Kael on any given day isn’t an impossible feat but it damn near is. Lest anyone forget Scott Stevens and Scott Woodson or Scottywood, whatever he’s decided to call himself, have both defeated me in the past. ANY idiot can get a sneaky victory over Max Kael. But not at March to Glory, okay? Not by some chump like Alex Redding, the quote willing unquote villain. Who advertises themself as a bad guy anyway?!”
Max straightens out the black and red North Kaelrean Officer’s uniform as he sits up a little straighter, his scarred face half hidden behind his mechanical breathing mask.
“So listen, did he make it as far in the LBI as Lindsay Troy? Sure he did but look at what Lindsay was up against verses Alex Redding? Troy faced some of the best talent that High Octane Wrestling has to offer and Alex Redding won his group so I mean, how hard could it have been? Megan, Miss Tiller, whatever you want me to call you, you’re basically as bad at questions as Jack Crawson, I swear to God! I’m done talking to you.. Who’s next?”
Another flurry of questions as Max Kael’s eye scanned the crowd, this time settling on a mysterious looking man wearing a lucha mask and a hoodie. Max pointed a finger at him as he took one final slug of his breakfast paste.
“Yes, thank you Mister Kael,” the Masked Man said in a voice that seemed somehow familiar. “You mentioned Jack Crawson just now, I was curious if you were considering apologizing for your behavior during his interview with you?”
Max choked back a gurgling laugh as he kicked his feet up into the air like a child. His laughing turned to choking as he slammed his fist on the table in front of him. The server from earlier appeared to collect the blender, shuffling off quickly as Max regained his composure.
“Apologize? Me? Listen, I’m the Lord Supreme Dictator. I’m a High Octane Hall of Famer, I’m a multiple time World, ICON, Tag and LSD Champion. My name is etched on the walls of the Best Arena, my blood is soaked into the foundation of this wrestling company. I don’t apologize to fucking scrubs like Jack Crawson and his shitty interviews. I don’t get what I deserve, I take what I want.” Max snarls as he waves a dismissive hand toward the masked man. “In either case I’ve got to catch a plane to China in a few hours so if there are no more questions?”
“Just one more, sir!” the Mask Man shouts “What’s this feel like?”
Max cocks his head to the side as the man pulls a taser out of his pocket and fires it directly into Max’s chest. The other reporters all scream, scattering in all directions as electricity courses through Max’s body. He stiffens and falls to the floor twitching, his blue eye burning a hole through the masked man who pulls his mask away.
“Eat shit, Max.”
Jack Crawson flips Max off before darting out of the Denny’s. As the electrical pulses slowly fade and Max’s muscles begin to relax once again he finds himself surrounded by several of the reporters and Denny’s staff staring down at him.
“Are you okay Mister Kael?” the reporter with the Cary Grant appearance asked.
A sudden thought flooded Max’s head as he took inventory of how he felt. His hand immediately shot to his crotch feeling for any dampness of which there appeared to be done. A sigh of relief escaped his lips.
“Whew.. for a minute I thought I might have pissed myself like Michael.”
His relief was only momentary unfortunately. The scent of something unpleasant smelling wafted through Max’s nose and, as he soon noticed, the rest of the press pool. They each looked at each other in uncomfortable awareness as Max’s hidden lips turned into an unhappy frown.
On the Son’s eighteenth birthday his father had spent a full month hunting down the 4752 Plastic Parrots his son had requested. It had taken considerable effort and the draining of about twelve Amazon sellers supplies. This Birthday Tradition had taken on truly absurd scales and the Father still did not understand his Son’s obsession and subsequent loss of the Plastic Parrots.
There was no sense attempting to hide the gifts at this point as boxes of Plastic Parrots poured into their lives. And still the Son would pretend like they did not exist, refusing to even acknowledge their existence until his birthday. Only then did he slowly open the boxes, as he always did, pulling out each Plastic Parrot, examining it carefully before setting it aside to count the next.
“Thank you Father,” the Son would say. “I love you.”
And the Father would nod and reply “Happy Birthday, I love you Son.”
And then two weeks later every box, every piece of tape and more importantly every single God damned Plastic Parrot would vanish.
Twelve years was the breaking point. The Father could no longer contain his feelings, his fears, his lack of understanding in this strange ritual. He confronted his Son who was now a Man as he always wanted.
“Son, you know that I love you right?” The Father said as he looked even into the eyes of his Son who had grown now into a confident young man.
“Of course, Father.” the Son replied looking back into his Father’s eyes.
“It has been many years now, my Son, and you are now a man. It is time to leave behind those childish things, I must know, please.. Why do you want Plastic Parrots for your Birthday and why.. WHY do they always disappear?”
There was a long silence between the two as the Son’s once joyful and clear eyes were cast over with dark storms.
“Son, answer me. I have always done as you have asked on your Birthday and now I am demanding you tell me. You owe it to me, Son!” the Father said more aggressively as the darkness grew in his Son’s eyes, a darkness that turned to anger.
The Son did not speak. He turned his back on his Father, turned and walked away. And he didn’t stop walking away as he vanished from his Father’s life..