Los Angeles wasn’t a city that Clay had fond memories of. This had been the departing point for the USS Octane before the ‘incident’ that had occured aboard the USS Octane. Clay stood on The Venice Beach Boardwalk staring into the Pacific Ocean. It was Friday night before Refueled and The Boardwalk was infested with families. The children shouted and screamed behind him, Clay stood behind an arcade against a railing.
The Behemoth stuck out like a sore thumb in the throng of people, his Stetson hat a beacon for curious eyes. Outrageous was the normal here, but The Monster from Plainview was different. His arm twitched and flexed as he tried to grip the wooden railing. This was a new affliction for him, a new symptom to go with the myriad of ailments he’d picked up in High Octane Wrestling.
He watched the surf of the Pacific crash against Venice Beach from his perch. Clay watched as the tide rose, each wave rhythmically taking the place of the one before it. The tide was about to turn, and soon the land he was watching be pummeled by the surf would be swallowed by the sea.
The Behemoth felt like the beach below, about to be swallowed by High Octane Wrestling. His right hand twitched again. He wasn’t in any shape to be wrestling tomorrow, especially in the medical predicament he currently found himself in. The tinnitus had returned as he continued to wash the waves. He could no longer hear them, a chill went up his spine as he contemplated it’s meaning.
Neurologist after Neurologist had refused to treat Clay, his symptoms had gradually become more and more severe. Along with his symptoms, his situation had progressively become more difficult and challenging. While a member of The Best Alliance, Clay could steer clear of his fellow Alliance members. He could count on Harrison, Jatt, and Solex to have his back. With Lee having disbanded The Alliance things had changed.
He’d gone to war with Sektor at Bottomline, and now he was supposed to trust him? John had been a good soldier in The Alliance, he’d done what was asked of him. Yes, his personal desires and dreams had eclipsed his loyalties. But in The Alliance the strong take what they wanted and Sektor had proven himself to be a strong man. Jatt had struck out on his own, betrayed by Sektor’s dreams of another ‘Golden’ run.
Oh, the most selfish of the group. Jace Parker Davidson, at every corner he pushed the envelope of The Alliance. He had set a man on fire in the very arena we were about to enter. The Monster’s hand twitched again, he placed his left hand overtop of his right hand, holding it still.
This wasn’t the predicament he wanted to find himself in before an infirmary match. Before a match that could change his life forever. The Rock wasn’t kind, while all the HOW events had their own histories, the dark and twisted history of The Rock stood out in it’s own unique way. On one hand Clay understood what whoever was running the book had decided to do, some lazy New York style booking. ‘Oh these two guys are fighting, and these two guys are fighting, let’s team them up. It’ll be great.’ Since Lee Best’s passing Clay’d venture a guess that they were being booked by a 76 year old man who lived in Connecticut.
Whoever had put this match together was intrigued by the chaos it could cause. The four former allies all involved against each other mere weeks before trying to tear each other apart? The drama within the teams, Jace’s clear unamusement with Jatt, and most of all Clay’s seething hatred for John Sektor.
Yes, High Octane Wrestling was about to swallow another victim.
Thinking about Sektor had already made Clay’s head throb. The thoughts of the stretch caused his arm to twitch again, even while it was being held down by his own hand. Clay clearly already had control issues, how could Sektor rely on him to do anything in the match?
“Serves that 97 minute match having prick right.” Clay said allowed to nobody in particular. The sound of his own voice had sometimes soothed whatever ailments he had. “Old fuck can get himself some fuckin’ cardio.”
The Behemoth kicked some sand off the edge of the boardwalk as he said the last line. Sektor wasn’t tomorrow’s problem though. He had to deal with a madman in Jatt Starr, a hall of famer who was crazy enough to eat the devil with his horns on. Clay had spurned him on the USS Octane, Jatt’s desperate attempts at befriending Clay had looked pathetic at the time. But through the insanity somewhere, somehow, Jatt Starr was scheming.
He’d been rude to Jatt, but the man had an uncanny ability to attempt conversation at the worst possible moments. His unique talent had infuriated The Behemoth, and part of Clay now thought that it was by design. So on one hand you had the spurned Mad Scientist, on the other hand the guy that Clay had smashed with a chair last week.
Jace would be out for revenge. Clay had made the decision to assault Jace months ago. Just the look on the little weasel’s face was enough for Clay, but the match at The Rock that was laid out in the 970000 page contract that Lee had left behind. It was like Lee had read his mind, he was tired of Sektor, he was tired of the title chases, frankly he was tired of losing.
He couldn’t have picked a better opponent for himself, even if he had made the pick himself. Jace was already running on fumes going into Bottomline, he was tired of the station he’d found himself in. Reduced to battling the miscreants that contended for the High Octane Television championship.
Jace had always wanted more than the green title. Once he had acquired the end, he no longer needed the means. Once Jace Parker Davidson had cemented himself at the top of the High Octane rankings, the need for the title was nonexistent. No need to fight convicted serial killers, crazy gymnasts, and random sponsors with anything on the line. Jace knew being High Octane Television Champion wasn’t going to catapult him into the hall of fame.
Clay’s head began to pulse again, he’d just noticed the lights slowly turning off behind him on the boardwalk. He’d stood here for hours trying to get his mind right, trying to conquer his mental issues. Mental issues, The Behemoth sighed to himself. He knew the ringing would slowly ramp up as his arm continued to twitch.
The Behemoth was falling apart. He had spent decades working on his body, working on his physique. Making sure he was an efficient killing machine. His regiment had given him incredible strength, to have it all fall apart because of his mind… He was a shell of himself and he knew it. The feeling in his chest infuriated him, the doubt in his own ability that creeped through his mind had him seething with anger.
The power was still there as his grip dug into the wood on the railing. He could feel it begin to splinter under his massive hands. The doctors had all said that bouts of aggressiveness and rage could be attributed to steroid use. If only they had seen how hard Clay worked so he didn’t have to depend on chemical enhancement. As much as he would cheat in the ring, from attacking people to choking them with the ropes. The Behemoth had always had a code, and the juice had always been strictly against it. The mere suggestion enraged him.
They had said the ailments were from years of head trauma, and while Clay couldn’t refute them, he couldn’t believe that was the correct diagnosis. Because if that was the correct diagnosis, this would be The Behemoth’s forever. He looked at the Pacific Ocean, he’d rather have drowned when he fell off the Octane than live like this.
The weakness, the shortcut, it always presents itself. Of course there was one other option, and The Behemoth pulled his iPhone out of his pocket. He stared at the illuminated screen, it initially hurt his eyes, but he kept them fixated on the number. Clay had saved it on the way to Bottomline. He’d tried to research it, he’d gone as far as trying to bribe a police officer to give him information on the number.
There was nothing.
The 351 number was a mystery, and if Clay had it his way it would remain one. But currently he was at his wits end. He looked at the number, it was the only thing that brought him peace. Everytime he felt like he was about to call it, he could feel the relief wash over him. The throbbing would stop, the ringing would subside, he could properly control his right arm. All the symptoms were alleviated by staring at a phone number.
They had said they could help him. They had said that they could make him better, but that computerized voice stuck with him. The feeling in the pit of his stomach, something felt off about it. He’d sat in hotel rooms across the country, on park benches across the southwest debating calling or deleting the number.
Truthfully he needed the peace and quiet that staring at the number had offered him. The debate raged on inside of Clayton Byrd. This felt like another shortcut, the top neurologists in the world told him that they couldn’t fix him. But these people on the other end of this number could magically do it? This all felt too good to be true, it simply felt dead wrong.
Yet here he stood on a pier off of a boardwalk staring the number down.
Would this have ever happened to him if he had ignored Lee Best’s offer? Would this have ever been his situation if he had listened to Claude? Or would this issue have happened anyway, and haunted him in the safety of the ranch? The Behemoth thought back to the man he was when he entered High Octane Wrestling. Clay wasn’t a man with nicknames at the time, he was simply ‘Clay Byrd.’ Now? He was The Monster from Plainview, The Behemoth, he’d become something different.
When he had arrived in High Octane, Clay Byrd had a fire in his stomach. A desire to be successful on the grandest stage of them all. A chip on his shoulder from a decade of being overlooked, and now we had a broken, aging, Behemoth. The fire was still there, but it had dimmed, it had faded.
High Octane Wrestling had done exactly what everyone had said it would do. It had worn The Behemoth down, grinded him into dust, left him a shell of himself. His hand twitched again, and Clay’s eyes went back to the numbers on the screen. Whatever this affliction was, whatever disorder or disease he had, it was making one thing abundantly clear.
It wanted him to call the number.
Why else would it stop every time he looked at it? Why else would it stop when he had answered the phone? Was this the paranoia the neurologists had asked him about manifesting? It could all be a coincidence, probably something with the blue light from the phone affecting his brain differently. He placed his finger over the number, thinking to himself how ridiculous this all was. He closed his eyes and bowed his head. There was only one thing he could think to do at that moment.
“Lord… I know I ain’t always been on the right side of errythin’. Some might call me a big dumb redneck pile of garbage. Some say I’m a mean old cuss, and they wouldn’t be wrong. But I believe I’m a good person at heart. I believe I have the right motivations, that I’ve always had the right motivations. I prolly went the wrong way tryin’ ta achieve them, but I’ve always wanted what’s best for my family. That’s why I’ve always done what I’ve done, that’s why I’m the way I am.
I ain’t never asked ya for anythin’, I never asked ya ta heal my knee so I could play ball. I never asked ya ta help me win a title, I never asked ya fer anythin’ material. I didn’t ask ya ta save my Pa, I didn’t ask ya ta get me out of the agreement with Mr. Best. All the situations I’ve been in, all the troubles I’ve had. I ain’t ever asked ya for anythin’. So I’m gonna ask ya fer one thing, I’m gonna ask ya fer one answer… Gimme some type of sign that I should call this number, gimme some type of sign that this will help me. Gimme some type of sign that this will let me take my life back…
Clay stood there, he felt ridiculous, he’d never prayed a day in his life. But right now, the pounding in his skull was bringing tears to his eyes, the ringing in his ears caused him to wince. There wasn’t much else to do.
Clay felt his hand twitch and he looked down at the phone. It had barely gotten the call out, and he already heard the robotic voice on the other end. “Hello…” he said into the microphone, he turned the speaker phone on and hunched over to hear.
“Are you ready?” the machine-like voice asked as he stared at his phone.
“Ready as I’m gonna be,” Clay said in disbelief. God had actually answered his prayer.
“Monday, In Arkham, Massachusetts. We’ll find you.”