But the end was always ahead
“So, Evan, how have you been coping?” Doctor Whatshisname dropped a set of medical notes down on the desk and then sat down to flick through it.
Evan had given up caring about the names of the doctors and specialists he’d seen over the last few months since his collapse. This was the one who had explained to him what had happened on that January night when everything had changed. Evan surreptitiously peered at the nameplate to refresh his memory. Doctor McCoy. Dammit, Jim, he’s a doctor, not an interesting name.
The doctor’s office was pretty big, but it felt cosy despite the size. When you cram an examination bed, medical scales, a few filing cabinets, a couple of cupboards of equipment and tools, a book shelf and this massive desk together it doesn’t matter how big the room is, it’s going to be cramped.
“Yeah, all fine, I’m doing just great, nothing wrong at all, Bones.” Evan put his feet up on the desk.
“Please don’t call me that and please get your feet down.” The doctor said overly calmly. It annoyed Evan that he didn’t get a reaction. “Humor and deflection are perfectly normal ways of coping, but you need to be honest with us, Evan. It’s our job to help you.”
“Yeah, and what exactly are you meant to be helping with, huh, doc?” Evan folded his arms in a bit of a huff as he took his feet off the desk.
“Whatever you need.” The doc offered a non-answer. No one would be straight up with Evan anymore, so much pussyfooting around. Urgh. “How is your wife doing… Sara, was it? I know it can put a relationship under a lot of stress.”
“Oh, we’re not together anymore.” Evan said casually, as if it didn’t matter, suddenly very interested in the loose thread of the pocket of his cargo pants. “I haven’t talked to her in ages.”
The doctor’s forehead furrowed above his fluffy white eyebrows. “She didn’t seem like the sort of person to leave you in this condition. What happened?”
“I left her.” Evan nodded. “It was a mutually beneficial arrangement.”
“Did you tell her?” The doctor leaned forward, looking very serious
“Urgh, what does it matter?” Evan groaned like a teenager being scalded for leaving the iron on.
“Evan, you can’t do this on your own. You’re going to need support, especially as your condition worsens. You’ll need someone to care for you.” The doctor was starting to annoy Evan, what did he even know about what Evan needed?
“That’s what you’re here for, doc.” Evan said, pointing a finger gun at him with a wink. “You said you’re here for whatever I need.”
“No, that’s not what I meant and you know it.” The doctor shook his head. “You have an inoperable aneurysm, Evan. We discussed this when you got admitted back in January. When that thing pops you’re going to die. You should have told your wife, she deserves to know.”
There it was, he said it. The sugar coating had worn away and the doctor slapped the truth down like a winning poker hand. It took being an asshole to coax it out of him. Evan hated how people got all quiet and clammed up when the subject came up. Healthcare professionals getting all jittery about talking to him about his inevitable demise was such a joke. These people dealt with death every day, just fucking use the word. Evan decided to ignore the subject of his wife and focus more on himself.
“You keep saying it’s fatal, but I feel fine.” Evan said, sitting up straight. “I mean, I’ve got a constant headache but, really, what’s so bad about this?”
“Evan, you have a bulbous blood vessel pushing your brain out from the very middle. That is why your head hurts.” The doctor explained. “We can not reach it to operate, not without extreme risk. You would be almost guaranteed to have a stroke during the operation which could leave you paralysed. Worst case is you die on the table, and that worst case is the most likely. You need to make the most of your remaining time. Be with your family, Evan, and leave this world with no regrets.”
“Yeah, and how long will that be?” Evan growled. “How long do I have to wait, twiddling my thumbs, before the inevitable happens? How long would Sara have to watch me die for?”
The doctor sighed and shook his head. “It’s impossible to know. There’s so many factors involved here and it very much depends on how you look after yourself. The one thing we know for sure is that the aneurysm will grow and as it does your condition will deteriorate.”
“How? What should I be expecting?” Evan’s morbid curiosity was piqued. “Are we talking blood oozing out my ears? Brian exploding in a gorey shower?”
“Please be serious, Evan.” The doctor’s tone was starting to sound frustrated with his awkward patient, but only a little. “Your headaches will get worse. You will have mood swings, fits of depression. Your judgement and inhibitions will be affected. You will likely develop Alzheimer’s-like symptoms. All of this will result in personality changes.”
“Is that all?” Evan shrugged. It was pretty much what he knew already from his talks with other doctors and his many hours googling.
The doctor frowned some more. “I wasn’t finished. You’ll eventually start having more blackouts, lose coordination of your limbs and eventually be bed ridden. You’ll need someone to look after you.”
Evan waved a dismissive hand. “Yeah, yeah, eventually I won’t be able to wrestle, or even train. What’s new?”
“Evan…” The doctor’s voice went back to trying to be soothing. “You can’t ever wrestle again.”
“What?” Evan suddenly gave the conversation the attention it deserved. He was extremely concerned about the notion that, even though he felt pretty much fine, he wasn’t allowed to get in the ring. “You’re joking, right?”
“Any blows to the head, even just sudden or extreme movement from bouncing off the ropes or doing flips, will exacerbate the condition. It would accelerate the progress of the symptoms and every impact runs the risk of a rupture.” The doctor looked Evan directly in the eyes. “Evan, please understand how serious this is. You could die in that ring if you wrestle again.”
Evan flopped back in the chair. “Well, shit, that fucking sucks.”
I remain unflinching as the end approaches
“Well, shit, that fucking sucks.” Trent said, taking a swig from a bottle of Jack. “I’d go off the fucking rails if that shit happened to me too.”
Evan raised an eyebrow at the seven foot tall stoner who was sitting next to him on the ring apron. “Dude, you were never on the rails.” He snatched the bottle off Trent and drank as the big man shrugged in agreement.
When we last left these two, Trent had burst into the gym and interrupted Evan’s exploration of pyromania, seemingly in a rage looking for revenge after having the snot beaten out of him the last time he had burst into the gym in a rage. It had turned out the nuances of Trent’s mood were not apparent. He wasn’t there to make Ward a dead man, he was there to comfort the soon-to-be-dead man. Trent had learnt of Evan’s terminal condition and, in an amazing feat of logic for the idiotic metalhead, had realised his questionable behaviour was probably related to it. He could also add one and one together, though admittedly when he was very stoned that sum occasionally came out as sixteen and would ramble on at great lengths about why it was correct and everyone else was a fucking idiot.
Trent barely even had the cliff notes of Evan’s situation, he pretty much just knew his old sort-of-but-not-really friend was dying, so they had sat and drank and Evan had explained it to him.
“So, fucking level with me, kid.” Trent snatched the bottle back. “Why the fuck haven’t you fucking told Sara?”
“Urgh, that’s a question and a half, isn’t it?” Ward leaned his head back against the ropes and looked up at the ceiling. “When I was in that hospital room I was a total wreck, I couldn’t come to terms with it. I mean, have you ever been told by the doctors you’re going to die a slow and painful death and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it?”
Trent nodded modestly. “Yup, a fair fucking few times.”
“Okay, bad example.” Evan shook his head. “Anyway, I told them not to let her in, I couldn’t cope with seeing her until I could cope myself. When they discharged me and I saw her there, in the waiting room, losing her shit with worry, I just couldn’t add to that. The relief in her voice when she saw me, dude… The idea of telling her and the kids I was going to die at that moment just filled me with guilt. Like I was a bad guy for dying and leaving them alone so I figured we’d talk later, in a more comfortable setting and, you know, deal with it. The drive home had just got me thinking about my own dad and how he deteriorated and needed my mum to care for him 24/7. It ruined her, physically, emotionally and mentally. When he passed I could see it was actually a relief for her. He had become a burden she had no choice but to carry. And it affected me and my sister too. We resented what he had become and what it did to mum.”
Ward snatched the booze back and chugged it a bit too fast, resulting in a bit of coughing and spluttering but it did nicely to cover up the tears which were welling up in his eyes. “When I saw Rowan sleeping soundly in her cot I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t put any of them through that. I had no idea how long I had left, how badly I’d deteriorate or anything. I could have been gone in 6 months or I could end up hanging on for years as an empty shell. Either way, I was leaving them. I was going to hurt them and it would hurt more the longer it went on so, in that moment, I made a decision. I would leave. I would hurt them in that instant but save them from the agony of watching me die, like ripping off a bandaid.”
“Oof…” Trent looked down at Evan with a empathetic eye, or at least as empathetic as a grizzled, one eyed drunk could look. “Big fucking oof, dude. That’s some bloody heavy shit, man. Fair fucking dos to you… But, fucking hell, did you have to finish off the fucking drink?” Trent snatched the empty bottle back and desperately tried to get another drop out of it.
“Fuck you, it’s my sob story, I’ll do what I like.” Evan flipped him a middle finger. “Surely you have more booze on you.”
“What the fuck do you take me for, some kind of fucking drunk?” Trent said as he pulled a two litre bottle of Gordon’s out of this cavernous pocket and passed it to Ward. “So, this fucking Anna chick…”
Ward frowned as he opened the bottle and drank some neat gin. “Who the hell is Anna, Trent?”
“You fucking know Anna…” Trent rolled his eye. “Anna Rissum,the fucking chick blowing your mind.”
“Trent, it’s a bloody aneurysm, not someone called Anna.”
“Ooohhhh… That makes a lot more fucking sense. I fucking gotcha.” It was very difficult for Evan to tell whether Trent was taking the piss or just dumber than an ice cube in a sauna. “So, yeah, how the fuck did you get it? Dropped on your fucking head too many fucking times?”
The question made Ward spit some gin with laughter. “That’s the kicker, dude, a real one straight to the fucking nuts. The amount of nights I’ve laid awake wondering if I’d have done things differently, if I didn’t take so many risks in my career, if I’d just protected myself more, could I, might I, would I have made any difference? What was the real reason why this happened to me? The truth is there was no fucking reason for it at all, I could have wrapped myself up in bubblewrap or barbedwire and it wouldn’t have made a difference. This shit is hereditary, man. My body has been a ticking time bomb since the day I was born, just waiting to flick a switch and start it growing.”
“Fucking rough, man.” Trent took the gin back and had a swig. This was pretty much how it was going to go, by the way, two idiots drinking neat spirits in a gym soaked with petrol while they talk bullshit at each other. “And you fucking chose to get the fuck back in that shitty fucking ring? You’re a fucking mad lad, dude, bonafide fucking lunatic.”
“Coming from you, Trent, I’ll take it as a compliment. Cheers.” The hall of famer chuckled lightly as he took the bottle back. “I guess a lot of guys would be all ‘oh, Evan, you’re so brave, such a fighter!’ and telling me what a bloody inspiration I am. I mean, what the fuck? I am literally rolling the dice every time I turn up at a show to see if I’ll walk out at the end of it… And that’s the fucking point, man.”
Evan gulped down a mouthful of mother’s ruin and looked at his drinking buddy. If someone had told him, 18 months ago, that he’d be sat confiding in Trent about his descent into suicidal nihilism he’d have called you crazy, which was ironic considering they would probably think he’s crazy now. Evan used to be optimistic to a fault, always finding the positive in a situation and always believing a bad situation would end up with a good outcome because it just had to. Evan never saw any other option. But now… “There’s no way out of this, I’m going to die no matter what happens, so why the fuck not in the ring? Every match I wonder, will this be the one? Will this be the last time I step out on stage, the last time I hear the crowd roar with excitement as I beat the shit out of whoever I’m fighting? Or will I survive for another day of painful suffering?”
Trent guffawed and nudged Evan with an elbow. “I thought you didn’t fucking care for the fans anymore?”
“Fuck off, boos or cheers, it’s all the same.” Ward shook his head. “Hearing the booming noise of the crowd as shit happens in the ring is like an addiction. I don’t care anymore if they’re cheering for me or for my opponent or booing the shit out of me for slamming my knee into the face of their favourite little asshole.”
“Haha, I fucking feel you with that, dude.” Trent nodded.
“Anyway, I felt like, if I was going to die anyway, I didn’t want it to be sitting on my arse waiting for the end to come… If I was going to die with no regrets then it better be in the middle of the ring, there’s no more awesome way to go out than that.” Ward set the bottle down on the ring apron beside him. Trent tried to take it but Evan moved it to the other side and leaned an elbow on it on this third attempt, he missed the first two times. “Honestly I can’t believe I’ve survived this long. The matches have been crazy, so many backstage brawls, Fuse knocking me out in that limo… I mean, when Clyd tried splitting my skull like a cashew backstage I thought that was it for sure, no way I was going to wake up. When I did I just couldn’t stop laughing. The universe has such a sick sense of humour. I always envisioned Ward Games being my last, final match, the ultimate end of Evan Ward, but I didn’t really believe I’d make it this far.”
“Fucking explains the bullshit you’ve been pulling lately.” Trent said, eyeing up the bottle of gin with a jealous eye. He decided he probably wasn’t going to get it back and pulled a bottle of Kraken rum out his other pocket. “I’d never having fucking imagined you, Evan fucking Ward, the asshole of fucking assholes in HOW.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Ward raised an eyebrow, looking at the Kraken with a jealous glint in his eye.
“Dude, you’re going around pissing every motherfucker in the federation off.” Trent laughed drunkenly. “You fucking act like one of the biggest pay per fucking views in the industry is only about you. You fucking had a team strategy meetingwith a bloody chicken on national fucking television, dude.”
Ward shrugged and sneakily swapped the Gordon’s for the Kraken while Trent was wiping a tear of laughter from his eye. “I don’t see the problem with any of that. Everyone is an asshole. These days I just want to watch the world burn from atop a throne of dirt, waiting for the grand conflagration to reach me.”
“Fuck off with that pretentious bullshit, man.” Trent flicked Evan’s forehead. There was no reason for it, he was just a twat. “You don’t believe any of that fucking bullshit. All you want to fucking do is wreck some fucking shit and cause some chaos on your way out of this fucking shithole of a fucking world.”
“Yeah, pretty much.” Ward nodded humbly. “The Evan Ward you used to know is long dead. I gave up on him even before I decided to return to HOW and I figured the only way to get the ending I wanted, the ending I fucking well deserved, was to just take it by any means necessary. I don’t care what any fucker thinks of me anymore and, to be honest, it made me feel totally free for the time in my life. No parents, no mentors, no managers, no family, no obligation to anything except myself.”
“Fucking good on ya, dude.” Trent clapped him on the back, sending the much smaller man crashing to the floor. Ward thrust the bottle in the air victoriously as he lay on his back, pleased to have saved the rum without spilling a drop. He then tried drinking it while still on his back and spilled it everywhere. “Duuuude, nooooooo!”
Ward pulled himself back up to standing and tried to see if there was anything left in the bottle. There wasn’t so he just threw it over his shoulder. “Got any more?”
“Fuck you.” Trent said, pulling a bottle of Jagermeister out and chucking it to Evan, who barely managed to catch it. “Anyway, dude, that fucking team of yours for War Games-”
“Ward Games.” Evan corrected him.
“Fuck off.” Trent glared at Ward. “That team you fucking got for Ward Games…” Trent accidentally used the correct name of the show. “That’s fucking solid. America’s a fucking milk splurging yanky wanker, but he can’t half fucking wrestle. Dude’s the champ for a fucking reason, even if he could fucking do with spending a month fucking slumming it in Merthyr Tydfil to get that fucking xenophobic stick out his fucking arse. And, dude, Acel-fucking-dama is a beast. See this fucker here.” Trent lifted his Blistered Earth t-shirt up and pointed at a rather big scar on his chest. “Fucker did that to me at fucking Alcatraz, man… Wait.” Trent frowned. “No, that bastard was when I fucked up a fucking stage dive… Can’t fucking believe no one would fucking catch me, bunch of pussy assed cunts. THIS twat was from Aceldama.” He pointed to a much smaller scar. “Sounds like you got that motherfucker on leash, if he’s any fucking thing like back in the fucking day he’ll stomp through the wankers in that match.”
“Yeah, it’s a solid team.” Ward nodded, trying not to lose balance. “Question marks over that poncy de Lacy’s head though. Guy’s like an ancient veteran from some fisherprice indie feds or some shit like that, but still bedding in at HOW. He seems to be sharing the other end of that stick up America’s ass. I think he hates me for being Welsh like America hates everyone else for not being America. Typical English wanker.”
“Dude, the fuck you talking about? You’re as fucking English as me.” Trent discarded the empty Gin bottle and snatched the Jager off Evan, nearly sending the sozzled wrestler to the floor again.
“I can’t be fucked to correct people.” Evan shrugged, trying to balance himself against the ring, but the ring wouldn’t stop moving. “The complexities of growing up on a border town are far to intricate for these fuckers to understand. Eh, maybe he’ll come through but I’m not holding out much hope. Right now I’m just pinning my hopes on America and Ace clearing house for me to swoop in at the end to win the fucking thing.”
“Sound fucking plan, dude.” Trent nodded in the knowing sort of way a veteran who had never planned a strategy, or even followed anyone else’s, in his life would nod. “You’ve fucking got some bloody stiff compe-fucking-tition on the other teams. Well, I don’t fucking know who half those fuckers are but that fucking Clay-”
“Clyd.” Ward prompted.
“Clyd kicked your fucking ass the other week, dude. He looks well fucking fun to fight.” Trent said, momentarily getting starry eyed about wanting to go one-on-one with the self proclaimed monster. “And he’s got Jatt fucking Starr backing him up, that’s gonna be fucking tricky, dude.”
“Yeah, and Dan Ryan is top tier too, he’s got an iron grip on the HOTv title.” Evan drummed his fingers on the apron. “Not to mention they’ve got Nettie, she nearly won Dan’s title the other week too. Tough team, especially given Jatt and Dan are tag champs, their team work is going to be on fucking point. I’m going to need all the advantages I can to deal with that team.”
“Oh, that fucking reminds me! I’ve fucking got something for you!.” Trent pulled a large, crumpled joint out of his pocket, looked at it for a moment and then lit it. “Not that.” He rummaged around deeper and pulled out the gift which he handed to Evan. “This motherfucker.”
“Is this…” Evan looked at it with starry eyes.
“Yes it fucking is.” Trent grinned back.
“This is fucking legendary!” Evan gushed as he took in the sight of the weapon in his hands. It was a steel pipe, with articulated razor sharp wings, a steel beak welded on and melted yellow rubber all around it. “I can’t believe I’m holding THE Zombie Robo Paco!”
“Dude, with that fucking thing you’re unbeatable.” Trent nodded excitedly. “Well, at least fucking unbeatable against Jatt Starr. He’ll take one fucking look at it and cower in the fucking corner like a vampire at the fucking sight of a cross or like Shane Reynolds at fucking sun light.”
“Dude, I don’t know what to say.” Evan began to well up a bit. “This is so awesome, thank you!”
“Man, I fucking know you’re Shitty Alliance fucking team mates with Jatt but Ward Games is every cunt for his fucking self, ain’t it?” Trent took a deep toke off the joint, caning a good third in one puff. “I figured this would be the fucking least I could do to fucking help.”
“I appreciate it, dude.” Evan said, hefting the weapon up and giving it a test swing. “I really do. This is the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever been given!”
“Oh, dude, one fucking thing I’ve been meaning to fucking ask.” Trent said as he finished the joint and absentmindedly stubbed it out. “Is this fucking ring soaked in fucking petrol?”
“Fuck yeah, it is!” Evan grinned. “The whole place is.”
“Haha, fucking brilliant, you’re totally fucking nuts.” Trent shook his head in amusement. “Oh, and fucking one more thing… Did I just fucking light it?” He asked as the flames shot out all around them.”
“Fuck yeah, you… did” Evan started out really excited and then all the colour drained from him.
“Fuck.” Trent said, frozen.
“Fuck.” Evan agreed.
“FUCKING LEG IT!” Trent yelled as he ran out of the burning gym, followed by Evan who scooped up his duffle bag on the way past, tripping over in the process and scrambling to his feet. The pair left the old gym to burn to ashes and all the memories it had held to be washed away in a sea of conflagration…
Moments Trent ran back in through the flames to save the bottle of Jagermeister. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.” He shouted as he ran back out.