“Our memory is a more perfect world than the universe: it gives back life to those who no longer exist.” – Guy de Maupassant
[“You’ll want to bite down on that, boy.”]
The Doctor spoke in crisp German as he held a small wooden stick out toward the mouth of the young boy that sat in the chair in front of him. In the future the boy would become Maximillian Wilhelm Kael and the Minister but for now he was just Max, a frightened kid. Strapped into a chair fitted with several long black rubber hoses and metal fixtures while a strange helmet was affixed to Max’s head.
Soft brown eyes stared at the wooden stick being extended then turned back up at the older Doctor. Instinctually Max’s eyes flickered toward the large mirrored wall, he had a constant feeling like something inside of it was staring at him.
[“Come on, focus, bite down child.”] the Doctor commanded again, the stick pushed more aggressively into Max’s face.
Reluctantly the boy turned his eyes away from the mirrored wall, returning them to the Doctor as he bit down on the stick. Immediately he tasted a bitter, chemical taste, disinfectant probably. Furthermore Max made a disturbing discovery as his teeth settled into old grooves left behind no doubt by previous patients of the Doctor.
[“Good-Good. We may now begin.” the physician of questionable moral ethics muttered. He turned toward the mirrored wall and began to speak though the terminology was alien sounding and confusing to the young boy. However his one sided conversation with the mirror seemed to only confirm what Max had feared.
Something was in the mirror, he just couldn’t see it.
Distracted by that thought Max’s mind wandered to the possibilities, the Doctor’s droning fading into the background. His bet was one some kind of terrible monster that delighted in the torture of children, a boogie man that he had been unfortunate enough to fall into the clutches of.
Sadly Max had no idea just how accurate his fear was.
The Doctor finished his rambling speech and turned his attention back to Max with a grim expression.
[“This will hurt but with any hope.. You won’t remember any of it, boy. Take a deep breath.”]
Panic started to well up inside of the young boy as the Doctor’s hands reached up to the helmet sitting on his head, fiddling with a few switches. Suddenly a shield slipped down over Max’s eyes cutting off his field of vision. A sharp pain, like needles or screws being driven into the sides of his skull jolted through his brain.
So blinding and sudden was the pain that he choked on his own scream, the wooden stick tumbling out of his mouth as a desperate gasp was all he was able to vocalize. Through the pain Max could still hear the Doctor speaking but the pain left his mind unable to focus, his thoughts filled with nothing but the want for this suffering to end.
Lost in this agony the darkness before his eyes exploded into bright light as he was bombarded by a series of old black and white images. The subject of the images appeared to be a young boy, roughly his age, who looked strangely familiar to Max but.. He couldn’t quite place it.
..he looked like they could have been related..
Unfortunately the pain the helmet was inducing didn’t allow the young boy to dwell on the peculiarity as he felt the screws slowly turn deeper into his head, this time a high pitched wail of agony escaped his lips as he struggled against the binding of his chair.
The images continued to bombard his vision as he let out another scream, this one dryer, more pleating. Hot tears ran down his cheeks as he felt another turn of the screws in his head, another wave of nauseating pain washing over his small body.
Before he could let loose another wail, however, he felt the stick being shoved aggressively back into his mouth followed by what felt like a cord being used to secure it to his face. Though he could still scream but it was considerably muffled by the stick.
The pain in his mind began to bleed over into a different feeling, one that he hadn’t experienced much in his short life, a feeling that felt like a flame in the center of his mind and slowly surged like hot lead through his veins.
And even as he tried to scream and wail and screech, each attempt was choked back and muffled by the stick and the growing mouthful of spit. He could feel hot blood start to fill the back of his throat as it was cracked by the intensity of his screaming. The fangs in his head pushed deeper and his hate intensified, his rage overshadowed the blinding pain.
His teeth bit down hard on the stick as he felt them dig in. Saliva dripped from his lips as his eyes stared with malice at the face that was being bombarded at him through the helmet. His soft brown eyes dilated and grew cold..
Through gritted teeth a new sound gurgled past the gag the Doctor had secured to his face..
It had been three days since the discovery of the hidden space beneath Five Time Academy, a mystery that had given the Minister’s plans pause. In all of his knowledge of Mike Best he had never known the Son of Lee to keep secrets like this.
Oh sure, the random potential abuse victim paid off by Daddy’s dirty little slush fund or maybe even a kid, after all they are kind of like the ultimate impulse purchase, but a secret, hidden sub-basement with a mysterious hallway that leads to..
Not just a door though, a massive, metal vault door with a key code locking mechanism. The metal hinges were too thick to cut through, nothing the Minister or his Congregation had on hand could pierce it. The only hope to unraveling this potential mystery before No Remorse was the key code..
As the upstairs was completed the Minister and a few of his Congregation had been toiling away in the basement, some time spent punching in random potential password codes, the others unboxing a strange assortment of mechanical components made from aged copper, brass, leather and black rubber tubes. Each box that these old components was pulled from was marked with the Argentinian flag and looked to be some thirty or fourty years old.
Still, splitting his time between the two projects was slowing both, something that had begun to frustrate the already temperamental Minister. If no further progress could be made on the vault door he would simply have it bricked up to deny both Mike and himself access to it and whatever treasures lay within.
Thankfully he had one last card to play, the long lost Apostle Doug.
“So,” the Minister snarled with an exacerbated breath. “What is it Mike built down here?”
“Well,” the Apostle Doug said, pushing the small fedora back as he scratched his scalp. “A few years back Mike got hooked on that show where people prepare for the apocalypse.. This looks like one of those Panic Rooms.”
Though many of the former Apostles of Mike Best’s fate had been left ambiguous after being left in a burning warehouse the otherwise incredibly unremarkable Apostle Doug had quickly joined the ranks of the Minister. He was just eager to simply serve someone, anyone really, so long as he was allowed to be a part of something. The Minister could appreciate that kind of honest sycophant, they never tended to surprise you and were easily cowed.
He was also probably the only other person alive outside of Cecilworth Fartington who knew Mike as well as the Minister did. The Last Apostle was a last ditch effort but as far as Hail Mary’s went, this was one of the better options.
“A panic room?” the scowling lips of the Minister pushed together creating an unpleasant shadow of what might have been duck face or blue steel. “..why would you build a panic room and then put up a wall so you can’t get to you?”
“Yeah, well, Mike isn’t here anymore is he? Hasn’t been here in over a year so my guess is when he realized he wasn’t going to be here he just had it walled off.” Doug guessed again as he peered down at the numerical lock pad.
“We’ve had no luck with the code and the door is too thick to pry past it.” Minister said in a defeated tone. “But if it’s a panic room that means I can at least ensure that Mike can’t get to it by simply rebricking the wall I sup-”
Before Minister could finish the Apostle Doug quickly jams his finger across the numerical pad which chirped cheerfully as he finished. A loud clanging sound rumbled from the door, the air seal around it hissing angrily.
“..huh I didn’t think that was going to work.”
“What did you do?!” Minister stared at Doug incredulously, shocked that, after three days, of all people, Apostle Doug knew the key to getting past this damnedable door.
“Knowing Mike I took a gamble. Turns out he used the same code for his phone for years. 8-0-0-8-1-3-5.”
There was a pause from the Minister as he stared at Doug for a long moment. His face wasn’t filled with anger or distorted by frustration, he looked rather more like a dog who had just heard an unusual sound for the first time.
“Gotta love’em, right? Like me, I love them because.. I see them. All the time.”
“.. on your phone?”
“It’s on your phone because it’s porn, isn’t it Apostle Doug?”
Rolling his eyes the Minister’s ring covered fingers grasp the handle of the door and yanked it open, the lights within flickering to life. Stepping in the Minister’s red eye scanned the room as a dawning realization of what this place really was.
“…heh-heh.. Apostle Doug it appears you were wrong. This isn’t a panic room but it is definitely still in character for Mike Best.”
Peering past the Minister the last known Apostle stared at a room stacked floor to ceiling with boxes of OCW merchandise, racks of suits in various plaids, gold, silver and #97red, a box of slightly used OCW Hall of Fame rings, toys, essentially anything related to Mike’s time outside of HOW in 2019 filled this small underground room. A wheezing, choking chuckle boiled out of the Minister’s mouth as he turned to look down at Doug, a smile stretched across his face.
“It’s a tomb.”
It had taken the better part of a day to clear out the underground vault that Mike had left behind at Five Time Academy. Though originally thought to be a Panic Room in reality it had been much like a child shoving all of his toys underneath his bed because he didn’t want to actually clean his room or burying your garbage in your backyard because you didn’t feel like taking it to the dump.
Boxes of now useless or out date merchandise like the UNDEFEATED line or defunct OCW PPV shirts had been stacked floor to ceiling. Action figures of Mike Best released under the OCW branding were still sealed up in boxes having never been officially released. Hats and jackets, a full wardrobe of Mike Best’s outlandish suits and parts of what appeared to be an enormous fish, all shoved haphazardly into this underground room.
It had been like a small treasure trove nobody sober ever wanted to see, a graveyard of Mike’s missteps.
But it wasn’t what the room contained that the Minister had become interested in. It was, in fact, the room itself that presented itself as a gift to the Minister. The junk inside had been taken out and replaced with a large wooden chair adorned with various different brass and copper fixtures, thick black rubber tubes running from it to monitoring equipment.
“Do you know what this is, Apostle Doug?”
The Minister’s voice croaked in the underground chamber as he stared lovingly down at the chair that a young Max Kael had once been strapped to a lifetime ago. Doug stood just behind him staring at the chair before shrugging his shoulders.
“Looks like an electric chair to me. You gonna fry Mike down here?” the Last Apostle guessed as he adjusted the fedora on his head.
“No, no nothing so crude.. This was my very first cradle, Apostle. I was born in this chair, like any young babe, screaming and crying as I was ushered painfully into this filthy, disgusting world.” The challenger for the High Octane World Championship spit the last words out with venom.
“Your mother gave birth to you in a chair?”
“I didn’t have a Mother,” The Minister said as he turned to look down at Doug, his hand settling on Doug’s shoulder, his fingers clamping down tightly, perhaps a little too tightly as the golden rings on his finger dig into the Apostle’s skin. “..though in a roundabout way you could say I had two Fathers.”
“Oh, well that’s very progressive!” Doug exclaimed loudly though he winced as the Minister’s hand tightened.
There was a slightly awkward pause between the two as Minister’s smile seemed to stretch impossibly wide. Doug laughed nervously as he turned to stare at the hand with the vice like grip on his shoulder then back up at the burning red eye of the Minister.
It dawned on Doug only too late what was about to happen. Before he could put up a fight the Minister had pulled Doug into the chair, the locking mechanisms immediately fastening the Apostle into place even as he struggled against them.
“You’ve been immensely helpful, Apostle Doug, and you have one last chance to prove yourself useful! You’re going to have the privilege of experiencing the same enlightenment as me. See a Congregation is great but to share a single, truth vision and faith? That takes one mind, Doug, one soul! Now before this was just preamble, just some propaganda.. But now? Heh-heh..”
The Minister finished securing Doug into the cruel contraption, the twisted smile never leaving his face, his blue eye wild with madness while the #97Red eye burned with malicious glee. He moved behind the chair and knocked the Apostle’s fedora off his head.
“See, I’ve got big plans, Doug, well beyond No Remorse, well beyond High Octane Wrestling.. Heh-heh.. Mike is a big part of those plans, Doug, and I really, really appreciate all the hard work you put in on helping me to break the Son of GoD. Now it’s time to give one last thing to the Cause, my dear Apostle,” the Minister pulled the copper and brass helmet down over Doug’s head and secured it in place. “..you’re body.”
Slithering back around in front of the Apostle the Minister leaned in close to stare into Doug’s terrified face.
“..I..I’ve done everything you asked me! I got you into this room! I helped you find the other Apostles! I even helped you break into Mike’s apartment to break his gas line!”
“Yes.. yes.. Good times! But.. uh.. Well… I’m a possessive motherfucker. Oh! Before I forget I do have a … mercy.. For you…”
The Minister chuckled as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a worn looking old wooden stick with a strap tied to it. Before Doug could issue any reply the Minister had the old bite shoved into the Last Apostles mouth, the strap securing it tightly to his face.
His fingers moved toward the switches on the helmet as he peered down into Doug’s horrified face. Metal teeth glistening in the Minister’s crocodile like grin as he offered one last piece of advice for the ill fated ex-friend of Mike Best.
[“You’ll want to bite down on that, boy.”]