The opening lullaby of Spacehog’s “In the Meantime” bellows out a lonely and empty castle from the 17th century. I recognize that song. There’s a chill breeze as the air sweeps over the stone woodwork, sending the hairs on my arms erect. I looks around, confused, fish out of water dazed. Above me is a dangling elegant chandelier, almost as new and pretty as the day it was made. It sways gently in the cool breeze.
I take a step forward, off of the circular carpet, as my steps echo loudly now. I walk around, surveying the sights, a suit of armor on one side, paintings of an Empire fallen on another, and in the furthest reaches of this hallway, in what appears to be a dead end is a large majestic looking painting. Huge, it covers the entire wall and would probably be hung above a fireplace in one of those rooms with a high ceiling. Beautifully made by what I could only guess as Michelangelo’s or Leonardo’s kin. Definitely a ninja turtle’s son.
It instantly draws me to it. Reminds me of one of those stock High School graduation photos, with the smiling faces and arms around shoulders, a jovial atmosphere of celebration. Lee Best is mussing the hair of Mario Maurako, as Jatt Starr and John Sektor sit, back to back smiling at the camera. Steve Solex is leaning in frame, trying to rush in to be part of the picture. Meanwhile, in the background, there’s an ominous almost robot like being zipping around the skies like Iron Man, it’s artificially blue eye piercing and more noticeable than the rest.
I’m instantly drawn to it. My hand outstretches, and as my hand gently scraps against the canvas… it’s not canvas. It’s liquid. It’s fucking liquid, and it’s climbing up my finger. I can’t move my hand. It’s crawling up my wrist and it keeps going. I scream and scream and scream until the liquid rises past my lips and down my gullet, suffocating and drowning me in an instant.
There’s a loud CHIME. It’s the last thing I expect to hear.
Until I’m deposited on the other side. I’m… I look around. This looks like the world, but fake. Like, well done, but I see the brush strokes in the face of this tree bark. I look around. I see a small brown face that looks like Mike Best waddling past. That’s when Mario Maurako hops into frame, leaping off of one Mike Best head and onto the next, then the final one before landing with a strange 8-bit sound. He turns, wearing plumbers overalls and a red hat.
Mario Maurako: “It’s a-me! Mario! Come with me! The Prince is in another castle!”
I look around, I see a frowning John Sektor wearing green overalls, arms crossed in front of his chest. Waddling up beside him is Steve Solex in the shape of a mushroom. Finally, walking up in a pink pastel dress is Jatt Starr, wearing a princess crown where his usual floof of a hair is. He doesn’t look amused. I blink, rub my eyes, and watch at Jatt jumps in the air and hovers for just a few seconds before floating to his feet.
Suddenly, there’s a loud crash, and I look over through the rubble to see… MECHA-MAX KAEL-saur! He throws a large bullet at me, that seems comical… and before I can react it FLATTENS me.
I sit up. Eyes wide, sweating. I look around. I was asleep.
High Flyer: Phew. Must have been a dream. So sorry I fell asleep. Where were we?
I look down. It must be a psychiatrist’s office. Good. I need to talk to my shrink.
High Flyer: Oh yes, see, that’s why modern day fiscal and social responsibility is just out the window for this generation. You know what I’m saying Freddy?
I look over to my side. There, sitting next to me is Max Kael, dressed in a Freddy Kruger outfit. He’s slowly fileting my skin off of my left hand, as I nonchalantly talk to him.
He looks at me with his beedy metallic eye.
I sit up. Panting. Wheezing. I’m shirtless. That’s normal. My skin isn’t flayed. That’s normal, unless I’m actually fighting Max Kael. I think I’m in one piece, physically. I mean, emotionally and mentally is a different story. My brain’s been more fragmented and disjointed than whatever analogy you want to think of. I can’t think of one cause my brains been too fragmented.
I look over, and my ex-wife is stirring awake next to me. Huh. That’s new.
High Flyer: Honey, am I dreaming?
Kate sighs, sitting up in bed before slapping me across the face.
High Flyer: Ow. You’re supposed to pinch.
So Kate reaches below the belt and gives the old dangly bits a pinch.
High Flyer: Yeow! Alright! Point made.
Kate: It’s 3 am. Go the fuck to sleep.
And she rolls over, and within a moment, her sleep apnea snoring kicks in.
Did I finally find a balance between work and home? Between my life as a wrestler and my life as a father?
Or am I still dreaming?
The BEST Alliance.
Strange. I thought that was us. You, Troy, Ryan, pipsqueak and the Wildcard. Enough for a Royal Flush at any casino. Pretty good hand to play don’tcha think?
Lee Best promised me the best violence that I could find. He didn’t disappoint. You, Eric? You disappointed.
I never promised victory, glory. I promised violence and chaos, and I delivered. I at least kept up, I stayed involved. I didn’t collect unemployment for six months and spend that time plotting my triumphant return only to FUCK IT UP on the dismount.
Congrats Troy. Enjoy fucking up Dan for me.
As for Eric, well…
See. I cracked the code Eric, the key to success here in HOW, and I’mma let you in on it. You’re either in Lee Best’s favor…
… or you’re in Mike Best’s favor.
Or You. Are. Fucked.
Mike ain’t ever gonna play fair with us, you and I know that. He chose his favorites and the fact is that you weren’t there to stop him from taking the King and Queen of the Best Industry Alliance and turn them into his pawns. That. That just means we all failed Lee.
Doesn’t matter if we gave up the name. We failed at War Games. We failed against the Empire. The last BEST Alliance was a failure, and the only people Lee has left to blame? You and me. So he waited, until they could finally wash off the stank of the fallen endeavour, find a new coalition of willing muscle for his plans, and engaged.
I didn’t get a call. I know you didn’t either. Where does that leave us?
Heh. I just thought about Ryan beating the fuck out of Troy last week. That was awesome.
Listen, Dan Ryan never liked you. Lindsey Troy could barely STAND you, and MJF just didn’t know better. If she stuck around long enough though, she’d know. No one likes Eric Dane. Not me. Not Mike.
Not Lee Best.
Maybe if you didn’t shit the bed against Troy and actually won against DEATH GROUP: SQUAD STUPID, you just might have have been invited to the cool kids table, but you couldn’t do it, could ya? You had all the time in the world to prepare, to plot using razorwire or explosives or TNT bombs or whatever bullshit you think I’m going to spew as an absurd weapon, to make sure you didn’t just START hot, but BEAT that bitch.
But you couldn’t. And it sucks. Cause I know. I KNOW.
You. Are. TRYING.
Like. REALLY hard.
And you look at me. You call me out, sure! I called myself out last week. I said, you show up without a handicap, you’re gonna beat me. But if the odds are in my favor.
See, here’s your handicap. HOW hates you. HOW, is your handicap.
So, I’m going to break you Eric. When I beat you, what’s that going to do to you? When the entire world “knows” that I don’t GIVE a fuck if I win or lose, that… more importantly, YOU don’t think I give a shit anymore… (laughs) How many pieces is your fragile little ego going to shatter into when you lose against me at half-assed.
That Eric Dane can put his A PLUS shit in the ring against me, but I can yawn and beat him without a sweat.
Or maybe. That’s just what I want you to think, and I have you exactly where I want you.
See? And you said I wasn’t smart.