”Face the sun if you fear the shadows.” – Vineet Raj Kapoor
Streams of light fill the small cell where Jeffrey James Roberts is standing, back to the cell bars, facing the small newly installed window near the ceiling, eyes closed, the sunshine on his face. It has been years since feeling the warmth of the sun on his face. Ten years in the darkness, not worthy of the privilege of sunlight. Even in this unique circumstance, trotted around the country in this trailer, this makeshift prison cell, he was only brought out when necessary, hands cuffed and straight to the ring, at night.
He turns his face and looks around, smirking slightly and the vastly upgraded accommodations. Where a stark white, blank aesthetic used to dominate, he now had a small sofa, a small television mounted on the opposite wall, a desk near the door where his old pal the 4th Wahl kindly drops each morning’s newspaper for him to read about the outside world. And in another corner, a large easel with a stack of canvas, pulled back to be easily removed and set aside for the next piece. Next to it, is a record player, at his request. He always preferred the sound of vinyl. These are some of the promised perks, with more promised to come.
A noise catches his attention and he turns around to see the aforementioned big security guard for the Best family standing there, and he tosses the morning’s rolled-up newspaper through the bars and onto the desk, taking care not to have his hands inside for one second longer than necessary.
“Ah,” Roberts says as he strolls toward the desk, his eyes never leaving the big man. “My daily dose of misery. I used to think all of the misery was in here. I’m not so sure the rest of the world is much better.”
Roberts smirks, but 4th Wahl doesn’t give a shit. He just steps back from the bars, then turns and walks away. Roberts stares at the spot on the wall behind where his head just was, and he considers how his brains would look splattered all over it, but this is a fleeting thought, less than a second, and he turns to the desk, walks over and picks up the newspaper.
The headline catches his eye, and a smile slowly spreads across his face. He’s in Atlanta, so he’s told, but I guess this one made national news.
”San Francisco Serial Murderer Apprehended in Late Night Sting”
And underneath, a subheader, less prominent that says, “Purported disciple of notorious serial killer Jeffrey James Roberts Linked to 14 Murders over a ten year period.”
Roberts chuckles to himself.
This is the moment people like him wait for, after all. It’s not about the crime, not about the chase, it’s about getting caught. After all, if you aren’t caught, no one knows your name. But without trying, he’d stolen this man’s moments. Even in his moment of glory, good ol’ JJR gets the press.
He ponders the implications, of another failed student who could not learn the important lessons. No more late-night visits from the man in the hat and trenchcoat, no more cryptic messages about his allegiance and desire to continue the work.
“Amateur.” He shakes his head, then drops the paper back onto the desk.
Roberts turns, walks back to the middle of the room, his hands freed from their bonds and clasped behind him, and like a happy puppy putting his face out of a car window into the wind, closes his eyes and smiles genuinely as the warm light shines on his face.
”The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde
Three times a charm, right Hollywood? Or is it four? I can’t really remember.
I want to say this upfront because I think it’s important. You’re a tough motherfucker. The people around High Octane don’t need to hear that and it doesn’t, in the end, really matter what I think either, but it’s the truth. And the truth matters, I think.
I don’t know what it’s like to be you. I don’t know what it was like when you first got here, when you first won a World Championship, or when you won your second. I wasn’t here for any of it. I was locked away, as I should be. Yes, I was right where I belonged, just like you. And so, since I cannot possibly understand what it means to be you in this situation, let’s suppose that you in turn cannot possibly understand what it means to be me.
You think it’s some trumped-up exaggerated story, but I am, quite specifically, a killer. I’m not a killer the way the men in this business are considered a killer. I have, many times over, looked into the eyes of another human being while I squeezed the life out of them. It’s not a metaphor. For this, I will never be free. And that’s wise because freeing me would be a huge and costly mistake.
I’m a murderer, but not a monster. I don’t live under your bed or in your closet. I’m a real living breathing human being. And that’s the most frightening thing about me. Every single one of my victims was caught off guard. Do you understand that? I am a chameleon of society, easily able to blend into any situation and make you feel at ease. I’m the teller at your local bank, your son’s soccer coach, and the pastor at your church. I’m all of them, and you would never know before I strike. I’m equally as capable of making you feel suddenly uneasy. It is the only thing in my life that is truly interesting to me, the discomfort and pain of others.
The primary marks of my psychopathy are a sense of helplessness, impotence, and nagging revenge carried over from early childhood. Intertwined with this core of emotions which color and distort my view of life and all my actions, are my irrational hatred for others, my suspiciousness, and my hypersensitivity to injustices or rejection. Hand in hand with these go my self-centeredness and my inability to withstand frustration. Overpowered by frequent uncontrollable emotional outbursts, I have a need to retaliate, to destroy, to tear down by killing. People study me and believe that I am in complete control of my emotions, that I have channeled them to a sinister purpose. But the truth is, I have no control of any of it whatsoever. That’s what is most dangerous about me. That’s what scares even me. I don’t know what I’ll do if you leave me an opening. But I know it will be bad. I know you won’t be smiling at the end.
And I’m paying for it, as I should. I have no place in polite society. I’m serving a life sentence with no hope for parole. I’ve sat for ten long years in a deep dark hole. It’s the other side of death, not the one at the end of a sudden muzzle flash, but the slow and wrenching kid, leaving plenty of time for hard reflection.
I’ve never met a murderer who wasn’t vain. It’s their vanity that leads to their undoing, nine times out of ten. We may be frightened of being caught, but we can’t help strutting and boasting and usually, we are sure we’ve been far too clever to be caught. I’m no different. Everything I say, I’m full of shit. Know that. And know it all you want, because it will change nothing. Whether I say it or not, the same holds true: I am chaos and death, and you are a professional wrestler, Brian Hollywood, trying to claw your way into a big match, and you have to do it by going through me. You have to try… again.
I’m sure the disappointment has been palpable for you. Week after week, you trudge along, waiting for another chance to prove to yourself and to everyone else that two World Championships six years ago are not the beginning and end of you. It’s inspiring to see, as I watch you walk slowly toward your actual end. You plan, plot and scheme, but nothing works. But it’ll work this time, right?
It is okay to alter your original plans, you know. To try means to learn. To learn means to grow. To grow means to change. As long as you keep praying and trying and dreaming, there is hope. Go out there and try to be good. If you go out there and try to be good, you’ve got a chance to be great. People who laugh at your hustle are the first people who will be asking for favors and help should you make it to where you want to go.
Now put that in a Hallmark card, hang it on your fridge and wait for good things to happen to you.
You’ve promised me something more this week. I look forward to it. You’ve promised you will work harder, train harder, study our previous matches to find an opening, you will fire up and overcome me as an obstacle, and to that I say, you better. You better do all that you’ve promised and more, my friend, because this is no game to me. I’ve suffered a defeat that leaves me starving for redemption, and you are squarely in my crosshairs.
Pray to God, if you do such a thing, but God is folly after all. Thus are your efforts for this match.
And God would not care anyway. In order to believe he gives a solitary damn about you, you have to believe that for 98,000 years, our species suffered and died, most of its children dying in childbirth, most other people having a life expectancy of about 25 years, dying of their teeth. Famine, struggle, bitterness, war, suffering, misery, all of that for 98,000 years.
Heaven watches this with complete indifference. And then 2,000 years ago, thinks ‘That’s enough of that. It’s time to intervene,’ and the best way to do this would be by condemning someone to a human sacrifice somewhere in the less literate parts of the Middle East. Don’t let us appeal to the Chinese, for example, where people can read and study evidence and have a civilization. Let’s go to the desert and have another revelation there. This is nonsense. It can’t be believed by a thinking person.
And I’m glad. Why am I glad this is the case? To get to the point of the wrongness of it all, because I think these teachings are immoral, the central one is the most immoral of all, and that is the one of vicarious redemption. You can throw your sins onto somebody else, vulgarly known as scapegoating. In fact, originated as scapegoating in the same area, the same desert. I can pay your debt if I love you. I can serve your term in prison if I love you very much. I can volunteer to do that. I can’t take your sins away, because I can’t abolish your responsibility, and I shouldn’t offer to do so. Your responsibility has to stay with you. There’s no vicarious redemption. There very probably, in fact, is no redemption at all. It’s just a part of wish-thinking, and I don’t think wish-thinking is good for people either.
It even manages to pollute the central question, the word I just employed, the most important word of all: the word love, by making love compulsory, by saying you must love. You must love your neighbor as yourself, something you can’t actually do. You’ll always fall short, so you can always be found guilty. By saying you must love someone who you also must fear. That’s to say a supreme being, an eternal father, someone of whom you must be afraid, but you must love him, too. If you fail in this duty, you’re again a wretched sinner. This is not mentally or morally or intellectually healthy.
And that brings me to my final objection to all of it, and I’ll condense it so as not to hurt your little brain. This is a totalitarian system. If there was a God who could do these things and demand these things of us, and he was eternal and unchanging, we’d be living under a dictatorship from which there is no appeal, and one that can never change and one that knows our thoughts and can convict us of thought crime, and condemn us to eternal punishment for actions that we are condemned in advance to be taking. All this in the round, and I could say more, it’s an excellent thing that we have absolutely no reason to believe any of it to be true.
Just like I have no reason to believe any of what you have promised will be true. It’s horse shit. You’re horse shit. All that’s true and all that matters is within me, and I’m the only God you need worry about, because I don’t even promise the redemption part, only suffering and death and judgment. I’m just sick of ego, ego, ego. My own and everybody else’s. I’m sick of everybody that wants to get somewhere, do something distinguished and all, be somebody interesting. It’s disgusting.
My evil is transparent. I don’t wrap it up in flowery language to seem good. No, on the surface I remain charming, affable, but undeniably broken and disgusting, even to myself. I’ve reached my end, Hollywood, at least, emotionally. There is no soul redemption coming. It is a fucking lie. I wallow in disgust and loathing, and my hair stands on end at the delicious horror.
This doesn’t have to be the end for you. Your dignity can be mocked, abused, compromised, toyed with, lowered, and even bad-mouthed, but it can never be taken from you. You have the power today to reset your boundaries, restore your image, start fresh with renewed values and rebuild what has happened to you in the past.
But not against me.
My plans are made new. I have a singular focus again. He may have forsaken me, but the Son came to save. You cling to hope, but I will save you by destroying your last shred of hope. You need to be reborn, Brian Hollywood, and saving you is the only thing that will bring me peace for all the wrong I have done.
That is my truth.
”The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.” – Jim Morrison