“And I do. I do wonder. I think about it all the time. What it would be like to kill myself. Because I never really know, I still can’t tell the difference, I’m never quite certain whether or not I’m actually alive. I sit here every single day. Run, I say to myself. Run until your lungs collapse, until the wind whips and snaps at your tattered clothes, until you’re a blur that blends into the background.
Run, run faster, run until your bones break and your shins split and your muscles atrophy and your heart dies because it was always too big for your chest and it beats too fast for too long and you run.
Run run run until you can’t hear their feet behind you. Run until they drop their fists and their shouts dissolve in the air. Run with your eyes open and your mouth shut and dam the river rushing up behind your eyes. Run.
Run until you drop dead. Make sure your heart stops before they ever reach you. Before they ever touch you.
Run, I said.”
– Tahereh Mafi
Hardwood floors gleam in the late afternoon light streaming into the room. Dan Ryan’s office at his compound in Texas was quiet, with little more than the buzzing of the ever-necessary air conditioner breaking the silence.
He stood there, at the window, staring out at.. What? Nothing specific, nothing exactly. He simply looked, and the same light tried to dance in his eyes, but they were enveloped there, and the light was gone.
It had been gone for some time — not that such a thing is news to any of you.
He felt something.
Something like…. Regret? No. Disappointment? Yes, something closer to that. The thrill of standing over the bald megalomaniac in charge of the company didn’t last for long. In the moment, he was alive, thriving, exploding in more than just physical strength, but he walked out of the room, and seconds later, it was gone.
This is how it’s going to always be, he wondered. And he wondered, for the first time, what would become of him. Had this gone on too long, gone too far, for any safe return? Does he even want a return? No, nothing like that. But peace. Peace of mind was more than he could hope for most likely.
More than anyone like… us… could hope for.
He often found that people confuse inner peace with some sense of insensibility whenever something goes wrong. In those cases inner peace is a permit for destruction; The unyielding optimist will pretend that the forest is not burning either because he is too lazy or too afraid to go and put the fire out.
He had stood there in the same spot contemplating any number of things over the last year, and he considered now that peace might be overrated. Maybe it’s an illusion that is impossible to attain, fading like the wisp of vapor whenever he reached out for it. Those moments after the violence, though it didn’t last, were the happiest he ever felt. Not to mention, he’d had to deal every day with people who were foolish and lazy and untruthful and downright unpleasant, and you could certainly end up thinking that the world would be considerably improved if he gave them a slap.
“If it is education that is brought about in the would-be-stone-throwers, and that might be brought about in us even by just the right little thing, education must have some attributes that we don’t ordinarily grant it. For one thing, it is not a ‘rank’, like citizenship of captaincy. It is an inward event, like joy or surprise. It would seem more correct to say, education has sometimes happened to me, than, I am educated. That would also reflect the fact that education is usually temporary, and who is brought to it just now, and in this context, may fall out of it tomorrow, or forget all about it when his belly growls. Thus it can be, for instance, that a highly trained and skillful expert can also be foolish, and utterly uneducated.”
– Richard Mitchell
First of all, you dumb motherfucker. You don’t know me. So, don’t act like you do.
BUT — I wanna thank you for the disclaimer at the top of that…..whatever it was. Usually my opponents aren’t nice enough to tell me ‘my next 1,500 words are going to be useless, derivative, corny backstory trash’ upfront. Usually, I have to experience it and get signaled by the looming migraine. But you’re a courteous man, Arthur Pleasant. A courteous man who killed his mom, has connections to the mob, and loves word puzzles. So I salute you. You really are Pleasant.
I have a disclaimer for you now. In what can only be called a cruel irony, you are about to get murdered.
There’s something to be said about a guy who is apparently everything but a lesbian vampire telling me that I’m a walking cliche. Oh my, what a twist! I thought you were gonna kill the abusive father, but no! You killed your weak bitch of a mother instead! Oh yes, your ‘weak bitch of a mother’ as you so eloquently put it. What a twist. It’s like the Sixth Sense all over again, only without there being anything interesting about it, and no talent associated with the telling of it whatsoever.
What is it with Lee hiring you bunch of talentless cartoon characters lately? Between you and Xcalibur Abercrombie, it’s like someone found a time portal, went back to 1994, saw a big steaming pile of dog shit, then brought it back with them and put it in tights. But I get it, everyone calls me a murderer, so of course, you have to pull yours out and try to measure it in front of me. It’s cool. I’m not here to begrudge a young man working his hustle to get ahead in life. If you have to wear an ‘I killed my own mother’ t-shirt to the ring so we all know how unhinged you are, you go right ahead, puddin’. You’ve got some things to work through. I won’t get in the way of that.
I do think you should reevaluate your career here in HOW, but not because Lee said so, more just because you’re a boring weirdo with a boner for wins over two guys who are barely qualified to sweep ringside when we’re all done. I’m not so sure you’re booked against me as a punishment to you. We really shouldn’t sleep on the possibility that this is meant to be a punishment to me for putting Lee in a hospital last week. See, I take big shots, Arthur. I take big shots and make big moves because I’m a big fucking player. Dan fucking Ryan. You’re damn right. Beating the fuck out of Brian Hollywood and expecting it to make you feared is like…. Well, actually there isn’t anything else as dumb as that. It’s real, real dumb.
But, the more I think of it, I think you’re right. I think this is a punishment for you. And Lee, I assure you, is no God. But if he were, I have a sense that God is unfair and preferentially punishes his weak, his dumb, his fat, his lazy. I believe he takes more pleasure in his perfect creatures, and cheers them on like a brainless dad as they run roughshod over the rest of us. He gives us a need for love and no way to get any. He gives us a desire to be liked, and personal attributes that make us utterly unlikable. Having placed his flawed and needy children in a word of exacting specifications, he deducts the difference between what we have and what we need from our hearts and our self-esteem and our mental health.
Wait, let me translate it into “boring.”
It means you’re a tool. You’re a tool, Arthur, and unfortunately, when you get lost between the moon and New York City, the best that you can do is get your fucking ass kicked and your face rearranged.
Don’t be afraid of being scared. To be afraid is a sign of common sense. Only complete idiots are not afraid of anything or claim not to be.
My needs are simple and few, Mr. Pleasant. I need only a direction to channel my rage and a target to lock onto. That’s all you are, and recent history suggests you are more likely to end the night locked onto a gurney, in a straight jacket, screaming ‘YOU NEVER PROTECTED ME, MOMMY” at the sky so you can convey the deep psychological scars that you think make you interesting, but are in fact so extraneous to anything I give a single fuck about, I can hardly keep my eyes open when you speak. You’re a middling child, with the mental capacity of a used condom, and when people say you’re probably going to lose, that you should be concerned, you better fucking listen to them. All you gotta do is look at the tape, pal. Look at the tape. If you doubt me and what I’m capable of? Look at the fucking tape. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter, I’m afraid. I’ll cave your face in for fun, not because Lee Best wants me to, or because you came out here and said a bunch of stupid shit for twenty minutes of time I’ll never recover. I’ll do it because it seems fun. What a nice distraction to be able to get in the ring and beat the ever-living fuck out of someone who likely won’t be here in this company within six months anyway. You serve a purpose, Arthur. You just don’t see it yet.
You’re a traumatized fool is what you are. Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies. The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. You are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, you’ve become an expert at ignoring your gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. You’ve learned to hide from yourself. Some scars don’t hurt. Some scars are numb. Some scars rid you of the capacity to feel anything ever again. But did you ever feel anything in the first place? If you did, you had it better than I did, because my entire life has been an act, played out on the stage in various phases of my life to conform to what was expected of me, or who I was told I should be. Something always felt wrong somehow before I realized what I was. And though the coldness I have always felt leaves me, the numbness doesn’t and probably never will. When the black thing was at its worst, when the illicit cocktails and the ten-mile runs stopped working, I would feel as if dead to the world. I moved unconsciously, with heavy limbs, like a zombie from a horror film. I felt a pain so fierce and persistent inside my head, I was tempted to take the chopping knife in the kitchen and cut the black thing out. I would lie on my bed staring at the ceiling thinking about that knife and using all my limited powers of self-control to stop myself from going downstairs to get it.
The violence I’m about to enact upon you will probably lead to nothing. You haven’t changed anything. I imagine the flowers in your hospital room smelling clean, like a fragrant meadow on a Spring day. What a pretty picture.
It’s a shame you won’t be able to see it.
“I don’t need anyone else to distract me from myself anymore like I always thought I would.”
– Charlotte Eriksson
Phyllis approached the door, pushed it, and heard it creak as it opened into the office. She saw him standing at the window, still. She knew what this was. He was still standing there, as he had been for hours. And, he hadn’t moved, so far as she could tell, for as long.
She knew he’d heard her come in. She wasn’t sneaking up on anyone. But also, he paid it no attention, just continued looking, looking, into nothing.
Her pumps clicked on the wood as she walked across the expanse between door and desk, and she sat in one of two high-backed wood chairs, lined with velvet. She watched, waited.
He had summoned her, after all. This wasn’t a visit for chit-chat. Something was coming, she just didn’t know what.
“I asked you to come because there’s something we need to discuss.”
His voice broke the silence, but he did not move, didn’t flinch, but it boomed and echoed around the office. She said nothing in reply, just looked ahead, and didn’t dare move.
“I assume you’re aware of what I did at Refueled.”
She nodded, even though he wasn’t looking at her still. “I am.”
“The time for laying back and letting things come to me is coming to an end. If certain recently revealed… revelations are to be believed, they are a signal that the time to act is now. Lee Best said it himself. Everyone must make a choice. I’ve made mine.”
She looked down only briefly, then back up.
“I expected as much.”
His voice became more sinister, and it felt as though a black cloud fell over the room.
“Did you expect me to find out that you’d been helping Alaina hide Cecilia from me for the last six months?”
“I….I…..” she stammered. “How did you…?”
He cut her off mid-sentence but still didn’t move. “How did I find out?”
She sat upright in her chair, and she felt a chill go up her spine.
“It was for her own good, and yours. Sir, you haven’t been well. I didn’t want her to get hurt.”
“Interesting,” the tone in his voice gave way to a deeply disgusted snarl. “That you believe you are the arbiter of what is best for my own good.”
She made no response, frozen in place.
“You? Did you consider at any point that I’m a grown man and am fully capable of making decisions for myself, and of choosing exactly what is for… my own good?”
“Sir… I just….”
He spun around then, much faster than should be expected, and leaned across the desk, towering over her where she sat. The frown on his face ominously deepened, and he practically growled at her.
“From now on, I don’t want you doing what you think is for my own good. I don’t want you making decisions. If I tell you to do something, you fucking do it, do you understand me?”
Petrified by fear, she couldn’t verbalize a response, but she slowly nodded.
“No more distractions. Now…”
He leaned in even closer, and a devilish smile crossed his face.
“I want to see my daughter.”