Seeds of Doubt

Seeds of Doubt

Posted on December 26, 2023 at 9:38 pm by Steve Solex

The scent of old wood and leather fills the air, mixed with a hint of rust and sweat. A single light hangs overhead, gently swaying back and forth in the draft created by the shop fans on either side of the barn. In the center of the dimly lit, weathered barn gym, Solex stands alone. His muscles are tense and defined, glistening with sweat underneath the lone and flickering light bulb. This barn, this makeshift temple of barbells and preparation, is Solex’s sanctuary, a place where he not only hones his body but where he develops his grit, will and determination.

It’s where he finds himself. But he hasn’t been here in months, he’s been far too busy with his other commitments. Whether that was working on the corporate side of the business or teaching his first born son how to handle some shithead kid from school that threatened to fight him. But none of that matters to Solex at this very moment. The paperwork is done and that kid was dealt with. The only thing that matters to Solex right now is that he’s coming off of a loss against Jace Parker Davidson and Brian Hollywood and that, coupled with the announcement of a gauntlet match at ICONIC, has brought him back to this place, to once again find his primal self. Eating the pin from Brian Hollywood, after absolutely destroying him earlier in the year, has reignited the fire in his belly, so here he stands ready to find his inner rage once again.

Solex stares down the leather heavy bag in front of him with a snarl on his face. It’s clear that the heavy bag is not just a heavy bag, but a representation of everything that’s in front of him. It’s a representation of every opponent that he will face at ICONIC in the gauntlet. But first and foremost, It’s a representation of the LSD Champion, the man that he plans on dethroning once and for all at ICONIC, Jace Parker Davidson.

Solex gently nudges the heavy bag with his bare fist, causing it to swing back and forth. He throws his hands up and assumes his fighting stance and as the heavy bag moves in, his footwork comes to life. He circles the bag to his left and unleashes a textbook one-two combination that forces the bag into more of a reckless swing. As the bag swings back, Solex times its movement and with a laser-like precision, he drives his shinbone into the side of the bag with a thunderous roundhouse kick. The impact reverberates through the barn and the violent impact wrenches the heavy bag free of its chain causing it to crash down on the cold, cement floor with a resounding thud.

Without any hesitation Solex pounces onto the heavy bag and swiftly takes up a mounted position. Fueled by an unbridled rage Solex begins to drive fist after fist and elbow after elbow into the leather, denting it mercilessly.

“Yo, you good?!” A male voice, heavily accented with a southern draw, shouts from the barn entrance.

Solex goes to throw another punch into the bag, but the familiarity of the voice at the door causes him to immediately freeze. He slowly turns his head and peers over his shoulder, his eyes narrowing as he identifies the man framed in the doorway. Solex’s expression lightens but he immediately reigns it back in. He can’t lose his intensity, not now.

“Hank?” Solex rhetorically asks with a low grumble. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

Hank bites down on the toothpick in his mouth, flashes a smile, tips his beige cowboy hat and says, “It’s good to see you too, asshole.”

Hank steps into the barn, scuffing his shitkicker cowboy boots across the dusty, cement floor as he walks up to Solex, who’s fist continues to hang in the air.

Solex finally lowers his hand and springs to his feet, his movements fluid and precise. Solex stands straight up and locks eyes with Hank, the two men standing only a horse’s length apart from one another. The barn around them seems to shrink as the two continues to stare at one another, Hank’s demeanor light hearted and fun while Solex’s eyes burn with intensity and jaw is clenched tightly,

“How ya’ doin?” Hank asks, still smiling, his toothpick riding his mouth as it moves.

Solex stares silently at his old friend and suddenly, the look on his face softens, but only a bit.

“You dickhead. How the fuck do you think I’m doing?” Solex asks with a chuckle and a heavy exhale.

“I lost to that fucking nobody, Brian Hollywood a couple of weeks ago and now…the old man doesn’t trust me enough to take out that piece of shit Davidson on my own so he booked a fucking gauntlet match to make sure that if I can’t get the job done, that John Sektor will,” Solex says as he places his hands firmly on his hips.

“Let’s just say…I’ve been better,” Solex continues.

Hank pulls a bandana from his back pocket and wipes down the back of his neck as he shakes his head.

“Well, damn,” Hank mutters. “That’s rough, dude. A gauntlet match is no fuckin’ joke.”

Solex shakes his head and rolls his eyes as a smirk tugs at the corner of his mouth.

“No, shit, Sherlock,” Solex says, the look on his face softening by the second.

“Well, what are you doing about it?” Hank asks with a tilt of his head. 

“What am I doing?” Solex asks, his voice laced with sarcasm. Solex lets out an exasperated laugh, pointing to the heavy bag on the ground.

Hank’s eyes follow the direction of Solex’s point. He takes in the sight of the battered heavy bag, tilts his cowboy hat back on his head and says, “Looks like you’re preparing for war.”

Solex’s expression hardens once again. He grits his teeth and turns away from Hank. He looks up to the steel rafters that hold the barn together as he places his hands on his hips.

“You’re goddamn right I’m preparing for war, Hank. That’s exactly what a gauntlet match is. It’s a war and, fuck me running, I don’t even know how many people I’m up against. To be real though, it doesn’t fucking matter one bit how many men are in this match because I’ve waited months to get my hands on that prick Davidson, and now I’ve finally got my shot. Beating the ever living piss out of him and dethroning that cunt once and for all is my number one priority in all of this. And when I’m through with that piece of shit, I’ll do better than just survive the gauntlet, I’ll fucking dominate,” Solex says, his voice booming off the barn walls.

Hank crosses his arms in front of his chest, his demeanor showing a hint of concern but also a bit of admiration.

“No one is doubting your ability to throw down, Steve. But you have to realize that this kind of match isn’t a sprint, it’s a fucking marathon. You’ve got to get your emotions in check if you plan on winning this match and the rest of it,” Hank says.

Solex gives Hank a cross look and he too folds his arms across his chest.

“You know think I don’t fucking know that? Do you know who the fuck you’re talking to right now?” Solex says, taking an aggressive step toward his friend but stopping at one.

“Look man, I do know who I’m talking to. But I’m looking at you brother, and you’ve put on an incredible amount of size in a very short period of time,” Hank says, prompting Solex to turn back to his friend and give himself a once over.

“Man, I’m not concerned about you absolutely wiping the floor with Davidson. I know for a fucking fact that you are going to do that, that’s a given,” Hanks says with conviction.

“What I’m concerned about is that once you get past him and those other two fucknuts that you aren’t going to be ready to be ready to take on John Sektor. And say you get past Sektor, then what? What’s the play after that?” Hank asks, taking a cautious step back from Solex.

Solex, visibly taken aback, shakes his head in disbelief and says, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

Solex uncrosses his arms and points a finger at Hank.

“Months, bro. I haven’t seen you in months. And now you show up out of the fucking blue? And for what? To plant seeds of doubt into my head? Is that what you’re doing here? You trying to get me fucked up? Trying to rattle me? Trying to throw me off my game? What’s your endgame in all of this?”

Solex takes another assertive step toward Hank as his eyes burn with a fiery rage. Hank instinctively raises his hands in a calming, peace making gesture.

“Woah, woah, easy brother,” Hank says in a nervous and shaky voice.

Solex quickly closes the distance between them and gets nose to nose with his fellow veteran and friend. The air between them grows thick with tension as Solex clenches his fists at his sides.

“I thought, maybe…just maybe you were here to back me up, but I don’t know what the fuck this is,” Solex booms.

Hank takes a half step back, but Solex immediately takes a full step forward, making them even closer to one another than before.

“Look man, I’m not here to throw you off,” Hank says, his voice still trembling.

“Then why are you here? Why are you bringing all of this bullshit up now, if not to throw me off my game? Tell me,” Solex demands, his chest heaving with heavy breaths.

Hank, now realizing the impact of what he’s said, begins to back track a bit.

“Look, Steve. I’m your friend. One of your only friends, in fact. But this is what friends do, they look out for one another. That’s all I’m doing here. Maybe my approach was wrong, but I was just trying to motivate you to work harder,” Hank says, pleading his case.

Solex snarls as he eyes Hank up and down with a look of disgust. Solex brings his hand up to his chin and takes a step back as he processes Hank’s words.

“Okay, I hear you,” Solex says as he takes a step back and turns away from his friend.

Hank breathes a heavy sigh of relief as he wipes the beads of sweat from his forehead with his bandana. He walks over to Solex and places a hand on his massive shoulder.

Solex looks over his shoulder at Hank and says, “I just want you to know that I’ve never been more prepared for anything in my life than I am this match. I’m ready for Davidson. I’m ready for the gauntlet. And I’m ready for John Sektor.”

Hank nods as a relieved smile creeps onto his face. “That’s exactly what the fuck I wanted to hear.”

Solex flashes the smallest of smiles and nods his head in response.

“Just remember, Steve. You’re not in this alone. Me, and the rest of the boys…we got your back till the fuckin’ end.”

Hank removes his hand from Solex’s shoulder and replaces it with a few reassuring pats on the back before turning and heading for the barn door. Solex, fully reenergized and not wasting any time, jumps right back onto the heavy bag and gets to work. Hank pauses at the barn entry and pulls his iPhone from his pocket. With a quick glance, Face ID unlocks the home screen and he swiftly opens the messenger app. His fingers glide across the screen as he types a cryptic message:

Seeds of doubt: Planted.

He takes a beat, and looks up at Solex. He smiles and shakes his head before tapping the blue send arrow. He walks off into the distance as the scene fades to black.