What is a soul?
I’ve been staring at a blinking cursor now for three hours, with nothing but that sentence to show for it. Four words that no one can quite agree on the answer to. Four words that could mean the death of everything and everyone in this world that I hold dear. Four words that could have changed history…
….if only I’d thought to ask them sooner.
The Current Home of SixTime Academy
Somewhere in Chicago, Illinois
Wednesday, June 17, 2020. 1:45pm.
“Effective immediately, SixTime Academy is closed.”
Without a hint of emotion on his face, Michael Lee Best drags a heavy metal chair haphazardly across the stone tile floor, stuffing it aggressively under the handle of the door to the outside and propping it open into the afternoon sun beyond. On the surface, his voice is steady. Confident, and assertive, like any good General leading his troops. Like a leader. Like a man who knows what he’s doing.
Like a man who has his shit together.
One the surface, anyway.
There is a murmur around the training ring in the center of the old church, as students and staff alike try to figure out what in the hell is going on. Two trainees stand in the ring, hands on their hips as they stare back at the robotic countenance of Michael Best.
“Did I fucking stutter?” his voice grows louder now, and more impatient. “Get the fuck out. We’re closed.”
The eyes that stare back at him are a mixture of tired, unenthused, and uncertain. To be honest, it’s hard to blame them– over the last several years, they’d come to recognize the over dramatic nature of the Son of God. Every splinter was a spear through the heart. Every flu was the end of the world. Every loss was the end of his career. He’d become the boy who cried wolf, and the irony isn’t lost on him that his announcement is being treated like an exaggeration.
He hasn’t slept in four days.
The heavy bags under his eyes rival the ones in the corner of the gym, and he aggressively rubs at the raw skin beneath them to try and work the exhaustion out. Why the fuck aren’t they listening to him? The Son of God is trying to keep his flock from having their throats cut in their fucking sleep, and yet from somewhere within the crowd of athletes, he can hear the distinct sound of laughter.
Someone is fucking laughing about this.
His hands grip the door frame, white knuckling against the century-old wood until he can feel the splinters digging into his skin. He has to keep it together. He has to stay calm.
“Not a joke.” he shouts, for volume’s sake. “Everybody out. Trainers, go home, pack a bag with the bare minimum you need to survive, and await further instructions. Everyone else, get somewhere safe and check in when you can. I am not kidding. I am not exaggerating. The gym is closed indefinitely, and you all need to leave. Immediately.”
He’s dogshit at being a leader.
Not that he’d admit that out loud. There’s a reason that he calls himself the Architect of the Group of Death– architects design, but they don’t build. They don’t lead. Michael Lee Best created the Academy, but he hardly runs it. He created the Group of Death, but he’s never had to grab the steering wheel while the shit was sinking. Right now, because of his own stupid mistakes, everything that he’s designed was headed straight for an iceberg, and in his heart, he knows there aren’t enough lifeboats for everyone.
And he hasn’t told them yet, because The Minister is right.
Mike Best is a shit person.
But he’s going to make this right.
What would you give up, in exchange for immortality?
I want you to really think about that question– this isn’t some Klondike Bar thought experiment. When you’re riding high on the hog, the world is your oyster, and everything’s coming up Aces, it’s easy to say that you wouldn’t sacrifice the ones that you love for a taste of eternal life. It’s easy to say that you wouldn’t make a deal with the Devil for a fiddle made of gold. It’s easy to say that you wouldn’t pay the ultimate price for the chance to live on, even long after you’d gone from this industry. From this earth.
Me? I gave up twenty one grams.
That’s the alleged weight of a human soul. No more than a single pack of spearmint gum. An eighth of a cup of salt. It is, in essence, absolutely fucking nothing. And that’s what I thought, as I signed my name on the dotted line of the most dangerous being to ever exist in High Octane Wrestling. What is a human soul, in exchange for an eternal legacy? I would have never survived another match with him. I couldn’t have beaten him. I couldn’t have made it out alive.
And so I made a deal with the Devil.
One match, for one soul.
Lee wouldn’t hear my prayers. God wouldn’t hear my prayers. But The Minister heard my prayers, and he was the only obstacle left between me and a legacy that would have remained unbroken to this day. A record that would have remained unbroken to this day. So I made the Faustian deal, and I sold my fucking soul, and I didn’t think that it meant anything. What the fuck is a soul? Twenty one grams of unproven pseudoscience– there’s nothing scary about selling your soul, if you don’t think it’s a real thing in the first place. I’m not afraid of the afterlife. I’m not afraid of what happens when you die. I don’t think there are a bunch of space wizards waging war over good and evil, like some kind of bullshit cartoon. So what the fuck is a soul, when compared to the greatest human accomplishment that High Octane Wrestling had ever seen?
Of course, it wasn’t meant to be.
Max Kael wasn’t the final obstacle. Within two weeks, I lay broken in the center of the ring, staring up at the lights as Scott Woodson stood atop the turnbuckle, holding my fifth ICON Title aloft to the roar of the crowd. Like all Faustian deals, I had made a bargain that seemed too good to be true, and ultimately was. The Minister had the last laugh, and I would not challenge for the HOW ICON Champion again for eight years. I sold him my soul for nothing, and for those same eight years, I’d always thought that it was an even deal. I sold him nothing, and I gained nothing. The Devil couldn’t come for my soul, if the Devil didn’t exist.
But I didn’t sell my soul to the Devil.
I sold my soul to the Minister.
And now he’s come to collect.
Current Former Home of SixTime Academy
Somewhere in Chicago, Illinois
Wednesday, June 17, 2020. 7:38pm.
And they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?’ – Revelation 13:4
In the darkness, a spark ignites as sledgehammer meets stone, echoing like a gunshot into the otherwise deathly quiet of the arched Academy ceilings. It reverberates throughout the old church, and it hasn’t lost on the man holding the hammer that as much as things have changed around here, they’ve also stayed the same.
It had always been a house of worship.
From the moment he had first stepped foot into the old church in Chicago’s south side, he’d fallen in love with it. Over one hundred years of pain, sorrow, joy and love had seeped into beautiful stone walls, soaking the whole building in the kind of energy that makes you want to get up and fucking do something with your life. Three months after he’d knelt before a demon on the very altar of this church and signed away his soul, Michael Lee Best had signed away something else, too. Something that, at the time, felt like it was of a lot more weight and consequence than twenty one grams of nothing– he signed a mortgage, and a property deed.
And he’d bought it for a song.
This old building had gone through a lot of changes over the years, from a rundown monolith to an Atrium of Awesome. From an Atrium Awesome, to a Sanctum of Salvation. From a Sanctum to… well, as Michael brings down the hammer once more, smashing against the stone tiles and soaking with sweat, his eyes wander across the remains of what it became next. His latest and greatest endeavor– the one that changed his life immeasurably, and indefinitely.
A wrestling school in a sea of wrestling schools, none of them apparently making any money since every goddamned wrestler on the planet has opened one at this point. There was a time when this place was booming and profitable– when it produced names like Alex Beckman, or Gino Giordano. Nowadays, it was a glorified gym, and when he looks at the rubble beneath his feet and around the old church, he realizes that it’s become past tense.
This place used to be Six Time Academy.
Six years worth of hard work, destroyed in six hours of hard work– a single, cold snort escapes through his nose, as he stares out at the wreckage. The doors chained from the inside, the floor that was just hours ago covered in training mats and workout equipment has been stripped bare down to the cold, stone floor. The ring that used to inhabit the center of the church has been torn down and disassembled, it’s parts littering the sanctuary like a wrestling graveyard. Even the sign itself, the giant plastic and chrome monument to all of his success emblazoned with the name “SIXTIME ACADEMY”, has had it’s bolts stripped clean, torn from the wall. It leaves behind a hieroglyph to what came before it, and what it shall become once again.
THE FIRST CHURCH OF LEE BEST
Stenciled to the stone wall, the words are an echo to a different time. To a version of Michael Lee Best that has stayed dead and buried for just as long as those words erected onto the wall in front of him. He takes one last long look, contemplating what he’s about to do as he slides a forearm across his head, wiping away the sweat.
No more delays.
No more excuses.
No other way to fix this.
With all his might, the Son of God raises the sledgehammer over his head once more, aiming for the center of the faded mortar outline that doesn’t quite match the rest of the stone. This swing turns out to be the final swing— the floor cracks sharply and finally gives way, crumbling into a small, hollow chasm beneath. A hidden cache, dug beneath the sanctuary long before a wrestling ring ever stood in this very spot. A secret that he’s never forgotten, but always wished that he’d be allowed to. Under the dim construction lights surrounding the man-made crawlspace, something just barely gleams from within the darkness of the abyss. Dingy and worn, unseen by the sunlight for many years.
A small metal footlocker.
He reaches down into the crawlspace, wiping the stone debris from the top of the box as he pulls it slowly out from its hiding place. He drops it to the floor unceremoniously, grasping the beat up old padlock in one hand. With the other, he reaches into the front of his t-shirt, pulling at the chain worn around his neck– the key dangles from one end of the chain, along with a tarnished looking crucifix. He jams the key into the lock, and opens the box, desperate to get at the thing that he knows is inside.
A single, orange canister.
The same kind you get from your local pharmacy, though perhaps long out of date based on the prescription written on the bottle– they expired on February 21, 2014. He shakes the container, relieved to find that there’s at least a couple left inside.
Just a few little pills.
The feeling of dread that pours over him sends a shiver all the way to his feet. He anxiously unscrews the top off of the container, pulling at the folded up note that he’d left inside all those years ago. The instructions he needed, to make this work.
Because if it didn’t, this was going to kill him.
Michael stares down at the hastily written instructions in his wavering, shaking hands. He knows what he has to do, and he doesn’t have time to think about it any more than he already has— he dumps the three remaining pills out into his nervous palm.
He’d never taken three of them before.
Taking a deep, careful breath, throws the pills into the back of his throat, swallowing hard and taking them in one gulp. He grimaces at the taste, his teary eyes slowing rising back up to the etched stencil on the wall– The First Church of Lee Best. At the corners of his eyes, he can feel them welling up despite his best efforts to hold them back.
“Forgive me, Father.” he mutters, as the orange bottle falls lifelessly to the floor. “I know not what I do.”
So what is a soul?
That’s what I wondered, as I stared at that blinking cursor and struggled to keep my eyes from closing in on me with the rest of the world. That’s the thing about Chlorpromazine, you know– it’s very strong, and very dangerous, and when you take it the right way, it’ll keep you from spiralling out into the abyss when you’re at your darkest. But when you take it wrong?
The first thing it tries to do is put you to sleep.
That heavy, sinking feeling that makes your eyelids turn to lead, and make you feel like you’re drowning in clouds. You turn sluggish, and dull. Your body wants to shut itself down, because it knows that something is wrong, and it wants to protect you. It wants you to die. It wants you to lay down in your bed, or on your couch, or slam your face into the keyboard mid-fucking-sentence, before what may be a lethal dose starts to backfire on the synapses in your brain.
But you have to stay awake.
Because if you can fight through that sleep, and if you can keep yourself awake, just long enough to make it through to the other side? That’s when the magic happens. That’s when the universe folds you into its bosom, and shares with you its secrets. That’s when you find out what the fuck a human soul is, my friends.
But when you mix Chlorpromazine with cocaine, to stay awake?
That’s when you meet GOD.
The voice in the back of my head isn’t like the one in yours. And I admit that I have been a wayward servant to Him at best, these many years now. I have denied His voice, and shunned His word, and abandoned His truth, because I was afraid. Because the last time I accepted Him into my heart, he locked me away in suffering and in darkness. Because when I let Him out to share His message with the world, he decided that he never wanted to leave.
But we’ve come to… an agreement.
It’s only falling off the wagon if you didn’t take the leap on purpose. I don’t know how many grams a human soul weighs, but I know exactly how many of them it takes to remember who the fuck you are. To find the tools you need to do what must be done, no matter the cost. The truth is that none of you motherfuckers know exactly who Michael Lee Best is, and your lives were better for your ignorance. The HOW that you inhabit is a pussified playground full of joy, and positivity and hugs, and your souls were better for being left in the darkness. But I can see, now. The veil has lifted. I’ve come through to the other side, and I have seen the Light. I have seen the Way. I have met the one true GOD, and he has revealed to me his plans.
His plan for War Games.
His plan for The Minister.
His plan for all of you.
June 20th is coming, and already, the tides are rising. Already, the first cracks are beginning to form, in those who aren’t going to be able to take the pressure. Already, the excuses are being sewn and the battle lines are being drawn. In three short days, High Octane Wrestling will find out which of their best and brightest came to wade in the shallow end, and which came to be baptized in it’s waters. Some of you are afraid that you’ll drown on that beach, but me?
I’m already under water.
Just a few little pills, and suddenly the world has become so clear to me. Suddenly, I understand the bargain that I made with The Minister all those years ago. I understand what he has come to collect, and what I have to do to save my soul. To save all of your souls. While you carry the weight of ego, and expectation, and consequence on your backs, I have unloaded my burden. While you have carefully crafted every word, blanketing yourselves in the safety and comfort of your own bullshit, I go forth to War Games with a renewed sense of purpose. My eyes are open, my heart is full, and I can feel– REALLY FUCKING FEEL– the blood coursing through my veins.
For the first time in a long time, I am free.
When I walk upon that beach at Normandy, there will be but one set of footprints in the sand. Not because he is carrying me, nor am I carrying him, but because the time has come for us to be one in the eyes of the world. The Minister will come for my soul, and to get it, he will come for my friends, my family, my title, and all of the things in this world that I hold dear. He will come for me, and I will be ready. We… will be ready.
The question is, will you? Has the arrogance of the flock blinded it to the superiority of the shepherd? Will you learn from the past that you so confidently discard as unimportant, or will you be doomed to fall at the feet at those who came before you? Of those who have learned their lessons, and fought their wars, and earned their scars? Bring forth your shitty knees, your nonsense temper tantrums, your wayward preachings, and your stupid shitty fathers who literally no one in HOW cares about so you should probably stop trying to make that a thing. Bring them forth, but know that none of it will save you. There is no way into the Kingdom of HOW but through me, for I am the one true Son of God.
This is the final coming of The Christ.
Kneesus Has Risen.