Do you think it’s possible?
I’m not getting cute with what instrument could make it happen. I’ve beaten that horse to the ground. No, this is much more philosophical.
And if time travel was possible, would you go forward, backward or both?
Rewind to the past. What would you change? Would you take the same path or would you take a different one?
Who says you wouldn’t end up in the same place, anyway.
Perhaps The Butterfly Effect would result. Step on a snail, find out Cancer Jiles wasn’t born.
If it could only be that easy.
It might be just as fascinating to fast-forward into the future. Uncover your failures and change them. Place a few bets when you get home, too. It couldn’t hurt.
Pretty sure they did a movie on that.
I wonder what I’ll be doing at War Games 2024. Who will be my enemies, friends and how will I have grown? Am I still into video games or did Steve Solex and I befriend each other, opening my world to more explicit tastes…
Questions I don’t have answers to.
Questions I may never know.
Until the time comes.
— — — — — — — — — —
Dearness Living Center – My Room
May 21, 2021
“Hey Walt, what do you regret in life?”
I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. Walt’s in my gaming chair, basically spread eagle. Out of all my roommates, he’s my favourite. Walter’s wise, down-to-earth and doesn’t smell like old man. Add up my recent pay-per-view opponents in the H-O-W and he’s the best scented one. Dearness or a High Octane ring, what’s the difference? Thank god Sutler’s interjected himself into my life. A real breath of fresh air.
“Regrets?” Walt says out loud, rolling through his memories. “No.”
“Really?” I lift my head, wondering if he’s messing with me.
“No, Conor. No regrets.” Walter senses I’m baffled. “What about you?”
“Oh yeah, plenty.”
And I start to list them off, one by one. It’s a long, heavily detailed list and a lot of it doesn’t have much relevance in this context.
“I regret all my losses in HOW. I regret mixing it up with the World Champ.”
Walter stops me before I continue. “Son, why do you regret wrestling on the biggest stage for the World Title? That’s put you on the map, kid. I watch. Look at how intertwined you are right now. Sutler, Cancer, Jatt… that Jace boy wants a piece.”
“Pft, screw Jace.”
“Well regardless, that’s a pretty big list and you’re a relatively young guy. By the time you’re half my age you’ll be so overwhelmed with regrets, you won’t know what to do with yourself.”
“I should’ve known Sutler would cost me the title,” I reply.
Walt shakes his head no. “What’s the name of that referee, the one who looks like an axe murderer?”
“Yep, that’s the guy,” Walt notes. “Is it one or two T’s? I’ve seen it on the broadcast both ways.”
Attention to detail, Walt. Nice. Guy’s mental abilities crack like a whip for a man who’s 90.
“Pfff, I don’t ask.”
“Well either way, have him ref the match. What’s to say you try as hard?”
I dismiss the notion. “It’s for the World Championship, Walter. Imma try.”
“Yeah, certainly. I didn’t say you’d mail it in. Maybe you bounce off the ropes a little less aware of your surroundings and then that egg lad hits you with his superkick. Or Lee finds someone else during the match to mess things up. Kid, the idea here is a different path does not ALWAYS lead to a different outcome. It’s a false narrative. Okay, you had Jiles beat for the World Championship but you didn’t win. Besides, you could’ve had him beat for the title without Kael as the referee and would have lost.”
“Hmm. I suppose that makes sense.”
Walt continues. “I wouldn’t go placing regret on anything you did in that match. And I wouldn’t go blaming that Sutler boy, either. He’s in a tough spot. Can’t be easy with all these people in his ear. Dead adopted father. Reckless uncle. Finding an identity. The whole situation. The ‘what if’ game is a hard game to play, son. You’ll get yourself lost in it real fast with regret after regret. I bet there’s a pathway to victory somewhere in that match vs. Jiles but I’m damn sure there are a hundred more pathways leading to your loss, as well. Consider The Avengers movie, where Dr. Strange tells Iron Man out of a million pathways there’s only one correct route to defeat Thanos.”
I perk up from my bed. Did he really say that?
Walt has a grin on his face. “Not too shabby for an old guy, huh? Yeah, I watch that shit. The Vision fella really pisses me off.”
I fall back into my bed. Walt is full of surprises.
I fly to Tokyo in a few hours. Refueled first and a War Games announcements will follow. It’s been hard not being around Dearness as much. Ever since HOW went on the road earlier last month, I haven’t been staying here as often. I wonder if it was another strategic move from the boss. He knows how comfortable the 214 are in the roots of Chicago. I always enjoy a good field trip and I’ve loved bonding with my new team but it’s taken away support from the Dearness Living Community.
“Nothing will ever be perfect,” Walt mentions, almost as if he could hear what narrative was inside my head. “Learn to live with mistakes, regrets. It’s gonna make you stronger. You think it was easy for Dan Ryan, all this time without the HOW World Champion while that potbelly doofus Jiles makes dick jokes? You think it’s all fun for that Sektor fellow? Mike has his issues. He’s just damn good at not showing them and giving you an opening.”
I nod as a silence falls. I’m deep in thought and Walt might have drifted off, I dunno. Either way, I contemplate what he’s said until I break the silence.
“Do you think time travel is possible?”
“Now why in the hell would you want to do that?”
I pause. I don’t really have an answer for this.
“I guess I’d like to go back and put your theory to the test,” I find the words. “Take a different approach, see where I end up.”
Walt sighs heavily. “This is the kinda stuff I’m talking about. You should let it go. I understand our conversation is not going to change your thought process entirely but no good will come from going back in time. It won’t solve what you think it will.”
“Actually, Walt,” I begin. “I’m more interested in what comes next…”
The elder sighs again.
“Jump further into the future than today and I might be dead,” he states. “I have no interest in what tomorrow brings.”
… … … … … … … … … …
Somewhere in Toronto, Ontario
July 13, 2002
I didn’t always play video games.
At least not like this.
Back in the day my interests varied. I was more social, open to experiences and less hard on myself.
At least that’s how I remember it.
It’s a bright summer day. I’m nine-years-old and biking with my friend Tom. We’d bike aimlessly for hours, not a plan or purpose. Today was as generic as any other, bike around and see what transpires.
The sun can have a way of radiating down a false sense of hope. Maybe it’s the playful kid in me or perhaps I’ve always been this naïve but I only ever feel bad things can happen at night, in the rain, or during a storm.
Perhaps Hollywood has led me to believe these lies. In movies it never seems to be in the afternoon when something bad happens.
Tom is a good cyclist. He’s far ahead of me. I’m quick on my feet and I can typically bike for hours but I have to keep a steady pace. He’s always challenging me to exert my energy sooner. “Nothing good comes from waiting,” he says. It’s practically his catchphrase. Slow and steady doesn’t win this race, going from 0 to 100 as soon as possible does.
I’m trying my best to catch up. We’re a little uphill, too, so it’s not an easy thing for me to do. I’m a weak, pale, malnutritioned kid… blessed with a hint of athleticism.
And that gets me through. Soon, we’re at the top of the street. He mouths off to me, as he normally does. It’s simply childhood swagger and nothing personal.
“Listen Tom,” I remark. “You tell me in two hours how much fun you’re having and the distance you’ll have to make up in order to catch ME.”
He laughs, completely dismissing the notion, though my vision will come true.
“Why hold back when you can expel all your energy immediately? It’s fun and purposeful.”
I guess I could ask myself how a nine-year-old could have such insight. I could ask myself a lot of things right now.
But I don’t.
Because this is when I go blank.
Until I see his red bicycle again. It’s off to the right, bent in half. The front wheel spins fluently, the back wheel is at a standstill.
The car sits in front of me. Its front tires mark the soles of my feet. I can smell the burn from the concrete.
And Tom lays in the middle of the intersection.
All while the sun continues to beat down, embracing the scene with its warmth.
There is blood.
And then, my mind goes blank for a second time.
— — — — — — — — — —
Operant conditioning (or instrumental learning). You’ve likely heard of it.
Four strategic ways to modify behaviour in the way you want to shape it.
What strategy works best? What frequency and duration of reinforcement/punishment shows the optimal results? When you dive a little deeper, it can be rather interesting and it’s not so cut and dry.
I’ll let you in on a secret.
Immediacy is vital.
Delay the reinforcement by mere minutes and it may not have the desired effect.
Then again, drive up the duration or intensity of the reward and it might not matter how long it takes the stimulus to arrive.
There’s also classical conditioning, which you’ll probably know as well. Mix both learning procedures and a desired behaviour may become second nature forever.
Ring a bell, a dog salivates.
Win a match, Sutler won’t have to masturbate.
Something like that.
— — — — — — — — — —
May 23, 2021
“3DS, check. Nintendo Switch, check. Nintendo Switch Lite, check. NES Classic, check. SNES Classic, check. PlayStation Portable, check.”
I won’t bore you any longer but I’m rolling through my second suitcase, making sure all the gaming systems I initially packed haven’t vanished as I begin to take them out and unwind at the AriBnB Lindsay’s booked. It will be a long two week’s ahead and I arrived right before Refueled took the air.
My head hurts from Jace.
I pull out my iPhone and begin texting my teammates.
TO ZEB: Hey broski we shhhuld meet up maaan. Does Tokyo have arcade bars?
TO LINDSAY: Lind-SAAAAAAY, it’s your bestest BUDDAY. Whatcha doing?
TO TEDDY: Yo dude u want some ‘za? I want some ‘za. We should get some ‘za!
TO ZION: #RALLYZION u SOB let’s gooooooooooo!! Also, apparently no one knows about the secret Super Mario Land in Tokyo. Bahahaha dipshits.
TO ARTHUR: Hey.
Fuck, I’m annoying myself.
I’ve also been swearing a lot more recently. What’s up with that?
Well, when I look at what’s in front of me, I’m nervous and excited. I haven’t texted Dan… uh, I’m not even sure he has digits.
Why do I get like this? Why can’t I chill? Do I always have to wisecrack and be so clever?
I take my 3DS, load up Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and collapse on my bed.
“Little gaming before everything else,” I reassure, realizing I barely reveal I actually DO play games, not simply talk about playing. “I’ve got the Magic Mirror which will transport me to the Dark World. Imma coming Ganon!”
I feel myself relaxing already.
— — — — — — — — — —
You sand throwing, pencil dick mamma’s boy.
What are we doing here?
Because I get the feeling you don’t exactly hate me.
And I don’t exactly hate you, either.
Ya, you tried to run me over but that was after I declined to join HR. You also cost me the World Championship and yet I can’t help but think Walt was right. You played the middleman, I was never going to win that match. The powers that be needed Jiles as their champion and he is. The end result was inevitable.
Sunday will be one of the toughest matches I’ll find myself in. So many variables. If I can make it to you, it’ll be an accomplishment.
And then what?
What will we do to each other then?
Is Sunday the line we cross?
Do you wrap me into your triangle choke and I tap or do I Weapon Get the move from you and beat you at your own Game?
I know what it’s like to be looked at as a 187-pound kid who’s pushed aside for bigger athletes and “better” talent. I might have a few years on you but I certainly don’t act like it.
I know what it’s like to have family put pressure on you, too… and what it’s like to take that pressure and apply it to yourself. Hold yourself accountable. Victory, in the end, is what matters and I’m not only speaking about War Games.
What will become of you and I when you hit this number in your memoirs? Am I still here?
I wonder how much time you have on this earth, Sut. Because I have the feeling you’re going to wander into some very dangerous places soon.
Take me with you?
Jatt and I may go on forever but you and I will create something special. You don’t know it yet… I’m not even sure I do.
Because how can a gaming guy like me hang with a multilayered guy like you?
For now, I am following your every move.
And I’m waiting for my time to strike.
The Son of Scions and The Vintage.
Sutler Reynolds-Kael and Conor Fuse.
And I won’t need time travel to predict it.
Because I’ve already come to foresee.
— — — — — — — — — —
May 30, 2021
It’s been a rough day. I’ve spent half of it with Teddy, trying to chill the guy out. War Games has him rattled. I’m not sure he’s trusting the entire team right now.
When I take a hard step back and look at myself in the mirror, there’s a lot to be desired. I’d rather play dumb.
Sometimes by choice. Other times it’s because I’m… not that smart.
Either way, Teddy’s stress resonates with me. I don’t question anyone’s allegiance overtly. Maybe I should. Arthur Pleasant? Xander Azula? My tagmate, Dan Ryan?
Hell, Darin Zion could be easily bought now that I think about it. We weren’t exactly welcoming him with open arms. Hence why Scotty joined the fun.
A lot of unknowns.
To make matters worse, Zeb’s going through something. I’ve gotta connect with him.
And on top of all this, I have to sit down and go through more tape.
So much more tape.
I look myself over in the bathroom mirror. Splashing water in my face, I collect my thoughts and walk to the exit door.
I stop, turn and face the person behind me.
“Oh, hello, Conor.” I say, seeing myself standing before me. “What brings you here?”
“I think you know what brings me here.”
I shrug half-heartedly. “Doesn’t Sutler hear voices in his head? I wonder if they council him or understand…”
“Yes, he hears A voice. He’s got some Green Goblin shit going on but I’ve been talking to you for a while now, too. In the bathroom mirror before you spoke to Dan Ryan, a bunch of times before you wrestled Scotty at ICONIC. Plus, I’m not your father. I’m you.”
Yeah, I guess that does make sense.
I take a moment to look myself over. It’s me… but a little older. Eyes more glazed, wear and tear on my body. Not enough to make a huge difference but I see it.
“So are you me from a different system, universe… MULTIverse!?”
“I’m you at forty-five years old.”
“Shit,” I begin, “you don’t look bad. I’ll take that.”
The older me smiles. “Thanks, man.”
There’s an awkward pause between us.
“So? Do you need to tell me something about War Games? What’s the ending? What happens to me in 2024? Do I ever finish off the 8-4 boss and save the princess?”
Old Conor puts his hands out, telling me to relax. “Whoa, whoa, easy there guy. Those are a lot of questions and many of them I can’t answer right now.”
“Fine,” I snap, “but you’re still into video games, right?”
“Of course dude.”
Old me is almost offended as I breathe a sigh of relief.
Another silence consumes us until I speak again.
“So what brings you here and what do I, uh, call you? Old Conor?”
I dismiss the notion. “Eh, I don’t enjoy being called old. Hmmmm, New-Age Conor? Yeah, New-Age Conor sounds good. NAC for short if you’d like.”
Sure, I’m not gonna argue with myself. Whatever I wanna be called is cool with me.
“As for what brings me here…” New-Age Conor begins, “I simply wanted to introduce myself. Formally.”
New-Age Conor is looking me over, head to toe.
“That makes sense. I like meeting new people.”
NAC chuckles, as if insinuating I have a lot to learn.
“But I can provide you with a little more context…” NAC’s voice drifts off.
“What do you mean?” I start. I can’t keep quiet, my mind is racing with questions. “My grandfather and Jiles said I’m on a team with snakes. Hell, Teddy is questioning a few of us coming into this match. I’m starting to worry… did I pick the right team?”
NAC grins. “Of course you did.”
And I, once again, breathe a sigh of relief.
“Is there a Leeroy Jenkins, though? Teddy’s stressed. Zeb is struggling. I haven’t strategized with my tag partner because I’m too apprehensive to approach him. How the hell am I gonna make it TO Scotty and Sutler!? My grandfather and John are breaking but a well oiled machine when working!”
NAC raises his eyebrow.
“Okay so these are once again the kind of questions I can’t answer for you…” New-Age Conor tries to reassure me with body language. “Also, you don’t have to call him your grandfather around me. I know who he is.”
Duh, Conor, you can drop the act.
“Okay, okay, I’ll relax,” I mention. “I just want to help my friends. This really isn’t about me.”
NAC nods. “I know.”
“But I have to prove myself.”
“And I HAVE TO defeat Jatt.”
“If I don’t…”
“And if I DO…”
“Dude, I know.”
NAC is letting me recover and contemplate. Nice guy.
I think about the cage. The blood that will be shed and the lives that will be changed. I think about where I’ll have to go mentally and physically to survive. To withstand. I think about the pep-talk I spilled to my team earlier.
I slowly look up at NAC.
“Well at least you’re proof I made it through,” I snicker. “I wanna figure out some next steps, though. Do we continue GL214 after? Teddy’s great, I enjoy annoying him. Zeb’s swell. Lindsay’s awesome. Dan and I, we could make an intriguing team.”
New-Age Conor smiles. “Why don’t we let the fallout happen first… see where things stand.”
NAC gives me a wink.
“What’s in front of you matters. Everything will come together. The pieces will fall where they are supposed to.”
I nod, agreeing.
“And after War Games is over, then we can discuss next steps, okay?”
New-Age Conor is about to leave but I will keep him around for another moment.
“Wait,” I snap, “how will I contact you?”
NAC laughs. “You have my number.”
Yeah, I guess I do.
“Put it all out there, Conor. Lay it all on the line. Go 100% ASAP. If you get to Scotty, great. If you get to Sutler, even better. If you fail entirely or win the whole thing…” His voice trails as he begins to fade away. “…remember, you have all the time in the world.”
Backwards. Forwards. Current.
Truly an interesting concept.
And yet I can’t help but wonder what’s to come.
Tell me Son of Scions, do we bleed?