I was ten years old when this started.
That was the first time someone made the mistake of pushing me.
A lot of the details have gotten foggy over the last thirty-something years, and I spent a lot of time pushing some of those memories down, but some of it I remember as vividly as if I were looking out a crystal clear picture window.
He was a little bigger than me. My growth spurt came a little later, and his had come first. We were the same age, he a native to the Osaka prefecture, and me, not. My father had assured me that everything would be fine, and it had been — until now.
I don’t know why I was singled out. I wasn’t the only person who looked like me attending our school, though I was undeniably in the vast minority. But it wasn’t that. That’s too simple, too oblique, too easy. It wasn’t that. I never found out why, and it doesn’t matter anymore.
All I know is there were angry shouts, in Japanese, and I only understood half of it. I took it… for awhile. I didn’t understand why it was happening, but I understood enough to recognize where it was going, and finally — one morning — I decided to fight back.
So I did.
Only, something else happened.
He was a talker, nothing more, the first of thousands I would encounter in my life, and he offered up little actual resistance as is often the case with shitty bullies. I quickly bested him, but something else happened. As I gained the advantage and started driving my fist into his face as he lay prone on the ground, I lost all sense of my surroundings. I looked down on him, swung with all my might, and kept going, and going, as if he were an inanimate object, or simply existed as some sort of concept that needed to be eradicated from my existence.
And then a pair of hands pulled me up, and the world came rushing back around me.
He was just… there. He just lay there, bleeding, face swollen, almost unrecognizable. And I felt…
I forget what happened just after. There was an ambulance, and there was some talk around me about what had taken place. Someone said I had been bullied, that I had finally had enough, and was fighting back. Others weren’t so sure. I heard someone say that I was smiling as I pounded that boy’s face, that I had a wild-eyed expression that scared them.
I remember my father picking me up and sitting me down at home.
He warned me.
He told me… there’s a darkness inside of me. He had seen it. He said… I would have to learn to control it, or it would consume me and everything I love.
The door had been opened, you see.
And so it’s been, from that day until now, a never-ending fight to find my father’s approval by trying to be the best boy I could be, by striving to be more than what I felt inside, more than who I knew I was, so I could make him proud.
My father is dead now.
It didn’t matter, and it got me nothing.
I have racked my brain to try and remake myself into a more acceptable version of a good father, a good husband, a good son — and I have come to a realization.
Life, whatever it may be to anyone else, is not worth living as anything other than what you were born to be.
I was born to be a monster, and I’ve only scratched the surface.
The door was opened thirty-something years ago.
I’m kicking it off its hinges.
Beware what’s walking through.
So this is what it’s come to, eh Eric?
My God, there’s just so much to unpack.
It’s been a couple of weeks now since you showed up at my dressing room door looking for Mike. I know how difficult that was for you, and I know the guts it took to stand there and face me down, not knowing if the next moment would be the one where I rip your head off and shove it down the open cavity between your shoulders.
We’ve known each other for a long, long time, of course. I don’t need to spell it out for you, and probably most of the people listening to this don’t care. But because I know you so well, I didn’t take any action that night. You know me very well, too, naturally, and that’s probably why you figured it was worth the risk. We all do what we have to do. We’ve both been playing this game for so long. We are men of action. Lies do not become us.
This is absolutely fucking humiliating for you.
This is eating at your soul.
If I were to snap and attack you in a parking lot, or hunt you down and take my pound of flesh, it would almost be a welcome relief wouldn’t it? Right now, you’re beaten, defeated on a level that not everyone understands. You don’t just have your hat in your hand. You’ve had to hand your balls to Lee Best. You’d rather someone just bash your brains in and be done with it.
All of the meetings we had, the late-night strategy sessions — I know what that means to you. And I’m not even trying to get under your skin right now. It’s just, here you are in front of me, and it’s just how things are, and it’s something to see.
I’ve sat across a desk from you and had you refuse to give an inch, even when I wasn’t challenging your authority. You always had to make sure everyone knew who was in charge, just in case they got any bright ideas.
And the number of times you gritted your teeth and told me how much you loathe Lee Best, how you wanted to beat him more than anything you’ve ever wanted in your life, how you wanted to prove once and for all that what you built was so much more than what he built. You wanted to shove it up his ass and make him beg you for mercy.
Here we are.
Complete, total acquiescence, and defeat. Yes sir, Mr. Best. It’s all you have, and I understand that.
And yes, you understand me, too, for whatever there is about me to understand. You said it yourself, I care for nothing and no one more than I care for myself. Your pithy warnings to…. Mike and Cecilworth I suppose?… they’re entirely wasted. This is the first time in my entire life I’ve placed myself in the company of people who were truly like-minded. I’ve always been dangerous. I’ve always been the one to fear, and my ‘friends’ had to tip-toe around that… oh, it’s just Dan… yes, he’s a monster, but he loves his family… yes, he’s a killer, but he has a sense of honor…
I don’t have a sense of anything anymore, Eric, and that’s the problem, isn’t it? My senses have all been dulled. Everyone is starting to say that I’m going back to the old me, but to be honest? The old me wasn’t as consumed by violence as the new me is right now. The old me was fueled by ambition and single-minded purpose. The new me is fueled by an inner rage and hatred of everyone I see. My friends are aligned with this purpose, and that’s why we’re strong.
I look at you now and I don’t see an old friend. I just see an old man, and I feel nothing… nothing.
I understand, Eric.
This is what you have to do. It’s who you are and who you have to be if you don’t want to end up all alone in the corner of a warehouse eating stale funyuns and watching old boring tapes of the good old days. But Jeff Andrews isn’t coming through that door. Bronson Box isn’t coming through that door. You fought the war, you tried to drag me into it, and then you walked away from it. You abandoned the war, and you thought you’d left me to flounder.
But I don’t need you, Eric.
That’s the biggest problem you face. None of us need Eric Dane, and that will grind into your very being until someone ends your miserable existence. The world went on without you, and five minutes later, they forgot all about your ill-fated attempts to throw your dick on the table and piss all over HOW. They didn’t even care. They still don’t. Lee Best has you sitting in a chair while he slowly and repeatedly slaps you on the forehead with the tip of his dick, and you’re so beaten down you don’t even care if he keeps it out of your eyes.
I know what you’re thinking.
You’ve heard this all before, haven’t you? You’ve made a million speeches about a million matches and insulted men and women for the last decade and then some, so why should you care what Mike has to say to you? Why should you care what I say? What’s the point in getting riled up about your circumstance when there’s nothing you can do about it anyway?
But the fact that you aren’t fired up about it?
That’s how I know the end is near. It’s not just the coming back and begging for a job. It’s not just the willingness to do whatever Lee wants you to do. It’s the acceptance of your fate. You used to be a man who reached out and took what he wanted, and that’s not you anymore. It’s not you, and right now I’m wondering if Stevens is really the one in this match to pity.
Scott Stevens is gonna have some things to say soon.
There are going to be things, and Scott Stevens is gonna say ‘em.
And Scott, you know, there was a time when I would have felt some measure of empathy for you right now, walking into a slaughter and nothing you can do to stop it. Eric Dane is embarrassed to be in the same ring with you, and yet you once held the top championship in his company.
That’s how you roll now.
The former FIST of DEFIANCE, and the former owner of DEFIANCE, teaming up as part of a punishment.
Roll that all up and digest it.
Can you even understand what’s going on right now at this point?
Or are you into that lonely portion of your career where you simply meander through life happy to climb up on the ring apron, wave your little cowboy hat for the ol’ Stevens Dynasty fans, wipe your boots off and kindly take your ass kickin’ like a good boy? Is this the farewell tour, or did you already miss your chance to bow out with some dignity? Are you knee-deep into the part of the story where everything that made you want to become a wrestler is slowly being stripped away until all that’s left is a Scott Stevens shaped husk dried up and rotting in some West Texas field, being picked at and devoured by vultures and coyotes?
God help you, Scott.
God help you because this is probably the worst possible time to be in a ring with me. I’ve just started discovering some new things about myself. I’ve just begun to understand who I really am all over again, and I’m embracing it. I have spent the last couple of days getting more and more excited about letting some of these impulses guide me instead of trying to suppress them, about acting on these urges instead of trying to control them. I have been obsessed with creatively coming up with new ways to cause pain, and the visions of slashing skin to ribbons and grinding your skull beneath my boot have been giving me some of the most restful sleep I’ve ever had.
These are the only things that make me happy anymore. They say you have to care about something eventually, and I’m here to tell you, these are the things I care about. And the things I care about, I intend to jealously and vigorously defend and pursue. I’m a perfectionist you see, and anything worth doing is worth doing right.
“Just rip it out. I’ll replace it.”
The light beige carpet covering the living room of Dan Ryan’s place in Chicago was tacky. It was leftover from the 90s or so most likely, and now, it had a decidedly rust-colored splotch on it, right up against the wall.
There was a professional carpet cleaning service over, and the keen-eyed gentleman looking at the stain seemed a bit relieved.
“What caused this, anyway? It’s a hell of a stain. It kinda looks like blood…”
The man looked up, nervously.
“That’s an awful lot of blood.”
Dan held his stare, no expression. “Paper cut. I’m a bit of a free bleeder.”
The man’s instincts told him enough that he knew that it was time to end this line of questioning. He’d seen a lot in his line of work, cleaned up a lot of… messes.
“Yes sir. So um… I can get some people over here to help me tear all of this out of here. I can be back around 2:30.”
He looked up at Ryan, and for a moment, time seemed to stop, and the giant man looked down and seemed to be considering something, perhaps something more than whether or not the proposed time was acceptable. Finally, he relaxed.
It was all he said. The man nodded and hurried past as quick as he could, leaving Ryan there, letting his eyes travel from the spot on the carpet and back up, to the window, where he looked out at the weather-beaten shore up against the lake outside.
He moved toward the door, pushing it open, the hard metal brace on his right arm reflecting the beams of sunlight that peeked through the branches of the towering trees above.
He walked to the water’s edge where haphazardly strewn around the leaves and dirt were various pieces and chunks of items, almost unrecognizable. But despite their shabby appearance, certain details could be made out — the front of a hutch, jagged shards of shattered china, the face of what may have been a grandfather clock at some point.
A large oak tree was a few feet further down near the water’s edge, its roots spreading out across the ground as if reaching out for some water from the lake. A particularly thick branch stretched out over the water, and a rope was tied to it. It hung down, a knot marking the spot at the bottom where a tire or board may have once served as a swing.
In the side of the tree, large chunks had been torn out of it. The wounds were deep, but not clean enough to have been made by an axe.
Ryan approached it, no expression on his face, and swung his arm up, very slowly so that the point of his arm’s brace lightly touched one of the gouges in the wood, and he tapped it lightly, as if it were Blaire Moise’s cheek, caressing it softly.
It was then that he pulled back and drove it into the wood, and small chips flew from the spot of impact. He did this over and over, his face contorted into a sinister rage, chest heaving, before finally spinning a full three-hundred-sixty degrees and delivering a blow with the full force of his power behind it. His eyes burned with hatred and he glared, and it seemed almost as though the tree itself would topple, though he knew this to be impossible.
He looked at the brace, at the arm and elbow underneath, and it bled. There was a small gash from the repeated blows, and blood trickled over the gleaming metal to the ground below. And he smiled. He took in a deep breath and pulled his arm away. He looked out toward the water.
A flock of birds flew across.
It was peaceful, serene.
And he smiled.