Dark clouds hang low in the gloomy sky, casting a melancholic pallor over the secluded beach. The turbulent tide crashes against the sandy shore, its low roar echoing the somber mood of the day. Seagulls swoop and dive, their cries lost in mournful gusts of wind.
“Look, I got you a weightlifting belt with a hundred pounds in plates airplane-glued to it.”
Michael Oliver Best stands beside the former HOW World Champion STRONK Godson. In losing High Octane Wrestling’s top prize, he’s also lost his exclamation point; !’s are for winners.
STRONK, usually muted in expression and demeanour, now appears stripped of any and all zest for life due to recent events, his typical facade making it difficult, however, to discern the precise depths of his emotional turmoil.
MOB senses that something is terribly wrong, and he knows why. He hopes that this gesture, the proffering of a belt that, upon wrapping it around his client’s waist, will tip the already massive Godson easily over four hundred pounds.
This, he thinks, should be enough to buoy his spirits.
THE NIGHT BEFORE
STRONK returns home late in the night following his loss to Conor Fuse at CHAOS 42. He steps through the front door of the Sky House, with Michael Oliver Best following closely behind.
Ordinarily, MOB would go to his separate residence, rest and relax for the week ahead, and call upon his client the next day. But he could see how much losing the HOW World Championship affected his client, and he wanted to be by his side. He’d sleep on the living room floor using his balled-up sport coat as a pillow.
He expected to find BIG STACE waiting up to console the former champion upon his arrival. He expected the STRONKY Babies to rush to their “father” and let him know that, championship or no championship, he is still the respected patriarch of their very unusual family.
The Sky House, however, is dead silent. Even when Godson grunts—not once, but twice, even louder the second time—to announce his return, there’s no response.
No one comes to greet him.
Not even DOG.
Eventually, they hear a rustling, and, as they round the corner into the living room, they find only a malnourished, severely abused Abdullah Choi stirring in his dog kennel, wiping the sleep from his eyes, in a state of disorientation.
“Can’t a guy get some fucking sleep around here!” Choi grumbles, turning over onto his side, and pulling a sheet of newspaper over the top half of his emaciated body.
Ignoring Choi, STRONK lumbers over to the middle of the furniture-less living room, finding a piece of printer paper lying on the floor.
He snatches it, lifting it to eye level.
MOB peaks over his client’s shoulder, trying to read what it says… but whatever its message is, it’s not written in the English language, but rather some crude form of hieroglyphics, just shapes and scrawls and random blotches of varying sizes.
Though STRONK is illiterate, his eyes scan the circles, triangles, and squiggles, processing them.
The note reads:
BIG STACE HERE.
BIG STACE IS TAKING THE BIG STACE BABIES. BIG STACE WILL NOT MARRY A LOSER AND BIG STACE DOES NOT WANT THE BIG STACE BABIES TO HAVE A LOSER FATHER.
STRONK IS NOT THE BABIES’ REAL FATHER ANYWAY.
SORRY NOT SORRY.
IT HAS BEEN FUN. BUT STRONK SHOULD NOT HAVE LET STRONK LOSE TO A TINY HUMAN MAN WITH BLONDE HAIR.
P.S. BIG STACE HAS ALSO TAKEN DOG AND ALL THE MEATS IN THE COLD BOX.
P.P.S. BIG STACE HAS NOT TAKEN THE SKINNY PRISONER HUMAN. STRONK IS WELCOME.
The piece of paper crumples tightly in STRONK’s massive hand, every muscle contracting in his forearm.
“What—what does it say?”
MOB wraps the weightlifting belt around his non-responsive client’s waist, smiling, wanting to keep the mood light.
“You’re heavier than ever!” he says, trying to cheer up STRONK. “No need to sulk about losing the HOW Championship to Fuse, now. We’ll build back bigger, stronger, better than ever! I’m here for you, Mister Godson. Uncle Oliver isn’t going anywhere.”
STRONK doesn’t even so much as look at MOB; his eyes are cast over the restless sea, as if transfixed.
A complete afterthought is Abdullah Choi, who is strapped to Godson’s back, uncomfortably stuffed into a much-too-small baby carrier, with electrical tape over his mouth and his wrists bound together with coarse rope. He remains still, doesn’t even try wriggling free because he knows any attempt to do so would prove futile at this point, and may just annoy Godson and prompt him to deliver additional punishment later.
“We drove six hours so you could see the ocean and have your little Kendall Roy moment,” MOB says. “Are we good? I’d like to get back on the road before it gets dark. We have media obligations to fulfill tomorrow, Mister Godson.”
STRONK doesn’t respond.
Instead, he begins to advance toward the water.
Step by step, as if compelled by an internal force he doesn’t fully comprehend.
“Wait—where are you going?” MOB stammers, walking behind him. “Mister Godson, now’s not a good time to go swimming. I didn’t bring any towels or a change of clothes. We’ll take a dip in the pool when we get home, how about that?”
No response, neither verbal or physical.
Michael Oliver Best grabs STRONK by the wrist and digs the heels of his loafers into the beach. They slide forward offering no resistance, creating deep trenches in the sand, as his efforts to halt STRONK’s advancement are no match for the sheer size of the man.
STRONK rips his arm free, and MOB falls backward clumsily onto his ass.
Still moving forward, STRONK turns his head to look at MOB, and says cryptically:
It’s at this point, as STRONK’s feet hit the water, that Abdullah Choi pieces together what his intent is, and begins violently thrashing about, not that it registers to Godson.
“What do you mean ‘goodbye’?” a bewildered MOB calls out, watching as STRONK continues to venture forth into the ocean, now up to his chest in water. “What are you doing!? Mister Godson!?”
STRONK is almost fully submerged in the salty brine… while Choi continues to fight as though his life depends on it. Choi’s head dips beneath the surface of the water, with only his hands tied-together above him still visible.
“Mister Godson! Come back here right now!”
STRONK and Choi then disappear completely beneath the water.
MOB looks on, frozen in place in the sand.
Moments later, bubbles rise to the surface of the water and pop.
Then, a few seconds after, a second bombardment of bubbles, even further out from the shoreline.
MOB sits on the beach for over an hour, waiting for his client to return. Even after realization sets in that Godson isn’t returning, he still waits.
Sometime later, he gets to his feet, brushing the sand from his clothes, and walks back to the rental car, his head hung low.
And he knows, as he dejectedly buckles his seatbelt, looks at his ghostly expression in the rear view mirror, and reflects about what’s transpired, the irrefutable truth of the matter:
STRONK is gone.
And he ain’t coming back.