The Essence of Freedom

The Essence of Freedom

Posted on August 15, 2023 at 8:41 am by Evan Ward

No. No. No. Please. No more. Don’t. Make it stop.


Evan Ward, the recovered Catatonic Calamity, sat bolt upright in bed, a cold sweat permeating through his clothes and the bedcovers.

He swung his legs out of bed and rubbed his eyes before reaching for the glass of water on his bedside unit to down in a single gulp. He took the cane from its place hanging on the end of the bed and slowly, painfully stood up. It took him a while but he eventually made it out of the room and down the hall of the recovery ward to the balcony where he could learn on the rail and breathe the fresh air.

It was amazing how you missed the simplest things in life when they become a physical impossibility. While his busted leg and atrophied muscles certainly made it a lot more work than it used to be, just being able to get out of bed and go where he liked the ultimate freedom. He had spent so long living with Death’s scythe pressing down on his neck, trapped inside his ever compressing mind of anxiety and delusion, looking for the ultimate release to let that metaphorical blade swing… Only to end up trapped even further inside his mind and physically locked in that bloody warchair. It was a living hell. He had been injured before, he endured pain and torture and mental anguish but none of it was anything like he had to endure over the last few years. It was a raw sewage cake topped off with an excrement cherry on top.

Evan was certain he would not survive War Games, that certainty along with the blood balloon growing inside his head had sent him so far off the rails that no one in the vicinity had ever heard of a train. Somehow that certainty was misplaced but it had still taken its toll. He had been even more certain he’d never break out of the glass prison of his mind and gain control over his body again. The torment he had gone through while being unable to lift so much as a finger has was like living through pure insanity. It was having to solve a transparent puzzle with almost, but not quite, identically cut pieces, in the dark and someone keeps flipping the table over just as you’ve got half the pieces in place. It was totally maddening. Each day it felt like a piece of his mind slipped away, lost in amongst the pieces swept on the floor. It would never end, but if by some miracle it did then what would have remained?

That was a question Evan asked himself every day he was stuck in that chair, in his head. As Trent threw him around in South America, as he dropped him in a snake pit in the outback, as he was used as shark bait and an eternal human slinky, Evan felt himself going more and more insane. For as unmoving as he looked on the outside, inside was full of hatred and rage, a veritable storm of anger at all those who had wronged him and were continuing to wrong him. If I ever recovered, he had thought, I will make them pay. Every single one of them. Make them suffer as they had made him suffer. The essence of vengeance distilled into the blood which flowed through his veins. If he recovered, all that rage would burst out in an unstoppable torrent. That was what he had thought would happen… And then he recovered.

Being dropped on his head, spiked into that steel in an attempt to finally murder him, something just clicked. Literally. Evan heard a great big click. Maybe it was his spine, reconnecting his nerve endings. It could have been his skull cracking and puncturing a reset switch in his brain. Possibly, it could have just been the impact was big enough to quite literally knock some sense into him. Whatever it was, when it happened it wasn’t what he expected. He was standing in the middle of that arena, surrounded by a hundred thousand exceedingly loud Aussy fans going absolutely mental at the sight of him getting and… and it was all so quiet. So peaceful. He had breathed deeply, stretched out and felt freedom of the purest kind.

He breathed in deeply as he leaned on the rail, pondering the thoughts rattling inside his head, now clear and devoid of the fog of his catatonic state. What even was he now?

“Can’t sleep, mate?” A voice from behind startled him for a moment. Ward looked over his shoulder to see Doug, the duty nurse, standing in the doorway back into the hall, no doubt in the middle of doing his rounds.

“Yeah, dreams again.” Ward sighed, turning back to look out over the Melbourne view.

“Yeah, they can be killer. I’ve seen people who’ve been through what you’ve been through deal with them for years.”

“Hah,” Ward shook his head as he let out a wry laugh. “I doubt anyone’s been through what I’ve been through.”

“True, true, most didn’t have it so rough, some had it worse.” Doug said as he approached the railing and leaned up against it next to Ward. “But they all have the dreams, or more like nightmares. It’s like a form of PTSD, mate. Unless you’ve been through it, you can’t really understand it, can you?”

“Even after going through it, I can’t really explain it to anyone. The best I can describe it…” Ward turned to look at Doug. “Right, so I’ve heard people talk about phantom limbs after an amputation, feeling pain and movement in it when it’s not there anymore. Imagine that, but with your whole body, but then also it was like watching everything through a shitty CCTV monitor and listening through an ancient gramophone. You’re there, you’re aware, but it’s all distant, you know?”

“Sadly I don’t, but I can imagine.” Doug nodded. A silence fell for a moment before the nurse offered up a plastic bottle he had been holding. “Want a drink? It’s best to stay hydrated and you’re looking pretty parched.”

Ward took the bottle of water and looked at it. “Don’t suppose you could get me a beer?”

“I could.” Said Doug. “But then I’d get fired.”

“Worth a punt.” Ward said as he cracked open the water.

“So how’s the leg doing?”

“Still hurts like a bitch, but that’s hardly surprising. I fucked it up so bad on that moonsault, I barely managed to nail that Award Winning Knee after that.” Evan grimaced as he rubbed his right leg.

“Yeah, but it was a spectacular way of breaking a leg. You don’t see that everyday.” Doug sounded quite impressed at how Evan did more lasting damage to himself than to Solex with that move. “But give it a few weeks, mate, and you’ll be up on that leg proper again and able to get back into the gym. Might even be ready for a match by the next pay-per-view.”

“Hahaha.” Ward bursted out laughing, but stopped when he noticed Doug was serious. “You’re kidding, right? In a couple of days I’m heading back to Chicago, I’ve been given my marching orders already.” Ward fished his phone out a pocket and, after much swiping through because life isn’t like the movies where everything is conveniently available exactly when you need it, he showed an email to Doug. “Look at this bullshit.”

“Mr. Ward,” Doug began to read the email in his best attempt at the worst Lee Best impression ever. “You are required to compete at Chaos 39 at the Best Arena in Chicago. As the bottom ranked of the LSD division you will be facing one of the top ranked competitors of the HOTV division, Brian Hollywood. Failure to compete will result in termination of contract, blah, blah, blah, blah.” He went back to his normal voice as he passed Ward the phone back. “Struth, that’s evil.”

“Yeah, well that’s Lee Best.” Evan shrugged, turning back to gazing out over the Melbourne cityscape, seeing all the headlights moving around in the distance and ants of pedestrians milling around down below. “Same dude who forced me to wrestle while catatonic, who set the number 2 wrestler in the company on me to end my career in the most permanent way.”

“Setting aside all that unsafe work environment wankery, it’s a bit shitty ain’t it?” Doug said. “You emphatically beat the number 2 ranked wrestler but you’re bottom of a midcard division? How does that even work?”

“Doug, you’re such a mark. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day, it’s the nature of the sport. What matters is beating people consistently every day.” Evan explained. “And it’s only singles matches which count, right? Because your team mate might be the one dragging you along on their coattails. Since I’ve been back in the ring I’ve had a ton of matches and won most of them, but the majority have been tag matches so according to the records I’ve only had 3 matches this year. One against Clyd, who stole a win. One against Reynolds who’s been on fire since returning and, let’s face it, he was fighting a vegetable. And one against Solex, which I shockingly won. So that’s a 1-3 record. Just because I totally whooped Solex’s ass beyond all expectations, he’s still got a 7-3 record. If you just look at the rankings I can’t touch the guy despite what the reality actually is.”

“Huh, I guess that makes sense.” Doug nodded, seemingly understanding how numbers work, which is a good trait for a nurse. “Just packing it in and taking up a different career isn’t an option, I guess?”

“Nope, I’m as broke as my leg was at 97Red.” Ward sighed. “You know how people get a bit nuts giving away all they have when they’re about to die? Yeah, that was me when I was convinced I’d die at War Games. Such a fucking idiot. Now I’ve got nothing but the steady paycheck from wrestling… Still, it’s bloody annoying having to work my way up from the bottom again. Another match against Brian bloody Hollywood.” Evan sounded bitter. “He’s quite literally the company’s punching bag. The hell does Lee expect to get out of this? I just beat Solex with a broken leg. Literally. My broken leg knocked him the fuck out. Hollywood isn’t going to do shit but turn up at the last minute and pretend like anyone gives even the slightest shit about whether he’s around or not, like he’s some Billy big balls wanting to stand against the Final Alliance. Last time I had anything to do with the guy, he was lying in a bloody heap at my feet.”

“You can’t count him out, like you said anyone can beat anyone and right now you’ve got your wings clipped, mate.” Doug’s voice exuded caution. “With that leg there’s no way you’ll be able to hit all those fast paced, flippyshit moves of yours. Even your strikes will be weaker than your used to. And, mate, I’m sure the adrenaline of your spontaneous resurrection carried you through the pay per view, but you’ve been stuck in a chair for months and put through hell. Your condition is so far off the peak you haven’t even reached base camp yet. Your boss clearly ain’t doing this to have Brian murder you like he wanted Solex to do, but he’s making sure you’re not going to recover, right? He’s killing you by inches, mate, making sure you don’t get the time to recover back to full strength. I think he’s scared of what you could do if you did.”

“True, true, true.” Evan looked down at his leg. He definitely wasn’t going to be hitting an Awesome Combo on this thing, but he should be able to hit an Award Winning Knee. It’ll hurt like hell but he was certain he could do it. And then he’d move on to the next opponent and the next and the next, until he got to the particular opponents whose faces he really wanted to knee inside out… “Once I work my way up the rankings they’re all going to pay for what they put me through, every single one of those motherfuckers will pay.”

Doug was taken aback not only by the words Ward was saying but by the tone of his voice. It was calm and it was quiet, quite at odds with the words, but that only added to the menacing aura seeping out of every fibre of the wrestler’s being. The nurse felt him the instinctive urge to slowly back away, the sort of urge you would get if you happened upon a viper curled up in your path and hissing gently to itself. It was not paying you the slightest bit of attention but one misstep and it would lash out, sinking its fangs into you and pumping you full of venom. The simple tone of the simple words made Doug unquestioning of Ward’s murderous intent.

“Hey, take it easy, mate.” The nurse tried to say calmly, but a quiver in his voice betrayed his caution. “You don’t want to do something you might regret.”

“That time’s past.” Ward stood up and took up his walking stick. “The only regrets will be of Lee Best and his alliance once they realise what’s in store. A career is going to be ended, Doug, and it sure as hell is not going to be mine.”

Evan hobbled back into the hallway, heading towards his room, and leaving the nurse to breath a deep sigh of relief. To begin with he just saw Evan as another broken man, here to be put back together and be sent on his road to recovery, he had injuries to be healed and trauma to deal with… but the way that conversation took a sharp turn, it scared him. Evan was a loaded gun looking for a target. Doug knew Evan was hurting and that he wasn’t nearly as dangerous as he could be because of that, which just made it even more scary. This man was out for revenge and Doug couldn’t help but feel sorry for any person who got in the broken wrestler’s way. And, right at that moment, he felt so very sorry for Brian Hollywood.