The Machine

The Machine

Posted on May 14, 2024 at 12:34 pm by Christopher America

Lee told me to watch him. To watch everyone. To see how they perform. To see how they move. To look at their faces. To look at their expressions. To witness their pain, their anger, their triumph.

Save for one exception, when Brian Hollywood wanted to meet with me last week, I have done exactly that. I have sat in front of a monitor watching the men and women of HOW wrestle. Tape after tape. Match after match. Move after move.

And yet, despite all the action and twists and turns laid out before me, it’s been extremely hard, trying to pay attention.

Why?

Because the man in the skull face mask is behind me.

I don’t have to look at him. I know he’s there. I hear him. Pacing. Moving. Restlessly. It’s unnerving and unsettling. No matter how much I try to watch what happens, I catch flashes of his eyes in the reflection of the television. And perhaps, more worrisome, I sometimes feel like he’s right there next to me, peering over my shoulder, studying how I will react. Does he see the goosebumps on my skin? Does he see the hairs on my neck rise in fear? Does he hear the butterflies in my stomach? Does he hear the beating of my heart quicken?

Why is he here?

Why do I need his protection?

Lee never answers me. He never tells me. Just the same quizzical look and then a wave of the hand, dismissing me from talking about it anymore.

There!

There it is again! I swear it’s him!

I feel it.

His breath. Near me. And I— and I— I…

The room begins to spin around me. Lights swirl, mixing with colors, hard lines give way to fluidic shapes, and then black.

Click… clack.

Christopher America: Where am I? Ugh. My head. Did he hit me?

I wipe my face with my hands, disappointed with the result.

Christopher America: No waking up from this.

Click… clack.

What was that?

I turn my head quickly.

I try to isolate the sounds. But it seems like it just echoes from everywhere. Until…

Click… clack.

Click… clack.

Click… clack.

She appears.

She is the most beautiful woman that I’ve ever seen. Flowing brown hair, a dark red dress, plunging v neck down to her navel, heels to accentuate her hips, and… not a walk… but a sashay. She’s locked eyes with me.

I want to say something. Do something. Anything! But I can’t.

I just stand there in awe of her. She comes right up beside me and places her finger on my shoulder. She walks around behind me, dragging her finger across my back and shoulders. She stops just behind me on my right side.

She places both her hands on my shoulders and leans in close to my ears. Is she going to whisper something? Is she going in for a kiss?

I close my eyes, hoping to take in the sensations. She breathes on my neck and I audibly exhale.

She smells amazing. Most women would smell of their normal pheromones and the latest stylish perfume. She smells like leather. What more… she smells… familiar.

Keeping my eyes closed, I breathe in heavily through my nose, trying to capture that scent. Taking as much of her scent in as I can, I open my eyes and turn to look for her, but she’s gone. I quickly turn around, spinning, looking for her, but continue to see only black. I touch my right shoulder, placing my hand where hers was. Hoping to feel some form of reciprocal touch. And then…

I feel it.

I feel a weight.

About 10 pounds worth. Give or take.

It comes flooding back. Too much at once. Too much to understand. No thoughts. No concepts. No ideas. Just emotions.

I feel strong.

I feel rejuvenated.

I feel like I’ve had part of me restored.

I feel like part of me is made whole once again.

This feeling is exhilarating. Intoxicating. Like one of pure pleasure.

I close my eyes once more, trying to hold on to that feeling, but it slips from me. It all fades. Deeper and deeper into darkness.

I grit my teeth and let out a growl of frustration. Every single time, this happens. I ball up my fist and begin pounding on the front of my head with each spoken word.

Christopher America: WHY. CAN’T. I. RE-MEM-BER?

I open my eyes, desperate to search for her again, but the light from my locker room is once again before me. I’m so angry and frustrated at the sight of this place that I stand up and fling the wooden chair across the room. It hits the wall with enough force to split the wood on the back rest. I turn and look at the man in the skull mask. His dead eyes continue to judge.

Christopher America: WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE?

YOU THINK I’M GOING TO RUN OFF? TO WHERE? TO WHOM?

He just stares at me. Unspeaking. Unblinking. He must’ve told Lee about what Brian Hollywood talked to me about. He wasn’t supposed to say anything because NOTHING HAPPENED! NOTHING!

I can feel my frown form and the disgust well up inside me. He definitely told Lee. Traitor. Snitch. Bastard.

Christopher America: I’m going for a walk!

The words come out as defiantly as I can make them, as if warning him to not follow. I throw open the locker room door and exit. I step out into the hall and it is filled with people running around for the show. And it hits me like it hasn’t before.

This. This is the machine.

The cogs working even when the clockmaker is not here. Accomplishing their tasks. Doing their job. Ensuring the smooth function of the machine. And it moves. It breathes. It keeps working no matter where we are.

So why doesn’t my machine do the same? What’s wrong with my brain… my memory?

As I continue to watch the bustle of people pass me, I feel a heaviness in my chest. My breathing’s becoming labored.

I’m overwhelmed.

It’s too much.

I slowly back out of the hall and back to the comfort and safety of my locker room. Slowly, I take deep breaths. I need to calm myself. I feel the pounding in my temples.

I’m more lost than I’ve ever been.

A man alone in the vast machine.

*******

Christopher America: It’s weird how I act sometimes. This desire to simultaneously reach out and make some sort of a connection with people that I may or may not know personally. People that I’ve seen in the back, seen on tape, or heard about through rumor and innuendo. People that I hope could help untangle this mess of strings and debris that seems to be my memory.

And yet, there’s this nagging desire to be alone. This machine. This company. It’s so large. So vast. Brimming with life. And yet, so cold. So empty.

I looked at the card and was shocked to see that I’m part of some group called The Final Alliance. What does that mean? Final what? Final for whom? For those in it? As if… as if we fail, then we’re done for? We’re out of the Alliance? Out of the company? Out of a job?

Why would we sign up for this? When did I sign up for this?

I envy you Darin Zion.

A man alone. A man apart.

No friends. No allegiances.

You are, for all intents and purposes, a pariah in this locker room. You try your absolute best time and again only to be met with loss after loss. You run headlong, face first at the machine. It chews you up and spits you out. And despite the scars, the blood, and maybe a few tears, you dust yourself up, face the machine once more, and go for round two.

Where does that courage come from? Where does that spirit come from? Is yours endless? How do I tap into that, I wonder?

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you other questions. Questions like… Why haven’t you quit yet? Why haven’t you moved on to other companies? If success isn’t happening for you here, why do you stay?

It has to be because you want the moment. Not a moment. But the moment. The moment where one day, you will shock the world. The moment where you will win the championship that has eluded you, earn the respect that has eluded you, gained you the adoration you seek.

It takes… an incredible amount of courage to be like that.

Perhaps more courage than I have.

But what I lack in your courage, Darin, I make up for in other things.

Like determination.

I’ve watched your matches, watched your promos, watched you work your own way through this vast machine and respectfully, I grow angry. I see you and I see a man that plateaued long ago. I see a man that lost his will to get better. Oh sure, sparks arise every now again. Sparks of inspiration. Sparks of determination. But then again, sparks always do show on dying embers.

The truth, Darin, is that you should get out of HOW. Leave this horrid place. Stop running into the machine hoping for a different result. Your time has passed you by. Your best accomplishments are behind you. Retire with the knowledge and satisfaction that you gave it your all, tried your best, and stuck it out longer than most people thought you should or even could.

Live a full life being a teacher, or real estate agent, a yoga instructor, or whatever else wrestlers do when the company and fans that they love so much… just doesn’t reciprocate.

I’m asking you… for your well being… to do the right thing. To avoid Chaos. To avoid this match. Because I guarantee you that I cannot be held responsible for what happens in that ring. During points in my match against Brian Hollywood, I… I blacked out. I don’t remember parts of that match. And yet, somehow, I came out the victor. I pulled off moves that I don’t remember knowing.

I don’t want to hurt people, Darin. I just need to win and continue working with Lee about my past. But I can’t learn about my past if you win. So, I need you to understand that for your own safety and to help me accomplish my goal… don’t get back up. Don’t face the machine. Don’t run once more into the abyss. Do what you should’ve done a long time ago.

Stay down.

America pauses, reflecting on the words he’s just spoken, saddened at the prospect of his knowledge means pain for someone else. He takes a momentary deep breath, nods to himself, mustering the courage he needs, and continues.

Christopher America: I want to get something out of the way first and foremost. I respect you, Scott Stevens. I respect any man that is a former World Champion because since I’ve been in this company, it’s been drilled into my head how hard that task is to accomplish. And for you, you’ve won that championship against what I’m told is the single greatest World Champion… and perhaps the single greatest wrestler… this company will ever see.

You’ve done it against Mike Best.

And that’s why, Scott, I am struggling to understand something about you.

I’ve watched you speak about plans that you have. And time and time again, those plans fall through. I watch you talk about how you are the only one who can dethrone a champion, stop a group of wrestlers, or simply win a match.

And yet, time and time again, those plans fall through. Forgive me, truly, but your career as of late amounts to spaghetti thrown at a wall. And yes, some of those strands do stick, and you hang your hat on those. But at the end of the day, your hat is hanging on flimsy strands held to a wall by sheer luck and happenstance. And the hundreds upon hundreds of other strands that didn’t stick… the ones that fell to the floor… you ignore them.

Now to be fair, I think everyone else does the opposite. They focus only on those strands that have fallen to the floor and ignore those that have stuck. And they do that to discredit the accomplishments you have achieved. They do it to wash away the stains on their own careers. You’ve beaten Mike Best for the World Championship. How many others can say that? Very few. You’ve beaten Mike Best for the World Championship… TWICE. How many others can say that? Even fewer. Heck, for all I know, you could be the only one.

So, what I struggle with is why a man who is a multiple time World Champion, a man who wants to be respected and accepted… does his best work ONLY when attacking people from behind? Why is your best work in the backstage area… with a weapon? Why is it never in-ring, facing those people directly? Why is it never in a competitive matchup? If you want to be a true force for change, if you want to be the man that rights the wrongs done to you or others in this company, you do it face to face and you do it in the ring.

Brian Hollywood… he…

America pauses, reflecting on the meeting they had. His words trying to work their way through to what Hollywood feels is the better man within.

Christopher America: He does it face to face, man to man. Brian Hollywood met me in that ring. And he may… struggle… with his plan to cleanse HOW of what he sees as injustices. But he does it, arguably, the right way… face to face.

And for me? I do it in the ring, too. I’ve beaten Zach Kostoff. I’ve beaten Brian Hollywood. And at Chaos, I will do my part to beat Darin Zion and you. Not from behind. Not in the back. Not with a weapon. I will do it face to face. Man to man. And whatever plans you have to take the World Championship away from Lee Best will be for naught.

Because with each week… I learn. I adapt. I grow. And I hope that one day… I will earn my answers. I will regain my past. And I can be what Lee wants me to be… the ghost in the machine of HOW.

The man you fear to face.

The man that haunts your career.

The man you will never exorcise.

Because I will not pass on. I will not rest. Until Lee Best has what he wants. And I… finally… have what I want.