“I focus on the pain, The Only Thing That’s Real” – Nine Inch Nails
Clay looked at the phone confused; he had typed Arkham, Massachusetts into the search bar and expected a location. The Behemoth had assumed it would be a quiet, sleepy New England town. Close to the ocean, a small fishing village near the port of Gloucester. Instead what he had found was nothing. No information what-so-ever on the town. It had to be there somewhere, he thought, a feeling of distress creeped into his consciousness. He’d prayed for an answer and he figured God had come through. But to go to Massachusetts and look for a town that didn’t seem to exist to get help with a problem that doctors weren’t sure existed… On one hand the opportunity to be free of the malady, on the other hand a wild run across the country to a place that didn’t exist seemed insane…
Clay kept scrolling away on his phone, the seats in the exit row of the coach seats were a little tight for The Monster from Plainview. Plenty of legroom, but he struggled with the width of the seats. His enormous frame felt cramped and confined, adding to the feeling of distress. He took a giant breath and tried to relax. His aisle seat afforded him a little more space, and most importantly kept his right arm away from anyone else. Currently it was functioning properly, but with the night he had at Refueled The Behemoth was unsure how it would react.
Nothing had occurred since getting on the plane, the flight to Boston was mindless. Clay was still in a haze, the match against Jace and Jatt hadn’t gone to plan. He had battled Sektor again, it had all broken down. Clay had anticipated that with his current string of incidents and luck it would continue. He could imagine the other passengers looking at him as he sat in his seat holding his ears and screaming in pain. But all he experienced was silence. His arm didn’t twitch, his ears didn’t ring, there was no throbbing headache.
That feeling of distress, the anxiety of the situation permeated through his body. That call while he sat on the pier, the computerized voice saying they’d find him… What could that mean? How would they find him? If they could find him, what was he dealing with here? The only time he’d ever heard of Arkham, it came from The Son of Scions… Was this some elaborate scheme from Sutler? The thoughts raced through his mind, each one felt crazier than the one before it.
And, with all of that, the Infirmary match against Jace Parker Davidson was still there. Having a wrestling match in a prison was one thing, having a wrestling match where you have to drag your opponent into the infirmary where a wrestler died last year… that was a totally different animal. The lights overhead kicked on instructing everyone to buckle their seat belts and put away their electronic devices. The Behemoth complied and struggled to slip his phone into his pocket.
The plane landing felt like it happened in moments, the sudden crash of bodies into the aisle way was next. Exiting the plane was uneventful, until he walked into the airport terminal. A sudden feeling of deja vu washed over Clay. Of course, this could have been from the frequent traveling he’d done throughout his career. But he couldn’t remember the last time he was in the Boston airport. He marched through the terminal, his High Octane Wrestling bag slung over his shoulder. The feeling of uneasiness crept back into his psyche, and his heart rate began to elevate as he walked down the long hallway.
It felt like all the eyes in the airport were on him, a head swivel from an old man in line at a Starbucks, a woman ushering her kids down the terminal turned to stare, the security guard at a gate he had just glanced at. It felt like each person he viewed, he was making a connection with, something drew him in. The Behemoth was on a mission though, and continued past them towards the terminal’s exit into the airport proper. The uncertainty in his chest kept building.
He made eye contact with a security guard at the end of the terminal, his TSA blues made the man stand out in the crowd. His eyes were fixated on Clay, and Clay was subconsciously fixated on the man. He’d check on him in his peripheral, glance through the crowd, and something about him partially worried Clay. Normally his affliction would be raging in this throng of people, but today, thankfully it was being kept at bay.
It must feel comfortable Clay thought to himself as he kept walking. Why had he called it an it? Why was he referring to it as a thing? Subconsciously, he must be displacing it away from his sense of self. It was a thing, because it was not normal for Clay’s self image. He flexed his right hand reflexively. Checking to see if he was still in control of his limb.
Suddenly he found himself just a few feet away from the security guard he’d made eye contact with. The man was still staring at him, and The Monster tried to walk past him but the man positioned himself in front of Clay. Clay looked up at the man and smiled, the moment of eye contact, the knowing glance.
“Hello Mr. Byrd, we have a car waiting for you, follow me,” Clay was shocked. He looked the man over, in the back of his mind he had hoped it was a fan. The man turned quickly and Clay simply joined him walking through the airport. Part of him wanted to run, head back down the terminal screaming for his life. The other part knew that based on those glares it wasn’t an option. He was scared to look over his shoulder and see who all was following him. “We’re on our way with the target…” Clay swore he heard the TSA Agent say into his earpiece. But lately Clay hadn’t been able to trust his own body, he was sure it was just paranoia…
“So, should I cancel my rental at Enterprise?” Clay asked the Agent as they walked. The man simply ignored him as they continued their march through the halls of Logan International Airport. Something about this didn’t feel right, it hadn’t felt right since he’d boarded the plane. His eyes darted side to side, looking for an escape. He could try to vanish into the crowd, he finally dared a peek over his shoulder and saw the woman rushing her children out of the terminal, and the man from the Starbucks line following him.
Clay’s normal escape plan included destroying someone. Never in his life had The Monster from Plainview felt the need to run. But now, in this instance, he knew he was in trouble. He could handle the TSA Agent, gun or no gun, but attacking a government official in an airport… That wasn’t the best decision, and if something had infiltrated the TSA at the Airport where else could they be? Clay shook his head in frustration, how absurd was all of this? How’d he find himself in this situation? The Airport clearly wasn’t the spot to make some kind of stand. He’d have to wait.
But the longer he waited, the further down the rabbit hole he went.
Finally the man stopped at the exit and waved Clay through the double doors. A black limousine was there, another man made direct eye contact with Clay and held the door open. The Behemoth acted like nothing was wrong and tossed his bag through the doorway. He looked in front of the limo at the two black SUV’s, he watched the man from Starbucks walk out of the airport and directly into the front one.
This is totally fucked… Clay thought to himself. When the doorway opened and the man got into the SUV he saw multiple other men inside. He looked through the windshield of the one behind the car and saw the same thing. Just as he was about to get into the limo his phone buzzed, he pulled it out and looked at it. The message was clear: DO NOT SAY A WORD ABOUT THIS: GET IN THE CAR. He looked around, but couldn’t see anyone who would have sent it, at least not anyone who wasn’t staring a hole through him.
Clay sighed and got into the limo and the door was slammed and latched behind him.
He had expected to be alone in the car, and he was in the physical sense. A bright white screen was in front of him. The car started to move, and he looked at the screen waiting for it to do something. Finally, after about five minutes of riding through Boston the screen lit up. He saw Mina Starr-Kael staring back at him.
“I knew you were special,” she said through a puff of smoke that came off of her cigarette. “Ever since that moment I saw you in Lee’s office, I knew you were different Clay…” The Behemoth was stunned to see her, the last he had heard Mina had been ‘handled.’
“I couldn’t take my eyes off of you in that confrontation with Sutler, I was so enamored with you… I couldn’t believe it had activated on its own, in your pea sized little brain. And you’ve been able to fight it off for this long…” she paused as she took a drag off of her cigarette. “But don’t worry Clayton, the fighting will be over soon.”
“What the fuck are ya talkin’ ‘bout… it?” Clay said back. The confusion across his face was clear.
“Oh, you don’t even know what you’re fighting against do you?” Mina said with a grotesque laugh. Clay would swear he could hear the cancer in her coughs as she recovered. “He’s inside you.”
“Who’s inside me?!” The Monster from Plainview roared at the screen, his breathing became shallow as he thought about tearing the back of the car apart. Mina just laughed in his face. That sickly laugh…
“You’ll find out soon enough Clayton… you’ll find out soon enough… just sit back and relax. Enjoy the ride.” Clay saw Mina reach for the toggle on her wheelchair and roll out of the picture as the screen went back to the bright white light. Clay took his hat off and sat it beside him, he placed his head in his hands.
“What the fuck did I get myself into?” Sadly, Clay didn’t have a clue that this wasn’t close to being over. The screen slowly began to fill with static. A dot here, a dot there. His eyes followed them, almost uncontrollably. Slowly the black and white static mosaic morphed into a face, the face’s eye illuminated red.
Clay’s phone buzzed away in his pocket, and he tried to turn his head to look at it but his gaze was jerked back to the screen. A series of black and white disturbing images began to flash in front of him. Each one showing another torturous act on the screen.
Finally The Behemoth managed to get his phone out of his pocket and through sheer force of will managed to avert his eyes to his phone screen. The message on the screen was clear: DUCK. Clay followed the order and layed down across the back seat of the limousine. Two shots exploded the glass behind him and the screen he had gone back to watching in front of him.
“WHAT THE FUCK!” Clay shouted, as the vehicle rapidly decelerated. He stared through the holes in the screen, noticing the #97RED blood leaking down the back of the man’s skull. As the car came to a stop he scrambled for the door latch. He pulled on it so hard the handle snapped off in his huge hand. Clay looked for a locking mechanism of some kind, but none was in sight. The panic began to set in, Clay could feel his head begin to throb and the tinnitus start screaming. Clay clawed at his own face, his well manicured nails scratching down the side of his face.
Clay could faintly hear the gunshots outside of the limousine. The maddening sound and pain in his skull muffled the sounds but he was still aware of them. Clay rolled off the seat and onto the floor of the vehicle, still clutching at his own face. He stared at the screen that used to be there, looking past it and at the macabre scene in the front seat. His vision had started to fade, he could feel the darkness pulsing at the edge of his perception. Something inside of him screamed for him to accept the darkness, the ringing in his ears had escalated to an unfathomable level, the pain throbbing in rhythm with the enclosing darkness.
He fought against it, his anxiety, the fear of the unknown drove him forward, encouraged him to press onwards. But the darkness was still there, pressing at the edges of Clay’s reality, inviting him to accept it. He screamed as he held his head with his left arm, his right arm was frantically spasming. Finally, the shots stopped and his arm came back under his control. He heard a rustling outside of the limousine, faint voices pierced through the fog of his mind.
“Driver and passenger have been eliminated. Checking the cargo…” Clay thought about the context of the remarks momentarily. He repositioned himself on the floor, he was ready to pounce through the door at whatever would come next. Darkness, tinnitus, and throbbing brain be damned. “Cargo is live, prepare to extract.”
Both doors started to swing open, and Clay uncoiled, exploding through the driver’s side door. The Behemoth stepped into the sunlight, and smashed the man standing in his way with a right hand. The man crumpled to the ground, Clay turned to swing at the man who had opened the door. He noticed the three other men standing around and the guns pointed at his chest.
“HANDS IN THE AIR!” they shouted, and Clay had an important decision to make. He could try to continue living, try to make it through whatever the hell this was… Or he could give up, go out in a blaze of glory, a hail of bullets in an alley that would surely be covered up. He’d just disappear, and for a moment The Behemoth considered the option. He took a deep, calming breath, the afflictions were all still present. They would stop with a simple charge…
Clay didn’t get to the end of the thought. The next thing he felt was the electricity ripping through his body. One of the men behind him had fired a stun gun. Clay tried to take a step forward, but the forced seizing was too much. He dropped to his knees. Another man slipped behind him and placed a needle in his neck. The last thing he remembered before the darkness was the muffled voice, this time muffled from the drug cocktail coursing through his body.
“Target acquired, extraction requested.”
Another muffled voice, Clay’s eyes snapped open and he tried to look around at his surroundings. His eyes took a moment to adjust, the bright lighting of the room shocked his pupils. As they rapidly dilated he frantically scanned the room for the voice. The last thing he remembered was making the decision to end his own life in a hail of bullets. He tried to move his body but found himself restrained, the leather restraints, three on each arm held him firmly in place. His feet were wrapped at the ankles, and again at the thighs. He tried to swing his head, but realized there was some type of restraint holding it in place as well.
“You won’t be able to escape Clayton…” the voice he had first heard said. The Monster from Plainview strained against his restraints again before realizing the futility of his situation.
“What fucked up shit are you going to do to me!?” The Behemoth roared, or tried to roar. His voice cracked, and he spit a wad of flem across the room.
“You were on your back for an extended period of time, you may have experienced some drainage.” The currently disembodied voice said soothingly. Clay took a deep breath and considered his options. His eyes darted around the room again, bright blue stucco walls surrounded him. The old paint was peeling away in spots, with his limited movement he was able to see a number of medical devices on a table to his right.
“Where the fuck am I?” Clay growled. A tall man passed through his line of sight, only momentarily. Long enough to pick up a few medical tools. The voice responded from behind Clayton. “San Pedro Prison, in Bolivia.”
Clay was stunned, how long was he out for? It had been Monday when he arrived in Boston, how long was a flight to Bolivia? Where the fuck was Bolivia? “Why am I in a prison in Bolivia… Is this some absurd bullshit that Jace or Sutler is pulling?”
“You think Jace Parker Davidson or The Usurper could pull something like this off? Heh-Heh,” the voice said. Clay had heard that laugh before, he tried to pinpoint where. “No Clayton, you’re here so I can help you.”
“You kidnapped me from the people that could help me…” Clay knew the statement wasn’t true. What was it that Mina had said on the screen? Something was inside him? A person was inside him?
“Oh, they weren’t going to help you Clay. Mina can barely finesse her way through a night at your wrestling company, let alone know what’s going on inside of your head.” Clay heard metal being sat on metal. At least this person had an idea what was wrong with him.
“But you know what’s goin’ on inside my head?” Clay asked.
“I think I do at least,” the voice said. Another little laugh slipped out before he made his next statement. “I could be wrong and you could end up dead, I’d say the odds are sitting at fifty-fifty.”
“What the fuck is it?” Clay questioned, the drugs that had put him to sleep must have been continuing to wear off. He felt a dull thump in the back of his head, he grimaced waiting for the constant ringing to follow.
“It’s a long story…” the voice stated, and Clay could feel cold hands feeling around the base of his skull. “I’m sure you are beginning to feel the effects of the chip again, so I’ll try to make it short. Have you heard of Max Kael?”
“How the fuck have I not heard of ‘em?” Clay said impatiently. The man’s hands had finally focused in on an area, just above the hairline on the back of Clay’s neck.
“Fair point, I believe that Max suffered from a number of mental afflictions. One of them being Dissociative Identity Disorder…”
“What the fuck does this have to do with my head throbbin’ and my ears ringin’?”
The man laughed to himself as he ran his finger across a spot on Clay’s hairline. That spot in particular was numb to the touch, all he felt was the pressure. Clay flinched as the finger journeyed just above the spot.
“Good, so that’s the scar. Anyway, one of Max’s identities had made a number of contingency plans. To ensure its work would live on, that the empire Max had cobbled together through dumb luck would continue doing The Minister’s bidding. He created a number of these small computer chips and sent them out to his followers across the world…” Once again Clay was stunned into silence from the man’s words. The pain in his skull continued to ramp up, but Clay pushed through to continue the conversation.
“So yer sayin’ this psycho put a computer chip in my brain?” The man stopped what he was doing on Clay’s skull for a moment, pulling Clay’s long hair up over the contraption around his head.
“Well, I doubt The Minister even knew your name Clayton. But I’m sure one of his followers did. Most of them kept the chips for themselves, but others found their way into normal people. A sleeper army that could be activated at a moment’s notice. Truly, a brilliant bit of planning…”
“Can we get it the fuck out of my head?” Clay said through gritted teeth, the ringing had returned.
“If it was that easy, don’t you think I would have abducted the rest of them and simply removed the chip? No, no, no, once the chip is activated there are a number of failsafes in place. To mention one, it takes over your entire nervous system. The last time I tried to remove one, well, it simply resulted in the patient’s organs shutting down.”
“So yer goin’ to fuckin’ kill me?” The Behemoth said, almost welcoming death at this point.
“No Clayton, I’m not going to murder you with a robotic chip. I believe that you’re different from the others I’ve experimented on. My spies inside of the organization have told me that your chip activated on its own. I believe this is another failsafe that I’ve encountered. When the chip becomes dislodged, or partially dislodged from the tissue of the host’s brain it activates itself…”
“Why would it do that?” The Behemoth asked, the ringing was growing louder now. The man’s voice was barely a whisper.
“To kill you. If it can’t work correctly and try to achieve its task, what use does it have for you? Luckily, you’ve been able to live this long with it…” The man said.
Clay’s thoughts were running wild, but it was so hard to think with the pain and the ringing. His vision was becoming blurred, just like in the limousine. The darkness on the edge intruded further into his line of sight.
“So what are you going to do?” Clay’s jaw began to ache from clenching his teeth.
“Well, we’re going to try to make the chip inert.”
“So I’m goin’ ta have brain surgery in a prison infirmary before I try ta drag someone inta one?”
That laugh… it sounded eerily like Mina’s laugh. He’d heard it during the video conference, he’d heard it from Sutler, it all sounded like the same laugh. Clay took another deep breath, trying to stay calm in the situation.
“It’s… well it’s entirely an invasive procedure, I’ll be going in through a small hole in your skull. But looking at the scar it’s been there for years. Then I’ll hook up to the chip, and hopefully you’ll be right as rain.”
The man stepped into Clay’s view. His grotesque form stood out immediately. The man had a slight hunch in his back, one arm appeared to be longer than the other… The throbbing on the edge of Clay’s vision thrashed trying to take over.
Was it trying to take over?
Clay began to have a seizure. He could taste iron in his mouth, the taste of his own blood. The man looked into Clay’s eyes, his blue eyes, one slightly misshapen, larger than the others stared into his.
“Stay with me Clayton, stay with me…” the man said, but the darkness engulfed Clay’s vision. He felt a falling sensation. He could still hear the voice, but he couldn’t see anything. He tried to speak, but his tongue felt limp, impossible to move. He could still listen, he could still hear what was happening, the darkness hadn’t taken that from him.
“TELLING STORIES!? IS THAT WHERE WE ARE? YOU THOUGHT I COULDN’T GET CONTROL?!” Clay heard his own voice screaming through the blackness. He tried to stop it, stop the words from coming out. “HE’S ALREADY DEAD! Heh-heh.”
Clay felt a tear fall down his cheek, he heard the sick laugh come from his own voice. That grotesque gurgle, through the blood.
“Are you in there Clayton? Can you hear me? Show me you’re still in there…”
“HE’S DEAD YOU IDIOT!”
Clay could still feel the falling, the tears streaming down his face clearly weren’t visible. The ringing had turned into screaming now, a constant shout of terror. The throbbing had turned into a constant state of agony. He felt something touch his left hand, Clay grabbed back. He hoped with everything he had that the message would get across, that his hand would move when he commanded it. He simply stuck his left thumb up before the darkness consumed his thoughts.
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is of the unknown” – H.P. Lovecraft