Several weeks earlier…
“You’re a failure.
You’re old, broken down, defeated. You simpering, ignorant hack. You’re not even a shadow of what you once were. You’re a caricature, a suggestion of menace wrapped in plastic and sat upon a shelf for commercial distribution.
You’re an action figure. You look strong, but your essence is a standard wrestler base lightly colored with muscles and a snarky smirk. You’re a rendering of an unimaginative vision put to paper and transferred to life.
You’ll never stack up against your reputation again, never inspire fear in anyone else, never be anything more than a whisper in the mouths of people who have heard what you once were and are now too embarrassed to even have a conversation with you, as if pretending that you still hold sway over the wrestling landscape is too embarrassing, too great a task to pull off with a straight face.
You’re a sad figure, a pitiable figure, and everyone is letting you hang out here for a name, for a laugh, for wistful sentimentality, a cloying sickly sweet warmth of days that aren’t coming back.
Stop fooling yourself.
Someone should put you out of your misery.
You hacky, banal, facile, soft mushy fuck.”
I opened my eyes then, and no one else was there. The voice was mine, the target was me, the vitriol as earned as any ever has been, and the sense of absolute, utter, total disgust was palpable like bile in my mouth; too much of it to take, spilling out and covering me like another skin.
“Who did this to you?”
The sound hung in my mind. Real or imagined, I didn’t know anymore. It felt real, and it felt like clawing at the deepest part of my soul with the way it dug in and violently pulled back again. Like a hammer, the realization struck me full-on in the face, so forcefully and so directly that I had no recourse but to take it…
To shut the fuck up and admit the truth.
Standing there like a fucking bitch, while people do what they want, say what they want with impunity, looking you in the eye and laughing because you let yourself become everything you always hated.
Recreant gutless worm.”
Perhaps this is the way of things. We ebb and flow from one moment to the next, but true evolution requires suddenness, a potent unrestrainable release of energy from somewhere lost to the hands of time, where it had been building up imperceptibly in the quiet corners of my mind. It ached to be freed in an act of energetic paroxysm.
And when released, it kills what was there before. It eats it alive, devours it whole without so much as a pause for reverence, for the depth of hatred and anger within driving this feeding frenzy is insatiable and primordial, and it kills without thought of anything but pure malevolent greed.
No hesitation, no grief. No one weeps for the poor, dead fantasy, its plastic emptiness consumed, and melted away by the fires of revulsion and malice. It is replaced by a voracious yearning, seeking to take vengeance on its captor.
“Who did this to you?
“Once that you’ve decided on a killing
First, you make a stone of your heart
And if you find that your hands are still willing
Then you can turn a murder into art”
– “Murder by Numbers” – The Police
Before you rebuild something, you have to tear it down.
It’s not enough to feel it. It may start that way, but if not paired with action, it becomes a pale shadow, a fad flitting by and disappearing as soon as it appears.
There was a realization — a sudden overwhelming realization — fading into an eager desire to begin immediately, and it morphed into a need to make this evolution manifest itself as quickly as possible. The first move, the easiest move, dispensing with this mass of human encumbrance anchoring me in place and draining my bank account with their every mewling need. A staff who keep watch over nothing; I’m much smarter than all of them by twofold, and able to handle my own affairs, nevermind that the mundane material affects of my existence were no longer of any concern, no longer taking up more than a passing and distant thought in some corner of my mind that had become frivolous and immaterial.
I need nothing, no one other than myself.
Without exception, no one stays who doesn’t live and breathe in step with who I am now. I don’t care who you are, what your name is, whose blood runs through your veins if you aren’t willing to bleed for the cause – the cause being whatever I fucking want it to be – without question.
And deviation, should it occur, is met with brutal, unforgiving correction.
These surroundings, such as they are, no longer hold any purpose for me other than the most basic of human needs, and even my dependence on these mundane minutiae fill me with such an overwhelming sense of disgust that I want to physically rip it down with my bare hands, and I would if some glimmer of practicality in my mind hadn’t convinced me otherwise.
Still, it would all have to change, because my stomach turns at the thought of couches and loveseats, photos and portraits and paintings, decorative rubbish cluttering up this house with useless garbage like a mocking, sarcastic memorial, a eulogy for someone still living; living in name only, because that someone had accepted a soul death far worse than any physical burial could ever have been.
I inflicted it upon myself.
The rest of you have to bear the fruit of its reckoning.
The question was answered.
I know who did this to me. I did it to myself.
Oh, I’ve let others take some of the blame — family, ‘friends’, people around me promoting their own ideas about what I should be or what I needed to be.
But I did it to myself, and I did it willingly.
I allowed it. No, not allowed; I pursued it.
I nearly destroyed myself and for what? For nothing. To paint a pretty picture of a lost soul, a grumpy but well-meaning man with the hard exterior and a heart of gold.
It’s a fucking joke, and a terrible one at that.
I keep going back to it. I know that it happened, I know that I did it, and I won’t forgive myself for it. I won’t let it go.
An overwhelming sense of rage rises from inside of me. It churns around and turns inward on itself because that’s where it belongs. It exists for the sole purpose of punishing the person responsible, and that person is me.
I deserve all of this.
I deserve every second of wasted meandering through meaningless matches and meaningless conversations dominated by glib wonderings, mundane babble about things that don’t matter, never mattered. I deserved to be mocked, demeaned, treated like a joke. I did it to myself, and I deserve to suffer for it. I’ll never forgive myself for what I’ve done.
This is unforgivable.
So go ahead — say what you will.
I know what you’ll say before you even say it, and I’ll punish myself for you, without any effort on your part, and the absolute violent destructive resentment and acrimony I hold for myself will build even deeper, enveloping me as well as anyone and everyone else around me. You think you’ve hit upon some witticism, some hard-line of logic that can wound me? The wounds are superficial, without depth, redundant. They no longer serve as evidence of battles fought, these scars, but as warnings. The ones you can see, the ones you can’t; They are warnings that the man you think you once knew was murdered in cold blood, torn to shreds and tossed aside like rotting refuse, burned and wafted away in the smoke.
But behind all of this lies a purpose.
After the burning, something new rises clean from what remains. No longer encumbered by the need to feel these archaic emotions, I find a singular focus emerging. I think that at no time in my entire life have I felt more inclined to do what must be done, never again distracted by gratuitous pandering.
Everyone tries so hard to be the best versions of themselves instead of simply accepting who and what they are. They spend so much time carving out of stone an icon for others to worship, some simulacrum to tower over the masses and look down like a monolithic entity born to rule. You all think this is the only way to get what you want as if any of it is anything more than a faint illusion seen through as easily as a clear picture window on a sunny day.
I will never again hide my weaknesses. I won’t even try.
What is the use? There is none. Projecting is folly. There is only truth remaining…
“All that matters is what you can do, and what you cannot.”
Embrace the truth.
There’s nothing behind me now; The future is the only thing left.
This is no sunny day. There is only the storm, seeking to roll through and destroy.
Kill it. Bury it. Move on.
This is the way of things.
This is what I know. It’s all there is.
It was quiet — far too quiet.
The silence almost had a sound of its own. The house was dark, with only a stray shaft of light or two coming through the windows on the West side of the house. Crickets chirped outside, faintly heralding the last few minutes of twilight as the sun crept finally over the horizon.
Dan Ryan sat still on the floor, back against a living room wall, the stone rough against his back and his legs stretched out across the dusty carpet. There were several ripped sections of carpet in the now-empty room as if some animal had clawed its way through. There had been some token attempts to clean, but they had long since been abandoned.
He stared through the room toward the foyer at the front door.
It looked fine. Everything looked fine.
There had been some unpleasantness outside, but that was over now.
He imagined there would be questions that needed to be answered over that. He wondered if he had just acquired for himself a nice big brown truck.
No, probably not.
This was the new normal. When a simple package delivery turns into attempted murder, that should concern a person, but there was a distinct lack of concern going around these days.
He sat, stared at the door, and concerned himself with nothing. Concern itself was mocking him, and he gritted his teeth as anger welled up inside him. He pushed it back down then, taking a deep breath and closing his eyes.
Centered, he rose to his feet and started toward the main hallway leading to the bedrooms on the East side of the building. Passing the kitchen, he grabbed a broom standing there against a wall. The lack of natural light dimmed this end of the house and he squinted as his eyes adjusted to his surroundings.
Two open bedrooms stood to his right, and another to his left. It was the one on the left he approached and he stood in the doorway, looking in.
Cecilia was there, her back to him as she sat at a desk in the corner. She was still dressed in the shorts and white hoodie from before, stained up and disheveled, though he could only see her from behind. She was hunched over, scribbling away on some paper, which every few seconds she tossed over her shoulder where it fluttered to the floor below.
A fair number of these papers were all over the floor, scattered here and there based on nothing more than where chance happened to let them fall, and she paid them no mind otherwise.
He stared at it, considered it, and when nothing more came to mind, he turned and left; He left her scribbling away and crossed the hall into another room where another simple desk sat, a laptop upon it. Shattered remnants of his life still lay all over the floor, and he began to sweep it methodically until there was a single pile to one side, which he shoved into a cardboard box there.
Heaving it up and into both hands, he methodically made his way back through the house, down the hallway, around the kitchen, and through the living room until he approached the back door. It was already partially open, and he used a foot to kick it open the rest of the way, letting his back catch the rebound as he made his way through.
The sun had gone down enough by then so that a deepening gray dominated the lakeside area. It was still littered with broken pieces of wood, smashed up remnants of other unidentifiable objects, and a metal shed showing off its own scars on one side, gashed and smashed in as if hit repeatedly with a battering ram. Halfway between the house and lakeside, a shovel stood, stuck in the ground deep enough to hold itself up. He placed the box on the ground there next to it and, with little effort, pulled it from the ground.
It didn’t take much to break through the first several inches of dirt and hit the solid object underneath. He kicked away at the clumps of Earth around the impact point and knelt down then, using his hands to feel around for the edges of an oak box, rectangular in shape, with two brass hinges protruding from one side. He turned the shovel over and used it to push away the dirt on top, just enough to gain access to the entire surface.
He pulled the lid back and the musty air inside hit him in the face like a ton of bricks. His nose scrunched up instinctively as he looked down at its contents. Both eyes narrowed slightly and he dragged the cardboard box he had brought outside over to the edge of the hole and dumped it in. What was left of the exterior backyard light reflected back from the jagged gold bits and cast shadows on his face as he stared down at it.
Looking down just then at his left hand, more faint light reflecting from another golden object cast a glint of light on his face. With a twist to the left and then to the right, he pulled the ring from his finger and tossed it on top of the rest of the gold.
Standing up and looking down on the ephemera below, he snorted derisively and slammed the top shut once more, then shoveled dirt back on top.
The last tiny pile of dirt deposited, he flung the shovel like a dart, and it stuck hard into another pile of dirt up against the house. It wobbled there, then leaned gently down, the blunt end of the handle resting on the ground below. He watched it settle, then turned back, looking around at several other areas of disturbed dirt, fresh enough to have been dug and re-dug recently, no hint of vegetation on these patches save some stray grass chopped up by the shovel.
It was counter-intuitive perhaps, this. He thought it through, and for the first time in a long time, he laughed.
When so much needs to be buried, it has to be done carefully. Haphazardly handled, no matter how deeply you bury the dead, it has a tendency to climb back up and re-emerge, and all of your hard work goes for naught.
No, it takes time to do it right, and when the time is right, you do what needs to be done; when the stage is set, that’s when you strike. After the burial comes the murder.
Weakness becomes strength.
Death begets death.
Funny that it comes to this. Odd how we find ourselves finally.
How strange it is to be anything at all.