“The best thing about waking-up is Zachy-boy in your cup.”
Zach awakens to a sing-songy voice that is both familiar and strange to him, his senses taking their sweet time to return to anything akin to normal functionality. A process impeded by the storm cloud raging in his head thanks to the cocktail of painkillers and tranquilisers running through his system to ensure he achieves calm and undisturbed sleep.
He notices a humanoid-shaped haze looming near him and with the memory of a disturbing dream in the forefront of his mind he instantly assumes the form is Elisha, come to finish what he started at Paradise. Zach tries to will his body to move but it rebels against him in painful protest.
Just like in his dream, he is hopeless and left to the mercy (or severe lack thereof) of the Moonchild.
“Calm yourself young Zach. You do not want to aggravate your injuries.” The voice from the amorphous shape (gradually taking tangible form) does not belong to Elisha, but instead to that of Zach’s one-time mentor, Elijah.
“E-E-Elijah?” His voice is weak and croaky.
“And me!” replies the excitable voice of Omega, standing in a different part of the ward, only just visible in Zach’s peripherals.
The bed-ridden young man struggles to believe the moment real, thinking instead it another duplicitous dream sequence.
“Is this a cut-scene?”
“No Zach. This is reality. Though perhaps I should be calling you Zachary Vaughn.”
“I guess the secret is out.”
“If the increasing number of wrestling media personnel clamouring to see you is any indication. I had my own suspicions as to your pedigree, son of the decorated Adam Vaughn…It certainly explains a lot.”
“He wouldn’t have ever approved! After his accident he wanted nothing to do with wrestling and refused to train me or support any training effort by me. You should have seen the way he used to look at me...If only I had been born a Flair...”
“You followed your own path. A desire I knew when you trained with us. It is why I let you go that day.”
“And look where it got me.”
“You yet live and will have the full function of your body in time. You are lucky.”
“Lucky? I certainly don’t FEEL lucky! I got my arse handed to me like that hobo in getting owned by the Droogs in A Clockwork Orange”
“Compared to some you are indeed lucky.” There was a definite edge to Elijah’s voice with that reply.
“What I am is a nobody, reduced all the way back down to Level 1, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers BEFORE he got the Super Soldier Serum. Nothing. I am a failure!”
“You may not have come out victorious, but you are far from a failure. People will speak of that moment, they will speak of you, for some time to come.”
“Yeah and laugh.”
“Some may. There is no denying that truth. But for every one that laughs and derides, five more shall speak of you in deference, with pride and encouragement. Believe me, you have now been noticed. And when you return, it will be to fanfare.”
“IF I return. There may not be a re-release.”
“Failure is an inevitability we must all face. But that is not what defines us. It is how we overcome that failure, how we grow from it. And the first of your trials is closer than you think. Your father demands to see you.”
Taken aback Zach regards Omega quizzically.
“What? No, I’m not hungry.”
“A rather repulsive PI had an argument with your father and is also adamant to see you. These are just the beginning. But know you are, and never were, alone.”
“Never alone? How can you say that? I left, I turned my back on you and the Academy and then the Matrix Glitched out cause everything went to shit.”
“You walked a different path, but the Academy was with you, every step of the way.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“Rest now Zach. It will all come to a head eventually. But I do apologise for not stepping in sooner. Thing as you said…went to shit. And when we meet again, it will not be as Teacher and Student. But as peers.”
There are no more words.
Zach struggles to process what Elijah says, too embarrassed to meet his, or even Omega’s eyes. The promise of an eventual confrontation with his dad now hangs over Zach’s head and in that moment he would have preferred to deal with Elisha.
If Elijah was right about one thing however, Zach couldn’t wait to get out of bed.