“You know, even I realise my little chats with you guys have become somewhat repetitive. Either I’m simply flouting the fact that I live a better live than all of you, or I simply show you a different story altogether. I know that Claudia’s private life is rather interesting to me, but I do get that it might not be for all of you. So, today, I have decided to go back to basics a little. I mean, as much as I can do anyway, I mean, you think I am using a CWF appointment camera man? I actually want my footage to look somewhat professional at least!”
As the shot opened up from the darkness, Danny is seen to be standing by a quaint English river. Gone are the Armani suits and Italian leather, replaced by jeans and a crimson hoodie. His hair no longer immaculately hanging from the back of his head in sleek ponytail, but rather messily placed into a bun at the crown. He stood alone on this overcast day, skimming stones out in front of him, showing some proficiency as the stones skipped beautifully a couple of times before plopping into the water. His goal at this time seemed simple, make it bounce a third time.
You’d think that he would have more pressing matters on his mind, more things to worry about than perfecting a childhood pastime. But he was (close to) home, and his mind was free to wonder, his mind free to roam, because he had come to one very, very shocking realisation recently. As he watched Evolution from the comfort of his own home, as he watched Ataxia treat the announcement of one of Wrestling’s most deadly matches like it was nothing more than a board game with a twist, it had hit him like a ton of bricks to the face.
Danny had done something that he never, ever done in all these damn years. He let Ataxia get into his head.
One final stone thrown and this one looked promising, gliding off the surface of the water as if repelled by magnetism, and again on the second bounce, barely breaking the tension as it spun right back into the air. Danny’s face actually lit up as he watched, it was up, it was coming down, and…
“ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?”
A rather large river trout had emerged from the water at great speed, colliding with the perfect pebble as it hit the water, causing it to sink there and then. Danny’s excitement momentarily turned to rage as he looked up and over the river, spotting the culprit of his anguish on the opposite bank, reeling desperately to pull in his newest prized possession. Instinctively, the scarred fist formed on Ripper’s right hand side, but as quickly as the fire had washed over him, he dispelled it, allowing that anger to dissipate from his form. No, Ataxia had played the perfect game, creating insanity through hopeless anger. That wasn’t going to happen. That was never going to happen.
With his zen in check, and his chakras aligned or some shit, sat down on the banks of the river, leaning his head back so his face was turned to the sky, allowing the warmth to wash over him. It may be the middle of October, but the sun was beaming down on him from a baby blue sky as if it were summer’s day. This feeling of serenity, hope and peace, this was a feeling he had almost forgotten. Running around like he had, feeding off the panic and adrenaline of the world to survive, sucking the joy out of all situations. That wasn’t a way to live, that wasn’t the way to feel. Ataxia had managed to funnel him down the corridor of alarm, squeezing him between the walls of despair, and he had fallen for it hook line and sinker.
The mere thought of that fucking freak made the corner of Danny’s mouth twitch, those years of resentment and anger towards the only person(?) who had ever managed to get under his skin… metaphorically speaking of course.
He couldn’t help but let out a little snigger at that, Ataxia may have metaphorically done it, but as Danny ran his right hand up and down his left arm, he thought fondly of the painted hurricane that had gotten under there literally too many times to count. One of these scars, he wasn’t sure which, was the one that had nearly cost him his life when some kind of shrapnel had embedded itself, courtesy of Lady Red, eventually causing the infection that nearly took out the legend from the inside. He smiled, he smiled because he had beat it, like he beats everything else, he beat it.
Danny placed his hands back on the ground, feeling the somewhat dewey grass beneath his gnarled fingertips. No, nothing was going to get under his skin today, nothing was even coming close ever again. The game had nearly been won… so very nearly. A fogginess came over the Golden Warrior, a pleasant one, as the wave of warmth spread from his face, all the way through through his worn and battered body. It overtook him, taking his conscious thoughts and storing them for later use. He lay down on the grass, fingers clasped together on his chest. The sensation took him deep, deep, deeper still…
It wasn’t quite so calm when he woke up.
In those two seconds of stupor after opening his eyes, something seemed different. As the cloud began to lift, he attempted to figure out what had woke him, why was his heart racing? He wasn’t sure which of the senses used next scared the shit out of him more. The blood red blanket of sky above his head or the ear-splitting screams coming from all around him. The moment he realised that something was truly amiss, he sat bolt upright, attempting to take in the scene that had unfolded around him. The calm, serene warm October’s day had seemingly been overtaken by hell itself, the crimson glow above soaked everything in it’s mephistophelian aura.
And the screams, oh fuck the screams. Ear splitting wails hitting him from every direction like spears, he looked over both shoulders in quick succession, hoping to locate the source of the vociferous screams, but no matter in which direction he glared, there was nothing to see, no source, no clue. With his senses dulled, he tried to get to his feet, proving to be unsteady as he tried to balance of the river’s edge, and that’s when he saw it. The river before him no longer ran with water, nor was it fish that occupied the flowing waters between the banks. Instead he was staring directly in the cold empty eyes of hundred of human bodies as they floated down a river of blood. Lifeless, soulless humans. Men, women, children, all shapes and sizes, races and creeds, all floating slowly down the river. He wanted to scream, he wanted to yell, but he couldn’t, he didn’t have control, he could feel that now. He was only half in there, watching, not acting. It was this reason he couldn’t help but looked where he looked. He couldn’t help but see what he saw. In the river of blood, floating amongst the lifeless faces was one with no face at all. Nothing. Blank. It was the moment that the faceless soul, decked out in his sunday best, sat up on the river, sat.. on the river, turned his faceless head, extended it’s jaw as if speaking and said so, so fucking clearly.
He found his leg, he found control, as fast as his fucking legs would carry him he ran, further and further into the woods than ran along the riverbed. There was no time to follow the path, no time to check where to go. It was time to run. His speed was graceful, his maneuvering sublime, it was if he knew each and every inch of this roofed labyrinth, never missing a step, not so much as snapping a twig beneath his feet. That was until he lost control again, his legs seems to detach themselves from the rest of his consciousness, he slipped, he fell. There it was again, that sense that he had no power, had no control. He couldn’t tell you why he looked up into that tree, no words in human existence could explain that compulsion, but there it was again, only this time, it was holding a miniature version of itself.
So innocent, yet so manical, so childlike, yet so evil. The faceless thing leapt from his seated position upon that branch, fell from the sky like a bird on the hunt. He covered up, prepared for impact, but it never came. The impact never came. Instead when he dared to look up there was nothing more than than crimson rays peeking through the canopy above. Seemingly having gained control once more, he took off sprinting, bursting through the other side of the wooded area, and back out into the open, arid air. Before him was only a singular building, old, dilapidated, shaky in it’s foundations, as if it had been shocked one too many times during its existence. Hoping to drown out the blood curdling screams that once again surrounded him, he dove for the open doorway, using every fibre of his being to push the solid stone door shut. One with final guttural scream of exhaustion, he slams it closed, rocking the walls as he did so.
Silence. Silence and darkness were the only things to greet him in these cold halls. Nothing to see, nothing to hear. The shock of coming from what he had to this was almost enough to put him down, but his instinct overrode, took over him completely. Then he heard it again, that childlike voice, echoing through the halls, bouncing of the cold stone walls, filling every inch of this dark space.
“Why won’t you be my frand? We would be good frands. I will share me with you my frand, please… please be my frand…”
It trailed, as if it was moving away. The noise had no discernable origin, yet he knew where to go. No need to feel his way through, it was so clear to him. He wasn’t sure if he had lost control again or if he had just been waiting for this all along. Somehow, he felt like he was going back to where it all began, the thing he had been searching for all along. As he predicted it, there was that flicker, that glimmer of red light showing him through a doorway. He stepped inside, prepared to fight, but there was no need, his hands lowered, as he saw it. Meek and pitiful, it’s suit torn and dirty, tears streaming down his featureless face.
“We could have been the bestest of frands, we could have had tea and biscuits. I have tea and biscuits, do you want to see my tea? Let me give you my tea. I want to drink tea with you. Please be my tea drinking frand....”
He wasn’t sure why he did it, this faceless, featureless fuck was no threat. He knew that now, he had never been a threat. He was kind of shocked to find that as he raised his hands, he found a shovel grasped in his palms. He stepped forward, light as a feather, strong as an ox, watching as the empty flesh turned in his direction. He swung, and he swung hard.
“Danny… Danny… are you OK?”
Lexi’s cute little face came swimming into view as Danny opened his eyes. For a brief moment, there was nothing but bliss, until he remembered. He sat bolt upright, but there was nothing to fear. The sky was blue, the water rushing in front of him, sparkling in the sunlight. Nothing was amiss, and that was good.
“Are you OK, you look drained.”
Snapping back to reality, he turned his head to look at her. The two had become quite close over the last few weeks, Danny certainly feeling like despite having only known about Claudia’s little sister for less time than it takes to apply for a passport, she had certainly become one of them.
“Yeah, I’m good, just thinking about what’s coming up.”
“You talking about your match? You must be scared right?”
He didn’t respond straight away, partially because he was still waking up, partially because he actually wanted to choose his words carefully. She sat down beside him, looking out over the river, handing him a coke, which he happily pulled the cap off and downed half in one go. With the tell-tale and rather cliche ‘ahhhh’ out of the way, he put the bottle down, finally ready to answer her.
“No. I’m not scared. Excited maybe, possibly even a bit nervous. But honestly, I was starting to get that way. Since I came back I have been a shell of my former self, I was becoming afraid that I would never be what I used to be, and I was becoming afraid that Ataxia would use that disbelief, that lack of confidence, to bring me into his world, that world of insanity, that cover up for all the insecurities in his world. That’s what he has done for so many, many years, used that mask, that madness to hide his true sadness, the sadness that relates to the pain he endures every single damn day.
After all these years, I no longer see just the burlap sack, I see so much more. That face that he shows is the one he wants you to know, the side of him that has learned to cope with his daily struggles, he has convinced himself of his own madness as a coping mechanism. I cannot be his frand no matter how much he needs that, he needs someone in his life, someone to make him feel better, someone to make the black and white fade into a mess of fucked up gray with him. He needs that, and I cannot be that.
I don’t know why he chose me, maybe it’s because I took his title all those years ago, but just because he is sad, doesn’t make him pathetic like that. Some people live and die by being told they are allowed to hold the championship, that much is evidenced when CWF goes through it’s yearly exodus, but not him, I don’t think that title made him, it never did. I was the sad child that thought that holding the belt was the be all and end all. No, that’s not it, but ever since then, I have been his target. He wants me to accept him, and I cannot just do that.
No, we need to end this once and for all. This needs to be over with and we both need to just move on with our lives. I don’t feel sorry for him, I don’t like him, but I don’t dislike him. Really, this entire decade long war has been predicated on nothing but madness and ego, and that needs to fucking end. Now.
So, we fight to the death. We fight without rules, without consequences. This is no movie Taxi baby, no popcorn needed for this one. We will both enter, ready to end this once and for all, and one of us will walk away. In all my years, I have survived buried alive matches before, I have been buried, and I have been blown up, but as my old pal says, ‘you cannot kill what is already dead’. I can’t end that man’s happiness for that very reason, I cannot end his ego for the same one. The usual targets I can aim at, fear, distrust, lack of confidence, all those things that made me the best in the world are irrelevant in this one, because yes, I am a hell of a wrestler, but what put me above all else was my ability to get inside someone’s head and tear them inside out. That’s why I could never beat Amber, that’s why I couldn’t beat Harley, and that’s why Ataxia and me couldn’t end this without a resolution.
This time it ends for good. I am not afraid, I am not frightened. I am excited. I am excited to see what I can do when the gloves come off, when we stop playing our games and just fucking fight. One of us will go six feet under, but we will both steal the show. I was right in some ways before, Ataxia will never be a threat to me in terms of ring ability, or promo work, or looks, but he had me beat in mind games. Until now.
Brother, we are equals, which is what makes this so fucking exciting. Two sides of the same fucked up coin, the madness within vs madness on show. The egotistical technician vs the untamed lunatic. Prepare your shovel bag face, because I am making this very bold statement right now.
If I win, I am taking that mask, and I will show your sadness to the world. If you win, I will not crawl out of that grave. One way or another, whichever one of us cannot best the other, will have to face a whole new world.”
Lexi looked on stunned, but Danny, Danny looked… peaceful.