The Paths We Take...
[Backstage, at the First Round of Bracket Four of the ULTRATITLE Tournament, the scene is the locker room. The walls are white and row of lockers sits against the far wall. A pair of benches sits in the middle of the room. Between these two benches stands a man dressed in a black long-sleeve shirt and black pants. He wears a ski-mask over his face with holes cut out for the eyes, where two black holes stare straight ahead.]
[His breathing is heavy based on the movement of his chest and the slight convulsing of his body. Otherwise, however, he is steadfast in his direction and stance.]
The calm before the storm – what a fitting analogy to make.
The storm is brewing and the rain is starting to come, the wind is starting to rustle the trees and those dark grey clouds are overcoming what was so clear at one time.
And this is just the beginning…
[The lights go out in the room. Darkness takes over the screen.]
Congratulations. You have taken your first step, but the climb gets more treacherous with each level you reach.
The obstacles get tougher, the stakes become higher. Soon, son, you will not be able to make out the ground beneath your feet.
If you get that far. If you can make it that far… If you are ALLOWED to make it that far…
[Suddenly, a loud roar in the background almost shatters the audio - guttural and static in nature – and is followed by the sound of several...]
But it is one step at a time, one foot in front of the other. Just make sure you know where you are going, where you are heading.
Oh, the places you will go.
[A hissing sound is heard amongst the darkness – it is stopping in short intervals and restarting again for prolonged periods.]
You will go everywhere or nowhere…
If you just focus on what’s right in front of you.
And pay no mind to what’s creeping up behind you.
Pay no mind to what haunts you.
[The lights flicker and are restored to full strength, the man in black is no longer in the room. The room has been trashed as lockers lay strewn about the room and one has gone through the bench in front of it. On the far wall, in black paint, the words state:]
[Amidst the green grass surrounding it, a fire pit with a small blaze burns brightly with a color that matches the evening’s orange, purple hue. Along side the fire, which is surrounded by mid-sized rocks to keep it contained, sits “The Aftermath” John McDonough, who leans up from his beach chair with his eyes closed taking in the aroma of the fire.]
[He is dressed in a dark blue New York Rangers t-shirt with a pair of tan shorts and flip flops on his feet. His brown hair is up, but mussed atop his head and stubble has returned to his face from not having shaved for a few days.]
[His blue eyes are revealed – calm, for the moment – he cracks his knuckles and leans back in his chair. He acknowledges the camera with a quick nod of his head as he settles back.]
[He says this with a smile, but assured as though there was little doubt.]
And onto round two against Jack Harmen – a man, who made extremely quick work of Tyler Boyd in round 1. Well done, my friend, well done.
[John gives a light round of applause.]
I must say, after doing my due diligence on you, Harmen, myself and my friend, Shane, have come away extremely impressed. Your resume and talent are nothing to squawk at – although your former opponent might just disagree.
[As he makes this last statement he playfully flaps his arms in a chicken or peacock-esque motion before letting out a quick laugh. After a second, he leans forward in his seat with the flames of the fire painting his face an almost reddish/orange.]
I’m sure you’ll agree… Now, the real fun begins.
[He rubs his hands his together methodically.]
You know, Jack, with the beautiful weather we’ve been experiencing I took a hike today – and it got me thinking about the two of us. Two similar people, who have arrived at a similar place, taking different paths to arrive.
In round one, you chided your opponent for walking from the sport to be a family man – for working the nine-to-five and praised yourself for destroying the special relationships you had.
[He allows his words to sink for a moment, but makes no attempt by his body language to imply anything.]
Now, I walked away from the sport as well, but not entirely – I, much like you, opened a wrestling school and gym, but walked away from the actual professional competition.
I walked away, not for family-solely, but because I was devolving – I was a mass of rage and anger when I started in this sport and saw my in-ring destruction translating into self-destruction on the outside.
This sport may be meant for a young man physically…
[He points to his head as he makes the following statement.]
But it is an old man’s game mentally – meant for an experienced and advanced mind. Meant for someone who knows how to channel their abilities and emotions – not one who just acts, but can calculate their next five moves and counters before they happen.
And that is where we are, Jack. Above the fray, beyond the mere delusions of grandeur… And so what separates us? What makes me confident I can defeat “he who up until not-so-recently flew high”?
[He smirks at his tongue-in-cheek reference to Harmen’s name. A knowing grin crosses and stays on his face.]
In the past, I would get all red face, puff my chest out and tell you how bad I wanted it – with my eyes crazed and my voice growling… I do not believe that is necessary.
This is the UltraTitle Tournament – the pinnacle of the sport – anyone who is anyone shoots for this, wants this. This is a career-defining tournament – only the best of the best remain and each one wants it.
But who… Wants it more?
[John leans back away from the fire and reaches down to his right – he picks up a small log of wood and carefully places it into the fire, which was fading a bit.]
Jack, you have spent your entire career building a resume, that few would NOT envy – numerous title reigns of extraordinary length – what is this tournament for you, but just a simple notch in your belt.
For me, Jack, it is everything!
[His voice strong, his eyes seemingly a light blue blaze as he points to himself – specifically his chest - to emphasize this point.]
You can go home and still be considered one of the best of all time – the only way I go home and move from the Hall of Very Good… From being a name only known by fanboys to the lips of every wrestling fan…
Is to win this tournament.
And you, Jack.
[He points across the fire at the camera – straight through right to Jack Harmen – unflinching despite the flames almost licking his arm and hand.]
You are in my way.
[John removes his arm from above the fire and stands up – the flames from the fire now lighten up cause his face to become almost distorted by the shadows as the natural sunlight has faded on the horizon.]
We have taken different paths, Jack, to get to this point. I have to wonder though, Jack, since you have never allowed yourself to exit the competitive realm to really sit back, watch and understand just how much you’ve changed.
[He begins pacing in a semi-circle around the flames.]
I have. I have evolved – I understand things about the sport now I never could as a young man.
You are thirty-six years old and have a green-dyed goatee…
[John stops in place and shakes his head smiling.]
It looks good on ya.
[He winks and then gives a smirk towards the camera. While his appearance is confident, his eyes have never shifted from the camera and continue burning as bright as the blaze at his feet.]
So Jack, how have you changed? How have you evolved? Or are you still the same young man you always were – just trapped in an older man’s body?
Even if you have changed, Jack, even if you’ve evolved – you’re still faced with one problem… You’re at the same point and facing off against a man who’s willing to die for this match.
Different roads, Jack, to the same point… And after we meet you’ll be left there…
Left in the Aftermath.
[An acoustic guitar plays a slow rhythmic melody as the screen fades up to show a man lying in a bed, his face down against a pillow and his body, other than his exposed shoulders hidden underneath a pile of sheets. From the side we can see this man is none other than “The Aftermath” John McDonough.]
I hurt myself today,
To see if I still feel,
[As the familiar and timeless voice Johnny Cash begins to sing – the screen fills with the image of a young John McDonough, his blue eyes distant in the mirror, focused on something well beyond the image of himself staring back. He is applying the red streaks in his war-paint as he is preparing for battle – his breathing is steady.]
I focus on the pain,
The only thing that's real,
[The scene cuts to a video of John McDonough struggling to escape a sharpshooter submission hold with blood dripping from his temple – reaching out and grasping with all of his strength and determination for the ropes, which are just inches away. His face is anguished and strained as the chipped away facepaint lies in pieces on the ring as he continues his struggle towards the ropes.]
The needle tears a hole,
The old familiar sting,
[The next scene features John McDonough sitting on a doctor’s examination table with his left leg stretched out. The doctor in scrubs and a jacket appears from off the screen and taps a needle before inserting it into John’s knee. John grimaces as the needle is inserted and closes his eyes as the injection is made.]
Try to kill it all away,
But I remember everything,
[The scene cuts to John McDonough seated at a barstool swallowing to the best of his ability some amber colored liquor. As he finishes, he slams the glass down and stumbles up off his barstool towards the door.]
What have I become,
My sweetest friend,
[The scene that follows paints happier times – John McDonough with his bride, Katrina, at their wedding day. He spins her around and brings her in close – the two lock eyes as they sway back and forth for a moment like blades of grass caught in the breeze.]
Everyone I know,
Goes away in the end,
[A still photograph fills the frame – John McDonough leans over to the right of his wife, who smiling in the photo while wearing a Santa hat. John’s hand rests on her stomach as in her left hand she holds a Christmas ornament of a baby peering over a crib.]
And you could have it all,
My empire of dirt,
[The next scene shows John McDonough after defeating Mark Towers for the Bluegrass State Wrestling Regional title – the belt lofted high above his head. He takes a couple of steps backwards up the aisle taking in the applause before falling to his knees and burying his face in the belt.]
I will let you down,
I will make you hurt,
[The scene shifts back to John McDonough still locked in the sharpshooter submission hold, blood forming in a small pool below him, when he looks into his peripherals and sees his wife pleading with him. After a second, he collapses to the mat face-first and taps out, losing the Hawaii Island Wrestling regional title to Ben Van Iten.]
I wear this crown of thorns,
Upon my liar's chair,
[The scene shifts to John McDonough walking out of the ring after dispatching Dez Bradley in a hardcore rules match, blood drips down from the top of his head through his then spiky hair in front and from the sides. He slaps hands with fans as he makes his way back to the dressing room.]
Full of broken thoughts,
I cannot repair,
Beneath the stains of time,
The feelings disappear,
[The following scene is John McDonough hitting his opponent and then National Wrestling Council World Heavyweight Champion Derrick Daliente with a German suplex and the ref counting to three with Daliente raising a shoulder at the last possible moment and McDonough’s shoulders pinned to the mat, unable to bridge. Daliente rises to his feet, gets his hand raised in victory and raises the NWC World Heavyweight title while McDonough scrambles to the corner with his head in his hands in complete disbelief.]
You are someone else,
I am still right here,
[A scene from a few short weeks ago, where John McDonough stands in front of Katrina’s grave with his duffle bag resting on his shoulder. He steps forward while placing his hand to his mouth and kissing it – before resting it on top of the headstone.]
And you could have it all,
My empire of dirt,
[The next scene is one just witnessed a few short days ago – John McDonough emerging from backstage to the crowd packed into the arena for the UltraTitle Tournament. His eyes widen and brighten, caught in the moment and taking it in before making his way down the ring.
I will let you down,
I will make you hurt,
[A dark silhouette stands opposite the mirror, but the room will not allow the image of this person to be made out. Only the outline and the dark clothing of the person are visible.]
If I could start again,
A million miles away,
I will keep myself,
I would find a way,
[Present day John McDonough stands at the sink, water dripping from his face as he stares into the mirror. He takes a deep breath as though he is exasperated.]
[The scene cuts back to the younger John McDonough – his eyes unflinching – the war paint now completely applied. His chest rises and falls forcefully as silence beckons for a moment. Suddenly, he slams his hands down on the counter in front of him and leans forward with a guttural growl says:]
“I will let you down. I will make you hurt.”
[The words ring out without hesitation or remorse.]
[Darkness follows as the scene comes back in present-day John McDonough has his hands resting on the sink and is leaning forward in the exact same position. He eyes himself in the mirror carefully before shaking his head.]
[He says this authoritatively – establishing the idea as definitive.]
“Not anymore. Not ever again.”
[The lights click off and darkness envelopes the screen.]
[BAAAHHHMP! BAAAHHMP! BAAAHMMP!]
[The painful ring of the alarm clock rings out is followed by the sound John McDonough from his bed reaching over and slapping it off. He puts his legs over the side and puts his hands on his face to knock the sleep out of his eyes.]
[After that he looks down at the floor and then up at the wall in front of him.]
“No. Not ever again.”
[He says this to himself in almost a whisper, but it is no less definitive than before.]
(OOC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bp4UI_FxGLE - link to song)