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The Longest Night - Part 5


The Godfather
Staff member
Mar 17, 1988
It’s two nights later, and Hornet still can’t get the conversation with Ryp out of his mind. Or maybe it’s more that he can’t quite wrap his mind <i>around</i> it. Maybe it was the liquor, or maybe it was just talking to an old friend… but he said things to Ryp that he hadn’t talked to anyone about. It was almost like talking to… Mark.

That thought brought him full awake, with the clock shining 2:00 redly in the dark room. He knows that he’s never had many ‘friends’ in the business… originally it was all an attempt to keep business business and personal things personal. Of course, that line got blurred. Between everything that happened with Mark, then Ivy, then Eli… and of course, the other ones were long gone… Bill Parsons, the All-American, even old Ben Flore.

<b>It’s a different world. A darker world, where lights shine more brightly, almost <i>too</i> bright. Men like Hornet and Mark and Randalls and GUNS… we’re all dinosaurs.</b>

It’s not the first time he’s thought about it. But it’s not as if he clings to it, as if he <I>needs</I> it. Is it?

Why keep coming back? Why subject himself to the constant pain, the constant alienation, the constant back-and-forth? Just because he doesn’t know anything else? No, that doesn’t ring true… there are plenty of other things. Is it flat-out pride? A need to be watched? A need to be adored, loved? Not likely.

He walks to the bathroom and dry-swallows two pills before running the faucet to get enough water to down several more. He falls back into a restless sleep, contemplating the questions that have kept him from getting a full eight hours for months.

But this time it’s different. As he drifts into sleep, it’s not back into the deep, dreamless sleep that usually comes with the Soma. He’s in a dark place… too dark. There are no lights, no stars, but he can still see… even though there’s nothing to see. He starts to walk off in one direction, with no direction, no purpose. There’s a shadow of something in the distance. Not a shadow exactly, since there is no light to create one. But there is a sense of something, a sense of presence, of firmness… and of danger.

The wall seems to appear out of nowhere. One minute he’s walking, the next, he’s nose-to-nose with a large brick wall. He changes direction and begins walking again, trying to get around it, but there seems to be no end. He tries to climb it, but although it looks like brick and mortar, it’s completely smooth to the touch. He stands and stares, and laughs.

<b>Fine. I can play games too.</b>

He turns around and walks in the direction he originally came from. But within minutes, or whatever passes for minutes here, he walks into another wall. Or the same one. It still runs as far and as tall as the eye can see.

<b>Ah… I thought in dreams, the dreamer makes the rules.</b>

That depends on who the dreamer is. Is it Hornet? Or some fractured part of his mind? Is it God or Deity? Is it you, humble reader, that has generated some dreamworld to trap him in?

For this moment, for this time, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the wall. Or perhaps, <I>she</I> matters. As Hornet turns to walk away again, he finds a lovely twenty-something in front of her. Her dark hair seems familiar, her shapely leg… her eyes. Her.

Alicia. Eli’s dead wife.

<b>Is that it? Am I dead? Is this heaven, or limbo, or purgatory or whatever passes for it?</b>

<b><I>Of course not. You didn’t die, you just fell asleep. So what’s going on?</b></I>

<b>You mean other than the fact that I’m talking to someone that I once thought I accidentally killed in a car accident while I was drugged? Oh, not much.</b>

<b><I>Don’t take that smarmy tone with me, mister.</b></I>

<b>Sorry, I’ve never talked to a dead person before. </b>

<b><I>And you’re not talking to one now. I’m obviously not Alicia, not the one you remember. </b></I>

<b>Ah, that clears it all up. </b>

<b><I>I thought you were smart enough to figure it out. </b></I>

<b>So you just popped up in my subconscious to ask me ‘What’s up?’</b>

<b><I>If you want to get technical, I’m <u>part</u> of your subconscious. And have been for a long time. But since you want to cut the small talk, we’ll get right down to it. What the hell is wrong with you? </b></I>

<b>I’m wondering that myself, considering I’m standing in the middle of nowhere, in front of the Great Wall of China, talking to the dead wife of a former friend.</b>

<b><I>You’re not going to get anywhere being the jokester right now.</b></I>

<b>I’m not getting anywhere any other way, so why not try something new.</b>

<b><I>Isn’t that the question, though? Why aren’t you getting anywhere? Why are you… </b></I>

<b>Caught in the middle of everything? Sleeping during the day and awake all night? Dreading going to work and dreading staying at home just as much?</b>

<b><I>See, you just summed it up. I knew you could do it. </b></I>

<b>You’re the all-knowing one, you tell me the answers. </b>

<b><I>I’m not some sort of oracle, Hornet. Just a sounding board… cause you sure haven’t allowed anyone else to be. Well, there was Ryp…. But he didn’t say much back. He hasn’t been involved in the farce you’ve been calling your life lately. </b></I>

<b>Thanks for the vote of confidence. I don’t even know what I should call you.</b>

<b><I>Whatever you want. Alicia works just fine.</b></I>

<b>That’s just too weird. It just remind me… </b>

<b><I>…of when Randalls was slipping you mickeys, I know. But do you remember what happened once that was all over? You <u>still</u> felt guilty for Alicia’s death, even after you knew you didn’t cause it. </b></I>

<b>I think it was more feeling guilty that I brought it up in Eli’s life again.</b>

<b><I>Same different. You weren’t the one that started it, Randalls was. And what about Timmy’s ‘death’ in the FISH FUND explosion? </b></I>

<b>What about it?</b>

<b><I>You wallowed in self-pity over that one, too. You laid in that hospital bed with a broken back, worrying about ‘what if I had gone in sooner,’ ‘what if I had convinced Mark,’ ‘what if I had paid more attention.’ </b></I>

<b>They were all valid questions at the time. </b>

<b><I>At the time, maybe. But it’s been <u>years</u> since you found out that he didn’t really die. That he wasn’t Mark’s brother… that he wasn’t anyone close to the person you thought he was. That it was all a plan to get at Mark…and instead, it got at you. And yet even now, you still feel guilty. </b></I>

<b>I don’t think… </b>

<b><I>Then why do you wake up screaming? Why do you wake up shouting every other night? </b></I>

<b>Because it was traumatic. I was trapped under a <u>wall</u> for goodness’ sakes! It’s that… </b>

<b><I>That’s not it, and you know it. It’s not yourself you wake up reaching for… you’re still trying to get Timmy, to get him out. It’s not escape you’re trying to find, it’s salvation.</b></I>

<b>And what’s wrong with that?! What’s wrong with wanting to save someone?</b>

<b><I>Nothing. Except <u>he didn’t die</u>! Even now you know that, but you still feel guilty. Why? </b></I>

<b>That doesn’t erase everything. I didn’t know at the time that he wasn’t there… I didn’t know that he wasn’t who I thought he was. I thought he was in danger… I thought he was a friend… It’s emotional, not logical. </b>

<b><I>Yeah, thanks Mister Spock. Dig deeper. </b></I>

<b>What are you talking about?</b>

<b><I>You may be trying to reach Timmy in those dreams, but it’s not him you’re trying to save. </b></I>

<b>Of course it is. I’m past saving. </b>

<b><I>Ah… <u>there’s</u> the lie I was waiting on. </b></I>

<b>What are you talking about? And what about the other dreams… where I brand Vizzack, or turn on Eli, or where I see the look on Ivy’s face when she finds out about Teri…?</b>

<b><I>All parts of the same whole. And you’re not trying to save anyone there, are you? </b></I>

<b>Of course I am. I’m trying to save them from hurting… </b>

<b><I>Nope. Wrong answer. I can’t let you get away with that one. It’s not <u>them</u> you’re trying to save. They might be regrets… but they’re not the crux of the matter. </b></I>

<b>Of course they are. If I hadn’t hurt them, they might… </b>

<b><I>They might what? Be better, somehow? Eli’s doing just fine with his career and his personal life. Ivy’s doing fine too, she’s got Sean and a great career. Why would you try to save them? </b></I>

<b>So that things would be right between us… so that I wouldn’t have hurt them the way I did… so that… </b>

<b><I>So that you’d still have friends. So that <u>you</u> would feel better about yourself and the choices you’ve made.</b></I>

<b>Why are you doing this? </b>

<b><I>It’s just my job. It’s nothing personal… </b></I>

<b>That’s just wrong.</b>

<b><I>Maybe so. I’m not the one that made it a catchphrase. </b></I>

<b>Again, why are you doing this?</b>

<b><I>Because deep down, you know what the answers are. You know why you continue to feel guilty about things that aren’t your fault, or didn’t happen, or didn’t turn out the way you thought they did. And because you won’t break down the wall you’ve put up around those answers. </b></I>

<b>Ah, so that’s the whole ‘wall thing’, huh? Sort of like it’s ‘my dream so I can make what I want.’ I can tear down the wall anytime, right? </b>

<b><I>Not exactly. Like I said, you already <u>know</u> the answers. </b></I>

<b>So why don’t you enlighten me? </b>

<b><I>Like I said, that’s my job. Your primary concern in all these dreams, in all these situations, in all this time, hasn’t been for the other people involved. I’m not saying you weren’t concerned about Timmy, or Eli, or Ivy, or that you don’t regret things… I’m simply saying that your pride plays a much bigger part. </b></I>

<b>That’s not… </b>

<b><I>Sure it is, and you know it. Why else are you trapped in the past? Why else do you keep reliving the worst parts of your life over and over again? And why else do you keep popping painkillers? </b></I>

<b>To try to get away. To try and sleep. To try and stop hurting.</b>

<b><I>There’s that ‘big lie’ again. You’re a wrestler, Hornet… pain is something you not only live with, but you seek out. It’s at the center of who you are. You haven’t been running away from it, you’ve been running straight at it. </b></I>

<b>That’s not… </b>

<b><I>You want to be tried by fire. You want to find salvation from all your regrets, from all your mistakes in your pain. Because you think that’s the only way you can be perfect again. The only way you can be a <u>hero</u> again.</b></I>

<b>Stop it. That’s crazy. It’s not… </b>

<b><I>Yes it is. Your pride won’t let you let go of your mistakes. Your hubris won’t let you just admit you were wrong and move on. You’ve got to <u>pay</u> somehow, because then it exonerates you, it makes everything alright. Guess what… it doesn’t. We all screw up, and we all deal with the consequences, whether we’re forgiven by those we hurt or not. You still have to face it, still have to acknowledge that <u>you screwed up</u>, that you weren’t perfect every minute of every day of your life. </b></I>

<b>Stop it. Shut up. </b>

<b><I>Nope, not even the mighty Hornet. The Greatest American Hero. The fifty-some time wrestling champion. You screwed up. You made mistakes. And you’ve lived with them. Now it’s time to get over it and figure out what you’re going to do from here on out. Are you going to keep playing the victim, keep living in the past and wallowing in your own self pity? Or are you going to stand up and fight? </b></I>

<b>That’s enough. Shut up! </b>

<b><I>Not quite yet. Which is it, Hornet? Are you going to keep downing painkillers until your body can take it anymore? Cause then you can blame the Somas, right? It won’t be your fault… it won’t be suicide in the end. But it is…it would be… it <u>will</u> be. Don’t you have any fight left in you? Did it all go out of you when that wall fell on you? </b></I>

<b>Stop it. Shut up. </b>

<b><I>Or when GUNS beat you? Or Merritt screwed you over? </b></I>

<b>That’s… </b>

<b><I>Or when Ivy slapped you? When she looked at you with pity in her eyes instead of love, instead of mutual admiration? </b></I>

<b>SHUT UP!</b>

<b><I>Alright. If that’s what you want, I will. </b></I>

<b>I said…</b>

<b><I>Shut up, I know. But remember, now you know the answers. You don’t get to hide from them anymore. You either stay down and drug yourself into oblivion, or you get up and start finding a way out. Either way, the wall’s gone.</b></I>

As “Alicia” disappears, Hornet realizes that he’s been here before. That it’s the same dream, the same wall, the same explosion that he’s relived over and over again for five years. Just like before, the wall starts to fall, starts to collapse above him. He tries to move, tries to run, but just as before, he’s stuck. The bricks come down in slow motion, turning into concrete pieces and dust. A door appears and crumples, torched by flame and changed by pressure; it hits him first, followed by the sounds of rock and rubble pounding down on top of it.

There is one change. This is the point where, before, things went back into ‘real speed.’ But this time, the slow motion continues. He feels every rock piled on top of the door, every stone covering him in his makeshift tomb. The pressure builds, slowly, and again, he tries to scream, but nothing comes out.

And as the rain of rocks slows, he realizes that even in the darkness, the blackness, that things are still in slow motion. He tries to breathe, but air won’t come. Always before there was a gasp as his body shuddered, as the hot fetid air moved into his lungs. But that was in real time, where sirens blared and people screamed. This time, there’s no sound, no light, no breath.

<b><I>Don’t you have any fight left in you? Did it all go out of you when that wall fell on you? </b></I>

The Longest Night – Part 4
The Longest Night - Part 3
The Longest Night - Part 2
The Longest Night - Part 1
Evening's End
When You Can't Sleep

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