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When You Can't Sleep...


The Godfather
Staff member
Mar 17, 1988
It's rare for a man who makes a living in professional wrestling to get a good night's sleep. Not without taking Somas, or other painkillers, at least. All the bumps, all the traveling, all the personal appearances, all the meals, all the time in the gym: it adds up. And at the end of the day, there's rarely eight hours to spare for sleep.

That's why being at home is such a luxury. The places wrestlers call 'home' are hideaways. They're places to escape the public, to escape management. Places to crash, and lounge, and do nothing. They're places to spend money on, even if they're not used more than 100 nights a year.

Most importantly, being at home means being able to sleep. YOUR bed, YOUR pillow. The familiar night noises, without having to worry if your hotel room faces the interstate, or is next to a group of noisy teens.

And that's what makes this night so frustrating. Being home in the middle of the night... and being awake.

Hornet lies in bed, eyes shut, but still awake. He had been asleep for a couple of hours. And then...the dream.

Not a dream really, more of a flashback. Over the past four years, he's known what it's like to have flashbacks of a traumatic event; he's been able to relate to the nights when his father woke up in cold sweats remembering Vietnam.

The first three months were the worst. Lying in a hospital unable to sleep. Nurses coming in every half hour; fans and reporters trying to sneak in every hour. Not knowing if his back would ever allow him to wrestle again, or even return to some sort of normal life.

Ivy was the first one to come 'visit.' He tried to convince her that he wasn't in the mood, that he didn't want to see anyone ever again. She simply laughed at him and kept telling some story about what happened to Eli on the last road trip.

Then Vizzack and Sunshine came by. Full of youthful exuberance, full of concern. It made him sick. This kid who sat on the edge of the bed, seeing him the weakest he had ever been. This kid who sat there and talked about how he wanted to be 'the next Hornet.' This kid who wouldn't shut up and let him sleep.

That's not really true. It wasn't the first three months that were the worst; it was the first night. Trauma and painkillers blessed him with sleep and unconsciousness for the first twelve hours. But around four in the morning, he woke up. He was lucid, but not in much pain. Not physically.

It all hit at once. Not just the setting of the hospital, the monitors and the tubes and the smell... But the event itself. Arguing with Mark, begging him to help find Timmy. Then running toward the door, believing the fire was deep in the recesses, that it couldn't have reached the backstage area yet. Then the sound and the heat, the weight and the dust, the darkness and the smell. Then the screams...

The trauma came rushing back, and as his breathing increased and heart rate elevated, a nurse came running in. She didn't speak, thankfully, just looked at the monitors and increased the flow of something. All he knew is that it made him sleep. And it took away the pressure, the claustrophobia... the smell.

A professional wrestler gets used to the noise: the pyro, the sounds of the mat. They're like the smell of the greasepaint to an actor. And the roar of the crowd...it's unforgettable. The louder they yell, the bigger the pump of adrenaline. The natural fight or flight tendency changes as the body learns that fight is the only option. As the bell rings the mouth, instead of drying, learns to water in anticipation, like a Pavlovian dog.

But ask the survivor of a tragedy, and you get the opposite. The noises, the smells... they only push the victim further and further into shock. The wail of sirens, the screams of other injured victims, the smell of burning hair and more sends the senses into overload. The mind begins to stray away from the body, trying to get away from the overwhelming stimuli.

They're two totally different reactions. Neither can be called natural, not the ultimate high or the ultimate low. Some people spend lifetimes searching for a way to get to the one, while others spend just as long trying to forget the other.

Going back to Sweetwater is almost unthinkable. But not going? It's almost as bad. Hornet finally sits up on the edge of the bed, head in his hands. It's Tuesday...no, it's Wednesday now, and almost the entire company will begin to arrive in Sweetwater later today. Hornet, on the other hand, flew back from the last house show to Greensboro. He won't fly in until the last minute, no matter what Merritt wants.

Why? Why go back? It's the place where everything changed. His friendships fell apart, his body failed him, and Timmy died. At least the man he knew as Timmy Windham.

Maybe the man he knew as Mark Windham died that night as well. This whole idea of 'awakening.' The whole "Lost Soul" gimmick. It had all been underway, but that night in Sweetwater drove the final wedge between he and Mark.

But even that's not enough to keep him awake. A four-year old wound isn't enough to keep him from taking advantage of his most coveted desire, the chance to sleep.

Only one idea is. The chance, the possibility, that the man he was, the man they call Hornet, died that night too.

It's a melancholy thought, tinged with the fear of insanity. It's a thought that makes Hornet want to rummage through his medicine cabinet for a bottle of Soma. It's a thought he just wants out of his head.

But what if it's true? There's no question that everything changed that night, including himself. But what if it was more than that.

The thought of Sweetwater. The thought of facing Ivy. The thought of walking through that door one more time... the door that failed him. The door that changed him.

It's too much.

Hornet stands and stumbles into the bathroom. The mirrored door to the medicine cabinet swings open. Still half-asleep, he begins to search, knocking bottles into the sink, onto the floor. He finds the one he wants, pops the cap, and drop two... no, three pills into his hand, then into his mouth.

He dryswallows the pills, then takes a moment to look at the mess he's made. He'll clean it up tomorrow. He'll take care of it all tomorrow.

Hornet stumbles back into the bedroom and flings himself onto the mattress. The sun's coming up. It doesn't matter. He's in the grips of the jealous mistress, at least for the next twelve hours. But at least the dreams... and the smells... are gone.

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