The sweat was running down her brow as another scream … piercing in it’s primal need for release from the pain that marred her beautiful face … escaped from behind her clenched teeth.
A log fire, banked down to simmering, charred pieces of wood that glowed with reds and oranges, partially illuminated the area in which three figures … two clear in the combined light from the fire and the clear sky overhead in which millions of shimmering stars competed with the almost full moon, and one shadowed and almost unseen … could be viewed.
The woman, prone on a russet coloured blanket, her body … dressed only in a white muslin shift … supported by the strong arms of the large, dark-brown haired man behind her, a worried expression on his face as he looks up into the unseen eyes of the man who faces him, silhouetted by the small fire, just his outline visible as his back is straight and tense.
As her back arched, her head thrusting back against the strong muscled chest of the man who supported her, a voice from an unseen figure spoke out, reassuring in it’s calm authority.
“It will not be long now my child, breathe through the pain, call on the Great Mother to aid you know, and your baby will be with us soon”
The nails on her hands digging into the arm of the man behind her, drawing a silent gasp from him as three small trails of blood appear on his skin, she takes a deep breath as she tries to fight against the urge to scream again.
“I am trying father, but the pain … the PAIN … I don’t know if I can take anymore!”
With another gasp, she leans back into the man behind her, who ever so gently reaches forward and brushes a lock of her red-brown hair away from her face before brushing his lips across her forehead, almost breathing words to her.
“My wife, my love, my life … you can do this, you can bring our son into this World, you can give him life”
Tears now running freely down her face to join with the sweat from her exhaustion, the woman grips the man’s hand and sobs into it as he holds onto him as if her life itself depended on it.
“Husband, we should be at the hospital, if only the truck had not broken down here, in the middle of nowhere, in this Gods forsaken desert!”
His arms wrapped around her upper body, the man holds her tight as gentle sobs escape him too, helpless to do anything but watch as his wife suffers and their unborn child weakens.
Unexpected in the night air, a laugh is heard, pure and rich and breaking free from the chest of the third person, who leans forward over the fire, his face becoming visible and the resemblance between him and the woman … though the decades of extra years plainly visible on his weatherworn skin … clear immediately.
As his long brown hair, tied in two braids that hang one on each side of his face, frames his head, he again laughs, this time more gently as he sees the look of shock on the other faces.
Reaching out to them, he takes one of each of their hands in his own, and squeezes them gently as he smiles.
“My daughter … he who is her husband, as a son to me … have both of you forgotten who you are, what your heritage is … where you are … who you are with?
I am the Shaman of our tribe, I have been blessed with that task for most of my life … you are my daughter, blood of my blood … you are married to he who will be chieftain, he who carries the blood of warriors in his veins.
… and you are safe in the arms of our Mother here and now.
Father Sky himself is looking down upon us, and is blessing us with his presence.
The Land is your bed, the Sky your blanket, and the Spirits are with us now
… so trust in them .. trust in me … and bring my grandchild forth!”
Holding his hands high in the air, the older man … the Shaman … starts to chant, his words becoming louder and louder as the woman groans in agony, her head buried deep in her chest as with visible exertion she pushes.
With a shouted crescendo, the Shaman screams out to the Heavens above him as a shooting star … it’s trail red lined almost like the sky itself is burning … flies directly overhead, coinciding with one last scream of agony and then nothing but silence.
His own face now streaked with sweat, the Shaman kneels down and pokes at the fire with a stick, causing sparks to fly up as the flames come alive again, and with a gasp of joy he looks towards his daughter.
A look of tired joy is in her eyes as she holds a small, blood coated, naked figure to her chest … the man behind her openly weeping as he looks in awe at the life that they have created.
Holding the child, perfect in every detail, in both hands, the woman smiles at her father as the Shaman takes the baby … a boy … in wonder, before looking directly into his eyes.
Piercing green eyes, clear and unblinking, filled with love and knowledge and understanding that seems almost impossible in one new born, stare back at him, and with a shout the Shaman thrusts him into the air, both arms raised high, as he shouts out to the stars above.
“The prophecy is started, the child of ages is born … I give you your first name, your child name ... I name you Ayashe Hakan … the Little Flame … he that will be ETERNAL!”
(Note: I'm posting this for Jay while he's away. I'll be posting additional segments he's sent in the lead up to the card.)
The voice that is screaming is male and could best be described as ‘careworn’, the sort of voice that only develops after years of usage, deep and gravely, a hint of an edge but still powerful and distinct
… and at this time also very loud and bordering on rage.
The speaker … or perhaps shouter would be closer to the mark … is a man in his later years, his hair … while still long and think … mostly a dark grey colour with only hints and highlights of it’s previous red-brown hue visible and the road marks of life across his tanned face outward signs of the years that he has lived.
He has slammed his open hand down hard on to the top of the desk he is sitting behind … dislodging papers that float madly to the ground below as the focus of his ire in his slate grey eyes stands smiling back at him, the desk a barrier between them both.
A much younger man, probably in his late teens or early twenties by his face but the muscular frame of his body suggests someone older as does the intensity of his eyes as piercing green orbs, alight with inner fire, stare back at the older man.
“You heard me grandfather, I am quitting … I have already told the coach that I am finished”
Leaning across the desk towards his grandson, the older man keeps one hand flat on the table … the knuckles whitening with the pressure going through his hand … as with the other he motions towards a bookcase against one wall, on which numerous trophies and awards sit.
“You are going to quit Jay, you are going to throw away everything that we … that YOU … have worked so hard to achieve over the last few years?
Look around you, look at those shelves filled with the outcome of all the hard work and effort that you have put into things!”
Moving faster than it would have been thought possible for one of his age, the speaker comes from behind the desk and grabs a framed paper clipping from off the wall beside the trophies and holds it out towards his grandson, nearly touching his nose against the glass.
“Dammit Jay, look at this … do you remember this? The Times put you on the front page only two months ago. You are the youngest man ever chosen to represent the USA at the Olympics in archery … you are the ONLY Native American EVER chosen to represent the USA at all in archery.
You could be the next Billy Mills you know, you could do so much for our People simply by representing our Country at the Olympics and you want to throw it all away … you want to quit???”
Running a hand through his long auburn hair, pushing the fallen locks away from his face with a sigh, the younger man takes the frame from his grandfathers hands as he stares at it.
“I am not going to throw it away grandfather … I am not going to quit … I already have.
I don’t want to be the next Billy Mills … I don’t want to be the next anybody at all.
… I want to be me grandfather, I want to do something for me … and I have found just the thing”
A look of disgust crosses the grandfather’s face as he almost spits out his next comment.
“By the God’s Jay, don’t tell me that you are still harping on about that damn dream of yours … wrestling is not what you were destined to do my son, you were destined to BE something, you were destined to make something of your life and be a role model for the People …
Dammit your parents would be rolling in their graves if they could see you now …”
The words are choked off and interrupted … violently … as the grandson drops the framed photo with a loud smash of breaking glass and leaps towards his grandfather, grabbing him by the lapels of his jacket and propelling him backwards to slam into the wall with a whoosh of expelled air.
His face a mask of fury and pain, the grandson physically lifts the older man off his feet as he leans in close to his face.
“Don’t mention them grandfather … don’t you DARE use them against me … you may have raised me and loved me but don’t you presume to tell me what they would think of me!”
As the realisation of what he is doing hits him, a look of disgust and remorse plays out over the younger mans face and he allows his grandfather to slide down to the floor as he backs off from him, his gaze on the ground below.
“I am sorry … so sorry … but I have made up my mind grandfather, I am going to become a professional wrestler … in fact I have already signed up with the PWW on a training programme.
It may not be what you want for me grandfather, and we will never know if it is what my parents would want for me, but it IS what I want!”
Walking through the broken glass he turns around and walks away.
The audience are on their feet, screaming and cheering, a multitude of signs being held up with such disparate phrases as ‘Phoenix 4 Ever’ … ‘The Eternal Champion’ … ‘Jay Phoenix IS the PWW!’
In the ring in front of them, a large man, the Canadian flag motif covering his trunks, lies prone on his back as a much smaller man, long auburn hair hanging loose around his shoulders, pulls his legs up and tries to hold his shoulders on the mat for just a short time longer.
… TWO …
As the Canadian wrestler starts to attempt to kick out, his opponent … the smaller man with black trunks on that have flames running up the sides … bridges his body, forcing his shoulders down into the chest of the man underneath as he pulls his legs in even tighter, shaking with the physical effort of stopping his opponent from lifting his shoulders.
It seems that a million stars ignite all at once, as every fan in the arena suddenly begins to take photographs of what is happening, and flash bulbs turn the inside f the ring into a bizarre and disjointed strobe filled theatre … the larger man struggling … the smaller man struggling ... the referee’s hand falling …
… THREE …
A hushed silence falls over the audience as the echo of skin slapping of canvas resounds throughout the arena, and with a stunned look on his face the smaller man sits up, looking around him … for salvation … for benediction … for deliverance.
As the larger man rolls to one side, barely conscious, the referee suddenly motions outside the ring and another noise breaks into the silence.
DING DING DING
The sound of a bell rings out, it’s tone pure, three times in succession and like a tidal wave crashing the bell is drowned out by the roar of the audience who began to scream in adulation … the same two words over and over again.
The smaller man is dragged to his feet by the referee, who almost has to support him as one arm is raised high into the air as with a squeal of feedback … in the hopes of competing with the sound of the fans themselves … the ring announcer begins to speak.
“The winner of this match, and entering the PWW Hall of Fame as the first ever GRAND SLAM CHAMPION ... The NEW PWW World Champion … JAY PHOENIX!!!!”
A belt, shining gold in the reflected lights of the arena, is slid under the bottom rope and then passed to the man known as Jay Phoenix by the referee, who then slides out under the rope himself, rolling the fallen opponent out with him, leaving the new champion to stand alone in the spotlight.
Phoenix stares at the belt that he holds in both hands, the glare from a thousand cameras causing him to blink as their lights is reflected of the gleaming surface, and then slowly, as if every movement is a new lesson in pain, he looks up and turns a slow circuit of the ring, gradually bringing the belt up over his head and allowing the World to see his trophy.
Until with a gaps of pain, he clutches at his ribs, and falls to one knee, the belt dropping from his grasp as the audience share a gaps of shock and worry.
As Phoenix crouches in pain, a figure launches itself through the bottom ropes and comes to his side, and Phoenix reacts by covering his body from the expected blows.
Blows which never come, but instead two gentle hands reach underneath his arms and bring him back to his feet, supporting him and helping him to stand tall again, and as Phoenix looks up his piercing green eyes … now filled with moisture … come into direct contact with the steel grey eyes of his grandfather for the first time in two years.
With a shout of joy, Phoenix wraps his arms around the older man’s neck and embraces him, the pain of the past forgotten in this one moment of shared joy.
I don’t feel my legs anymore, that is a blessing as it means that there is less pain to go around … or perhaps there is more pain as there is less body for it to fill?
I don’t know, but this morning when I woke up things were so different for me, so very different.
I remember sitting in my hotel room, ready to leave to come to the arena, when my grandfather walked in a large smile on his face.
He had a copy of the local newspaper … I cannot remember what it was, just that it was one of the dailies … under his arm, and as he sat himself down in the large sofa that took up one wall in the suite, he opened it up and showed me the front page.
My face adorning the cover.
“Jay, they say that you are the underdog in this match, that you don’t have a chance against your opponent, what’s his name again … Vampiro Nus something or other?”
With a smile I remember replying … a smile … Gods and Spirits aid me, but is there anything to smile about now?
“Vampir Nosferatu grandfather, I have told you how to pronounce his name a hundred times and you STILL get it wrong”
He grinned back at me, throwing the newspaper down as he leant forward, hands folded across his knees.
“To be honest with you his name doesn’t matter Jay, nor does this paper thinking that he is going to beat you.
This tournament that you signed up for all those weeks ago, the Global Title Tournament, brought together one hundred and twenty eight of the top people in the wrestling industry … and now it is down to just you and him … two men left.
That is one hundred and twenty six people who fell by the side Jay … and each and every round they have been saying that you are going to lose, that you are on beginner’s luck, that you haven’t a chance.
You have proved them wrong each and every time … against Bubba McCoy … against Boda … against AWS Man … and all the others … now you just have to do the same again … all you have to do is beat Vampir Nosferatu and you will go down in history as the inaugural Global Champion.”
With a laugh I remember replying.
“Oh yeah grandfather, that is all I have to do, should be a walk in the park!”
Ancient fathers help me … how can I take this pain … am I still alive … is this really happening?
I know that the match started off and Vampir tried his best to finishe it early, to verpower me into losing.
Pretty easy for someone that is nearly two foot taller and one hundred and fifty pounds heavier to overpower someone … but I hung on, I refused to go down.
I even had him on the ropes more than once, and I was moments away from hitting the Friestorm and ending it … the crowd could feel it, they were on their feet cheering for me, and as I looked at my grandfather in the corner I could see that he sensed it too.
This match was mine ... the Global title was mine.
… the mistake was mine!
I took too long thinking about it, I spent too much time looking around me, and the next thing I knew I had been thrown into the referee, knocking him out of the ring, and then Nosferatu was on me.
Reaching outside the ring he grabbed that title belt that we were fighting over and he brought it smashing into my face … I felt my nose break there and my breath caught in my throat as I tasted my own blood.
Again he brought the belt crashing into my body, this time across the top of my head, and I heard the skull bend as my lifeblood found another outlet.
Everything was grey … so grey … and then the pain started again.
Looking his arms around my legs and bending me backwards, Vampir used his strength to either make me submit or break me.
The pain … oh it hurts so much … but I cannot submit, I won’t submit.
I remember my mother smiling at me as everything started to go black, her sweet face all I could see, the smell of he scent filling my nose, and her touch the only thing I could feel.
Her voice called to me though her lips didn’t move.
“… ve up J … dam… giv … p .. ay!”
Her face disappeared as I relaised that it wasn’t her voice … it was my grandfather, he was waving a towel at me, trying to attract my attention as he shouted again.
“Give up Jay … it isn’t worth it … GIVE UP!”
The pain filled my world, the pain WAS my world, a world of agony and blood, nothing else … and my hand came up to pound on the canvas, to signal my defeat, but then I heard the noise that stopped me dead in my tracks.
Vampir Nosferatu was laughing at me as he used the ropes … used the belt … used everything he could … to take the title away from me … to steal it away.
As the referee climbed back into the ring I knew what I would do, I would power out of the move, I would turn the move around, I would get back to my feet and I would beat this monster.
… I would pass out.
The referee never saw the belt being used, nor the ropes, he only saw me lying unconscious in the ring as Vampir kept his submission hold on tighter and tighter, the blood flowing from my head and face as the breath from my lungs slowed down.
The letter lay open on the desk in front of me, and I sat there with my head in my hands staring at it, hoping that if I looked a little bit closer, read it a little bit differently, then it would change.
That it’s contents would be different.
That it’s message would mean something else.
That my dream was not dead in front of me.
The ringing of the phone beside me may have only just started or could have been going on for hours, I really didn’t know, but when I picked it up it took two attempts before I could make my throat form the words that I wanted.
“Hello … who is it?”
I listen to the voice on the other end of the line, as I reach out and lift up the name plate at the front of my desk, looking at it intently and the words etched in silver on the ebony faceplate.
“Jay Phoenix CEO PWW Ltd”
I look down again at the letter in front of me and some of the words seem to leap out, imprinting them in my mind.
SORRY TO INFORM YOU . . INSURANCE RISK . . . PREMIUM INCREASE . . . SORRY TO INFORM YOU . . . ANOTHER BROKER MAY BE WILLING . . . SORRY TO INFORM YOU
A question on the other end of the line brought me back to my senses, and I listened to his voice for a few seconds more.
“No grandfather, I am sorry I was listening … listen, I know that you have the PR rounds set-up with the radio stations to announce the opening of the PWW, but I have some bad news … our insurance brokers have pulled out at the last minute, they say that the risk is too great and as such the premium would be too high for them to manage.
They have told me that other brokers may be willing to take us on, but I have just tried a few of the more well known ones, and they all seem to be saying the same thing grandfather.
… it is simply too expensive, the PWW is not going to be able to survive with this sort of outgoings every month.
It’s over grandfather, the dream of reopening the federation is dead before it begins … “ As the receiver is put down the name plates is lifted again, along with the letter, and as my eyes closed the light behind the bright green duller than ever before, so close to being extinguished, they are both dropped into a wastebasket with a loud … and final ... clang.
An upturned chair lay against a table that had been shoved against one wall, haphazardly, the objects that used to be on it … magazines, a laptop, and some CDs … scattered along the floor.
Two figures stood face to face, one slightly taller than the other, looking to be nearly six feet in height, while the other stood about four inches shorter … though for all the height difference the aura of command and authority that the smaller man exuded was greater than that of the younger.
Jay Phoenix and his grandfather, the man known only as the Shaman, stood staring at each, neither one speaking.
While the Shaman was dressed comfortably in a pair of grey trousers and a loose white shirt, unbuttoned to the top of his chest, Phoenix stood with a sheen of sweat coating his body, a body that was exposed due to the close fitting wrestling attire he wore, signs … along with the red marks across his defined chest … that he had just finished a bout of his chosen sport … his chosen way of life.
Taking a deep breath, Phoenix dropped his gaze from that of his grandfather, and breathed out a few small words.
“I am sorry grandfather, but that was it, I have had enough … tonight was the last time I step foot inside a wrestling ring”
The Shaman reached out one hand and gripped his grandson’s shoulder, strength still evident in the old mans hand as he squeezed once.
“Listen to me Jay, when the day comes that you tell me what you want to retire I will support you … when it is YOUR choice and not brought on by other factors.
We both know that you have had a run of bad luck recently, it was only last year that you picked up the Four Winds Wrestling title only to have the owner, Ian Childress, throw everything he had at you to get it from around your waist and onto one of his cronies.
… I know that you still think that you somehow didn’t live up to your words, but face it Jay there is NO-ONE that can take a steel coal miner’s glove to the head and remain conscious, there was nothing that you could do”
Brushing aside his grandfather’s hand, Phoenix turns around and slams his hand into the wall, a resounding noise echoing through the room as he leans his head against the cool surface.
“The title wasn’t important grandfather, you know that … it was the fact that Childress had put my brother in law in to the hospital and GLOATED about it!
Being the first man to wear that title hurt Childress … not physically, but in other ways, and by doing that I got some payback for Johnny”
Walking over to his grandson, the Shaman laid one hand on his back, patting him gently as if reassuring a child.
“Listen to me Jay, there was nothing that you could have done for Johnny, he made his own decisions, and as unfortunate as it sounds he paid the price for that, all we can do now is what we are doing … pay for his hospital bills, and pray for him.
… so come on, hit the shower now and let’s get you home, at least after tonight’s match you can have a break …”
Turning around quickly, a look of anger on his face, Phoenix almost shouts at his grandfather.
“Of course I can have a break grandfather, I just told you I quit … tonight was the last match I am going to have.
You saw me out there, Carys played me like a fool and I didn’t have a chance against her.
No offence to the lady as she is one talented wrestler, but there is no-one in that cruiser weight tournament that PTC are running that should be a problem for me, least of all her
… but she was!
My mind wasn’t on the match grandfather, it wasn’t even on the tournament.
I simply don’t care anymore … I haven’t cared for a long time you know, and then what with the PWW folding, and now this match … well let’s just say that my eyes have been opened, and I know what I have to do.
I have to retire”
Picking up a towel Phoenix heads through a door into the bathroom, as the Shaman rights the fallen chair and seats himself, head resting on his hands as he looks deep in thought.
The sound of a hand rapping on the door itself quickly replaced the sound of a doorbell ringing, and within a few seconds a voice from elsewhere could just be made out.
“Hang on a minute, I am coming”
From the top of a staircase, a figure appeared, sleepily rubbing his eyes and he fought with a tangle of hair that threatened to obscure his vision, smoothing it back into some semblance of order as he bound it back into a ponytail.
Wearing a black robe loosely tied around his waist, and sporting a pair of black bunny slippers, the former World champion wrestler known to the world as Jay Phoenix made his way towards the door and the offending noise that had so rudely woken him.
Opening the door, Phoenix was greeted by the smiling face of a DHL deliveryman, a blue baseball cap sitting backwards on his head.
With a large grin, the man held out an envelope as well as a clipboard towards Phoenix, who still looked rather shell shocked.
“Can you sign here please Mr Phoenix?”
Reaching for the board, Phoenix pulled a pen out from the top of it and with a quick movement signed the piece of paper, then reached out for the envelope.
With another smile, the deliveryman pulled it away.
“Sorry Mr Phoenix you have to sign for the envelope before I can give it to you, company policy and all”
Shaking his head from side to side as if to clear it, Phoenix rubbed his eyes again, trying to wake up fully.
“Listen friend, I just signed your piece of paper, so please just give me the package and let me get back to bed, I had a very late night last night”
Taking the piece of paper of the clipboard, the deliveryman grinned at Phoenix.
“Oh no, this isn’t the authorisation for the package, this is just your autograph for my nephew, man he is going to die when I tell him that I got this for him!”
The deliveryman gave the clipboard back to Phoenix, and this time a DHL slip is visible on the surface, which … after reading it this time … Phoenix signed, and then took the offered package.
With another smile, and a little salute to the side of his cap, the deliveryman turned to leave, calling over his shoulder.
“Good luck with that Phoenix, will be great to see you again”
With a look of confusion on his face, Phoenix turned and closed the door, staring down at the envelope in his hands.
As the door slammed behind him, Phoenix slowly walked into the house as he opened the envelope and pulled out the single piece of paper contained within, reading it as he stopped at the foot of the staircase again.
Crumpling up the paper into a ball, Phoenix threw it towards a waste basket that rested near the front door, but it bounced off the rim to fall behind it instead, and as he made his way back up the stairs, Phoenix could be heard muttering to himself.
“CSWA Presidential Tournament … never heard of the damn thing, and I have NO idea why they would be sending me an acceptance into it, I never entered the damn thing in the first place, and besides I am retired …”
The rock bounced across the surface of the water, skimming along once … twice … three times, each gap increasing the distance between leaps, until finally, with a flourish of bubbles, it sank beneath the surface, nothing left but ever decreasing ripples to mark it’s passage, shattering the reflection of the moon and stars of the night sky above him.
Wearing a brown suede jacket, closed right up to the throat, and a pair of blue jeans with yellow Dockers on his feet, the figure who threw the first rock, leant back against the hard surface of a spreading oak tree and reached for another missile, his long auburn hair framing his face as his piercing green eyes searched the ground in front of him, his breath visible in a cloud of white as he exhales.
As his hand closed around a suitable rock, a voice from the darkness interrupts him.
“Only three skims Jay, I am disappointed, when I taught you how to do that you were much better”
Dropping the rock from his hand, the seated figure … Jay Phoenix … looked over his shoulder and around the tree to see his grandfather, the Shaman, standing smiling at him, a calf length red jacket protecting him form the cold night air.
Walking towards his grandson, the Shaman patted his shoulder as he sat down, reaching for a rock of his own as he stared out into the night.
“Let’s see if I still have the gift Jay my boy … do you feel up for a challenge?”
Without waiting for an answer, the Shaman launched the rock out over the water, where it landed evenly and jumped four ... then five ... times across the surface before disappearing to sink out of sight.
“Nice throw grandfather, and as much as it is nice to see you, just what are you doing here at this time of the night?”
Shaking his head slightly, the Shaman laughed lightly to himself.
“It could have been a social visit Jay, but you are right I wanted to talk to you”
The Shaman reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper, unfolding it and smoothing it out as he held it up slightly to catch the moonlight.
Phoenix’s face took on a look of shock as he recognised the CSWA logo on the letter that had been delivered a few weeks previously, but before he could open his mouth to speak, the Shaman pre-empted him.
“I know what you are thinking Jay, you are wondering why I have this letter aren’t you?
Well it is simple my son, I found it near the bin in your house, and figured to myself that you had decided that it was rubbish … well I am here to tell you that it is not.
This is your future Jay, this is something that I think … no I know … that you have to do!”
Shaking his head, Jay contradicts his grandfather.
“Grandfather, there was a reason I put that in the trash … because it IS trash.
I never signed up to anything called the Presidential Tournament, it is junk mail … probably like the wrestling version of the Reader’s Digest lottery!”
Holding the paper out of his grandson, the Shaman continues.
“Actually Jay, it isn’t junk mail, and you didn’t need to sign up for it … it is a real tournament, and I signed you up myself, in fact this time next week you will be in the ring facing your competitor in a match to earn your place in the second round”
Looking completely stunned, Phoenix holds the piece of paper loosely in one hand as he stares vacantly into space.
Reaching out a hand to shake him slightly, the Shaman continues.
“Jay, listen to me my child, you may not realise this now, and you may not like it, but what I have done I have done for you.
I know that the last few months have been rough on you, and that you think that you are better off retired from the wrestling business, but I have watched you closely and you do not know what to do with yourself … you are lost my child, and the one thing that you have loved doing for nearly eight years is no longer yours.
You are a wrestler Jay … a great wrestler … but somewhere along the years you have lost your way, you have become despondent, and you have lost the fire that burned so hot inside you.
… this is the time to re-ignite that fire Jay, this is the time to once more find your way.
This tournament can be your starting point Jay, this tournament can be your first step back to peace of mind … you have come full circle you know, from the day when I tried to talk you out of starting to wrestle.
Now I am trying to ensure that you KEEP wrestling my child … and do not give up on yourself in this way.”
Dropping his head so that his hair forms a curtain around his face, hiding it from sight, a small voice ensues.
“I don’t know if I can anymore grandfather … I don’t know what to do … I mean what if I fail, what if I lose?”
Moving so that he is kneeling directly in front of his grandson, the Shaman pulls his head up so that they are facing each other, and then as he stares directly into Phoenix’s eyes he cups his hands on either side of his face, holding him steady.
“The only way that you can fail is if you don’t even try Jay, if I have taught you anything it is that!
If you want to retire then I will not stop you, but I will NOT let you quit … enter this tournament … face Troy Douglas …and face him with all your heart.
If you go into that match against himand lose then so be it … but that is not failing my child, there is no shame in losing at all.
… but to let yourself quit, to slowly fade away like you are doing, I REFUSE to allow that!
Just like the rock that we threw across the water, everything that you have done has caused ripples in the wrestling world, and you are not done yet you know … there is still time to jump across the surface and leave your mark before you sink from sight.
… but only if you want it!”
Jay stares into his grandfather’s face for a few seconds and then drops his head, pulling away from the grip that holds him there as he stands up and walks away.
A look of defeat plays across the Shaman’s face as a sigh of regret escapes him, but the next words from Phoenix ignite the fire of hope in his eyes once more.
“… well I suppose that I had better get ready then hadn’t I?
I mean I can’t cause ripples if I am not even there.
… so, apart from his name, is there anything that you can tell me about this Douglas guy grandfather, like you always taught me, preparation is half the battle, and I have a feeling that I am going to have one Hell of a battle ahead of me …”
The Shaman stands up and joins Phoenix, placing an arm around his shoulder as they walk off into the night towards the house, their voices fading with them.
The sound of cheering filled his ears as Jay Phoenix panted, trying to fill his lungs with oxygen and grinning as each breathe burned like fire. Every muscle in his body hurt, some that he didn’t even know that he had, but on top of it all, on top of the bone-deep weariness that pervaded his every molecule there was one thing that out-weighed it all.
For sixteen minutes he had fought backwards and forwards against Troy Douglas, and the battle had rekindled the warrior soul that he had been blessed with. For sixteen minutes the battle had raged, but from the moment the opening bell had run out Phoenix had known that his grandfather had been right.
This WAS his life.
Sixteen minutes earlier and the battle had begun, but it had taken only three seconds for Troy Douglas to be defeated and only three seconds for Phoenix’s name to be shouted out as the victor.
The grin spread right across Phoenix’s face as he hauled Douglas back to his feet and shook his hand, holding it up and basking in the adulation of the crowd.
The battle against Douglas had been waged and won, the first step in the Presidential Tournament had been taken.
… the war was still ongoing, however, but that thought was not enough to damped Phoenix’s emotion, that could wait until …
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