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The Return of Zero, part 2


League Member
Apr 12, 2012
varies depending upon the week
As he came back through the curtain, Lint exhaled a huge sigh of relief as he wearily stumbled towards the arrows leading to the locker rooms. The sounds of "Infected" by Bad Religion still radiated outside in the arena, but he had done it. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t the best match of his career, and Blaine had helped carry him at moments when he was out of air, but Lint Douglas had successfully returned to the ring. Zero had made his comeback. In this instance, it was a triumphant moment for the performer as much as it was for the public character.

“Hey, good match,” said someone as Lint passed by him. “I remember watching you wrestle when I was younger. Great to see your comeback.” He was probably in his mid-twenties and wearing a mustache as he sat on top of a stack of crates with a monitor nearby from one of the camera feeds.

Lint thought perhaps he was one of the ring crew workers. He wasn’t dressed like, nor did he resemble the hordes of wrestlers who had gone out and back in from that black curtain.

“Thanks,” said Lint, between small gasps of air. “It…” he paused. “It’s great to be back.”

He tried to conceal the pain from his words. The throbbing in his shoulder was gaining its own heartbeat.

“Good luck in your next one. According to the updated brackets they’re airing on the broadcast, looks like you’re being matched up against Grande.”

Grande? Which person was this? Had he seen him backstage earlier in the evening? Lint has spent part of his time watching the matches in the back, but the other time was spent in isolation as he walked slowly through the back halls to clear his mind. Perhaps he had seen him. Time would tell.

He didn’t speak further to the ring crew worker. Instead, he nodded in acceptance of the good wishes. Walking further away, his hand reached out to his left shoulder to grab the source of the throbbing pain. Coming upon the locker room entrance, he pushed it open with his other shoulder and walked past the wrestlers and into the bathroom area. The pain was increasing. He had landed wrongly. He could pin point back to his landing on the belly to belly. It was early in the match and a stupid mistake. All he had to do with flip forward, but his instincts were sluggish and his body tried to side roll into the landing. He had bumped for this move countless times in the past. This bruising had no merit or justification beyond his own inability to fully work out his nerves before the match.

The moment the pain hit his shoulder, two events happened. One, he knew It was going to be an uphill struggle to finish the rest of the spots without further aggravating it. Maybe it really was just a bruising and his body wasn’t used to such awkward injuries at this point. But more importantly, secondly, the pain confirmed to him where he was. He exhaled the pain from his mouth. He had seen pain before. Looking into the bathroom mirror, the scar across his cheek that his beard once concealed reminded him of the pains from every day. It spoke to him about the cares one needed to maintain, no matter the profession. The scar was from a slight lapse in judgement during a boat launch in Maine. A slight, fleeting moment in time left a two-inch gash that became a permanent record. And now his shoulder, with its pain throbbing, was an immediate note of the cares he needed to establish in the ring. This could not happen again. He had to be careful. Was his body always this beat up after a wrestling match? Years ago, no matter how violent a match was, didn’t he walk away fine that night after the arena lights went off? Those fleeting moments containing lacks of judgement were sometimes unavoidable, and yet with typical planning, could be escaped every time.

But some scars were self-inflicted in other ways. And yet, just as accidental.

Standing in front of the mirror, he reached down at the bottom of his shirt and pulled it off over his head. Letting it fall to the floor, he looked at his chest in the mirror. On the upper left side, a four-inch incision scar ran up his torso. With his throbbing arm, he placed this hand over the spot out of instinct to cover the sight of it. But the throbbing pain of earlier, with the blood pumping at an accelerated rate, as his breathing worked to regain a consistent pattern, served to remind him of how alive he was then. Alive despite of.

The shoulder’s pain would fade once his breathing could return to its resting state. The stuttered intakes of oxygen pushed his heart to neutralize this energy that his body wasn’t used to.

Looking into the mirror, something else occurred. This collision of emotions created a reaction. Looking back at him, Lint Douglas didn’t see himself. He saw Zero. This wasn’t his attempt to convince himself of such. The character was coming forth. What he put out to the audience was a feeble first attempt. But by the conclusion, and most surely then, he had found that performer tucked and stored deep away in the confines of his psyche.

There was just one last thing. He had seen clippers sitting on one of the benches. Stepping back into the changing area, he grabbed them and walked back to the mirror. There was but one aspect left of Lint Douglas. The last remaining veil to hide behind. Raising the clippers up into the air, he pressed them into the thick, shaggy hair atop his head. To complete the embrace, he had to rid himself of all hiding spots and finish the transformation. He pushed to the back of his head as inches of hair fell down to the tiled floor.

Zero had always been a staunch proponent of the punk rock movement. Those days were far behind him, but the character of old was known for the spiked tipped hair. This would not be present in the new Zero. The new Zero was older, had reconciled the demons of his past, and was very much a man moving forward in life. The new Zero would meet Lint Douglas halfway, but there could be no masks from Lint to conceal himself. He was to be everything needed. Because he was alive. The throb in his shoulder told him that. The scar on his chest reaffirmed it. Those pains were the signs of progress in the mission of taking the next breath.

As he shaved his head, his breathing slowly began to return to normal. He had worried about the reduced oxygen capacity before agreeing to this tournament, but ultimately, he would meet expectations of not only what the fans expected of him, but also what he required of himself. He had to.

Walking back into the changing area, he caught a few looks of surprise by his radical and quick departure in appearance. He let his scarred chest lay bare to those around him, though he had tried to hide it before. He was accepting this, everything, for all that it was. His solid black remnants of his tattoos covered a past, but the new scars revealed the future.

Reaching into the locker, he retrieved his phone. He dialed a number and raised the phone up to his ear.

“Hey,” he said in response.

He leaned against the locker and let his free hand run across the bristles of hair atop his head. “I’m fine. Everything went okay.”

He turned inward toward the locker. “You didn’t need to worry.” He grabbed his duffle off the bottom and pulled out the plane ticket. “My flight is in three hours. I’ll see you tonight.”

He waited for a moment to hear the response. A smile of optimism went across his face. “I can’t wait.” He paused, letting his word hang on the last letter. “Tell him... tell him who I am.”

“And then, tell him I said hello.”
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