At least one hundred strands of pecan hair fluttered in the air, divorcing themselves from others similar, still resting peacefully upon a nearly perfect scalp. Turqouise blue eyes peered wistfully into the distance, which consisted of limousines, upscale sedans, sports cars and, predominantly, tractor trailers adorned with the letters AODWF, an acronym emblazoned on top of a wispy haired skull, skinned to the bone, yet retaining lifelike, contemplative, conjuring eyes. His face was the prototype of any rookie’s. The eblem's face, as it seemed, was relative to any veteran's.
Unscathed, unmarked, and unscarred.
Wartorn, maddened, and sinister.
Erik Boyer was actually rather handsome. Recognizable mostly by his eyes, as his head, known to those with relatively vested interest these days, was now clean shaven; his face marred by war wounds. Without such blemishes to speak of at that time, Erik's mind was not weighed by scartissue, but by a collection of crossroads. He contemplated the opportunities, or what he might call “duties,” before him at that moment in time. He breathed in deep, as deep as he could, before releasing carbon dioxide back into his vehicle and the Earth's atmosphere. His face resembled that of a man wracked with nerves and concern. Cronos had not steered him wrong thus far, so why question his logic and wisdom now?
Without warning, his abdomen spasmed and he retched forward, stopping the vomit from its intended meeting with the steering wheel and windshield behind it with tightly pursed lips. As he choked back his nearly regurgitated sirloin, cooked rare, a rapping occurred to his right, on the passenger side door. Mere moments later, Cronos slid into Boyer’s car and looked over at his young protege.
Cronos Diamante: How you doin’, Erik?
Cronos knew the answer to the question already but asked merely out of formality. He knew Erik would give him some sort of classic stoner answer. Or so he thought.
Erik Boyer: Good. Fine. I- uhm...I- uh...I don’t know, man. I- I- I don’t know. Not feelin’- uhm- one hundred percent confident in this whole deal. Crucifixion? That’s uh-
Boyer breathed deep into his chest, as deep as he could- it almost made him retch again.
Erik Boyer: Dude, Jesus was crucified. Jesus Christ. You think crucifixion, you think Jesus. Kygon is a lot of things, but he’s not Jesus. Buddy, I don’t even know that I, or even we, can show our faces in public after this. This isn’t just a message. It’s- and I’m not a religious guy, you know that- but, it’s- to a lot of folks- it’s blasphemy. It’s kinda fucking with me a little bit, to be honest.
Cronos chuckled at Boyer’s youthful mistaken comment. He didn’t mean to chuckle but he couldn’t help it. Cronos turned more toward Erik and put a hand on his shoulder to comfort him because he knew the chuckle was making him angry and uneasy all at the same time.
Cronos Diamante: Listen, Erik… to your youthful and naive mind, crucifixion is probably all about Christianity and Jesus Christ and all the bullshit you were brought up on in Boston growing up. I get that. I was brought up on it to being a kid from the Bronx and my mother being a devout Catholic but that’s not what Crucifixion is for. The Romans used it to punish people severely. They used it on slaves and in very special cases when they wanted to make an example of certain people.
Cronos paused a moment to let that sink into Erik’s brain and took his hand off his shoulder. He kicked back the chair he was sitting in and stared up at the ceiling. He could feel Erik’s eyes on him, wanting more than what he was given.
Cronos Diamante: If the romans wanted to deal with someone, really deal with them and get it over with they could simply execute the man or woman and behead them. Done and done. But crucifixion made an example of you. If you ran from your masters, for example. Or… you did something so against the state of Rome you deserved to be put up on a cross for the whole of the empire to see. OutKast needs to be made an example. Make no mistake about it, Erik…. He’s an enemy of the state of AODWF AND the wrestling industry as a whole. He took your woman from you. He did it because he could. Because he thinks he can have what he wants. His greed must be punished and there is no other way I can find more fitting than putting the son of a bitch on a cross and showing that off to the entire world. Take Christianity and Jesus out of it. Do you understand why now?
Boyer nodded, slowly, at everything Cronos educated him on. He bit his upper lip and allowed his nostrils to flare a bit, but he let his mentor finish. When he had done as such, Boyer allowed his right hand to come from the top of his head, down onto the steering wheel- hard.
Erik Boyer: Fine! Fine! Fine. Fine. A million people could have been crucified in the history of life. Personally, I only know the name of ONE of those people. Jesus fucking Christ. In doing this, it’s- it’s fucked up on so many levels. We blaspheme, maybe not technically, but to most of the public- like me- who don’t know a damned thing about it being a form of corporal or capital or connifuckinglingal punishment- and know it as how humanity disposed of the man we’ve been raised to attempt to emulate. We don’t do it, but we know we’re supposed to. That’s why we feel guilty 99% of the time.
Running his hands through his long, dark brown hair and brushing them over his nearly perfect lips, allowing them to stop on the stubble he had accrued upon his chin, Boyer continues.
Erik Boyer: Even if I said, “fuck that,” like you know I fucking would...I don’t want to make that pompous, piece of shit, cocksucking, motherfucking cunt Kygon appear to be “Christ-like.” You follow me? It’s HIM who needs to pay, not be glorified. Not for being a womanizing...FUCK!
Cronos slapped Erik across the face one time, hard.
Cronos Diamante: Snap out of it. This isn’t about glorifying him. This is about punishing him. Lesser beings with the mental acumen of an ant can think we made him a martyr and think he’s some scion. We’re doing this to prove a point. That he can’t walk all over men like you who just come into this business. You will be remembered for this. Do you fucking understand me, Erik?
Eyes filled with contempt, Erik snapped his face toward Diamante, but only for a moment, before he looked on in the same manner he had been, as he listened to The Devil preach. He understood. He understood, very well. His lips curled in and his face tightened all over, before loosening, then stiffening again.
Young Erik Boyer was trying not to cry in front of his mentor. But the tears, had they come, wouldn’t have been melancholy or shameful in nature. On the contrary, Boyer had just been dutifully reminded why they were here to do what they were here to do in the first place.
It evoked emotion, to say the least.
Erik Boyer: He took her. We had a fight. I was kind of an asshole ONCE, that she knew of, and he swooped in and stole her from the safety of THESE-
He pounded at his biceps and shoulders.
Erik Boyer: LOVING. ARMS. NO ONE will or could ever love Julie like I love that fucking woman.
A slight whimper is masked by a guttural roar.
Erik Boyer: FUCKING MOTHERFUCKER!!!! FUCK!!! He’s gotta die, Cronos, he’s gotta fucking die. He’s gotta die.
With the speed of a viper attacking its prey, Boyer had a hold of Diamante’s shirt.
Erik Boyer: Not a fucking THING happens to her, you got me? Julie doesn’t get hurt, alright, dude? I don’t care WHAT happens, my baby doesn’t have one hair on her head harmed. I’ll fucking kill whoever makes that fucking mistake, you dig?!
Cronos looked down at his shirt and to Boyer’s hands on said shirt and his mind started racing. What exactly had just snapped inside this kid? There was no mention ever in the plan of Julie getting hurt and here he was trying to affirm that she wouldn’t be. It gave way to Cronos believing Erik wanted to hurt her, otherwise he wouldn’t have mentioned it. He was trying to make himself believe he didn’t want her hurt but deep down he did and the look in his eye confirmed it.
Cronos Diamante: She doesn’t get hurt. Now take your hands off me, Erik. Now!
Erik did as he was told, not realizing he had snapped just now.
Cronos Diamante: She’s trapped under Sean’s spell, Erik. She’ll come back, dude. You need to cement that in your brain. She’ll realize that after we put him on display and punish him for the greedy bastard he is. Ok, man?
Cronos wasn’t saying that to make Boyer believe she was coming back. He knew she wasn’t. It didn’t matter what happened to OutKast at this point in time. The only thing he knew was that Julie would never return to Boyer, not now and not ever. The only thing that might happen is her leaving OutKast and never coming back to the wrestling world again. But Boyer needed to believe she would or Julie was at risk.
Cronos Diamante: Erik!
Cronos’ future tormentor nearly jumped out of his skin- and thoughts- at the sharp mention of his name. Diamante’s words coarsed through Boyer’s twenty three year old brain. They made sense, yet didn’t at the same time. No one in the world- except, perhaps, for Cronos, given a clue in the last forty seconds- knew of the battle that would rage inside of Boyer’s mind for years to come- one that, almost certainly, had been hotly contested for years, now. Boyer was a master chameleon. He fit in with everyone and most tended to like him, even considered themselves his friend.
Not one of them knew who he really was.
Except for, of course, possibly Cronos. That’s why he apologized.
Erik Boyer: I’m sorry about that. I didn’t mean- she just means so, so, so, so fucking much to me, and when she left- when she left with him? A guy I knew, relati- when she left Sean...when she left FOR Sean...I don’t- she’ll be back. I’m sorry, again. You’re right, though, she- she’ll be back. This isn’t her fault, Cronos. Not even a little bit. Not even a fucking inch
is it her fault. People cheat all the time. I did it to her- but, but, but she didn’t ever know- doesn’t matter. As long as he dies and she’s not scarred for life afterward, we’ll be fine. And she won’t be. She knows I’ll always take her back. Even after she’s had that mulat- even after Kygon. She knows I’m here. Just like I always have been.
Boyer rubs knuckles into each of his eyes.
Erik Boyer: Always fucking
A loud, somewhat blocked inhalation can be heard from the long haired, blue eyed, young man.
Erik Boyer: So, anyway, I know we talked about it a few times, but I have the memory of a goddamned gnat, so- after tonight, Cronos, after we make history, what, uh...what…
He trailed off while he looked at his somewhat paternally inclined friend, asking him subliminally for him to finish, then answer the question. It was clear from his eyes, a nearby streetlamp shining from them, that his emotions had begun taking over the rest of his mental faculties.
Cronos Diamante: We rejoice, Erik. We rejoice and reap the benefits of being the man who took down the so called God named OutKast.
Boyer had the urge to question the god comparison, but at that moment in time, no longer cared to do so. He just wanted Sean Kygon to be ended. Destroyed. Pathetic to men and, lord willing, useless to women.
Erik Boyer: Okay. I dig it. Not a bad career move, I guess. Not to mention, it’ll have
to show Julie that he’s not the man he’s leading her to believe she is. He’s not.
She’s under- like you said- under some kind of spell. That ends, tonight, but Cronos, I swear to all things holy, some of which, we desecrate tonight, that if she or…
He swallows deeply, looking at the lamppost from the left corner of each eye, the harsh reality that Julie is pregnant with Kygon’s child rushing in, all at once. He couldn’t look at anything but the most blinding light he could find. It still wasn’t bright enough.
Erik Boyer: Or that...kid. That...child. That piece of her. If either of them- motherfucker
...you know what I’m saying. I’ll kill any one of you motherfuckers, and if you look into my eyes, you know it’s true.
Cronos Diamante: No harm comes to Julie, Erik. Period. Those were my conditions when we started this. That can’t change now. Not for any reason. I may be a vile, conniving son of a bitch but I don’t hurt innocents.
The smile wouldn’t fade. He had just crucified a man, with the help of Cronos Diamante and others- some good, some bad- a group called the Shades of Gray. The man crucified was Sean “OutKast” Kygon. That man stole his most prized possession, Julie, who he then deemed desirable to impregnate with the child Erik and Julie had dreamed of having just months into their six year relationship. All because, well, as far as Erik Boyer and Cronos Diamante were concerned, it was because he could. He learned that those types of actions on his Earth, on Erik Boyer’s planet, would not be tolerated.
Erik didn’t think he needed to feel bad about the lesson he taught the pro-wrestling demigod and fan favorite.
Hitting his former longtime, pregnant girlfriend in the stomach with a steel chair.
For that, he felt he should feel a hint of remorse.
Not even a little bit.
Good riddance to the little abomination.
Now, when Julie comes back, they can start on a brand new leaf.
No mixed emotions.
Aside from when he hit her unborn baby with a chair.
He laughed to himself.
Seeds were sown.
Identifications of his willpower, of his strength, of his capability- those were all made.
The night was a resounding success, and as he sat peering into the city sky, he realized that he had never felt better. Cronos, on the other hand, felt completely different. The night was a complete failure for him. Sure he held Julie down but it’s not like he could have stopped and not done it at that point. It was too far into the show to just not do it. He couldn’t have stopped it if he wanted to. But he could do something about it. Cronos practically kicked the hotel door room down and had Boyer held by the throat against the wall, fiery hell burning in his eyes.
Cronos Diamante: What! THE! HELL!
Cronos punched the wall next to Boyer, leaving a hole in the wall.
Cronos Diamante: I told you Julie was not to be harmed. I fucking warned you, Erik. This was not about hurting her for choosing someone else, this was about hurting OutKast and punishing him for his transgressions! YOU MADE A MOCKERY OUT OF WHAT WAS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN TONIGHT!
Cronos noticed that Erik couldn’t break Cronos’ hold at this point, the adrenaline inside the pissed off Cronos was too strong and he released Erik. Erik crumpled to the ground and Cronos fell to the ground right along with him, slunk up against the bed.
Cronos Diamante: Why did you do it, Erik? Why! I want answers and I want them now. If I don’t get them…. I…. I don’t know what I’ll do. I just… you disgrace us…. I…
Cronos’ voice trailed off as he stared a hole through Boyer, a man feeling betrayed by the man he elevated to stardom with one single brilliant moment. Only it wasn’t so brilliant due to Boyer’s greed and viciousness. Boyer wasn’t smiling, but he wasn’t emitting any kind of negatively charged emotion, either. He looked at his mentor, rolled his eyes, over which his hands were soon placed, and shrugged his shoulders.
Erik Boyer: Because I could. OutKast took from me because he could. Julie left me, because she could. You talked me into crucifying the man, because you could. Everyone I feel something for in my life, romantically with Julie, platonically- whatever, “friend-wise,” with you, and former acquaintance turned arch enemy, OutKast. Every one of you did something to me because you could. I did what I did to Julie...because I could. Because, damn it, I knew you wouldn’t stop me. Not that far into things. You try to stop me, and your plan falls to shit. You look like an asshole.
The last statement made had all the sarcasm behind it that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert put together could muster. His head, resting on the fresh, tightly made beige bedspread, rolled to the right, away from Cronos.
Erik Boyer: Man, I’m sorry to do that to you, you know? I don’t dig backstabbing. Out of everyone, I fucked you least. I was just tired of getting fucked with. It wasn’t a plan, either, man, you remember how concerned I was that Julie not get hurt. As soon as those lights hit, though, and everything got moving and the cross was there, the crown of thorns- and I saw her begging for HIS LIFE?!!? I was the one she was supposed to beg for. I was the one who’s spent endless nights awake, fucking crying, man, wishing she’d come home. It was OUR relationship she desecrated when she let that Mulatto come inside of her. Shit, man, I lost it- but I wasn’t blind, ya know?
He scratched his throat and snuck a peek at a seething Cronos, before he looked back at the wall.
Erik Boyer: I remember my thought process. I remember everything, thank god. I’m sure I’ll repent someday. Someday real soon, considering my Catholic guilt, but tonight? I made a man’s decision and I followed through with it. I delivered my decree, and you, my friend, helped me do it. I understand if you’re mad. Don’t be, though. Enjoy this feeling with me. Feels like omniscience.
Cronos stood up and glared down at Boyer with a hatred and anger he’d never felt before. He shook his head, disappointed with himself and the man he was trying to teach. Tonight he had failed to understand the lesson. He failed the test. The entire test was not hurting Julie whether he knew it or not.
Cronos Diamante: Tell the Christian in you that one day you’re going to have a coming to Jesus moment. You’re going to pay for what you’ve done, Erik. What you’ve done tonight may come back to haunt even me but the difference between you and I is I’ll always know that I deserve whatever comes at me and I won’t ever make this mistake again. This part of me that I’ve been using to teach you needs to be caged and never used again. From now on it’s a prisoner in a war that can’t ever continue. So you say you fucked me over the least but in reality, you’ve just crippled apart of me. You get to live with that, Erik.
Laughter exploded straight toward the ceiling, emanating from Boyer’s head, parallel with hotel’s roof.
Erik Boyer: Ha ha ha! I get to live with a lot
of stuff that happened, tonight, Cronos. I’ll wake up tomorrow and wonder just what the hell I’ve- WE’VE done. I’m a good person, Cronos, you know that. Ha ha ha ha! I’m not evil. I just did an evil thing that I can’t ever take back. But sure, I guess you can lead a horse to water, but fail to make him drink. Well, I drank. I drank too much. And for that, you decide it’s time to crawl inside of a cage- the real you, the only you I know- the you that strikes fear in the hearts of gods- the you that taught me the power of that fear- you’re gonna take that you, the same you that watched me with those eyes and held her down with those arms- dismantle the world around me- you’re gonna take THAT you- ha ha ha ha- your ball and go the fuck back to your fucking eternal cage? Impossible. Maybe, I showed the world and myself who I really am- time’ll tell. But, you know who you are- YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. That? Who you really are? You can hide him, but not forever. Took me twenty three years to show what I’m capable of- once you act on capability, you adopt ownership of its properties. I get that now.
He shakes his head.
Erik Boyer: Prisoner in a war that can’t- bullshit. The war has begun and souls are on the line. You’re gonna bench the monster- the devil, that got you there? Look at what I did tonight, then take a close, hard look at the smile on my fucking face- this is a smile that YOU KNOW! Before guilt inevitably kicks in and the adrenaline of a righteousness, maybe known only to me, fades, for now, I’m happy. I realize now, shit, I’ve never been happier. Because I became what you made me. A devil. Now, sure, go find your fucking cage. Lock yours up. Don’t need him anymore, now that the world has me. I failed- fucking horseshit. You failed. Not sure the Shades of Gray will wanna take orders from me, though, so you best find your fucking mask, too.
Cronos shook his head and went to speak but instead, walked out of the room leaving Erik Boyer there alone to contemplate what he was being told. Not that it hadn’t gone in one ear and right out the other but Cronos would have to live with that and he wouldn’t allow himself to bring this kind of suffering to the world again. The cage would have to do.