February 25, 2018, 05:20:36 PM

Author Topic: The Darkness [I of II vs Corazon]  (Read 298 times)


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The Darkness [I of II vs Corazon]
« on: September 09, 2014, 10:49:55 PM »
He may be just a teenager, but he carries himself like a man when he holds his baby girl.  Her smile radiates the room and lights him up.  The entire family is gathered in the homey living room.  The proud, somewhat exhausted, entirely overwhelmed parents, and the beaming grandparents – all four of them.  The tension from the surprise pregnancy melted away the moment she joined the world.  It had been difficult at first. Janie’s father unquestionably would have murdered Kale had Tanev’s father not been the best man at his wedding.  And Mr. Tanev would have probably killed his own son had Janie’s father not stepped in, not wanting his grandchild to grow up fatherless. But from a mistake and the broken dream of a professional basketball career raised a reality more amazing than any fantasy.

It’s a scene familiar to many families.  Baby TV.  The girl lays in the centre of the living room, on her back, all eyes on her.  The chatter is inane, nobody wanting to miss the flash of a smile or an encouraging wave of the hand.

Mrs Tanev: You guys getting enough sleep?  You know we’d love to take her for a night.

Janie’s Mother: You’ve have to fight us for her!  We get the first sleepover. (she laughs)

The baby, maybe three or four months, it’s hard to tell at this age, makes a gurgling sound that sounds like agreement to both sets of grandparents.

Janie: Come on, no. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to all babysit for us!

It hasn’t taken long for Janie’s teenage body to recover from childbirth.  She’s lost all her pregnancy weight and, other than some minor lines of fatigue, looks like any other high school cheerleader.  Young Kale Tanev, tall, lean and clean cut, stares intently at his child, afraid that something may happen to her at any moment.

Janie’s Mother: We still get the first night!  We’ll play you four-handed crib for it!

Mr. Tanev: Oh why would you do that?  You haven’t beat us in months!

Janie’s Father: You’ve gotten lucky a few times!

The good-natured argument banters back and forth, comfortable laughter filling the air.  Suddenly Kale cuts into conversation.

Tanev: LOOK!

They all stare at the baby girl.  She’s on her belly.

Janie: OHMIGOD!!!  She’s rolled over!  Her first roll over!!!

The room bursts into a flood of activity.  Grandmothers scurry for their camera, Janie’s shrieking in joy, her father looks proud while Mr. Tanev shakes his young son’s hand.  They might have been too young, but they’re doing real good, the gesture says.

It’s a perfect memory.

Buck, you came at me.  You gave me the biggest scare of my young wrestling career.  If we’re being honest, you probably deserved to win.

The second you hit me with that first shot, I lost everything. My game plan went out the window.  I instantaneously forgot everything I’d learned since I came to the SHOOT Project.  They say everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face.  They’re right.  I forgot I was in a wrestling match. I forgot it was the Master of the Mat quarterfinals. I forgot that it was a shot to advance in the world’s most difficult wrestling tournament. 

I reacted like a cornered bear.  There was no technique in anything that happened out there.  I lashed out.  Kicking and punching whatever part of you I could reach.  Propelling my body at yours without any thought of strategy or what I was trying to achieve.  I fought you like you were just another grunt on the streets trying to take my hand-me-down boots I picked out of a dumpster in the nice part of town. I guess, in a moment of levity, I snapped on the Descender and it was over.

That’s all I remember. Looking at the lights in confusion. I didn’t even know if I’d won or lost.  I thought for sure I was waking up from unconsciousness at first.  But then they raised my hand. They said MY name.  Kale Tanev.  The winner, Kale Tanev.  But there’s nothing positive I can take from it.

It simply wasn’t good enough.

I only learned one thing from our match, Buck.  I’m not good enough to win this thing. 

Buck Dresden has come and gone.  Much like Eli Storm and the rest, you’ll forever be a footnote in the Master of the Mat 2014 history. 
Now there are only four. Up next is Adrian Corazon.

Kale Tanev steps off a bus and onto the sidewalk in front of a dusty Las Vegas strip mall.  Neon signs in front of the bookending convenience stores promote Vegas souvenirs, cheap beer and discounts on designer purses.  He takes a moment to collect himself.  He wipes some grime off his tight black t-shirt and visually inspects his jeans. Almost to his surprise, they’re clean.  He sighs deeply again and looks ahead at the reason he’s travelled here.  Sitting in the middle of the low-rise of stores, next to the shady looking electronics and speaker shop, is a Chase Bank.  He pushes open the door. It’s empty inside.  He walks towards the row of stalls.  Suddenly he stops in his tracks.  It’s the same young woman from his previous failed visit.  Of course it is.

Teller: Hello sir.  How can I help you today?

She smiles sweetly. She doesn’t recognize him.

Tanev: Uh, yeah, umm, hi. I’m uh, I’m real sorry about last time, eh.

She looks confused, then studies him more closely. It dawns on her.

Teller: Sir! Welcome back to Chase.  As I explained when you were in here a few months ago, we need a current government-issued photo ID to process your application.

Tanev reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a battered, thin, old wallet.  He flips it open and pulls out a card, pushing it slowly across the counter without a word.

Teller: Thank you, sir. 

Tanev: You can, uh, take Canadian right?  As long as I’m using US dollars?

She holds up the card to her face, confused.

Teller: I’ve never seen one like this. Let me check with my manager.

She disappears with Tanev’s ID card.  He stands at the teller’s stall, fidgeting nervously while he waits.  She’s back about 90 seconds, a smile on her face.

Teller: Thank you for choosing Chase Bank, Mr Tanev.   If you give me a moment here, I’ll process your file with the information on your card…

She trails off, already focused on the new task at hand.  She’s already thinking how to spend her little bonus for signing up a new customer.  Her fingers fly across the keyboard, and it’s only a few minutes before she prints off a few forms and shoves them at Tanev for his signature. 

Teller: We do have a minimum $50 deposit to finish the process.  Do you have that with you, Mr. Tanev?

Tanev looks around suspiciously.  He’s still the only customer in the bank branch.  He reaches into his left front pocket and pulls out a handful of cheques bearing the SHOOT Project’s distinct helmet logo. She scoops them up and looks at the first, her eyes opening a little as he inputs the data. 

Tanev: And I can just, like, give you the cash right, too?  Is that cool?

Teller: Yes, of course. I can handle your cheque and cash deposits, as well as direct money order and most other forms of payment for you right here. 

He takes another look around, then reaches into his other front jeans pocket.  He pulls out two thick wads of cash, stuck together with elastic bands.  This time the young teller can’t contain her surprise, and she gasps softly. She quickly recollects herself and professionally begins rapidly counting off the bills in her head.

Tanev: I’m real sorry about my last visit.  I didn’t mean to put you in a bad spot like that.  I just didn’t know any better. 

She nods silently, keeping count in her head.  The scene fades out.

Adrian Corazon. 

The Brutal, Inhuman.

The Black Death.

The Baddest Man Alive.

Your name is synonymous with fear. 

You’ve walked through fire. 

You’re a monster.  You’ve used tools in inappropriate professional wrestling contexts to SCAR men. 

Well shit.  It sounds like you’re going to be a real problem for me. 

I can’t even get through a match without forgetting how to wrestle and relying on a combination of street fighting, toughness, and general too-dumb-to-know-any-better-ness. 

And now I’m supposed to beat Adrian Corazon? 

I know how this is supposed to go down.  A few guys stopped me in the locker room after I knocked off Dresden.  Congratulated me on making it this far in the tournament.  The look in their eyes conveying what they were really telling me: It didn’t matter who won between you and Zex…my time was done.

They’re probably right.  I found out this weekend that I’m not a good enough wrestler to become the Master of the Mat. 

But I did learn something else.  No matter how limited my technique may be. No matter how inexperienced I am.  No matter how many times I botch that suplex…I have something worth fighting for – and that’s what continues to carry me to victory.  I get knocked down, but I get up again.

You see, The Brutal, The Inhuman, we’re not so different. 

We’ve both done some terrible things in our lives.  These things inevitably have defined us.  They’ve irreversibly shaped who we are, what we do, and why we’re here today. 

For you, they’re badges of pride. 

For me, they’re a rotting albatross I wear across my neck, liked a cursed Coleridge mariner. 

When I was exiled to the streets, I knew every day was going to be a struggle.  I was going to be confronted with choices that were going to be difficult to make.    That were going to be undesirable.

When I fought for the Rule of Surrender title for the first time, I told Lunatik Crippler about my winter coat.  I lost that coat because I didn’t do enough to protect it. I wasn’t vigilant enough.  So a man I had never met before took it from me.  He also took a couple bucks I had stuffed away, a few of my teeth, my ability to chew without pain for two months and my pride.  I warned Lunatik that the RoS belt was my proverbial coat – my prized possession - and I was going to come take it.  Because you see, as I told Lunatik back then, I eventually got my coat back from that man who beat me to the verge of death.

What I didn’t say was how I got it back. 

I found him three months later.  I didn’t need the coat. Spring had come.  But I needed to take the coat back.  He wasn’t well when I found him.  Drugs, I think. Probably some disease, too. I could have just taken the coat without much resistance.  Instead, I was careful where the blood spilled.  He wasn’t well, after all. 

When my knuckles swelled up and were too punished to continue their onslaught, I switched to using my feet.  When my hamstring ached from the effort, I finally decided he’s learned his lesson.  I did the search on him.  You always search for valuables when you’re living hard, you see, Adrian.  You know what I found in the pocket of my coat? Of MY jacket?  The one he beat the hell out of me to take?

I found two of my fucking teeth.

I left those fuckers in his forehead.  I left with my coat.  And then I got out of that city.  I didn’t need him coming to find me four months later.

I should have never done that. Any of it.  I should have let it be.  But at that time…I hadn’t been on the streets too long.  I was full of self-pity.  It manifested itself in a blinding rage. 

I’m embarrassed by what happened that night.  Every time I run my tongue over the gap in my mouth, I’m reminded of that particular atrocity. 

I only wish that was my worst mistake.

Kale Tanev sits in a folding lawn chair, the only furniture in his newly-rented apartment.  He’s not doing anything at all, just staring straight ahead out the window, alone.  His view looks out at the desert plains, some rocky outcroppings that seem like mountains looming in the distance. 

Tanev: So…this is home.

He drums his fingers against his thigh.  He blows air out of his mouth, the pressure forcing his cheeks out like a child making a funny face. 

Tanev: Hmmmm.

He stands up suddenly, nearly toppling over the cheap Walmart-grade chair.  He paces around the small living room once.  Then walks around the granite-topped island in the adjacent open-concept kitchen, effectively covering 60 per cent of the square footage of the little apartment in a matter of seconds. 

Tanev: I should get something for this place, I guess.  Maybe one of the girls will help me –

His phone rings.

Tanev: Hi boss. 


Tanev: Yeah, no problem.  Chelsea, you said, right? 


Tanev: Which regular?  The guy out on Silver Lake?  Yeah.  Tell her I’ll meet her just around the corner.  Same spot as always.  Forty minutes?  Shit. Okay. Yeah, I gotta run.  Yeah, I know you want me to get a car. It’s complicated, Jimmy.  Okay. Yeah. I gotta go.

He hangs up.

Tanev: Well, it’s better than sitting here I guess.

The stench of what I’ve done is a never-ending reminder that I deserve everything I’ve endured.  I’ve gotten up lucky.  You could say that I don’t deserve the good fortune of still being alive.  You’d be right.  I’d agree with you.  I shouldn’t be here.  But I am.  And all I can do with this time I’ve been granted is to do something right.

That’s why I’ve come to the SHOOT Project. 

All I need to do is win these next two matches…and I’m there.  Just two more matches, Adrian. 

That means I HAVE to do the very same thing that I don’t think I’m good enough to accomplish.  I MUST beat you, Adrian.  I’m running out of time, Adrian.

Not all my memories from living on the road end in violence.  But that doesn’t make them any less shameful.

After that incident in Chicago, I had to leave.  I made my way to the next city.  I didn’t know what that was going to be when I left. I just knew it was time to go. 

It was further than I thought.  It was harder to move.  Nobody wants to pick up a 6’3 male hitchhiker with long hair and bleeding hands.  I guess I was maybe three days into the journey.  I was hungry.  I know now I wasn’t starving.  I’d learn later what that felt like. 

But I was arrogant.  I thought the worst thing imaginable was happening to me.  I was desperate.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know. 

When I came across that deer on the side of the highway, I didn’t even hesitate.  I was so disillusioned about how bad off I was, I just went right at it.  I had a little knife on me.  I was able to cut around the skin a bit…

Oh.  No.  I didn’t kill an innocent animal.  I would have had I been able. But I didn’t have to.  It had been hit.  Probably a day earlier.  It was starting to turn.  Other wildlife had already had their turn.  But I was hungry too.

There’s shame in the darkness, too.

We’re not so unique, Corazon. 

You the famed icon.  You the Black Death.  Me the upstart.  Me the vagabond. 

We’re both dark people who’ve explored the darkest places.

I’ve taken something very important from these experiences, Baddest Man Alive.

I’m not afraid of the dark anymore.

We’ve returned to the familiar family living room.  Young Kale and Janie, their parents, and their precious young one, now moving pretty well around the house on her own two feet.  She’s in the middle of her latest adventure when she starts to wobble.  Janie swoops in and scoops her up, the light catching the tiny diamonds in her new wedding ring just right, saving the child from one of her famous crashes.  Everyone laughs at the familiar sight.

Janie: Mom, are you sure you guys are okay taking her tonight?

Janie’s Mother: Of course, honey. You guys are too young to not be going out and having fun with all your friends!

Kale: Well, things are obviously different for us…

Janie’s Dad: Don’t worry about us, kiddo.  You guys have earned a fun night out.   You deserve to go out with your friends!

Kale: Thank you guys. We rely on you already for so much…

Janie’s Mother: Think nothing about it.  It’s our pleasure.

Janie: We’ll be home no later than midnight, okay?  We probably want to go before it turns into a rager anyhow.

Janie’s Dad: No no. Stay out. Have fun.  Don’t think about us.  Have a night to yourself.  You have no responsibilities tonight. 

Janie: If you insist! 

No teenage parents would turn down an offer to be normal teens hanging out with their friends, if only for one night.  Janie and Kale exchange excited smiles.  Tonight is going to be fun.

It’s a perfect memory.