” so how’d the kids thing go? ” Xavier asked, coming through the phone in Vincent’s hand.
” Which one? ”
” You know I don’t consider those your children. “
” It was fine. Well.. ”
Standing at the counter of his modern somewhat open concept kitchen, Vincent took a drink of his whiskey neat and thought about what he wanted to say to his brother. How the girls Sing Fall production aptly named FALLing STARs, with the stars in question decorated in autumnal colors. How he had feared the evening more so than any opponent after the last time they performed at a school function. Having told the school one song, while secretly rehearing at home a much different, much more explicit song that was aimed at Vincent and his ‘defection’ from their family. It was a hurtful moment for sure but had also been fruitful in a way. The PE coach that stormed the stage to stop them was precisely what Vincent was looking for to help out the Fetal Four, a group of up and coming wrestlers Vhodka and he had taken under their wings. It also let him know that he wasn’t being the father he should be, and that he needed to try harder than ever.
Vincent decided not to tell him about that, as Xavier was a busy man, and a childless man at the moment, who doesn’t need to know just how complex the relationships get with children, at least not yet. Sure, Xavier would find it hilarious that once again the girls had lied, as they enjoyed doing, and told the teachers they were doing one thing, only to change it up and do something else. This time though, they involved the entire class, and this time, it wasn’t aimed at Vincent alone.
What had started as a lovely version of one songl, quickly turned into a real live Rick roll, with the girls entire class dressed as different versions of Astley himself, as well as the other characters in the music video for the song Vincent Black once called ‘the worst fucking ear worm of all god damn time’ in earshot of the very kids now smiling at him from the stage. Had it stopped there, it would have been a success. But like their father, the girls didn’t settle for success. When the song stopped, and the tune changed, the audience gasped as if on cue or sharing a single brain. A single brain, by the way, that was now being bombarded with the most annoying song on the face of the planet. The one that you hear just once, and it never goes away. Yes. That one.
But Vincent didn’t tell Xavier any of it. He knew that for Xavier, this was like listening to someone recite their grocery lists. As much as he loved the children, he also loves equally not hearing about the mundanity of their existence.
So Vincent decided to tell Xavier about the ¾ send off. Asher, JJ and Noelle, along with Mutante and Coach E, have taken off to Mexico to give the kids a taste of the dues they’re meant to pay for their place in tbis business. Learning what road wary means, and how some roads are longer and tougher than others. And when it came down to it, not many roads were tougher than Mexico. It was the NY of wrestling, Vincent told them before shipping them off. “If you can make it there,” he means, “you can make it anywhere.”
Obviously an oversimplification of a very complicated matter, as some would say the same about Japan. But for them this would be the toughest they’ve set down on, so it’s only right he prepares them, even if it’s with a lie.
As he planned to explain this to his brother, Vincent realized that in order to tell the story properly he’d have to tell him about the theme Vhodka had created, the party she threw, the fit she threw as they left, screaming “my babies” as they boarded the van to the airport. And also how Asher had done everything in his power to stay in NY, even going so far as to hire a fake bounty Hunter to try and take him away, forgetting how intimidating Vincent Black is, and how quickly he can suss out bullshit.
But he didn’t. Because Vincent realized that Xavier, his brother first, but boss a close second, was already a little miffed that he had to loan out 3 of his roster at the behest of his brother. And it wasn’t about the money they brought in, which was minuscule. It was about what they brought with them. Which was Fight’s name and reputation, and if there was anything besides your wallet that you didn’t want those three responsible for, it was a reputation. Or a child. Or themselves. Jesus Christ never themselves
Thus, Vin didn’t bother to tell him about that either. He can recall a handful of times that he almost took someone’s head off for disrupting X’s day, and that feeling was not exclusive to others.
Vin, left with little else to say, took a breath and did what he and his brother always do and talked about work.
” I appreciate the shot at Watson. Hope it didn’t screw up your plans. ”
” Plans. ”
” The only plan I had was to give him a week off. But you don’t ask for much and the HR department is working well now that you ironed out the kinks, so why not. You want to test yourself against the new regime. Can’t blame you.”
” Not so much the regime. But him. He’s good. Very good. And I want to see what has in his arsenal as it applies to me. And I don’t want to wait for many more to get their chance first. ”
” I mean, Dane has beat him already, so… “
” Xavier. Do not play coy. It isn’t suitable. Not with me. You know you’ve painted a target on their back. None more so than Richard Watson. It will only be a matter of time before he is swarmed, and unreachable. I have patience, but not enough. ”
” Yea yea, dark half, I get it. Just make sure you bring the show home big. First one of the season. Has to be huge. Expectations… “
” I could not possibly care less about expectations. ”
” Is being this fucking difficult easy for you? “
” To be honest, I’m always trying. And it’s not my fault you’re just placating me with responses. I know you’re busy, but some sort of genuine response would be appreciated. ”
” This is genuine; go fuck yourself. “
” You are starting to sound like a Fagan.. ”
” Low blow, Nighthawk. Listen, I have to go. Dickie is a resource. He’s the face of the place, and chances are he’s going to be for awhile. So have your fun, test your theories, but don’t make this a thing. You have no interest in being champion here, leave that for someone who does. “
” I have an interest in being champion here, in fact, everywhere. I just know that the second I take a belt on, I will be told it is only possible due to my proximity to you. And while I am old enough not to care, I am human enough not to want to hear it. ”
” That’s what losers say. Gotta go, my submarine is ready. “
” You’re going on a submarine?”
” I just bought a submarine. Little two man job. Taking it out off the coast of Mykonos.”
” Because my life is dope and I do dope shit. Later. ”
Vincent pushed the phone away from himself and finished his drink, pouring another with one hand before he could even put the glass down with the other. The apartment Vhodka had bought them was immaculate and modern in every way. She’d not wanted to, as she had put it, ‘move on up’ to the East Side, but she knew Vincent had been willing to move out of the lap of luxury for her, it was only fair she did the opposite for him. Of course, she had not once complained about the massaging shower head or the PreCyse Air Conditioning system. And with fall coming, he was sure she wouldn’t be too upset about the heated floors, either.
Taking a long drink, Vincent’s eyes closed slightly as the joy of the aged beverage hit his taste buds and slunk down his throat smoothly. As they refocused, he noticed something in the living room. Something jammed between the record player that had never been used and the tower of equipment that somehow made the unused player sound even more authentic, despite the fact that none of this was around when records were the preferred media.
In a flash, which is the only way a man like Vin Black moves, he is by the record player and he has pulled out the object in question. It is a small suitcase style container full of cassette types in their respective plastic cases. Some red, some blue, mostly clear. Some perfectly fine, some the same save for a few thin cracks stretching from one side to the other. Most of which were shattered and broken, their pieces long since deposited into their rightful receptacle. Vincent wondered why Vhodka would bother keeping this. These weren’t even studio albums. These were mixed tapes. Made by someone with terrible handwriting. A hand writing he recognized.
These didn’t belong to Vhodka. These belonged to him.
Suddenly Vincent Black is transported back to a one room apartment that had once been an office of the building Maintenance worker before he was traded up for an outside company. It had a bathroom and a small kitchen and a place to put a mattress on the floor and that was all Vincent had ever needed, really. So it was perfect. Thinking about it now he almost gets claustrophobic despite not suffering from that particular phobia. The last time this was in front of him, was then. When he had nothing, and was fine about it. Because this nothing was HIS. He was embarking on a new career in professional fighting, after having his last career in professional fighting, ripped from his grasp because some loud mouth ref couldn’t take a small but adequate beating.
His sister, quote unquote, Marty had brought over the case in an effort to help him pick a them song, which in the world he was about to embark, was a very big deal. People used their theme song to describe who they were, and what they were about. She had spent the last few nights of her life by the radio recording every song she could think of that might describe her brother and his penchant for violence. It was a chore in which the only reward was in fact punishment.
He was annoyed by her involving herself in his business and his life. She who still existed where he had exited, and was now tracking residue of his former life into his pristine new one. She had chosen to exist in between both sides, He had not granted her the ability to travel between them.
He took the effort she had put into helping him and he had chucked it. Not against a wall, but out a window, sending it crashing down almost 6 stories before it impacted with the sidewalk below. She had cursed him, screamed at him, and left in a huff. It was hours before he realized his mistake, and tried to repair it. But to this day, he has never seen that woman again. Only someone with her name hidden behind a well deserved scowl.
He recalls now retrieving the case of cassettes from the ground outside, and placing them back into the container. Sitting in front of his radio, he listened to them. Each and every one. He had intentions of listening to every song she had recorded, but he had only listened to two. One by a band named Korn, who spoke about being forsaken, and then another. The only other. The only one he’d ever listen to, and the only one he’d ever use.
Listening to it in his mind, he was brought back to where he’d been the first time he’d heard it. That small, cramped, space. The heat knocking as the steam tried to make it through the old and busted pipes. The sounds of the bar across the street and the other one up the block at war for his attention. And the feeling that he’d not felt in years. Fear.
Not that he had not been scared. It is human nature to be scared of things, situations, the like. When his kids were born he was scared he wouldn’t be a proper father. When he started his musical career he was scared he’d never sell an album or a ticket. When he painted he was scared that he would never hang one up anywhere but his own home. But fear. Fear he’d not known. And it wasn’t quickly making itself at home within his mind all over again.
Back then, when he started out in this business, there was no Dickie Watson, or any of his cohort. There were other names, just as impressive, and now as defunct as his own. He’d spent years in the fear of failure in comparison to them. Fear that he would be left behind, forgotten and dismissed as nothing but a try hard who did little. Had he known then what he knows now, he’d had a different fear.
The fear of succeeding so much that you no longer matter.
Vincent had put in the work, had established himself in the eyes of everyone he’d ever met in this business. They either loved him, hated him, feared him, or sought after him. But that was…that was then. Now he was nothing more than a name you knew, but didn’t know why. A name you heard but looked at like a husk of something that might have been dangerous, but now was just a shell. He’d spent his entire career fighting everyone and everything, and now the hardest fight he’d ever had was the one against obscurity. And it was a fight he was losing.
People didn’t come to fight for Vincent Black. They didn’t even watch it for Vincent Black. He was filler. Mid-card fucking filler that people fast forwarded through to get to the people they actually cared about. He was not invited into tournaments, or invited into groups. He was as hidden now, in the middle of the spotlight as he had been in that one bedroom apartment. Only there was no path upward from here. Here it would only get worse.
That’s why he had asked for this fight. Because the truth was, while he wanted to fight for the titles that others did, and he wanted to be held in that spotlight, his name reverent as it once had been, those days were over. He’d never be allowed to enter that area, nor would his presence there be appreciated. So if he wanted to test a title holder, it had to be upon request. This way, when they said he couldn’t get a shot at someone if it wasn’t for his brother, this time, they’d be right.
His brother who once fought to step out of his shadow, now cast a sizable shadow of his own. A shadow that didn’t just overlay Vincent, but drenched him entirely. Looking at the cassettes, he thought of how life was when he was overshadowed before. And it occurred to him that while he has lost the fear, respect, and admiration of those in this business, he has far more today that he did not have then. Like a box spring. And other rooms. And kids. And a sizable budget. A budget that younger Vincent would have killed for. Instead of breaking into schools and onto roofs to cut his promos, he could have…he could.
Vincent smirked imagining what younger Vincent would have done with such a bank account as massive as he has, and laughed…
The left one a small placeholder meant to be replaced with a more permanent stone, but judging by the faded plastic and torn, weathered paper flapping in the breeze, this idea was as abandoned as the city behind it that is revealed with another flash of lightning. The middle grave, a obelisk shaped stone with three onyx stones down the center of it, stands over a square open hole of a grave. And no sooner than your eyes rest upon it, something rises from it. Or should we say; someone.
Hovering above the hole, Vincent sways from side to side, a sound emanating from him as he bobs and weaves in increments no more than an inch. His fire red eyes staring ever forward as if locked onto a weaker set of eyes or the form of something a predator such as this would call prey. His hair is spiked straight up, black with white tips standing out against the black background. The thick chain at the base of his neck holds a rather large padlock that shifts with his every move. He holds out his hands which are encased in leather fingerless gloves, and he pulls them inward as if retracting a power that had been removed from him without his permission.
As his eyes grow large with anger, he opens his mouth and begins to speak.
Lighting strikes the sky and the burst of light reveals the area before us. A graveyard consisting of three graves. The right one is decorated with a cracked tombstone that has had its lettering weathered away centuries ago, spotted with green moss that may be the only thing keeping it in one piece.
The PhreeQ Vincent Black
We are all alone.
I have been alone for most of my life, Watson. In a room full of people, in a hug from my mother, in every aspect of my life, I have been by preference, alone. I do not say this to make you think one or another way of me. I don’t care if you think of me at all, let alone how. I say this because I want you to know why. Why I have locked myself away in a cell of my own making due to a sentence I handed down upon myself. It is because I do not care for friendship, Watson. I only care for violence.
Because for as long as I can recall, Violence is the only friend I’ve ever had. In violence I have found something worthy of my respect, and adoration. In violence I have found that which shall never leave me, nor forsake me for another. Violence is the only thing that has ever been good to me, and in turn, I am very good at it, and to it. Giving not just my baser wants to it, nay, my entire being is at its disposal. I do not have violent wants, Richard. I am violence made man.
These hands are not for shaking, but for throttling. They are not meant to be warm save for the blood that flows through them once they are placed upon the form of those foolish to stand against me, or before me. My entirety is built for disorder, and savagery that to you are a foreign concept. For me they are the very walls that hold up the house I have built. Walls that are studded by the misery of others, insulated with the nightmares made real of lesser men, and painted with the tears I’ve drained from countless others before you. And my house is never finished, Dickie. In fact, looking at you, I feel like I may need to add another wing.
You are a champion. The one who stands above all other champions in fact, and now you have to stand, not above me, or over me, but before me. And I intend to drag you down into the grave you yourself dug. Not with a shovel, but with the pen you used to sign the contract for this fight. And this grave may not keep you, but as sure as teeth rend flesh, you will keep it.
It will stay with you. The proximity to your own destruction will stain your flesh and adjust your sight to see what is truly important in this life. Not beating people like myself, or standing up to people like myself. But avoiding them with the care that one would avoid a bullet. More than a fighter, more than a warrior, that is what I am.
Given the opportunity, I can stop you. I can destroy you. But instead, I will go right through you. I will damage whatever I touch on my path, and I will leave a scar that you won’t just see for the rest of your life but you. Will. Feel.
Vincent falls into the grave beneath him, and the ground rumbles and shifts to life. Rising upward a hand made of pure dirt, stones and roots of long cut down trees forms into a fist, and then an arm, and then a shoulder, and a neck. A neck that a necklace of twisted roots shaped like a chain rests upon. The roots meet into a padlock of pure stone shaped like a crude padlock. Above it, a smile of broken tombstones and misshapen rocks develops on the face that is Vincent Black’s.
The finality of death. The last moments we have on this earth are what make our journey complete. Despite the vast differences between how we are raised, what we think deity’s resemble or desire, we all have one commonality when it comes to the breath we take last.
The PhreeQ Vincent Black
Today, You are accomplished. Tomorrow, you are an accomplishment. Whether you are one of mine is only a matter of time. And time is all that is keeping me from keeping you forever. Time, and the fact that I may not want to try.
I try to change all those who I encounter for the good or the bad, one way or another. I try to show them that there are other ways to be, other views beyond their own. Other things that they can cherish beyond belts and accolades. Like their teeth and use of their hands. If I were a merchant on a wagon traveling from town to town, It is perspective that I would offer in the bottles that clinked along the way. A new way of seeing that you would never have without me. I try to give that to everyone. I try to make it clear that its a gift you want to accept.
Not for lack of effort, I have had more failures than success as of late. My time as a dominant presence in this business is obviously over. It is not second coming you see, but a farewell tour. One more time around, so to speak.
I try to tell myself that it’s fine. That I’ve had my chance. Truth is, we always want another one. I can’t begin to even tell you how often I’ve thought of going somewhere, changing my name, and starting again. Setting myself on the path to either proving them right, or proving her wrong. Her, who has so much faith in a man that has only just learned to be faithful. I try to show her the love she’s been waiting for. I try to be the man she deserves. But when it comes to this, this business, my time inside it is dwindling. And the champions I intend to fight as of now, is a list of only one.
You see, Richard. I was not born mad. I was shaped into madness. Wrought of my sanity and my compassion from the earliest of age, I have been carved into the madman you see before you, drenched in the cold shadow of anger, and tattooed with the purest of rage to send it through my blood the way it goes through my mind.
RIchard Watson, You’ve cut a swath through the roster of this promotion. You’ve taken and defeated some very sizable names. I am not saying I will be on the other side of that list. That I will somehow do what Paul Montouri, and others, could not. But I don’t have to. But I do have to try to.
I don’t always have to be the most violent person in the ring, or this business. But I try to.
If there comes a person, like yourself. Who has established himself as one of the best of the business, and has taken on some of the very people who now overshadow me, and has overshadowed them, I do not guarantee that I can defeat them, or match them, but I try to.
If the way I operate and the means I rely on in order to accomplish this task do not work, and fail me in my efforts against you the way other efforts have failed them against you. If my one path to you leads to a dead end and my one chance proves that I am not worthy of being across from you. You have tried to be the end all of this business, Dickie. Claiming titles everywhere you go. I won’t prove to anyone else who I am now, or who I ever was. But I will prove one thing to the man trying to own this business in every facet.
And it’s that t I try, too.
I do not get up in the morning and tell myself to be the unbending, unbreakable, unrelenting force that I was once known to be. But every now, and again, I try to.
Had he met Dickie back then, had the chance to measure up to him the way he does now, it would have went something like that. But now, now it would be different. Because he was different. He was happier, tamer, and not nearly as obsessed with graveyards as he once was. Ok, maybe he was, but he didn’t have as much time to go hang out in them anymore. One thing that didn’t change was Vincent’s need to educate his opponent in his way of doing things. To welcome them to the Black Embrace.
The change of perspective that comes with facing an unstoppable force, and unending torrent of brutality. What you believe, how you think, and why you ever did either, are no longer facts you know, but feelings you had. Feelings you no longer trusted.
But standing in his modern, open concept kitchen drinking aged scotch out of a crystal glass, Vincent realized that he had nothing left to teach. And even less to learn.
Finishing the glass of scotch, Vincent placed it into the sink, and ran some water into it before slipping out of his shoes, and kicking them into the living room. His silk socks slid across the floor, making his way back to the bedrooms in the rear. Stopping at the guest room, he looked over to see Vhodka sitting in the room at the end of the bed, her hand holding out 3 pages of front and back writing, and a sad look on her face that said what Vincent already knew, but she felt compelled to say aloud anyway.
Vincent smirks at the idea of what passed as entertainment back then. The way they’d all prostrate at each other, threaten levels of violence or harm that no real professional would even attempt in this business, and the week after they’d do it again to someone else, not following through on those threats either.
Vincent gently took the papers from his wife, and looked them over. Scanning them quickly, he looked at his wife who was more than upset at the loss of her friend. He kisses her gently on the head, and goes back to scanning the pages, slowly walking out of the room and back toward the kitchen.
” Murphy left. ”
” Where are you going?”
” I have to tell X.”
Vincent stepped back into the kitchen and grabbed his phone. Before he could dial his brother’s number, wondering if submarines get cellphone service, he saw that he had a text from an unknown number. Swiping it, and watching as the phone flipped over to the message, he saw the question mark before he read the text, and knew what it was they wanted to know, even if he didn’t know who they were to ask. ‘What did you do with her?’ they asked. ‘Go fuck yourself’ he responded, and blocked the number. He didn’t call his brother after all. He didn’t have to. Chances are they’d be seeing each other sooner than they had planned. As he looked at those the message was sent to, it was not sent to just him. But all of them. All of Them. Placing the phone down, he slank back to the bedroom area, and intended on getting a good nights sleep. As it could be the last one he has for quite awhile. And as he opened the door to the bedroom, Vhodka welcomed him with that earworm once more, cursing after every other word.