The Ebb and Flow
Scene One | Off-Camera | 05/03/2022
“It’s been a long time, Alex. What brings you back to us?”
A slender gentleman, a purple tinged suit clinging tightly to him. Pinstripes running the surface, the pristine black of the leather shoes almost shimmering in the low afternoon light. They found themselves sitting out the front of a quaint and quiet bar, Alex in the usual scruffy attire. Skinny black jeans, a regular crew tee, all black vans. A stark contrast to the well-dressed man that accompanied him.
“I’m surprised the both of you are still around. It’s been a long time, Sullivan.”
The short laughter, the crackle of a lighter, a cigarette placed upon the well-dressed man’s lips. Almost in a delayed mirror movement, Alex pulled one from his own pocket, placing it to his own lips. The offer of a flame from his companion.
“Of course we are, Alex. We’re your Conspiracy, are we not? Pleasant and Rines, the left and right hands of the Raven King. We do not forget our friend so easy. Even if you might have forgotten us.”
The sound of heavy wood sliding, the door opening. A larger man, imposing, heavy set emerging, also adorned in a suit. His a deep maroon colour, a deep black undershirt to stand out against it, three pint glasses in his hands. He strides over, placing one before each of them, then in front of an empty seat that he settles himself in.
“Poisonous words, ever the snake, Sullivan. I did not forget, so much as I needed to be free. Do not mock me, I’ve come to you with a deal.”
“Your deals are hardly even beneficial to us. Last time, you got beaten so badly you went into hiding. Last time, you didn’t pay up. We collect on our debts, bird boy. We collect, and you pay.”
“Ever the humourless one, Harrison. Please, Raven has his reasons. I suppose the memory of our dues leaked from his skull with the blood that ebbed from it. What do you need of our humble services, Raven Lord?”
Harrison grunted in irritation, raising his own glass, matched by the other two men. A cheers, the clinking of glass, and then the rapid drinking, all three draining their glasses in moments. Harrison’s eyes were hard and irritated. Deep circles belayed a troubled man who did not know good rest. Firm, to match the man who always seemed uncomfortable in his suits, yet never wore anything else.
Sullivan’s eyes were happy, and glimmering. Deep, deceptive blue hues. A snake hidden behind a happy mask, his face almost as rubbery as his morals. Alex always knew where he stood with Harrison. He was never quite so sure with Sullivan.
“I need you to find me, Leon Trucose. If you can’t find him, I need you to find out what caused James to lose his cool. James would never tell me, but I know him. I know that he wouldn’t hide it for no reason. I need to know why. Why it hurts him so. Why it is related to me. He said it was for my benefit.”
Mocking laughter, the leaning back in their chairs by his suited friends. Harrison lifted a finger, and shook it at Alex. Just the one, waggling back and forth.
“No. We’re not detectives. We don’t do dirtywork, and we don’t betray paying customers. No deals on this one, Alex.”
“I’m afraid my short-tempered friend is correct. We were involved with James and Leon, and alas. We cannot help you. You’ll just have to ask him again, I’m afraid. Now, my liege. Is there anything else?
Alex huffed in frustration. Of course they were involved. James was the one that introduced him to them. He’d trained with them for years, as had James. Veterans in their own right. Harrison the big man meat, who bulldozed through any who stood in his way. Sullivan the sly technician, the man of unlimited suplexes.
“I need some training partners.”
Harrison crossed his arms, leaning back in his seat once more. His eyes locked with Alex’s. Studying him, working him over. Sullivan raised a hand, and placed the back of his palm against Alex’s forehead. Alex went to brush his hand away, before Harrison’s hand rapidly shot across the table, grabbing at his wrist. Alex grimaced at the sudden sharp grip, Harrison’s fingers digging into his wrist. Sullivan tapped his hand against Alex’s cheek a few times, a smile spread wide across his face.
“Of course you do. The One True King needs a helping hand from his own left and right. The Conspiracy back together once more. Isn’t that right Harrison?”
“He’s better than he was. Still sloppy. Still no explosive power. Can throw a punch, but no force behind it. Talks about being a fighter, yet can’t fight through the pain. Oh, this one needs us, Sullivan.”
“What do we get out of this?”
“Come now Harrison. Tonight is a tonight for celebration and libations. No need to taint the good spirits with talk of business. I will think of some way Alex can pay us back. He owes us a debt, after all.”
Harrison released his grip, his arms crossing over once more. Sullivan leaning back, tapping the ash off his cigarette. That insipid smile fading from his face finally, placing a $50 on the table.
“Our shout, Alex. We’ll be in contact.”
Sullivan gave a half smile, before standing up. Harrison huffed somewhat as he got to his feet, his knees giving him some trouble these days. Alex nodded and closed his eyes. The sizzle of flesh sparked him back to life, as Sullivan put his cigarette out on Alex’s forearm. He knocked his hand away, the cigarette scattering to the floor. He held his arm where there was now a burn.
“Learn to fight pain, Alex. You’ll never succeed otherwise.”
“Toughen up, little bird.”
Alex just inhaled sharply, as his friends smiled and bowed ever so slightly to him, before turning on their heels and leaving. The thud of their dress shoes echoing, the disparity in height still an amusing sight. Alex groaned gently as he looked at the rather nasty cigarette burn on his arm.
The Opening Act
Scene Two | On-camera | 07/03/2022
“Are you ready for this, Bulldog?”
A desolate, empty arena. House lights were on, illuminating the ringside area. Empty seats, half set up, half packed away. A raised ramp. Almost eerie in his devoid quietness. A spotlight shines down on the centre of the ring, a small podium sitting in the middle. A red velvet cover over the top of an object, a hooded figure standing beside it.
“The opening act. The pace setting fight. A championship to be determined, a chance at redemption. We are the ones that will set the night on fire. That will ignite the blaze of glory that all will seek to claim on this fortuitous night. I wonder, Bulldog. If you feel as confident this time, entering into this second round. I do, Bulldog. I actually feel more confident this time. Things become more apparent as you get used to yourself. The more rust shaken off, the more the wings spread. Connections, old friends. I find them all, and I remind myself of who I am. I remind myself, of who the hell, Alexander Raven is. Do you know who I am, Bulldog? Have you been listening? Have you been following? I need you to understand me. I need you to listen.”
“I am the god damn True King of Sin City. I am the god damn True Messiah of the broken and beaten. I am the voice of those who cannot stand. I am the voice for those who cannot lead. I am the leader for those who want to be led to a better place. A silencer of the mocking elitists who litter our sport. I am a man who is focused. I am man who does not lose twice. I am a man who reconnects people with their reality. Do you need a reality check, Bulldog? I think you do. I learnt a lot about you, Bulldog. I learnt a lot about who you are. What kind of wrestler you are. What kind of fighter you are. I learnt who I am standing against. I learnt many things, Bulldog. The one thing beyond all others that I learnt, is this.”
“You’re as lost as I am.”
The hooded figure throws back the hood, Alexander Raven beneath. His hands gripping either side of the covering of the object on the podium. His eyes gazing over the empty arena around him. His eyes fixating on something far into the distance. The lights click off, darkness engulfing. Silence and swirling blackness filling the area. More and more time in nothingness, before the lights come back on. The ringside seats all now occupied with people. Nameless faces, a variety of clothes. Alternative metal-heads, suited up business types, typical jocks. All walks of life.
“The broken come in many shapes and forms. They walk all aspects of life. Those disconnected are in all areas of the world. They wear the faces of your neighbours, your co-workers, the person who makes you your coffee. Nobody is immune from becoming disconnected. Nobody is safe from the dangers of the world. Like you and I, Bulldog. There is a world of people who just as lost as we. Who fight their internal demons, who share a variety of names. Envy, Sloth, Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Pride, and Wrath. The seven deadly sins, as deigned by long held tradition. The cardinal sins, the capital vices. Wrath and Pride, they hold power over us, don’t they Bulldog? A very proud man you are. A very wrathful person. Yet in your pride, you are lost. In your depths of rage, you too are lost. I know this, for I am lost too. I am disconnected from reality, and seeking more. My ambition borders of greed. My ambitions border on envy. My ambitions are almost lustful in their pursuit. I am a proud man, and I am a wrathful man.”
“Semantics, isn’t it, Bulldog? Words of illusion. There is one consistent in the words those who’ve faced me have used. Knox, Fenris, the Branded Hen, and the soon to be neutered Bulldog. All have acknowledged the venom in which I speak with. The dripping of potent disillusionment. The bending of the mind. The manipulation of thought. The crawling into your skin. I do not pretend to be anything but that. A man, who knows their words can win the battle. A man who assures his odds, by fighting the mental war. Powerful men, with weak minds, will fall to the smallest of breezes. Tacticians of war have been deciding factors in the entirety of human history. The silver tongued serpent has forever bent the knees of the most powerful kings to their whims. Suggestion and thought, manipulation of sin. It’s a reality, Bulldog. It’s a reality that I know all too well, for it is my reality. No word is without its place. No word is without its meaning. Symbolism, metaphor. These are things you pride yourself on, are they not? A man of genius IQ such as yourself would know. He would know the power that such words hold. He would know the history that leads to the ends of these roads. More powerful men than you and I, have fallen to the serpent’s suggestion. Weaker men than us, have climbed that mountain and donned the crown. Sin, Bulldog. Sin is what separates us. Focus of our sin, is what guides our paths. Both lost, yet with only our truth guiding us. Do our roads end at the same place? Are we simply at a crossroads, refusing to budge, to give way to the other? Where are we, Bulldog? What are we?”
Alex releases his grip and holds his hands up. Palms to the sky, stretched above his head. The people sitting around the ringside area beginning to stamp their feet. A steady drumbeat rhythm. Boom… Boom… Boom…
A smile spreading across Alexander Raven’s face, his eyes closing as he tilts his head back. Appearing to be soaking in the behaviour of those around him. Soaking in the world around him.
“The Conspiracy are my lifeblood, Bulldog. Men, women, children and persons. Any who are lost, yet wish to be guided. Any who are disconnected yet need that guidance. Any who are broken and need a voice. I am, a king, amongst the birds. I am the lord of my flock. I am the One True King of Sin City. You are holding my crown, Bulldog. A cracked crown, with a fate dictated by odds and gambles. A cracked crown dictated by the whims of the wheel. I like the odds in my favour, Bulldog. I am not a gambling man, we’ve discussed this. For I do not enjoy the aspect of potentiality. Yet there is truth I know all too well. One truth that cannot be ignored. One truth that remains true. There is only a select few men who hold two victories over Alexander Raven. Two men, in fact. The Stygian and Alexander Remington. The odds are you will not join that list. The odds are, you will not become the third of that list. The odds are, that Knox will not become the third of that list. The odds are, that Fenris will not become the third of that list. The two men that hold that prestige are far and beyond any other I’ve ever stepped in that ring with. They are far and beyond any other man who has ever squared off with Alexander Raven. They are far and beyond you and I. Men who knew this sport in and out. Men who knew the business better than any other. Men who would move in, and take the world by storm in their first few breaths. You are not one of those men, Bulldog. Yet we owe receipts to the same men, who threaten the same spot you do. I owe a long held receipt to Griffin Hawkins. I owe a new found receipt to Fenris. Men you dreamed of matches with. Men you requested matches with. We are similar in so many ways, even if you are little more than a scared, old man. I will get my receipt on Griffin Hawkins. I will get my receipt on Fenris. Knox will get his receipt.”
“I will get my receipt on you, Bulldog.”
He reached down to grip the fabric covering the object once more. With a sharp tear away, and a final echoing stomp from those around him, a skull sat upon that pedestal. It’s sharp features reminiscent of that of a wolf’s. It’s snout blunted short, an over-size bulldog skull by the looks. Engraved into the centre of the forehead was the red and black of the roulette table. He lifted the skull, and placed it upon his own head. The eye sockets resting perfectly over his own, the blunted snout squashing his own features somewhat.
“Just like the lord saviour of many the world over, once wore a crown of thorns. I too, wear a crown of relentless and unabating violence. I wear a crown of bone, to sit upon the throne of flesh and blood, Bulldog. I wear this crown, to remind myself of the beating heart and pulsing veins that flow beneath the surface of every man. For every man will bleed, and I will be the one that lets the blood flow. I will ensure your demise, Bulldog. I will ensure that you collapse beneath my boot, for the reality of everything is this. I won’t fail again. I cannot fail again. For in failure there is total loss of self. My mind cannot allow for Alexander Raven to fail again. Collapse, reality, disconnection. Disconnection, Bulldog. Are you too, ready to be disconnected from reality?”
“I only ask, for the end game is clear in front of us, don’t you think? The odds to be played, the games to be won. Another loss, puts me back to the bottom of the heap. The heap that does not deserve Alexander Raven’s blessing. The heap that does not deserve my presence. I will not be the building block upon which another star emerges. I will not become the building block of your career, Bill. It blows my mind, that someone so young, can be so old in mind. It baffles me, that you Bulldog, possess the mind of a genius, yet cannot see the truth beyond your nose. Failure, Bulldog. Failure is not something that is allowed within my kingdom. If I am to fail, then I shan’t be granted the crown of bone and ash that I so deem myself worth of. You will fall short, Bulldog. I can guarantee it. For this time, there is no argument to be had. For this time, there is no excuse. For this time, Bulldog. I will lift you up, and bring you down for the final blow. The Raven’s Spine will break yours. The Conspiracy, my murder, my flock. We will choke you out. We will choke your life essence free.”
Alex raised his hands above his head, the lights dimming further. The stomping of the feet resuming again. The rhythmic drum beat of feet hitting the floor. More light fading, until only the spotlight upon Alexander Raven remains. He clapped his hands together above his head, and raised the skull off his face, holding it aloft. Slamming it down rapidly, it split in half, as flames erupted from around the edges of the ring. Their flickering light illuminating him from every angle, sharpening his features. His eyes focused, angry. The beat continuing.
“I will burn you down, Bulldog. In the flames of my ascension, all will be burnt to the ground. All kings will perish in the inferno that I bring. All lords will bow and kneel. Take the knee and accept that the One True King of Sin City has arrived, and with each week, focused. Focused and watching. Listening, understanding. Are you listening to me, Bulldog? Are you following me? Do you understand me? I need you to listen, I need you to follow. I need you to understand me, Bulldog. For in understanding, you will realise the truth. That this is not a mere game to me. This isn’t just me standing across from a man who lives his gimmick. This isn’t a joke to me. I lose myself to the disconnect that I allow into my life. For there is only the one truth for, Bulldog. You will be the building block to my success. I promise you that. I promise everyone that.”
“I will neuter this bitch.”
The smile stretching across his face, his right hand raising. The click of the fingers.
“I’m coming to engulf you, Bulldog. You will be my Blaze of Glory. I promise that.”