Monday, March 25, 2013
In five years Alex Helton will hit the big time. He’ll be known as “Hell Town” Alex Dane and be competing for WPW at World Famous 27 against “Mr. Famous,” “The Dragon Gate Kid,” Yoshi Tanahashi. The events leading up to this event will be classic professional wrestling controversy, nothing that fans haven’t seen before, but will still outrage them, and he will be more popular than ever before.
That’s five years from now. Alex’s story begins five years ago. He was living in Denver, the site of World Famous 17, and the main event was scheduled to be a technical classic between Ric Warhorse and Chris Dormir. He’d been a fan all his life, and knew that he couldn’t miss this match for the world.
It was Alex’s sister, and more specifically her husband, who helped get him there. He missed the festivities that went on during the weekend, but made up for it by lingering after the night was over on the outside of the arena, where the wrestlers were emerging and climbing back into their cars. That was the first time he met Joe Cullen.
Cullen was a road agent at that point, well past his career prime and the blessed with the good sense to know it. In his heyday Joe was known as “The Destroyer,” and at one point took on an additional patriotic gimmick, just crazy enough that it got a young Alex’s attention. He knew exactly who Joe was when he saw him, and shouted out his name when he saw him. Joe turned around long enough for Alex to pose in the most ridiculous manner possible. For whatever reason, Joe smiled and walked over to him, pulling a business card from his wallet and telling Alex that if he ever wanted to make a career of nonsense like that, let him know.
Alex hadn’t taken the fleeting thought seriously, until several weeks later when it occurred to him again, so he dug up the card and called the number, which was local. Joe answered and claimed he remembered Alex, but when they met in person it was clear that he hadn’t. Joe’s sons Donald and Gyro ribbed Alex for that, but the veteran quickly settled things by agreeing to see what the prospect might have.
It turned out to be very little. Alex had played a little football in school, but other than that didn’t seem to have any of the natural instincts necessary for a career in the squared circle. He was incredibly awkward. Joe just smiled again and said that at least he didn’t have to break any bad habits, and then got Alex started on the basics.
By the fall, Joe was crazy enough to send Alex into the clutches of the Rocky Mountain Wrestling revival then underway, where the past of the independent scene was being gathered. Alex didn’t feel he was the best of anything. Joe’s son Donnie was already showing remarkable promise himself, but was finding it difficult to find anyone to take him seriously as anything but a Cullen, and Alex was no Donnie.
That meant a lot of slogging, working the territories and taking the small bookings, including the fateful day he met Scott Peavy in Boston, working for Liam Smith’s All Night Wrestling Alliance. Smith was another legend in the industry, who made his name as “Black Out.” This was around the same time RMW was absorbed back into New World Wrestling, which itself had come from the older promotion, and spots were once again hard to come by. Alex knew in an instant that Scott was a kindred spirit.
They put on some of the best matches ANWA ever saw, working their butts off every weekend all around the region. Alex was surprised to find some of the best fans in Maine. It was a Portland comedian, Johnny “No Relation” Carson, moonlighting as the wrestler Colt Carson, who rescued them from permanent obscurity, however.
In the summer of 2012 he told them about his idea for NOVA, which he had already made all the necessary deals to launch, and Alex beat Scott to making a handshake agreement to wrestle for, no matter for how long and what kind of prominence. It was more than an opportunity. Alex knew, just like he’d seen in Scott, that something big was about to happen, and he wanted to be ahead of the curve. He very much wanted to see what was on the other side.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
It was the seventh NOVA Internet Pay Per View event, and Alex Helton was nervous. He’d already stolen the show at previous events, made the focus of the very first one, Unleashed, and yet now that the company was in trouble, there was more pressure than ever before to perform at the highest level.
The night was to be the definitive showcase for indy legend Phil Brodeur, who had been working on a verbal contract since last fall. NOVA founder and president and current champion Colt Carson had finally realized that he would have no choice but to trust the immediate future to someone else, and scheduled the whole evening around Brodeur.
Alex spent most of it waiting anxiously. He was defending the kendo championship he’d earned at Unleashed against the man he’d beaten for it, Scott Peavy, who also happened to be his good friend. They sat together in the locker room while the rest of the boys who hadn’t made the card, hard workers like Tony Loewen and Elston Hamilton, still looking for the lucky break Alex had been handed on a silver platter, stood around with sour looks on their faces.
It was always tough living the dream in professional wrestling.
Carson as usual was nowhere to be found, probably goofing off rather than preparing for the main event, not so much because he wasn’t dedicated enough but because that was who and what he was, someone capable of selling the excitement of the new company but not at all prepared to represent it, even though he’d spent years as a moderately successful talent on the independent scene.
Alex and Scott could be like that, too, but they knew when to put their game face on, which was half the reason they’d been noticed to begin with, and why they continued to be among the most prominent faces of the company.
They walked to the curtain together, and watched as Clete Kubeck made his way back from the buzz of the arena. Kubeck was a comedy act, something Carson appreciated more than some of the fans who’d immediately recognized NOVA as a brilliant alternative to the mainstream, and what bothered Alex most about him was that he was the current tornado champion, a role he’d assumed from Scott the month before. At least he had been before the match he’d just lost, pinned by Nemo, one of the most exciting stars Alex had ever seen.
The tag team match had been drawn out to twenty minutes, and now Alex was expected to go at least half an hour with Scott, something he could easily do, before a promo from Brodeur and the main event that would be all but an iron man affair, going a full sixty minutes.
Despite the bad vibes he struggled to leave behind, Alex was feeling pretty good, and as soon as the crowd died down he and Scott worked to work them back into a frenzy. The kendo stick itself was a reliable way to achieve that in itself, but Alex tried to keep the match as interesting as possible, so that it wasn’t simply violent for the sake of violence, which was half the reason he’d incorporated moves like the Side Russian Legsweep into his regular repertoire with the weapon.
Tonight, because the event was called Pink Mist, he felt compelled to bleed, which was another thing Alex tried to keep to a minimum. He never liked doing it, but on this occasion went out of his way to make it memorable, at one point sucking some of the blood into his mouth and spitting it in Scott’s face, a literal mist that also happened to hit the referee, who usually stayed clean from the mess.
When the match was over, Alex quietly snuck back into the arena, still bloody and dressed in his tights, so he could watch Brodeur beat Carson, something even he was eager to see. The match was well-paced and filled with memorable spots, which Brodeur was careful to share with his opponent, who for once played straight, and Alex was surprised that he missed Carson’s usual act, realizing for the first time that everything was going to change.
Monday, March 4, 2013
It’s deep into the night when I’m dropped off at the observatory. Faneuil is waiting for me. I reach in my bag and pull a clay statue of Modoc from it. Faneuil observes it for a moment with his tongue, flicking it in and out in rapid succession, judging the fertility goddess’s merits for himself.
It’s been years since I really thought about the decisions that have led me to this life, examining the past, questioning history and attempting to rewrite the record. Has it all been a giant mistake? I’ve been accusing the Omoxians, the Tikanni, everyone else of being motivated by ego, but I suppose it’s just as true of me. I’ve called myself a descendant of Trey the Conqueror just as if it’s some kind of accomplishment. If no one else knows does it even matter? Who cares if Trey was also Myrmidon? Who wonders if Rejon made any bit of difference in the grand scheme? It’s ancient history. My own history is forever checkered. I’ve been running from it my whole life.
I’ve been unfair. I’ve disrespected my parents, my family, and I wonder why. What was the point? What was I trying to prove? I’ve always looked for reasons, for causality, for things to make sense, and I used to believe I was a success at this game, but now I’m not so sure, and I wonder why I ever bothered. In my heart I know that I was right all along, and that it doesn’t matter if no one else will ever know. The Omoxians will bury Shibal again, and I don’t know why and I suddenly don’t care. Sometimes it just doesn’t matter. No one asked and no one will ever care about the answer. I’m the first of my kind to know the truth. I probably won’t be the last. What I’ve really accomplished was following the same impulse as everyone else, and I just never realized it. I kept telling myself that I was different, somehow exotic, because it made me feel better. It just doesn’t matter.
I’ve been trying to sleep for hours and it won’t come. I’ve gotten up and walked around and tried reading, watching a few programs, even a movie, but nothing works. It’s the clarity of revelation. I wonder if this is the way all saints feel. I had no idea. Would we really think so highly of them if we knew just how horribly human they really were?
My parents used to talk about saints all the time. There was a saint for every situation, and a prayer to match. I don’t know if I ever believed, if I went off on my wild tangents in search of that answer, or whether I ever found it. Maybe that’s what I was looking for on Omox, a mystery wrapped around an enigma, surrounded by a thoroughly alien culture. We humans used to think that the stars would either bring about good change or bad annihilation. Turns out it was a little of both, and it’s just so hard to reconcile our hopes, because there are always new ones to replace the old. We never even consider that. We always think there will be an ending, but there never is. It’s just one big cycle.
Heh. Maybe that’s the point of Modoc, Shibal, even Bondquan. Maybe she got pregnant. Maybe she knows this time it’ll stick. She’ll finally have that offspring she always wanted, something to pass on the misery of the universe to. In a way, I couldn’t offer her anything better than that, and she knew it, and it just took me a while to realize it. Well, it’s only taken an exhausting trip home and absolutely no sleep to chase it for the clarity to finally reach me. It figures.
Tomorrow will be different. Well, it will probably be the same. I guess I know that now. I’ll find something new to obsess about. Maybe I’ll make it my new mission to finally decode the Omoxian myths. There may be something about Shibal, or even Modoc, waiting to be discovered. Maybe Lord Phan will pop up, maybe Rejon, or even Myrmidon. It would only figure.
I should visit with family first, make amends. They won’t understand what it means, but I will, and that will make the difference. I’ll tell them all about my experiences on Omox, but things will be different. They won’t know it like I did, and I won’t attempt to clarify. That’s probably how these things start. The truth becomes too personal, too painful, too wonderful. There’s great worth in legend. I’ll tell them that Shibal exists, and it always did, and it always will. Shibal is the true heart of the universe.
Well, something like that.
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Bondquan officially left the job this evening, and I feel betrayed. In a way it was a long time coming, completely inevitable, but I’m still in shock. What’s more, I’ve since been visited by government officials I recognize, people she interacted with during the excavation process, some she seemed overly affectionate with, as far as Omoxians go. I never asked her about it, but it was hard to overlook, especially since I spent so much time ogling her. Now I feel that much worse about it.
It’s entirely possible that I misread my whole relationship with her. The fact is, I had never had any real dealings with an Omoxian before. I didn’t have any context from which to compare my experiences with Bondquan. I just kept telling myself exactly what I wanted to hear, and now everything I’ve worked toward has been thrown away.
I’m collecting the clay statues of that damned Vitell fertility goddess, Modoc. Yes, I’ve resorted to blaming Modoc. Whoever prayed to Modoc for divine intervention, anyway, for anything other than sex and babies? What was I thinking? I kept talking myself into believing nonsense, exactly what everyone was telling me for months. Everyone already knew the truth about Shibal, and no one cared to confirm the truth about Trey or any of the other Alliance of Five. I’ve completely wasted my time. I’ve humiliated myself.
They’re being pushy about it, and all I can do is steal glimpses at the search beams continuing their work in my absence. At first I thought they were a cheat. Someone in my line of work prefers to do it with his own hands, and I’m no exception. It figures that the Omoxians have different ideas about that, too. Who knows what Bondquan was really thinking all that time? That’s what I’m really thinking as I watch the flashes of light erupt from the earth, reminding me that the beam is still functioning. There are reflections, curious ones that shouldn’t happen unless there are obstructions, and a part of me can’t help but hope for vindication, that the ruins of ancient Shibal do exist, that all this hasn’t been a waste and that my reputation can be salvaged. Someone soon clicks the beam off, and my spirits are again crushed. I can feel Bondquan somewhere in the distance, another pair of eyes mocking me.
That’s what I always do, and that’s why my life is a study of failure. I know I’m right but I can never prove it. Definition of insanity, I know, but I swear it’s different in my case. If I’d simply tried harder, been less of a coward, she would have known exactly how I felt, and maybe everything would be different. I always believe one key variable’s difference and everything would turn out in my favor. Sometimes I believe I fail because I sabotage myself. Sometimes I blame every one and every thing else. Sometimes it’s a combination of both.
I know I’ll never see Bondquan again, but I’ll never stop thinking about her. The planet’s receding, and all I see is the outline of the Shibal I was looking for, and her. They’re intermingled. I always mix my passions together. It’s supposed to make everything easier, but I only ever end up with interminable complications. Why do I never learn?
I keep believing that the breakthrough is just over the next horizon, that I shouldn’t feel frustrated because when it finally happens I’ll finally be happy. There’s a part of me that understands that I’ve been miserable all my life, and that this probably won’t change even with success. It’s simply what I’m used to, what I’m comfortable with, whether I admit it or not.
The space is growing between me and Omox, and I can no longer see Shibal at all. Its foundations are lost. My wrist device beeps and I receive the news that the search beam completed its job to typical Omoxian efficiency. Ruins were indeed found, but I will probably never hear about it again until it makes the news cycle. Bondquan sent the transmission. She says nothing personal in it. I can choose to interpret both of these facts any way I choose. It’s the same as it’s always been.
Soon I’ll be reunited with Faneuil. I’m told that it’s odd to have a snake for a pet, but it’s increasingly common, or at least more common than it used to be. I don’t care what anyone thinks.
Saturday, March 2, 2013
I don’t know how I’ve gone on this long without mentioning it, but I have a peculiar pet. His name is Faneuil and he is a snake. He is a reminder to me of my favorite sister’s snake. She served in the Space Corps, as has most of my family, in one form or another.
One thing I know about Bondquan is that she never served in the Corps, just like me. It’s not so surprising, given that very few Omoxians have, and this is very likely to never change. Most Omoxians never leave the home world, though, although if they want to address the planet’s increasing instability they will have to change that policy. Unlike Ureic, the decision to place the capital of the budding Alliance at Shibal was very much a selfish one.
I mention Faneuil now because I’ve been thinking about him, how he can sometimes prove useful in my work, find the crevices I might otherwise overlook. Even I’m starting to be concerned at this point. Bondquan has been telling me for the last few days that she’s run out of permits and the extensions are going to expire soon, too. I will have to leave, and I don’t think she’ll follow. If Faneuil were here, I’m certain that he would slither into the discovery that has eluded me. I never expected that Omoxians would cover their own history so thoroughly, but I’ve been studying past archaeological efforts and the story is always the same. That’s just what they do, which means their impatience has less to do with my efforts and everything with the fact that I’m human. Bondquan has stopped socializing with me, and I really want to believe that it’s from external pressure, but then I’ve never been able to convince myself that what I was perceiving was real, that I wasn’t only fooling myself. I think she just got caught up in the same frenzy that I experienced when I found the clay statues of Modoc. Maybe part of her thought that the fertility goddess could help her, that I was somehow serving as a conduit to a future where pregnancy and childbirth were no longer barred.
I feel a little of what historians must have thought about Shibal all along, chasing a ghost of something that may never have existed. It wouldn’t be the first time Omoxians blatantly lied about something. Who’s to say how much of the foundation story is true? Who’s to say there was ever even a Trey the Conqueror at all? Doesn’t it seem outlandish for such a xenophobic race to even consider inspiring something it so clearly despises now? Perhaps it was a lie to further embarrass the Tikanni, who will never offer a defense, a counterargument. If you listen to the Vitell, Alliance history begins at Clustus, with Ureic. Perhaps after all, that is the truth.
There have always been eyes watching me during my time here. Someone has been curious, perhaps a number of them. It’s not simply that I’m an anomaly. Omoxians are good at looking at the world around them with filters. There are those who wonder the same things I do. They want to know if Shibal exists.
That’s why I started asking if there were any creatures like snakes on the planet. If I couldn’t have Faneuil I would accept the next best thing. I had to repeat my request several times. I wasn’t sure if Bondquan was just being difficult or that she truly didn’t understand me. She explained that there are no animals on Omox. They all died away long ago. It must be strange to be a solitary species. I then asked if there might be some alternative, perhaps a technology that might provide a similar function. It had never even occurred to me to make such an inquiry before. Usually when one excavates something, it’s in a remote location, yet there’s no such thing on Omox.
They had a search beam, and that’s what I’ve been using today, and there are new signs of promise, but progress is still slow, maddening, and Bondquan is no longer the woman I knew. I wish I knew what changed. I’m lonely for the first time. It’s unusual for me, but then I normally have Faneuil with me, and in the absence of affection, real or imagined from Bondquan, I find myself increasingly incapable of overlooking my pet, whom I hate leaving behind on trips. One thing my family has always been good about, and something I have helped maintain, is a fondness for pets.
When I finally leave Omox I think I’ll ask my sister how her snake’s doing. I haven’t seen either of them in too long. The truth is I don’t know if my sister is even in the Corps anymore. Seems odd.
Friday, March 1, 2013
Part of what motivates me is that the whole universe is afraid that Omox won’t be around much longer. The only people who don’t seem to believe this are the Omoxians themselves. Always victims of their pride, and they won’t even admit that much.
What’s the point, then, of proving the existence of a city on a planet that may not even exist in a few centuries? Believe me, I had to answer that question from more than a few colleagues before I left. It’s the key to everything, I want to shout! The key to Omoxian history, Alliance history, galactic history, to the mystery of the founders, to everything!
Part of the reason Omoxians are ambivalent about the whole affair, other than the fact that they’re Omoxians, is that like the Tikanni they’re still upset that another species stole their thunder, that Ureic was the first acknowledged leader of the Galactic Alliance. In the early years, when Trey the Conqueror was still alive, it was simply the four species learning to cooperate, figuring out what it meant to try and be equals in a cosmic community. It wasn’t easy. The Tikanni had their egos, the Omoxians definitely had their egos, and even the Vitell and Vanadi had a certain amount of ego involved. After all, they were the ones who had coexisted for centuries. If any of the four knew what it took to make the fledgling Alliance succeed, it would have been the Vitell and Vanadi, and it was no wonder that a Vitell would assume the position, because the Vanadi were the ones who caused the first major instability, not some outside presence, not even the sects of Hesslans at the doorstep of the Alliance, or any other hostile race, and there are always plenty of those. It ended up seeming like a pretty good idea, logical to anyone who approached it dispassionately, for a Vitell to receive the honor, and the only one anyone could agree on was the one who had been a member of the Alliance of Five. It just made sense. Ureic was by that time, just after the Battle of Shibal, an old man by Vitell standards. Vitell have considerably shorter lifespans than Omoxians or Tikanni. Perhaps it was a strategic move as well. He was the last of the founders standing with any kind of reputation worth placing in such an exulted office, and soon enough he would be dead.
I never really understood why anyone would think that would be a good idea, to have a leader who wouldn’t be leader long in a position where a little stability would be a good thing. Yet somehow Ureic was exactly the answer everyone needed, and served as enough of a stabilizing block to make the budding Galactic Alliance stick. Moreso than any of my research into Vitell fertility goddesses, I guess that’s what made me start to respect that race. He didn’t hesitate a moment in establishing the Great Hall in the Vitell city of Clustus. If it had been anyone else, certainly in the aftermath of Shibal, there would have been too much doubt in such a decision. Clustus would have been seen immediately as a target, especially being that much closer to Vanagar. Ureic clearly still had the necessary faith and resolve. The Vitell were never ones to be overly dramatic about anything, and I doubt they ever will.
I caught Bondquan staring at one of the Modoc totems, and clearly embarrassed she told me that she had been having trouble conceiving. There were always complications. Even when successful she could never carry to term. Not knowing too much about Omoxian customs I assumed she had to be in some form of committed relationship, and that bothered me, put me in a funk for a few days, and I was distant to her, this after she told me such intimate details about her life. I feel ashamed about it now. Anyway, as it turns out she wasn’t married in any sense, actually laughed when I finally brought it up. That’s not the way it is on Omox. Probably too primitive. And yet that was the first time she kissed me. When I found the nerve to ask her about that, and terrified that she would say something like exploring her primitive side, Bondquan said that I was awakening emotions within her that she had never known existed. It wasn’t her becoming primitive at all, but learning something about herself that had always existed and had simply never had a chance to flourish before. The question was, did any of that mean what I thought it did? In answer, she kissed me again.
Needless to say, my work has been affected recently. I’m finding it difficult to concentrate. Is Bondquan a distraction? Only in a good way. To her own amusement I’m suddenly learning Omoxian a whole lot better, and of course it’s so she doesn’t find a reason to consider me an idiot, at least not in any way she’ll recognize.