July 07, 2020, 08:20:00 PM

Author Topic: Changeling  (Read 167 times)

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Offline Elijah Carlson

Changeling
« on: February 08, 2020, 01:30:11 PM »
Soft sounds of rainfall pitter patter in the ears of those whose eyes focus on small, lit up aquariums around a dimly lit room. Central to the wide expanse of is a small stream that runs and disappears. Rocks, foliage and green moss growing upon bark and stone help to provide some color to straining eyes. A few people traverse a path that has wooden, bamboo-esque railings that direct the path and more importantly keep children out of areas that they weren’t supposed to be getting into, such as the miniature rainforest that made up a large portion of the middle of the large room. Inside of the aquariums that line the exterior are any number of reptiles, amphibians and insects on display for visitors to get a glimpse of in tiny reproductions of their native environment

Staring through the glass and into the contents of one of them is a familiar face. The North American champion leans and looks in intently, keeping one hand firmly on the stroller that Hadley was carefully bundled up and confined in. For being the child of two of the most outspoken competitors the professional wrestling industry had ever seen, Hadley Carlson was shockingly calm, quiet and happy. Moments later Genie approached and traced her fingernails down the back of her husband’s neck, drawing his attention away from the exhibit with a simple word.

“Babe…”

Shifting to cast a look over his shoulder, Eli stepped aside shortly after so that she could get a look at what he was observing as well.

“Check it out. See if you can spot him.”

Turning away from her, Eli cast a knowing look, as though he was aware that there were others who were watching and waiting for him to begin to address them. That was the nature of the business that he was in, but given the current environment his voice took on hushed tones, so as to not disturb the other guests too greatly.

“You’ve had a lot of people fooled for a long time, Chris. Just like a chameleon who changes his colors to blend in with the crowd, maintaining the status quo. That’s the thing, Chris. You want people to like you. You want the world to see you as the guy who gives it his all every single time he steps into the ring. You want them to buy into the fairy tale and that’s all fine and dandy until someone comes along and messes your fairy tale up. Once that happens, you don’t know how to act. Like a chameleon who just had his branch shaken by a predator, you lash out and then scurry off for looking for the nearest opportunity to blend back in and reset back to the norm. Back to where everyone looks and sees what you want them to see, rather than seeing you for what you truly are.”

Shaking his head, a slight smirk slips across his expression before he takes a step back and waves another passing family by. Looking back over his shoulder, Genie was still searching intently for the creature that Eli had asked if she could locate.

“You had that whole fairy tale built up in your head at Winter Wasteland, didn’t you? You were already salivating at the headlines. Adding lines to your twitter bio. That was how the story was supposed to end in your head, wasn’t it? Sixty minutes of hell that saw you not only walk out of Winter Wasteland as the new North American champion, but that also saw you as the man who halted the streak. It was to be the crowning moment of the twilight of your career, wasn’t it? But it didn’t work out that way. In spite of giving it your all. In spite of it being the environment you swore was going to be what gave you that edge, you still came up short. And in your mind you just couldn’t accept that. There had to be some other reason. There had to be some mistake. That wasn’t how your story was supposed to end.”

Raising his right hand upward, Eli wagged his index finger in the direction of the eyes that he knew were focused upon him, as though lecturing.

“But it was. It was how your story ended. It was how that tree branch that you had spent so much time blending into got shaken. It’s how your true colors were shown to the world as all of us watched on. It’s how you unwillingly opened yourself up to the world and exposed that the Chris Madison of old was dead and gone, having been twisted and warped into a mirror image of the man he hated most. And man did Frankie ever try and stop it. Boy did he ever try and cover it up for you. You should give that man a raise. Hell, you should give that man credit for helping you keep up the facade for as long as you have.”

Shrugging his shoulders, Eli was quick to continue on.

“Even now, after you’ve exposed yourself to the entire world, you’re still looking to find your way back into that comfortable place. Back to where everyone think you’re the guy who just fights so hard and gives it his all, the conquering hero. Fall down seven times, stand up eight, right Chris? You want so hard to believe it, and believe that there’s a happy ending waiting for you but Chris the only one of those you’re going to find is the one waiting for you at a Chinese massage parlor. Take my advice and stop lying to yourself. Stop lying to the world. Do you even hear yourself? Do you even realize you’re doing it? Do you even realize that you admitted to the fact that Vassa called out on commentary that your body was lifeless? Do you even realize the fact that you then proceeded to confirm that fact in one breath and then in the next tried to get all of us to buy into the fact that you were stretching your arm out for that bottom rope? Which one was it, Chris? Were you right, or was Vassa?”

Reaching into his pocket, Eli rummaged for a few moments before withdrawing his phone. After a few taps of his fingers on the screen he flipped it around and held it out with his right hand for those who were watching to see. Soon afterward his left hand reached around and tapped the play button and a video of the final moments of the Ironman match at Winter Wasteland began to stream across the screen.


VASSA: ”Madison is absolutely lifeless on the canvas!”

It takes every ounce of energy Carlson has left in his body to pull himself over to the fallen challenger and drape his arm across his chest.

ONE
.
.
TWO
.
.
THREE!!!
DING!!! DING!!! DING!!!


VASSA: ”Oh my god, he’s done it. Elijah Carlson has broken the record.”

HUGHES: ”And against the holder of the record no less. This place is going crazy right now.”

VASSA: ”You gotta feel for Madison, he fought until the literal last second just to get blasted in sudden death.”

Neither man moves a muscle as “Killing in the Name Of” by Rage Against the Machine blares over the public address system…

A few scoffs and dirty looks are shot his way as the sounds of Vassa and Hughes vocalizing their thoughts at the conclusion of the iron man match shatter the peaceful reverie of the zoo’s reproduction of the rainforest. Slipping his phone back into his pocket he turns his gaze back to the woman standing behind him. With a happy smile on her face, Genie pointed out the lizard like creature in the small glass enclosure.

“Found him.”

Nodding his head, Eli leaned forward and gazed in, spotting the chameleon as well. With a delighted smile, Genie turned his head toward hers and planted a gentle kiss on his lips before taking the handles of the stroller into her hands.

“Finish what you started and then catch up.”

For a moment his eyes lingered on her as she sashayed away from him, moving deeper into the exhibit area. Moments of quiet pass before his attention turns back to his audience.

“You said it best, Chris. You can’t rewrite history, especially not in this day and age where we can go back and examine the evidence first hand. Deny it all you want. Fight against it all you want. In the end it doesn’t matter because cold, hard, verifiable evidence has proven you to be, at best, a man with a tinfoil helmet on his head fighting against reality and, at worst, a blatant, pathological liar. A narcissist who refuses to look inwardly at his own shortcomings, but instead projects them outward and the easiest victim. In this case, and in this environment, it’s Perry Wallace.”

With a rise and a fall, Eli’s shoulders heave with inhaled and exhaled oxygen in a deep, disappointed sigh. Turning back to look into the glass, there’s a brief flash of movement and a soft scratching sound as the chameleon searches for a new place to disguise itself.

“And it’s that overinflated sense of self importance that will continue to be your undoing. You’re the one who has given me the toughest fight? You should go back and watch the wars that I had with Kimitsu Zombie and Eden Connors. You think you were the closest to ending my streak? Go back and watch my matches with people like Bryan Laughlin and Artemis Kaiser. No, seriously, go back and watch. You could learn a thing or two from all four of those individuals about what it really means to test me. What you need to understand, Chris, is that I don’t need you. I’ve never needed you. I elevate myself. It doesn’t matter who is in the ring with me, Chris, I give the best of myself every single time I step foot into that squared circle. It has absolutely nothing to do with you, Chris, and everything to do with the standard to which I hold myself. But you…”

Eli smirked, his gaze shifting from the creature in the enclosure to his audience and, more specifically, his opponent once more. Lights flicker and flash for a moment as a soft rumble of thunder echoes from over the speakers, giving the effect of an approaching thunderstorm to those who were visiting.

“You can’t bring yourself to do the same, can you? You want the North American Championship on the line, because without it you don’t have it in you to raise your game. As much as you might try and put on that heroes face for the world, you aren’t what you want them to believe you are. Because if this was really about me. If this was really about proving to everyone you could beat me, that you could end my streak, then you wouldn’t be out here begging me to put the North American Championship on the line against you. No, Chris, this is about your greed. Your thirst and your lust for the adoration of the fans that you can’t have without my championship. And if that’s not on the line, then this really isn’t worth it to you is it? You don’t have to answer that, Chameleon. Your own words have already made that evident enough.”

Again, the soft pitter patter of raindrops falling can be heard in the background while the reigning North American champion continues to stare directly ahead, looking into the eyes of Chris Madison wherever he was watching. If he was watching, but Eli had a feeling he would be. The man’s own pride wouldn’t be able to allow him to do otherwise.

“At the end of the day, Chris, your undoing a third time at my hands is going to be about one thing and one thing alone. The fact that you continue to lie to yourself is only going to make the heartbreak worse, but that’s not going to be what does it, but that won’t be what brings about your downfall. Nor will the fact that you’re so scatterbrained you don’t even know what you want to focus on. Hell, you spent as much time, if not more, whining about Perry Wallace and Michelle Wong as you did actually focused on the matter at hand. And even then you can’t help but talk about Retrograde and what the future holds, rather than what is waiting right in front of you now. But it’s not going to be about that, Chris. It’s going to be about one thing and one thing only. It’s going to be about the fact that Chris Madison 2020 just isn’t good enough to beat me. It’s going to be about the fact that Chris Madison, in spite of his most vociferous, boisterous proclamations otherwise, doesn’t have it in him to bring my streak to an end.”

He takes a step forward, arms folding across his chest as he puts a few more feet of distance between himself and the enclosures.

“You made a mistake, Chris. Because I was willing to let this end and move on. I was willing to let bygones be bygones. But you gave me renewed purpose. Purpose beyond simply showing the world yet again who the best this company has to offer right now is. You’re in my debt, Chris. And I’m coming to collect.”

He takes another step forward.

“And it doesn’t matter how many masks you try to put on. It doesn’t matter how many times you go looking for that new branch to blend back in. Because when I’m done with you…”

Another step forward blocks out his surroundings and all that is in sight is the North American champion.

“Your true face will be on display under the brightest lights in this business. And there will be no escape from your reality. Not in 25 seconds. Not in 250 minutes. Not in 2500 years.”

Silence hangs on the air for a moment before Eli turns and stalks away. As he departs the focus stays on the little enclosure that houses a chameleon. Slowly the audience is brought closer and closer to where a clear glimpse is given of the small lizard as it scurries around in a panic. Here and there it rushes, finding a place of comfort and trying to blend in but with each attempt it seems there’s nowhere to be found. Yet still it continues to search.

And search.

And search.

But under the bright lights of its enclosure there is no hiding place to be found.