Post by Devon Ryder on May 24, 2022 19:53:06 GMT -5
What if…this…is all there is?ACT ONE: …I WON’T FALL.
*Darkness. Fear. I’m running - sprinting - through a forest, thick branches cracking underfoot, breath heavy in my chest and burning through my ragged throat as I cast a frantic glance back over my left shoulder. It’s still there. Gaining. Faster,
now; I push myself, fighting through the searing pain that’s blooming in my legs to drive myself further beyond the range of the horrid, eldritch demon at my heels…I have to get away. Can’t let it reach me. Can’t let myself give in…*"Devon..."
*The voice. Hers? No. Her voice is angelic. Heavensent. Her voice has always been my lighthouse, a beacon guiding me to shore. This is…different. Colder. Cruel. It’s mocking me, this voice; preying on my fear, driving my darkness deeper without a single word. It’s an albatross. A ball and chain. When it speaks, the thing behind me grows. Mutates. It twists in on itself, freezing the very air around it with its hungry, withering fingers…I can feel them clawing at my back. My neck. No.
I have to keep moving. Can’t let it…win.*“Deeevoooonnnn…”
*A hiss. Sickly-sweet, like honey on a poisoned apple. The call is almost saccharine, seductive…it lingers in my ear like the hungry teeth of a ravenous lover…or, perhaps, a predator, waiting to abuse any moment of self-doubt. I quiver. I know it sounds appealing, but we’ve done this dance before. This thing is not my friend. This voice is not a pleasant one.*“Do you really think that you’re a hero, Devon?”
*A hitch. A quaver. I nearly break my stride, but I push myself to keep on running. My joints shriek at me in protest; I feel like my calves are in a blender, but I know what happens to me if I stop. I have seen a starving lion when it catches up to the gazelle.*“Do you really think they care about you?”
*A twinge. I stumble. The words hit me like a bullet in the shoulder blades, my crying knees give out and send me sprawling, face-first, onto the forest floor before me. The voice grows louder. Eager. More intense. I try to get back to my feet, I have paused for but a second…but that second’s all it needs. Icy, shadowed hands close around my wrists; my ankles; my throat. Bony fingers tangle in my hair and wrench my head backwards, forcing my gaze forward. The shadow swirls around my body and congeals into a form before my eyes, the source of the voice that has been stalking me. It’s me.*“You’ve heard what they say…”
*A trigger. A million visions flash before my eyes. Snatches, snippets of every negative word my opponents have thrown at me through my tenure here. I see Cleo Phillips, Kallie Reznik, their words echo through my skull…*“You talk about problems you’ve never experienced!”“I have Canadian friends, and they’re writhing in pain from the things you say. Listening to you, I felt like I was listening to Donald Trump...”
*A grin. The other me slides forward, emboldened by my pain.*“See, Devon? This is what they think of you. This is the message you’ve been sending. Is this how you plan on ‘leading by example’? Is this the legacy you had planned to forge? You’re no hero to these people, Devon Ryder. You’re a JOKE. A FAILURE.”
*A beat. My chest tightens, waiting for the gunshot.*“…Pathetic.”
*The bullet. A whisper. The voice slithers in my ear, some horrible viper tasting the air to find its prey. I’m paralyzed, rigid body collapsing to its knees as the parasitic words burrow their way into my mind and begin hollowing me out from the inside. I’m lost. Trapped. I know I need to move, to flee, to run
from these draining, vicious thoughts and never once look back…but I can’t bring myself to do it. I can’t escape this time. The alternate me grins, his nostrils flaring as he inhales the bittersweet scent of my resignation. The shadowed tiger of my mind. I inhale, gasping, struggling to find any ounce of strength to break me from this grasp. The hands are needier now, stronger; they pull at my limbs, my hair, my neck. More of them form from the darkness to join their brethren, as more voices fill my ears. I hear every promo, every epithet, every castigating reprimand or chiding rebuke I’ve ever suffered playing on loop ad nauseum throughout my soul.* “LOSER!”“Failure!”“Fraud!”"Hypocrite!"“You don’t know the first thing about America, you hippie piece of shit!”“Communist!”“Asshole!”“Bleeding-Heart Leftist Pinko Fuckboi!”
*Terror. Anguish. The darkness thickens. The hands pull me back, back, back - into the cloud I’ve been so desperately attempting to flee. I open my mouth to scream, to tell the darkness ”No.
I am not afraid of you!” …But nothing comes out. Sound cannot escape this black hole as it swallows me, and the opening only lets more fingers in, choking me, forcing their way past my tongue and down my ragged throat. I’m suffocating. Drowning. The cloud becomes an ocean, flooding everything around me as my entire form’s submerged…I struggle. I pull valiantly at the hands that clutch my wrists and ankles, but the water weighs me down…and the depths are their domain. I whimper. More voices join the choir.*“Oh, sourry aboot that, eh?!”“Narcissist!”“You’ve got nothing!”“If you don’t like it, go home!”“Canadian supremacist!”“You’re a dick, Ryder!”“That’s the difference between us, son. I have ambition. You don’t.”“You’re actually really stupid, you know that?”“Know that…?”“Know that…?”
*An echo. The words replay incessantly through my mind as the grasping hands grow stronger, more forming from the inky depths to pull me further and further beneath. I can see my own face gazing down from just beyond the waterline, that arrogant grin plastered across my face. This is what I wanted. This is what I deserve. I surrender to the darkness, as the water fills my lungs and the fingers close around my throat. Everything goes black…*Tick…tick…tick…
*I’m lying in my bed, the soft silken sheets drenched with sweat and bunched in balls around my feet. A long shadow - my own - stares down at me from the unblemished bedroom ceiling, lengthened and distended by the waxing morning light. My heartbeat pounds inside my head. I shift, and I can feel the raw mattress against my naked back, itchy, pilling, its age doing no favours for the comfort of the bed.*Tick…tick…tick…
I gasp, a sharp inhale to appreciate the air after the ordeal I imagined. My mind races as I try to make sense of what I saw, piece together everything I've just endured. It was…a dream, yes, but it somehow felt like more.
More…important, more REAL. But it doesn't matter now. I'm alive.*It's over now,
*I tell myself.*I survived.
*Then why can't I stop the thoughts? The voices, taunting me, deriding me, the chorus growing ever louder in my mind until it hits a fever-pitch! My throat grows dry, my chest tightens; all I can seem to remember is every mistake I've ever made, every little failure contorting itself like the shadow on my ceiling into a swollen, long perversion of itself. I'm still there! Still drowning!*Tick…tick…tick…tick…No.
*I tell the voices.*NO.
*I am NOT drowning now. I'm alive. Here, present in this moment. I focus on the clock. My anchor. As long as I can hear it, I know that this is real.*Tick…tick…tick…
*Its rhythm, then I know that I'm alive. This
The voices in my head are not. They're memories - artifacts. Pieces of a past that tries so hard to haunt me…but I need not obey them.*Tick…tick…tick…
*Inhale. Focus, Devon. You know how to break their hold. I focus on the sensations; the bed beneath my thighs; the carpet on my feet; the gentle chill of the air as it paints goosebumps across my neck and shoulders. I focus on the sounds; the ticking of the clock, a rhythmic warrior against the chaos in my mind; the soft hum of the air conditioner through the walls, the house breathing steadily as I do; Desiree's breathing, in and out, slowing with my heart rate as everything returns to normal. She's still here. I
am still here. I'm alive.*Desi…
*A smile. My chest loosens and my heartbeat calms, eyes slowly falling shut as I reach out to softly brush the side of her face with one finger. She smiles, clasping my hand with one of hers. She stirs.*"Devon…? Wha…?"
*I lean in to kiss her softly.*"It's alright, meu amor. Go back to sleep. I just had a nightmare. I'm alright now."
*And I am. She releases my hand as slumber takes her once again, and I loose a long exhale. My mind is quiet now. It's over. I let my eyes fall slowly shut as reality sets in, giving myself over to the calm. I am alive.
Still standing. Unbroken.
Shoot me down…I.
—-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ACT TWO: INVICTUS*Fade in. We open on a long shot of Mauna Loa, the largest volcano in not only Hawaii, but the entire world as well. The volcano is inactive just now, but marks of a recent lava flow can be seen clearly streaking down the sides of the huge mountain, its silhouette cut against the sky like a jagged dragon’s tooth, ready to spew hellfire down upon the unsuspecting world below. As we pan around this mighty, majestic and truly awesome scene, a familiar voice begins to narrate our experience.*“It would be easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to gain access to Heaven…”*As these words greet our ears, we zoom out to view their source. It is none other than the Canadian Hero, Devon Ryder, clad in his orange “Every Child Matters” t-shirt and plain blue jeans. Standing just to his right is Desiree de La Roche, dressed in a similar shirt with a light brown jacket over top, her hair done up in a loose bun with curls cascading down the sides. The pair stand arm-in-arm, with Desiree’s head resting on Devon’s shoulder as he continues to speak.*“I have never been a religious man…but I find comfort in those words. The idea that those who would prioritize accumulating wealth over the continued existence of our species will, in some small way, ever actually see any comeuppance for those actions is a reassuring thought."*Here, Devon pauses briefly, and slowly turns to face the camera. Desiree turns with him.*"It's not that I hate the religious; quite the reverse. While I believe religion on a LARGE scale has been a detriment to humanity, fomenting hatred and dogma in lieu of compassion and understanding, I truly believe that on a personal level, faith can bring a world of good into any individual person’s life. They simply need to be using it for the right reasons. To understand the world, to understand themselves, to find MEANING in an otherwise chaotic life…and not to condemn other humans for undergoing a medical procedure, or tell them what they can and cannot do with their own bodies.”*Ryder pauses now, GLARING into the camera.*“I want this to be very clear: Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court for entirely religious reasons. This act is an act of cowardice, of MALICE and of VIOLENCE towards women and medical professionals not only in the USA, but all over the world. It is an unacceptable state of affairs, forced upon you by a governmental body that does not truly serve the PEOPLE, but the religious right. In Canada, this would never happen. In fact, as we speak - and immediately following this horrendous, historic announcement - Prime Minister Trudeau is investigating the possibility of passing a law to ensure that it WILL never happen here. By the end of 2022, it will likely not only be legal to receive or perform an abortion in Canada, but it will be expressly illegal to outlaw them. THAT is why I truly love this country, and it is one of MANY, MANY things that sets it apart from yours…”*Ryder pauses now, and Desiree softly strokes the back of his neck, trying to keep him calm. His expression of rage softens to one of oddly wistful sadness as he turns once more to gaze at Mauna Loa.*“But Canada is flawed. I KNOW that. I’ll be the first one to ADMIT my homeland has its own litany of problems; for instance, in Ontario we’re seeing an increasingly-militarized police force violently evicting the unhoused and impoverished from public parks in rich neighbourhoods, ostensibly in the name of ‘preserving the usability of the space.’ Nevermind that those same individuals will simply be moved into smaller parks in less-affluent areas, which actually will impact the park’s ability to be used for its intended purpose; that doesn’t seem to matter. Almost nothing will be done to change or break this cycle, because now at least the wealthy white people are unaffected. That is atrocious. It is embarrassing, it is upsetting, and it is absolutely unacceptable for a first-world country in the 21st century. And it is, in many ways, the least of the problems we are facing. Racism is rampant in Canada - particularly against muslims, but no ethnic group is immune to it - and only seems to be on the rise in our western and rural communities. The housing market is in shambles, utterly pricing out both youth AND seniors with insane valuations and short-term rental properties being bought up in droves by foreign and domestic investment interests. Our current government has begun to take baby steps to correct these issues, but progress is sluggish at best, and it seems increasingly likely that a crash IS coming. Canadians may be unable to avoid it this time.”*Devon pauses, for emphasis. He turns to face the camera once again.*“Of course, this is all to say nothing of the reckoning we are now facing with our past, coming to terms with our horrendous treatment - in fact, our attempted cultural GENOCIDE - of the indigenous peoples from whom we stole this land. The government has made some progress on reconciliation, but not nearly enough. The road ahead of us is long and difficult…and there is much yet left to do. Far too many of our indigenous communities are still struggling to obtain clean drinking water, a necessity which we in wealthier communities too often take for granted. Even beyond that, indigenous women are more than TWICE as likely to be targets of violence than non-indigenous Canadians, and incidents of disappearance or assault OF indigenous women are often entirely ignored by Canadian police, or treated with less urgency than matters affecting white citizens!”*Devon pauses again, levelling his gaze at the camera as his clear blue eyes burn with a barely-contained fury. His rage is evident in his voice; calm and even, he is not yelling, yet his tone smoulders with serious intensity.*“That. Is. Disgusting. It is unbecoming of a police force, unbecoming of a nation, unbecoming of HUMANITY WRIT LARGE to show such callous disregard for your fellow human beings! I am ashamed to call myself Canadian when I must share my nationality with you. As long as such myopic, unempathetic, miseducated bigots inhabit this otherwise-great land, we will never be fully rid of the STINK of white-supremacy. The tainted influence of a backwards, bygone era. THIS is what is holding us back the most. Until these fossils have been buried, until these imbecilic wastes of space have finally walked into the tar pits of history and faded from the memory of the current generation - until ALL of the problems I have mentioned have finally been solved - we will never reach our full potential. Canada will never be perfect.”*A beat. Ryder inhales.*“But perhaps it doesn’t have to.”*He exhales, pausing for another moment. When he continues, it is with a look of introspection.*“I have never made the claim that Canada is perfect. In all my diatribes, through every speech that I have made during my time in PWS: Apex, I have never called us a utopia. I have simply claimed that we are better than America. And THAT claim remains empirically, demonstrably, and unequivocally true. And, really…doesn’t that just make it worse? Doesn’t it hurt MORE to know that, in spite of all that’s wrong with us - for every damning sin that you can pile on our country - we still consistently outrank you in several crucial areas?”*Ryder pauses here, and Desi smiles up at him encouragingly.*“In the USNews World Ranking Index, Canada topped the charts in quality of life AND happiness of citizens last year. Now, even I will agree this is - perhaps - a tad optimistic. Our government likes to encourage global perception of Canada as a bit of a progressive mecca, a haven for young, forward-thinking people of all colours, creeds, gender and sexual identities. This is…unfortunately, not always the case. Hate exists here just as it does elsewhere in the world, and there are a great many systemic issues that undoubtedly make Canada - for far too many humans - decidedly NOT the happiest place to live. But even accounting for exaggerations, allowing for bias in the conducting of the poll - even if we COMPARE polls, taking from many different sources conducted by a variety of researchers - we still consistently break the top 10. And THAT, I think, is a fair assessment.""By contrast, the United States? You didn’t even crack the top 20. Take that in for a moment. You rank at least a full 21 positions below us, and we live next door. We have SO MUCH to improve upon as a nation…and still we beat you HANDEDLY. We are NOT that different, and yet, while Canada is renowned as a bastion of progress and acceptance around the globe, the United States is renowned for something else entirely…"*Devon pauses, but only long enough to take a breath.*"The World Peace Index labels the United States as a 'flawed democracy' - that is, a democratic nation teetering on the edge of authoritarianism. We can ignore the very obvious terrible things this says about your current political climate for a moment, because I would PREFER to focus on a DIFFERENT statistic. See, in determining the rankings for these countries, the World Peace Index also conducted a study to determine the safest countries on Earth…and, statistically speaking, countries classified as ‘failed democracies’ had a higher percentage of frightened citizens than True Democracies - a list which, as you might have guessed, includes Canada. In fact, WITHIN these failed democracies, far and away the biggest cause of mortal terror, cited by over 20% of citizens, was gun violence. And I KNOW it simply seems like a fact of life to the lot of you - I have, believe it or not, spoken to enough Americans to know this is true - but it really, REALLY isn’t. In Canada - and, in fact, in MOST first-world countries around the globe - our children don’t need ‘active shooter’ drills. We can GO to concerts without identifying where the emergency exits are and formulating an escape plan in our heads! OUR Constitution is a living tree, a document designed to grow and change as society develops and matures, rather than an immutable divine decree from Founders we’ve deified in some kind of sick civil religion. This is NOT ‘just the way it is’, AMERICA is BROKEN…and it seems the rest of the world is taking note.”*Ryder pauses here, and Desiree frowns at him, squeezing his hand in hers as if to help him to calm down. He inhales sharply and re-centres himself before continuing, his tone more level now.*"In the past, America was known as the ‘Land of Opportunity’. It’s still something you call yourselves, at times. Any time I make a statement or a post critiquing this country I inevitably get at least ONE reply asking ‘Well if we’re so bad, then why do other countries all want to move here?’ Well, it seems the truth is…they don’t. At least, not anymore. Aggregating website ‘Remitly’ used survey data collected from over 101 countries during January through December of 2020 and collated it to find out which countries were seen as the most popular destinations for immigrants…and, to my delight and surprise, it was Canada that topped the list. We have apparently been cited as the most popular long-term destination for immigrants from over 30 countries. It seems, on the global stage, it is in fact CANADA that is seen as the Land of Opportunity these days, a haven for immigrants of all stripes, while the United States is known for danger and violence. And I hate to say it, but I don't think it's an ill-deserved reputation…and it is one with whom my opponent is very, VERY familiar."*A beat.*"Violet. Amelia. Holt. The PWS: Apex 'Collateral Damage Champion'. A fitting title. I've seen some of your work, Violet, and you're certainly cut out for this division…but please do not take that to mean I am impressed by your performance."*Ryder smirks, the gesture DRIPPING with self-satisfaction. Desi smirks as well, softly squeezing his bicep to encourage him to go on.*"See, Violet, I admire warriors. I admire fighters. I admire passionate firebrands, irrepressible spirits who are unafraid to stand up for what's right even when it's not convenient or easy to do so. But what I admire above ALL others, the type of people who earn my respect, are professional wrestlers. Those who fight with fury, skill, and - most critically of all - honour. You have only one of these, from all that I have seen. And you have it in abundance; make no mistake, your fury is incredible, Violet. I commend your 'never say die' warrior's spirit, and your refusal to give up on this belt no matter how many times Jonathan Sanders slapped you down."*Devon continues to smirk at his own jibe for just a moment, before his expression fades to a serious glower, and he slowly leans toward the camera.*"But that fury on its own is hardly enough. For you may be a fighter, Violet - no, scratch that, you are absolutely a fighter. I don't think anybody who has watched you work would disagree if I called you a WARRIOR…but you are NOT a professional wrestler. You are a sideshow attraction. What you do does not take SKILL, Violet. There is no ART in bludgeoning someone with a baseball bat, or gouging their flesh with barbed wire. That is not WRESTLING, Violet, and it does not make you fearsome. In fact, it makes you WEAK. Think about this; is it truly more impressive to defeat your opponent with weapons, tearing at their flesh and battering their head until they lie unconscious at your feet…or is it more impressive to pick them apart, piece by piece, rendering their limbs twisted and broken until they scream for mercy and submit…using only your bare hands? I know who I would be afraid of, Violet…and tonight, I’m going to show you exactly why. Tonight, you’re going to learn exactly what REAL professional wrestling truly is!”*Another pause from Devon, as Desiree softly rubs his back to calm him. He lets his lips curl into a soft smirk, placing his hand on hers before looking back into the camera.*“For what it’s worth, Violet…I do want you to know that I won’t enjoy this tonight. I may have fighting in my blood, I may adore the sport of professional wrestling with every fibre of my being…but I don’t do this so I can hurt people. I do it so I can prove myself, so I can push my limits to be the single greatest professional wrestler on planet Earth and truly deserving of the title of ‘Canadian! HERO!’ …Unfortunately for you, tonight, you’re standing in the way of my DOING that. Unfortunately for you, Violet Holt, you don’t go down without a fight. So a fight is what you’ll get…and, once more with feeling, unfortunately for you...you are HOPELESSLY outclassed as a competitor. Because there is nothing you can do to me tonight, Violet, that I have not already survived. ANTITHESIS beat me down with weapons, they concussed me and put me in the hospital…but I got back up. Cleo Phillips fought me to my limit, pinned me to the mat and defeated me in combat…and I got back up. Kallie Reznik broke my spirit, undermined my message and made me question the very ideals that I FIGHT for! …And I. Got. Back. UP.”
*A beat. We hold on Ryder as the volcano begins to stir, becoming slightly more active.*“Because THAT is what a Hero does, Violet. Being a Hero is not about never failing, it is not about winning every match and proving your superiority to lesser mortals…being a Hero is about always fighting for what’s right. It’s about never giving up, refusing to surrender, battling to the end no matter HOW badly you may lose! THAT is what the Canadian Hero represents. The unconquerable ideal. The Man of La Mancha, fighting the good fight despite impossible odds. I have taken every punishment imaginable, I have faced enemies both physical and emotional the likes of which would END a weaker man with ease…and I am still here. ‘Under the bludgeonings of chance, my head is bloody, but unbowed.’. THAT is why I call myself the Canadian Hero, Violet Holt…and THAT is who you’ll have to beat tonight. Which is exactly why you’ll fail.”*Devon pauses again, his gaze steely as he locks eyes with the camera, the volcano in the background rumbling and adding further pathos to his tirade.*“Because the Canadian Hero is not just a man. The Canadian Hero is not a character, or a nickname. The Canadian Hero is a philosophy, and philosophies can NEVER be destroyed. So you do your worst, champ; you bring those ‘Five Feet of Crazy’, and batter me with every dangerous weapon and foreign object you can possibly wrap your hands around! …Because none of it will be enough. When you go out there tonight, it won’t suffice to pin my shoulders to the mat. If you truly want to end this, you will have to break me, physically and mentally. You will have to stretch my spirit and bludgeon my resolve until my body AND my mind give in absolutely. You will have to make me do the one thing that I have NEVER done, inside OR outside the ring; give up. You will have to shatter my ideals, crush my resolve, break the very concept of what the Canadian Hero is meant to be!"...But you won’t, Violet. Because the Canadian Hero is Devon Ryder…”*His lips curl into their distinctive arrogant smirk as his eyes twinkle, locking on the camera.*“And Devon Ryder is unbreakable.”*With that, the familiar opening riff of the Guess Who’s “American Woman” starts up again as Devon pivots on his heel, wrapping one arm around Desiree’s waist as the pair swaggers off into the cool Hawaii twilight.*