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 Chapter I - Stand Up.

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Stan Strong

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PostSubject: Chapter I - Stand Up.   Sun Jul 20, 2014 7:26 pm

CHAPTER I
Stand up.

"Stand up."

The voice called out from somewhere, but Stan Strong wasn't sure where it was coming from. All he could see was the roiling fire across the wood above him. Had he fallen? He wasn't sure. In fact, Stan wasn't even sure where he was. He tried to think through the events of the last several minutes, but all he drew was smoke... The same smoke that was rolling above him.

"C'mon, Stan. I said stand up."

Stan tried. His legs felt weak, as if he had been on a ship at sea for a few months and just returned to land. His head was swimming. Something wet rolled down his face. His breathing was beginning to increase, and something in the back of his mind told him that was a very, very bad thing. Stan rolled onto his stomach, taking all it had in him not to vomit when he did so. He pushed up with his arms, into an all fours position. His head was beginning to pound like a drum, his arms felt like jelly.

"This is it", he thought, "this is when I die."

He heard the voice again, but this time it was only a dim echo in the distance, as if someone was yelling from the opposite end of a cave. There were words, but the echoing sound covered them up and jumbled them together, until there was nothing but noise. A noise that was beginning to become nothing more than a hum in the distance. A noise that, Stan knew, would be the last thing he ever heard.

Something strong wrapped around Stan's stomach. With a vice-like grip, the object pulled Stan to his feet. There, he wobbled dangerously for a second, trying to hold back from puking his guts out inside of his oxygen mask. Stan doubled over for a second, trying to catch his breath and stop his head from spinning. He looked around him... Fire was everywhere.

"Stan, come on! We've got to get through this building or else we're not going to make it out! The whole place is about to come down around us!"

Stan still was unsure of where the voice was coming from, but the large thing that had previous grabbed his stomach now wrapped his back and under his shoulders, helping him limp along. Stan turned to his right, and there stood Antoine Whitesides. His massive arm was the source of Stan's salvation. Antoine pulled Stan along through the nearest doorway, into another room filled with orange fire and black smoke. Another doorway blocked their exit, just up ahead. Antoine kicked the door off its hinges, the wood turning to ashes from the heat and the kick.

"Just up ahead, and we'll be out of this shit."

The floor underneath shook. the next step Antoine and Stan took caused the floor below to crash in, falling to a fiery grave.

---

Stan Strong sat up in the bed with a jolt. He shivered, but he wasn't sure if it was from the dream or from the cold sweat. He guess it was probably a mixture of both. That dream... Well, calling it a dream would be doing it injustice. That re-living was the only thing he ever dreamed about anymore. Every time he closed his eyes, every time he went to sleep, every time he even let his mind wander... It always ended up back with him and Antoine crashing through the upstairs landing of a two-story town home, and crashing below in a fiery plunge that left him broken and his partner...

He shook his head when his thoughts wandered too closely to what happened with Antoine. That was not something he was content with dealing with right. At least, not without the proper preparation.

Turning to the side, Stan placed his feet on the cold hardwood floors of his bedroom. He crossed the bedroom in three steps, walked down a small hallway, paced into the kitchen, and opened the refrigerator. There, he found it. His solace from all of the bullshit that came with those dreams... All of the baggage that he had accumulated over the past five years. There, he found a cold bottle of Jim Beam and began drinking.

He plopped down into the single chair at the tiny dining room table and looked around at his small home. How had it come to this? Stan Strong used to be a name that colleges flocked to when they wanted his name on their Letter of Intent. Stan Strong was a name that used to be synonymous with 'winning' and 'championships' in the various companies that Stan had visited previously. Stan Strong was a name of a fireman that would risk his life to tear down your door, just to rescue your cat from a towering inferno.

Now, what was did his name come with?

"A cheap bottle of bourbon and shitty mobile home, I guess."

If anyone would've been around to hear him, they would've been surprised to hear Stan talking to himself. However, that was something he did regularly. Ever since the fire, he found solace in being alone. And being alone comes with the tendencies of talking to ones' self.

Taking another swig out of the bourbon bottle, Stan noticed that he was beginning to feel the effects. It used to only take a few pulls from a fifth of Jim Beam, but now... Now Stan felt like half the bottle needed to be gone before he even felt a tad swimmy. He felt like he needed the entire bottle just to numb the pain and repress the memories of himself falling through the air towards a burning ground.

He shivered, immediately taking another long pull.

Before him, he noticed, was a large stack of mail that he had yet to go through. Eviction notes, he was sure, along with rejection letters from various wrestling companies that he had applied for over the past few months. Who would want a broken-down has-been? Who would want someone who had spent the last five years off the wrestling circuit and lying in his own sorrow?

Stan picked up the letters, sorting through them one by one. Junk mail, junk mail, eviction notice, junk mail, junk mails, bills, bills, rejection letter from some company he didn't even remember signing up to, bills, and the last envelope was a letter from a wrestling company called XMW.

He opened the envelope, wondering what sort of generic reason they gave for rejecting him. 'Oh, we're sorry, our roster is full now' or 'Sorry to inform you, but we have reached out salary limits'... Those were the two most common. They were getting repetitive and hollow, like being told your spouse was breaking up with you because 'it's not you, it's me'. Bullshit, was what it was. Why couldn't people just be honest?

Tearing open the letter, Stan read through the notice without taking much in. 'We're informing you'... blah blah blah... 'Arrive at 5:30pm July 19th'... blah blah blah... 'Awaiting your response'... blah blah blah.

Just as Stan thought, another rejection letter. He sat it down with the others and took another long pull from the Jim Beam bottle. The whole time something was tickling at the back of his head. As if there was a part of his mind screaming at the other, hazy, parts.

It took a few minutes longer, but Stan finally decided to read back over the letter that he received from XMW. His eyes darted across the page, finishing up before his brain really understood. 'READ IT AGAIN', that tiny voice was screaming at him. So he did. Finally, it started to sink in. He started to actually read the letter rather than just skim over it.

XMW was giving him a chance.

A multitude of emotions ran through Stan. Everything from happiness, to bliss, to regret, he felt the same swirling emotions as he normally did when he knew something was almost too good to be true. Hell, Stan wasn't even sure what day it was, much less what time he should get there and if he should clean up. So, he made his way back into his bedroom, stumbling through the small hallway, bumping the walls and knocking down picture frames, until he finally had a chance to look at the digital clock beside of his bed. 4:57am. Almost sun-up, he supposed. The date was what he was interested in, though.

July 18th.

When had the letter said? The 19th? He ran back through the house, looking at the letter. Yes, the 19th. He had his first match booked. And he only had one day to pull his shit together and make it to the arena.

---

"Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a young man who wanted nothing more than to wrestle professionally. He had busted his ass off in the collegiate circuit for years. He had rose up to wrestle in the Junior Olympics for the United States. He finally got that chance, and he was damned good at it. Yet, something along the way made him want to change his course. Something made him want to pursue a different career. Professional wrestling was his love, but he knew that that wasn't going to make an impact on the world. So, that young man gave up on his dream and became a fireman. He decided that there was nothing more noble than laying your own life down for even the slightest chance to save someone's life. Did he save people's lives? Some, yes. But, he also lost his best friend in those blazing infernos that he would run into so valiantly.

That young man grew up in a hurry. He went from a friendly, outgoing guy... To something more. To something... burned.

Wilted away was the mask that he used to wear. In its place was a scorched reminder of what once was and what once could've been.

It's fitting, I suppose, that that young man's first professional wrestling match in over five years gives him the chance to pair his ability with another to accomplish a goal.

Spydr? Proxy? I have no idea what name you want to go by, but I know that I get the chance... My FIRST chance... at redemption since my last teammate died trying to save me. I have no idea who you are, but I know that this is my only shot. This is my one last chance. You will not have to worry about me holding up my end of the bargain against the rag-tag group we're facing off against.

Speaking of which, it looks like I get the pleasure of going up against 'The Golden Boy' and Chris Elite. I can't make this stuff up. It's almost like the two guys went to the internet and picked the two most generic wrestler names they came across.

Yet, I remember those early days. I remember when I used to call myself shit like 'The Golden Boy' and 'elite', because I was just that arrogant. I thought that there was nothing in the world that could beat me, nothing in the world that could break me. Yet I, like every other idiot, found out really quickly that none of use are invincible. None of us are superior. It took me being burned to realize that. It took a harsh lesson. A lesson I am very willing to teach these two in the ring come the return of Affliction.

I was given a chance, Richards. I was given a chance, Elite. I was given a chance to come back and redeem myself in a company looking to make sure they make a return.

Everything in life comes full circle, guys. Life and death. Beginnings and endings. Whether you're elite or not, you're not above the rules. And whether you're golden or not, fire burns all.

Stand up. Stand fast. Stan Strong."
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