Raw Flesh
« on: January 28, 2018, 06:58:37 AM »

The rain tapped violently against the window and the rattling made it seem like the wind was just waiting to break in. Natalie blinked in unison with the flickering light above her. Her breathing was heavy. Her knuckles were bruised, raw, and bloodied. Tears were streaming down her face, but she didn’t feel sad. She felt relief. A burden taken off of her. And Mother Nature wanted to let Natalie know that she saw it all. But Natalie didn’t care that she did. She didn’t care if anyone saw.

It was all over.

As the adrenaline started to settle down, so did she. Her legs became wobbly and she stumbled back, bracing herself against the wall. Natalie’s eyes fixated on what she’d done as if part of her mind was still trying to comprehend what exactly happened. But she knew. There weren’t any mixed signals being sent. Another hard blink and everything started to become clear.

On the floor, covered in blood; Irving. The man who tormented Natalie’s life. The man who set out to make a profit off of Natalie King. The man who helped birth the monster that brought him down. And now she was free. For the first time in forever, Natalie did something on her own. No one told her to do this. What stuck out to her? No one demanded she do this. There was no underlying threatening implication that came with what she did.

It was blunt. Out in the open. Nothing in her life made more sense than what she’d done. And it was all so liberating. Every emotion that had been locked up for years had finally come out. She didn’t go into a blind rage. She wasn’t under the influence. Natalie was more sober than ever. This had been a long time coming. There was no certainty with what came next and it wasn’t going to be good, but in the moment? Natalie had won.


He whispered.


Again. Much clearer. Much louder. She was hunched over, staring right at Irving. As the pool of blood around his head began to expand, Irving started to sit up. The light above was flickering more than before and she couldn’t keep up with the pace. The rain was growing louder. And Irving’s cold, black eyes were staring right into Natalie’s soul.


And that’s when the window broke. When the bulb above burst. That’s when Natalie opened her eyes and felt the rush of cold water hitting her skin. It jolted her up and she nearly lost her balance only for a pair of hands to grab onto her, keeping her in place. Natalie turned her head in a hurry to see Joey standing there. As her eyes scanned all around, she realized where she was. Home. Specifically in her tub and standing, freezing in soaking wet clothes.

“Natalie, you back with us?”


“Good. Thought we lost ya or something.”

Her breathing was just as rapid as it started in her dream, but Natalie had to suppress what she was feeling. To suppress the absolutely crushing realization that she’d only been dreaming. It felt so real and she even looked at her hands only to find them as pure as they can be. Joey tossed her a towel and turned the water of

“I’d been callin’ ya for the past hour and you weren’t answerin’. So had to make a little housecall to make sure you didn’t do anything stupid, Nat. And almost had me there.”

Bit by bit, everything was starting to flood back into Natalie’s mind. She didn’t even have to leave the bathroom to know that her coffee table was still dusted white. To know that there weren’t empty beer bottles hanging around on the couch where she loved to waste her life away. Joey came back into the room with a set of dry clothes for Natalie and she tried to smile.

“Thanks, Joey.”

“Yeah...well, don’t thank me just yet.”

She didn’t like the sound of that, but then again, rarely did Joey ever say anything good. As she dried herself to the best of her abilities and changed into a fresh set of clothes, Natalie walked out of the bathroom and into the living room.

And there he was.

A perfectly healthy Irving seated across from Natalie’s couch with Natalie’s Melee Championship on his lap. Even though she came to terms with her dream, it didn’t feel real to see Irving alive. Let alone sitting in her apartment. He greeted her with a smile that could be described as warm if it didn’t make Natalie’s skin crawl. A gesture toward the couch and Natalie took her seat while Joey stood by the door.

“You know, Natalie...this reckless lifestyle...that’s how you got here in the first place. And look, I’m not gonna fault you for having some fun. We all do it. But Natalie? You realize that you can’t fuck up like that, right?”

His eyes narrowed and that “warm” smile faded.

“I can’t have my investment overdose. Do you know how bad that makes us fucking look? If you die, you become fucking worthless. If you live, you become a headcase and God forbid anyone finds out because if they do? If the headlines say ‘Famous fighter overdosed on cocaine in a shitty apartment’, I’ve got to deal with those repercussions.”

Being scolded like a child. In some way, she knew that Irving was right. Not in a traditional sense, but one nonetheless. If she fucked it up for them, that meant she fucked it up for her. Everything she’d work for would be meaningless. Even if she did die, that meant they won. And she just couldn’t do that.

“So you understand why I decided to come over and make a visit, right? Just to make sure that you had a perfectly clear understanding of what I’m trying to do. I run a business, Natalie. You’re my product. If you die, I die. If I die...well, you get the point. And i-”

But before he could even finish the next part of his rant, a series of rapid knocks at the door cut him off. Joey reached behind his back and Natalie checks out the window. A woman stood there, still knocking at the door.

“Natalie? Come on, I know you’re there.”

“Who the fuck is this?”

“My sister.”

Natalie motioned for Joey to move away and she stood open, unlocking the top lock, and pulling back the door.

“You gonna ever answer your phone?”

“Mackenzie, look, I had a rough night and I didn’-”

“Yeah, yeah, I know all about your rough nights, Nat.”

They shared a brief smile; definitely nothing to celebration, but at least a common understanding between the two sisters; all too aware of the demons Natalie possessed.

“Look, I came over cause mom was worried about you. All she hears is you’re fighting and bleeding and she just wanted to make sure you still had a face left that wasn’t covered in cuts and bruises.”

“Tell mom I’m fine. She worries too much.”

“You know how she gets. But hey, are you going to let me in? It’s freezing out here, Nat.”

Nervously, Natalie looked back into the living room where Irving nodded. She wanted to tell Mackenzie to just leave and run away, but Natalie didn’t really have much of an option given her circumstances. So she begrudgingly pulled the door open further and Mackenzie walked in, instantly aware of Joey and Irving.


“Irving. And that’s Joey.”

As Mackenzie walked in, she was carrying a big bowl wrapped with aluminum foil at the top, and found herself awkwardly standing in the middle of some Mexican standoff of uneasy tension.

“These are my-”

“Manager and trainer.”

“Oh? Well it’s a pleasure to meet you two. I’m Mackenzie, Natalie’s sister.”

Irving stood up, placing the Melee Championship to the side, and shook Mackenzie’s hand.

“A treat to meet you too, but you’ll have to excuse us, we were just on our way out. Gotta start planning for her next fight. But if you don’t mind...Natalie, a word in private?”

Mackenzie smiled and Natalie faked one as she showed Joey and Irving the way out, joining them outside. Once the door was shut, Irving went right back to his sinister ways.

“As I was my investment, as my product? You can’t fuck up, Natalie. You understand that?”

“Yeah, I get it.”

“Do you? Cause I don’t fucking think you do. You got this fucking Blackstar alien prick and some other prick named Brennan Devlin to beat. You represent me, Natalie, and I’m not letting some shitshow go out there, got it?”

“Yes, Irving, I get it.”

She grew irritated and Irving snapped right back at her.

“Don’t you fucking get smart with me, Natalie. Just remember...if you lose that championship? You lose your value to me. And if you lose your value to me? You became another name on Joey’s list. And you know better than anyone that’s the last place you want to end up.”

Her eyes drifted over to Joey, almost expressing a look of shame on his face as he looked elsewhere.

“And just in case you do fuck up again...I know Mackenzie won’t. Got it? See you around, kid.”

He was vague. But he didn’t have to explain a single thing to her. Irving was blunt and he made his point. Joey trailed behind him as Natalie walked back into the apartment; shellshocked.

“You okay, Nat?”

“Yeah...I’m fine. So...what’d you bring?”

And there she went. Having to continue her lie. Having to make some small talk just to escape  As Mackenzie opened the container, Natalie’s eyes were locked onto the Melee Championship. The importance of it meant more than anything now. It meant life or death.

And she wasn’t planning on letting anyone fall for her.

The cameras started rolling and there was Natalie King standing alone in the center of the Old Whale. The Melee Championship around her shoulder and a smirk on her face.

“You know, every month I step into Melee facing my biggest challenge yet. That’s the territory that comes with being the Melee Champion, but I won’t lie...I’ll be straight up with you. It’s creates this feeling of anxiety because I know that when I step out to fight...I’m representing the entire company and everyone in it. I’m meant to be the face of F2W. I’m carrying the weight of everyone’s expectations on my back and I’m not planning on giving up that weight anytime soon.”

“Because that weight that I put onto my shoulders is just what I need to survive. Without this Melee Championship around my shoulder or around my waist...I’m just Natalie King. This championship allows me to live my wildest dreams. This championship allows me to be the person I strive to be. This championship allows me to fight. I get to do what I love more than anything in the world and even without it? I’d never stop fighting, but with this belt in my possession? It is my world.”

“And for that reason, I can’t let anyone take that away from me. Losing this belt is losing everything I’ve worked for to this point. I don’t dedicate all my time to perfecting this craft just to give it up in one fight. When I came to F2W, I was a nobody. Now I’m a champion. No one knew who I was. And in all fairness, I didn’t know much either. But I made sure on that first episode of Melee that everyone knew who Natalie King is. Four shows later, I’d say everyone has a solid idea about who I am.”

She smirks again and pats the faceplate of the Melee Championship.

“They don’t. I don’t even know. Because the Natalie King of today is going to be different than the Natalie King of yesterday and the Natalie King of tomorrow. Every time I train, I get better. Every time I fight, I get better. I’m always trying to get better and even if I’m building myself up brick by brick, I’m going to be the foundation of F2W for a long time. As long as I’ve still got a pulse that’s beating? I’m not leaving. And there’s not a single person here that will drag me out of here.”

“Time and time again, the challenges getting harder, but in the face of adversity, I’m not backing down. When I came here, that was my first challenge. But I prevailed. When everything said I shouldn’t have left the first Melee with even one win under my belt...I left with two and the Melee Championship. Then they said it was a fluke win, that something out of my power happened, and I shouldn’t have won. And you know? Maybe they were right. But what’d I do?”

“I proved that I belong with everyone else. Whenever the odds were ramped up, I charged head first, and I came out standing with the Melee Championship held high above my head! I’ve yet to back away from a fight no matter how dangerous, how wild, or how vicious it will be. It’s something new every time and this month is no different. After my war with Alfie, I had the pleasure of finding out that I’d be facing not one, but two challengers.”

Natalie pauses for a moment, allowing the severity of the challenge to soak in.

“Two of the absolute best here in F2W. The only advantage I have heading into this fight is that it’s on my turf, but when you face someone like Blackstar? That doesn’t mean a damn thing. We’ve all seen exactly what he can do and what kind of power he has. And not just when it comes to fighting. Like any good fighter, he’s not afraid to get dirty, but he’s...he’s something else. All the Scientology stuff aside, Blackstar’s not just a dangerous fighter...he’s a dangerous human...or...alien...whatever. He’s bad news.”

“You could say I got lucky against him the first time. Then the second time, he sent his goons after me. And if they are supposed to represent the true power of Blackstar? I’m in for a hell of a fight when I get him as is with, hopefully, no shenanigans. I have to defend my championship against this monstrous being. Revenge has undoubtedly been on Blackstar’s mind since we first crossed paths and now he’s got a chance for redemption. Who knows what he’s going to do?”

“He’s as unpredictable as they come and I’ve got to somehow be ready for that. Tell me, how do you do that? When a man has a literally army behind him willing to give their all for their cause...what do you do? They don’t teach you that when you start training. But I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, Blackstar, I’m going into this knowing I’ve got everything to lose. When you back me up into that corner, I don’t care about the size of your army...I’m tearing through them all one by one like I did last time until I get to you!”

An intensity is seen in Natalie’s eyes as she glares into the camera as if Blackstar was right in front of her.

“I don’t care if the odds are stacked against me. I don’t care if you’ve got soldier after soldier trying to take me down...I won’t let them or you do that. I know it won’t be easy, but nothing worth having is. So if we’ve gotta get bloody...and I know we will...then so be it. But it’s not just Blackstar and his goons that I have to watch out for. They’re vicious enough, but I’ve got to keep my eye on Brennan Devlin all throughout this fight too.”

“If there’s ever a man to strike you when you’re down? It’s Brennan Devlin. And he does a damn good job at it. All you have to do is take one look at Devlin’s history to truly get an understanding of who he is. Every company he’s been in, I guarantee you that he’s won a championship or at least come real close. And he doesn’t get those opportunities by playing favorites. He gets those opportunities by striking when said opportunities present themselves. That’s an instinct I admire honestly.”

“Another man who is willing to get dirty to win. I can respect that mentality. People might not like it, but it’s just the hard truth. If you want to be successful, if you want that success to’ve got to be willing to do what it takes to make sure nobody takes your place. Because there’s no bigger target painted on someone than a loud mouth with a history of success elevating him above everyone else. That’s who Brennan Devlin is. That’s something that makes him just as dangerous as Blackstar.”

A knowing nod accompanies the last sentence.

“Sure, Devlin doesn’t quite have the army of aliens that Blackstar has, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to value him any less as a threat. He knows what it takes to win. He knows what it takes to be on top of the world. And most relevant of all...he knows what it takes to be a champion. So why shouldn’t I expect him to do anything and everything to become the Melee Champion? I know I’d do the exact same. And so while I’ve got to worry about Blackstar...I can’t get too lost in that because I know Brennan is waiting, stalking, and looking to attack when either one of us show weakness.”

“You might not like what he has to say, but you have to respect his ability. And yeah, you can say that for a lot of guys who project themselves as arrogant as Devlin, but at the end of the day...he backs it up. He talks the talk and walks the I have to do that too. There’s no question that Brennan’s got more experience than me in just about every category on paper, but that’s your first mistake. I know from being in bloody fight after bloody fight that what someone looks like on paper here in F2W means fuck all.”

She shrugs after being so blunt, knowing what someone like Devlin can do.

“Because the same fight that I’m bringing to Blackstar and potentially his entire armanda? I’m bringing to you too, Brennan. I’m doing what it takes to make sure that I not only beat Blackstar, but I beat you too. I’m making sure that neither one of you leaves Melee with the Melee Championship. So I’ll match Blackstar with my own one-woman army. I’ll match Brennan Devlin by fighting dirty, taking every opportunity I can to win, and clutching victory in my hands. And you’ll have to excuse me...I know I make it sound like it’ll be easy.”

“But it won’t. It’s going to be a war whether there’s an alien army or not. You strip away everything that makes us who we are...and you’ve still got three of the best fighters in all of F2W. I don’t care if these guys have had their setbacks. I’m not taking any of this lightly. I’ve spilled blood for F2W. As far as I’m concerned? I’m here for life. So when I see you two step up and threatening to take away my livelihood? You better prepare for this war.”

“I don’t know if I’ll be ready. I don’t know if you two will be ready. All I know is that I’ve got to go in there with everything against me...and I’ve got to climb my way out of this beaten down bar STILL the Melee Champion. And I look forward to seeing just what exactly you two will bring because I know you won’t disappoint. I certainly hope you know that I won’t disappoint either. Melee is my home, the Melee Championship is my world, and fighting is my life.”

Her eyes narrow and she unhooks the Melee Championship from her shoulder.

“I’m not leaving that bar until I’m dead and being stretchered out. I’m not leaving that bar until I hear them say…”

Natalie’s arm launches up and she holds the Melee Championship high above her head for everyone at home to see.


She stands right in the center of the room, not moving an inch, and the camera fades on the shot of Natalie holding her Melee Championship.