Thursday 29 August 2013

Magic Falls Part 26

“This changes everything”

“I know.”

“Sir, with all due respect, I don’t think you’ve taken all the potential consequences into account.”

“Ellis, save me your ‘all due respect’ patronisation.”

“That’s not how I – “

“Save it. I’ve considered the possibilities. I’m not convinced of what you’ve presented me.”

Ellis opened the file which was on the Director’s desk. “Sir, he’s passed all the tests. Blind tests. He’s….he’s the real deal.”

The Director looked down at the file. “He was an entertainer,” he said for what was feeling like the hundredth time. “We went through all this back in the seventies and eighties in Israel with Uri Geller. He comes in, does a load of supposed tests. But they’re basically the same things that he did on his stage show. Do you know what that means?”

“It means – “

“It means that he came in, did his illusions and for some unknown reason, the higher ups in Mossad decided to clap their hands like they were watching a clown make balloon animals and convince themselves that he was the real deal.”

“Sir, he found a murderer. A real case, from a guy that just went to one of his shows.”

“Well, then, he must be a psychic, mustn’t he? There can’t possibly be any other explanation.”

“Sir, I know it seems unlikely, but…”

“People confess to crimes, Ellis. Every day. Sometimes, it eats away at them.  If he wanted it to come out, then, say, he knew Smith somehow, then the two of them concoct it together. He confesses as publicly as he wants, gets all the notoriety and Smith becomes the world’s greatest psychic. Does that sound possible to you?”

Ellis went to speak, then hesitated. “It’s possible, yes.”

“And that’s just off the top of my head. However he did it, he’s an illusionist. That’s what he does. He lies and makes people believe it.”

“Sir, maybe if you see one of the tests yourself?”  Director Gillen glared at the younger officer, who pushed the point. “You’ll see what I mean. Any test you want. If he’s real…and we believe that he is… the strategic advantage this gives us…. I honestly don’t even know how to begin.”

The Director, after a few moments of irritation, flipped through the file.

“What’s he been doing? Correctly guessing pictures, things like that?”

“And telling people things that they haven’t told him. But that’s just for - ”

“This is sounding like it bears an astonishing similarity to a stage show.”

“So, a double blind then. We’ll go out of our way to trick him.”

The Director sat back in his chair, looking open to suggestion for the first time. “How?”

“Write something on a piece of paper. Seal it in an envelope. Don’t tell me what it is.”

“This is sounding like a magic trick.”

Frustrated, Ellis tried not to snap. “I know it does, but that’s what we’re talking about here. Someone actually doing something that most think is an illusion. You give me the envelope, and we go in together to see him. I won’t know what’s in it, nor will he have any influence over it. I'm not trying to get you to believe him entirely on the basis of that, but at least let us show you more verifications afterwards.”

“What you described - that’s not quite a double blind.”

“Well, no, but… you have to admit, it’s not giving him anything to work with. He doesn’t get to influence what went in, and he’s got nothing to read off me either. He doesn’t get to ask any questions, and he only gets one shot at it.”

Slowly, the Director nodded. “If he can tell me what’s in it then, I’ll consider that there may be something to this. But if this turns out to be a waste of my time…”

“Please, sir. Just five minutes of your time.” Ellis took a piece of paper from the printer and handed it to the Director. “Write something – anything – and then we’ll go straight down. We have him restrained.”

“Why is he restrained?”

“Some of the staff don’t want him going close to them. Military secrets and psychics are not a good combination.”

The Director closed his eyes. “I’m working in a madhouse,” he said, but he took a pen. “Turn around.”
Ellis did so, as the Director wrote something down without hesitation. He then took an envelope out of his desk drawer, folded the paper and inserted it, and then sealed the envelope.

“Here you go,” he said, handing Ellis the envelope.  “Let’s go and talk to our guest.”

Silently, the two men walked down the corridor, and then through a snaking series of corridors and stairs. Security personnel snapped to attention as they passed.

After a while, they were deep in the bowels of the building, heading towards a series of cells that very few people in the country knew existed. Very few people in the government or military either for that matter.

Ellis walked to the cell, barely big enough to hold a small bed and a chair. The guards outside opened the door. The two men strode through.

“Good afternoon, Mister – “ Ellis began, but he was cut off.

The man restrained in the chair interrupted him, even though he kept staring an angry hole in the ground. 

“Officer, hello, but I believe I need to speak to your boss. Director Gillen, the name you’ve written in that envelope is Julia. It was the name you chose for your daughter, if your wife hadn’t miscarried. You’ve never told anybody that, and since she died four years ago, it seems a little unlikely that she told me.”

The Director’s blood drained from his face, and his jaw dropped. “I….Jesus Christ.”

“No. Shane Smith.” He lifted his head up to look right into the director’s eyes. “Now, can you untie me, please?”

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Magic Falls Part 25

The face in the fire looks at me as the long, slender fingers of the thing that had been snaking around the circle wrap themselves around me. I struggle against them, but their strength is enormous.

As they wrap around my throat and force their way into my mouth, I can see that the thing's other hand is doing the same thing to Maria.

" me! Get - " she says, before the fingers worm their way down into her throat, and deep into her stomach.

I know that is what it is doing, because I can feel it doing the same thing to me. It's fingers are cold, heavy and feel like they're screaming.

I am lifted off my feet, as is Maria. The face in the fire grows and we are moved to it.


The thing begins to spread its fingers, and I feel the pressure pushing against every inch of my being. It forces itself into my brain and the visions and feelings overwhelm me. I cannot see or hear anything other than its will.










The words burn into my head, my vision, my hearing.

It is all I can see. All I can feel.

All that I am.

And then they are gone.

Not just the words. But the face in the fire and the thing that was around the circle.

For a few long moments, I forget how to breathe, but then I manage to inhale several large gasps before I throw up a mixture of vomit and blood.

The room is still coming back into focus as I remember Maria.

I look over to see if she is okay, and I see that she is doing much the same thing. Her face is still smeared with the bloody tears and she is wiping blood from her mouth.

"What...." she is breathing shallowly and quickly, trying to get herself under control. "...the hell...have you done?"

I try talking, but burst into a painful coughing fit instead. When I can actually form words again, I say "I don't know."

" just pissed off the elder gods," she says. I try to tell whether she is angry or scared. Or both.

"I don't even know what they are," I say. "Not until they...not until they were inside us."

"How did they....?"

"I don't know how they knew about me." I swallow back a mouthful of bloody bile. It tastes like copper.

"They could have killed us."

"So why didn't they?"

She stands up, and crosses the circle, moving over to her armchair, where she sits back and breathes slowly. "Gods," she says. "You take for granted how good air tastes when you're not suffocating on....whatever that was."

I stay kneeling. Moving my head is making me dizzy, and I'm worried about what will happen right now if I try to stand.

She watches me. "You know," she says. "That big display of power that thing did to pass on a message. That seemed very much like a threat to me."

I can't help but smile a little. "You don't say."

"It felt like grandstanding. Bloody effective grandstanding, but grandstanding."

"What do you mean?" I ask, taken aback by how quickly she is able to talk. I can still barely gasp.

"They're not just pissed off at you, Darren. They're scared of you. In awe."

I take the chance and stand. "It's not me."

"Who is it then?"

"The message wasn't for me...." The dizziness overwhelms me, but then I can feel it drain. I can see clearly, and feel my feet under me gaining steadiness. I can breathe again properly. "It was for the son of the devil."

"And who is that?"

"...I don't know."

She brings her head forward, her fingers splayed at her temples. "I can't help you any more, Darren."

"I didn't want this to happen," I say quietly. It doesn't matter. I know that.

"The money..." she says. "The money that turned up in your account. I won it. I know I said I wouldn't use it like that, but I did. And I put half the money in your account, because I know you're doing something even if I don't know what it is. But I can't do anything else. I'm done."

I stagger across to her, and half-kneel, half-collapse in front of her. She leans forward and we hug.

"I hope you find Nina. I hope she's okay. And I love you very much. You're one of my best friends. But I can't see you for a while now. This is too much."

I nod into her shoulder. "I understand."



"Stay alive. Please. Promise me."

I hold her tighter, but I don't promise anything.


I hear you.

Through the earth.

From where I have waited so long.

My love.

My one true love.

It has been so long.

I am coming for you.

Saturday 17 August 2013

Darren Young and Wrestling with Homophobia

"He ain't nothing. Look at him, he's half queer."

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson about Triple H (1999)

"I just figured out what the 'H' in HBK stands for...You're nothing but a homo!"

Bret 'The Hitman' Hart to 'The Heartbreak Kid' Shawn Michaels (1997)

If you grew up during the 1980s or 1990s, you're probably aware of the Ultimate Warrior. A muscled madman, he was hugely popular with wrestling fans all over the world, and particularly popular with kids. What's not so well remembered is the time he led thousands of people in a chant of 'faggot' against a wrestler who portrayed a gay character. On live pay-per-view. In 1996. But then, that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the deep-rooted homophobia involved in wrestling.

This week, Darren Young became the first openly gay member of the active roster in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). He came out during an interview with, which was obviously set up for exactly that purpose. Young is part of a tag-team called the Prime Time Players, who are a pair of comedy heels (wrestling parlance for 'bad guys'). They're young, well-built, good looking guys who have a higher opinion of what they're worth than most fans do.
Darren Young, who came out days ago.

A number of fans have been strongly of the opinion that WWE should keep him in this role, to send the message that his sexuality is not important. While I can see the merits of this, I disagree for a number of reasons. The main one is the context of how homosexuality has been handled in wrestling in the past.

While few characters in wrestling have been openly gay, there have been a number of 'flamboyant' characters. These include characters like Gorgeous George (who would insist on the ring being sprayed with perfume before he would wrestle) and Britain's Adrian Street (who would combine a sadistic wrestling style with his flamboyant appearance). Their characters were designed to generate heat from the audience by camping it up (and, usually, being abusive and unpleasant to their female valets).

Adrian Street in what is frankly still the greatest picture ever taken of a pro-wrestler. (c) Jeremy Deller 
In 1996, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) - now WWE - introduced the character 'Goldust'. Similarly to his predecessors, Goldust camped it up hugely, and played up the sexuality of the character to a huge degree. He would wear a long blonde wig and feathered robe for his entrance, and would wrestle with black and gold facepaint and a tight gold bodysuit. He would blow kisses at his opponent, or slowly lick his lips. In his first feud, he got a fake tattoo with his opponent's name on a loveheart.

During his introduction, commentator Jerry Lawler said "Goldust is here. He may be queer. Get used to it, because he's going to be your next Intercontinental champion". Goldust was portrayed as a manipulative player of mindgames, using his sexuality to distract opponents, usually before receiving a beating. In his most high profile beating (against Rowdy Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania XII), during which he was kicked in the balls after trying to kiss his opponent, it was revealed that he wore stockings, suspenders and a corset under his outfit.

Goldust - Probably the most prominent gay wrestling character ever.

At a major event, he was set to fight the Ultimate Warrior. You can see the set-up for the feud here. During the match itself, the crowd started chanting "faggot", which the Warrior enthusiastically sang along to and conducted. He was, of course, portrayed as the good guy in the match.

They did turn Goldust face (good guy) at the end of the year, though. And how did they do so? They had him state categorically that he "wasn't queer".

In 2002, they did exactly the same thing with a tag-team called Billy and Chuck. After they started teaming for a while, they started camping it up and playing a couple - and also gained a personal stylist named Rico who would accompany them to the ring. This time, though, WWE took it one step further by getting the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to consult on the storyline.

The reason they did this was because they wanted to hype up the live commitment ceremony they were planning to broadcast. WWE hyped this as a full storyline, and GLAAD helped them gain mainstream media coverage. While humorous, it was portrayed as being a positive step for wrestling.

Billy Gunn (left) and Chuck Palumbo (right)
And then Billy and Chuck were turned face by stating that they weren't gay.

They called off their ceremony halfway through to clarify that they weren't gay and it was all a publicity stunt that had got out of hand. They were then beaten up by two other wrestlers. The following week (possibly in response to GLAAD anger and condemnation over being misled), WWE started a storyline about "HLA" - Hot Lesbian Action. The General Manager character, Eric Bischoff, brought out two women to strip to their underwear and make out. Once they did so, they were beaten up by the same pair that attacked Billy and Chuck.

Yes, this happened this century.

It's worth pointing out that they've also played real-life homosexuals for laughs as well. Pat Patterson (a long time WWE employee), during a high point of WWE popularity in 2000, wrestled in an 'evening gown match' with Gerald Brisco, in which both men wore dresses, and Patterson used a sanitary towel as a weapon at one point.

Yes, this also happened this century with Pat Patterson.

Meanwhile, they've also portrayed Dawn Marie, Mickie James, Victoria and Sable as lesbian stalkers at various points, which have pretty much been about as varied as they've got when it comes to their portrayal of sexuality of women. Although their portrayals of women are worthy of their own blog post at some point, so I'm not going to go any further into that right now other than to silently weep into my hands for a moment.

For decades, this has been how wrestling has portrayed homosexuals. As jokes. As manipulators. As bad guys. They have actively damaged perceptions of homosexuality, and have repeatedly had men and women turn face by revealing their heterosexuality. And, for years, it was common for homosexuality to be used as an insult, as seen at the beginning of this blog post through quotes from two of the most popular wrestlers in history. And even in more recent years, jokey homosexual insults have been used by fan favourites. It's a terrible message to send to fans, particularly when they've always had a large number of young, impressionable fans.

This is why I think it's important to have a face who is gay. Because WWE have, to be fair, mostly changed their ways. They haven't had a gay character (whether good or bad) in a long time, and Young's outing has been portrayed by WWE as something they're proud of, and a number of WWE personalities have tweeted or publicly stated congratulations (including Bret Hart, incidentally). WWE now run anti-bullying educational visits for schools, and Young has been immediately added to the stars who take part. That's a great first move.

It's important because I don't think it's enough to just have a gay wrestler. I think it's important to acknowledge the fact, and portray Young's bravery in coming out as a positive that the company is proud of. And not play it for laughs. And, if they do have someone attack him over it (because it is wrestling at the end of the day), have Young win in short and celebratory order.

It's not like the Prime Time Players are in a position that plans can't change over. They're generally on TV in order to lose, and usually in humorous fashion. They have nothing to lose by acknowledging and celebrating Darren Young being the first WWE wrestler to publicly come out. And he's a good person to have in the position. He's a young, good looking, charismatic guy. Use that.

While I take the point that it shouldn't make a difference, I'll agree unhesitatingly with that for every gay wrestler that comes afterwards. For the first time, it is different. WWE have been casually and aggressively homophobic over the last few decades, and they have the opportunity to start making up for that. And it's time to do so.