BLOWTORTURE


HOLLYWOOD - ABOUT A DECADE FROM NOW...


ONE

Woooooooooooooosh!

The sky was turning violet, which meant it was an okay time for Adonis to venture into the outside world and feel relatively comfortable. There was still some daylight, but it was dark enough for his face to appear in shadow from any distant onlooker. Of course, it helped that he was wearing his black denims, black boots, a black T-shirt and also his faded purple Lakers hat with the brim low to his face, casting even more shadow over the majority of the scarring. If he was seen, it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but - after years of stares - he’d rather not feel any more pain. He’d rather just blend into the darkness and pretend that his face was like everybody else’s.

Wooooooooooooooosh!

He kept a firm hold of his leather case while he hiked through the remaining clumps of chaparral and dusty, yellow silt. Soon, he gripped the familiar metal rung that he noticed was actually starting to get rusty and then climbed his way up the giant, metallic letter. The wind became much stronger as he got higher in altitude; the Pacific Ocean breeze seemed unusually strong this particular evening, but then he realized that it was Santa Ana season and it wasn’t a breeze from the ocean he was feeling, but the angry winds from the desert.

He reached the horizontal part of the first L, set down his leather case, and took a seat, nestling himself inside the letter’s inner elbow. He had only been sitting on this particular letter for about a year now; before that, he would have been inside the very first O. However, he moved from the O to the L when a bench was built into the horizontal part of the latter letter, so that it was easier to take a seat. With the approval of the Hollywood Sign Trust, a production company built the bench in order to film a scene from some hot reality TV show called “The Lonely Bachelor”. Adonis hadn’t seen the actual show, but he had seen a clip from it replayed on the Inside Entertainment News Network that Mother always watched. It was a great big production, shot from all sorts of angles, including a helicopter camera flying over Mount Lee. There was some guy named Rod or Grant or Blake - something like that - and a girl named Brittany who spoke like she had just sucked in a balloon-full of helium. They were sitting right on the ‘L’, sharing stories about what it was like when they first came to Hollywood. Then they congratulated each other for being brave enough to follow their dreams, and they ended the scene with a sloppy kiss with lots of tongue. The whole thing made Adonis’ soul want to vomit and the first time he sat on the ‘L’, he made sure to bring some antiseptic spray and some rags and he washed off the bench before he sat, just so he wouldn’t get any germs from those reality TV slugs.

In fact, the only good thing to come out of that whole reality TV series was the bench on the Sign, which made it a lot easier and more comfortable for Adonis to sit and gaze down to a town that he hated because it had done nothing but chew him up and spit him out, but he still somehow loved at the same time. He wanted to make it a better, healthier town. And he was going to. He had the ultimate plan…

Wooooooooooooooosh!

Man, Hollywood seemed a lot more beautiful from the top of the Sign than it did from down there when you were up close and personal...then again, everything looked better from a distance, just like Adonis’ face, but no need to go into that right now. The impending darkness of the night gradually turned everything into a silhouette, hiding most of the blemishes. The palm trees, for example, still looked a little saggy and sad, but - towards dusk - their browning palms became concealed by shadow, so they didn’t look as sick and depressed as in the daytime. And then there were all the bright lights - a lot of neon and blinking ones. They were kind of tacky, but Adonis still thought it was better than how pale the town looked in the daytime; with all the stucco and gray concrete down there, it looked about as dull as a carnival during the daytime hours. And then, of course, there was the smog, which made everything look even more pale and sickly, but – like everything else – also looked better at night, glowing orange and purple from all the city’s light pollution.

In fact, Adonis usually preferred to not even look at Hollywood (or the outside world in general) during the daytime hours, which was partially why - over the years - he had adjusted his sleeping schedule so that he slept during the peak of the day and was up basically all night. Of course, there were other reasons why he slept all day. The town (and the world in general) was quieter during the nighttime hours - less traffic, less people, less big news stories, less reality TV - overall, less white noise. And then, of course, the other obvious big reason was that he could walk around without too many people staring at him, seeing his face, pointing and whispering. Yeah, that was a pretty big reason why he liked the night as well. He’d be remiss if he didn’t acknowledge that one. 

Oh, and it was cooler at night…much, much cooler.

So, yes, overall, the night was just better. It made the town look better, it made the world look better and it made Adonis FEEL better. He felt better about Hollywood and the world when it was night. It was a reality he preferred to be a part of. It was the reality he wanted to trick himself into thinking existed...

But, of course, he knew this reality - the nighttime reality - was a deceiving reality, a false reality. He knew that - behind the violet silhouettes - there were those sick palm trees and the pale stucco and an overall gray town with a jaundiced hue to it. He also knew that the pretty neon lights mainly served as a distraction to divert people’s attention away from all the horrible things that were going on around them. There was a Babylon down there plain and simple, with murders, suicides, beatings, rapings, gang-bangings, drug-overdoses and God-knows-what-else. But that was just the town itself, the part of the town that had nothing to do with the entertainment business. Because “the industry” was another story. The intense desperation of millions of people gave birth to all sorts of abhorrent behavior, most of which was totally legal but was probably more ugly than anything that could actually put somebody into jail.

Take that “Lonely Bachelor” reality TV show, for example - all the sick and disgusting values that it polluted the culture with. Reducing the sacred act of falling in love to a two-month-long TV series where a group of men compete against and backstab each other, reducing the woman they “love” to a game show prize, telling the world that they’re out looking for love when they’re really just trying to get famous, hoping that they can take that small seed of fame and plant it and water it and maybe, just maybe, a healthy long-term career in show business could grow into something beautiful.

God, that show REALLY made Adonis’ soul want to puke.

But now things were going to change. This was an exciting, exciting time and he had been planning everything for a while now, thinking and thinking about it, plotting and plotting, and collecting his supplies. There was no more time to procrastinate. He had been thinking about it for years now ever since he saw that Batman movie and he realized that the Batman movie was God speaking to him and that he was going to become a new kind of superhero in a town that needed one oh-so-badly. It was an epiphanal moment, actually. He was sitting in his room watching the Batman movie and he realized that his accident was a blessing from God and now God wanted him to spread that blessing to others and gradually - over time - the town would change, the culture would change and even the WORLD would change.

Yes, this “New Way” was coming and Adonis was instrumental in triggering it. He was God’s chosen one. People were going to start seeing the world the way he started seeing it after his fateful day, from an entirely new perspective. They were going to transcend the body and all the problems attached to it, and become all spirit. This was going to be a spiritual revolution where, over time, people would be forced to love both themselves and others unconditionally, without the flesh getting in the way, blinding people from the true spirit within. It was going to be beautiful and tonight was the night it was going to start.

Woooooooooooosh.

A strong gust of Santa Ana wind just about knocked Adonis off of the Hollywood Sign. It was a little unsettling at first, but then Adonis interpreted it to be a sign from above, the breath of God, a wind of change. He resettled himself into a comfortable position on the bench and then - for the first time - noticed two circles of light moving slowly along the sheet of smog hovering over the valley below. They were searchlights! Why, he almost forgot about why he came up to the Sign in the first place!

He unzipped his leather case and took out something called a T-Pad, which was really just a fancy-sounding name for a small, portable television made by the satellite TV company, Direct-something-or-other. It was a new Hi-definition piece of technology that was basically just like those old, portable televisions from the 1980s, like the one Raymond carried around in that Rain Man movie, but instead of receiving signals from airwaves, they received it through microwaves. The picture and sound quality was a whole lot better because it was all digital - not analog - technology.

He powered up the T-Pad, scanned through the channels and found exactly what he was looking for:

THE OSCARS.

It had actually been an annual tradition of his to spend Oscar night atop the Hollywood Sign and watch the ceremony from up there. Why? He wasn’t really sure. Part of the reason was that - no matter how many awards those shining stars received - they were still technically below him, down in the valley, while he was high up on Mount Lee, perched atop the biggest icon in Hollywood and even America and very arguably the world. He was literally at “the place to be” and this - for whatever reason - made him feel a little better, that he was at “the place to be” while those movie stars winning Best Actor and Actress were further away, at least physically...though arguably they were closer in a figurative sense but Adonis didn’t like to see it that way.

Of course, Adonis had only been able to perch himself atop the Sign (both during Oscar night and just in general) for about the past ten years, ever since California’s economy took a nose-dive and the Sign Trust ran out of the money it needed to maintain a 24-hour surveillance system of the Sign. Before then, Adonis wouldn’t have been able to access any of the Hollywood letters without tripping alarms and having an LAPD helicopter come and arrest him. So he was forced to watch the ceremony in the mansion with Mother, which was almost unbearable, seeing that the vibe of disappointment emanating from Mother the whole time was physically palpable and clearly directed towards her son, the Hollywood failure. But, now, with the surveillance system dead and the advent of this new satellite TV thingy, Adonis was able to watch the Oscars live on his T-pad, high up on his favorite perch, away from Mother, smack-dab on the Hollywood Sign, the ultimate place to be.

So, yes, for the past ten years Adonis had made a tradition out of spending Oscar night perched atop the Hollywood Sign and when the ceremony was over he would descend Mount Lee and return home feeling somewhat bitter and disappointed that he hadn’t been one of the night’s winners, but also feeling a little better knowing that he kind of owned or dominated the Sign the whole time the ceremony was taking place. He knew the Sign liked him better than any of those pretty-faced stars. The Sign remembered who he was even though nobody else did. The Sign stuck with him through good times and bad. The Sign’s love for him was unconditional…

This night, however, was going to be a little bit different than previous years. Adonis wasn’t going to return to his home...right away. This Oscar night was going to provide the first...um...subject for his little experiment. Yes, this night was going to essentially "nominate" (no Oscar pun intended haha) the very first person to experience the “New Way”. Simply put and with no beating around the bush, it was going to be whoever won Best Actor. Why? Because that person was going to be as “on top” as a person could get in Hollywood. And so that person would be going from ‘on top’, to the bottom of all bottoms...literally overnight…just like Adonis. This dramatic shift in a person’s life was the best way to get them to SEE what he saw, to experience what HE experienced.

Of course, it should be mentioned and emphasized that Adonis spent much time assuring himself that his actions were being done out of love, and not through bitterness and jealousy. After careful analysis, he determined that he was not acting out of jealousy but that he was merely choosing the best candidate for the “New Way”, a person who was currently experiencing the pinnacle of their career. And that was that.

So, for the time being, he cozied himself into the inner elbow of the ‘L’ and enjoyed the show. He had been thinking about doing this for a long time and now was time to do it. He could change the town for the better. He had the power to change it forever, back to a place where real love prevailed. This was going to be amazing, unprecedented and maybe even apocalyptic. This was the “Second Coming” the Bible talked about. Adonis was God’s soldier. This was going to be HUGE.



TWO

“And the Oscar goes to...”

Angelina Witherspoon was center-stage at the Kodak Theater, looking as breathtaking as ever in her silver Oscar De La Renta gown. “Conservative” was the 'it-word' for this particular year's prestigious ceremony. The Academy had issued a memo to all guests mandating that they cover WAY more parts of their body this year, mainly because Hollywood had received a lot of flack the previous year for dressing too...um...slutty. The Academy wanted to regain an image of class and sophistication (however superficial it may be), so it told everybody to limit the length of their dress’ slits and try not to show much cleavage, if any at all. The overall idea was to return to its roots - the Golden Age of Hollywood - where stars basically wore snowsuits to award ceremonies.

Angelina Witherspoon, however, was looking even MORE conservative than the other Oscar attendees and this was mainly due to last year’s “nip-slip” mishap where Angelina’s spaghetti strap slipped off her shoulder and her V-neck area slipped down a liiiiiitle too low as she was holding her Best Actress Oscar high up in the air shouting, “Thank you so much, God!” The slip was a monumental moment in Oscar history and of course everybody was Blogging and Tweeting and Facebooking about it right after it happened, while Inside Entertainment News analyzed the incident to death, from various camera angles, almost as if it were the JFK assassination. The FCC consequently pounced on the Academy’s ass and the Academy issued its memo about dressing conservatively for the next year.

“Having a little trouble here...”

Yes, Angelina Witherspoon - charismatic as usual - was "having a little trouble" opening the Oscar envelope. This trouble definitely humanized her a bit, which was good for her overall image, although it wasn’t necessarily intentional, though it could have been.

“Here we go, all set. The Oscar goes to..."

The crowd was silent with anticipation.

"...CHRISTOPHER HAWTHORNE, for ON EAGLE’S WINGS.”

The Kodak Theater erupted with applause and the pit orchestra swelled into the dramatic, violin-filled theme from ON EAGLE’S WINGS. All eyes and cameras focused on the fifth row back, in the center of the aisle, because there was Christopher Hawthorne looking paralyzed with shock. He was somewhere probably in his early 40s but his official Hollywood age was 38. Hawthorne was looking dapper as anything with his black tuxedo, pencil-thin goatee and thick, dark-rimmed glasses, the latter of which perfectly framed his beautiful brown eyes and gave him a wise, intellectual appearance.

Hawthorne was sitting next to his date - his mother - and she was kissing him on the cheek, nudging him to snap out of his current state of paralytic shock. Hawthorne had promised his mother - way back in the day - that she would be his date when he won Best Actor at the Academy Awards; it didn’t matter whether he was single (which he happened to be…relatively newly single, that is) or dating or married, but no matter what his relationship-status was, mom would be his date, plain and simple, no matter what. It was the least he could do for his mother after she supported him so much over the years. He was about 12-years-old when he and his mother packed up their car, left Lafayette, Indiana and migrated to Hollywood at the beginning of pilot season in hope of getting that one big break. Pilot season came and went but Christopher and his mother had caught the Hollywood bug and they decided to stay in Hollywood all year while their Dad worked back home in Indiana and sent them money for support. One year turned into two and two years turned into four. They went nearly broke and practically lived out of their car at a certain point, but Christopher eventually obtained an agent (after firing a few phony ones) and he got some commercials and then a Nickelodeon show and then a Disney movie and then gradually worked his way up to A-list status where now - by his late 30s - he had an Oscar to show for it and that’s what it was all about. It didn’t get much better than that.

“Congratulations, hunny,” said Mrs. Hawthorne who was formerly named Goldstein and so wasn’t Christopher, though they both decided to change their names to something with a little more zing, and also something a little more All-American.

“Thanks, Mom,” he said, starting to mist in the eyes.

“Well, go on...go up there...”

Christopher was shaking like crazy, but he finally managed to shake the shock out of his legs, got up from his chair and awkwardly started shuffling his way down his aisle. Every one of his costars were giving him a standing ovation as he weaved his way past them.

“Way to go, man! Congrats! You’re amazing!”

A couple of the studio executives from Worldwide Pictures were present and so weren’t the producers. They were all in their late 30s and products of business school, but they sported handkerchiefs in their pockets and wore oversized eyeglasses in order to make them look like old-school studio moguls. They gave Christopher hugs and even a kiss on the cheek, like they thought they were godfathers in a gangster movie.

The Kodak Theater was still roaring in applause and everybody in the place was giving Christopher a standing ovation. He high-fived some of his fellow A-listers in the house, especially a few who had just lost to him, though they were good sports and at least seemed to be happy for him. Then he ascended the stage, met up with Angelina Witherspoon, accepted his award and gave the former Best Actress a gentleman’s kiss on the cheek. 

And NOW...it was time for his big moment...the moment he and his mother had been dreaming about his whole life...the acceptance speech.

“Thank you,” he said.

But the applause wasn’t stopping. Everybody in the house was hooting and hollering and woo-woo-ing, clapping on their feet and whistling through their fingers.

“Thank you...wow...thank you...”

He looked out into the crowd and saw everybody smiling and gazing at him in admiration and utter appreciation and respect. His mother was blotting the tears out of her eyes with a handkerchief. It was an overwhelming moment, so magical, and beautiful... 

“Wow, thank you so much," said Hawthorne as the applause finally died down. "This is amazing. You know, I feel like a dummy. I didn’t prepare a speech because I didn’t think I’d win. But, then again, I didn’t really need to prepare one because I’ve been practicing this speech for about the past twenty years now. I used to stare at myself in the bathroom mirror, only this Oscar here would be a bottle of mouthwash...”

The crowd giggled at the joke.

“I’d like to thank everybody at Hollywood N’ Highland productions. Everybody at Worldwide Pictures, especially Harvey Weinberg. My agent...Larry Silverstein who never stopped believing in me. And then last - but not least - my mom.”

He looked out to Mom and she blew him a big kiss.

“What can I say about my mom? She worked three jobs so I could stay in Hollywood and try to achieve my dream. Even after I was faced with endless rejection, she never stopped supporting me and never wanted to pack up our bags and leave town. This award is actually for two people: My third grade teacher Mrs. Jackson who said I’d never amount to anything. And my mom. This is for you, MOM!”

By this time, of course, Christopher’s mom was drenched in her Mascara-stained tears and she was blowing him about a dozen kisses, one after the other. The theater erupted back into a roar of applause and the pit orchestra swelled into another melodramatic theme that convinced everybody in the audience (not to mention everybody watching on the television) that the most historical moment in Hollywood history had just occurred, that Christopher was some sort of god being awarded for such an amazing feat. No matter how ephemeral the feeling may have been, this was The Dream, right there on that Kodak Theater stage, the Dream that everybody who came to Hollywood was after. Oscar in your hand. Audience erupting into applause. And a melodramatic soundtrack to manipulate the emotions into an even greater state of euphoria. This was THE DREAM...



THREE

The limo took a right off Sunset Boulevard and started heading north on Benedict Canyon, which was a very long and serpentine road that went all the way up to Mulholland Drive if you followed it all the way. It was a very green and lush neighborhood with homes ranging in price from anywhere in the low millions to 20 or 30 million (for the 1930s Mediterranean-style estates). Many of the Canyon’s residents, including Christopher, liked the location because it exuded a very serene and peaceful quality, but it was still only about five minutes from downtown Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Hotel, so it's not like it was way out in the boonies or anything.

Hawthorne lived high up into the canyon on Cielo Drive, which - of course - was the very infamous location of the Sharon Tate murder, carried out by the Manson family in 1969. The original home where the murders took place was razed long ago, but Hawthorne lived in a place very close to the lot, at a residence he built into the hill. It was one of those terraced upside-down homes where the main floor with the kitchen was the top floor and all the bedrooms were on the bottom floors. Hawthorne had bought the property a number of years ago and practically built the home from the bottom up, carefully picking and choosing each contractor and interior designer as he went along. He was very proud of the fact that the end-result was very "green", especially the air conditioning system, which utilized the moisture in the earth to cool the home - no power was needed and no polluting man-made energy was consumed. 

The small driveway leading to the home was gated by a solid, wall-like gate, which was surrounded by various palms and junipers and other lush plant-life that helped give Hawthorne some privacy. The limo driver pulled up to the gate, typed a code into a keypad and the gate started to open. The limo then rolled down a cobblestone driveway, circled around a Valencian fountain filled with shiny brass pennies and pulled up to the front entrance.

Christopher gave the driver a one-hundred dollar tip and then he and his mother exited the vehicle. Mom was still in a starry-eyed daze from all the stars she had met at the Vanity Fair Oscar after-party. There was Jack Nicholson and Glenn Close and Meryl Streep and Warren Beatty and a bunch of other favorites from her generation. Oh, if she only knew that - back in Indiana when she was waitressing tables - she would someday be in Hollywood with an Oscar-winner for a son, schmoozing with all her favorite movie stars at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party! She wished she could go back in time and tell her old self what was going to happen and see the look on her old self’s face. Back when she was a tired waitress she never would have believed it, that she was going to have such a talented son and be in Hollywood and rub elbows with celebrities! She was on cloud nine right then, maybe even moreso than her own son.

As for Christopher...well, he was pretty damn ecstatic as well. He was a little buzzed from some drinks he had sipped at the after-party, but he made a point not to get too drunk because he wanted to remember every single detail of the most important and greatest night of his life. He knew there was never going to be a better night. Even if he won another Oscar, it wasn’t going to give him the same feeling as the feeling he had tonight. He knew this was the peak of his career and he wanted to savor it all as much as possible.

“Congratulations again, hunny,” Mrs. Hawthorne said to her son. She started walking inside, but noticed that Christopher was hesitating. “You coming?”

“I’ll be in soon. I wanna hang out here for a few.”

“OK,” she said with a warm smile. “I understand.”

Mom gave Christopher one last hug and kiss and then went inside to smile herself to sleep in the guest room three floors down in the hill. Christopher circled around the house and walked out onto a balcony that overlooked Sunset Boulevard, most of Hollywood and even a tad of downtown Los Angeles in the far distance. It was about 3am and the town had that peaceful silence to it, just a dull murmur from an extremely light traffic.

“I did it,” he said aloud and gave the Oscar a big, giant kiss.

He saw the silhouette of a palm tree waving a bit in the wind and he remembered when he had first come out to Hollywood he sat on the stucco balcony of his apartment at the famous Oakwood apartments (where all the famous child stars stayed) and stared at a palm tree for at least a good three hours. He was just so amazed to finally be in the presence of a palm tree after only seeing them in movies and on TV. He didn’t want to stop looking at it. And to think that if he were to just flash-forward several years later he would essentially be doing the same thing, only now he was living in a home high up in Beverly Hills and holding an Oscar statuette in his hand that he just won for being “Best Actor”. It was an absolutely amazing, amazing moment, kind of like things came full circle. He wished he could grab a remote control and hit pause and be stuck in this moment of time for the rest of eternity. Unfortunately, that was impossible but it would have been really cool, because - deep down - he knew that the reality of the matter was that Hollywood would wake up tomorrow and he’d more than likely be offered twenty-million dollars for about thirty different projects, but eventually – only after a week or so later – he would more than likely cool off, which is what he realized was inevitable, but, hey, he might as well enjoy the moment while it was happening. That was all he could really do.

Christopher must have stood on the balcony for another good half hour or so until - at about 3:30am – the Best Actor’s high was finally starting to crash on him and he was feeling absolutely exhausted from all the night’s excitement. He decided he’d have to bite the bullet and finally call it a night. 

He entered his house through a pair of French doors off the balcony and quietly made his way through the main floor of the house. The interior of the home was decorated with a lot of Native American art and artifacts - everything from dream-catchers to drums to animal hides, moccasins, rugs and things of that nature. Christopher really had no Native American background and he honestly didn’t have a whole lot of interest in the culture, but he had heard that much of the homes on Cielo Drive - not to mention much of the Benedict Canyon homes in general - were built atop Ancient Indian battle/burial ground. So the main reason he had his interior designer fill his home with Native American artifacts was to maybe somehow appease the restless Native American Spirits (if there were any) and perhaps offset any negative energy or karma or curse that may have been floating around the property. Did it work? Well, perhaps it did; after all, Christopher was an A-lister (worth $20 million a picture) and he had just won an Oscar for Best Picture. That’s not exactly bad fortune right there. If anything, the Native Americans seemed to be on his side...

There was a stone mantle in the corner of the living room with an Indian headdress and a mini totem pole with several Indian heads and painted war faces and eagles/fish. Christopher thought that this mantle may be the best place to display his Oscar. Maybe it would be another way to thank the Indians for giving him the opportunity or something like that. Or maybe not. It just felt like the best place to display it, immediately visible to him every time he walked into the room.

He placed the statuette right next to the totem pole and took another moment to gaze at it, especially focusing on his name engraved in the gold, or technically it was supposedly britannium, though he really didn't need to be thinking about that. Yes, HIS name on an Oscar statuette. It still seemed surreal. He wasn’t sure if he would ever get over it…

Bee-a-lee-lee-eep!

The surreal moment was abruptly interrupted by Christopher’s smartphone. The ring kind of startled the hell out of him because it had been so quiet in his house and it was so late. Who the hell could be calling him? Maybe it was his agent Larry Silverstein? Maybe he already had an offer from Worldwide Pictures for the ON EAGLE’S WINGS sequel, though Christopher was already planning on turning it down because there wasn’t anything tackier than trying to franchise a Best Picture Winner. There were some rumors around town about doing one, but hopefully the people at Worldwide eventually realized how pathetic it would have been. Of course, Christopher was (technically) contractually bound to doing a sequel if the studio decided they wanted to green-light one, but he was also pretty sure he could get his lawyer Ronald Goldberg to wriggle him out of it.

Christopher pulled his smartphone out of his pocket and looked to see who was calling. Nope, it wasn’t his agent, nor was it anybody at Worldwide. He was a little surprised to see that it was none other than…his ex-girlfriend, whom he hadn’t talked to since the break-up, actually. Why was she calling? Drunk-dialing???

“Hello???”

“Hey...you still up?"

"Yeah, I'm up."

"Sorry it’s so late. I thought you might still be up celebrating.”

“No, that’s fine. I just got home from the parties.”

“I was just calling to say ‘congratulations’.”

“Oh, thanks...thanks.”

To say the vibe between them was awkward would be an extreme understatement. They hadn’t really dated that long but it was long enough to leave a little bit of a scar on each of their hearts. It was about five or six months, to be exact. The tabloids had a field day with them, but eventually they realized they had little in common with each other (aside from the fact that they were both big movie stars and looked good together in public) and they were always in different cities, different time zones, sometimes in different countries, on different shooting locations and schedules etc. In other words, the relationship was basically a disaster and they both realized this at a certain point and broke it off amicably. But even when a break-up is done amicably, there’s still always that awkwardness, which is almost impossible to avoid.

“How does it feel having…god, an Oscar??”

“It’s just...it's amazing.”

“That’s great. I’m so proud of you.”

“You’ll be getting yours next year.”

“Haha we’ll see about that.”

“Are you still in New York?”

“No, we wrapped the movie on Friday. I just got back, actually…like, literally. I watched you win from the plane.”

“Awesome.”

“That was an amazing speech.”

“Haha. You have Marty to thank for that.”

“Christopher…you had your publicist write your acceptance speech?!” 

“I was afraid I’d say something politically incorrect,” Christopher admitted, sounding sheepish. “I thought I’d play it safe.”

“Haha, I guess I don’t blame ya. There’s a witch hunt in this town for anything and everything the least bit offensive.”

“Yeah, I figured I better play it safe,” Christopher reiterated.

“So...I dunno, maybe I’ll see you around town?”

“OK. Great. Good.”

“Just wanted to say ‘congrats’. I know how much you wanted this. Where you gonna put it?”

“The Oscar?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s on my mantle for right now. I don’t know, maybe I’ll build a case soon and I can put some of the other awards in there with it.”

“OK, well, I’m sure you’re tired so I’ll let you go.”

“OK. Thanks for calling. I appreciate it. Bye.”

Christopher ended the phone call and slid the smartphone back into his pocket. He thought that was pretty nice of her to call, but maybe it was a little too nice. In fact, there was probably going to be a lot of people now who would be acting a little “too nice” to him, now that he was one of the most powerful actors in Hollywood, the top one-percent of the one-percent. Tiffany seemed genuine and she was always a good egg at the core, but - who knows - everybody in Hollywood always had an ulterior motive. It was hard to trust anybody except your own mother. Maybe Tiffany wanted to rebuild the bridge between them, just in case Christopher might be able to help her at some point, maybe pull some strings at Worldwide, get her a role in an Oscar-contender...who knows what her intentions were...

Wooooooooooosh.

Christopher felt a whistling wind rush through the house and he thought this was kind of weird because a) the wind wasn’t that bad when he was outside and b) he could’ve sworn he locked everything up when he came in from off the balcony. He poked his head around the living room corner and saw that, indeed, the French doors were open and the wind was blowing through them. He could have sworn that he shut the doors and locked them before he came into the house, but it’s possible that he was just so caught up in the joy of winning his Oscar that it completely slipped his mind. No matter...

Christopher made his way out to the balcony, took a peek outside, just to make sure there was nothing shady going on, and then he shut the doors tight, locking them in two different places. Then he shut off the lights in the kitchen and was all ready to retire for the night. But he had to...just HAD to...take another look at his Oscar one more time. In fact, screw it, he was just going to sleep with it. He was entitled to do that, wasn’t he? Just one night, that’s it. If he slept with it more than one night, then that would be pathetic, though he was sure that some actors out there - especially the older and washed-up ones - probably did just that. But he promised himself that he would do it just this one night. One night and one night only.

He walked back into the living room and headed towards the mantle...but there was something wrong. The Oscar wasn’t on the mantle anymore. It was gone.

“What the...”

For a moment, Christopher thought he was going bonkers. First, it was the French doors that seemed to open by themselves, and now this! Now, he knew he put that Oscar on the mantle, there was no doubt about it. Was somebody fucking with him? The ghosts of the Native Americans? Were they taking great joy out of screwing with his head?! Christopher searched all around the floor near the mantle, just in case the Oscar fell off or maybe it was PUSHED off by the restless spirits. But, no, there was nothing.

Christopher’s heart started racing, and he broke out in an intense, panicky sweat. What the hell was going on? His head was spinning. It was really like some invisible force was fucking with him, trying to make him think he was crazy. He was just about to break out into a good, old-fashioned meltdown when he felt something behind him. It was a shift in the energy of the room, kind of like somebody had just taken a step close behind him. Christopher froze where he was and stood still for a second or two. He could definitely feel energy behind him and it didn't really feel comfortable. He also felt like he could hear breathing, very light and almost Darth-Vader-like. He slowly turned around...

...and around...

...and around... 

The last thing Christopher remembered before he went unconscious was an arm. And the arm was holding an Oscar. But then there was blackness.

...

Adonis had been doing a lot of upper-body workouts over the past few months in preparation for the NEW WAY - mostly push-ups and pull-ups and a little cardio, just for general physical fitness. He knew that - in many cases - there was a good possibility that his first “subject” would put up some sort of a fight because they were obviously going to be ignorant of the blessing that was going to befall them after Adonis did what he was going to do. But the truth of the matter was that he was still a little nervous, this being his first time and all, so he decided to bend his rules a little bit (rule #1 was no hurting people other than the initial pain of the burn) and knock Christopher Hawthorne out with the Oscar statuette. He figured he’d only be unconscious for a little while and have a bump on his head or whatever, but it was probably the most efficient way to get him in a chair and tape him up.

So far, everything was going according to plan. Adonis had Hawthorne duck-taped into his kitchen chair, with a strip of tape also muzzling his mouth to muffle the screaming that was bound to ensue once he put the torch to his face. The only problem was that Adonis was nervous and he didn’t take advantage of all the time that Christopher was unconscious. Instead, he paced the kitchen floor in front of the Best Actor, fogging up the rectangular window to his welder’s mask because he was panting so much. His heart was beating like a maniac. The adrenaline was making him physically shake.

Meanwhile, Christopher was starting to regain consciousness in his chair. At first, he was confused as to where he was and what was going on. His vision was blurry and he couldn’t really see. But then his brain woke up a bit more and he started processing the pulsating pain atop his head and his vision cleared a bit more and he saw this dark mass pacing the floor in front of him. Then his vision became even clearer and he saw that this “black mass” was really what-appeared-to-be a man decked out in full, black clothing - dark pants, shirt, maybe a trench coat. And what was even creepier about this man was that he was wearing a dark, knight-like helmet...no, it was a mask. It was a welder’s mask.

“Ummmph...hmmmmmmph...”

The Best-Actor-winner started moaning and trying to free himself from the tape. All Christopher could think about was his mother and how much danger she may have been in or maybe she was already hurt or already dead! But his muffled screaming only got Adonis’ attention. The masked house intruder saw that Christopher was now awake and he was struggling in his chair, trying to free himself. Adonis knew that it was now or never. If Hawthorne broke free, he wasn’t completely sure if he’d be able to handle him, not to mention the fact that it would be way more difficult to execute what he came here to do. There was no more time to hesitate or think about what he was doing. He had to just do it. NOW.

Sssssssssssssssssss. He turned the valve on the propane tank and the gas started seeping out. Then he took the flint out of his pocket, held it up to the gas and started squeezing it.

Flint!

The spark didn’t do anything.

Flint!

The spark still didn’t do anything. Adonis had practiced this a million times - he had practically become an expert - but his hand was shaking too much and he couldn’t get the thing lit!

Flint! Woooooooooooooooosh!

OK, it was lit. The flame was lit. Now he had to do this thing, no hesitation. He HAD to do it. NOW! Do it! Do it!!!

“Ummmph! Hummmmmmppphhhh!!!”

Christopher caught glimpse of the bright, bluish flame that was slowly moving towards his face and he started moaning even louder. 

"Hmmmmmmmpppph! Hmmmmmmmpppph!"

Adonis turned the gas valve to the left and adjusted the flame on the torch so it was the longest possible. Then he kissed the flame to the Oscar-winning actor’s face.

"Hhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmppppppph! "Hhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmppppppph!"

And, then, Adonis just did it: he started burning Christopher’s $20-million-dollar face like it was nothing. He was doing it! The reality of what was going on took several moments to actually sink in. He was burning the face. It was happening. He was really doing it! For years now, this had all been taking place in his head, but now it was real. It was like cutting the tape at a grand-opening ceremony, or taking that first dig, breaking ground where a building was being built. Here he was, breaking the skin, and it was the start of something amazingly big, the grand opening ceremony or something-or-other, the start of something HUGE…

He started with Hawthorne’s right cheek.

“Uuuumph! Hummmmph!! Hhhhmmmmmmmmmppppppph!!!”

Burning the face was a slow process. The flame was pretty thin and he could only burn so much skin area at a time. But Adonis anticipated that this might happen and brought something that would hopefully assist with the burning process. He took a bottle of Aqua Net hairspray out of his black duffel bag (the kind his hairdresser used to use on him allllll the time), shook it up and sprayed a little, here and there, on various parts of the face, mostly the forehead, cheeks and chin area. Not too much because he didn't want Hawthorne's face to explode. Just a little. He applied it carefully.

"Hhhhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmppppppppppppphhhh!"

Then he torched each area and it was…it was just perfect. All the flesh burned with ease and it was beautiful. In only a matter of seconds, Christopher Hawthorne’s face was no longer the face of an A-list, Oscar-winning actor. It was now burned and scarred for life. His career in pictures was over. But now with the superficial beauty out of the way, Hawthorne’s inner beauty would rise to the challenge and a whole new way of living and being would start. He would weed out the people who only loved him for his face and find the people who loved him for who he was inside, his soul, his heart…his spirit. This was going to be a rebirth for Christopher Hawthorne. His life had just begun.

Yes, Adonis was very pleased. The “New Way” had officially commenced. There was no turning back now. He had no choice but to continue what he started. It had been a fantasy for so many years, but NOW it was real. This was happening.

 


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