A Kraken Time
Greg Hardy watched the sunset as he lay in his quarters. All of the desert terrain lay barren and dead before the shadows of night flooded them into darkness. Hardy remembered fondly the life he once lived, with cars and buildings and food providers. He truly missed having someone cooking a meal for him, instead of having to hunt it down and fight for it. And he remembered the internet. He missed being able to peruse the world's media in his downtime, and laugh at the many pictures that flooded his monitor every day. He could not remember what the ones with words were called. Means? He wasn't certain. But most of all, he missed playing football. He recounted that fateful day in his head; the ball was snapped, Hardy instantly blew up the left tackle, whipped around, and sprinted at Carson Palmer. As Carson looked downfield, he didn't even see Hardy before being blasted in the side.
That's when Hardy's life changed. A great flash enveloped the field. Everything went black, Hardy's legs seemed to fire off thousands of mini-explosions as he felt his body seemed to be torn apart. When he woke up Hardy found himself in this new world. At first, Hardy just thought it was a bad dream. He seemed to have found himself in some kind of medieval, backwards society. The only civilization he found was a small village that surrounded a gigantic colliseum. Hardy walked aimlessly toward the village, hoping for shelter and answers. He walked for days on end, with no food and only a small amount of water from cacti fueling his journey. After a few days walk, a wagon stumbled upon him. Hardy waved and screamed for help. The wagon stopped, and Hardy, for the first time in days, felt relieved. Until four small men leaped out with spears. They pounced on him and began beating his lower back with the rough edges of the blades. Hardy became enraged and used his shoulder pad to break one of the assailant's noses. As the small man collapsed, the other three stopped and gaped at him. That was when Hardy actually noticed these men. While hairy and built, they were only about four feet tall, and wearing the remnants of what appeared to be a bear's hide. He also noticed that while fairly large for their size, they appeared to be starving. They stood there and stared for a second in horror, then dropped their spears and bowed to him. They began to chant. "Kraken-born".
"Why are you doing that?" Hardy questioned.
They answered in unison, "You have come to save us, Kraken-born. We were always told by our ancestors that in our darkest hour, when all seemed lost, a giant man with massive shoulders and glowing red eyes would travel through the heavens to save us. The last of the Kraka-kin, he would use his kraken-shouts and strike down the oppressive giant king. Will you save us, oh great one? And rid the land of this tyranny?"
Hardy stifled a snicker, he had forgotten to remove his red contacts and didn't take off his pads. "Yeah? What motivation do I have to save you? How can you help me?"
They answered again in unison; "The king has taken prisoner a shaman who can grant two wishes. He holds a tournament for sport with his citizens, the winner being able to ask the shaman for any two wishes they want. The problem is, the king always wins the tournament, and our fellow kinsman won't stop entering the tournament because it seems to be the only hope to free us from his oppression". Hardy stood there and stared, dumbfounded that these four people could speak in perfect unison. If this were actually a real possibility, he would need one of those wishes to return home. So Hardy agreed to help the people, who brought him to their village to train in the art of using these archaic weapons. Hardy's physical conditioning from football made it very easy for him to learn how to use these weapons. He possessed the strength and speed to easily defeat any opponent the village could throw at him. Hardy's weapons of choice were steel gauntlets. They allowed him to tap into his bull-rushing skills of football, powering through opponents' defenses and knocking them senseless. Hardy defeated the natives with swiftness and ease, approaching the point that the village could no longer physically challenge Hardy enough for him to progress, so the villagers would find their champion to try and push Hardy (who would also enter the tournament). Hardy grew very excited to meet this challenger, as his ego and confidence had been greatly boosted by the utter dominance he displayed against these villagers. Though he didn't take much pride in beating up on midgets...
A knock on Hardy's door snapped him back into the present. "Our champion is ready for you, Kraka-kin". Hardydonned his war paint and red contacts. He proceeded down his staircase into an open field. "Kraka-kin! Kraka-Kin! Kraka-kin!" The villagers chanted, surrounding the field. He knew that all of the villagers looked exactly the same, but it still shocked him to see the hundreds of them, all identical, chanting in unison. In the middle stood a man with his hood cloaking his face. Hardy instantly was intrigued. This man was not like the other villagers. They were all no taller than four feet with long black beards, these were the only civilization he'd found since his mysterious trip to this land. This man appeared to stand at six feet, and appeared to weigh about two hundred pounds. Greg Hardy still outweighed this man and was much larger, but seeing a different person was refreshing. Hardy approached the man as the chants still echoed throughout the field. Hardy had donned his shoulder pads for this battle, and had cut up his black jersey to drape across his front and back. The man in front of him stood cloaked by a robe and hood, hiding his appearance and weapons. The villagers began to chant in unison "FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!!!"
The champion suddenly shrugged off his cloak while still keeping his hood on, revealing a sword and shield. The champion launched his shield high into the air. Hardy watched the shield, patiently waiting to avoid it. However, it floated in the air for what seemed like eternity. Hardy stared into the air, mesmerized by it, until he remembered he had taken his eyes off his opponent. As he looked down, the champion had closed the gap between them and went to throw his forearms into Hardy's head. Hardy sidestepped, and crashed his right gauntlet into the champions side, breaking his ribs. The champion screamed in agony and sank to the floor. The crowd roared "Kraken born! Our savior has done it!!!" Hardy used his leg to turn the man over to see his face. As he rolled over, Hardy recognized the man. It was Dante Wesley.
Later that night, Hardy found himself at the local saloon. The natives chose only to drink something resembling a cherry-vodka Sprite, so having a cold beer to end the day was out of the question. He found Wesley sipping on his drink and nursing his cracked ribs. Hardy could tell Wesley wasn't handling his drink very well. Hardy sat next to him, declining a free drink from the bearded bar tender. "So Dante, how exactly did you end up here? Do you know anything about this place?" Wesley grunted, "Come to my quarters later and I will share with you what I know". Wesley chugged his drink, nearly vomiting, then stormed out of the saloon.
A few hours later, Hardy entered Wesley's quarters, where he sat, choking down another cherry-vodka sprite. Hardy had to fight the urge to challenge Wesley's manhood. After Wesley finished his drink, and Hardy went over the specifics of what happened before he got to this place. Wesley sat and listened in silence, then cleared his throat. "It seems to me this was all triggered by the hit on Carson Palmer. It seems as though that collision created a hole in time and space and you got sucked into it. I made the same mistake you did. Do you remember my hit on Clifton Smith? Well, I was sent to this hell hole right after that hit. In your universe, I probably just got up and continued my business. I'm probably still with the team as a starter and we've won a Super Bowl, correct?"
Hardy again had to stifle laughter. "Yeah, I just wasn't wearing my ring when I made the hit."
"Well, this brings me to my next point. You've probably noticed that the villagers are all virtually the same person. Well, there are only three people I know of here who aren't from this universe. Have you ever heard of the theory of parallel universes?" Hardy nodded. "Well, you see, in my universe, I was sent to this place. In your universe, I wasn't. There's a universe out there where you make the sack and continue your life. There's a universe where you don't make the hit. There's a universe where you break your ankle and your career is over. You see, in every universe, there is a quarterback and a defensive end. An aggressor and a victim. However, the triggering event has variations. Constants, and variables. But the outcome is always the same, where someone ends up here."
Greg Hardy had grown impatient. "Well get to the point!"
Wesley smiled. "The point is, you should know who the king is. The king is Julius Peppers."
To be continued. Join us next week for the epic conclusion!