In September of 2016, elitefts graciously published my serial work of horror fiction, BIGHORN. The story revolved around a warehouse powerlifting gym and several friends fighting for survival as deadly creatures emerged from the surrounding woods. It wasn't my first foray into fictional content creation, but writing it sure was a lot of fun. Since then, I've found myself wondering whether or not I could find a way to make content creation a more substantial part of my life and have been acutely aware of the big media companies’ content wars.

RELATED: BIGHORN — The Prowler and the Comanche

The Tuesday before Valentine’s Day, I read a headline in the media section of the New York Times that left me feeling exceedingly jealous: "Ryan Murphy Heads to Netflix in Deal Said to Be Worth up to $300 Million." Whoa. $300 Million. Murphy had spent most of his career as a writer, director, and producer at 21st Century Fox. He was considered a prolific producer, which is the reason he landed the five-year Netflix deal — one of the biggest deals ever made for a television producer. Murphy is the producer behind Glee, Nip/Tuck and the anthology series American Crime Story and American Horror Story.In the current climate, where the big media players are aggressively moving to sign content creators and entertainers, there is a premium on artistic talent. Netflix has said it will spend up to $8 billion on content this year, and Apple has pledged at least $1 billion for original programming.1 This is not to mention that Amazon and Hulu are also in the hunt.

Writing BIGHORN was a trip down memory lane, allowing me to revisit memories of the individuals that made my warehouse gym such an extraordinary environment. The experience of running the facility left me with vast amounts of material for the creation of content. To that end, for your reading pleasure:

Dancing with the Deadlift Devil

Episode #101: Old and Raw

Act I

[Interior: Beast Training Facility, Night] 

[It’s Thursday night in the belly of the Beast, a warehouse gym in the mean streets of rural Connecticut. The gym floors are covered wall-to-wall in black rubberized horse stall mats. On this night, the facility is empty with the exception of the one thickly-muscled and ruggedly handsome man performing maximum effort pin pulls in one of the facility’s collegiate power racks. Massive traps, like bowling balls, protrude through his black, threadbare T-shirt. The worn print of the repeated word “empowerment” adorns the front of the shirt. Calluses tear and muscles strain as Erik tirelessly works to induce a strength adaptation. Is he even human?]

Slam. Erik drops the barbell from waist height to the pins.

Erik (Voiceover): I’m looking at the older, husky guy staring back in the mirror. A stranger. As I wipe the sweat off my furrowed brow, he does the same. Can that really be me? Father Time is a real bastard.

A guttural growl comes from the corner of the Beast. It’s low at first, barely audible. Then maniacal laughter. The growl transforms into a more human-sounding cackle. Pure evil.

Erik (Voiceover): I hear it, but I don’t want to look. I know he is (or it is) perched there. It’s always there watching me, trying to make me weak, trying to make me quit after the first or second difficult set. If you train hard, you may have seen him. Some of you may know him well. Some call him the Dark Man. I call him the Deadlift Devil. He’s the purveyor of mediocrity—a real son of a bitch.

deadlift front judge

Devil (Laughing): My, you’re getting old. I remember when you used to be so much stronger — stronger and handsome. Not exactly movie-star-good-looks ever, but at least respectable.

The Devil is perched in the corner, leaning against wooden jerk boxes. Hot drool pours from its angry maw as it continues to vigorously taunt Erik.

Devil: Don’t you remember when all this was so much easier? When didn’t it take you three solid days to recover from a workout?

Erik: Fuck you. You look like shit yourself.

Erik methodically and defiantly adds another ninety pounds to the bar. He assumes a sumo stance in the center of the power rack. He grabs the bar and pulls as much air into his belly as possible.

Erik (Voiceover): Pull back and push your feet apart.

The weight relents and separates from the pins for a successful pull, but it’s nowhere near as fast or as easy as Erik had hoped it would be. He begins to wonder if he’s overtraining — overtraining or losing his mind.

Devil: You should call it a day now. You don’t look like you have more in the tank. Rest.

Erik: We don’t quit here.

The Devil menacingly approaches the power rack. It deftly snatches two forty-five-pound plates and adds them to the bar, one on each side.

Devil: Kindly step aside, young man.

The Devil walks into the power rack and assumes a sumo stance with legs just wider than Erik’s had been. It sucks air into its thickly muscled abdomen and rips the bar from the pins. After the first rep, Erik marvels at the thickness and power of its posterior chain. The Devil has erectors as thick as cement blocks. It lowers the bar back down to the pins and pulls two more solid reps for a strong triple. The gym lights flicker off and they are left with only the reddish light emanating from an old emergency exit sign.

Devil: Your set.

The Devil lumbers out of the power rack. Erik chalks his hands and steps back into the rack with adrenaline flowing. He grabs the bar, still warm from the Devil’s grip, and readies himself for a mighty pull — a battle with the iron. The bar, loaded with what would have been a new personal record for Erik, feels as though it’s glued to the pins. Despite Erik’s strain, he can’t move it more than an inch off the pins and he’s forced to drop the bar and relent. It slams down on the pins.

The Devil's laugh is reminiscent of Vincent Price’s laugh at the end of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video. It sends shivers down Erik’s spine.

Devil: Round one is mine. This was for low stakes. Lucky for you. Next time we’ll pull for your soul.

The Devil struts through the gym’s massive overhead door and vanishes into the darkness of night. Erik stands alone in the Beast, leaning on the rack for support as he struggles to gather himself. His head is hung in temporary defeat.

Erik (Voiceover): Until next time.

The camera pans away from Erik, pulling back into the darkness of night.

Header image credit: photoroad ©

1. Koblin, John. “Ryan Murphy Heads to Netflix in Deal Said to Be Worth Up to $300 Million.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Feb. 2018