Something seemed to be wrong. It was too quiet. Heath opened his eyes; it was dark. Where was he? All he could remember was that he'd gone to bed with Rhyno last night. But now he wasn't in the hotel anymore. He blinked a few times until his eyes had gotten used to the darkness. He was sitting on the wooden floor of what seemed to be an abandoned building. What the hell was going on? Where was his tag team partner?
He got up and looked around. The room was filled with trash, and everything was covered with dust. So he decided to leave and went out to the street. The street was actually just sand. The sun was shining; so it wasn't night anymore. Heath noticed that it was unusually warm for February. There were some old buildings that reminded him of a classic western town. But everything was empty and he couldn't see any people. Was this a ghost town? How had he gotten here?
"Hello?" he called while walking around. This was crazy. It seemed like a dream. Why was he here?
Suddenly someone behind him shouted, "Freeze!"
Heath knew that voice. "Rhyno?" He turned around, a hopeful smile on his face.
"Heath? Is that you?" Rhyno looked like he'd jumped out of a post-apocalyptic movie. He was wearing shabby military-style clothes in light brown colors and a cowboy hat. In his hands was a shotgun that he'd pointed at the other man but now slowly moved down. On top of that, he seemed to have lost some pounds, actually about 30 pounds. But how had that been possible in just one night?
"Of course it's me," Heath answered and went to him. "What happ..."
He couldn't finish his sentence as Rhyno had run to him and hugged him tightly. The shotgun pressed painfully into Heath's back. "Where the hell have you been? I've been looking for you for six months. I thought you were dead!"
"What are you talking about?" Heath asked before Rhyno pressed a kiss on his lips, making him feel even warmer. "We were together just yesterday."
Now it was Rhyno who was confused. His brows furrowed while he stared at Heath's jeans and T-shirt – as if it was the weirdest outfit he'd seen in a while. "No. What...?"
"Sure. We had that match in Salina, and then we went to the hotel."
"That happened in February; the last time I saw you before..."
"Before what? What do you mean happened in February? It's still..." He stopped and looked around again. It was warm.
"Heath, that was six months ago." Rhyno was worried now. "What have you done? Do you really not remember it?"
"I..." A strange feeling started to creep over the ginger. "I don't know. I was... asleep? But... I couldn't have been asleep for six months, could I? I mean, I have to eat and drink..." He quickly examined his body. "I didn't even lose any muscle mass!"
Rhyno sighed. "That doesn't mean anything. The laws of nature seem to be suspended."
"What do you mean? Rhyno, what happened? And why do you have a gun?"
"You really don't know anything?"
"Okay, come." They went to a bench and sat down before Rhyno started to explain, "Angels and demons are fighting over earth, and they don't care about us. Humans just seem to be in their way. So they made everyone infertile. I don't know how they did it. Maybe some kind of spell or divine punishment..."
"You can't be serious!" Heath stared at him. He couldn't believe it. This had to be a bad joke!
"I'm sorry, but it's true. It doesn't matter which side will win. If no one can get children anymore, it's the end for humanity."
"No more kids?" Heath repeated, still in disbelief.
"No more kids," Rhyno confirmed. "Some people have become so desperate about the situation that they've snapped. You can't trust anyone!"
"Except for me of course."
"But where are those angels and demons you're talking about? I don't see anyone here besides us."
"They aren't everywhere. This is a safe place, at least for now. By the way, I found something earlier." Rhyno got up and went to one of the abandoned houses.
Heath followed him, although he was still in shock and couldn't believe that story. But he knew he could trust his partner.
The building looked similar to the one Heath had woken up in. Everything seemed to be old and useless. Rhyno took some matches from one of his pockets and lit an oil lamp that was standing on a table. Then he went to a dark green box in one corner of the room and opened it. "Look, isn't this great?" He grabbed several packages of food. There was even a box of crackers and a can of Easy Cheese. "Are you hungry?"
"Not really." Heath shrugged. "Don't you think it's kind of weird that this is here?"
"I don't care why it's here. I'm just glad it is," Rhyno answered and tore open the box of crackers.
He was so focused on his food that he didn't notice that someone else entered the room. Before Heath knew it, a man was standing behind him and pressed a knife against his throat. Then more and more people surrounded them. "They really fell for our trap!" one woman said, laughing.
Rhyno grabbed his shotgun. But the guy behind Heath pushed his knife even harder against his skin. "Drop it, or you can say goodbye to your friend!"
Rhyno obeyed. There were now four men and two women around them, all of them dressed in a mix of military clothes, leather and spikes. They had different kinds of weapons in their hands; at least two guns were pointed at the couple. Rhyno cursed himself for being so careless. This was a bad situation!
Heath felt his heart racing and cold sweat running down his back. He blinked away some tears and tried to stop his body from shaking. Why was this happening? Just yesterday everything had been okay – no, six months ago. But for him it was like yesterday. He and Rhyno had had a match against The Revival. It had been another step... Wait a minute!
He looked at his partner. "Hey, is this just another part of your toughen up program? Are these guys actually actors that you've hired?"
The strangers started to laugh, even though they didn't know what he was talking about. There was deep shock in Rhyno's eyes that Heath could only identify as authentic. "No! Please don't do anything stupid, Heath!"
The guy with the knife grabbed Heath's chin with his free hand and turned his head to look into his eyes. Heath's pupils dilated. "This guy seems to be a wimp. Let's just kill him right here and take the other to the arena."
"No!" Rhyno said again. "We were both professional wrestlers. He's a fighter, too!"
One of the other guys stepped in front of Heath and shoved his T-shirt up. Heath felt his face flushing. "Yeah, he actually has some muscles," the man said. "Let's take them both."
Heath wondered what they had meant with arena. At the moment, though, he was just glad that they didn't want to kill him anymore. So he didn't protest when they tied his hands behind his back. They did the same to Rhyno after they had frisked him and taken away all of his weapons. Then they led both men out of the building.
The group went to two vehicles that seemed to have been a Ford Flex Limited SUV and a 1970s Ford F-Series truck and had been rebuilt into combat cars. Two of the men forced Heath and Rhyno into the former SUV. The others took the truck. Then they started their trip.
The closer they came to the ominous arena, the more other futuristic-looking vehicles and weirdly dressed people Heath saw. Most of the streets had turned into one huge desert, and he wondered if that had been the work of the demons and angels. Otherwise, things like that wouldn't have happened in only a few months, would they?
Finally, they reached the former football stadium which had been rebuilt into something people called Thunderdome. Heath was sure he'd heard the name before; he just couldn't remember where exactly. Hundreds of people were walking in and out of the building. They were talking, laughing and screaming. Loud music was coming out of several large speakers.
Their group went to the back entrance of the stadium. Graffiti was sprayed on a wall – 'Only the strongest survives'. Heath and Rhyno were led to a locker room where guards watched over other people in chains. One of the women was handed some money, and the guys who had caught them left. It seemed their job was done.
Heath and Rhyno sat down on a bench and looked up at a TV hanging from the ceiling and showing live images from the arena. At the moment, there were two men fighting each other with weapons. One of them collapsed to the ground after an attack. The other used his sword to chop off his head.
Heath's stomach turned. He'd never seen something like that in real life before. The crowd went wild and celebrated the winner. He wondered what had turned them into animals like this.
One of the guards went to Heath and grabbed his arm. "You're next."
"No, wait, please," Rhyno shouted and jumped up. "Take me. Please. Leave him alone."
Heath stared at him. He knew he should say something, but he was too scared to open his mouth. Usually, he was talking even more when he was nervous. But this was a life or death situation. Everything was so different to what he was used to.
"Yeah, he looks strong. Let's make it a handicap match," another guard suggested.
Rhyno turned his head and smiled at Heath as they took him away. "Don't worry. I love you."
Heath's heart stopped for a second. Rhyno wasn't someone who liked to show affection in public. He'd never said those words to him in the presence of others before. Only a few minutes later Heath was able to scream, "Stop! Please don't..." His voice left him. He looked at the TV.
Rhyno was standing in the arena. He was holding a spear in his hands and was surrounded by two men. One of them stepped forward to attack him. But it was just a distraction. The next moment, the other guy jumped behind Rhyno and stabbed his dagger into Rhyno's back.
"No!" Heath watched in shock as his partner sank to his knees. Blood poured onto the sand. One of the men closed in for the kill.
"Rhy...!" Heath jumped up... He blinked. His eyes were wet, and he was sitting in his hotel bed.
Rhyno was getting dressed next to the bed and looked at the ginger. "Did you have another nightmare? I told you not to watch that zombie movie right before going to bed."
Heath stared at him. "Rhyno? It was a dream?" Tears started streaming down his face. "Oh my god, it was a dream! You are okay!"
Rhyno stopped dressing and sat down on the bed to hug his partner. Heath wrapped his arms around him and pressed his wet face against his shoulder. "It was horrible. I'm so glad you're okay. I love you, too."
Rhyno was briefly confused about the 'too' but didn't ask. Instead, he stroked the back of Heath's head. "Hey, it's okay. Calm down."
He wondered if he'd gone too far in the last few weeks. He'd never before seen his partner this distraught. His plan was to toughen Heath up, not to break him.
They weren't booked for any shows today. So he suggested, "How about we take a little break and just enjoy a nice day? We can watch a movie – a fun one, maybe a romcom. No horror!"
It wasn't really something Rhyno usually liked to do. But he'd decided that Heath deserved this after everything he'd been through lately. "Or you can take a long bath, and I'll give you a massage afterwards?" Rhyno leaned back and smiled at him.
Heath sniffed and rubbed his eyes. He had calmed down and didn't cry anymore. "Can we just stay in bed and cuddle all day?" he asked.
Rhyno chuckled. "Okay, if that is what you want..."
He pulled down his jeans again and then crawled into the bed.
"Maybe not the whole day. Just for now," Heath mumbled while snuggling up to him.
"Just for now," Rhyno confirmed and gave him a kiss on his forehead. "Love you, too."