Stream of Consciousness: Kicking Ass, Taking Names | JustDaMessenger
Song Suggestion: CHIKA - CROWN
“When we were younger, I always asked mom for a game system. At the time, the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo were the biggest games out. After mom’s rejections, I became very determined to get the game system one way or another. One day, the opportunity presented itself.
Every day, we would ride the bus to youth church service. To get more visitors each month, the church ran a contest: whoever gets the most visitors in the next 30 days would get a brand-new Super Nintendo plus Super Mario All Stars. I took it upon myself to win this game system by any means necessary. I had it in my mind that we were already going to win. I had a game plan.
We used to live in the Ortega Farms apartment complex. With that in mind, I started recruiting my peers from the apartment complex to attend church service. That didn’t work out too well. Then it hit me! My mom had a friend who had eight young kids. Basically, right then and there, I knew that was the way to win the game system.
I spent the entire week reminding them what time church started so that they didn’t miss the bus. On that second Sunday, I was prepared to meet them at the bus stop. Once we got on, I told the admin, “hey they’re all with me,” to which he responded, “Wow Nikkie, you brought eight new members in one week! That’s going to be hard to beat.”
Fast forward, the month ends.
Pastor: “The person with the most visitors is Nikkie!”
I got the game brand new, in the box. Mom asked why I got it and I explained it to her so she wouldn’t think that I stole it. That’s where it all began. Essentially, I got it from recruiting. Ironically, I am a recruiter now.” - Nikkie Marshall-Wilson
Nikkie spent seven years traveling as a Dialysis Technician, having traveled to the Virgin Islands, New York, Washington, Montana and many other locations. For the past five years, Nikkie has served as travel nurse recruiter for Fortus Health Care. Are you interested in becoming a travel nurse? Contact Nikeeda@fortusgroup.com today!
Entering the Realm
Now, this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down, by one of the most gruesome, soul-stealing fighting franchises in the history of gaming: Mortal Kombat. Despite the cut-throat nature of the content spawning legal battles over its lifespan, the game continues to relentlessly capture the hearts of consumers across the world. A revolutionary of its time, Mortal Kombat changed the landscape of gaming, particularly due to the fact that it instigated the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). This rating system is what differentiates the appropriateness of games for audiences based on age ranges. Considering that, since its inception, Mortal Kombat has been rated “M” for mature (ages 17+), I think it’s safe to say that
there is no reason why, at the age of 5, I should have learned to input F, F, D, D, LK, to execute Lui Kang’s, “Human Flame” fatality. Yet, having been indoctrinated into the virtual fighting realm at Smoke. (All puns intended)
Present day, I’d like to think of myself as a, “chill” individual. However, if we traveled back in time about two decades, what you would find is an annoying rugrat version of Derick, pestering his oldest sister to allow him to play the game with her. Though reluctant, because of the inevitable outcome, Nikkie would oblige, granting me the opportunity to select my kombatant, preparing for a bloody face-off, likely to end with a decapitating finish. The problem was, I, the inexperienced competitor of the two, consistently found myself on the receiving end of an onslaught of Sonya’s Blades’ “Ring Toss” and “Leg Grab” special moves, followed by her “Kiss of Death” finisher. Each time, after having accumulated a disproportionate amount of *ss whoopings in one sitting, my patience for seeking redemption wore thin. Eventually, droplets of tears would depart from my eyes as I slammed the Super Nintendo controller to the ground, or abruptly disconnected the AC adapter, cutting the power from the console. Either way, a WWE match would commence between Nikkie and me, often resulting in me stomping to my mom’s room with a devilish grin, knowing for a fact that Nikkie would be reprimanded for not being the “M” for mature person in the room. Like reruns of 90’s sitcoms, we knew the plot, but would still watch the same episode. It wouldn't be long before I would be pulling at Nikkie’s pant leg again, promising to change if she gave me another chance at the game. [Insert mischievous smirk.]
Tired of Losing
That cycle went on for years. Yet, there comes a time in a boy’s life where he must place those childish antics aside and become a man. That’s my fancy way of saying that I got tired of getting my *ss kicked. Despite new and “better” consoles hitting the market over that time period, we were still drawn to the classic grey cartridges of the Super Nintendo. Needless to say, it was the same system, but a different Derick. I vowed that I would not succumb to the embarrassment of defeat and taunts by my teenage sister and her peers, and so it began.
From morning to night, for countless hours each day, I became a student of the game. Beginning one of the most recognizable characters in the franchise, Sub-Zero, I started my Mortal Kombat training. From Sindel’s aerial “Kiss of Death” to Kabals summoned rails, the first order of business was to, one by one, learn every character's signature moves. Following, I explored 5+ hit combinations. A significant amount of time was dedicated to learning how each fighter character could defend attacks from every other character of the game. Throughout this period, I denied requests from Nikkie and others to play the game with them. I functioned as an isolated warrior, sharpening his blade and obsessively working to improve his weak areas, in an effort to return stronger than ever, seeking vengeance on those who deemed me inferior in my earlier years.
The time had come for me to emerge from the shadows, making a public challenge to my mentor turned foe. “Nikkie, I challenge you to Mortal Kombat.” After accepting with no hesitation, the tournament commenced. In a matter of moments, we were selecting out characters; Nikkie relying on her typical selection: Sonya Blade. Similarly, though I now knew how to play with every character, I also placed my confidence in the cold veins of my trusted companion, Sub-Zero.
Out the gate, I went into attack mode, utilizing the ground slide. Because of the run return that was included in this version of the game, I was able to immediately approach Sonya again, initiating a 7-hit combination that brought her health to about 50%. Now, in awe, and under pressure, I knew Nikkie would feel the urge to respond with a rush of attacks. This made it the perfect time to create an ice clone in the space between our characters that, if touched by an opponent, freezes them. That’s exactly what happened, enabling me to land a powerful uppercut, taking yet another significant percentage of health. With her back against the frozen ropes, I figured it was likely Nikkie would try to preserve health by staying distant and blocking. In response, I continued the rush attack, beginning with the unblockable throw across the screen, coupled with an immediate run that transitioned to an overheard jumping LK, which was just enough to close out Round 1 untouched.
“Sub-Zero Wins. Flawless Victory!”
Though bursting with joy on the inside, my face remained more stone cold than Steve Austin.
I had something to prove. Meanwhile, Nikkie was stunned. I could tell my disgrace of an opponent was perplexed, but had no time to comment as we swiftly entered the Pit 3 fighting arena. My intuition told me that a flawless round didn’t sit too well with Nikkie, leading me to believe that she would attempt to immediately go on attack mode in an effort to get at least one hit.
"Round 2. Fight!”
Sonya begins her dart across the screen. Like a pump fake, I start running with my character, but then flip backwards, simultaneously creating an ice clone that freezes her. Another 7-hit combo would be a flex, but I’d rather secure the victory by opting to uppercut, which took more percentage. Rather than advance, I ducked down into a block, which made me susceptible to an inkling of health reduction when Sonya’s back to back ring tosses hit me in the blocking stance. Though it didn’t make a direct impact, small contact as such made removed eligibility for another flawless victory. What I had my vision locked on was more important than that, but first, I had to secure the win.
While Liu Kang is a known character in the franchise, (well recognized for his
bicycle kick special move) Sonya adopted the move in her Mortal Kombat 3 appearance. In cases where either character misses their targets with the move, they are left vulnerable to a counterattack. In her failed effort to execute the move, I sent an Ice Shower her way, freezing her mid-air. Yet, as I attempted to perform another uppercut, my fingers slipped, which caused Sub-Zero to release another ice shower that reversed the first one and caused me to freeze myself. “F*ck!
After sustaining a chunk of damage in my health meter, the hiccup launched me back into attack mode. I mercilessly delivered attempt after attempt of freezes, ground slides, and HP, HP, LP, LK, HK, Back + HK combinations, until I heard those resounding words:
Ladies and gentlemen, the moment we have all been waiting for! It’s fatality time! I now know, that there’s a point in your life that you reach, where you no longer feel obligated to do fatalities. Eventually, you become more of a fan of the fighting skill, or you have moments where allowing your opponent to stand dazed until they finally fall over is more embarrassing than an action-packed finisher. This was neither of those scenarios. I approached close range to conduct my very first fatality. My palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy, as I attempted to seal the fate of my incoherent competitor. Block, Block, Run, Block, Run. The screen darkens. In autopilot mode, Sub-Zero walks over to Sonya, raises her over his head, freezes her, then breaks her in half like a toothpick; the sections of her body crumbling as they made contact with the ground.
“Sub-Zero Wins! Fatality!”
The devilish smirk returned as the boasting began. I’m almost sure that I slapped Nikkie’s hand away as she tried to congratulate me. I likely told her she sucked and reminded her that she got beat by her younger brother. In reality, I was just happy to prove to be worthy of her respect as a competitor. That moment led to a rivalry more profound than Sub-Zero versus Scorpion. Until this very day, we still blow on the game cartridge, insert it into the Super Nintendo, and spend hours exchanging blows back and forth. There’s no one I’d rather do that with, than her.
With that stated, I have the game loaded and ready to go. Nikkie, I challenge you to Mortal Kombat!
“Get Over Here!”
“There is no knowledge that is not power” - MK 3 opening screen
There are lessons in the losses. Over the course of time, there are many ways that I’ve worked to apply my experience obsessing over Mortal Kombat 3 to real life. In my journey, one of the biggest lessons has been humility. Pertaining to the game, as detailed above, I dedicated myself to learning the ins and outs of Mortal Kombat, all in an effort to say that I could beat my sister. To this day, I can outplay the majority of the ones that I grew up learning from. Yet, there was a period where my arrogance got the best of me, which ultimately contradicted my real goal: companionship. I realized it wasn’t about being the best. Rather, I was really trying to be good enough to be included. It’s not to say that you should live your life seeking approval. In the circumstances, being the only son, I just wanted to feel like I had people for me. Yet, the very thing I utilized to access that companionship was tarnished the moment I began to allow my ego to push everyone away. Friendly trash talk and competition may be encouraged and welcomed by winning, but it shouldn’t lead to demeaning another person. In many fields, I aspire to be the best I can be, if not the best overall. Yet, I’ve learned to be cognizant of my ego. Each day consists of walking in confidence and understanding of self, finding balance while being mindful of how I show up in a space that impacts others. *"Finish her" doesn't mean finishing our siblingship or ending our love for one another. It's only a game, companionship is way more important than winning. The only fatality necessary is a fatality to my selfishness and prideful ego. Us mortals are in need of love, relationships, and affection; we can't let our “kombative” nature infringe upon what makes us thrive. Knowledge is power, but so is love.
You no longer need to search for healing. There is healing in love. You are love. Thus, you are healing. There’s no need to search for what you already are.
Remember, I’m JustDaMessenger.
Comment your reflection below! Share on social media!
*The lines were contributed by a dear friend who assisted me in reflection on the larger message.