We sent our top writers from the Battle Red Onion to follow and record how the Houston Texans spend their time off the gridiron. The content is raw, unedited, potentially leaves us open to lawsuits, put our writers in harm's way, and will probably land us all in prison. But we felt it was worth the risk. We wanted to get to know the players behind the mask.The moon hung high in the cloudless sky. For reasons he couldn't fully understand, Brian Cushing was drawn to the moon. It made him feel alive, his senses felt heightened from his head all the way down to his tail. His tail? Cushing thought to himself. He turned around and saw a big, bushy black and brown tail which connected to his body. My tail? Cushing ran as fast as his four legs could carry him to a small lake. He approached the glassy calm water with trepidation, afraid of what he might see. He peered at the water and saw his pointy ears, long fuzzy nose, and the cold, hungry eyes of a wolf staring back at him. I-I-I'm a wolf? He let out a desperate cry into the night, sounding like a wolf's howl.
Cushing bolted upright in his bed and looked around his room. He saw his "Dethklok," "Led Zeppelin," and "Vivaldi" posters on the walls and pictures of his days at USC on the nightstand next to his alarm clock. It was 2:47 a.m.
"Ugh, just a nightmare," he concluded.
After a few minutes of trying in vain to sleep, Cushing gave up and got into his workout clothes. He drove for a few minutes headed for his favorite place in the world outside of a football field: his gym. When he arrived, the gym was still closed; not surprising since it was still just barely after three in the morning. The owner, a man who only goes by the name "Joey Bag o' Donuts," was kind enough to give Cushing a key to the facilities if he felt the need to get a workout in at any time, day or night.
Cushing unlocked the door and flipped the light switch. The lights flickered at first, as though they were unsure if they wanted to be on, but soon complied. Cushing passed by the medical supplies cabinet, but he knew what was really back there. He shook his head sadly, thinking about all those poor fools who would stoop to using performance enhancing drugs to make themselves better players. He then smiled when he remembered all the times Joey Bag o' Donuts offered him those drugs and he passed each and every time.
He was in the middle of lifting a tractor tire off the floor when he heard someone clapping their hands slowly. Cushing stood up and looked around the room nervously.
"Someone there?" Cushing asked.
From behind the staircase came this elderly looking man in a brown trench coat and wearing a homburg.
"Mr. Brian Cushing, I presume," the old man tipped his homburg to Cushing.
"I am. Who the hell are you?"
"Call me Simon. Brian, your life is in grave danger."
Cushing couldn't believe his ears, "Is that so?"
The old man nodded. "I can't go into detail right now, we have to get you out of here."
Cushing still looked puzzled, "You're being ridiculous, Simon. Who--"
The sound of broken glass shattered the quiet of the gymnasium. Standing outside the broken window was a throng of people. Their faces were contorted and anguished, their clothes were dingy and tattered, and they ambled slowly toward Cushing and Simon groaning loudly.
"What happened to these people?!" Cushing asked aghast.
"I'll tell you later," Simon shouted while looking for something to use as a weapon, "right now, we need to get out of here."
Cushing picked up the tire and threw it at the mob outside, knocking and pinning them to the ground. They ran out of the gym just as the mob swarmed into the gym. Several miles away, out in a dense forest, Cushing and Simon pause to take a break. The cacophony of sounds coming from the local wildlife made Simon jumpy. Cushing sat down on a large rock.
"What were those things, Simon?"
"Those things were the reason why you're in danger, Brian. They're poor, twisted souls with no thoughts of their own and no control over their own bodies, doing and thinking only what their master says."
Cushing shook his head sadly, "Poor bastards. Why would someone do something like this?"
"Their master's ego needs stroking, and nobody with a mind of their own would do it for him. Their master is a sad, pitiful man. He wants to be hailed a hero and do none of the work involved. He's lazy, and stupid, and generally incompetent."
"And he's coming for me?" Cushing asked.
"Yes, their master sees you as a threat."
"Why? Why me?"
"Your family, during the war, changed their names from Van Cushing. A century before that, your great great grandfather went by a much more famous name. His name was Abraham. Abraham Van Helsing."
"The vampire hunter?"
"One and the same," Simon said, "You, Mr. Cushing, come from a long line of vampire hunters. And the master knows this."
"So, what do we do?"
"You must stop the master. Stop the master and you stop his minions, then you will be free."
Cushing groaned angrily. "All I wanted was a quick workout. Fine. Where do we have to go?"
"His lair...in Tennessee."
Cushing and Simon flew to Nashville and found it a ghost town. The streets were vacant, trash blowing like tumbleweeds. Cars lie abandoned, many with doors still hanging open. The only place showing any signs of life was the football stadium. The lights from the stadium were a beacon set against the dimming light of the setting sun. As they grew closer, they could hear the roar of the crowd. The roar quickly turned into pained groaning, and the crowd appeared more disheveled with each step they took.
"This is the master's lair," Simon said.
"Oh, great," Cushing said sarcastically.
They snuck into the stadium and wormed their way through the tunnels beneath the stadium. Simon froze in place, holding Cushing back.
"You hear that?"
The deathly silence was broken by a low, guttural moaning.
"They're coming," Simon whispered to Cushing.
"What are we going to do? How do we fight them off?"
"Oh," Simon pulled a syringe out of his satchel, "thanks for reminding me. I almost forgot."
Cushing saw the syringe, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, I don't touch that stuff! No steroids!"
Simon stepped closer to Cushing, "Relax, these aren't steroids. Think of it as...an additive." He pressed the syringe to Cushing's neck and injected a mysterious clear liquid. "Just relax, and let the sauce do its magic."
Cushing felt exhilirated and ready to throw up at the same time; much like watching a Texans game after half a dozen bleach and gasoline cocktails. He could taste colors and feel each individual air particle bounce against his skin. And the last thing he saw was a big, shaggy wolf.
"What's happening to...me?" Cushing's eyes turned bright yellow and his teeth formed long, sharp fangs.
"This is how your ancestors would take care of the undead."
Cushing felt something welling deep inside him, a surge of energy he had never felt before. He felt raw, seething rage.
"Brian. Bring peace to those poor souls."
The "poor souls" were mere feet away. Their moaning was punctuated with mindless sayings like "just...wins...games..." and "Fisher...held...him...back..."
"Fanboys?!" Cushing growled.
That was all he needed to know. He plowed into the mass of Fanboys, ripping many to shreds almost instantly. He used one Fanboy as a club to bludgeon others. The Fanboys proved no match to Cushing in his altered state. He dashed, almost on all fours, out of the tunnel and onto the field. Cushing looked around in the stands and saw tens of thousands of hypnotized Fanboys cheering feebly for their "master" who was on the field absorbing their praise and adulation like an ego sponge.
"Vince? Vince Young?"
Young turned around to face Cushing. He wore a powder blue cape, dark blue tights, and no shirt, so his fans could marvel at his pecs. It really was a sad sight.
"Cushin'. How'd ya suhvahve mah army ah dahkness?"
"Your 'army of darkness?' You're kidding, right? I cut through them like your offensive line, Vinny."
Young cringed at being called 'Vinny.' He hated Joe Pesci with a vengeance.
"You gonna pay fo' this in-inso-ins-mean thang ya said, Cushing!"
Young charged down the field, his fist raised ready to strike. Cushing stood still, waiting for Young to close in on him. He was closing quickly, his new-found powers made him even faster than before. Cushing looked at his hand. The nails morphed into thick, yellow claws. When he looked up, Young was just 15 yards away. 10 yards away. 5 yards. Young was almost on top of him when Cushing grabbed Young's fist with one hand and his abdomen with the other and threw him to the ground. He slashed at Young's neck with his claws. Young gasped desperately for air and gurgled, "I...gonna...mess...ya...up."
Cushing stood up and walked away from 'the master,' wiping his claws off on his shirt. "Not today, you won't, Vinny," he said to nobody in particular.
Cushing walked up to Simon. His wolf-like features slowly reverted back to human form.
"Truth time, Simon. Just who are you?"
Simon cleared his throat. "My name is Simon. Simon Belmont. My family has been assisting yours since the days of Abraham Van Helsing."
Cushing extended his hand, sans-claws, and shook Simon's hand. "Good to meet you, Simon. I'm going back to Houston."
Young lay motionless on the ground. A man in a white suit, holding a mahogany cane, and wearing a toupee that Young could swear had ears and a tail.
"Vince, Vince, Vince. Didn't I tell you this would happen?" the man said with a thick Texas drawl, in between hacking coughs. "Now, I am willing to give you another chance, Vincent. But in return, you will do everything I say, when I say it. Am I clear?"
Young nodded meekly, "Yes, Bud-Head."
Bud-Head held his hand over Young's slashed throat; the wound closed itself quickly and Young got up off the ground, looking at his fallen Fanboys. "What you plannin' on usin' me fo', Bud-Head?"
"Don't worry. You'll find out soon enough."
Which Texans player would you like to see in the next installment of "Behind The Mask?" (Poll closes on April 24)
Owen Daniels (11 votes)
Eric Winston (4 votes)
Antonio Smith (2 votes)
Amobi Okoye (1 vote)
DeMeco Ryans (6 votes)
Kareem Jackson (5 votes)
Glover Quin (1 vote)
Bernard Pollard (3 votes)
Eugene Wilson (2 votes)
Neil Rackers (1 vote)
Other (Leave In Feedback) (0 votes)
36 total votes