CHAPTER 1: The Syllables
The blaring sound of indie rock was insidiously drowning out nearly every sense of sound that I had left. The music was kind of a mix together of screamo and touching alternative that was altogether jolting yet strangely moving---like it made me want to go out and recycle or learn to drink coffee out of eco-friendly mugs or something...
I had never been the type for loud concerts and partying, but here I was at the front row of the crowd, the band playing so close that I could feel the wind rushing against my skin every time they swayed with their guitars. The music rang so loudly through the massive stadium that I felt the ground beneath my feet tremble. It was seemingly hard to breathe amongst the lung crushing sound waves and the shoving fans. Still I managed to look like I was enjoying myself and slapped on a smile, though it was mostly to calm the stinging vibrating of my teeth at the mercy of the quaking concert speakers.
A giant screen was facing the crowd, showing the many different angles of the band. I watched as the millions of tiny lights swirled into new images and they seemed to grow closer the longer I stared. That’s when I finally saw it, a wire dropping from overhead, another followed and all too suddenly I felt a cold chill run through my spine just in time to see the whole thing come crashing down towards us.
I stared at the reflection in the mirror before me, the girl staring back a was short, she had a decently shaped figure, big and round blue eyes, even bigger dark hair with various shades of brown ringing down the curls. There were old scars of slight acne on the shoulders, but it wasn’t much to be ashamed of. I was me—not a model by far, but decent enough to be called “cute” on a few stray occasions. My fear of boys strictly prohibited me from dating anyone, even if they asked me out. I just couldn’t think about it without feeling like I was about to vomit. There’s a phobia for that I think? Maybe androphobia, philophobia, or sexophobia---I can’t really remember, but all in all my friends just refer to it as being painfully shy.
I slammed my head softly against the glass of the mirror and stared myself in the eyes. These were not the sort of things a girl my age should have to worry about, I thought. I mean, I could talk to boys, I was a top notch public speaker in speech class even, but if anyone tried to leave the friend zone with me, then I would utterly shut down and hide back inside the comfort of my security locked little turtle shell. There, I could be alone, but that was also the downside to it all I suppose—being alone all of the time. Landria says that I’m going to die alone and that my looks were wasted on my personality, whatever that meant? Landria has a phobia that I Googled once, (noticing how often I’ll Google random junk whenever I get bored enough to have the urge) I found a list of phobias that proved fairly interesting. Landria’s fear is known as “anuptaphobia” which is the fear of being single. Landria always has a boy traipsing around her and it was a rare sight when she didn’t have anyone around her, friends and boyfriends alike. She at least kept me at close company if there was nobody else in her reach, that and she was desperate for attention.
Landry was fairly popular around the campus and she loved to have fun more than anything else. I’m guessing that was why people found her company so worthwhile. I envied Landry for her ability to be carefree in a moment’s notice; meanwhile, here I was, up all night long studying my face off for weeks on end just to pass my eight week finals today. Landria already took all of her tests and as far as I know, she passed them all and I don’t even remember seeing her study for a single class, not one! I don’t know how she does it, but whatever she’s doing, it must be working for her or they would have kicked her out of college by now, right?
The sheer fact that Landria is my polar opposite makes me constantly wonder how on Earth we became friends in the first place. She tries to give me advice and tips on how to live my life, but usually I just brush her coaching off. I know she means well, but honestly, the ridicule of your best friend telling you how much better her life is than yours, it can just be more hurtful than helpful at times. That, mixed with the fact that she’s living a magical fairytale college story and has absolutely no input whatsoever to help me get to that point in my life just makes her advice all the more ridiculous. Her idea of advice for me is to wear more makeup and buy better clothes. I want to know how she can just breeze through all of her classes and still attend frat parties every other Saturday, but does she tell me how? Nope!
About my bedroom were paintings and crude artwork that I’d done in my rare doses of spare time. Because of my lacking social life, no one’s really ever seen anything I have ever painted. My skills seemed limited to my own eyes and imagination---not like artistic talent had anything to contribute in my college classes or anything. I even decorated my whole room by myself; it was bright and colorful with light blue walls, black trim, and a gray ceiling. I had three half sized bookcases stuffed to their seams with normal books and comic books alike. I was a nerd at heart and I take responsibility for the fact that I like fictional characters more than people and that contributes to my antisocial personality. I can tell you the secret identities of every X-Man who has ever hit paper, but I couldn’t tell you what happened between Johnny and Carol at last week’s football game if you held me at gunpoint.
There were a few half sized drawers, each filled to the brim with old sketchbooks, most of them were filled with sketches of people I’d seen in dreams, of landscapes I just plain made up, or sometimes I doodled cartoons of my favorite anime characters and TV shows just to keep myself entertained. These were rough times for my creativity ever since I started college—here my life went into neutral mode and there just seemed to be nothing all that special enough for me to take the time to draw out like I used to. Still, sketching is way easier than pulling out all of my painting supplies, so I have a lot more secret doodles than I do unwitnessed paintings.
Ironically I came here to get better at my art and maybe even become a recognized artist one day, but that isn’t exactly what was happening, it was more of an opposite reaction really. In school it’s mostly that I go there, I sit there, I come home, and I sit there—with the occasional homework assignment thrown in to the mix every so often to keep me on my toes. Yeah, it isn’t the most thrilling time in the world. Still, one day I can feel it deep down in my bones that soon my life will change and I’ll get to go on an adventure of some sort that will shove me out of this dingy rut known as Freshman Year. That—or I’ll finally be done with basic core classes and then I can actually learn something useful and fun pertaining to my career choice as an artist. The thought makes me laugh, but hey, they say that Freshman Year is always the hardest. Maybe I’ll survive to see the light tomorrow yet?
I slipped on my shoes and started cramming books into my backpack as the serene silence echoed my shuffling movements. Other than the occasional bird singing, things were pretty quiet. Thinking about how discreet the house was during these early hours made me think up another fear, “Autophobia,” and as much as I keep telling myself, that term has absolutely nothing to do with cars. Autophobia means the fear of being alone. Landria has this fear more so than any other person I’ve met. This was yet another reason that Landry and I clash in the common interest department. For me, I can tolerate my solitude, I always have been able to do it, and I can even revel in it, but my poor friend can’t stay alone in a bathroom for more than two minutes without feeling like some dreadful apocalypse took out the entire human race! So, that is kind of harsh to say about Landria, but she is extremely clingy I’ll admit it, and she really does soak up attention like a sponge. I think she lacked attention when she was a kid and now she’s trying to make up for it or some sort of related psycho-babble.
My cellphone started ringing the subtle tune of a chorus of birds; it was the only restrained sound that I liked enough on my presets to actually set as my ringtone. Basically my phone sucked and I was sometimes lucky if I heard it ring at all, so I shouldn’t be complaining about the presets. My uncle was a bit of a cheapskate, so this penny phone was the only thing he’d get for me before I moved off to college. He hardly even calls me unless I call him first, so I didn’t see why he even bothered to get me a phone in the first place; I guess in the slim chance of an emergency, holiday plans, or something? He has crazy hours at his workplace, so I understand him not calling me every day. Plus, who did I think I learned to be a loner from? Uncle Zane was the most stubborn “lone wolf” kind of guy that I’d ever met! I’m surprised he even has a job with his distant, introverted nature.
The buzzer rang again, though I barely had to look at the caller ID to know who would be calling me at this early hour. I reached across the bed and grabbed my phone, holding it a good distance away from my face before I heard Landria screaming my ear off in some tizzy of excitement. She usually gets overly chipper whenever something strikes her interest, even in the early hours of the AM. Landria was just one of those people that can just radiate sunshine and adrenalin as if their blood had been permanently fused with sugar and caffeine. Take that and add it to a natural morning person, and I wind up living with a real life princess snatched right out of a Disney movie. All jokes aside, Landria has called me at six in the morning just to sing “good morning” by Debbie Reynolds at least eleven times this semester.
“OMG!” She started squealing, her voice seemed to be fading and rising as I assumed she was hopping idly up and down with an excitement level to match her tone. “Andie!”
I took a deep breath and adapted to her chipper mood, yawning away the last of my sleepless night before my friend came over and smacked the exhaustion out of me because knowing Landry, she definitely would. “Well, good morning to you too. What’s up?” I asked while rolling my eyes as her frantic breathing intensified angrily to form that of an insulted growl hazing through my phone speakers.
“What’s up!?” The mere question was like a dagger being plunged into her heart. I could hear her flaring breaths pound through my phone with a contempt voice enough to match the sound. “’What’s up’ is that we are going to see the Syllables LIVE in a matter of hours, that’s ‘what’s up’! Do you know how much money Daddy shelled out for these concert tickets!? This is a tremendously huge deal, Marron Andrea Melinoe!” She normally used my full name whenever I’d pissed her off. I’d gotten used to it because of all the times my uncle yelled it at me whenever I got into deep trouble growing up.
“Landry, that concert isn’t for another twelve hours,” I groaned, “We have other things to do today before then; maybe you should focus on one of those.”
“You know what Andie, you are absolutely right,” she admitted. For an instant I was shocked because it was a rare occasion when Landria actually took advice from me—almost never. Of course, that glory was short lived for me when she continued by raving to me in her giddy tone. “I’ll need to go shopping and get my nails done! Do you think I should touch up my hair or is it still good? What if we get backstage passes to meet the band!? OMG! I am so excited right now, I could just pop!”
I was bewildered that a girl our age still got so excited over seeing a boy band, but then again, this was Landria I was talking about. “That’s great Landry,” I yawned and tried to make my tone sound pleasant. “You do that, but I have three tests and a speech to give today, so I’ll just see you later tonight, deal?”
“Man, Marron, you are such a downer!” she groaned, “Friday classes were optional you geek! You know what, I bet that’s why you can never get a boyfriend, you need to loosen the hell up and get your nose out of those books to have a little fun in a world with real life, living people!”
“And—with that I’m going to leave you to that shopping,” I sang in my temperamental voice, “Bye-bye!” She tried to protest onward, but I heard that relieving little beep of my line cutting off and fell back onto my mattress.
“Marron, you lazy skank, open this door!” Landria bellowed. She pounded my door to the point that the hinges started to creak, and continued calling my name repeatedly. I try not to be insulted by her continuous cussing and calling me names, mostly because Landria doesn’t actually mean any of them in any sort of hurtful way. The curse words and friendly slang were just part of her basic vocabulary. We were housemates after all, and there was really no running away from her. Believe me, I’ve tried.
I grumbled to the door and she shoved her way inside, heading straight to my closet, tossing hangers out at my face, the clothes flinging left and right until I sat back on my mattress and finally caved, “Landry, what in the world are you doing?”
“Ugh!” she bellowed, “Do you own anything that isn’t blue? Jeans. Denim. Cargo Pants. COME ON! Where are the miniskirts? The Daisy Dukes? The slutty dresses!?”
“It is the middle of December psycho—I’m not going to the concert in any of those things!”
She rolled her eyes at me. “This isn’t the northern woodlands anymore honey, you live in LA now! Where the intense temperature radiating from our hot bodies will keep us warm no matter what we wear. Now help me find something halfway decent in this train wreck or I’m shopping for you again, I mean it, Andie!”
Yeah right, I reflected with the haunting images of numerous shopping sprees and birthday presents gone awry due to my roommate’s style preferences. The last time Landria went ‘shopping’ for me, I wound up with nine-inch platform pumps and about five tops with no back. She commandeered them eventually, but Landria didn’t understand that I was a whole foot shorter and three cup sizes smaller than her for a reason. That being said, I dressed like the trendy hipster nerd because it matched my personality and spending limit, and I did not by any means dawn the look of the popular celebrity ripped right out of a magazine because A. I wasn’t a rich socialite and B. My wealthy father didn’t give me an allowance to stock up on trendy commodities every month.
Landria didn’t truly understand the way an average Joe lived about their day to day lives. She was really pretty, so she didn’t know the difference about an outfit not looking good on someone. Landry looked great in anything and could pull off any style or trend she set her mind to. She was six foot two; her skin was tanned and flawless; hair the color of honey that flowed silky and straight all the way down her back. She had eyes green as literal emeralds, and her face was shaped like an actual woman’s—defined and all, not round and childlike as mine was. She had full lips, the kind you see on the women photoshopped in magazine articles about Maybelline lip gloss, and to top it all off, Landry was skinny as a board with boobs that might as well have their own climate. She literally did look just like a model and in fact, Landry was a pretty popular model already. She’s had a few gigs and photo shoots throughout the semester, plus I’m pretty sure she was in one of those sorority calendars that they sell on campus.
Landria was only coming to this college to take acting classes so she could become famous and marry her future costar or someone rich, famous, and handsome that stared in a role with her. Until then, she was just here at the college attending countless sororities, born with a silver spoon in her mouth, rich enough to never need work a day in her life, yet she wanted to come to college and she refused to live in a mansion with sixteen other girls because she said that she would probably wind up murdering one of them. Do I believe that? Yes I do.
But, I need to give her credit for wanting to make something of her life without her father’s help, and as far as heiresses go, Landria Bates was probably one of the kindest rich girls I had ever met. Her personality was compassionate and caring; it was just the airheaded view of society that took a little getting used to when we first met at the beginning of the year.
Instead of potential time in prison, Landry and I were brought together by fate to share this house about two blocks from college campus. Since the first moment we met, Landria was intent on rebuilding me in her image, and transforming me into her “mini” as she called it. I was too scared to ask what that meant, but it obviously had something to do with hair dye and plastic surgery. I told her no of course because I knew that I was pretty---I just wasn’t (to quote Landria’s numerous boyfriends) “SMOKIN’ HAWT”. A few of them weren’t afraid to let me know that either. See, she didn’t really date men based on their personalities or people skills, she dated them for their looks and most of the time the cutest boys that Landria brought home were the meanest and most impeccable asstards on the face of the earth! Not that I ever had the guts to tell them that to their face...
Landry had successfully stripped every article of clothing that I had hung up in my closet. She was just about to go off on a tangent about how I had absolutely nothing to wear when she froze and started squealing towards my TV. “No way! Shut up!” Landria cheered, tackling me to the bed as she turned the volume up on my television to a near deafening level that made the tiny Sanyo speakers pop. Helplessly I tried to squirm into a position with breathable oxygen as Landry literally crushed me, then proceeded to shush me as her eyes grew transfixed on the juddering television screen. “Look! They’re on TV, Andie! Oh my gosh—shush, I need to hear this!”
“The number one boy band of the nation, “The Syllables” have broken record sales for their latest concert to be held in the Los Angeles area. With tickets selling out just two weeks after going on market, certainly this will be a memorable night for the lucky hundreds who managed to get tickets for the hottest musical group of the century...”
“Oh!” Landry sighed dreamily as she rolled off of me and into the floor, clutching my remote control to her heart as she swooned around my pile of unacceptable clothes. “Aren’t they just gorgeous, Andie?” She hummed, “I’ve always been in love with a man who can sing, did I ever tell you that?”
I rolled my eyes, my voice flat and deadpan as I gathered all of my books into my worn out backpack. “Oh yeah, they’re adorable.”
“You know—” she gruffed, rolling to her elbows as she stood and pointed her perfectly manicured chevron nails at me. “You wouldn’t be so grouchy all the time if you kissed a boy!”
I growled into my bag and pleaded, “I’m not bitter! I don’t need a guy to make me happy and when the right one comes along, I’ll know it. Now I really have to get to the computer lab, I’ll see you later!”
“I never said you were bitter,” Landry grinned in a tone that completely managed to flip my own words against me. “But, I knew it! You’re eighteen years old and you’ve never kissed a boy—that’s just borderline sad, Andie---just sad.”
“It is not!” I hollered back, “It’s called self-restraint and having your priorities in order!” With that, I turned and started running off as fast as I could before my roommate could retaliate.
Landria called out to me, blowing kisses as she hollered, “You are in denial, babe! I’m totally buying you some cute, slutty clothes for tonight so we can attract you a man! My treat!”
Class passed by simply enough; Speech class was a cinch and I’ve always been a wiz with computer stuff , the only issue was my Algebra class and as hard as I tried, it’s nearly impossible to study for a math test! So, after potentially failing my Algebra final, I can say wholeheartedly that I’m pretty eager to go to that Syllables concert with Landry tonight. It should be just the thing to get my mind off of the excruciating world of college for the weekend, and kick off this holiday break with a bang.
I walked back to our house in the little co-ed neighborhood near the university; it was no sorority row, but the place we lived in was nice. Two bedrooms, a kitchen, one small living room, and one bathroom—not much but nevertheless it was home. The outside was fairly recognizable among the other bland styled and colorless homes on the block; our place had burnt-yellow colored walls with red wooden trim that wound a funny design up the side of the house before striking the rain gutters or the gray tiled roof. I could focus on the colors even from where I stood down the block—the house was very eye drawing. Tall trees loomed overhead, surrounding the land in a peaceful hallow of gentle shadows. Sometimes I thought about painting the street, but I was afraid that people would stare at the odd chick with the easel in the middle of the road.
It wasn’t the typical LA scene that I’d imagined while living in the country county up north. The entire city, it seemed, was supposed to be paved in concrete, palm trees would mark both sides of the curb, and lights would ring out from every corner. It would also be full of mansions, movie stars, and those breathtaking beachfront ocean views, and everyone would have been either a movie star or a swanky LA director searching for talent—not to mention, the schools would break out into song every other Tuesday at lunch. The reality of Los Angeles---yeah, not so much…
The college grounds were actually more similar to my home in Oregon. There were no blinding cameras, hardly a crowd, and it was lonely with only trees and simple houses to comfort the area; homey, but not completely silent as the other students started winding down for their evening plans and first night of Winter Break parties.
The way the golden streaks of sunlight climbed through the leaves, shinning warm rays of gold onto the black and almost always vacant roads made me feel safe and comforted. The chirping birds singing down the lane, seeming to just blend in to form the lively sound of neighborhood silence, it all made the entire block seem at peace, and it made me feel comfortably right at home. So, maybe LA wasn’t what the media makes us all think that it’s cracked up to be?
Still, after living in a farmhouse (lacking animals or crops might I add) that was secluded in nothing but trees with no one but my uncle and his ‘loving demeanor’, I will take the California city-life any day of the week! I wanted to go somewhere with my life, rather stay stuck in the forest alone and in the silence. Saying that our home was miles from civilization was an understatement; I barely ever met another person when I was growing up, except for the occasional friend of my uncle or one of his weird coworkers from the Post Office.
It always seemed so lonely there—like I really didn’t belong. Even now the silence of the college dying down into evening made me remember just how separated my uncle and I seemed to be from the rest of the world. Why in the heck anyone would even want a house out in the middle of nowhere, Oregon in the first place was something that my Uncle never did fully explain to me.
Uncle Zane hated the idea of me moving away into the real world, or so he acted like to sway me into guilt, but after a few convincing arguments, he honestly couldn’t say no and finally set me free to be on my own. Thinking about him up there alone in that house made me feel sort of guilty, but in hindsight, I’m sure my uncle is partying and reveling in the fact that he is now a free man and an “eligible bachelor” now that he doesn’t have his little old niece to take care of anymore. Always a ladies man, never a long term relationship; how I made it this far without a maternal figure to look up to is beyond me.
I turned the key through the front door before sinking inside and kicking the door shut with my heel. “Landria!” I called, locking the front door behind me as the quick stench of Landry’s peach and pineapple Sentsy filled my noise with its burning, fruity odor. “Hey! Landry, I’m home! Let’s see what outfit you picked out for me this time, I’m sure it’s a hoot!”
I guess she isn’t home yet, I thought. More time for myself I guess? Flopping lazily on the couch, I stretched out and grabbed for my I-Pod left on the little wooden coffee table by the arm of the loveseat. It should be about half a charge and I had a whole house to myself for a while at least, so this type of seclusion I could live with. The last thing I remember was seeing the red and yellow Superman Logo on my navy sweatshirt before drifting off to another world, listening to one of the many songs on my I-Pod. Tiredly, my eyes drifted shut and I dozed off into the crevice I’d cuddled into the squishy, maroon couch, falling completely asleep in a matter of seconds.
The next thing I know, I’m starring back up at that mushroom colored ceiling now turned gray with the color of an outer night sky. My I-Pod was dead and my mouth felt dry with the arid aftertaste of a much needed nap. The previous night was full of these ultra-weird, recurring, elapsed nightmares—they were enough to keep me up half the night alone, and crammed with the unsettling paranoia of the semester finals I took this morning—it was one rough night to say the least. I’m not surprised at all that I had crashed the moment I got home.
It was still quiet in the house, meaning that Landria hadn’t come home yet. So, I grabbed towards my backpack with my foot and lifted it up to my arms, digging through the books to find my cellphone crammed at the bottom of the bag. My dreary eyes stared as the numbers on the screen came blending together to form one fuzzy image, and when I finally adjusted to see what time it was I nearly sprang off the sofa in shock.
The concert was in a half an hour and Landria wasn’t back yet, that isn’t like her. The paranoid part of me believed that something terrible had happened to her, but quickly realizing the nine missed calls and twenty-three text messages on my phone, I lost hold of that notion. I scrolled through the ones that seemed to start out angry and found a few that told me the reason that she hadn’t come home yet.
> NOT COMING HOME. MET A HOTTIE! C U @ CONCERT!
> SCOTT AND I R GOING OUT 4 DINNER. B READY 4 L8ER!
> WRU? NVM! MEET @ CONCERT IN 10! DRESS NICE! <3
> TICKET IS ON THE COUNTER BTW! TTYL ;-)
I rolled my eyes again and yawned to an upright position as the silence echoed through my ears. It was an eerie, dark silence that made my skin crawl, not the blissful and calm quiet that I would have normally enjoyed. I shook the thought away and stretched to a hasty stand. Landry’s last text message was three minutes ago. So if I hurried, took the car, and didn’t change—then that meant I could make it to the concert about ten minutes late, suffer a quick spiel from Landria, and then I’d be home free!
I rushed to the bowl by the front door and grabbed the keys to the mini-coop. Landria wouldn’t mind if I borrowed it, she said so the first day that we met—though I haven’t taken her up on that offer until now. I never needed to what with campus being within walking distance and all. For crying out loud, the woman had two of them— a black car and a pink one, the black model often sitting alone in the garage for eleven out of twelve months in the year. I still wondered why her father let her bring both of them to college with her—for emergencies I guess? Landry was a living Barbie doll, so of course she always, always drove around in her pink mini coop. It was her signature “baby” and I think she loved it more that she did her own life, if it were possible.
While at the door, I glanced back in the mirror hanging over the entry table. I was in skinny jeans, slip on shoes that were solid black and a year and a half worn out, then my cozy Superman half-a-sweatshirt, a black cami underneath, sports bra straps showing by my neckline, but I could live with it. My hair was as curly and just as unmanageable as ever but the style suited me well enough, and with a quick primp, the stray strands of brunette were all in place and the smeared eyeliner was off the corners of my eyes. Concert ready, I thought to myself quickly and with that I hurried out of the house and into the black Mini Cooper parked in the garage.
By the time I found a parking spot and hiked a mile towards the stadium, already lit up and blaring with the sounds of a thousand cheering Syllables fans awaiting their enduring rock music, I received another painfully sharp vibrating call from Landria demanding to know where I was, and I pressed the phone against my ear just so I could shout over the roaring crowd in the parking lot. “Sorry I’m late!” I yelled over the ever expanding background noise, “I’m right by the entry gate, where are you?”
“Yeah, try twenty minutes later than I told you! What, did you take a beauty nap or something!? Ugh! Just never mind, okay! You—” Landria growled loudly, “Don’t move! We’re coming to you!”
“We’re?” I wondered back. A sick pit in my stomach should have warned me days ago that Landry wasn’t going to endure this entire concert with the boring likes of me. I knew better than that.
Shoving my phone into my pants pocket and my hands into my sides, I slumped against the concrete pillar by the large entry door to the LA concert arena. The voices talking all at once made the walls of the stadium shake and drown all audible sound like a roar of rushing water. I watched my surroundings looking for Landry and her entourage as I waited…and waited…and waited.
I gazed down at my phone for the sign of a text, but there wasn’t one, only the blunt numbers of the clock that had already faded through fifteen minutes of my life. With a growl, I kicked myself away from the wall and took a last look around for Landria. The crowd had started dimming down already; no doubt the concert would begin any minute. I rubbed my forehead in vague annoyance. This was just like Landria she just gets distracted so easily. Maybe she got lost? Either way, I’m on my own. At least I had my ticket. So, really, what was I waiting for?
The usher showed me to my section on bottom floor with all the party kids. I had been to a few concerts before and had seen the way these people always managed to have more fun than the rest of the stadium—they had the huge beach balls and were always dancing towards whatever band was playing a mere five feet away from their seats; still, I’d never been down here personally, and I didn’t even like to party, I wasn’t a good dancer, and I barely sang in the car, let alone in public. Down here, I felt just like a sheep amongst wolves---party-crazed, Syllables-loving, hormonal, and ravenous, adolescent wolves.
A huge jumbotron was just above the stage, it displayed colors of distracting nonsense down at the fans in some hypnotic trance to keep them all occupied until the band was ready to play. Above, the open arena let in the faintest rush of nighttime breeze while the stars took shelter somewhere in the galaxy, all hiding from this dissonant noise and blinding light coming from the stadium.
“Andie!” a voice screeched out in the distance. I focused in and saw Landria waving me to the front of the crowd, just at the tip of the stage. She was wearing a tight one shoulder dress made of silver sequins in addition to a fluffy pink boa and large glittering pumps that made her even taller than she already was. She waved a bushel of roses all over the sky until I waved back and made my way over to her.
“Andie! For a while there I thought that we lost you!” she hollered over the crowd. Rose petals were puking all over the girl behind us with the white and black ombre hair. She gave us both a snarl and I convinced Landry to stop waving around her reserved flowers long enough to actually toss them at the band members.
“Yeah, I’m glad you found me!” My voice was full of sarcasm, but Landry couldn’t hear it over the roaring fans behind us. I screamed a little louder to the point my throat stung and my ears blocked off my own words. “Nice seats! Your dad must have paid a fortune!”
“It was worth it!” she yelled back, “Oh!” she yanked the arm of a tall, pale man with sunglasses and blonde hair. His clothes were the type that you would find in a greaser movie, black leather, beanie that reeked of coffee beans and incense; he sort of had that cool guy frown, the black sunglasses even though it was nighttime, and all that jazz that symbolized him as the moody, dark past sort of boy. “Andie, this is my new friend, Scott!” Landry introduced.
Meekly I waved at him, but his scowl alerted me that he most assuredly did not care at all for my presence, and I raised a brow to let him know the feeling was mutual before sulking my attention back towards the stage. It was great timing because just as suddenly as I looked, the roar of the crowd shook to unimaginable levels and I saw the five fairly handsome boys waving their way to their instruments on the stage. Before I could react, people shoved me forward as they attempted to touch the celebrity boys on the stage.
The jumbo screen above lost the screensaver to show the close up images of the lead member of The Syllables as he hollered, “What’s up Los Angeles! Let’s get ready to rock out tonight!”
After a little bit of banter from the band members, the concert started and the shoving, ravenous crowd died back into a neutral mob of dancing fanatics. I got my elbow room back, the music drowned out the stadium, and about ten minutes later, I was caught in a moment of embarrassment when Landria threw her bouquet of roses right into the lead singer’s face; he made an awkward joke about the event, people laughed a little, and then they continued on with their concert like nothing had even happened.
After about forty minutes of concert and that brief intermission to sweep away stage debris, the boys were playing one of their slower tempo songs and by this point it was like that awkward moment at the prom when the music turns all “waltzy” and everyone comes together in couples. Landria was dancing around Scott like she would a greased up pole. That Scott guy sneered at me if I even glimpsed towards them unless he was too distracted trying to suck Landry’s face off to notice that I had glanced, in which case he did nothing. He had his hands on her hips and was swaying back and forth as most of the other couples around here were doing. The cursed dance of our generation that made no sense to me and just the sight of couples dancing like that made me groan in disgust. I had to admit that there was one good thing that had come of this complete asshat that Landria invited to the concert with us—with him distracting her, Landry hasn’t said one single word about the way I was dressed and, pleased with my luck, I crossed my arms and swayed along the heels of my feet in a poor attempt to blend in with the moving crowd.
I looked up at that huge monitor again to see the close up camera angle of the lead singer—Landria liked him for his voice and his eyes, well he sounded better singing than I would have, and I give him my respect for being able to perform in front of a massive crowd such as this, but as for the eyes, I couldn’t notice anything special about them, not when he kept twisting his face in unattractive positions in order to sing certain high notes. His face was a red ball of sweat and exhaustion. I felt a strike of pity run through me as I thought that maybe he never gets a break when he needs it? This singing gig probably isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Those boys probably never get a minute to themselves, and I’ll bet they even dream about performing, like in some sick and twisted monotonous loop; a never-ending torture.
My mind wandered as the concert raged on. A few people bumped into me and I was given dirty looks before they went back to their business. Landria’s new friend probably gave me the most looks all night as I managed to always be in their way when he and Landry were grinding. I sighed hopelessly and took another look at the sky, wishing I could go away with the absent stars and hide away from all this noise. The concert was supposed to be helping me feel better, but I still felt too misplaced to actually enjoy myself, no matter how hard I tried to have some fun, it just wouldn’t come out. Why was it so hard for me to enjoy this concert? I’d kill to be able to have that happy-go-lucky, no care in the world attitude like Landry had right this second. Come on fun, I thought frantically, just come and find me!
As the concert was nearing its end, I glanced back at the screen as the cameras scanned the massive crowd that was swaying to the offbeat. I noticed how most of the couples were making out by this point—and enlarged on air to the size of a building—how embarrassing would that have been?
A movement caught my eye and it was then I noticed something odd that at first I thought was my imagination or a misplaced spotlight maybe, but it wasn’t—it was some sort of figure. When the shadow moved again, I realized that there was a person crossing the thin pipes surrounding the jumbotron. I wondered if he maybe worked with the stadium or the band crew or something, but I still wasn’t sure why he would be so high up on the open platform like that, and in the middle of a concert. It seemed a little risky and dangerous if you asked me.
“Hey!” I shouted as loud as my lungs could screech, “Landry, do you see that man up there on the screen!?”
“That’s Trent! He’s the lead singer!” she laughed down at me with a tone that mocked me like an inferior child that has no knowledge of anything important at all in life.
I tried again, “No! I mean up there, like a literal guy is up there! Do they usually have people working or performing from that high off the ground during these things!?” Landry squinted and ceased her dancing for a minute and shrugged at me, “I really don’t see anyone, Andie!”
“Stop pestering your big sister, kid!” Scott spat, “We’re busy!”
My mouth drew a line and no doubt my nostrils flared at him, but they didn’t notice me and continued dancing. I didn’t stop staring up there—I couldn’t—not when I could blatantly see a man, maybe even two on the edge of the giant jumbotron, they each had little flashes up there with them, like little torches for welding or maybe some sort of firework for showmanship, I thought.
The fire in one of their hands seemed to vanish, a large coil fell towards the earth like a dead snake; it made the giant screen tilt forward in the slightest and I jumped. A gaudy drum rift played loudly through the arena, yet even past the band, I could still hear the screeching sound of metal scraping metal as the huge monitoring screen started to slowly sag forward. Suddenly, both of the figures seemed to vanish from sight as soon as the little fiery tools died out. I noticed yet another cord whip down the back of the screen; the whole device started to quiver unstably as it slowly started sinking towards the unsuspecting crowd.
I stumbled backwards into the girl with the ombre hair who cussed and cursed until she met my gaze up at the sky. After that, it was like a chain reaction and even Landry was staring up towards the monitor as the image sizzled out like disconnected television static. I could feel the pull from the crowd as we started inching backwards in disbelief as we all watched the thousand ton television screen hanging over us by a few thin strings. The last of the wires snapped with a spine chilling sound and that was it. The whole thing started to plummet.
Shrieks upon bloodcurdling screams echoed throughout the stadium as the band stopped playing and looked towards the sky, fans running like wild animals to escape as the massive jumbotron started snapping from its base in the sky and slowly, but menacingly started sinking face first towards the ground like a toppled tree. People ran—I even turned and started to do the only thing my body could think to do as I had become overrun with paralyzing terror. Landry and Scott were a blur ahead of me and the crowd shoved and scraped around each other to get out of the way of the crashing screen. I saw hot sparks come crashing down from the burning bulbs that shattered from above. I covered my head and felt the brief flashes of heat singe at my sleeves; the hairs on my neck alerted my body to the feeling of the mass coming down to crush all of us like ants beneath a steel-toed boot. I could even see the shadow this huge monitor cast over us and could tell just exactly which of us were going to make it out safe on the other side and which of us wouldn’t even make it close.
Either way, I swallowed my gut and ran, unfaltering, as I kept heading towards the safety outside of the brick shaped shadow. The thunderous rumble of crashing and crushing shook the inside of my chest and made me feel for the first time the frozen fire welling up inside my lungs as I ran my very hardest to make it to safety. The screams and terrible sounds from behind me became a soft blur as I could only hear the sound of blood pumping through my brain and slicing through my rapidly pounding heart; the noise was scratching against my ears, drowning the feeling in my body as the blood in my fingers numbed, frozen and useless just like the rest of me. I could only keep running at this point because I forgot how to do anything else. I could only run—run and not look back.
Suddenly, I felt something sharp digging into the nape of my neck and thought that I heard a shrill scream in my ear. I made the mistake of looking behind me only to see the glass bulbs raining down around the grass, making scratches and slits in the skin exposed to the open air. People were tripping over each other in attempts to escape and they were hiding from the raining glass as it shattered around their toppled bodies. It was then I came face to face with the crushing reality of their near and oncoming doom, and I looked back at that shadow line and realized that I wasn’t going to make it either.
My mouth opened as though it were screaming, but I couldn’t hear if I did or not because I merely closed my eyes and held tighter to the feeling of death as I treacherously awaited the sensation of being crushed and squished like a bug. My only thoughts came in swift rivets as my feet pounded across the grass, all of my hasty inner monologues wound up ending the same way: with me wondering about the two men with the torches, and why they had sabotaged us all to die. I’d wished that I had called my uncle to say goodbye to him one last time when I got home from class just a few short hours ago.
The digging of glass at my neck came again and the pain brought back all of the sound as I heard the earth quaking upon impact and the hundreds of screams begging the fates for mercy. I tripped over some woman’s forgotten purse and skid sharply through the broken light shards as my forehead stopped only inches before nearly smacking against the green ground stained in blood and glass. My hands hit the earth and tightened with terror as I thought about trying some inoperable attempt to be heroic in my final few seconds of life, though nothing in particular came to mind except for hot tears drifting down my cheeks. Just sitting there, I awaited the brutal feeling of death, and clasped my eyes shut, hoping I would at least greet it swiftly.
The feeling of pain never came, but did feel a swift breeze of air rush across the back of my neck, which felt wet with something, blood maybe? I drew in breaths that for the first time made me wonder if or not I was strictly still alive. I opened one eye slowly and then the other, but I didn’t see any “white light” or any sign of death around me; I couldn’t see the underside of the jumbotron, or any grass and dirt that was formally ground into the gashes in my legs. There was nothing around me except for a shifting swirl of colors, blacks and browns. I then realized that I was standing in a dark cloud of smoke. It started to fade away and I squinted to see through the mask out in front of my eyes and I noticed an empty string of stadium chairs, eye level to me, even though it seemed as though the sections were a good two stories in the air. The stairs and balconies also alerted me to the fact that I was looking higher off of the ground than I was supposed to be and I coughed as the dirty smoke continued to billow around my face.
The wind rushed across my exposed wounds alongside a stinging pain that enveloped my feet, and I gazed down to see the sparks snapping at my bare skin like angry fire ants. The look down made me realize one last thing and that was the fact that I was standing directly on top of the jumbotron which was completely settled into the grass where the concert was formally acting jubilant just a few short seconds ago. It felt like years had passed somehow since I’d felt happy or safe, enjoying the Syllables music and the screeching sound of indie rock, and now more than ever, I was wondering how in the world had I even gotten up here.
Looking down, I saw that I was a good thirty feet or more off of the ground, and I stumbled back only to hear the crushing sound of glass bulbs smashing beneath my worn slip-ons as the sparks bit my ankles. All of the sudden I was shrouded in the mixing feelings of shock and nausea, but I couldn’t manage to wrap my still frantic and pulsating mind around what was really going on. I couldn’t even remember my own name—if someone had asked me what it was, I couldn’t have told them if I wanted to. It was as though my entire body was merely a looking glass and I was in some far off place, watching through the eyes of a stranger’s, dazed and so still that she could feel her own blood pumping through her veins
“I don’t believe my eyes!” a low voice erupted. I didn’t think that I would ever hear another human voice again, and this one came at me so casually that I barely had time to process that someone was actually talking to me before I turned around and saw him speaking.
He landed from above, glass bulbs and sparks from the jumbotron pouncing from beneath his burly brown boots. The strange boy was hovering low and he seemed to be growling as if in order to catch his breath in a hushed method. His pale hands flicked once as his spine shot up to a full stand and he took a rough step in my direction, his finger pointed at me as he tilted his head and the stray brown bangs slid off the side of his face to reveal two very concerned green eyes gleaming at me as the sparks soared with every furious step he took.
I stumbled back and nearly slipped off of the slick side of the jumbotron as the strange boy practically stomped at me, his voice full of spite as he snarled, “You’re a Spectre!” The cold feeling in my blood managed to drop even farther. I inched as far as I could in order to get distance between me and this random maniac. My eyes were as big as they could go and my blood ran cold to the point that I could no longer feel my limbs, not even the numbing pain that they were still attached to my body. I heard vividly the sound of my heart thundering against my chest as I hyperventilated and started to shake in some sort of adrenalin rushed result of horror.
I took another step back and seeing me made the accusing boy lower his hand; his once glowing green eyes seemed to change into two shining specks of amber right before my very eyes as he started slowly backing away, hands parted calmly as if he were trying not to startle a hostile, sleeping bear. With each step I could hear the glass crunching under the weight of his shoes, and I wondered if what I was seeing was actually there. It seemed real enough, and the pain in my body felt tangible enough, and the noises all sounded like they were there. The smoke could have been getting to me though, I pondered. Was this real or was I really dead? This seemed too strange to be death.
“Hey Holt, come on!” I heard a voice demand in the distance, though I was too frightened to even look to see where it was coming from. My body was stationary, so my eyes simply watched with such intensity as the strange boy’s irises turned into that piercing bright green again, then in a flash he vanished into thin air as if he took off into the sky, disappearing under the light of an ominously glowing white moon.
I was frozen stiff in sheer shock, half in terror still, and all around I was utterly astonished and confused. That odd boy—was he all an illusion, my mind playing a trick on me in order to keep from having a heart attack? How did I get here—wait, how had he gotten up here?
People were still screaming, some bawling below in mortified agony to the series of tragic events that ruined this concert. My legs like jello, I collapsed sideways and hit my shoulder on the floor of the jumbotron as sirens came wailing towards the stadium. I blinked once as though my body was shutting down in exhaustion and in an instant I found myself on the grass with tiny pieces of glass wedged deeper into my unfeeling, numb shoulders. I guess I’d fallen off after all? Was I even up there in the first place? Did I imagine the abrupt boy waving his finger at me from the top of the screen—or was I going mad in light of narrowly surviving a near death experience? The toppled screen was so close to me that my shoulder bumped it when I turned my head to look. “Narrowly escaped” was a vast understatement—this was brutally close to being pounded in half!
I barely made it through. I noticed all the warm red blood creeping around my arm and wearily looked up at the sky full of stars as the thundering of footsteps and whining sirens marched in to help. I blinked again, but my eyes were black, either because I’d lost the ability to actually see or because my tired eyes just refused to open. It seemed as though the entire world went still. My mind drifted off into black and that’s all I could remember as around me faded away into a soundless, sightless, motionless sort of abyss, refusing to wake again—not even for death itself. God, I hoped I wouldn’t be dead when I woke up in the morning. I was far too confused to die now; I needed to know what had just happened. The answer never came as I found my consciousness drift away and just as quickly as I had done earlier; I felt the exhaustion slip over me and I passed out in a matter of seconds.