|The Taylight Zone - Anthology One
05 - Nine - R.L.
It was very faint at first.
It was faint and the noise was at a hundred decimals, and there was no way for me to know. The girls, they were screeching and shrieking and reaching out to me; Zac was keeping beat, Isaac was on guitar. There was so much music and so much laughter, and then…there it was.
Screaming, pleading. Dear God, please, don’t do it.
I looked up from my keyboard at peered into the crowd. Nothing. Only happy faces. Thousands upon thousands of smiles, of hands, of winking eyes. They tried to catch my eye. Shouted out my name. I must have imagined it, definitely. Isaac looked over and gave me a friendly grin. We played on.
Louder, now. Louder.
It was terrible, the screaming, the wailing. Please, someone! Save me! He’s going to… What? Where was it coming from? Frantically I looked from side to side, around; wondering why no one was stopping it. Can’t anyone hear?
But the fans still screamed. Took pictures of me, blew kisses. Zac was still keeping beat in my head.
I craned my head towards Isaac and mouthed, What is that?
He frowned. What? What are you talking about?
Shrugging, I finished up the last notes on the keyboard. The crowd roared. I moved away from my instrument, pleased with the attention. Deafening. The cries of admiration and thrill and excitement. The speakers were still throbbing.
Screams, louder, angry. Can’t you see? He’s – he’s going to – please, someone, look at me! Look at what he’s doing…
The audience was still smiling.
We were supposed to start the next number. Zac was whispering loudly to me, telling me to get ready. The noise of the fans had begun to ebb and the pleas were growing louder with each second. Isaac walked over quickly, put his hand on my shoulder: "Hey, Tay, what’s wrong with you?"
Nothing, I assured him. There was absolutely nothing wrong.
Please God, make him stop!
The terror in the voice was unbearable now, I cupped my hands over my ears so I didn’t have to hear it. It was begging me, begging anyone to stop the suffering. The girls in the front row were noticing. They called out to me, concerned. What’s wrong, Taylor? What’s the matter?
I murmured something unintelligible.
Isaac was really worried now, grasping my shoulder and pulling me behind the stage. Aspirin, he told an assistant, I needed some aspirin. That would help. The screams. The screams followed me.
I closed my eyes, winced; didn’t want to endure it any more. Tried to block out the agony. But if I really listened, I could hear something behind the voice. Bubbling. Trickling and burbling. Water.
Concentrate, Taylor. Concentrate.
Water, but small and defined. The screams died down to whimpers, to moans. I tried so hard to hear. It was a brook, I was certain of it, and it sounded like wind through trees in the background.
Zac had come back to check on me. There were people buzzing and whining, and panicking, and all I wanted to do is listen. Be quiet, I told them. Be quiet.
Nothing. Pure silence.
The screams had stopped.
The clock on the wall read 9:00.
There so many people crowding me. They waved hands, asked me how many fingers they were holding up. I glowered. Please, I tell them, I’m not sick. I just heard something. I heard voices.
They looked at me. Their expressions were full of pity.
It’s nothing, I said, standing up; heading for the stage door. Wanting to play again, the feel the music. It’s nothing.
I’m eating a bran muffin and some jelly beans I stole from the hotel front desk. My mom comes in with the paper, sets it in front of me. Read, she says.
There’s a front page article about a death. A girl, they say, thirteen years old. Strangled, and left in some bushes near a stream. There were signs of a struggle. Her vocal cords were raw, the way they would have if she had been screaming very loudly for some time. The experts say she was killed sometime near nine in the morning.
I look up at my mother. She looks at me.
Dear God, I say.
It's raining outside the hotel room window, that night, and I'm watching Die Hard for the eighteenth time. My parents have gone out to dinner with the little children. Isaac went to try and get in the downstairs casino. Zac is asleep in the next bed.
And then, unexpectedly, it begins again. Screaming.
Please, no, I never did anything...I swear it!
I try to listen, to figure out anything I can. The movie bangs and explodes in the background. The voice is different now. It's... I think that it's male.
He's saying things that don't make sense, and he won't stop. I can hear something in the background. I'm trying to make it out. I want to tell the boy to be quiet, to let me save him. Just a little quieter, please... just so I can tell what the noise is.
I realize it. Rain. Pouring rain, coming down in sheets.
I look out the window and watch the droplets pelt against the glass.
The boy. The boy, his voice is familiar and terrible even to me, twisted with angst. No, he's saying, no, I didn't do anything.
Die Hard is playing. It's playing so loudly. Is it in my reality or in his?
Zac slumbers peacefully.
It's me, I realize, touching my hand to the phone. It's my voice.
I pick up the phone, pressing frantically for a dial tone. Nothing.
The lines are cut.
I panic, rushing to the door. It's locked; I'm throwing my weight against it and it doesn't move. I'm locked in.
Help! I scream in absolute horror. My God, won't someone help me??
The voice in my head and my own mix; murmuring the same words, the same time.
The rain comes down harder. The movie blares and wails.
The clock on the wall reads 9:00.