|The Taylight Zone - Anthology Two
04 - He Was Taylor Hanson - Kayla
His fate was sealed...
I should apologize for the language content in this story.
But all this aside, I find it an honor to have been invited to write alongside such an elite panel of Hanson fiction authors.
Wake up, Taylor... Wake up.
Darkness filled the vision of his formerly blinded eyes. Silence filled his formerly deafened ears. The place smelled musty, but he could taste the pungent odor of the air in the back of his throat.
Taylor, wake up...
I'm up. He spoke without so much as uttering a word.
You wanted a second chance.
A second chance...?
I'm giving you a second chance, Taylor.
A second chance?
You can have your old life back. But you have to play again.
Play... No... No!
Do you want your old life back?
My old life... Yes.
Do you want it back?
Yes. I want my old life... back... You're giving me my old life?
I'm giving you a chance to win it back. All you have to do is play.
No! I don't want to play again! I don't want to-
It's not the same game.
Do I... Do I...? Why are you letting me play again?
You don't trust me?
No... No, I don't trust you. I trusted you last time and look where I am now.
Where are you now?
I'm... I'm here... nowhere... I'm nowhere.
Isn't that better than living in Hell?
Close enough to it... What do I have to do?
The game is simple. All you have to do is kill yourself.
I can't- I can't do that... I'm already dead!
Wrong, you're not dead. You're nonexistent. You died twice. Your first death came when you agreed to play. You died twice; you don't exist... But you can exist again... And all you have to do is play another game... What'll it be?
How do I kill myself?
I'm turning back the clock, Taylor. I'm turning back the clock to before you agreed to play. You have three days to kill yourself and get your old life back.
I don't understand.
There is a Taylor who will be performing for an audience. You kill him, and you can be that Taylor. How does that sound?
This is a game?
Only if you want to play.
Can I lose?
Do you see a way you can lose?... Just kill yourself and you can get out of here.
Why are you doing this? Why are you giving me a second chance?
Because you asked for one... I like to see my players succeed, Taylor. Don't fail a second time. Third chances never come around.
Thank you... Lucy. Thank you.
Don't fail twice, Taylor. That would be pathetic.
The audience cheered as the boys were escorted to the large couch for an interview. They waved to the eager crowd as they sat down. The interviewer handed each of them a microphone and adjusted her clip.
"So where are you guys headed after this?" she asked.
"We're gonna go home tomorrow and just chill out," Taylor answered, face flushed from the hot stage lights. "And then we're going to LA."
"Sounds like you have a busy schedule. At least you get a couple of days to rest."
Isaac took over, "We're pretty used to it by now, y'know? I think living out of a suitcase just comes naturally now."
Taylor zoned out while his brothers answered the questions. He could feel his eyes illuminated by the thrill as they scanned the faces of the people behind the velvet rope barriers. Like a target finder, he zoomed his attention in on a girl in dark glasses, expressionless as she watched the three on the stage. Even through the black-tinted lenses, Taylor could tell that she was focused on him, but the penetration of her hidden stare seemed to feed his excitement. Her golden hair fell in a soft, straight flow of silk, unmoving, congruent to her frozen fixation on him.
He smiled. She smiled back.
Smile. That's right. Be nice to the fans, now. I don't want any trouble with them once everything's back to normal. You better not ruin it for me.
He stared at the smiling idiot holding a microphone.
You're me. Don't screw it up before I get a chance to.
Smiling Idiot raised an eyebrow.
You think I'm a chick! I know that look! That look is for chicks, and chicks only! That sexy "come on" look... Better luck next time, buddy! Hey, there's a cute blonde in the front row, dude! She wants you!
Smiling Idiot's eyes wandered to the front row.
Yeah, man, she wants you. She wants me...
I know what you're thinking. You're a tease. You're a selfish tease. You give her that look and you're just bitching about her in your head. You're cruel. You don't deserve to live. But I do. I deserve to live. I've been given a second chance. You, my friend, are going to die. Enjoy what you've got left. Life is short. Play hard.
Yeah, she wants you.
Smiling Idiot arrogantly turned his head back to the interviewer. The girl in the front row squealed.
"I don't think you wanna do this, Taylor," came a voice behind him. He spun around to see who spoke. Amidst the crowd of adolescent girls screaming at the three media pop icons on the couch, he saw a familiar face, and a familiar hand, holding the familiar Martini.
"It's you," he said, slightly surprised. But why should he be? He, himself, was the one who had been dormantly nonexistant for all this time.
Time, he scoffed, glancing back at the image of his pre-Lucy days.
"It means nothing to you any more, does it, Taylor?"
He turned around, "No, it doesn't," he spat bitterly. "Would it mean anything to you if you knew it could be changed like this?"
The old man nodded, "Yes. It would. I would learn from the mistakes I made in the past."
"Yeah, well, if I could've learnt anything from the time I spent down there..." He didn't finish.
"So why did you decide to play another one of Lucy's games?"
"Because I didn't want to stay down there. I want to go home, Bengal. I want to go back to my brothers, my parents, my family... my music."
"Despite the screaming fans?"
"Despite the screaming fans."
Bengal was silent for a moment. "You're angry-"
"An angry man makes bad desicions."
Taylor couldn't help but smile. As always, Bengal's advice did that to him. It was nice to know that someone was on his side. But the smile was a cynical one. What did this guy know about bad decisions? If he was given a chance to win his life back, wouldn't he take it? Taylor shook his head stubbornly, "I know what I'm doing."
"Oh, I have no doubt of that, my boy. You seemed really sure the last time we talked."
He shook his head again, this time with contempt, "Lucy... I hate her. I want to get as far away from her as possible." Even more contempt escaped his lips.
"It might not be as easy as you think, Taylor. In fact, I think you'll have a very hard time managing it."
"What are you saying? You think I'll lose? There's no way I can lose! All I have to do is kill-" he pointed towards the couch "-him. He's the only one standing in my way... Isn't he?"
Bengal raised an eyebrow questioningly.
"I mean, are you trying to stop me?" Taylor asked.
"Believe me, son, I wouldn't dream of it. You have a right to play for your old life; you were cheated before - you had a lot of power and you were never taught how to use it properly. What I'm trying to say to you is that you still have power. You're determined, that's power enough. But all the odds are against you this time. Be careful."
His brow creased as suspicion crept over his face, "What do you mean the odds are against me?"
"I just mean you might not like what you find at the end of this game."
"Why? What will I find?"
"You spent a long time away, Taylor. It might not seem like a long time to you, but a lot happened since you went into resting."
"Is that what you call it? Resting?" He stood up and pulled Bengal away from the crowd, leading him behind a large plant. Taylor took a breath and stared at the Martini. He noticed something strange: no matter how many times the old man put the glass to his lips, the level of the liquid never deteriorated. But he shook away the observation. "Bengal," he started, "I was dead, all right? Now, you can call it what you want, but to me, the world was gone. Everything I had was gone. I couldn't feel anything, I couldn't see anything, couldn't hear anything... I was fucking dead!... I know I'm not making a mistake in playing again. Wouldn't you play again if you could?"
Bengal smiled, "It's not that easy."
"Will you stop saying that?! I know, all right? I know what Lucy's like now. I know I stand a chance of losing. But I won't lose. I can't lose... I just wanna go home, OK? This is the only chance I get and I'm not gonna let anyone stop me. Not you, not Lucy, and definitely not the "me" on stage."
"I'm not trying to stop you. I'm trying to warn you. Quit now."
"And what? Go back into "rest"?"
"You won't like what you find. If you win-"
"When I win."
"When you win..." The old man sighed. "Look, take some advice from an old player, Taylor. Everytime you play one of Lucy's games, it's gonna hurt you. Not her, you."
"How do you know all this?"
"I told you, I used to play."
"How come you don't play any more?"
"I realized soon enough that it was a bad idea to accept her invitation."
"So...? So you're stuck here?"
He nodded, "I'm afraid so."
"There's no way you can get out? Get home?"
"My time is over. It's gone."
"What, you think I wear these clothes by choice?" he laughed, gesturing to his mustard-colored pinstriped suit.
Taylor looked him up and down, his expression hardening, both in confusion and to protect himself from fear. "Bengal, how long have you been here?"
"Long enough." He looked around, "I think I'm gonna leave you now. You decide what to do, all right?" He roughed up Taylor's hair and gave him a firm pat on the shoulder. "See you around, kiddo."
Tulsa, 74132-2696. Mom, I'm home.
It wasn't like anyone would really notice him, right? After all, this was his hometown. But still, he couldn't take any chances. If any crazy fans decided to kidnap him, his three days would fly right by. Two days now, though.
Taylor leaned against the back of a busstop bench, admiring his reflection in the display window of an appliance store. He hadn't seen one in a long time; but it didn't seem that way. The time that had supposedly passed while he was "resting" was lost to him. Maybe that's what nonexistance was really like. He smiled; at least if anyone asked him what it was like to be at the epitomy of passive, he knew what to tell them.
He was happy with his new look. Instead of blonde, his hair had taken on a rich chestnut color. He had never colored his hair before. It was an experience. And contact lenses were new to him too. His eyes seemed to shine through the brown tint. The only problem was his face. Anyone would recognize his face.
But he'd take care of that later. At least he still had access to the watchtower. Not as much ease in passage now between the real world and his former safehaven, but it was a place where he could go to think, where he could fabricate his plan.
It was time to go home.
When he materialized, he was still leaning against something, but it was something solid. He looked around and stepped away from the wall. The guy he had come to know as Smiling Idiot was sitting at the desk, his fingers perched on the keyboard. Smiling Idiot sat frozen, as if in a dramatic tableau, as he stared at the screen. Taylor bent down beside him and he started typing again.
So what are you doing? Homework?
He looked at the words as they appeared on the screen.
It's not exactly depressing-depressing. But it's more like the kind of depressing-when-there's-nothing-to-do kind of depressing, know what I mean? OK, so I'm bored, so sue me. It's cool to be home and I know we're gonna be on the road again in a few days, but it's like when you come home from the coolest vacation in the world. It's like the fun's all over and it's gonna be forever until you get to go on another one.
We're staying home for the weekend and most of the week, so I'll be able to talk to you online...
We're staying home for the weekend and most of the week, so I'll be able to talk to you online. That is, if you still wanna talk. I know you're, like, pissed off coz I've been cancelling our IM appointments, but it's not my fault, OK? Sorry anyway.
I got your email...
I got your email, by the way. So you're gonna be in Tulsa on Thursday? Can't you come any earlier? *g* We're leaving on Thursday morning so I won't get a chance to see you.
With his new look, Taylor felt different. Smiling Idiot wouldn't be able to see him unless it was intended for him to. That added to the new look, or lack thereof. It would be strange, though, killing himself. It was a thing he would never have thought to do. It was a thing he would never have wanted to do. In fact, he was beginning to feel... scared?
He was Taylor Hanson, and the person on the computer wasn't just some guy in the way of a promising life. The guy was Taylor Hanson. Smiling Idiot was Taylor Hanson.
Was this what Bengal meant? That he wouldn't like what he discovered?
But he wasn't bothered by the fact that he had to kill himself. In fact, it intrigued him, knowing that he would still be alive afterwards. One thing was for sure - it beat nonexistence.
Taylor's eyes drifted to the Hanson vs. Spice Girls calendar that he and his brothers had made up and printed out. If only the fans could see this, he thought to himself, laughing. The calendar had been crossed out to date, and for some reason, that bothered him.
Why did everything seem so familiar?
It was so different, but it was so familiar.
He looked at the little time display at the bottom right corner of the computer screen.
A smile crept across his face. He might not have to do anything. He might not have to kill Smiling Idiot.
He had to talk to Lucy.
So you're not going?
This is your turf now, Taylor. I'm not interfering with your game. It might throw you off-track. And I don't want to do that.
But you turned back time. It's supposed to happen. Tomorrow, you're gonna go invite "me" to play your game. That's how it happens. You're gonna kill him, not me.
I'm not going to play for you. You asked to play another game.
But I can't kill him! It's gotta happen the way it happened before. You're supposed to kill him.
Are you scared, Taylor? Do you want to lose your chance to your old life? Are you willing to give it up that easily?
What do you mean?
You have to do away with him, not me. I already have existence, you don't. I'm not the one playing the game... You are.
Lucy, why are you doing this to me?
Because I have to, Taylor.
You have to? What the fuck?... I hate you, you know. I hate you for what you're doing to me. And now you give me this bullshit about having to- to-
It's something you'll understand later.
Laughter? Was she laughing at him?
Oh, Taylor, you don't have to worry about that. I'm already damned. And so are you.
Can't you just tell me what's going on?... God, you're not the devil. The devil is sinister. He's scary. You're just some bitch who's playing a fucking mind game with me.
My, my... Such language... Mother didn't teach you too well, did she? If she could hear the way you're talking now...
Oh no. No, no. I know what you're thinking, Lucy. Leave my mom alone. Leave my whole family alone. And when I'm done with this game, you can leave me the fuck alone too.
Why should you have to suffer? Even if you do get your old life back, you're still going to remember all this. You're going to remember playing; you're going to remember what you did to those unsuspecting girls who adored you, who loved you. You'll carry it around with you for the rest of your life. You're going to remember your lost time... It was hell, wasn't it, Taylor? Not being aware of anything. It was scary, wasn't it? Fucking scary...
What would you care?
What would I care? I'm giving you a second chance... I know you suffered, Taylor. So why should you be the only one? What did you do to deserve it?
Exactly. You can make others understand what it was like. You know you want to; you know you don't want to be the only one who had to play. You can make that Smiling Idiot friend of yours go through what you did. Why should they be any less deserving than you? Why should you have to go through it all if the Taylor from another time doesn't?
You're right... Dammit, you're right... OK, if I can make him play, how can I set up the game?
You can offer him your watchtower.
Then where do I stay?
If you can get rid of him, you know where you'll be staying... Think about it, Taylor. You have a lot of decisions to make.
As much as he hated to admit it, she was right. There was logic in her argument. Why should one Taylor suffer while the other one rested easy? It wouldn't be fair that way.
If she wasn't going to invite the Smiling Idiot, then he would have to do it himself.
The notion remained with him as he walked into the novelty store. He couldn't show up as he was and invite the Smiling Idiot to play. Chances are that Smiling Idiot wouldn't let him in; he'd be freaked out that a visitor would have the same face as his. A pretty face went a long way, but not with someone who looked the same.
He would go today. Today was his last day and he couldn't put it off until it was over. He wanted to live, so he would have to throw himself into it.
He could do it. He remembered everything. He knew what Lucy had said to him when she invited him. He could do it.
He could do anything.
He was Taylor Hanson.
I'm coming home, guys. I'll be home soon.
It felt strange to have to ring the doorbell of his own home. He remembered always having a key. But he didn't have a key now. And from memory, he knew that everyone else would either be out or outside, and Zac certainly wasn't going to let a stranger in a Grim Reaper get-up into the house.
It didn't matter. He didn't come to talk to Zac. There would be plenty of time to talk to Zac later. In fact, he could even hear him working at something in the treehouse.
Taking a deep breath, slightly nervous but very ready, Taylor pressed the button for the doorbell.
Taylor looked up when he heard the doorbell ring. He put down his book and went to answer it.
He opened the door and came face to face with... What the hell?
"You're not a crazy fan? Tsk, I dunno. It's always the ones who say that they're normal. And why the Grim Reaper get-up? Isn't it just a little early for Halloween?" He laughed with a slightly flirtatious intent. The girl under the mask was kinda cute. "Are you a fan?" he asked her.
"Oh yes, I'm a big fan, Taylor."
"Did you come to kill me? Y'know, like in Scream?"
"If you think I'm gonna gut you, you're probably the crazy one." She smiled charmingly.
"Let me just make one thing clear," he started, "I don't normally scream like that. You just- You just took me by surprise... So what did you come here for?"
"I'll be blunt... You're not happy about crazy fans, are you?"
"I didn't think so... How'd you like to play a game?"
"Game? What kind of game?"
"You can have a lot of power, Taylor. They daydream about you; all of them. Do you know what they're thinking of?"
He held up one finger, signalling that he would only be a moment. He ran to his room and returned a few seconds later, holding a red lace G-string gingerly in his hands, "This came in the mail today. I don't think I really need to be told what they're thinking."
Under normal circumstances, he wouldn't be telling this to a girl he had only just met. But there was something about this "Lucy The Devil" chick. Her eyes were a mellow shade of brown, but when he looked into them, it was as if there was a fire burning in them.
"How would you like a chance to get your own back? Why should they disrespect you and your brothers like that? You wouldn't do it to them, would you?"
"Of course not."
"So what do you say, Taylor? Would you like to play?"
"Get my own back, huh?"
"All that and more."
Taylor crossed his arms in a contemplative pose. Here was a beautiful girl who wanted to play with him and help him gain a little more respect as far as the fans went. How much better could it get?
He nodded, "All right. I'll play."
This was it. He had done it. He had succeeded. He would exist again.
He knew he could do it.
He could do anything.
He was Taylor Hanson.
He was Lucy.
I'm not trying to stop you. I'm trying to warn you. You won't like what you find...