|The Taylight Zone - Anthology Seven
14 - Vanilla & Cinnamon - Liina
“This. . . this doesn’t make sense!” I cried out into the oblivion. My voice was lost. There was no one to hear it, nothing for it to echo off of.
Middle of Nowhere—this, this was the middle of nowhere. I couldn’t be sure if I was moving or still, but it didn’t much matter. If I did move, there was nowhere to move to. No end to the space above me, below me, or in any direction around me.
It wasn’t necessarily cold, or warm. I couldn’t feel air on my skin at all. All I knew was black nothing, and myself. That’s all there was here.
“How long are you going to torture me?” I screamed. The moment the sound left my throat, I doubted it had ever been there. The words repeated themselves over and over in my brain. Had I thought them or spoke? Did it make a difference?
It began to feel strangely comforting, as the shock wore off. I was….nowhere. With no one. Doing nothing.
Hadn’t I wished for it, plenty of times? A moment to myself. A moment without the screaming girls, without the sounds of the music. Without the bodyguard, without my brothers. Alone.
This certainly was the ultimate solitude. I could probably get used to it here. . .
As soon as I accepted where I was, a ground began to materialize under the soles of my Doc Marten boots. I sighed, wondering what would come next.
Slowly, painfully slowly, a plain white room grew around me. The whiteness made me squint, after the nothingness. Color would have been much easier on the eyes.
I stood in the middle of the room with no visible windows or doors. Suddenly, I could feel air again, on my bare arms, face, and neck. I opened my mouth for a gulp of sweet oxygen, realizing I hadn’t breathed at all during my nothing time. I inhaled and exhaled methodically, as the room gained more physical properties. It was cold, and filled with a faint scent of vanilla.
I heard footsteps, and the dark shadows of a hallway formed in a corner. My other ear picked up footsteps as well. I turned to find another hallway in the opposite corner.
Shadows grew into female figures that emerged from the hallways, both at the same instant.
I looked from one to the other hurriedly.
I recognized a second smell: piercing, hot cinnamon.
And there they stood before me: Good and Evil. Both girls were exquisitely beautiful in incredibly different ways.
One was thin as a rail, crack-head thin, with dyed maroon hair. Fitting nicely over her small hips and ass were black flared pants. Below them she wore clunky black boots. Covering her top half was a sparkly rust- or cinnamon- colored shirt. Her facial features were soft and white, complemented by deep red-hued lips and black framed olive green eyes. She appeared as a younger, taller Shirley Manson.
And to my right was Vanilla. She was as soft and creamy and sweet as vanilla pudding.
While Cinnamon would have been the Goth-rocker, Vanilla was somewhere between hippie and preppy.
She was more curvy and substantial than Cinnamon, with wider hips and rounder breasts.
Her hair, of course, was long and blonde. Would you expect Vanilla any other way? Simple, natural, and cute seemed to be her style: perfectly faded, perfectly flared blue jeans, form fitting white T-shirt, spotless white sneakers. Her cheeks glowed rosily, her blue eyes sparkled gently, and her baby pink lips parted in a smile for me.
Not to be outdone, Cinnamon also flashed me a beautiful, wide grin.
“So Taylor” Vanilla spoke up, unable to bear my gaze towards Cinnamon, “Have you figured us out yet?”
“Uhh. . . no.” I replied, my voice sounding ridiculously loud.
“Don’t lie, Taylor” Cinnamon added, moving closer to me and sliding a slim, soft finger over my jawbone and down my neck. My body quivered at her electric touch.
“Like that?” she whispered, raising a black eyebrow at me.
“Umm. . .” I shrugged. Cinnamon shared a glance with Vanilla, rolling her eyes.
At this point, I was seriously confused, but I dared not speak without being spoken to.
Suddenly, Vanilla laughed, a scornful laugh.
“This is Taylor Hanson? The girl magnet, the pop star? And he won’t even talk to the angels who greet him after he kills himself?”
“Maybe he doesn’t like girls” Cinnamon suggested, a cruel grin playing at her lips. “Maybe that’s why he committed suicide.”
“You never know these days” Vanilla sighed sarcastically.
I stood there dumbly, not knowing how to react. After a few moments, Cinnamon looked at me, concern faintly visible in her facial expression.
She touched my arm gently.
“We’re just playing with you, Tay. We didn’t mean anything by it.”
“I guess that is why he. . .” Vanilla trailed off at Cinnamon’s lethal glare, but matched it with her own.
“Sit down, Taylor” Cinnamon persuaded.
I opened my mouth to ask where, but a couch appeared behind us. She took my arm and sat beside me.
Vanilla, watching us, scowling, formulated her recliner. I could practically see her mind working.
“Why?” Cinnamon inquired softly.
“Why what?” “Don’t play dumb.”
I took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh.
“It was too much, it was all too much. I used to be fun, it really did! It was the best thing that ever happened. I mean, how many thirteen-year-olds get a hit single? It was amazing! We were on TV, we went on tour, we had fans. It was more than a year of solid adrenaline! And then I realized, I was missing…missing….missing everything! I mean, I had so many opportunities that others never got, and….and God, I was grateful! But I missed. . . I missed sleeping, I missed friends, and I wanted friends other than my brothers. I wanted a girlfriend. I wanted a home to live in, not on the road all the time! I mean, it was…others didn’t….but….
“And then, we met this girl. Sick in the hospital, and her dying wish was to meet us, Hanson. And I just got to thinking…. why? Why us? We got lucky, people just happened to like us, happened to love our faces and voices. But we weren’t special. We shouldn’t have. . . we’d done nothing to deserve to be so blessed….”
“Blessed, Taylor,” Cinnamon whispered. “Blessed.”
Vanilla stood up to have her say.
“And besides” she began. “What was up with the bashers? The ones who hate you? And the obsessed fans, the screechy little girls who pulled your hair and clothes. The girls who thought you were God. You were a false God, Taylor. That’s why you had to do away with yourself. And now, you’ll come live with me forever.”
She reached out and grabbed my hand, pulling me from the couch, guiding me to the hallway she came from.
I glanced desperately at Cinnamon, not knowing whom to trust.
“Don’t worry, it’s just for a short time. You’ll be back, she’s just trying to scare you.”
I didn’t know whom to believe, but hey, I was dead anyway. There wasn’t much I could do.
The hallway was pitch black, and Vanilla held my hand tightly in her soft, cold one.
There was a door at the end of the hallway, with yellow light streaming from under it. We stopped.
“Taylor…you know that I am good and she is evil, don’t you?”
Of course that’s what I had thought. . .
“I know she seems nice and sweet and kind, but it’s a trick, Taylor, an act. Can’t you tell by her appearance? Isn’t it obvious? Look at me. Taylor….”
She reached out and gently took my chin in her hand, turning my face towards hers. “Do you believe me?” she whispered.
Before I had a chance to answer, she had pulled me close to her, her lips and tongue mildly searching mine.
She pulled back, demanding little. I looked into her deep blue eyes. So honest.
“Yes” I breathed. “I believe everything you say.”
“Are you ready for what’s behind that door?”
“I…I think so…” I wasn’t too sure of what I was saying, or what she had said. I was floating. Damn, did she have control over me!
“This is why you made the right decision…” she hissed, turning the doorknob. “This is what would have happened if you hadn’t.”
With a flash of light, we entered a very white hallway. Sterile. The smell of a hospital was overpowering.
My whole family, except for my mother, stood with their backs toward us.
My brother Isaac turned around momentarily, obviously struggling with tears. What was….
I saw who they were standing around. My mother, in a wheelchair.
Vanilla touched my shoulder, her scent replacing the sickly clean smell that filled my nostrils.
“She went crazy. Traveling, with all the kids, all the time. It was too much.” Vanilla paused. “She held out a long time, trying to support you all. But three years of it….” She shook her head. “She couldn’t handle it.”
“So, like….” I tried to put it together. “If I kill myself, the band would be over?”
She nodded somberly. “Of course, it would also cause everyone a lot of grief, but in the long run….”
My family parted and began to move towards us through the corridor, my dad pushing my mother’s wheelchair. A sudden sick feeling hit me when I saw her face, slack and pale, with a vacant stare. She looked so sad and alone.
A nurse came by and met them.
“OK, Mrs. Hanson. Visiting time is over” she announced cheerfully.
I looked at the faces of the rest of my family. We all looked pretty bad. Ike, Zac, Dad, and I looked tired and pained. Jessi scowled, Avery looked sad, and Mackie just seemed confused.
“Zoe went to live with your grandparents” Vanilla answered before I finished the question.
The nurse took the wheelchair from my dad.
“Say goodbye” she encouraged my mother, as if she were an infant.
Mom stared ahead.
“Holy fuck” I whispered, and started to cry.
Vanilla put her arms around me and held me.
“See, sweetie? You did the right thing. Come on.” She led me to a door in the hallway, and opened it.
We entered my garage, where my brothers and I rehearsed. We were playing a song I’d never heard. We must have written it in the future. The beat was pretty good.
I watched myself play the keyboards methodically. My foot tapped to the music.
I watched myself open my mouth and sing.
My voice was fine, but the lyrics….
“Zac, I can’t sing this.” I stopped playing. “It is so fucking stupid!”
My brothers stopped playing as well.
“You told me to write, so I wrote. You guys said you were sick of doing all the lyrics.”
He flung a drumstick across the room.
“Fuck you both.” He got up from behind his drum set and stomped out of the room.
“Good going, Taylor” Ike said angrily. “We can’t do much without a drummer.”
“I knew he couldn’t write, you’re the one who convinced me!”
“God, Taylor, can’t you take responsibility?”
“No, not when it’s yours!”
“Oh, man, I need a smoke” Isaac said, his shoulders sagging, his bravado and anger suddenly faded. He put his guitar it its stand and headed for the door to outside.
“Yeah, go smoke your fucking weed, Ike. Leave everything on me.”
“If you weren’t such a stuck up, preppy baby….” He rolled his eyes. “I’m leaving.”
Isaac slammed the door.
I watched myself act totally unlike myself. Raising a foot, I kicked over Zac’s drums, then Ike’s guitar, two amps, and finally, my own keyboard.
I picked up the drumstick Zac had left and threw it with all my might.
“That’s not me” I whispered to the strange girl standing beside me.
“You’re right” she agreed. “But it would be you, if you stayed alive.”
“We…my brothers…we’re not like that!”
“Not now” she replied patiently. “But if you had let it go on…Burnout, Taylor.”
The Taylor I was watching sat down on the hard, cold floor, drew his knees up and wrapped his arms around himself. His shoulders shook violently.
Vanilla touched my arm lightly, gesturing towards the door Isaac had gone out of. I knew the backyard was not beyond it anymore, though.
We entered a bedroom where three girls were sprawled on the floor. The song “Never Ever” by All Saints played quietly from the stereo. Hanson posters were all over the walls.
A redheaded girl of about 14 years was talking. “Have you heard the new Hanson song? It’s awful! So dumb, no better than that dorky N’Sync crap!”
“Oh, I know!” another girl agreed in a true valley-girl voice. “And have you seen them play live lately?”
“Yeah, Leno the other night” the third girl interjected.
“Exactly! Ike looked so stoned!”
“I know!” the other two said in unison, and laughed.
“Why do you still have their pictures up?” the valley girl asked after a silence.
The redhead shrugged. “I haven’t had time to take them down. Wanna help me?”
The three got up and began pulling thumbtacks out of the magazine pinups.
I heard a loud ripping sound and a giggle
“Sorry, Taylor” the redhead said to the poster, where my head had been ripped in half.
“Seen enough?” Vanilla inquired.
I nodded, feeling dizzy.
She took my hand once more, and we left from the door we came in.
And there sat Cinnamon, on her little sofa, waiting.
“Heavy stuff, huh?” she asked sympathetically.
“Uh huh” I mumbled weakly.
She stood up and Vanilla sat down.
“Follow me, sweetheart” she said, heading for her own corridor. I would have liked to sit down and rest, but what choice did I have?
“Plenty of time to rest in the grave” our manager had often said when we complained of jet lag. I laughed bitterly to myself. ‘Here I am, no rest for the dead.’
I wondered if Cinnamon would kiss me like Vanilla had.
Like before, we paused at the door.
“Taylor, I am going to show you why you made the wrong decision.” She looked at me as if I was a non-comprehending two-year-old.
My head bobbed silently. She turned the doorknob.
We emerged in my parents’ bedroom. It was dark. My mother lay face down on her bed.
Cinnamon and I stepped aside as the door opened and my little brother Mackenzie entered.
“Mama?” he whimpered. After staring a moment, he advanced towards the bed. He reached out and shook his mother’s arm gingerly.
“Ma?” my four-year-old brother whispered again.
I watched as she began to shake, slowly, and cry. Sob.
My father was soon at her side, ushering Mackie out of the room, rubbing my mother’s back as she wailed like a baby.
Murmuring words of consolation, he left the room to return moments later with a bottle of pills. Pouring a few into his had, he gave them to my mother, who swallowed all four dry.
He sat with here until her sobs subsided and she lay quiet.
“So either way my mother goes crazy” I whispered. Cinnamon lifted her finger and touched my lips, asking my silence.
My father got up and left. Cinnamon took my hand and we followed him.
He headed in the opposite direction, while Cinnamon and I entered the bedroom Isaac, Zac, and I shared.
Ike sat on the floor, holding his acoustic guitar, but not playing. He stared ahead, unblinking.
Sighing heavily, he returned the guitar to its stand. He stood stiffly and looked around the room, appearing disoriented.
He turned on the TV and flipped the power button on the Nintendo. The old Super Mario game was in it.
Isaac selected the Mario character.
At that moment, Zac entered the room.
“Ike!” he screamed.
Isaac jumped, startled.
“You’re never Mario! You’re always Luigi! Taylor is Mario!” Zac’s jaw muscles were visibly clenched in an attempt to hold the tears.
Isaac got up and put his arms around Zac, who stayed tense.
“Don’t hold it in” he whispered huskily. “Cry if you want to, Zac.”
My younger brother collapsed into my older brother, and wailed like my mother had. I cried too, just at the sight of them.
I was startled by my companion’s touch. I’d forgotten she was with me.
Suddenly the door opened and in stepped Jessica, my little sister. In her hand she held a tabloid.
“Look what they got a hold of!” she screeched, flinging the magazine in my brothers’ faces.
“What, what is it?” Ike choked out.
“It’s Taylor, it’s Taylor in his coffin! Why can’t they leave us alone? It’s none of their business!”
Cinnamon once again touched my shoulder.
Nodding her head towards the door, we left my brothers and sister screaming, crying, and hugging in the bedroom.
“Man” I whispered in a dark hallway before our next destination. “Man, oh man.”
She stopped and put her arms around me.
Skinny though she was, her hug was big and warm.
I held onto her for a moment before she let go.
“One more stop” she said gently.
And we were back in the redheaded girl’s bedroom, only now she was alone. Incense burned in a holder on the desk. She sat cross-legged on the floor, her head down. “With You in Your Dreams” played in the stereo this time.
She lifted her head and looked at the posters of us lining the wall. She pointed at one.
“You,” she said accusingly. “You were my only hope. You told me you would come if I ever needed you. You told me it was OK to be weird. You told me you were thinking of me. You left Madeline and Lucy for me. You even went to Mars for me. And then you left. You left me alone. Why? Why?”
Her voice rose and she started to cry. She picked up a steel-toed Doc Marten boot and flung it angrily at the wall. It hit a poster of me and once again ripped my face in half. It hit the CD player on the way down, knocking it open. The Middle of Nowhere CD flew onto the floor.
“So, I guess now I will have to come to you.”
With that, she dumped a half bottle of aspirin in her hand and shoved the whole fistful into her mouth.
I looked at Cinnamon in horror. She stared ahead, emotionless.
“Can we please go?” I pleaded. I’d been in this scene myself already, and did not care to see it replayed.
She nodded, and soon we were back in the pale room, with Vanilla.
“And so we meet again” she said, raising her eyebrows.
Cinnamon took a deep breath.
“Here’s the deal, Taylor. One of us,” she gestured to herself and Vanilla, “Is good. One is evil. One is right, one is wrong. One, with all the images she gave you, is lying, the other showing the way it really would be. Pick the right one and you return to your previous life. Pick the wrong, go to Hell.”
“What about Heaven?” I asked desperately.
“That’s not an option with suicide, Taylor” she answered matter-of-factly.
“Remember what I told you” Vanilla said, looking at me with her honest, lying blue eyes.
I looked from one to the other. The devil and the angel. By appearance, you’d think the obvious…
But would a messenger of God try to convince me…
Although Cinnamon put me through more pain….
And I realized it wasn’t about me. Of course I mattered, but was my pain great enough to cause so much more by its relief?
My parents, my siblings, my fans…
“You know who’s right” Vanilla encouraged. “Kiss me.”
I grabbed the girl who smelled like cinnamon and pressed my lips to hers. She even tasted like cinnamon. She was right. Looks were deceiving, and the vanilla scented girl had proved it to me.
Suddenly, the cinnamon smell was gone, along with the girl it went with.
The scent of hospital filled my nostrils.
“No!” I thought desperately, trying to open my eyes. “Vanilla couldn’t have been right! She couldn’t have!”
“Mom, mom!” an excited voice came. “He’s waking up, he really is!” I succeeded in opening my eyes.
There stood my mother and Isaac, watching me.
Within moments, my father, my other five siblings, and a doctor had appeared.
It wasn’t long before I was back home and at my keyboard, making music with my brothers.
The tabloids had a field day with my OD-ing on aspirin, but I was strong enough to go on.
One day a few weeks later, a girl showed up at the house. Not unusual, we had enough obsessed fans.
But she looked familiar.
Her hair was a fiery red.
I opened the door.
“Oh my God, it’s really you! I…I didn’t expect anyone to answer…I…you’re….you’re….”
“Taylor” I offered her my hand, smiling.
“I know” she blushed. “I have to tell you something” she continued breathlessly. “Don’t think I’m crazy, but I always told myself I would tell you this if I ever had the chance…I…you saved my life. I was thinking of suicide when Middle of Nowhere was released. In ‘Weird’ I realized I wasn’t alone. In ‘I Will Come to you,’ I remembered all the people in my life that would miss me. Thank you, thank you Taylor Hanson, just for being alive.”