Brad let Mike into his room, quietly closing the door behind him so as not to hurt his already aching head any more. Mike glanced at Brad's wet t-shirt, which he still hadn’t changed, and raised and inquisitive eyebrow. But he had bigger things on his mind than Brad's clothing.
He sat down, inviting the other three to join him. He told them every thing about his horrific nightmare with the creepy arachnids. As soon as Brad heard the story, he got an uncomfortable niggling thought in his mind; who had put them there? There could only be one answer. He decided against voicing his beliefs, in case he sounded as if he were jumping to conclusions. Unknown to him, the other three had developed similar theories as to who had tormented Mike. Even he, after spending an extremely uncomfortable night with Phoenix doubted his friend’s loyalty.
Rob finally decided to get out of bed. He was feeling tired, who wouldn’t? Chrissy and Tuesday had left a few minutes earlier. Rob was sorry to see them leave but Chrissy had a flight to catch and Tuesday had to get to work before Steve jumped down the phone line at her. She had left her number though and Rob fully intended to look her up the next time he was in town. He felt hungry, too hungry to wait for his breakfast to come all the way up from the kitchen.
He got dressed and headed for Joe’s room; Joe always had enough breakfast to feed an army. He got no reply from knocking on Joe’s door and went instead to Brad's. He entered to the room only to find his four band mates sitting around looking gloomy (and hung over in Chester, Joe and Brad’s case).
“Hey who died?” he joked, seeing their miserable faces.
“Nobody” sighed Chester.
“Ok… So what’s the problem?” asked Rob, concern evident in his voice.
“Tell him Mike,” growled Brad. Rob looked expectantly at Mike who told, for the third time, his terror of last night. They sat in silence around the hotel room; all thinking the same thing but too afraid to say it. Brad sighed and stood up, deciding it was time to get out of his wet, smelly clothes.
He went to the bedroom and started to undress, He reached his hand into his pocket and found a slip of paper. He pulled it out and unfolded it, reading it carefully:
I had a great time. Call me whenever,
I’ll look forward to hearing from you.
Her phone number was written neatly after the message. Despite how shitty he was feeling that morning, the note still managed to raise a small smile. He put the slip of paper into a suitcase. He would call her when things settled down a little. He returned to the room where the guys had been sitting in silence to find that Joe had left.
“Hey, where’d Joe go?” he asked.
“Said he wanted some air” replied Rob. The elation he had felt just a few minutes earlier was diminished.
Joe needed to get out of the room for a while; it was depressing him. He wanted something to occupy his mind. He went into his own room to get changed out of his clothes, He was still wearing the ones he had on last night; now they smelled like cigarette smoke and stale beer. He had a quick shower, went to sit on his sofa and turned on the TV. There was nothing on that he wanted to watch. He sighed heavily; even Remy had no good ideas this morning.
He left his room again and headed towards the lobby. He sat in the chairs for a while, pretending to read a newspaper. He watched everyone who came and went. There was a man of about fifty checking in with a twenty year-old blonde on his arm. Joe chuckled; he hoped he could still pull chicks like that when he was fifty. He looked towards the door where there seemed to be a bit of activity. *Someone important must be coming* he thought. He saw a group of about thirty people come in the door; huge men in dark suits who were obviously bodyguards. There came a huge trolley of suitcases followed buy the centre of attention herself.
The thin blonde strode with confidence, dressed from head to toe in teeny fashion clothes. Joe recognised her immediately. There was some confusion behind the reception desk and Joe saw a member of staff point towards the area he was sitting in. The girl threw up her hands in disgust and stomped over towards Joe. She plonked herself down in a chair opposite him and folded her arms sulkily.
“This is absolutely ridiculous!” she snapped at one of her entourage.
“Yeah Christina, I know but these mix-ups happen. Just wait a couple of minutes and it’ll all be sorted out” he replied tolerantly.
“It’d better, cause I’m not sitting here all day…” she complained before noticing Joe looking at her.
“What are you looking at?” she demanded.
“Nothing” replied Joe, not knowing what else to say.
“We’ll couldn’t you look at nothing somewhere else?” she said sarcastically. Joe smiled, amused by her rudeness. He shook his head and looked back at his newspaper.
“Don’t you dare laugh at me!” she growled. Joe looked up at her with a straight face.
“Who’s laughing?” he asked innocently. He decided it might be fun to wind her up a little.
“You think there’s something funny about the hotel fucking up my reservations?” she asked through gritted teeth.
“No, I’m sure it must be very inconvenient for you.” He replied cynically. She narrowed her eyes before opening her mouth to retort. She hadn’t one word out before the woman from the reception desk came over to speak to her.
“Your booking has been found, Ms. Aguilera, your room is ready now. We’re very sorry for the delay.”
“Yeah, so you should be!” she hissed. She stood up and looked at Joe again. He had a half-smirk on his face, which he knew infuriated her. She glared at him without saying anything and stormed out of the lobby.
Phoenix stayed looking out of his window for some time after Mike left. The old Dave was completely buried now; seeing everything from the inside and unable to stop himself doing harm to his best friends. Phoenix spent his time now, perfecting his plans. Everything would work perfectly. Now all he had to do was wait for the right occasion.
Joe watched, amused, as Christina stalked towards the elevator. She reached it first but waited for one of her entourage to push the button. As she stood tapping her foot waiting for the doors to open, she glanced across her shoulder back in Joe’s direction. She noticed him looking at her, still with that irritating smirk on his face. She gritted her teeth. Why was this loser getting to her so much? He wasn’t the only person to laugh at her. He stood up from his seat and laid his newspaper down on a coffee table. He figured there was more fun to be had with the delightful Ms. Aguilera.
Joe walked towards the elevator relishing the annoyed look on Christina’s heavily made-up face when she saw him coming towards her. He stood beside her, not saying anything. She made a deal out of ignoring his existence. As the doors opened, both made a move to get on, bumping into each other in the process. Christina exhaled loudly and Joe made an apologetic grunt, standing back to allow her get on. They stood in the elevator and one of Christina’s bodyguards held the door while he spoke into a walkie-talkie.
“Are you ok to get up on your own? I have something to look after, your bags have already been sent up.” he informed her, eyeing Joe suspiciously.
“Yeah whatever” she snapped impatiently. She pushed the button for her floor without asking Joe which one he was getting off on. Joe reached across and pushed the button for the floor before hers.
They rode the elevator in silence, Joe purposely drumming his fingers on the wooden handrail. Christina glared at him, but he kept on drumming with a grin on his face. Suddenly the elevator ground to a halt. They looked around them expecting the elevator to resume any minute, but it didn’t.
“Did you push the ‘stop’ button” accused Christina.
“How could I have, you’re standing in front of it!” he laughed. She pounded repeatedly on the button for her floor, finally screaming in frustration when nothing happened.
“Chill. What’s the big rush to get to your room anyway?” asked Joe.
“Don’t tell me to chill! There’s no rush… I just… Need to get changed,” answered Christina unconvincingly.
“Ok then. Here gimme that phone I’ll ring reception and tell them we have a major clothing emergency” he said sarcastically, grabbing the phone off the panel beside the ‘emergency stop’ button. He spoke for a few moments to somebody who had no clue what was happening before hanging up.
“Well they don’t know what happened. Said it might be a ‘mechanical problem.’”
“How long will it take to fix?”
“Well why didn’t you ask?!”
Joe sat down on the floor after a few minutes of silence. Now he was sorry he’d gotten on the lift in the first place if this was his punishment for trying to make a little fun for himself. Christina paced the small space nervously, chewing on a fingernail.
“Man, I hope we’re not stuck in here for more than four hours ‘cause I have a bus to catch” said Joe, trying to rattle Christina’s cage a little.
“FOUR HOURS!!?” she cried, panicked.
“Calm down! I was only kidding!”
“You don’t really think we’ll be in here for more than that do you?”
“No. I’m sure we’ll be out in about three” he joked. Christina kneeled down beside him, despair painted across her face. She grabbed his collar and shook. She was surprisingly strong for a girl and Joe had to employ force to prevent her shaking the eyeballs out of his head.
“I have to get out of here NOW!!” she was starting to well up.
“Are you claustrophobic or something?” asked Joe slightly concerned; he didn’t want to be stuck in an elevator with someone who might go mental at any moment.
“No… I have to take pills that's all” she said evasively.
“Pills for what?” Joe decided to be nosey. He soon wished he hadn’t asked though as Christina broke down in tears and clutched onto his shoulder, sobbing into is t-shirt.
“There there” said Joe awkwardly trying to think of a way to make her stop bawling and soaking his t-shirt.
“Oh everything’s going wrong” she whined.
“What? We’re only stuck in an elevator. It’s not that unusual.”
“It’s not the elevator it’s… Everything.”
“Like what?” Joe was curious now. Christina detached herself, to Joe’s relief, and sat back on her heels. Tears were running down her face; bringing black streaks of mascara with them. She wiped her cheeks with her sleeve, taking most of her foundation with the mascara. Joe noticed that the skin on her cheeks underneath all the make-up had a strange looking texture but in the dim lighting he couldn’t see clearly.
“You see, I’m not what I appear to be… Not anymore”
“You know, Fred Durst has a thing for me?”
“Well I didn’t feel the same… I kinda led him on a little though. He said I broke Fred’s heart.”
“Wes. He got really mad… He’s evil you know!”
“If you say so.”
“Wes… He changed me… It’s like a spell!”
“A spell?” laughed Joe.
“I’m not joking, this is serious.”
“Of course. Go on.”
“He changed me… Into… I can’t even say it!”
“You can tell me” Joe’s curiosity was killing him now. Christina sighed heavily.
“A guy. He changed me into a guy- well more or less. I’ve been gradually changing over the last six months.” She confided.
Joe was flabbergasted; he sat
silent with his jaw hanging open. Coincidentally he had thought *she
looks like a drag queen* when he saw the video for Lady Marmalade….and
the Ricky Martin one too for that matter. It all made sense.
“How the hell did he do that?!” cried Joe, finally making words come out.
“A spell” Christina answered, her voice trembling.
“I don’t get it” Joe's brow furrowed.
“Wes is evil… He can do things…”
“What kind of things?”
“Like curses and stuff… He can change people, like he changed me.”
“He can make people look different?” Joe was still confused.
“Not just that. He can change them without making them look different”
“He takes their souls”
“Yeah ok then…” Joe backed away from Christina, thinking that she was a complete basket case. Sure Wes was weird but so was he, being different doesn’t make someone evil.
“You don’t believe me do you?” she accused.
“I think maybe the confined space is getting to you,” said Joe frankly.
“Do you believe that I’m turning into a guy?”
“Well, it’s not likely unless you’ve had operations or something”
“Look at this then,” Christina stood up and showed Joe her evidence. Again his jaw hit the floor. Sure it was all taped up but it was there; undisputable evidence of Christina’s masculinity. Now Joe felt very uncomfortable.
“Put it away, put it away!” he winced, turning his head. Christina did as he was told and sat back down on the floor beside Joe.
“It’s getting worse and worse every day and Wes said he can’t change me back… That he’s lost the power!”
“Are you sure you haven’t had an operation… Maybe someone played a trick while you were asleep?” Joe clutched at the straws of a reasonable explanation.
“Yes I’m sure!!! I’m a guy dammit!” she screamed, exasperated.
“Jesus, Wes is one bad bastard.”
“Not anymore… He’s been different in the last three or so months. He’s really nice- well except for what he’s doing to me but he’s like a different person.”
“That’s seriously weird.” Weird as it was, Joe actually felt a little sorry for Christina, he couldn’t imagine what she was going through.
“That’s not all my problems either” she sighed.
“Oh yeah, what else is wrong with you?” Joe asked cautiously, his t-shirt was drying out nicely and he didn’t want it soaked again.
“Ricky is missing,” she said flatly.
“Martin. We’d been having a secret affair, he liked how I was changing if you know what I mean.”
“Yeah I get you. He’s missing?”
“For the last three months. All his managers and stuff are saying he's just chilling out, taking time off. But he’s gone Joe!”
“Where could he have gone to?”
“I have no idea and he’d never go this long without calling me.” Christina was close to tears again. Joe groaned, preparing himself for the waterworks. He wished he’d brought a waterproof with him.
“I’m sure he’ll turn up,” Joe said unconvincingly. To tell the truth, whether Ricky Martin was dead or alive didn’t really matter to him. The guy was a pain in the ass and he freaked Joe out; the bottom half of his body gyrated about as if independent from his top half, a scary sight if ever Joe had seen one.
They sat for a further half hour in silence (except for Christina’s sobbing). Finally the elevator doors opened. Outside them stood a greasy man in overalls holding a screwdriver.
“Sorry ‘bout that folks, trouble with the electrics”, he said apologetically.
“I thought it was a mechanical problem,” asked Joe, remembering what the person on the phone had told him.
“Yeah…that too” said the man in overalls. He picked up his toolbox and walked hastily down the corridor. Joe rolled his eyes and looked at Christina who was coming out of the elevator now that the man had gone. Joe could see why she had waited; there was a dark five o’ clock shadow on her upper lip and chin where her make-up had come off.
She muttered a good-bye to Joe and hurried down the corridor towards her room. Joe got back in the elevator and pressed the button for his floor. Lying back against the wall, he realised that something was troubling him; something about the stuff Christina had told him about Wes Borland.
“Wes is evil… he can change people… without making them look different… He takes their souls… he’s been different in the last three or so months… he’s like a different person…” Everything she had said was familiar to Joe, now it repeated over and over in his head. It all fitted so well. Joe had seen the disturbing evidence of Wes’s abilities in Christina but hadn’t he seen it somewhere else too?
“No, that’s ridiculous” he said aloud. Besides what had Wes Borland against Phoenix? He tries to dismiss his fears but the more he thought about it all, the more it made sense. He walked along to his room to pack up his stuff. He was already late and he didn’t want to hold up the guys, they had an under-sea train to catch.
He put the key to the lock of his hotel room door but as soon as he applied light pressure, the door swung open. Someone had been in his room; *maybe one of the cleaners left it open by mistake* he thought. He walked warily into the room, looking about the place for any unwanted intruders; some of their fans could be pretty scary.
He found nothing amiss until he walked to the bedroom. His eyes widened in shock when he saw the mutilated body lying on the floor. The insides were spilling out onto the floor and the arms and legs lay detached beside the body. A choked sob escaped Joe’s lips. He bent down to the body of his dear friend; he scooped him up and rocked him in his arms, crying freely. Memories of good times spent together flooded his brain; practising the music, chilling out on the beach, paying video games. The grief was too much for him to bear and a scream of pain echoed through the hotel corridor.
Mike and Brad heard the scream from the room next door and ran towards it. They raced into Joe’s room, grinding to a sudden halt as soon as they saw the limp body in Joe’s arms. Joe looked up at them with tear-filled eyes.
“Oh man, your froggy…” said Mike sympathetically.
“He’s dead, what will I do without him?” cried Joe desperately.
“Hey we’ll buy you another one.” offered Brad.
“You’ll never find one the same as him, I can never replace him in my heart!”
“I’m sure he’s not the only stuffed frog like that in the world,” said Mike gently, doing his best to console Joe.
“It’s not the same,” sulked Joe. The two guys left Joe alone to grieve the loss of his beloved stuffed toy. Dealing with the pain took his mind off his conclusions about Dave. He had forgotten about that completely, instead he wracked his brains trying to think of someone who would do something this evil. He couldn’t think of anyone who would want to hurt him so much.
|TOP | Last updated 15 February 2002 19:42 (AUS EST / +1000 GMT).|