Two screaming blurry worlds collide. Which one of them is the dream, or nightmare?
|Harry mumbled something fuzzy, his chapped and cracked lips partly open.
He desperately needed another soothing drink.
Drifting in a semi conscious state of the most peaceful softness, lying on a bed of the whitest fleecy clouds, there was nothing in the world he wanted more than to remain asleep, even if it was just for a few seconds of blessed oblivion.
But he felt the uncertainty of vertigo. In the distance he heard screaming, and remembered.
He was standing just off stage. With concentrated effort, he opened his eyes to face the exhaustion of his life. He felt the past twenty-five years of furious fast lane living weighing on his shoulders.
This third generation of screaming fans would not allow him time for rest. He owed them; Harry the lead singer. The most legendary band to ever thrash and shout it's way through more than two chaotic decades of stardom. In contrast to the early years of struggle, salaried staff now managed every aspect of his life.
They even tried to control the allowances for his alcohol, and the deniable substances that kept him sane.
The stadium echoed with the regretful droning announcement that this was their last performance; the angry beehive roar decreasing to an uncharacteristic quiet as they absorbed the expected, but sobering finality; the pause was a fitting prompt for him to enter.
Pretension of yet another confident entrance knotted his stomach, and he felt the buzz of fame begin to lift him, to carry him to his beloved fans.
Then came the tingling, a familiar dread, interference, a strong tug at his subconscious mind.
The nightmare was calling him. Again.
He swayed, fumbled for the handrail of the stairs, felt for the solidness of the concrete wall, reached out...
"Come on Harry, you can't hide. It's your last one. Don't be shy! Harry?" A showman stirred the querulous fans with humour and the crowd roared approval.
Heartbeat thudding in his forehead, his vision grew dark at the edges with a different, irresistible whisper.
He felt himself sink, blinded by the nightmare that had plagued him so many times.
This couldn't be happening.
No...no. Not now. Please!
Not now, when he had just seconds to compose himself, and lead the others who were ready to swagger out to their gear, microphones and a last burst of idolisation. They heard the boiling pressure, smelled the sweating expectation; that they would perform to perfection one last time.
Harry could still hear the roar of the crowd, he would just step forward, reach out...but... he looked up at something odd above him.
There seemed to be a leak in the roof, and water was cascading from somewhere. The concrete beams above him were showering droplets that streamed over the grey edge like a sequinned curtain.
The roar increased and for a moment he saw the flash of the stage ahead, heard the fans. Then the roar abruptly dulled, and with a metallic detonation, he saw clearly through gaps in the ceiling, the underside of a vehicle, a truck passing overhead.
With the same clarity as the other episodes, the other nightmares, the roof above him sharpened into focus; the pylons and structure of an overpass. Traffic sped through the rain, busy drivers hurrying across a city free way, connecting with parts unknown, occupants travelling to their warm dry homes, cars taking them to safety and friends.
Harry sat up on one elbow, knowing what was next. He was dressed in the usual grunge charity shop clothing and the men lying on both sides of him, sleeping off their alcoholic stupor, were in the same flotsam fashion of the homeless. Someone had thrown more scrap pallet timber into the fire drum; it's sharp edges blackened, bared to the sky. The surrounding damp mounds of humanity's garbage fluttered in the wind, with decorations of plastic shopping bags.
The highway above them was awash, and drains were overflowing. Harry fought back a scream that, had it come from his mouth, would have only been a hoarse unintelligible snarl. He felt the stubble on his jaw and the pains in his growling stomach.
Automatically he reached for his only reliable friend, the only trustworthy one to comfort him; the bottle in its brown paper bag. He was suddenly anxious that someone had taken it away. But it was still lying next to him, partly covered by a new looking tartan blanket that he'd pilfered yesterday; managed to pull it by one corner that was still poking from the lid of a clothing bin near the supermarket.
The bottle's level was lowered by a few deep swigs as he swallowed the beautiful nectar, slumped down, pulling the woollen cloth tightly around his wrinkled neck, heedless of the dribble on his chin.
A couple of other derelicts began to argue, their illogical rants rising into screams. He covered his ears as best he could with the shaking hands of the long term destitute.
As his eyes closed he prayed to be taken, that his days be ended so he might flee from these lunatics; this living death.
And the escape came...
The hand of management clutched at his silk sleeve and he jerked back to the stage, hearing the screams of the frantic fans in their mosh pit, braying their frustration at the delay.
"Harry, you ok, yeah?" At his nod the other grinned and shouted into the microphone until it too wailed in a feedback loop, joining the throbbing howls of the milling crowd.
"Yes, please welcome your one and only HARRY!!" and the owner of the name felt his eardrums burst, his face crack into a painfully false smile as he stepped forward into the arms of the revellers. This not-to-be-denied-maelstrom of screamers was his owner, his captor, and his never-ending nightmare.
As he took the microphone, for the last time, his voice began to feed them; tease them with the first few morsels of notes, word and song.
He thought again of his croaky thirst.
He needed a drink so bad. If he reached to his side he's surely find his friend.
Harry mumbled something fuzzy, his lips were chapped and cracked, his mouth partly open...