Ultra Mind Control. Somewhere between conspiracy-theory and denial resides the truth.
Aaron Jordan frowned. “Devin, come back downstairs. Don’t be like this.”
“Like what? Like what, Aaron? Is this what you wanted? Is this what you dreamed about? Because it isn’t what I signed up for.” A tear traced a line down the young man’s well-defined cheekbones. “I can’t do this anymore.”
His bandmate frowned. “I get it, Devin, I get it. I hear you. But…I mean, come on man. You can’t be serious about this.” He lowered his voice until it was far less than a whisper. He mouthed: They'll kill you--if you're lucky.
“I can’t do this anymore."
Aaron shook his head. “Look, you’re upset, and like I said, I get it. Devin…?” He took the other young man by the shoulders, looked him in the eye. “I get it. But come on…let’s take a minute and think this through, okay? Let me get you a drink.”
“I don’t want a drink.”
“Alright, fine,” Aaron said, “will you at least hear me out before you do something drastic?”
The other young man shrugged.
“Thank you. Yes, alright, good.” He gestured toward the nearest of the hotel suite’s ornate chairs. “You mind?"
When they were seated, it was a time before Aaron spoke. “I was terrified. Like you.” He said finally. He turned and looked at his bandmate. “And I was right to be.”
Tears left faint, glistening lines on Devin's handsome face.
“It hurt. I remember it hurt so much.” Aaron’s eyes took on a glazed-over, far away aspect. “The things they did to me.”
A sound that was part-moan, part-sob escaped Devin. The young man swiped at tears and snot with his forearm.
Aaron Jordan--teen-idol and billboard chart-topping superstar--bit the inside of his cheek, hard. He breathed slowly, evenly, lest he too should collapse into sobs. After a time, he continued.
“I don’t think I have to tell you what happened to me, the things they made me do…” He paused. Maybe he hadn’t been quite ready to speak after all.
Another piteous noise escaped the youngest and newest member of the world’s best-selling boy-band. His head dropped into his hands. He wept.
“The thing is, I mean…the first time is the worst, you know? After that, well I won’t say it gets better, but…I don’t know. Sometimes I can convince myself they’re just nightmares.”
Devin looked up. His lips were trembling; dark half-circles hung beneath his eyes. “I don’t want to live in a nightmare, Michael.”
Aaron’s head snapped around. “Why would you do that? I’m trying to help you, man.”
“Do you even know my name? My real name?”
“What? What does that have to do with…?”
“You don’t, do you? It’s like I’m already dead. Or, like I died, and was reborn into a nightmare. Reborn as Devin Lane.”
The other young man nodded, a grave look on his face. “It does feel kind of like that, sometimes.”
“Can I ask you something?”
Aaron turned. “Of course.”
“It isn’t real, right? I mean, it can’t be real. Not really real.”
“Devin,” Aaron paused. He’d wondered the same thing many times. It was easy enough, once you convinced yourself it was a nightmare, to assume the rituals had been designed as scare-tactics. Window dressing with an eye toward intimidation, as it were. A part of him though, a small part that clung to the identity once known as Michael Epstein suspected it was more than that. In the worst of his memories (nightmares, they were nightmares!) he is killing a serpent with a jewel-handled blade. On one terrible occasion (a dream, only a dream) he’d been made to ingest human entrails, raw human entrails. “I don’t know.”
“I can’t do this anymore.” Devin was no longer crying. He didn’t have any crying left in him. In its place, a crushing emptiness.
“Don’t do this. Please. It isn’t worth it.”
Devin stared into thin air. “I think it might be.”
“Oh for…, you know, I’m trying to help you, here!” Aaron lowered his voice. “I could get into a lot of trouble for even talking about this; you know that!”
“You think they’re listening to us?” Alarm showed itself on the younger entertainer’s face.
Aaron raised his eyebrows. “You think they’re not?”
“Oh.., I hadn’t, oh shit.” Devin’s eyes darted around the room. He looked to be on the verge of a full-blown panic.
“Hey, hey…it’s okay. It doesn’t matter what they heard. All that matters is what you do now.”
Devin looked at the older boy, fresh tears glistening in his eyes. “What do you mean?”
“The scary shit, forget it. All of it. Or, if you can’t forget it, look at it another way. You’re a member of the biggest band in the world. Panties drop all over the world every time your name is mentioned on the radio. You eat the best food; you go to the best parties. Drugs, sure. Women, more than you could ever fuck. Everything costs something, right?”
“This isn’t what I wanted. That isn’t ever what I wanted.”
“Look around you, man. How many people, do you think, get what they want?”
The younger band member shook his head. “I can’t do this anymore.”
A strange look came over Aaron’s face then. His eyes took on a disassociated, unfocused aspect. “Please, Devin…please remember that I tried. I tried...” With that, he reached into his jacket and produced a gun.
Devin looked down, into the business-end of his bandmates pistol. He tried to experience the storm of feeling welling inside of him fully, as he realized they might very well prove the last feelings he ever had. There was time to identify sadness, disappointment, and shame before his bandmate pulled the trigger. Then all thought scattered before a surging tide of pain that reverberated throughout his entire being.
“Jimmy.” Devin heard as he died. A crying Aaron Jordan, born Michael Epstein, said, “Your name is Jimmy.”