Background/Prequel: Read Meet Beth Nobody
Midday during a music and arts festival that stretched out across acres and acres of farmland in some nondescript town, a hundred fans – The Echelon – lined up on sacred ground backstage. Waiting for the band to arrive for a meet and greet. Wearing well chosen outfits. Plastic wristbands. The band’s many logos on every thing. Jared Leto’s whimsical quotes on their t-shirts. Glyphs, triads and the like painted on their skin. Unnatural but vibrant colors in their hair.
They clustered together like cattle, new merch in their hands making them feel human. A poster to be signed, a t-shirt to wear another day. Laughing and chatting while the performance of another band echoed around them. Out of their comfort zone but just a few steps from heaven.
The small crowd of bewitched kids, happy adults, life-long fans and new comers was electrified. Anticipation coursing through their veins. Big smiles on their lips. Sunshine on their backs. A question and answer session awaited them. An autograph and a photograph. A meet and greet with their faves. Thirty seconds on Mars.
The band does a meet and greet before every show. In every city. All over the world. It’s a good money maker. Steady and profitable. It’s fun for The Echelon and the band likes it too. To some degree. It’s nice to see familiar faces and even nicer when those faces change. New recruits. More data points. The broader scope of the record worked. Even though the songs were old. Leftovers. Not good enough for This is War, but good enough now.
The Echelon are coached by a crew member. Given strict instruction on what to do and what not to ask. How to behave, because lets face it, some of them wont. Lectured with love like a stern parent would do. Safety is the utmost. Respect must be given. And with all that said, let’s bring out the guys.
Damien stood there, in the back, unnoticed but quite interested in the scene. He rubbed his chin repeatedly. Hard. His whiskers chaffing knobby fingertips as he rubbed upward and down. He shifted from foot to foot. At the back of the crowd. Excited too but for a different reason. Anticipation coursed through his veins just the same. One of only a handful of men, he hoped that wouldn’t cause him to stand out. He stayed back just incase. Behind rows and rows of crooning fangirls. Damien was happy to be here too. In a dark twisted way. He was almost giddy. On Jared’s turf. With his own agenda. He wouldn’t ask a question or for a silly pose. He had other plans.
Damien looked at the slick card stock poster a fan passed to him. Meant to be signed by the band in short order. Polished black and white faces stared back at him. Well coifed hair. Makeup and lighting. He picked at the corners of the poster as the band walked out to polite applause and impolite catcalls. They plopped casually on top of a table. Behinds on the edge, feet on the ground.
Jared went in to a monologue. Saying something about the tour. Cracking a few jokes. Damien felt sick. There he is. With that smug mug. Girly hair. Bastardous blue eyes. He hated every inch of Jared. Those stupid clothes. Who does he think he is? Every fucking breath he took made Damien’s skin crawl. Every gaze he gave his adoring public. He loathed his existence. And he watched him. Watched the adoration spill out of the fans in front of him. It really is cult like. All hail the leader. This must be how he got Beth. He knew she would never leave Damien on her own. Jared brainwashed her, just like he did all these stupid fucking puppets sitting and standing on this lawn.
Damien thought he might vomit, memories of what he did on that beach all those years ago filling his mind and pooling in his heart. He couldn’t look at Jared any more. He looked around him instead. A tent was set up behind the band. A step and repeat backdrop. A photographer’s tripod. Lighting. Chain link fencing to Damien’s left. A tour bus to his right. Damien wondered about the tour bus. Could it belong to the band? Would they let the fans that close? He wondered about who was inside. Where are Beth’s kids? He doubted they’d be here but who really knows. They’ve been exceptionally well sheltered from the press. Even after the story of Beth’s murder became just another story, they still were unseen. Little mysteries. Beth’s babies. And half that bastards. Damien knew she was lying about what she said he’d done to her. Knew no man could kick that out of a woman. A real woman anyway.
Without realizing it, the band had stopped talking and Damien was being ushered in to a line for an autograph. People were scooting him along. Eager to get at the band. Damien didn’t want an autograph. Didn’t want to wait in this line so he stepped back.
“Go in front of me…go ahead.” he said to several people.
“Naw man, I want to be last. Maybe he’ll sign this instead of the poster if I’m last. He’ll sign other things if you don’t hold up the line.” Damien looked at a little figurine in the fan’s hand. It was a little Jared. A handmade fabric doll that Damien had to admit held a resemblance. How many hours went in to making that crap?
Damien bowed out “I don’t need my poster signed.” he said.
The fan looked at Damien like he had three heads but moved in to Damien’s space in line with a shrug of his shoulder anyway. Damien rejoined the group returning from the autograph session. He didn’t want to stand alone, even though every single one of these people was giving him the fucking creeps. Cult is such an understatement. It’s a fucking organized religion and Jared Leto is Jesus.
Just a moment ago the signing began and it was now over. A second line was forming. This one for the photograph with the band. Damien thought about what the fan at the back of the autograph line said. That kid thought there was a different vibe for the last few who passed through. An ease of some sort. The guard was down. Damien joined the back of the photograph line (though he wasn’t last) and observed as a hundred people before him snapped pictures with the band. The line moved with an efficiency Damien admired. Organized. A religious experience. Somehow the crew managed to crank out ninety-something photographs in just a few minutes. Well-oiled machine. Well oiled. But not very well protected. Their guard is most definitely down. Damien looked around for security. The crew seemed light on their feet. Young. Not guarded. He didn’t see any person around that looked like a real security guard or bouncer.
Finally it was Damien’s turn for a photo with the band. He stood on a strip of pink tape like instructed. Waiting for direction from the band. He knew now, after watching so many photographs, that the band hardly even noticed the body moving in to their space. In to their embrace. Only if you spoke would they make eye contact and that was mainly a human habit rather than human interest. Damien merely had to be quiet. Unassuming. The anthesis of fanatic. And he’d be right next to Jared in a second or two.
He bided his time. Waited for Tomo or the crew member to acknowledge it is his turn. And then he walked. Casually but quickly right to Jared’s side. Jared reflexively put his arm around Damien, Shannon too and Damien turned. With a voice deep, like a predator in the night and said in Jared’s ear “Remember me?”
Jared mumbled “How’s it going man…” without looking at Damien. The photographer snapped the picture and Damien was supposed to step away but he said again. “Remember me.” and Jared looked at him as he felt a piercing pain shoot through his abdomen. “REMEMBER ME!” Damien shouted and Jared fell backwards. Damien followed with his knife. Burying it in Jared’s flesh repeatedly until he was pulled off then away by someone without much strength. He could have fought back easily, overtaken whoever was pulling on him but the damage was done. The crowd was screaming. Jared was bleeding. Someone was pulling Damien further away. Far away from the scene. He could no longer see Jared with his eyes but he could hear everyone else descending.
“Oh my god!”
“Oh my god!”
“Oh my god!”
And Damien smiled when he was slammed in to the ground by a big burly security guard who had been sleeping on his job. He held Damien on the ground now. The knife lost elsewhere. Maybe inside Jared. “Why did you do that?” the security guy was shouting. “What the fuck is wrong with you!” Rhetorical questions.
Jared lay on the carpet beneath the step and repeat clutching his side. He was covered in his own blood. His white t-shirt stained and rapidly getting darker in color. He floated in and out of the pain. Conscious and other worldly. And he saw her there in that other world. Bathing in sunlight. Unblemished and full bodied. She came to him. Her hands soft on his face as she cradled him in her lap.
“Shhh….Shhh.” Beth said. “I’ve got you now.”
She stroked his hair. And Jared looked up at her. His heart pumping full with love.
“You’re so beautiful.” he said aloud.
“Shh” she said again.
“Beth….” Jared whispered.
And as Jared’s afternoon faded in to night he kissed Beth’s lips and sighed “this is just like heaven.”