Charlie floated through the sky, deformed landscapes below him and clouds racing by at amazing speeds above. Ghosts of sound echoed around him, filling him with emotions that he couldn't even explain to himself. Most would be afraid of this strange setting, but Charlie had been here before. This was the world that his music came from, that he entered when he was asleep, or, more often, passed out on a couch. This was the only place where he had peace anymore, and he wanted to stay. Then, a hole ripped open in the sky, and he was sucked through it into a world of white light and loud noises.
As Charlie's eyes slowly opened, they first glimpsed a nurse standing over him, and then moved to the shape standing behind her. Kristen's vibrant green eyes stared back into his, and she walked over to his hospital bed. Staring into those deep pools of color, Charlie wanted her so badly. Yet even in his weakened state he knew it must not be, not the way his life was. He would not drag down Kristen, who was so full of life, into his dark and joyless world. He restrained the urge to touch her hand, her hair, anything, and instead shifted his body so he was sitting up. As she saw that he was okay, her face changed from caring to disgust, and she turned away, leaving the room, not even saying a word. The expression on her face was worse than any words she could have said, and Charlie slumped back onto his pillow.
The doctor walked over to the bed, and he wore a slight look of disgust on his face as well. "As you obviously know, you are in this hospital because of a heroin overdose. Your body is recovering, and you should be able to function properly. You're taking up space in the hospital, so we want you out of here by the end of the day. I'm not going to force you to go to rehab, and I'm not going to lecture you. I do have one thing I want to say though. Seeing a young man like yourself destroying his life with drugs is truly one of the tragedies of today's world. Personally, your lack of regard for yourself and the people around you disgusts me. Please leave my hospital." The doctor turned around and walked out of the room, leaving Charlie hurt, depressed, and most of all, wanting to shoot up.
Charlie refused to let what he called, "his little incident" get in the way of their show in Boston, and Dom, Steve, and Tom all agreed to play the show. Kristen was refusing to talk to any of them, but when they got in the van, she followed. What followed was one of the most awkward car rides in the history of the world, with Dom driving, Tom and Steve quietly talking to themselves, and Charlie and Kristen sitting in silence, looking out of their respective windows at the passing scenery. Whenever there was an attempt to break the silence, the person was met with stares and nothing else. Eventually, Dom just turned up the radio, and let it be.
They arrived at the bar at six in the evening, with a light rain coating the pavement with moisture. Although the sun wouldn't set for another hour, it was already extremely dark from the choking gray clouds overhead. Charlie thought that this was a perfectly apt setting for the day. The van was unloaded in utter silence, and each band member proceeded separately into the back room of the bar. They sat, fiddling and tuning, until they went on at seven. Then they proceeded onstage, the cheers of the crowd providing a perfect antithesis to the band's mood. Steve announced the band members, and Tom counted them in on his drums. With a roar, Charlie began the intro riff.
Unlike most shows, however, Charlie's worries did not slide from his consciousness. His timing was perfect, his picking precise, yet there was no joy, no sudden rush of emotion that usually accompanied playing the guitar. It was as if a robot had been taught to play the guitar. A quick glance to his left showed the utter lack of emotion on Kristen's face, yet she too played her part perfectly. He worked into his solo, shredding at amazing speed without missing a single note, but instead of being lifted, he was only playing himself deeper into the black abyss that was his despair. The sway of the crowd and the blare of the speakers all seemed so f--king meaningless, and as he spiraled ever lower, he could only think of the disgust on Kristen's face, the condescending words of the doctor, and that black shape lying on the ground so long ago. When show finally ended, Charlie walked off stage and waited for the others so that he could do what he had done nearly every night for the past ten months.
Lying on the couch drugged out of his mind, Charlie remembered the man in the dark suit. He would be coming tomorrow, at 10 he had said. Charlie knew he should tell the others, but he didn't really give a f--k. He instead lay his head back and passed out, being transported to that mythical land that only existed in his imagination, the one place where he was truly happy.