Popular opinion states that there is a top' to the world, despite it being round. Reaching the top can only be achieved through discipline, luck, talent and effort. This is what our parents tell is. In truth, the only true requirement is the luck. Once you know how to appeal to the ignorant masses, the world is sold. The most beneficial additions then are a winning smile and the ability to get laid wherever you are. This is the true life of a rock star.
Upon reaching that top, it is a long way down, but it's also accepted that looking down is, in essence, looking backwards, and for this reason it is frowned upon. Life is confusing enough at the point where you are; to look back is simply dangerous. Anybody who is happy in their current position is happy with the motions taken to get there, which means that at no point is it a requirement to look back.
The internet is, at its most simple, a storage device for lives. Taking any action on it means that, for the rest of eternity, that action will be online for any and all to peruse, once they know how. It is as much a stalkers paradise as it is a paradise for the companies after advertising to you. It is no surprise that the two draw close together quite often. Internet stalking is just stalking that can be done from a comfy chair.
So what about those people who have the internet to remind them of all that they might have done? There to ask them questions, peruse the details of their choices and make them wonder about whom they were when they did things that they barely even recall now. Your average person might wonder, but if you're uneasy at the top, it might just be that which tips you over.
The internet, in the form of Ultimate-Guitar.com, was making Nick Avers do something that he never really wanted to do: think.
Nick looked out the window, staring vacantly, as the countryside flashed by. He lounged on one of the leather seats in the bands tour bus. There were other spongy leather couches in the bus, lining the inner walls, but Nick was sitting on one of the seats facing the front. A wooden table was built into floor in front of this seat, with carefully crafted holes that served as cup holders. It was meant for the band members to have a place to eat and drink on the road, although most of the time they just used the cup holders to keep their alcohol from spilling. Now, however, there was only a thick ream of paper on the table in front of Nick. Contained in those pages were the questions of hundreds, maybe thousands, of Ultimate-Guitar's members. Pat, the guy that had interviewed Nick a few weeks beforehand, had held true to his promise of organising a questions and answers session with the users of UG. Of course, Pat was just the arbiter, and other people had worked behind the scenes to get everything set up, but now Nick had his chance to interact with people. Not just people, but musicians and music fans, the people who he wanted to talk to. He had no idea what to do. How could he answer these questions? People were asking about what it was like to perform to 50,000 people, what it like was to be among the rich and famous, what did he do before going on stage... The answers to all these questions were things people wouldn't believe. Nick himself hadn't believed what he'd read from the superstars. Now he was in the same position, though, he could only shake his head and wonder about how wrong he'd been. Performing to 50,000 people became routine. The rich and the famous were like everyone else. He stretched and had a few drinks before going on stage. What did they expect? And then there were questions that he just had no experience with. One person asked how to approach a record company, but the Renegades had never sent out demo tapes or tried to get the attention of a company they'd been picked up by a talent scout that just happened to stop by a bar they were playing at. Another person asked about how the band did their recording sessions before getting their break, but they'd never even been in a studio, let alone record songs professionally. Despite Nick's 5 year run on the local scene he'd never worked in a studio, he'd just record stuff on his home computer. Should he tell the truth and say what he'd really done, or should he make shit up and hope people believed it? He shook his head, wondering how he could answer these questions truthfully without lying about others. How could he convince people he was like them if they saw him as being so different? Everyone expected him to be some arrogant f--khead whose life was packed with excitement and expensive living. When people heard different they were disappointed, or they twisted his words to make him seem like the person they wanted him to be. Maybe it was because of this that nobody asked the questions that mattered most. It had been months since Nick had seen his fiance, Maddie. He'd wanted her to come on tour with him, but she had decided not to. She had her own life, her own friends, her own job. Their last week together before the tour was a blur. He'd spent nearly every moment of that week with her. They'd had more sex then than in the previous three months. There was some excited yelling from the front of the bus, and Nick looked up. Two of the other band members, Andy and Taylor, were jumping around in front of the TV the band had ordered put in the bus. They each held a wireless game controller, and were playing one of the dozen shooter games they'd brought on tour. Wes shuffled up from the back of the bus. "What's goin' on?" he mumbled. "Hey dickheads, what's goin' on?" Nick shouted. Taylor turned and gave Nick a frosty look. He still hadn't forgiven Nick for breaking the bands stage routine. The bands tour manager, Wali, had pushed for Nick to have a 3 minute slot for a solo every time they played. Taylor had been the only main opposition, and after a few harsh words with Wali he'd relented. Or, at least he'd backed down vocally. "Just kickin' ass, that's all. You got a problem with that?" Taylor asked. "No. Just keep it down." "Keep it down, ey?" Taylor grinned. His eyes had the same cold look they had that first night, though. "How about you keep it down, then i'll keep it down." "What? I'm not doing anything." "Bullshit." Andy grabbed Taylors arm, looking worried. "C'mon man, just forget about it." Taylor glared at Nick. Andy still held on to his arm, gripping so tight that his knuckles turned white. Wes took a step forward, standing between Nick and Taylor. The table in front of Nick rattled as the bus hit a pothole. The soundtrack to the game Andy and Taylor were playing started up, growing in volume. Then Taylor turned around and threw himself onto the couch, facing away from Nick. Andy sat down beside him, looking relieved. Wes turned around, shaking his head, and shuffled towards the back of the bus. Nick let out a sigh and looked out the window. What would anybody think if they were to see this through Nick's eyes? The rambling thoughts of a mad man. He pressed his head against the bus window, telling himself that it would soothe him, but the vibrations of the moving vehicle only gave him a headache. He closed his eyes, and wished that Maddie was there. Later that night, at 2:53 am, the bus pulled up at a service station so Andy could take a shit. Nick watched as the bands bassist ran into the station, then back out and around the building with a key in hand. He couldn't help but wonder about how someone would react to see a multi-platinum artist doing something so human. * * * Two days later, the band played the first of three shows at Madison Square Garden. It wasn't near as big as other venues the band had played at, but Nick felt there was something special about the place, that there was some hidden undercurrent of romantic energy flowing in the air. Maddie had always wanted to visit the Square with Nick. They'd been playing for almost half an hour, and there was still half an hour to go until Nick's individual solo. He'd been filled with a restless energy all night, running around on the stage like he hadn't done since his first arena show. As he looked out at the audience, however, it felt woefully inadequate. When he'd gone to see bands play he wanted to see a show a real f--king show. He'd never wanted to see some dickhead jumping around stage while he played power chords. They started playing one of their biggest hits, and yet, it felt small, superficial, as though a strong gust of wind might flow into the arena and blow their music away before anyone had a chance to hear it. Into, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus. Bridge. It was only four bars long, and it ran straight back into the chorus. Nick grinned, and he ran up to the front of the stage. At the end of the third bar he began, shredding up through his scales. He reached the pinnacle of it all, a huge, piercing bend, and kept on playing. The rest of the band lost their place as Nick played another soaring bend, then Wes did a roll and they were back repeating the bridge. This was what he'd always wanted this was what he wanted to show the world. This was his drug. Then he ended the solo, and the band went back to the chorus. He hadn't played for that long, maybe sixteen bars, but it had felt wonderful. And now he just wanted to hurry up, to finish this song, to get it all out of the way so he could get off stage. He moved back again, so he was barely a metre in front of the drum kit. They played the rest of the song. Chorus, Chorus, Outro. The crowd roared. Taylor turned around, glaring at Nick. They held each others' eyes for a moment, then Taylor turned and faced the crowd. "How you f--kin' enjoyin' the show!?" he screamed. The crowd roared again. Throughout the rest of the set, Nick continued to play extended solo's every couple of songs. Whether he played them during a solo, bridge or outro didn't matter. The other guys must have been on edge, because they didn't falter again. Taylor began to ignore Nick, although when he spat it ended up near Nick's feet more often than not. And then finally, they finished their set, and went off. Nick unslung his guitar, handing it to one of the techies, and let out a deep breath. They'd go back on in two minutes for an encore, but Nick felt himself relax now that he wasn't under the stage lights. He moved to go grab a bottle of water when something smashed into his left shoulder. Stumbling forward, Nick turned. Taylor was there with his fists clenched. "What the f--k do you think you're doing?" he bellowed. "What?" "You god damn c--t, what do you think you're doing!?!?" Taylor made to move forward, raising his fists like a boxer, but Andy and one of the techies grabbed him by the arms. "Do you think this is funny? Is this some f--king joke?! Everyone come and see the Nick Avers show!" Taylor screamed. "What... what are you talking about?" "Oh f--k off, don't act like you don't know what you're doing! You damn near made us screw up!" Nick felt his face flush. "Shutup, you're the one that always forgets the lyrics to your own songs."
Taylor tried to struggle forward, but was held back. He spat at Nick, and it landed on Nick's face. Clenching his own fists, Nick started towards Taylor, but Wes was there and grabbed him. Nick struggled half-heartedly, but knew that Taylor would kick his ass in a fight. Another techie came over. "C'mon guys, let it go, you've still got fifteen minutes to play." Taylor snorted. "Fifteen minutes? And how much of that will the band get to play?" Nick and Taylor glared at each other again. Finally, Taylor broke free from Andy and the techie, then stormed off through the entrance tunnel. "Come back man," Andy cried. "Just let it go. Come on man." Taylor didn't turn back. Nick sighed, looking down. "I'm sorry guys. I just got carried away." He grabbed the collar of his shirt and wiped Taylor's spit off his face. "You know, I just wanted to put on a good show. You guys understand, don't you?" Wes and Andy paused, then said "Yeah" in unison. "What are we going to do?" Wes asked. "None of us can sing," Andy said, looking down the tunnel after Taylor. "How about we have an old-fashioned jam?" Nick said hesitantly. Wes and Andy both looked at him. "I mean, it's not as though there's much else we can do." They all shared another look. The crowd was chanting for a third time. "RE-NE-GADE! RE-NE-GADE! RE-NE-GADE!" Andy sighed. "Let's go." * * * Nick stumped around the room, picking up loose sheets of paper off the floor. He'd tried to get through the Ultimate-Guitar questions again but had hit the same roadblock as before. Having the paper in front of him, thinking about how he would answer, seemed so simple. Then he picked up his pen and everything he'd thought of writing had been forgotten. Should he answer this question truthfully, or lie? Should he make stuff up, or just say he didn't know? In a rage, he'd thrown the sheaf of papers across the room. Walking back to the couch where he'd been sitting, Nick dropped the sheaf of paper on the floor in front of him and leaned back. He was sitting in one of the hotel suites the band had rented. The floor was covered with a thick, rich blue carpet, and the room Nick was sitting in had three lounges facing a TV unit. The suite also had two separate bedrooms and a kitchen. Nick allowed his head to fall back against the top of the couch, looking at the ceiling. He wondered whether people who had seen that nights show would figure out why Taylor didn't return to the stage. Nobody else in the band had seen him since he'd stormed off. Nick and Taylor had been planning to room together this time, like they used to do, but as soon they got back Nick and Andy had decided to change places. Andy had reasoned it was better to stay apart and let Taylor calm down a bit. Nick sighed, and was thinking about getting up to get a beer from the fridge when the door opened behind him. He twisted in his seat. It was Wes, accompanied by a beautiful woman on each arm. Nick shook his head in wonder. Back in their home town everyone had thought that the small, red-headed man was lying about his sexual conquests. But now they were on tour and he was bringing home one, two or maybe even three women back to his rooms nearly every night. The bands after parties might have helped, but the few times Nick had been he'd never gotten a signal from any of the women. Wes stomped into the room and raised a closed fist into the air. "Ye can take my land, but ye can never take my freedom!" he declared. He stumbled, clawing it the air for balance, when the two girls moved in and caught him, laughing. One had blonde hair reaching halfway down her back. Her eyes were crescent shaped, and were coloured a sky blue. She was wearing a short purple skirt revealing long, smooth legs. The other one was a brunette with larger breasts, light brown skin and deep blue eyes. She was wearing a loose, gauzy blue dress that seemed to cling to her body. Nick could see her erect nipples poking against the fabric. "Was Taylor there man?" Nick asked. Wes looked up and blinked. He took a moment to respond. "Taylor?" "You know. Guy who sings for our band. Doesn't like me that much at the moment." Wes paused. "Oh, right, Taylor. Yeah man, he was there, hitting the bottle pretty hard." Nick kneaded a fist to his forehead. "Shit." "S'alright man. It'll work itself out. But if you'll exc-yooooze me, I have some business to attend to." He turned to the girls, and looked from one to the other for several moments. Finally, he reached his hand out to the blonde and began to lead her towards his room. As soon as he shut the door, he heard a burst of high-pitched laughter. Nick thought he heard the brunette left in the room with him sigh. Someone else might have thought about approaching her, but Nick didn't. If Wes left a girl outside, he normally came back out for her later. Besides, Nick had Maddie. He stood up and walked past the brunette to the door. Wes had left it open when he'd come in. As he shut the door, he decided he would offer the girl a drink. It was the least he could do for Wes's second choice. He turned, opening his mouth to ask whether she'd want a beer or a mix drink, and found her standing right in front of him. "So..." she whispered. She grabbed Nick's shirt at the waist and pulled him close against her body, grinding her hips against his pelvis. She looked up at him, smiling. "What are WE going to do." It was then, Nick realised with horror, that she was naked under her dress. He hadn't seen it before, but now he was closer he could see her curves with startling clarity. And if he had somehow missed seeing it, he would have felt it. "I... I," he stuttered. He thought wildly, thinking about how to tell her he was engaged. He had Maddie! Then suddenly, Nick was very aware of the distance between him and Maddie. He hadn't seen her in six months. The closest he'd been with her in that time was jacking off in his room while she talked to him on the phone. He'd avoided band after parties and stayed in his rooms, practicing on his guitar, to avoid this sort of thing. And now it had arrived in his lap, unannounced, and a force awoke inside of him, dormant since the day he'd left Maddie standing by the side of the road. Three quick thrusts, and he would be inside her. She reached up and pulled Nicks face down to hers, kissing him. He tensed up, put his hands against her as though to push away, but couldn't. She broke the kiss, still smiling, looking up at him with doe's eyes. She took hold of his hand and began to lead him towards the second bedroom. * * * Some time later, Nick was sitting again on the lounge in his suite, stack of paper in his lap. The brunette girl in the gauzy dress had left hours ago, although the blonde who she'd come in with was still having a romp with Wes. Nick wondered if he'd done the right thing. The brunette had pouted when he'd led her out the suites door. He'd kissed her on the cheek, though, and apologised. She'd smiled, beaming at him, and told him it was ok. Nick decided he'd done the right thing. He picked up the papers from his lap, looking at the questions lining the pages. Smiling, he put pen to paper and began writing. He finally knew what to do.
"So, I got us another gig," David announced with a wide smile to the school music room.
Hugh, busily wiping a new layer of sweat and grime from today's practice from his guitar, found this an adequate excuse for a glare. "You're insane, right?" he asked. "I can't gig. Do you remember my last gig? I got a job because of that s--t. A job! Do you know what a job is, David? It's working. All because of-"
"Then don't get drunk and stupid," Martin cut in. "You were an arse, you got f--ked in it. I'd say justice is done."
This wasn't funny, but everybody else seemed to find it funny, so Hugh laughed along before replying. "I can't not drink at a gig. How is that rock n' roll?"
"You can at this one," David told him. "This isn't at some grimy pub somewhere where people call us names because we're underage and we're opening for some piece of s--t punk outfit."
"I like punk," interrupted Hugh.
"I quite like punk," added Heather.
"Well yeah, I don't mind punk, but you know what I mean," David said nervously. "This is a charity benefit thing. We're the second band of five, and we get to play for a spot with the media there. There's going to be people from the papers and everything. We've got about two months to shape up ready for it, which means less booze and more time practicing for interviews and stuff."
"Come on dude, tabloids aren't worth wiping your arse with," Martin told him. "You'll go a lot further just playing the good stuff and not bothering with advertising or labels or management. They're all bastards anyway."
"I agree with ballsucker," announced Hugh with a nod.
"Hey, wait a-"
"It was a joke twatfeatures."