In which our hero is suspended deep in a sea of black while his friends are calling back to him…
The bottle stopped midway to Slash's mouth and he stared at the singer for a moment.
"Uh...no Axl. I didn't know that." He said before gulping his beer.
They were sat in a booth in their favourite pub on the Strip, hidden away in the back, away from the regulars who went there like the posers with the big hair and lipstick and the sad old men who had nothing better to do than perv on the girls who turned out in their skimpy outfits.
Axl cautiously eyed up his beer before pushing the bottle to Slash who looked at him inquisitively.
"You don't want it?" Asked the guitarist, baffled as to why someone would turn down a drink.
"Didn't you hear what I said about the calories?" Asked Axl incredulously.
"Oh for fuck's sake Axl - " Cried Izzy.
"Izzy don't yell at him!" Duff cut in before things got too heated.
The guitarist glared at Duff before he stormed off to the bar. A long, tense silence fell on the other Gunners until finally Steven broke the ice the way only Steven could.
"I've got crabs."
"Steven!" They all groaned.
"Are those my jeans?" Asked Slash.
"Yes." Replied the infected drummer.
"Alright Axl, your favourite. On me." Said Izzy as he returned to the table and stood next to Axl looking down at him.
"But I didn't want a drink." Said Axl, looking up at Izzy.
"Axl we didn't come out to a pub to not drink!" Yelled Izzy.
"Izz man, don't." Warned Duff.
"Izzy I don't want any!" Axl sank down in his chair and stared at the table.
"It's just a fucking drink!"
He slammed the glass onto the table in front of Axl with such force that some of the drink splashed out over the table making Axl flinch. Izzy sat back down and went back to his beer with a glare fixed on his face, so deadly it could burn a hole through Axl's skull.
"So um...how did you get crabs Stevie?" Asked Duff, desperately wanting to change the subject and detour away from the obvious rift forming between Axl and Izzy.
The more the Guns talked and consumed alcohol, the quieter Axl grew, however hard Duff, Slash and Steven tried to make him feel better, Izzy's yelling having clearly put the singer down terribly. Izzy and Axl didn't speak a word to eachother for the rest of the night out, which was for the better. Izzy was angrier with Axl than he had ever been in his life and Axl was so depressed at how mad Izzy was with him that he couldn't even bare to look at the guitarist.
It wasn't the best of nights for the Guns. The drinking continued on through the night while Axl sat quietly, pretending to be invisible as he picked out the ice cubes in his drink and sucked on them.
Two months had past. The longest period of time for which the two best friends from Indiana hated eachother. They still spoke, Izzy to yell at Axl for not eating and Axl to plead with Izzy to let him be and not get mad.
The singer stepped up on the scale, his late night ritual, and although he was four pounds away from his goal weight, he still couldn't help himself from being disappointed.
It had got worse three weeks ago. The singer was steadily and quickly shedding his healthy weight and turning into a skeleton but the more weight he lost, the more warped his mind had become. He was convinced he was ugly and fat. He gagged when he looked at himself in the mirror now, he purged more than six times a day and he cried when he stepped off the scale.
He curled up into the corner of the bathroom with his knees up to his chest, crying quietly as thoughts of self-hatred flooded his mind. He couldn't bear to be the way he was anymore. He thought he had to be skinny. Not skinnier, skinny. Because he didn't think he was now. He didn't see what everyone was looking on at in sheer horror. The deterioration of Axl. His band mates had talked to him, together and one on one. Nothing worked. They wouldn't dare give up but it was hard to help someone who had become completely disillusioned.
The night time atmosphere in Hell House was pathetic and heart breaking. Duff and Steven lay in bed in the dark, whispering to one another about what more they could do to help get Axl back to normal before something awful happened to him and Slash lay awake on his couch staring at the ceiling, thoughts clouding his brain and wrenching his heart. Axl still shook and cried in the bathroom as he sat next to the scale while Izzy lay in bed crying into his pillow.
The next day was Slash's birthday and it took everything in the Guns' beings to lighten themselves up for it. The four guys crept downstairs and into the living room where a sleeping Slash lay. They silently crowded around him and Duff mouthed "One-two-three..."
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" They chorused in unison, stirring the guitarist from his slumber.
"Ngh...huh?" He blinked a couple of times before he realised what was happening.
He looked up at his four band mates, looking like right fools with their party hats and paper trumpets, wearing only their underwear.
"Aww you guys!" Slash tried to hide his blush.
"Come on birthday boy! It's time to wake up and open your presents!" Cried Steven, shoving a poorly wrapped box into Slash arms.
The guitarist opened his presents one by one and all five Gunners enjoyed the light aura of the afternoon as they let their minds focus on something positive for a change.
They hadn't planned a party so decided on the spot they'd have to do something that night. They all got dressed and ready for the moment someone decided on what to do. So engrossed in celebrating Slash's birthday were they, that the Guns thought nothing of it when they cut Axl his slice of birthday cake and handed it to him on a children's party plate. As Slash, Duff and Steven moved their party to the kitchen they left Axl, who was now left to deal with Izzy and the cake.
The singer sat down on the couch and avoided Izzy's watchful eye as he set the plate onto the arm of the couch and sat quietly, not knowing what to do or say.
"We're going down the block to Tracii's place to get the party started! You guys coming?" Cried Duff as he burst through the door, other Guns in tow.
Axl was about to agree and set off with them until Izzy piped up.
"We'll be down in a minute."
Steven and Slash were already out the door and Duff was about to join them until his heart raced and he looked back at his friends in a panic.
"Umm...uhh...do you want me to...are you sure you don't...I don't think you should..."
He didn't know what to do. He didn't want to leave them alone in case one ended up killing the other.
"Duff, it's fine. Go get the party started." Said Izzy as he slowly pushed the bassist out the door and locked it.
The guitarist turned back to Axl who was now standing in the middle of the room looking curiously at Izzy.
"Izzy what - " Axl began but the guitarist was quick to cut him off.
"When was the last time you ate something Axl?" He spoke the singer's name like it was verbal poison, "I bet you can't even remember. Or maybe that twisted little mind of yours won't let you think back to when you actually ate food like a normal person!"
As he spoke he started advancing towards the frightened singer who was inching backwards until he was flat against the wall.
"You still think you're fat don't you? Look at you! You're skin and bones Axl!"
Izzy stepped up to the singer so that his nose was now millimetres away from his band mates face.
"Want some cake Axl?"
The singer's eyes widened and he choked on his breath when he realised what Izzy was going to do. But he couldn't stop him.
Before he could even try to prevent him Izzy grabbed the singer by the shoulders and threw him onto the ground, grabbing the cake and pinning him down. He shoved the cake into Axl's mouth despite the smaller man's protests and desperate attempts to push Izzy off of him.
The cake was violently shoved deeper and deeper into his mouth until it reached his throat and Axl had no choice but to swallow, shutting his eyes tight as the cake passed through.
When finally all that was left of the cake was the smear on Axl's lips, Izzy got off the singer and stood up. After Axl's choking and spluttering subsided he too got up and the scream fest began.
"What the fuck is wrong with you Izzy?" Axl bellowed, so loud the walls shook.
"Me?" The guitarist screamed right back, "What's wrong with you Axl! You haven't eaten in weeks! In months! How the fuck can you possibly think you're fat? What goes on in that sick little brain of yours?"
"Why can't you just leave me alone! I'll do whatever I want and there's nothing you can do about that! If I wanna be skinny then I'm gonna fucking well starve myself until I am!" The singer yelled, shaking with rage.
"Axl you cannot just starve yourself! You need food! You need energy! How the fuck do you think you're gonna perform on stage if you don't even have the energy to hold a microphone!" Izzy's screaming had reached new levels of noise pollution and there was no doubt the neighbours could hear them by now.
"Why do you care about what I do Izzy?" Axl was exhausted and exasperated but he kept on screaming. "I don't think I'm skinny, I'm fat and I'm ugly, all I think about is being skinny and not eating and calories and water and diet pills and...and..." He was too exhausted to go on and looked desperately at Izzy, silently begging the guitarist to just drop it.
"You're fucking crazy Axl! You used to be so perfect! When we were growing up I was even jealous of how amazing you looked but now look at you! Look at what you've done to yourself! You don't even look like Axl! You're a fucking corpse now!" Izzy almost choked up as he yelled but he refused to let Axl see him breakdown.
"Will you stop saying that? I was never perfect and I'm still not perfect!" Cried Axl, badly wanting to just give up, "If I was perfect do you really think I'd be putting down bottles of diet pills every single day? Or weighing myself like a maniac? Or making myself vomit every time I..." His yelling stopped abruptly and he realised he had gone too far.
He immediately shut his mouth and started backing towards the door, scared shitless that Izzy was about to murder him.
The guitarist stood there and stared at Axl, all the colour steadily draining from his face.
"Y-you make yourself sick?" He tried his best to keep his voice steady as he said it.
Axl just bit his lip and looked away.
"You make yourself sick?" Izzy's voice rose in volume again, "Well if that's the case then I don't know why I even care about what you do anymore!" Axl's eyes widened in terror, "You can just go and fucking kill yourself if you want Axl! That's where you're going anyway!" Roared the guitarist.
Axl's jaw dropped and he stared at Izzy, shocked at what he just said. It was the most hurtful thing Izzy had ever said to him, and ever could. Or so he thought.
"You fucking freak!" Screamed Izzy, "You anorexic, bulimic, obsessive compulsive fucking freak!"
The singer's heart dropped like a stone. He felt cold all of a sudden and was sure he would throw up from what he just heard. The tears burst from his eyes and he started crying his eyes out like a child. He felt so hurt and destroyed. He spun on his heels and ran out the door and into the basement shutting the door behind him and leaning back on it, crying wildly.
Izzy stared at where Axl had stood just seconds ago and he too started crying, silently. He regretted what he said now, but he had said it because he meant it. Axl's eating disorder had broken him as much as it had Axl.
Still bawling, the singer pushed himself away from the door and took a few shaky steps forward before the room started spinning and he felt dizzy. He steadied himself against the wall and tried to calm himself down, the crying and screaming having taken everything out of him.
The door opened and Duff entered the living room to find Izzy curled up on the couch.
"What? You're not coming to the party?" Asked the bassist as he moved closer to Izzy.
He stopped and something connected in his head.
"What happened?" He whispered, suddenly scared, "Where's Axl? Did you guys have a fight?"
Izzy sat upright now as the blonde slowly sat down next to him. The guitarist threw himself into Duff's arms and started telling him everything Axl had said and how scared he was, because although Axl may think that Izzy hated him, Izzy was scared to death for Axl's health. He knew a person as small and delicate as Axl couldn't possibly lose that much weight without dire consequences. The time for the inevitable to happen was approaching fast and Izzy knew it.
Images of the last few minutes swirled through Axl's head and he couldn't stop crying. He thought back to Izzy shoving the cake down his throat and it made him sick to his stomach. He quickly climbed the steps to the hatch door that led to outside and unlocked it before stepping out of the basement.
Making sure no one was watching, he got down on his knees and still crying hard he stuck his finger down his throat until he gagged. After a few more attempts the vomit finally came and he bent forward, retching his guts out. Even when the cake was gone and he knew it, he kept making himself sick. He knew rightly the cake was out but he couldn't stop himself until finally with one last heave, he threw up blood. More than he had ever seen in his life. He stared at the dark red liquid on the ground for a moment, drained and shaking badly. He had never thrown up blood before and panic struck him hard.