He left his room in its messy state and slowly made his way downstairs, his hand gripping at the side of his head to try to stop the ache that pounded there. He took his steps as if he were dragging himself and finally made it into the kitchen. He could hear talking from other rooms, typing from computers, and whispers of music. Another day of work.
Swinging the door of the fridge open he took out the half gallon of milk and poured himself a cup. Immediately he regretted it, the taste sending swirls of sickness into both his stomach and head. He set it down on the counter, leaving the kitchen. He wanted to crawl back into bed, shield his eyes from the risen afternoon but stopped when he glanced out the backyard doors and saw Jared sitting by himself simply staring ahead of himself. His brows furrowed as he stepped closer to the glass.
There was something weathered about Jared now, like he had lived a thousand lives and had brutally survived to tell his haggard tale. Only thing was that he wasn’t able to remember a damn detail about that story. His once lively blue eyes were now dulled, withered, his entire demeanor had faded. Where once was a personality that could capture millions of people laid the remnants of a man who had once been alive.
The realization of what all of this was doing to Jared weighed heavily inside of Shannon. It tore inside of him, reminding him of the hurt he was causing him. But how much worse would the damage be if they allowed him to remember? How much hate and anger would fill him? How much sorrow an isolation would kill him everyday? And yet he was already living with all of that. It showed in every move he made, in every rare word he spoke.
How many times had Shannon thought of just letting it all out? Of facing the consequences and finally allowing the questions Jared struggled with be answered? It had crossed his mind more than a million times, the guilt forcing it to the surface. But with each time he thought of it came another excuse as to why he shouldn’t. It would bring his brother scars that would perhaps last forever, wounds that would never heal over. Wasn’t that a worse state than he already was in?
“Do you think he looks any better?” Emma’s soft voice came out from behind him and Shannon nearly bit the inside of his cheek.
He turned around reluctantly, knowing that whenever he looked down into her eyes the truth of what they had done shone back up at him more true than before. “Not at all.” He replied honestly, glancing back momentarily at Jared before homing his gaze to Emma again.
She sighed, taking some of her hair with her fingers and brushing it back. How exhausted she looked. It was all burdening her too, the pain, the darkness. They suffered through this together.
“I hope this ends soon.”
Shannon nodded unsure really of what to say. How was he supposed to hope for that when he and Emma held the way to end for all this but they refused to offer it to him?
“What are you doing today?” He asked, trying so hard to divert the attention off of the pressing matter and onto something much more easier to deal with. Perhaps he was merely trying to live in denial but he honestly couldn’t take living shrouded in darkness all the time. He needed a moment away from the abyss and up to the surface to catch some of his breath.
“Off to lunch now.” She said, checking the time on her phone quickly. “And you?”
Shannon shrugged. “Nothing really.”
“Hope not get drunk again.” She said with a sudden smile that nearly caught him off guard. The humored tone of her voice surprised him.
He laughed a little and shook his head. “Not planning on it.”
She laughed at that and gave a small nod. “That’s good.” And just like that the laugh was out of her voice and off her face. She looked down at her phone before glancing back up at Shannon. “I should probably get going.”
She made to walk away but Shannon reached his hand out and lightly caught hold of her arm. “Maybe I’ll go with you.”
She looked surprised by the physical contact and by his offer. Her brows knitted lightly as she tried to figure out why he would offer that. “Are you sure?” She asked.
“Yeah, got nothing else to do. Just let me get changed first.”
“Of course.” She nodded and let him walk past her to go up the stairs.
Once Shannon was gone she looked out the glass doors just as he had done. She found Jared hadn’t moved, his blank stare ahead of him, even his breath seemed to be frozen. She thought of going out there to him, filling his ears with all the millions of things he used to always wanted to hear about. Schedules, interviews, progress, changes, even little things. Now none of it seemed to matter anymore. In the past week he had declined several invitations, had cancelled a few interviews, hadn’t even left the house. It worried her sick but she knew the reason and it killed her to keep it locked away the way she was.
That was why she couldn’t simply walk out there, sit next to him and act like nothing at all had changed. She was already betraying him how was she supposed to go out there and deceive him on top of all that?
With a burdened sigh she walked away from the doors and grabbed her keys. Deciding to wait outside for Shannon. She needed to get away from the stifling atmosphere of the house. It was starting to get terribly unbearable.
Jared hadn’t done much of anything since Audrey had left and the night had faded into morning. He had listened to her demo deciding that it was better than average but not the kind of music that would make the album fly off the shelves. He was still deciding whether or not he would tell her exactly that, knowing how harsh he could be sometimes. He had eaten a little, enough to wipe away the hunger that had weakened him. The morning gave way to the afternoon surprisingly fast, the time giving away just how long he had walked around the house doing nothing at all.
He had only just decided to sit out here, wanting nothing else but a silent calm that would war against the turmoil inside of him. He continuously thought of that song that Audrey had planned, wondering why it had conjured up those dark images of his dream, wondering where the hell he had heard it before. It stuck with him though, those somber notes and that suffering that seemed to be nestling between each key. It wouldn’t get out of his head, the terrible feeling of being completely imprisoned to something he could never control.
He had seen Emma and Shannon talking, privately it would seem. A pang of jealousy echoed inside of him. He hadn’t been out much which also meant that he wasn’t in anyway involved with anybody. Was that really what he saw there between them? There had definitely been something there in their smiles, something in the way he reached out for her and they had obviously agreed on something. Unless of course he was completely imagining it. Everyone else always seemed to find things in life easier than he ever could.
Slowly he stood up and walked back into the house. For the most part it was quiet except for the quiet noises coming from upstairs. He was appreciative that they all still came to work, that they continued doing what they all did best. It was a lot to ask of them considering the state he was in.
He walked past the staircase and went into his studio. His head throbbing from the heat from outside and a sheet of sweat dripping down his back beneath his shirt. He thought of going to shower but he had something small to do first. Once he came into the studio and shut the door behind him though the thought of what he had to do went away.
He stood nearly frozen in the dark studio looking around with a harsh confusion. This wasn’t the studio that they had only just fixed up. It was the way it had been before the construction before they had finished it, the way it had been when- He stopped the thought before it could carry on and turned to the door at the turning of the door knob. No one came in it just kept turning.
“Who is it?” He called out, nervous for some reason.
Just when he called out the turning stopped and he was again drowned in darkness. He hoped that he was alone but that was soon shattered when he heard the clicking of footsteps coming towards him from where the vocal booth was. A breath hitched inside of him and a feeling of fear crawled up his spine and filled him deeply. He tried to tell himself that anyone being inside of here was ridiculous with the exception of Jamie and Shannon but the sound still came without stopping.
He tried to step forward and nearly slipped on something wet on the floor. He knelt down feeling it soak up at his knees and touched at it. It was warm and thick. The coppery smell twisted in his stomach as it registered in his head what it was. He couldn’t see anything except the outlines of the image he was given of the unfinished studio. He rose slowly, shakily and tried to get his eyes to adjust. Nothing was making this easier on him. He squeezed his eyes shut making a silent wish that it would all just go back to normal.
When he opened them again light flooded the studio but the image was still there and so was all that blood. It led to where the vocal booth had been, dragged and getting darker the closer he came.
A scream ripped out of his throat when he looked down at where the blood had been birthed. There she was, dead, empty eyed, thrown there broken, brutally hurt. He tried to back up but slipped on the trial of blood falling hard on his back. He let out a grimace of pain that ended the scream that escaped his lips. He looked towards the sound of footsteps that were coming towards him. He saw the leather of boots, dripping blood each time whoever it was moved. Jared tried to scramble to his feet to see who it was but again he slipped and caught sight of her body again. That was when the studio door flew open and everything went back to normal.
“Jared?” It was Shannon’s voice followed by a synced gasp of shock from both him and Emma when they saw him laying there on his back in pain. “What the hell happened?”
Jared stood up, looking around nervously, fearfully before he looked at Shannon with panic stricken eyes. “Get her out!” He cried out before he rushed past the both of them and out of the studio.
He raced up the stairs slamming his bedroom door shut and crawled to the corner of the room. His legs went up to his chest as he clutched his hands against his head. Tears poured from his eyes as the images played over and over in his head. He tried to gather all the details, tried to discern who it had been that had come in dripping blood.
She had been so broken, so horribly killed that it was torture just to think of it. All that blood. He looked down at his fingers and saw nothing there at all. His head was playing tricks on him. But damn it it had been so real. He looked down at his feet, saw the black leather of his boots and felt everything inside just painfully drop.
Had he been the one in there?