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Sometimes I look back and wonder where it all went wrong.
We had everything everyone else wanted. Fame. Money. Adoring fans.
But it didn't make us happy.
Gerard was always a little crazy. Most people thought the strange darkness that possessed him was just stage acting that helped bring our shows together perfectly. He would calm down for things like interviews, but there was always something in the back of his mind that made him more abnormal than the rest of us.
Maybe that's why it happened.
Some would say it's because of his inspiration for this band. I won't deny that seeing people fall from two of the most important buildings in this country would make anyone depressed. I won't deny that if he hadn't seen it we wouldn't be where we are now. I won't say that if it had never happened, we would never have been happy.
I will say this. I would give anything to bring him back.
He's happy now. I'm sure of that. He doesn't have to worry about fame or money anymore.
He's also sad. Because now his fans have no one to look to or listen to when they're in desperate need of help. Suicide rates increased almost ten percent for several months after it happened. They have three albums and a few extra songs. That's it. We tried recording a few tracks with a new singer, but after about two seconds we had to stop.
It wasn't Gerard. It wasn't Gerard, so it wasn't My Chemical Romance. And it never would be again.
Watching the band fall apart was perhaps the most excruciating experience of my life. I remember countless heated debates where we fought over the issue. Ray and Bob often got into violent shouting matches with one another that usually resulted in someone getting a black eye. Frank became the group's designated mediator, a task he took to quickly and easily. I was thankful he had decided to take my unofficial place as the band's adviser. I was usually too depressed to speak to any of them. I spent hours just playing bass, making up whatever I could think of, since thinking itself was too painful.
I've only ever had one thought since that day.
My brother is gone, and he's never coming back.
I've never stood on a stage like this before. I don't even know how long it's been since I've been on a stage without lighting and sound equipment. Just... the stage. The stage and me.
I feel a long-unfamiliar rush of adrenaline course through me. I miss that feeling, the electricity in the air we always felt just before we did a show. I haven't thought about performing for the longest time, because without Gerard there I could never do it.
A thin veil of silvery dust coats everything in this old, shadow-filled room. There's the faintest hint of mold permeating the air, but it only adds to the atmosphere. I half-expect a ghost to come out of nowhere. There is some kind of strange aura here; I'm not sure what it is. I can hear music being played very softly, a flowing piano piece. It's coming from another room nearby. I close my eyes and breathe deeply, letting the memories wash over me. The heartache is still there. It never disappeared. It never faded. It never will.
Frank is standing on the far left side of the stage, holding back the gold-fringed curtain and saying my name very softly. I turn and glance at him. He looks different...older. He doesn't wear nearly as much makeup anymore. None of us do. There's no real need to. He acts like he's about to start walking towards me, but I stop him.
"I just want to be alone," I say quietly. He nods once and vanishes. The silence fills the space as if he was never there. Again I stare out at the empty, red velvet seats, seats that I know would have been ripped from the floor and tossed aside had this been one of our concerts. Not that we ever would have performed at a place like this. We would have brought the delicate, archaic theater crashing into the ground.
I catch a hint of movement out of the corner of my eye, but I don't turn towards it. The air suddenly feels colder, like all the warmth of life has drained from it. It is still and silent, and seemingly frozen in place. I shiver slightly. I can see my own breath. I don't remember the last time I was so cold. So lost. So alone.
I blink, and when my eyes open again the palest wisp of gray passes before me. At first I think it's only my mind and memories playing tricks on me. It wouldn't be the first time. I've been letting the pain catch up to me lately, watching the video of that concert more and more. I have every horrifying second of it memorized, but for some reason it's comforting to watch. It reminds me of him.
Now, as I stand here and grow colder by the second, I realize that we should have seen it coming.
It was something most bands have to deal with at some point in their careers. The threats. Most of them amounted to nothing more than a crazed anti-fan trying to get people to hate us, or one of our own fans playing their version of a prank. We just laughed it off. Gerard had expected it to happen since our songs were so different. Nonetheless, we had countless people ready to protect our band on a moment's notice. Our mom had even insisted on us hiring at least one bodyguard once we left for the Black Parade tour. Gerard had smiled when he told the rest of us. That was definitely like her.
I'm paying attention to the song now. The piano intensifies, and the sweet tones of another instrument begin to play. I think it's a saxophone. It sounds like the music is coming from behind me now, echoing beautifully throughout the room. The rest of the orchestra begins playing majestic, bright notes. I smile and turn around, intending to find where it's coming from.
I stop, seeing a polished, black grand piano on the stage. It wasn't there when I first came out here, but it blends with the room's melancholy color tones almost perfectly. The blue-gray shadows fall across it with liquid forms as if it belongs there. That's not what surprises me, though.
Someone is sitting at the piano, playing the melody to the song. The person is intently focusing on the music, and I can't say I blame him. It's not an easy piece. He has unusual snow white hair that is just as pale as his skin. He is completely clad in black. None of this surprises me either.
He looks up at me with soulless, dead eyes of a nondescript color. They seem to flicker back and forth between green-hazel and a silvery gray, as if they can't decide what shade to be. He's still playing the song, now fingering a solo with just one hand. He hasn't blinked yet.
I never knew he could play the piano.
"Hey, Gerard." I speak softly, watching for his reaction. There is none; he only continues to play without looking at the ivory keys. It feels like he's staring straight through me. "When did you get back?" I ask with almost a half-laugh. He looks away, staring listlessly at the ground. The song has the entire ensemble behind it now, but I only see him. I wonder where the rest of the music is coming from.
"I miss you," he whispers. His soft voice carries over the music as if his words are the only sound in the room. He stops playing and lets the other instruments take over for several measures, and his right hand drops from the keys as if it's taken all of his energy just to get this far. He sighs heavily. "I can't stay long."
"You can't leave!" I cry suddenly. The song comes to an abrupt halt. Sighing, he lifts both hands and begins to play again, bringing the music back to life within a few seconds. I can feel tears springing to my eyes, but I don't cry. I'm done crying. "We need you here."
The sound of a cymbal crash halts the music again, but for a longer amount of time. The cold silence eats away at me as I watch him sit there, unmoving and patient. I've seen this look in his eyes many times before. He knows what's coming and he doesn't want to tell me. The full, warm tones of the wind instruments break the stillness of the frozen air between us, trying to breathe life back into the room. Nothing will revive it, though.
"I have to leave. You know that," he says quietly. "It's not my rule." The saxophone plays a solo of its own before he begins to play several rolling chords, trailing his long fingers over the ebony and ivory keys with no effort. The song seems to come naturally to him.
"How can you do this to me?" I nearly growl at him. "It's not fair." The song is getting softer now. He's gradually fading from exhaustion. I can almost see through him.
"I came...because I want you to remember me," he murmurs as the music grows even quieter. "I don't want to fade from your memories."
"You never will," I assure him. "I could never forget you. Not if I lived for another hundred years."
He does something I haven't seen him do in a long time. It's one of the things I've missed the most. He smiles.
"The sound will vanish eventually," he says, "but the echo never will."
The song ends. He stands after the last chord echoes around the ancient room and fills it with more sound than I would have thought possible. He looks at me for one solemn second with clear, sharp eyes of brilliant hazel. His hair seems silver against the rest of the room. His skin looks like the ivory keys of the piano, and his uniform, the ebony. They are a flawless match.
I blink and both of them are gone.
The tears are beginning to flow now. I hear footsteps on the scuffed stage and look to my right, where Frank is again standing and watching me. Maybe I imagined all of it.
"Mikey, we need to leave," he says quietly. When I don't move, he walks out towards me and looks out at the empty room. I wonder if he's thinking the same things I was. "Do you remember it?" he asks softly, a nostalgic smile coming to his face. "The excitement we'd always feel on stage? The electricity? The /people/?"
Of course I remember it. The unceasing screams and cheers after we finished playing Helena, Gerard coming back to the stage alone saying he wanted to sing some of our B-side songs, the gunshot seeming to come out of nowhere... God, of course I remember it, Frank!
"Yeah," I manage to say. "I do. But it was a long time ago. A lifetime ago."
He embraces me, and somehow I know he's crying too.
"The echo never fades," I tell him. It's all coming back to me with overwhelming speed.
The fans rushing past our fleet of security guards and barriers. Ray screaming at them to stay off the stage. Frank rushing to get an ambulance.
Bob finding the shooter in the wings and beating him to a bloody pulp, killing him.
Me rushing to catch him as he fell, getting a permanent rust-colored bloodstain on my bass. And not caring.
Me holding my brother's still-warm body, his fresh blood painting his black shirt a dull red that glistened in the bright lights of the stage, his terrified hazel eyes staring up at me as the life poured out of him and onto the stage in a pool of red ink.
Watching Brian collapse to the floor and pound his fists against it in agony as the stage went dark.
Hearing the screeching cries of our beloved fans as they watched him being carried away.
Standing alone in the arena later on, watching a pink foam form as they scrubbed the stain from the scuffed black stage, and knowing in my heart and soul that we were over.
Yeah. I remember. The echo never fades.