XII - The Hanged Man
"The image on the tarot card is asking me,'Can't you see the answer's are inside of you.
Cut the ties that bind . . .' " Velvet Hammer * Hanged Man
By now, April could step back from the whole project. Although, trying to be objective, she still found herself overwhelmed by its success. The office came alive with activity. April no longer handled the incoming calls. That task was handled by Kelly, the girl who wandered in three weeks ago. She had been a godsend. Now, there was always help around, since people flocked to Kelly anyway. Soon, April reunited with all those friends from high school. Ambivalent feelings returned. She wasn't quite sure she really wanted to see them, but it was different now . . .
The Mad Hatter Project made it different. The media brought with it celebrity treatment, giving her an air of power. Some guy from school asked for her autograph. This is a trip! April tried to take it all in stride, but it was hard not to overwhelmed.
That's when the paparazzi found Majestic. Her trailer to be exact. She woke up to voices, clearly distinct voices, and for a moment, she believed Oh, no! The ghosts are back. Once she became cognizant, the bewildered woman sneaked a look out the curtains only to discover the sea of reporters.
Uh, oh! What have I done now?
A knock pounded on the door. She chose not to answer it.
But what do I do now?
Switching on the TV, she expected to see her house. It wasn't anywhere. She left it on the channel with COPS on it, just in case. She thought about calling her neighbors.
What would I say since I don't know them? 'Hello, this is your neighbor and I was wondering what is going on at my house right now. No, I'm home right now but I don't know what's going on . . . Which one? It's the house where all the people are standing outside in the yard.
No, I can't ask the people in my yard . . . Hello?'
Fame has its price, she found. From that day on, everywhere April went, the press was sure to go. When the phone rang, she bravely answered it, ready to find out the buzz.
"Hello? . . . hello?"
Oh,well, so much for that.
She had to wait until the second call to find out that the office of the President of the United States had called to confirm his attendance.
Whoa! This is too big.
She put some make up on and went outside for the confrontation. She spent the next hour and a half answering questions, in between calls. It wasn't planned, but the frenzy took the story world wide. And the world noticed.
The beast of darkness saw through the veil that separated it from the world, a sign foretold by the ancients. Now fully aware, it tried to pinpoint her. She held the key. Calling forth its minions, the serpent spoke its secret tongue, bidding the followers to act. Steadily, patiently it maneuvered pawns, waiting for to strike.
April had to sacrifice her privacy once this day came. She felt the eyes of the unseen world upon her, and for the first time since she started this, she wasn't alone. Ever . . . Now even in the trailer, she sensed a constant surveillance.
I'm just being paranoid she tried to tell herself but that did little to allay her fears. Maybe, I should have some company.
"Hello? Sarah? It's so good to talk to you!"
That night, she and an old friend chatted, something they hadn't done in years. April invited her to came over, but Sarah was busy at home with the family. The family . . .
That sounded strange coming from Sarah. All through their childhood, Sarah had seemed like part of April's family, mostly because hers had been lacking. Her mother hadn't exactly been there when needed, always working April had been told. Her dad was long gone. She couldn't even remember being inside Sarah's house. Maybe she had but just forgotten.
Hanging up, April felt sad. She didn't want to think about what Sarah had said. "Oh, I heard about it on the news! I was so excited for you. I've been meaning to call but . . . you know."
But April didn't know. It seemed that everyone else called. Why not Sarah?
Chance had some qualms of his own. Rumor had it the once the tour was over, Greg would be gone. Then there was the question of business decisions, which made everyone suspicious. Money wasn't necessarily the issue, but loyalty and trust usually added up to that. Unspoken issues clouded every aspect of the tour these days. Tension mounted, but no one seemed to understand why.
It all began on November 8th. Tara had been anxious to get him to come to New York the Big Apple, but he hadn't counted upon her motives. He thought that it was a shopping trip basically, but Tara seemed convinced that he would go. That night, seven months ago, he had finally decided to agree. The journal arrived earlier, and upon studying it, he had wanted to run.
A quick getaway may be just what I need.
The drop of blood stained the paper, bright red my color, and the next day, he and Tara flew across the country, into a nightmare which still affected him to this day. Ambush television was at its worst.
Part of what made Chance famous was not his music, nor his films, but family legacy. When he was 'discovered' it hadn't been at one of his shows, or through the television . . . tell-a-vision. It had been at the convent. His mother had been excommunicated for that little accident. She had been a nun.
She wasn't supposed to have none, but obviously she had.
This wasn't what made news either. It was when the story broke. Tabloid TV descended upon him when his father became the Pope. From that moment on, Chance Lee would never be sheltered from the world again. But this news was old news, too.
What Tara did, brought him face to face with the man.
Not her! It was Greg.
She had only boarded the plane with Chance.
It was Greg that set up the meeting.
As the cameras rolled, Chance met the man said to be his father, a man who denied it readily, adamantly. It had been a disaster. Scandal now rocked both the secular world and shook the very foundation of the Holy Roman Catholic Church itself. On November 11th last year, Chance's life was no longer his.
Three strange days . . .
The tour crumbled. After that catastrophe, the alienation came. Greg and Chance never discussed it beyond Greg's apology. The unspoken words poisoned the aura of every aspect of the tour until it became painfully apparent that the end was near.
Greg had taken a chance, and it back fired. What had he been thinking? At the time of planning, it had seemed right. The tour needed publicity, and the opportunity arose. The church hadn't been made aware of the event, since obviously it wouldn't have sanctioned such a meeting. Neither had Chance been warned. The ill-fated meeting would never had happened if it hadn't been for Greg.
Greg was another pawn.
He had sacrificed himself, and for what?
April opened her journal. Right in the chart, she witnessed a bright red drop of blood. The first house, Aries, was where I told you to put the blood, Chance. Why is this in Virgo? Wait a minute! Why is there fresh blood in my book?
"Guess he got the journal!"
She tried to laugh it off, but chills made her hair stand on end. Dipping one finger into the drop, she tasted his blood. It was sweet.
This can't be happening!
She couldn't share that with anyone. Who would believe her anyway? How deep into the story would she have to get before she could have explained even the events that led up to that drop of blood. It was an all or nothing kind of anecdote. Nothing short of all would have sufficed, so she told no one.
These days, she waited for a response from him, but no word ever came.
Chance, now back in Los Angeles, was remembering how alarmed he had been when the letters first came, back then when it all started. Overnight stardom brought with it so much attention that when her stuff first arrived, he hadn't paid much attention. But each message became more complex and esoteric that for a while, nothing she sent made sense.
By then, he was hooked, so intrigued that even the laughter from his friends over the weird chick's fan mail became irritating. At that moment of realization, all secrets revealed to him by her were no longer open for discussion. Not even with Greg. It was Greg that noticed the change first. After all, he delivered the packages. The last one had been earlier today.
Greg eyed it for a while, quite aware that it was from her. It was mailed some time before but with their travel schedule so erratic, it had become lost in the shuffle. He hadn't opened it even though it had been sent in care of him. Chance was touchy about her. Sight unseen, he delivered Chance's invitation to the Charity Ball.
Chance had noticed Greg's silent interest but intentionally dismissed it. He didn't want to talk about it. They both recognized the girl's art. It had been going on twelve years, at least. If anyone knows what this girl is about, it would have to be Greg. Chance missed those late night bull sessions. And all Greg knew was that Chance wasn't talking much these days.
So many things that can't be said . . . and so little time to not say them.
Then, as he thought about the girl, he tried to remember why he didn't want to see her. Something way back then had stopped him . . . but what? He remembered how it felt to be the center of attention, how the fans seemed to affect his impression of them, and what he became. Everyone catered to his needs and it had twisted his perspective of SELF but that didn't explain his perception of that girl. Why did she make him hate her? What had she said that scared him? Why was she so persistent?
What's in this damn envelope?!
He ripped open the seal, and out tumbled a piece of puzzle. Her eyes . . .
April had chosen his piece finally, carefully, the choice, once made, seemed obvious. What else could she send? She figured that's how they met, that first sight. "Their eyes met from across the room . . ."
Chance flipped the puzzle piece over. On its other side, part of the chart. He went to retrieve the journal from the box. Dragging it out of the corner of the closet where he had buried it last time he looked in it, the super star of April's dreams revealed The Box. To look at its cardboard veneer, one would might have overlooked its secrets hidden within.
Cloaked in this carton, Chance kept her mysteries nearby. No longer was this matter approachable. Even if he had ever wanted to really meet the girl, all this made it unlikely. What she wrote wasn't normal. If April was Pandora, this was most certainly her box. He recalled each time they had met, and how he had pretended to be nonchalant. Completely aware of her presence, he tried to shield himself from her psychic attack.
Ignore it, and it'll go away . . .
But she hadn't and here was the proof.
The journal was the newest entry in her file, which gave him more insight into her THING, whatever that was. As far as he could tell, she had included a code which allowed him to decipher letters that were ten years old for the first time. Through the night, he retraced the journey. Now things seemed to clarify, but just as quickly as the realizations flashed, they faded. Now all that remained was the memory, unconsciously etched onto his soul, for as he tried to recapture the occult statutes, he found them lost.
On the pages before him, the symbols opened like windows, exposing their cabalistic truth before blinking back to nothing. He couldn't ever quite remember what he was supposed to remember. Something about this whole episode felt wrong. It wasn't supposed to feel right. The truth had nothing to do with how either Chance or April felt. This had little to do with them anyway.
They were just a couple of pawns, too.
Alone, each in their private world, for one moment, they both looked into the eyes in a picture of the other and thought . . .
What the Hell am I doing?!