BEHIND THE LIGHTS

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Chapter 22

November 19th, 2016
Munich, Germany
Perennial - Spiritbox

Buried Alive had played across Europe over the last year and a half. Different countries and cities. They were used to traveling with ten people, plus gear and luggage in a van meant for eight passengers, eating plain, microwave pasta everyday while touring and showering every two days if they were lucky. Most normal human beings would say it sucked but they loved those road trips and the thrilling sensation of stepping on stage, listening to the crowd chanting their name.

The place they had to play that night wasn’t as big as the stadium the played as an opening act for a very famous band during the last summer, not even close to the arena where they performed in a metal festival in Brussels, but it was one of those mythic bars where some of the biggest ones of all times had played when they were younger. It was so full of history and crazy anecdotes Leah couldn’t help but feel the chills going up and down her back as she looked around. Those were her favorite places to play.

The brick walls were covered with amazing pictures of concerts, musicians crowd surfing, breaking guitars against the floor, crowds jumping with their hands up in the air. Hard-rock, punk, grunge. It had that atmosphere.

It was a pretty decent venue and you could tell it had been taken care of throughout the years, but the black flooring and ceilings illuminated by yellowish lights gave the space that decadent atmosphere they probably wanted to maintain.

Some bands were waiting for their turn in the backstage corridors, drinking and talking to others to make the time move faster—they had done that too and actually met a band whose members were very nice but now they were just trying to relax nerves on their own.

The ones that had already played were already chilling, strolling up and down the corridors, laughing, or out drinking at the bar, stalling until everyone had played and the results were in.

Even though it was a competition and everyone wanted to get to the end, make themselves a name, gain a foothold, the ambience was friendly and laid back.

Chris was super excited, hyperactive, like a kid after eating a ton of sugar. Marc on the other hand seemed to be on the edge of an anxiety attack, but Leah understood him. Two of the bands playing at that competition were well-known so the chances of making it to the next phase were lower now.

“I know this sucks,” Erik declared, looking at the long-haired blonde at the end of the hallway as he flirted with a couple of chicks. “The fact that they’re here is gonna make it harder for us, but we have to enjoy this moment, give it our best.” He looked at the other band again.

He was worried too; he just wouldn’t show it because he was the one to keep the calm so the rest could relax. Erik had always been the one bringing peace and mental clarity into their group.

“You’re right,” Leah said, heaving a sigh. “It’d suck if we don’t make it, but who knows... We just gotta go out there and play like we always do.”

“Yeah! We can do it guys!” Chris exclaimed.

“Relax dude…” Erik chuckled.

“You’re right…” Marc breathed out, getting up. “I’m gonna go smoke, see if that can help me with this state of nerves.”

“Coming with you,” Chris said.

“You think we even stand a chance?” Leah asked Erik, worried, as the guys disappeared behind the black, metal door.

“Yeah, why not? I mean, we’re not as famous”—he gestured with his head to the aforementioned band—“but we’re good.”

“I wish I was that confident.” Leah chuckled as she played with the rings on her fingers.

“We’ve practiced a lot during the last few years and we’ve gotten better at it. Our new album isn’t completed yet and you can’t help but listen in awe.”

“Wow!” She laughed. “You really have some confidence.”

“Dude, no, I’m just stating the facts.” He put his hand on her shoulder and gave her a light squeeze. “The guys and I kinda clicked from the beginning, and our compositions weren’t bad at all, but the way you and Chris complement each other while playing, your lyrics… We’ve really grown as musicians. We’ve got this, don’t worry so much.”

“Thanks.” She smiled.

Erik was about to say something else but he stopped half-way as he shoved his hand in the pocket of his jeans to take his phone out.

“It’s Julia.” He beamed. “Probably wants to wish us good luck.”

“Go talk to her and tell her I want my girlfriend for myself next weekend.”

“Okay.” He laughed. “Be right back.”

It had been over a month since they had started dating, well, they kept saying they weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend, but the way they looked at each other and the stupid grins they had on their faces all the time said it all. They could call it whatever they wanted, but Leah hadn’t seen either of them so happy in a long time.

Thinking about how their lives were changing, Leah took her phone out of her bag, ready to jump into that endless scrolling down to see everyone’s feed. But what she found when she unlocked the screen made her smile like a hormonal teenager receiving a message from her crush—okay, that was what she turned into every time Søren texted her.

Søren: Life is like a penis

She chuckled. Since the night she told him that dumb, nasty joke about the cookies and cream, they had been talking, their greetings always being some silly, dirty joke.

Leah: How so?

He didn’t answer right away, he had texted her forty-five minutes before and Leah thought he might have already fallen asleep since it was probably pretty late wherever he was in Asia.

She raised her head and looked around, everyone was working hard that night, from the musicians to the administrative and technical staff in charge of the concert to the waiters at the bar. The organization had arranged everything, recruiting people from different companies for their event.

A couple of sound techs walked past her talking as they pushed one of those pneumatic tire platform carts filled to capacity with wires and other materials. One of them looked at her, turning his head as they walked away. She didn’t avert her eyes and he flashed her a smile, wink included.

Leah shook her head, smiling. He wasn’t exactly her type, but the undercut hairstyle and the sleeve tattoos that spread to his hands and neck made him look dangerous and hot, she had to give him that. The guy looked fit too—at least that was what his broad shoulders and his triceps popping out as he pushed the cart told her.

After answering an audio her father had sent her to wish them good luck, tired of waiting for her friends to come back, Leah went to her social media account.

Chewing on the inside of her cheek as she was sat on the floor with her legs crossed and her head propped on one of her hands—bored as fuck—she couldn’t hide the smile that appeared on her face when she received a new notification.

Søren: Often hard for no reason!

Leah: LMAO
You hard now?

Søren: Not telling you, Jäger or you won’t be able to sleep tonight

Leah: Is that a yes?

Søren: LOL. No. Came back like an hour ago.
I’m so fucking tired but can’t fall asleep

Leah: What time is it there?

Søren: 1:50am

Leah: How was the concert?

Søren: Good.
Taipei’s an amazing city to play in. They’re always eager.

Leah: Ah! That’s great. I’m jealous!

Søren: Well, you’re about to have fun too

Leah: Haha, it’s not the same. Knowing it’s a competition makes me so nervous.

They had been talking during the last two weeks, all their conversations music-centered, but Leah didn’t care, he was like a master jedi when it came to that topic.

Søren was friendlier and a lot funnier than she had imagined, and so passionate about what he did that it was contagious. He still had that impressive fuck-me-twice-on-Sundays presence, but at the same time he closer than she had ever thought.

She still couldn’t believe that he, a musician she admired so much and one of the greatest metalheads of the moment, wanted to talk to her as if they were friends—being honest she had never taken him for the kind of guy who could have a girl friend and not fuck her.

Wait, maybe that’s not so good.

She didn’t want to have anything with him, just the thought made her shudder. What if she slept with him and then couldn’t look him in the eye, or listen to his music because that strangling sensation burned the pit of her stomach like it happened in the past? She couldn’t risk it. But neither could she deny that it made her feel important that he thought she was sexy, it boosted her ego—a lot. Søren was a walking fantasy. He was hot on so many levels, and the aura around him so alluring and magnetic, she couldn’t help that throbbing sensation palpitating inside of her.

Ugh!

She was a mess in regards to that man, constantly denying in her mind what her body obviously craved.

Søren: Remember what I told you

Leah: Imagine everyone naked?

Søren: Yeah, hahaha

Leah:Why is everything about sex?

Søren: I have two heads, gotta use them both or I’ll get rusty

Leah: You’re disgusting

Søren: Hahaha, thank you

Leah: Ur welcome!

Søren: Seriously just focus on the music and forget about it being a competition. Do it as if you were alone in your room.

Leah: I’ll see what I can do

Søren: Jesus! Alex is snoring like a tractor and I want to smother him with the pillow

Leah: Lmao

Søren: I want to sleep but I can’t when he’s giving me such a private concert.
Anyway, how are you other than nervous?

Leah: I’m good, excited, I never thought we’d been considered for something like this.

Søren: Well, you’re all very talented

Leah: Thanks, haha. It really means a lot coming from you

Søren: No prob

Leah: Can I ask you something?

Søren: Sure

Leah: Why are you still talking to me?

Søren: Bc you’re interesting

Leah: Yeah, right

Søren: Lol
You just snorted, didn’t you?

Leah: So?

Søren: Why can’t you just take a compliment?

Leah: Because I’m sure you tell that to every woman you meet

Søren: Not really

Leah: Whatever.

Søren: Believe what you want. I meant every word.
I can be a lot of things, but a liar isn’t one of them.

“Buried Alive?” A male voice called from the end of the corridor. “Buried Alive?” He shouted louder.

“Here!” Leah raised her hand as she stood up from the floor—so fast she got a bit dizzy.

“You’re next. Get ready, you’re going on in ten minutes,” the man said as he wrote something on the papers he was carrying around.

She felt nervous all of a sudden but glad she had an excuse to stop that conversation. The fucking hyperactive butterflies that man caused her even with thousands of miles separating them confused her, and the only thing she was sure about was that she wasn’t ready to face them yet.

Looking around her, she searched for her friends, but they were nowhere to be seen.

Leah: I’m sorry but we’re next and I can’t find the guys, gotta go.
Try to get some sleep or you won’t make it to tomorrow

Søren: Yeah, the jet lag’s killing me
Anyway, have fun and let me know about the results

Leah: Thanks!
Night!

Søren: Night

She put her phone into her bag and ran towards the exit door, already feeling electric bolts cruising along her limbs, making her heart hammer in her chest with such a strength she couldn’t focus on anything else.

Walking out on that stage could be their chance to take a huge step forward in their career as musicians. They had their jobs and the guys had created the band seven years before with the only intention of creating and enjoying their own music, but having the possibility of becoming something big right before their noses was tempting. It was something none of them had ever imagined could happen. It was their teenage crazy dreams becoming a reality.


The hallway that led to the stage was dim-lit and busy, full of sound technicians walking in every direction, carrying instruments and talking to their fellow workers through the walkies. Leah took a deep breath as she dried her sweaty palms on her jeans.

Chris must have noticed her uneasiness because he put an arm around her shoulders and squeezed her body to his side as they strode towards the stage.

“Let’s burn the stage,” he said, his eyes locked on hers.

“Yeah,” she replied, giving his waist a light squeeze as she smiled at him.

The purple and white lights moving around on the stage were closer with every step they took. Right before making their entrance they stopped so the techs could check everything was functioning well. Leah used that moment to stretch her back as she let out a heavy sigh, grinning as she focused on the sound coming from the concert hall.

“Let’s give them our all!” Erik exclaimed with his fist held towards his friends, winking at them before he went out.

People started screaming the moment he appeared on the scene and put his drumsticks up in the air to greet everyone, twirling them in his hands as he sat on his stool. Playing with the drums he gave Chris and Marc the sign to get out there too.

The already frenzied crowd squealed even louder. It wasn’t always like that, but that was their hometown—at least for the band—and people had grown to love them, cheering for them till their vocal cords were torn.

Chris walked towards Marc and whispered something in his ear, running to the other side of the stage one second later. The three musicians lowered their heads and with a solid vibration erupting from their instruments at the same time, it all began.

The characteristic riff of that song rippled through the air, reverberating against every corner of that place. And finally, it was her turn.

Leah walked out on the stage, the spotlights turning, heart pounding so hard it felt like it was about to break out from her ribcage. She smiled with a combination of nervousness and enthusiasm, the audience’s cries becoming a distant echo as her own voice thundered in her ears when she growled.

Stepping up on the platform at the edge of the stage, she looked at the people in front of her, slightly crouching, dragging her with them into that electrifying experience. Flashes of white and orange alternating, following Erik’s drum beats. It was glorious.

Knowing their performance was being analyzed should have made her feel more anxious, like she was before she started singing, but her friends were having the time of their lives, giving their all, and that was like fuel to the fire for her. Erik was glistening with sweat as he kept striking the drums and vocalizing the lyrics, Marc and Chris headbanging, engaging their public to be part of that glorious moment.

For some people a concert could mean nothing, but for them, for her, it was everything. It was her escape. Being up there, making total strangers pulsate with their music was otherworldly. It was an exhilarating place where she felt safe, where she could be swallowed by their brutal melodies and still feel alive.

Riding on the high of the crowd for twenty minutes, they reached the end of the show with their last song. It wasn’t one of their heaviest tracks, but as the eerie recorded sound slipped through the speakers, Leah felt an electric shock running through her, breaking her in half.

With her right hand clutched to the mic and her eyes closed, she threw her head back, hair undulating behind her as she took everything in. Leaving her mind blank she concentrated on the frantic drums tempo, the aggressive bass plucking and the rippling guitar notes.

As Leah began to sing with a clean, somewhat raspy voice, the words burned her tongue. That song talked about how hard it was for everyone around someone with a terminal illness to see them deteriorate through the years and not being able to do anything.

Useless. Paralyzed.

She had written those lines right before her mother died. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer. That woman had never smoked or drank, her family and career as an opera singer and vocal coach being everything for her.

It talked about how she fought that physically and mentally exhausting battle, how she always had a smile on her face to try to make everyone happy, lying to everyone about how much it really hurt. It was about how strong she stood against it even though it was devastating, slowly destroying her, until her body couldn’t take it anymore.

The music dragged her mind to a parallel universe, wrapping around her deliciously as she cradled, following its haunting rhythm. At that moment, with the lights showering her, it felt as if she was observing, smiling from the other side as she sang for her.

As the song was getting close to the end, she looked straight in front of her, fixing her gaze on the crowd but not seeing anything. She grabbed the mic with both hands to give herself some strength and her previous deep but sweet voice joined Marc’s in a guttural roar that made the world around them disappear.

Her whole body was a mess, sweaty, heaving, but she felt whole. Smiling from ear to ear, the four members of Buried Alive walked to the front of the stage as people were whistling, cheering, and clapping. They bowed and thanked them, their voices getting muffled by the ringing yells.

As they walked backstage, Chris jumped on Marc’s back celebrating because they had nailed it. They were out of breath, as if they had run a marathon, but satisfaction was always stronger than anything else.

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