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Chapter 3

October 18th, 2016
Munich, Germany
I am machine - Three days grace

Walking down the stairs of that old building, he requested an Uber ride while his mind debated between worrying about his friend or keep analyzing that woman’s behavior.

She was nervous around him but was able to stay calm. She even dared to talk back to him with sarcasm, rolling her eyes and snorting when he teased her, something not many people did. How could she keep such a straight face? The first time he met one of his inspirational musicians on a tour, he went mute and choked on his own saliva.

As he laughed at his own awkwardness, a dark car pulled right in front of him, license plate matching the one on the App. Without giving it a second thought, he got in, nodding his head to the driver, who either wasn’t into metal music or hadn’t recognized him with the sunglasses on—not that they were Rolling Stones or AC/DC famous, but to be a metal band they were very well known around the world.

Whatever it was, he was glad because, as much as Leah had lighted his day, he needed some time alone.

Tired of thinking about everything too much, Søren sighed and closed his eyes, trying to focus on the sounds around, letting his mind go black. The background music, the cars honking, that low but constant buzzing of the city. Anything was better than being inside his head at that moment.

✽ ✽ ✽ ✽ ✽

After exiting the Uber, Søren went straight to the suite Mikael had booked for them. The manager was tired of them doing shit like oversleeping and getting too high. That way he could control them as if they were a bunch of preschoolers or something.

Søren hated all that but couldn’t blame him. He would have already murdered each one of them if he was in his position.

“Hey.” Jørn gestured with his head when he saw Søren entering the room. He was reclining on the couch and didn’t even try to get up.

“Hey...” He left the guitar on the armchair and took off his jacket. “How’s Alex doing?” He bumped his fist as he passed beside him.

“He took some pills and went straight to bed after fighting Mikael over it,” Jørn scoffed, running a hand through his long, blond hair before drinking from his beer.

Søren blankly looked out the glass wall in front of him, his eyes fixing on the stunning views of Munich as worry was eating him alive from the inside.

“You need to control him,” Mikael snapped from behind him. “We can’t afford him collapsing in the middle of another concert,” he said, reminding them of one of the last gigs of the Burn to Rise festival in August.

Alex had drunk and sniffed so much before the concert in Los Angeles that, during the fourth song, the Molotov cocktail palpitating in his veins finally erupted like a volcano. He fell and hit his head on one of the lights on the stage. A bloody mess. It was dantesque.

They took him to the hospital and, thankfully; the wound wasn’t as bad as it seemed at first, but he still looked like crap.

After canceling what was left of the tour and coming back to Europe, they checked him into rehab. And a month later, without giving it a second thought, the discography ordered the manager to take him out—they had postponed their tour for months after Ian had an accident and they weren’t going to allow more delays on the promotion of their last album.

“What did you expect? He’s halfway through the treatment... Besides, I’m not his mother.” Søren’s voice mixed with the metallic clinking of the chain hanging from his belt as he let himself fall beside Jørn. He wanted to help his friend, but until he admitted he had a problem there was not much he could do for him and he was tired of fighting him over it.

“And I’m not your fucking nanny, but you all make me act like it sometimes.”

“You need to get off and relax,” Ian noted as he approached them. The colorful tattoos spread on his chest and arms on full display as he was wearing nothing but a towel around his waist. “Wolff, you look like rubbish.”

“Have you seen yourself in the mirror?” Søren arched a brow.

“Of course, and I’d fuck myself!” He ran a hand through his dark, mohawk hair.

“If I wanted to kill myself, I’d just have to climb up your ego and jump.” The singer laughed.

“You could try, but you’d be dead halfway to the top,” Jørn quipped.

“You’re just jealous that—”

“Guys, stop the bullshit,” Mikael scolded them. “Alex needs your help.”

“Is this the manager or the friend talking?” Jørn stopped laughing and stared at him, intertwining his tattooed fingers over his stomach.

“Look, I hate this as much as you do, but there’s nothing we can do. Either you play or ruin your career.”

“They forced him in and now they force him out. You know how much that can mess with him?” Søren retorted, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees as he stared at Mikael.

He knew how it was. He had never felt as if he had a problem until one night things got out of hand. He had turned into the shame shitty, violent monster he hated so much and that forced him to see the light.

Søren had been confined in one of those centers for filthy rich junkies. He knew how it was, the sleepless nights, the nausea, and the cold sweats lasting more days than he was willing to admit.

It had been three years already, but the urge to poison himself was still biting the back of his skull from time to time. For Alex, it would be worse since he had never admitted he needed help. Anything could push him to the edge faster.

“I know, that’s why I’m telling you to watch him and stop fooling around for once, I—” His phone rang, interrupting him. “I have to take this. We’ll talk later, just take it easy for now, okay?” he said before walking out of the room.

“Fuuuck...” Søren grumbled as he leaned back on the couch again.

They were trapped. The situation draining all of them, washing away their motivation, their dreams, their strength. It was like watching a ship sinking.

They had sold their souls to the devil, and the only thing they had left was the thrilling sensation of stepping on stage and playing together.

“We’ll have to keep him busy when we get back,” Jørn commented. “Anyway, are you going to show us the masterpiece or what?” he asked as he pointed to the guitar, trying to change the mood.

“Yeah...” Søren got up and grabbed the neoprene bag, sitting on the armchair and put it on his lap, neck pointing to the ceiling.

“Wow!” the other guitarist exclaimed. “That’s a beautiful one!”

“It is.” Søren nodded. “I have the feeling I haven’t paid enough, to be honest.”

“How much was it?” Jørn asked.

“Four grand.”

“It’s a special edition. New, it’s close to five grand,” Ian noted.

“I know, I told her I’d pay more, but she said it wasn’t needed... and she’s done such a great job with it,” he told them as he looked at the instrument in his hands.

“You should get her something, that’s not even close to what this is worth,” Ian said as he crouched down beside him.

“I might.” Søren nodded, thinking about what could compare to getting such an old version of his favorite guitar.

“Dude, is it really necessary for us to see your little guy?” Jørn asked out of the blue, scrunching his nose as he pointed between Ian’s legs.

“First, it’s not little. Second, it’s not the first time you see it,” he joked as he wiggled his eyebrows up and down.

“Unfortunately!” Jørn laughed as he threw a cushion at him.

“Keep sayin’ that, but you love it!” Ian exclaimed as he went back to his room.

“Fucking Irish ass!” Jørn shouted, making Ian show him the middle finger before he disappeared in the hallway, chortling.

“But you liked it.” Søren shugged. “That’s why you fell asleep beside him that night, all cuddly and handsy,” he reminded him while putting the guitar back in his bag.

“I passed out!” Jørn punched him in the shoulder.

“Yeah, yeah...” Søren laughed as he walked towards the kitchen to grab a bottle of water from the refrigerator.

They had some crazy nights. With time they had grown older and learned to behave, but those moments would remain in their memories forever. And that specific morning, when they found them sleeping in the same bed—naked—would be hard to forget.

Søren smiled to himself.

As much as he hated living in the spotlight, trying to keep his darkest secrets buried deep down, having to act, say, and live how the record label told them, he could never abandon what they had built together.

Money could buy anything and made their lives a lot easier. The fans were amazing and living off music was a dream come true, but experiencing all that with them was much more than he could have ever asked for.

“We should order lobster and make Mikael pay for it, yeah?” Ian asked as he came back.

“Sure.” Søren grinned.

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