Well, I’ve finished my education and learned everything there is to learn about singing, and despite the difficulties, I’ve found myself at the heart of Music City and struggling to get my material out there. I haven’t been able to meet with any labels and I’m barely surviving on gig money. I have an audition at a new place that’s opening down by Broadway Street. It’s a Vegas style night club, very yuppie. I can sing, but I also have to dance with the other girls. My first song will be “Moulin Rouge.” They were impressed with my audition, and they may pay me for some choreography ideas. Maybe I can get some hours there. Regardless, times are hard for everyone right now. Any day that people hear me sing is a good day. My voice is lucky, and I’m so excited for the future that I simply had to start writing my feelings down in something other than song form.
I learned to bartend and made some good tips this evening. I also sang with the band, and even though everyone there was drunk, I think they really liked me. The more I sing, the more I feel like I was put here on this earth to make people happy with the sound of my voice. I’m not trying to be conceited. I am forged through the sweat of my brow to make beautiful sound. I also make a pretty good vodka martini.
My boss, Bobby, thinks he’s Brett Michaels. He keeps going on and on about how he’s going to make me a star and how much money Alleycats is going to make with me singing at the helm. People applauded after the girls worked through my dance today. I told Bobby that he should tie cat collars with rhinestones around our necks and buy us hair extensions to attract more clientele. He went for it. I’m excited. I’ve never been able to afford hair extensions before. The last song I sang before I went home this evening was amazing. I saw a table of drunks in the front row who appeared as if they were crying. That’s the best feedback I could possibly ask for.
Some of my teachers came by today because it was my day off. They’re quiet, mostly, but they expect what I promised them four years ago. I always thought I’d be able to get my education and disappear without going through with it, but they’ve found me. They want results, and I only have a month. Even though they paid my way and coddled me through learning the art of vocal performance, I don’t think a piece of paper on the wall is worth this. It doesn’t matter. I can’t back out now, and I’m destined for the big time.
Bobby is interested in more than helping me promote my career. I was flirting with a local blues singer in the lounge tonight after singing, and he flipped his shit. Said that I couldn’t afford to have a boyfriend in this business and the only person I’d be hooking up with was him if I wanted to keep my job. I noticed that The Better Business Bureau is right across the street when I left today. I’ll keep that in mind if he gets out of hand.
More teachers came to see me, except they came to the bar itself. I would have been ashamed, except they didn’t talk to anyone, so no one knew that they were there for me. They wore the black robes in a night club in the middle of the city, so they obviously care little for outward appearances. They focused on me so intently when I was singing that I got scared. I did well, but they’re giving me the message, loud and clear. I have to fulfill my part of the bargain or I’ll lose my voice. If I lose my voice, I have no future. I’m scared.
I had an audition with a major record label on Music Row today. Bobby was pissed that I called out of work, and apparently the regular alcoholics were requesting that I sing a song before they left. One was so adamant that he was arrested for disorderly conduct. I tried to push it out of my mind and focus on the music. They said I had a beautiful natural voice and that with some “commercial influence,” I could be a star. I’m excited. This is bigger than my graduation or my future wedding day. I’ll never forget this day. Even if I tried, the teachers won’t LET me forget. They have to remind me that I’m only here because of them.
Bobby threw me a party tonight to celebrate my big break. He drank too much and so did I. I drove him home and he tried to kiss me. He smelled like bourbon and cigarettes and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I screamed, and before I realized that he’d stopped trying to grope me, he was screaming WITH me. His eyes were glossy, like a windshield that needs a defroster on max. He had this sort of grimace, like he was in pain, but couldn’t do anything about it but stare at me and scream and scream. I forced myself to shut my mouth, to stop making any noise, and he collapsed in to the passenger floorboard. I got scared and left him there. I’m hoping he’ll remember it as an awful hangover and nothing else. If not, there’s always the Better Business Bureau. I can’t afford to have some stalker ruining my chances of a Grammy.
They’re here permanently until I deliver on what I promised. They remind me why my voice sounds so sweet, and how they can change it in to a terrible force at any time. They asked me if I liked what happened to Bobby. They asked me if I want that to happen to everyone else I sing for. There’s nothing I can do to stop this, but as soon as I get it over with, they’ll leave me alone forever. They just want their payoff.
Someone stopped me on the street today on the way to my car. He really scared me when he said that he knew who was in my apartment with me. He was a relatively big guy, and he looked dangerous, like one of those UFC fighters or a bouncer or something. He told me to get it done and be done with it — that the consequences of going back on them were worse than taking one person’s life. He said he’d been swindled by them before, too, and it was the only way to end this. I hope not. I don’t think I can bring myself to kill someone, even at the cost of my own gift.
I almost went through with it tonight, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Everyone in front of the stage looked like they were having fun, enjoying the company of their friends and boyfriends and girlfriends. They came to hear me. I couldn’t betray them. I’ll be forced to, soon, and I might lose it all. It doesn’t matter. I refuse to kill anyone because they want to listen to my voice.
Tonight was the worst night of my life. They’ve been staying in my room, standing over me as I sleep, hissing in my ear. Deliver. Deliver. Deliver. They held me down before I went to work and replaced the rhinestone Alleycat uniform collar with some kind of choker. It has one red stone on it, and it glows when I sing. It felt good. I wondered if I had their approval until I got on stage. I started singing, and they all started screaming. Jake, the bartender. My friend Jill. The entire drunken audience. I couldn’t stop the sound once I started. My voice soared high, strong, powerful, through the door, out on to Broadway. It brought more and more people in. I saw throngs of people walking through the door, their faces contorted with pain, but it’s like they were forced to stand there and listen. I don’t know any other way to write this, but I knew they were in the worst pain of their lives. My voice was causing it. All of them screamed until their voices were raw and they had gristled sandpaper in their throats.
When I hit my highest note, the entire room was a maelstrom of suffering. People’s heads burst open like overfilled balloons. Their skin peeled off in layers and heaped on the line-dancing floor like party streamers. The ones who still had faces died with a smile on their face, as if death were a blissful escape. I drove home naked. There was too much blood on my clothes. Bobby was out of town, but he comes back tomorrow, and he already knows. He’s too stupid to realize what happened the other night, and thinks someone fired an assault rifle in the middle of the club. Je’s naive. I’ll never be able to go back to work again. All I have now is this record deal. I was lucky that the police didn’t stop me for questioning. The story is on the local news as “the Music Row Massacre.”
They took off the collar when I got home and they’re sitting behind me, watching me write this. They know I have to find their sacrifice to have any hope of recording with the label tomorrow. They said what happened at Alleycats is my fault. They expect me to get up and go right now, or the choker goes back on. They’ve turned my own voice against me.
I have to use it as a weapon, one last time. I also have to convince Bobby that I want to be with him. The thought makes me want to throw up.
I didn’t have to report Bobby to the Better Business Bureau. He left me a voicemail as they carried him off, and I know he was only able to speak because they let him. They have a cruel side to them that is unrivaled by any human being. They paid me one last visit, of course. They polished his skull like a fine piece of jewelry and delivered it to me in a box. They said as long as it stayed in the same room with me that I’d sing beautifully. They want to remind me that I killed someone to make it big. I wish I could take all of this back, but I wouldn’t, if given the choice.
Tomorrow, I record my first album, and nothing will stop my big debut.