Part Four: Ashes

Click to Reveal Content Warnings
Discussions of death
References to and discussion of cancer (Multiple Myeloma)
References to previous abusive romantic relationship</dd
References to medical procedures
Descriptions of blood
Depression and lack of self care
References to alcohol and drug use

Fig. 15.

Infinite Thorns
The Unofficial Infinite Eyes Fan Site

Kitchen Sink Too by Infinite Eyes – Analysis by Marnie

I think what makes Infinite Eyes stand out so much to me is their ability to take subject matter that most people would consider trivial or boring and turn it into something beautiful. Maybe it’s not Infinite Eyes that does this, maybe it’s just Tyler. It is, after all, the lyrics that highlight these things and draw me in, but it would be unfair not to credit Joel and Laura along with him, because there’s something magic about that lo-fi jangling sound that they all make together that perfects songs like Kitchen Sink Too.

Stacks of dishes we’ve been walking around for days
They’ll stay for weeks
Paper plates pouring out of the bin

There’s something beneath the banality of the dishes that Tyler describes, something vital and important. This is a song about needing to clean the kitchen, but it’s important not for its unusual-ness (or perhaps usual-ness, depending on the way you look at it), but for that underlying significance, of trudging through the everyday and noticing it in a way that only Tyler Brundle can, I think. I’ve heard other people try but there’s something missing, even when they cover Tyler’s songs. It’s his thin, untrained voice that blooms into the choruses. Sometimes for a moment you can hear exactly how powerful his voice could have been if he hadn’t squandered it. It’s a voice that cries out for attention because of its obvious lack of it.

A lidless half-drunk bottle of gin
I, oh, oh I won’t be the one to drink it

There’s something here about neglected environments and what they might say about the people that live in it. Tyler isn’t living alone here. I know that before he was diagnosed, he shared a small house on the outskirts of York, England, with the rest of Infinite Eyes but I think he probably didn’t write this song until he had moved in with his ever-elusive boyfriend, Wren Abelard.

In the last few dregs of night-time I see you
The dishes and the kitchen sink too
I, oh, oh I won’t the one to drink it.

There’s a lot of affection for ‘you’ in this song, but something melancholy too. The implication is that ‘you’ will be the one to drink the rest of the half-drunk bottle of gin because it won’t be ‘I’. I hear this song and I picture Tyler and Wren in the days after they first moved in together, several months into Tyler’s treatment for multiple myeloma, which happened around four months before this album got released, so about eighteen months before Tyler would die. ‘The last few dregs of night-time’ implies a sense of things coming to a close, but Tyler does not paint this as the end of the day, but the start of something new. There’s a quiet resignation in those simple words. The end of a darkness that has been hanging over him. The unwashed dishes and the kitchen sink are reminders of this, and he knows he won’t be the one to put things right, but he seems to have a faith that somebody will.

I wonder about those last few months together in that house, Wren surrounded by dishes he doesn’t have time to clean because he needs to prioritise his time with Tyler, and Tyler sitting down and writing those lyrics, imagining a time in the not so distant future when he won’t have to suffer any more.

#infiniteeyes #infiniteeyessongs #lyrics #infiniteeyeslyrics #britishmusic #musician #infinitethorns #marnie #modpost #thoughts #lyricsanalysis #tylerbrundle #infiniteeyestyler

Follow Marnie on facebook, twitter, tumblr and instagram

Fig. 16. Marnie


Thank you so much for writing this!

Cora9000: OMG! In tears over this! I DID NOT come expecting these feels T-T

-SamiBear: Marnie you’re too good at making me cry

Anonymous: I have loved this band for years; you guys don’t understand them at all

CodyP: Anyone else get here from the Buzzfeed article?

-Ella2002: Me!

-Anonymous: Saaaaaaaaame

-Anonymous: Weird ass shit on Buzzfeed these days

-Tazzzzxxx: Random tbf

-xXMimiXx: Me

The comment threads made Marnie’s heart stutter. Her fingers flew across the keyboard, swiping and typing, opening new tabs in her internet browser until she found it. The article stared her down, her own face, grainy webcam selfie staring out at her. Her hands trembled as she read. Thoughtful, it had called her. Provoking and strange. Obsessed, yes, but something more. Something she hadn’t realised she’d be trying to reach.

Marnie opened twitter and her inbox was bursting. She had hundreds of mentions; when she’d looked yesterday there had only been thirty-two. The video was taking off, but it was reaching people in tiny niches, people who actually lived in York, or hundreds of miles away in Kent, nearby Marnie. They wanted to know where she’d found Infinite Eyes, what she thought about this band, that band. But these messages were different. Kinder, weirder. Thanks and compliments, and strangely-worded praise. It tied her in knots.

One of the posts she’d been tagged in was a video that had since been taken down. Marnie scrolled through the comments and didn’t have to go for long before someone else had helpfully reposted it. A girl with cropped blonde hair was standing in the middle of some kind of warehouse or large shed, a microphone standing on a patterned rug. She was singing. It made Marnie shiver, hearing Tyler’s words on someone else’s lips.

She listened to it again as she pulled on her clothes, putting on her jumper back to front and only catching it in the mirror in the hallway. She barely recognised herself in her reflection, flushed and agitated as she was. She could have been her own sister. The girl singing on her phone was so different to Tyler, the sound of the band accompanying her so abstracted from Infinite Eyes. The song, Kitchen Sink Too, had such a bad and scratchy recording that it was difficult to even make out the words in parts. Here, from the mouth of this other person, they rang clear and true.

People were whispering on the bus. Marnie put in her earbuds and listened to Tyler, pretending like she wasn’t sure they were talking about her. She ignored the looks and glances, ducked her head below the seat in front of her. It didn’t get better after she arrived at school, and she couldn’t hide inside her headphones, forced instead to listen to the whispers that accompanied the pointed-half-stares in every beat of silence.

She slid her rucksack off her shoulder and sat down at her desk in maths class. She kept her eyes fixed on the wooden desk, ignoring the babbling voices of the other students around her. She was a rock in a riverbed, and they altered their course to accommodate her presence, but nothing more.

‘Hey, Mangy Marnie,’ the girl behind her, Jessica, said. She jabbed Marnie between the shoulder blades. ‘Shit. Sorry. Marnie. Hey! Marnie! Are you deaf or something?’

Marnie turned around, trying to keep her expression as flat as possible.

‘I read that thing on BuzzFeed. Pretty next level,’ said Jessica.

Marnie blinked at her and turned back to the front of the class. Soon algebra had washed the encounter out of her head. She continued about her day, keeping her head firmly down, eyes trained at her feet. She had her headphones back on, Tyler’s voice in her ears. She was sure he’d know exactly what he’d say to her classmates. He’d probably been bullied at school. He was too strange and interesting in ways that high school bullies hated. Maybe that’s why he’d started writing music. An escape from his normal life. Now it could be Marnie’s refuge, too.

Marnie sat in her usual seat for the last class of the day, English, and doodled in the back of her exercise book as the teacher prattled on about Grapes of Wrath.

‘Marnie DeLillo, could you at least pretend to be paying attention?’ Miss Johnson demanded. Marnie snapped her book closed, blushing as everyone’s heads swerved to look at her. ‘Considering the articulation and passion of your online work, I expect to see a higher standard in your essays from now on,’ Miss Johnson said with a knowing smile. Marnie’s heart was going to leap right out of her chest. Everyone was still looking at her. It was like those nightmares that happen in movies, but nobody really has, where you have to give a speech when you’re completely naked.

‘That stuff was seriously intense,’ said a boy at the front of class, whose name Marnie did not even know. Around her, everyone broke into murmured conversations. Miss Johnson rolled her eyes. Marnie looked at her, trying to plead silently with her expression. Miss Johnson raised an eyebrow.

‘Well, if you’re going to talk about this on my time, I suppose I’d better weigh in with my opinion,’ said Miss Johnson, amused and defeated. That was not what Marnie had been begging for. She slumped in her chair. ‘Marnie’s writing about Infinite Eyes is deeply concerned with the distinction between works of art and their creators. Is that fair to say, Marnie?’

‘What?’ said Marnie. Some of her classmates giggled.

‘Last week I set you all an essay about what we can learn from the Grapes of Wrath, and you all came back with thoughts about the Great Depression and what life was like at the time. You learned something from the book, even though it is a work of fiction. The line can be a little bit blurrier sometimes, though, can’t it? If a writer tells a story based on their own experiences, maybe even using their own name, can we say after we have read it that in some sense, we know the writer?’

Miss Johnson had successfully recaptured the attention of everyone in the class. Marnie listened to the rush of blood inside her own head and nothing else until the bell rang. She bolted out of the classroom as quickly as she could manage.

The whole bus ride home, Marnie felt like the world had moved on its axis and all of a sudden, she could feel it turning. Everyone talked and gossiped, apparently not noticing the cosmic shift that threatened to rip the ground right out from Marnie’s feet. Her knees felt like jelly as she walked down her street. She called a brief hello to her father, in his usual spot in the living room, and ran up the stairs, slamming her bedroom door shut.

She pulled her phone out of her pocket, meaning to turn on Tyler’s voice and try to drown out the strangeness of her day, but she had a text from an unknown number.

Hey Marnie, it’s Jessica from maths. Can you read over my American Lit essay and make sure I’ve not done anything stupid? Cool if not x

Marnie marvelled at the message. Jessica hadn’t brought up Marnie’s writing to mock her. She must have actually thought it was good. It made Marnie’s toes tingle. She hurriedly typed out a response but stopped herself before she sent it. She glanced into the vanity mirror on her bedside table, stared down her reflection. ‘Tyler Brundle. Kimberly DeLillo,’ she said. Ritual complete, she flopped onto her pillows and closed her eyes. She was smiling, happiness like squiggling lines in her stomach. She could almost feel Tyler there beside her. She pulled her phone out of her pocket, fiddled until Tyler’s voice sprang free from it and wrapped around her mind.

‘You’re more than you know,’ Tyler sang. His voice was low, barely more than a whisper. He would have had to be so close to the microphone, his lips touching it as they moved to form the words. He always wore his guitar low slung, arms extended down as he played, shoulders curled around himself. Not like he wanted to hide, but like it was all too much and he had to hold himself together to carry on.

Marnie used to feel like Tyler had made this music just for her, that he had sat and penned the lyrics knowing somehow that Marnie would one day lie there and listen to them. She was not sure if she believed in souls, but in moments when she thought they might have existed, it was because of this feeling that bloomed inside her sometimes when she was alone with Tyler’s songs. If souls were real, Marnie dreamed that hers was wound into his, completely inextricable.

But that girl, in the video. She hadn’t taken the song, not exactly. It didn’t sound like it belonged to her. Those things that Marnie thought, those pains and hurts she’d felt ringing through Tyler’s voice, they were still there. It was like Tyler could speak through that girl, whoever she was, the way he spoke to Marnie. Like she might be able to hear the secrets in his words the same way that Marnie could.

Marnie let the sound of Tyler’s voice wash over her. They were communing across time. He knew what she had done, and he was glad. It was what he was meant to be. A far-flung star. Glowing and unreachable, except for those who knew exactly where to look. Marnie could feel the light of him seeping into her skin, making her more than she ever had been before. He knew her in ways no living person could, so it was all that she could do to set the world to rights and make him the brightest star in the sky. Burn his name into the universe forever. He was not really dead, not until he was forgotten, and Marnie had made sure his name would live on and on upon thousands of lips.

After some hours, the playlist ended. That whispered ‘okay’. Marnie got to her feet and crept to the bathroom with a towel slung over her arm, letting her fingers lightly brush the doorknob to Kim’s room.

In the bathroom, she looked at herself in the long mirror. She was still smiling, a flush in her cheeks. She could see it, that light that Tyler had given her. She looked almost beautiful. Like Kim had been. Marnie shook her hair out of her ponytail and ran her fingers through it. Even hours tied back could not put a kink in it. It hung almost to her shoulders. When it got this long before, she had chopped it back into submission with the scissors out of the medicine cabinet. She twisted it, turning in her reflection to watch it swish against her back.

An idea crossed Marnie’s mind that made a nervous laugh tumble right out of her. She clapped her hands off her mouth. ‘No,’ she whispered, still giggling through her fingers. She looked around over her shoulder, like maybe someone would have snuck into the room without her knowing. She leaned close to the mirror. ‘Tyler Brundle, Tyler Brundle, Tyler Brundle,’ she whispered in a rush. She shut off the bathroom light, squeezing her eyes tight shut. Her lips moved in silence, said his name three times again.

She flipped the light back on. She kept her eyes tight shut. She let out a shuddery breath and opened her eyes slowly. Her own reflection looked back at her, eyes twinkling. She was still alone.

Marnie dropped her gaze to the medical box under the sink and reached inside. She pulled out the scissors, pulling a strand of her hair taut. She caught her own gaze and slowly lowered her hand. She put the scissors back in the box and climbed into the shower.

Fig. 17. Lila

Lila took out one of her earphones as the queue shuffled closer to the counter. She usually liked to get to the coffee shop by half eleven; most people had been for their morning coffees by then, and the lunch rush would fill up the chairs around her. Lila’s hair wad damp against her neck from the shower, her treacherous phone heavy in her pocket. How she’d managed not to set her alarm, she didn’t know. The queue was long, and Lila wondered if she’d ever manage to find a seat now.

The Infinite Eyes song she was listening to was a weird one. Ash had sent her the link; said he’d always wanted to play that one live. She could barely pick out anything other than a vague strumming on an acoustic guitar over the static, and Tyler’s melody, even thinner than usual through the noise. What she could make out was pretty, though. She chewed her lip, almost humming along as she waited to order her drink.

Lila’s phone buzzed.

Ash: Look what just popped up in my feed. Attached was a picture, that same one of Infinite Eyes Lila had seen on Marnie DeLillo’s website.

It’s freaky that they played Colloquium. I’m literally two streets away from there now, Lila replied.

Lila stared at the strain in the lines of Tyler Brundle’s face, the sweat caught the moment it was flying free of his long hair, a tiny bead of glass shining in the air. He looked furious, violent, even frozen in frame. Every inch of him was screaming with effort, like it was taking everything for him to do that, to stand there, to be. Elliot would probably have said he was a tosser. She locked the phone screen and turned it over, drumming her fingers against the plastic case.

The girls in front of Lila in the queue were giggling as they clutched one of their phones between them. They split the headphones, joined as they watched whatever video flickered on the screen. One of them had long red hair she kept smoothing anxiously behind her ear. The other girl pressed close to the red head, looking up from the phone now and then as though to gauge her reaction. Lila wondered if they were on a date. Maybe they were friends from school, waiting for each other to cross some invisible line. They were so engrossed they didn’t notice they’d got to the front of the queue.

Lila often wondered about the other people in the coffee shop. She liked to make up little stories for them. The woman in the bright yellow heels was a fashion consultant, struggling to convince her client to take a risk. The man in the too-big suit was fresh out of a job interview, trying to hide his trembling hands in his sagging sleeves. Maybe other people did the same for her, dreamed her a whole new life. What story could she tell of herself, from her plaid pants, bleached bobbed hair, and oversized sweater? A student, maybe. Maybe someone who was really in a band, not just playing at it. Someone easy and free, who could slouch onto a stage the way that Tyler Brundle did and still look like royalty.

You know they’re putting on an Infinite Eyes tribute night in a few weeks? Ash said. Another text quickly followed. We could totally get in on that.

Lila’s heart thudded a little faster. Won’t that be a bit soon?

Ash responded with a tiny face, rolling its eyes. Lila rolled her own at it.

What’s it like, playing live? Lila asked him. She imagined a sea of faces looking up at her, and her heart thrummed nervously. Elliot hated the way she loved attention. He wanted her to be small, to eat less, to be quiet, to let him get on with it without getting in his way. It was a lie; Thea had said so. Lila barely spoke at all when they hung out with other people. Thea said it was like Lila was hiding. She certainly felt hidden. She was a rock at the bottom of a river. Unacknowledged by the water flowing over it but for a tiny deviation in movement.

The little creature inside Lila bristled. It wasn’t wrong to want it. Everyone did, at least a little. Wasn’t fame about being loved, not just by a few people, but by hundreds, thousands, millions of them? When she had barely been able to write her own name, Lila was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up and she didn’t know what to say. She wanted to be a pop star, or the queen, or an astronaut, or maybe a dolphin. All of her friends had said similar things. They wanted to be people who were seen and listened to. How could that be wrong when it seemed as natural as breathing?

The thing with Elliot, Thea said, is he was a hypocrite. He had famous heroes just like everyone else. What he didn’t like was the process of trying, that’s what Thea said. He didn’t like the ability to fail. He wanted Lila to feel that too. He wanted her to never suffer the embarrassment of trying her hand and coming up with nothing. He was afraid of failing, and when Lila wrote poems or tried to talk to people, he saw that failure mapped onto her. It’s part of why he did what he did, Thea said. That and being an arsehole.

Hot coffee now in hand, Lila climbed up the short flight of stairs to the larger seating area. Her favourite chair, the wingback by the window, was occupied by an old man with a huge newspaper. The girls from the queue were huddled in the corner, next to the only available seat. She perched her coffee awkwardly on her knee, with no table on which to rest her drink, and peered over to the nearest window. She could see the cloudy sky, the pointed tops of the building across the road, and the spire of the minster, wrapped in green-covered scaffolding.

Lila had lived in York for three years and she’d never once seen the Minster without some kind of building work going on. There were always signs on the scaffolding proclaiming when this particular stretch of maintenance would be completed, little displays in the courtyards of the ancient techniques being resurrected this time. Without fail new scaffold, new displays would be erected before the old ones came down. Perhaps the minster was always like that, it’s perpetual construction and reconstruction a part of the thing itself, as essential as the knee-crunching walk to its highest peak, and the sandy stones from which the whole thing was made.

Lila went to sip her drink and slopped a considerable portion of it onto her knee when she met the wide, brown eyes of the red-headed girl from the queue. Her friend had her phone raised, camera pointed towards Lila. Lila ducked her head, smoothing her short curtain of hair as far over her face as it would go. She took a breath and dabbed at her wet jeans with the sleeve of her jumper.

Gigs are not that different to a rehearsal, when you think about it. Exactly the same, really except all the people, said Ash.

Lila sniffed. She’d been in the crowd plenty of times, blending into the nameless mass of faces. Oh yeah, an entire crowd doesn’t sound terrifying at all.

The song playing on her phone ended, the rhythm of the next one not quite obscuring the chatter around her, or the giggles of the two girls. Lila dared not look over at them again. There was no reason to think they were really looking at her; Lila had never seen them before, and there was nothing spectacularly weird about her outfit. Still, a tiny spike of fear and pleasure had rooted itself into her stomach. There was no way they were really looking, but what if they had been?

Ash: you don’t even have to look at the crowd if you don’t want.

Ash: In fact, if you keep your back to them the whole time, that’s pretty punk rock.

Ash: Come on, you know you want to.

Lila skipped the quiet song and took a more successful sip of her coffee, but when she looked again, the girls were definitely staring. They laughed harder when they saw that Lila had realised. Lila slammed down her undrunk coffee and got shakily to her feet, hurrying out into the autumn air. She buried her chin into her scarf. Perhaps she wasn’t ready to take on whatever job it was that Thea had found for her if she couldn’t take the judgement of two giddy children. Or maybe it was sign she needed to get out more, as quickly as possible. Thea would probably lean heavily on that second conclusion, so Lila thought it would be best she kept this little episode to herself.

They were just kids; it probably didn’t mean anything at all. In all likelihood, they weren’t even looking at her at all. Elliot would probably have laughed in her face if she’d told him about it. Said if she was so worried about what other people thought, maybe she should have made more of an effort. Or maybe that she needed to make less of an effort entirely. Either way it would come to the same thing. She did always try too hard. He loved reminding her of that. He said it was disgusting how she always thought people were looking at her. Here she was, even months after she’d even spoken to him, and she was still proving him right.

As she power-walked home, she kept her hands bundled safely into her pockets, away from the biting chill, ignoring the buzzing of her phone against her thigh until she was back inside of Thea’s flat.

Thea: Hey nice vid

Thea: dude you’re blowing up

Thea: omg I spoke to ash and he says you don’t know

Thea: hey, are you okay?

Thea: Missed Call (3)

As Lila stared at the messages on her screen, the phone began to buzz again. ‘Hello?’

‘God, why haven’t you been answering? Are you alright?’ said Thea.

‘Yeah, I’m fine, I have no idea what you’re talking about.’

Thea took a deep breath, the line crackling. ‘Don’t do anything. Don’t go on twitter or Facebook. Just. I don’t know. Sit quietly in the corner or something, I’ll be there in like twenty minutes.’

‘But it’s the middle of the day?’

‘I’m working from home for the rest of the afternoon. You scared the shit out of me.’

Lila swallowed hard. ‘I don’t need babysitting, you know. I’m fine. Nothing has even happened.’

Thea took another deep breath. ‘I’m going to kill Ash; I swear to god. I told him if you weren’t ready, you weren’t ready.’

‘Ready for what?’

‘He put up a video of one of your rehearsals and tagged Marnie DeLillo in it.’

Lila thought she might throw up. Instead, she clung to the edge of the kitchen counter, pressing the phone harder and harder against the side of her head. ‘How many people have seen it?’

She didn’t hear Thea’s answer over the ringing in her ears. She sank down onto the floor. She didn’t really care how many people; anyone outside of the rehearsal room was too many. She felt stabbed, bleeding, gasping for breath. Of course, it didn’t matter if twenty people or twenty thousand people had seen it. Elliot was going to be so furious when he found out, so embarrassed. Maybe he was right about Ash all along, and he was just as attention-seeking and status grabbing as Elliot had always said. She was so stupid to have trusted him. Such an idiot.

Lila put her head between her knees. She was going to stay right there until the unfurling shame at the pit of her stomach consumed her, and she shrivelled away like the last leaf on a dying tree.

Her phone buzzed again, and this time it wasn’t Thea calling her, but Ash. She thought about hanging up, thought about answering, and instead just waited until the phone rang out and the screen went black again. It stayed that way, dark and silent between her feet, for almost a minute. It buzzed again; he’d left her a voicemail.

Without really knowing why, Lila scrambled for the phone. ‘You have one new message,’ the smooth female voice of her answerphone announced. Lila pressed play.

‘Hey. God, I’m such an idiot. It was supposed to be a joke, I wasn’t even thinking. It’s just that she’d done an analysis of Kitchen Sink Too and we were just rehearsing that the other day. I didn’t know people would be so into it, I deleted it as soon as Thea pointed it out. God, I’m so sorry. Please call me.’

Lila lowered the phone. She was still shaking. She leaned her head against the cabinet and closed her eyes. It felt like her blood was fizzing. They liked it. They liked her.

Fig. 18. Tyler


Hello, everyone out there. It’s time for another shout into the void.

Tyler stopped typing and dropped his head onto the desk. He deleted what he’d written.

Quick update: Last show with Party Shock tonight. I feel like I’m going insane. Everyone is here to see them and whenever I step into the spotlight I want to scream. People do know some of my words, though. Maybe two or three people in every crowd we’ve had. Shout out to you guys who actually spent thirty quid to see us just do an opening set. Fair dos, that’s impressive dedication. I’d be falling apart if I didn’t have you lot out there. Thanks.

He posted his words and leaned back in his chair. ‘Alright, dude?’ Joel asked, sticking his head out of the bathroom in the hotel room they were sharing.

‘Yeah, just shouting into the void,’ Tyler said with a wry laugh.

‘That’s good of you. Has it started shouting back yet?’

‘Nah. But we can dream.’

Tyler felt something in the front of his head. It was like someone was pulling out his brains with strings. He stood up, wavering, and hurried into the bathroom. Sure enough, blood was spluttering out of his nose. He flicked his tongue into it, the taste of old coins making him feel even dizzier. He sat down on the toilet seat and grabbed the hand-towel from beside the sink. It was slowly turned from white to red.

Laura hovered in the doorway, looking furious.

‘I should call your doctor,’ Joel fussed.

‘No,’ Tyler said thickly. ‘It’ll stop in a minute.’

‘Dude, this is not a normal amount of blood to lose,’ Joel mumbled.

Tyler took the towel away from his face and a thick clot of blood fell from his nose to the seat of his jeans.

‘Gross,’ Laura muttered.

Tyler laughed and put the towel back up.

‘What can I do?’ Joel asked, stricken.

‘Get me frozen peas or something,’ Tyler instructed. His voice sounded like he had a cold. Joel scuttled out of the room.

‘Will sweetcorn do?’ Joel asked meekly after a moment of absence.

Tyler nodded. He took the bag and wrapped his sticky towel around them.

‘You going to be able to stand on stage?’ said Laura.

‘Yeah. Could you grab me some coke?’

Joel gulped. ‘I don’t think -’

‘Not the drug, Joel,’ said Tyler.

Laura nodded and stepped out of the room.

‘Fucking hell, dude,’ Joel said quietly as soon as they were alone. ‘What’s going on?’

‘It’s happened before.’

‘It’s a lot of blood, dude.’

‘It’s just the chemo. It runs my blood levels down.’ Tyler was an expert now. He took the towel away. ‘I think it’s stopped.’

‘Your bloods were fine, weren’t they?’ said Joel.

‘They were, but they can fuck up.’

‘You want me to call Wren?’

‘God, no,’ Tyler groaned. He looked down at himself. His chest was streaked with blood around his catheter tubes. ‘Great. That’s going to feel gross when it dries.’

‘You can shower.’

‘No time. I need to change the dressing on this stupid fucking catheter,’ said Tyler. He glanced at the medical supplies on the counter. ‘No, I’ll just leave it. It’ll be fine.’

Joel grimaced. ‘Fuck, dude. This is a bad idea.’

‘Ah well,’ Tyler sighed. ‘Can you tell there’s blood on my jeans?’

Joel assessed him. ‘Yes.’

‘Does it look punk rock?’

Joel laughed. ‘Yeah, I guess.’

Tyler smiled. He glanced in the mirror and groaned. ‘Better get it off my face, though,’ he concluded.

He’d been on the stage that afternoon for sound checks, but now that it was time everything felt different. He was breathing sweat and excitement. In a shard of mirror bolted to the wall, his pupils were blown wide in his eyeliner. He lifted his guitar over his head and positioned the strap over his shoulder.

‘You ready?’ Laura asked.

Tyler laughed. ‘Yeah.’

‘You got a little,’ Laura gestured at her upper lip.

Tyler swiped at the smear of blood with his knuckle. ‘Thanks.’

‘Don’t die on me.’

‘Not today.’

Laura nodded. ‘Right, let’s do this.’

That afternoon the theatre had been empty. Tyler had sat with Cole, the lead singer of Party Shock, on the steps down to where the crowd would stand and looked at the huge empty space in front of them. Tyler had tried to imagine what it would be like when the space was full, as he had every night before; hundreds of bodies pressed together into one swaying, screaming mass. Even though he should have been used to it, he could still only dream up the scene as a member of the audience, rather than the man on stage.

No more.

The crowd was a swarming mass of indistinct shapes, moving around one another, the fuzz of a dead channel, flies on a carcass, screaming. The sound was immense, hundreds over voices trying to be heard over one another and forming one, wordless glob of noise. There were sparkles; flashes on phones; glints of the lights off people’s raised glasses.

Tyler was a titan. They were pleading at his feet. He stepped out and took the mic in both of his hands. They didn’t know him. None of them knew him. They knew the music. That was it. Tyler breathed deep. ‘Hello, strangers,’ he said. The crowd roared. Tyler glanced over his shoulder, at Joel behind his drum kit. The lights are perfect. Against the grey back of the stage, their shadows were cast massive in shades of blue and red. Joel counted in the first track, ‘Kitchen Sink Too’.

‘We are Infinite Eyes,’ Tyler whispered right close into the mic. ‘This is everything.’ He stepped back and played the opening riff. The set was passing fast, and Tyler moved and sang and played, powered by some strange unknown energy. It pulsed though him, trembled in his sternum. He didn’t have cancer anymore. There were no tubes in his chest. It didn’t matter that he had been put on the waiting list for a bone marrow transplant. He had become something else. He was untouchable; he could live forever.

At the end of ‘Little Dreamers’ Tyler dropped his head and saw ruby splatters at his feet. The crowd were rapturous.

Tyler’s hands were shaking as he grabbed the mic. ‘Okay, as it’s the last night, I think we’re going to play you one more song before we let Party Shock come on, alright?’

The crowd answered with its many-voiced reply.

Tyler turned and looked from Joel to Laura. Laura rolled her eyes but nodded, stoically. Joel looked horrified. Tyler wiped his face with the back of his hand. He wasn’t a god. He could taste blood in his mouth.

He turned back to the crowd. ‘This song is called ‘Nepenthe’.

Fig. 19.

Hey Wren, it’s Joel again, I’m sorry for being a dick on the phone the other day, I really didn’t mean to be like that. You remember we got dropped out of the record deal because of Tyler? You know I wouldn’t have done it anyway, even if they still wanted us. They called us the other day, and now I don’t know. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, but please, just give me a ring.

Answerphone message ended.

Yo, it’s Joel, just wondering if you’d thought anymore about that chat? I know it’s probably right out of the blue. Nah, it’s not out of the blue, it’s all over the fucking internet. Laura won’t leave me alone. She wants that stuff you took off the blog. Would you just call me, so we can talk about what we’re going to do next? You know we can’t actually make a move until you sign off on it.

Answerphone message ended.

Hi, it’s Joel. This is getting seriously ridiculous now, dude. Laura is chewing my ear off and I know you’ve got her number blocked, but she’s getting so desperate she’s going to use someone else’s phone soon. I know you don’t want to talk to her of all people, so could you grow the fuck up and call me back? Thanks.

Answerphone message ended.

I know it’s really fucked up. I said we should wait but I think she’s kind of right; if we don’t do this now, we’re never going to. This shouldn’t all be happening right now. But seriously, Wren. Call me. It’s Joel, by the way, if you didn’t figure that out.

Answerphone message ended.

So, me and Laura spoke to a lawyer. Apparently, it’s only the stuff off we published and played that is counted as part of the estate, and as long as we send you money, we are allowed to do what we like. That counts the album recordings. Just thought I should let you know.

Answerphone message ended.

Hello, hey, hi, hello. [Laughter] Dude I am out of my mind. I was just, like, thinking about what happened the last time we saw each other, and like, dude, you are so right to be mad. I totally get it, dude. Laura was such a dick about it, she knows that now. We shouldn’t have come around that day. It was way too fucking soon, man. I knew it was too fucking soon and I still went around with her to your flat, dude, it was so whack, it was like he should have just been there. We should have waited to talk to you about the whole thing, dude, you’re so right to be mad. It was just what Laura was doing to try and deal with the whole thing, you know, like, he was our best friend, dude, you gotta see we loved him like as much as you did and actually, it was pretty fucked up of him to even put all that on you, right? Like what the fuck was he even thinking? He was such a dick someti-

Answerphone message ended.

Hi, um, it’s Joel. I’m so sorry for calling you last night. I was so fucking stoned. I don’t even know what I said. Do me a favour and delete that one without listening to it. Sorry.

Answerphone message ended.

Wren. It’s Joel. Please just call me. I don’t want to do this without knowing you’re cool with it. Please just give me a call when you can, alright? Laura said she’ll sit on it for another week. Please, Wren.

Answerphone message ended.