Copyright © 1992 Kimberly Ann Carter
Win big, Momma's fallen angel,
Lose big, livin' out her lies,
Wants it all, Momma's fallen angel,
Lose it all, rolling the dice of her life...
- Fallen Angel
Crystal leaned heavily against the open door to the refrigerator, peering into the brightly lit interior, wondering which bowlful of leftovers had the least chance of killing her. She finally decided on the leftover pizza - cheese and sausage, and chocolate milk - the carton was still half full. She kicked the fridge door shut, and stood in front of the oak wood cabinets, debating on whether or not she needed a plate. Shrugging, she dismissed the idea, elbowed the kitchen light off and headed for the dark living room.
She tripped over an amplifier that sat on the living room floor as she fumbled for the light switch. Finally, the track lighting leapt to life, and Crystal eye-balled the room with a grimace.
Scores of sheet music littered the room. Some of it was wadded up into little balls, some of it was crumpled, but it was mainly strewn everywhere. Compact Discs, records, and tapes were scattered over the top of the oak bar, along with some half-empty glasses, pens, pencils, an electric pencil sharpener, a set of headphones, an amp hook up, earrings, a Dodgers baseball cap and a bra. Phone numbers taped to the entertainment center added a colorful clash to the pile of socks next to the large Roland Keyboard component unit that sat in the middle of the living room floor. A hand-held synthesizer lay on the black sectional, wires winding out into the unknown. High-heeled boots, and a pair of high-top gym shoes were scattered under the glass coffee table. Magazines occupied one black velour chair while newspapers occupied another.
"I'm gonna have to clean this place up sometime," she thought to herself. She tried to recall what the carpeting looked like and failed.
"Soon," she said out loud to noone. She elbowed the light switch again, deciding to eat in her bedroom, knowing for a fact she had a better chance of making it back out in one piece. As the light clicked off enshrouding the mess in darkness, she tripped towards the bedroom.
"What a difference," she though as the bedroom lights came on. "I can see the floor and feel the carpeting!" A king-size bed, piled high with pillows sat against the far wall. Each pillow, encased with either a pink or black sham matched the large black and pink comforter on the bed. Heavy black curtains hung from the huge picture window. Two black dresses accented with silver, and an ebony lounge chair took up the bulk of the room. A large hat stand, holding an array of many different kinds of hats sat next to the open door to the walk-in closet. Through another door, Crystal could see the pink tile of the bathroom floor.
Glancing at the dresser top, she tried to avert her eyes from the enormous pile of mail that had accumulated there. Frowning, she put her milk down, scooped up the mail and went over to her bed. She grimaced at the slight pain in her chest. Ignoring it, she flopped down and began reading through the mail as she munched her pizza. It took a while to make a dent in all the bills, junk mail, fan letters, invitations, and catalogs. When she was about halfway through, the phone rang. She glanced at the digital alarm clock on her nightstand next to the phone. The time read 12:23 a.m.
"Time means nothing to musicians," she thought to herself. Reaching for the phone, she again felt the pain. Why did she feel like she was forgetting something?
"Hello," she said, stating rather than asking.
"Crystal? Why in the hell haven't you called me back?" bellowed a scratchy, deep, Bronx accented voice on the other end.
Crystal raised an eyebrow. "Rip, is that you?" she inquired.
"Who the hell else would it be?" he growled.
"I dunno, maybe someone NICE." she said icily. "What is your problem anyway?" She could see the 6' 3" guitar player in her mind, probably smoking a cigarette, and running his long fingers through his shoulder-length black hair.
"Rumor has it you're gonna start working at home." Rip's voice dropped about 20 decibels and took on a kinder tone. "The pain that bad?"
Crystal looked down at the half-eaten slice of pizza before she tossed it onto the nightstand and wiped her hands on her jeans.
"What pain?" she forced her voice to remain calm. She glanced at her dresser top again and saw the prescription bottle. Damn! That's what she forgot.
"Jack Miller tells me you've been having a rough time at the studio."
The pain in Crystal's chest caused her to grit her teeth.
"Jack don't know shit."
"Look Rip, I'm fine." It was a dull throbbing pain now, and Crystal made a mental note to kick herself in the ass for not taking her pill.
"Have you thought of maybe taking some time off - Cancer is some pretty serious -"
"Rip, it's not that bad!"
"Bullshit! And Jack says you won't even give Chemotherapy a try."
"I'm not going to waste my time, Rip." She got up and began pacing the floor. "The doctors say I have a 2% chance of survival. Small Cell Anaplastic Carcinoma is deadly, Rip."
"Well, that 2% -"
"I like my hair - thank you!" she interrupted. She ran her fingers through her auburn hair feeling the different lengths in it's shag cut. "Rip, if I'm going to die, I want my hair!"
"You might not die if you take chemo..."
"Just try it - take a break from the rat race for a few -"
"Rip, music is my life," she whispered as she looked at herself in the mirror on her dresser, her hazel eyes brimming with unshed tears. The pain in her chest intensified and she fought to keep her voice even. "I can't give it up. I won't give it up," she said harshly.
"I know," his voice sounding shaky, "but you're going to die if you don't try something."
"I'm going to die anyway." A single tear slid down her high cheek bones, her shapely lips twisted into a scowl. "I'm going to go down fighting Rip," her voice edged with razors. "I have an album to complete and I only have 3 1/2 months to do it. I have come too far, worked too hard to quit NOW!" She squeezed her eyes shut to block out the pain surging through her.
"Crystal." there was a pause, "Crystal?"
Crystal opened her eyes, the pain, reaching new heights, caused her to feel dizzy. She staggered forward, losing her balance. She hit her temple on the corner of the dresser with a sickening crack. She crumpled, black phone still in hand, the black carpeting rising to meet her, enfold her, welcome her.
Blackness, and she knew no more.
Take my Hand
Off to Never-Never Land
- Enter Sandman
Darkness .... Voices .... Whispering .... Straining to hear ....
Voices Hollow .... Far Away ....
"Doesn't Mommy love us anymore?"
"She loves us Pumpkin."
"Is she ever coming back?"
"You'll see Mommy again soon, Sweetie."
"Are you leaving tooo?"
"No Angelll. I'll never leave youuu...."
"Crystal's my daughter toooo!"
"She doesn't need to see you drunk, Renee!"
"Edward, who are you to say what she needs?"
"I'm her father, and I refuse to expose her to your disease."
"You'll be sorry Eddd, I swear ittt!!!!"
"Time for your piano lessonsss...."
"Tony, I'm in the middle of writing the bridge to our new song - tell them I'll call them back."
"Says it's important. Nurse Somebody from Some Hospitalll."
"Hang on a sec - I'll take ittt...."
"This is Nurse Rockford from Swedish Covenant Hospital."
"Your mother was just brought in."
"It seems she tried to overdose on cocaine. We found this number with your name in her purse. Could you come down - there's paperworkkk...."
"I'll be thereee...."
"You fly to thisss state, got to that state. And you'd think a
child would be grateful enough to -"
"Mother, I am not RICH! But I'll tell you one thing though. Even if I was, I wouldn't give you one thin dime, becuase you would probably sniff it up your nose!"
"You ungrateful little Bitch! GET OUT OF MY ROOM! If I never see you again, it will be too soooon!!!!"
"I was supposed to drive to San Francisco with them."
"I thank God that you didn't."
"Their funerals are tommorrow Dad .... Will you go with me?"
"Of course Angel."
"Daddy, I have no band, no music, no life left."
"That's not true. You started the band called WildFire. You wrote the music, and you are left to go onnnn...."
"Sooo, who's this Michel guuuy?"
"I don't know, Rip."
"Probably some sicko."
"Probably some Norman Bates reject."
"Probably some love-sick groupie that wants to -"
"Rodney Ignatious Potts!"
"Crystal, you know I HATE it when you call me that -"
"And you know I hate being teased."
"Well that guy sends you roses every friggin concert - sounds like he's got it - BAD! Gods only know what his intentions are...."
"Thanks a lot, Rippp...."
Mist .... Whispering ..... Something out .... out there ....
"Tell me beauty. Clear your mind."
"Do not fear me .... now or ever."
"I don't fear you - I didn't fear you when you waltzed into my life five months ago, Michel."
"Then tell me what I need to know."
"I'm dying.... dying..... And I'm scared.... confused...."
Mist .... Rain .... Tears .... Soothing .... Darkness ....
Concentrate .... Confusion ....
"WE'RE LOSING HER!!"
"ALL RIGHT, EVERYONE STAND CLEAR!!"
"COME ONE SWEETHEART! I'VE GOT TWO TICKETS TO YOUR NEXT CONCERT!!"
Words .... Swirling together .... hollow .... and the unmistakeable sound .... of a FLATLINE.
You're the reason I live,
You're the reason I die,
You're the reason I give-when I break down and cry,
Don't need no reason why,
You're my angel - come and save me tonight.
Darkness .... Voices .... Whispering .... So cold ...
"Hot... So hot... Burning! I'm Burning!" Crystal's mind screamed. "Acid - pouring down my throat!" She could feel scorching hot fluid overflow down her cheeks... Her insides shriveling as the liquid made contact with her internal organs. She could see her skin blackening, cracking under the intense heat. Hair singed down to the very roots. Body engulfed in flames, melting... melting...
Crystal slowly opened her eyes to find Michel standing over her. She looked down to see she had her nails dug into his arm - blood flowing from a gash on his wrist, spilling on the sheets, spattering her hospital gown...
"What the hell?" she thought, pushing his arm away. He smiled down on her, laughter showing in his evergreen eyes.
"So much blood..." she whispered as she ran her tongue around the inside of her mouth - where a coppery, salty taste still remained. She felt so weak... so tired... Her eyes drooped.
"Sleep well love," she heard his French accent soothing her. "For you have quite a journey ahead..." She felt his lips brush hers, and then once again the soothing dark enveloped her.
Crystal sat straight up in bed. "God! What a nightmare!" she thought - and then reality hit her.
She was in a hospital! Her hand flew to her forehead where a gauze bandage was taped. The material felt funny under her fingers. "Well, at least the pain in my chest is gone," she thought as she threw back the covers. She looked down at her arm where an I.V. ran to a bottle on a stand. "Enough of this shit," she thought as she ripped the I.V. from her hand. She was hungry, and wanted a REAL meal by God! The thought of a steak dinner crossed her mind and she smiled... "Nice and rare," she thought. As she climbed out of bed, two doctors and a nurse burst into the room.
"And where do you think you're going?" questioned one of the doctors. He was young, handsome, and out of breath.
"Miss Dawn, please get back in bed!" said the older doctor firmly. He had a beefy hand on Crystal's arm, and she noticed he was balding. "Something sure smells good," she thought. "Wonder what they're cooking in the cafeteria..."
"Look doll, I feel fine, got a terrific hunger pang though," she said, removing the bandage on her head.
"Miss Dawn, you have been through a terrible ordeal since you were admitted two nights ago -" began the young doctor.
"Two nights ago?? Jesus Christ! That's how long I've been out?!"
"Not only out, but you flatlined once during that period. We had done everything we could to think of to save you, but nothing worked - at least at first." He shifted uncomfortably.
"You should consider yourself lucky to be alive young lady," nodded the old doctor.
Crystal's mind flashed to Michel. "I am, I do, but I feel great - I haven't felt this good in ages."
The nurse adjusted the pillows. "That's fine but you need to rest."
"I NEED DINNER!!" Crystal growled.
"All right - I'll send dinner up to you if you promise to get back into bed," pushed the young doctor.
"But I -"
"Now! Nurse Crawford, stay with her till I get back." The young doctor turned to his elder. "This is the damnedest thing..." thier voices became unintelligible outside the room's door.
Crystal inhaled deeply. She couldn't understand but something smelled good enough to eat. Crystal turned towards the nurse. She could hear Nurse Crawford's blood flowing through her, her heart pumping blood...
"Let me get you another blanket out of the closet - you feel kind of cold..." said the nurse as she opened the closet. Crystal could see her clothes hanging inside. She looked down at her hospital gown and a vision of it being blood spattered rose unbidden from her mind. She frowned and shook her head. She had to get out of here, and fast! Screw dinner here - - she'd grab a burger from McDonald's!
"Nurse, hand me my clothes," she demanded, and began untying the gown.
"Miss Dawn, I though we were through with that - now get back in the bed!"
Crystal walked towards the closet. "I want my clothes," she said loudly.
"No! The doctor said -"
"Fuck the doctor! I said I want my clothes - now!"
Crystal reached out to push the nurse away, and realized what had smelled so good - it was Nurse Crawford. "Give me my clothes, before you really piss me off!" Crystal felt a pricking sensation in her mouth. Her eyes flashed. She was very angry and absolutely starving...
"If you don't get back in the bed, I'm calling -"
The nurse didn't have a chance to finish. Crystal grabbed her arms in a crushing grip, and sank her fangs into the nurse's neck...
And the walls came down,
All the way to hell,
Never saw them where they standing,
Never saw them when they fell...
- Tweeter and the Monkey Man
Crystal felt warm blood gush between her teeth, tasted it's coppery saltiness. As soon as she swallowed, her hunger and anger subsided. Nurse Crawford jerked angrily away, a small bruise on her neck.
"Damn musicians!" she shouted as she back-peddled towards the door, keeping her eyes on Crystal the entire time. "You Rockers especially - you're all ... weird!" She ran from the room.
"What the hell is the matter with me?" Crystal questioned as she pulled off the hospital gown. "I've been pissed off before, but never angry enough to bite someone..." She pulled her blue jeans from the closet and put them on. "And what's really gross... is it tasted... good! Oh yuck. I can't believe I'm thinking this way, must be losing it..." She grabbed her boots and sat down on the bed. As soon as she did, she remembered the nightmare about Michel. His handsome face swam before her eyes. "Damn him! What happened to him!" Crystal chewed her lower lip and pulled a boot on. "That bastard!" She pulled on the other boot, hard enough to hurt. "I trust him; tell him I'm dying, and what does the creep do? Up and leaves!" Crystal stamped back to the closet, put on her half-shirt and pulled her leather out, gritting her teeth. She struggled into her biker's jacket, mad at herself for dreaming about him.
Shouldering her purse, she peeked down the brightly lit hallway, which just happened to be empty, for the moment anyway. Quietly, she let herself out - walking on tip toes so her three- inch heels wouldn't click. She headed towards a door marked "Stairs."
"I'm just thinkin' screwy because of the lump on my noggin'" she reasoned as she rounded the landing to the fifth floor. "I can't believe I bit that nurse - a person would be thought crazy..."
A face was staring at her through the window of the 6th floor door. Large brown eyes pleaded with her hazel eyes, while a gentle rapping urged her to open the door. She put her hand to the knob, turned it and freed...
A very tall geek.
In a hospital gown.
With wild brown hair, long fingers, and a Norman Bates smile.
"Great. Just great." she thought. "Maybe if I ignore it, it'll go away..."
Crystal walked around him and continued down the stairs ... and he followed. She increased her pace a bit ... and he matched it. She remembered all the movies about raving lunatics she had seen over the last 10 years. Weren't they always kept on the fifth floor in the movies??
Between the third and second floor Crystal stopped so abruptly that he stepped on her with his bare feet.
"Something I can help you with?" she asked coolly. Her hands crammed into the pockets of her leather.
"Well, uh,..." stammered the geek. "Hi!"
Crystal rolled her eyes. He really looked geeky - the hospital gown was a bit big in the sleeves - it pooled around his hips, and flared out at the knees. "With those big brown eyes he looks like a Holly Hobbie reject," Crystal thought.
He smiled at her with that demonic grin. Holly Hobbie - with an axe... "My name is Fred," he offered, and extended his hand.
Crystal looked at his hand for a second, looked him in the eye, and shook hands with him. Well, at least his palm wasn't sweaty... "Crystal," she said dryly. "Crystal Dawn."
"Where you going?" he questioned as he tilted his head to one side.
"Oh yeah, a screwball - definitely." Crystal closed her eyes. "What person in their right frame of mind asks a question like that?"
"Home," she replied, taking another step down the stairs. Fred maneuvered in front of her.
Crystal inhaled deeply and counted to 10. "Fred, why do you care?"
"Oh." He still blocked her path. She cleared her throat. He stood grinning down at down at her. She stood staring at the wall. After about a minute, Crystal threw up her hands. "What do you want from me??" she blurted.
Fred sighed. "I want you to help me leave." he said like she should have guessed.
"Me - help you leave?!" she shouted.
"Don't yell -"
"You don't know me from Adam!" she whispered fiercely at him.
"I need to leave...." he said softly. "Please."
Crystal leaned on the banister. She thought about Nurse Crawford and the doctors, how they had tried to make her stay. For all she knew, they were starving him too. All right, he was a nerd with a real psychotic grin. He was probably harmless; her imagination probably was working overtime. The fifth floor was probably a private floor... The chances of him being crazy seemed mighty slim... After all, this is reality - shit like that only happens in the movies... "All right, I'll help you if I can."
"Great!" He sounded relieved.
"Look, wait here..." Crystal headed down the stairs to the second floor. "I'll see if I can get you some clothes."
Fred followed her to the door. "You will come back..." He began looking frightened.
"Yes, I'll come back." She smiled at him.
"I promise, Fred..." She patted his arm, slunk through the door, and was gone...
After doing a quick search of the floor, Crystal found the doctor's personal lockers, jimmied one open with a nail file, and pulled out street clothes, a wallet, and some car keys. She took all the cash out of the wallet, except $20 - "He's going to need cab fare..." she said aloud as she fingered the keys to his Jeep. She scanned through his wallet, got his license plate number, and returned the wallet. She closed the locker softly and crept back down the hallway to the stairwell...
Fred was nowhere to be seen. "Fred?" she whispered loudly. "Fred!"
"Up here -" a voice called from the landing above.
Crystal climbed the stairs and found Fred standing over the unconscious body of a nurse.
"What the hell?" Crystal inquired with annoyance.
"She was gonna yell, so I knocked her out..."
"Here." Crystal threw the clothes to Fred and turned her back. The car keys felt cool in her hand. "You need a ride somewhere?"
"That'd be great! Thanks so much, I -"
Fred and Crystal found the Jeep without trouble, got in and drove out of the hospital.
"Piece of cake," Crystal stated. "I was surprised we weren't questioned or stopped. You want to tell me where I'm taking you?"
Fred stared off into space.
"Fred?" No response. "Yo, Fred?!"
"Where am I drivin' you?" Crystal smiled and shook her head.
"I was just remembering a dream," he told her.
"Fred - I don't -"
"Do you have dreams?"
Crystal gripped the steering wheel hard enough to make her knuckles white. "No." she said forcefully. "I don't."
"Well I do, and I just had a dream about -"
"Why were you in the hospital?"
Crystal was quiet for a moment. "I was visiting my sister," she lied.
"Why were you in the hospital?"
"I don't know," was Fred's reply. "You look familiar."
"Uh huh - wait, don't tell me - I'll guess," Fred said enthusiastically. "Were you on -" A wail from a siren cut off Fred's sentence. A police car appeared in Crystal's rear-view mirror.
"SHIT!" Crystals foot hit the gas and the Jeep shot forward. They headed south on Lake Shore Drive, Navy Pier a short ways in the distance. For the time of night there was little traffic, and Crystal's foot got ten pounds heavier. Fred held on for his life.
"What are we going to do?" he yelled over the siren.
Crystal looked around quickly. She could see a lot of people milling around Navy Pier, where a huge boat had been docked. It seemed to be an old pirate ship of sorts. She checked her rear-view mirror again. They were gaining.
"Fred, do you see all the people at the pier?"
"Do you think we could lose the cops in a crowd?"
"I don't know - it works on T.V."
Crystal rolled her eyes. "I'm going to stop the car, and when I do, get out and run for the crowd, got it?"
Fred glanced back over his shoulder, looked at Crystal and nodded.
"All right, hang on!" Crystal pushed the pedal to the floor, and Fred braced himself. As soon as she gained some ground, she threw the Jeep in park, dropping the transmission in the middle of Lake Shore Drive. Gears ground and metal screamed, but the Jeep stopped.
Crystal and Fred jumped from the Jeep and began running towards the pier. Crystal heard the screech of tires and looked back. They were heading towards the pier as well. She noticed that the crowd was here to see the boat, so she bought two tickets, and, grabbing Fred, headed towards the ship.
"We've got to lose them!" she said in his ear.
Crystal looked around nervously. Fred grabbed her hand and said: "Look, there's a hole!"
"Huh?" Crystal looked. Apparently, the ship had been sunk, or had been grounded because there was a large hole towards the back of the boat. He led her to it and peered into the darkness.
"We could hide in there," he said, pointing at it.
Crystal wrinkled her nose as she eyed the splintered wood. "I don't know Fred - if they find us...."
"They're going to find us for sure if we don't do something!"
"It's dark in there!"
"Don't worry Crystal - it'll be okay." Fred stepped over the rope guard. Crystal followed more slowly. The hole looked like a big gaping mouth with lots of sharp teeth.
Crystal took a deep breath, and while holding onto Fred's hand tightly, she stepped into the hole, her hair standing on end... "This has not been my night..." Crystal murmured under her breath. "And the night's still young..."
"What did you say?" asked Fred out loud. His voice bounced off the old wood, giving the sentence a slight echo.
"Hey, there are stairs!" he told her.
"Really?" Crystal thought. Where? Her eyes still hadn't adjusted to the inky blackness yet.
A board creaked behind them and Crystal froze. She clamped her free hand over Fred's mouth. "Shhhh." she hissed.
They stood for what seemed like hours, but no other sounds gave away a location of a possible pursuer.
Fred led Crystal down the stairs to a door, warped and badly in need of repair.
"Doesn't look like anyone's been down here in a while," Fred commented, and gave the door a push.
Stale air, and the smell of decay. "Got to love it..." Crystal joked. Fred turned to look at her.
"You are sick."
"I am not - I was just trying to be funny."
Fred stepped into the small room and immediately spied something in the corner. "Hey, do you see that?" he gestured.
"No... wait... yeah... what is it?" she asked as he moved towards it.
"It looks like a body."
Crystal was glad it was dark and was thankful Fred had his back to her. "A body? Is that all? Boring! We should leave..." She took a step back.
"It's dead you know. It can't hurt you."
Crystal smiled weakly. "Okay."
"Help me move it. It's stuck."
Crystal blanched. "Okay." She numbly walked over to where Fred was standing with a poker grin plastered to her face.
"Here, you take his head," Fred motioned with his hand.
"Right." Crystal leaned down. As she placed one hand on the ship's wall for balance, she cut her hand on the splintering wood.
"Cut myself." She grabbed her hand and squeezed. She
was bleeding. She could feel it run down her hand, off her
fingers to splash onto the face of....
....the raving maniac who jumped up, ran to the doorway, and proceeded to rip the throat out of a person standing there. Blood spurted everywhere, and as the young teenager who Fred thought was a body began to drink the blood out of the throat of his victim, Crystal fell to her knees. "This is another bad dream... It has to be... Shit like this doesn't happen..." She looked at Fred who was throwing up in a corner.
After what seemed like a small eternity, the young man dropped the body, and turned towards Crystal and Fred, his fangs glistening with blood...