We rushed onto the stage as quickly as we could, not even realizing that we hadn’t acknowledged the show’s host.
“Wow! You blew right by me!” he laughed. “I would’ve never thought in a hundred years that an act would just buzz right through me.”
“What are your names, misses?” he asked, holding the microphones up to both of our mouths. It was a bit closer than I usually hold my own microphone up, so it was a little awkward for me.
“I’m Heather Shree.”I replied.
“Alright, Heather.” he retorted. “And how old are you?”
“What does my age have to…?”
Rachel hit me hard in the side with her elbow.
“Oh, I’m twenty-three years old.”
Rachel then took the microphone, right out of his hand and bellowed out the words, “I’m Rachel O’Hara and I’m twenty-two years old!”
She then awkwardly handed the microphone back to the host, in the same awkward manner that she had taken it from him.
“Can we get on with this, please?” one of the judges called out. There were a triumvirate of them, each one standing tall on a podium that looked over the stage.
The first judge was a chocolate colored fellow, not something we get that much in Ireland. He was wearing fine clothes and had his hair neatly pressed. If one could call it that. It looked ironed, to tell you the truth.
The second judge was some sort of fashion model. But she was skinnier than I was, and I wanted to ask her if she wanted to go to an American eatery, so that she could get a few cheeseburgers into her stomach. It can’t be good to be that thin.
The final judge was, for the lack of a better word – some “overweight” man, who appeared to have been slightly balding a little. What his opinion was worth, I couldn’t have cared the less.
“Whenever you’re ready, show us what you’ve got.” the host whispered into my ear.
“Okay, everybody! Here are, The Irish Banshees!”
That was our cue. Rachel might have still been shivering a little, but she still managed to play the violin. Her playing I’ll admit, did sound a little rushed – but I was just glad to hear it.
Verse one came in, and I belted my lines out just the same as I had done in Ireland. The sound system in here was amazing, and I could hear my voice better than I think I’ve ever heard it before. I never even knew that I sounded that good, honestly.
I smiled as I continued with the chorus and onto the next verse. At this point, I was ready to play a full show. Why was I only allowed to do this one song? This was breathtaking!
With the final note struck, Rachel stopped playing. But to be honest, I didn’t want to stop singing.
Then came the opinions of the judges, starting with the colored gentlemen with the ironed hair.
“I thought it was dope.” he said. “I definitely dig the whole atmosphere that you guys got going on. It’s very different, and I think that America will put you through.”
Through? To where?
Then came the next judge’s opinion. This was from the skinny model. “First of all, I loved it.” she said, with a French accent. “Such an exquisite and classical styled performance. This country doesn’t have enough class, and I think that it needs more.”
There were a few boos in the audience to that statement apparently, it seems that a few people think that class is something that should be thrown out the window. Perhaps they think that more people should stand on cheeseburgers.
Now that I think about it, they probably should have fed that woman with a couple of those cheeseburgers. I really think that she might have needed them. Clearly she hasn’t been in this country long enough, or she’d have gained the same amount of weight as the other two judges.
Then came the last judge’s opinion. As I said, I couldn’t have cared for it; but America apparently did.
“I think it sucked.” he said rudely. “What kind of entertainment is this ever gonna be? A woman on a violin, and then another one who thinks she’s Janice Jet. This is the kind of crap we don’t need in this country.”
The entire audience cheered and supported this guy’s opinion. Is this what kind of a cesspool America is?
The host then carried his microphone back over to us. I took it out of his hand, but he motioned for it back. Too bad, as I was ready to give that fat bastard a real Irish flogging with the fodder that was about to pour out of my mouth.
“Well, what do you think of the judges opinions?” the host asked.
Now, I took the microphone.
“I’m not familiar with your names.” I said. “So I’ll just call you from your positions. The judge on the left said that we were “dope.” Whatever that means. The judge in the middle, you said that you enjoyed our act, called it exquisite and classy. Thank you so much for that.”
“You’re welcome.” she replied.
“But I digress. A man was standing atop a mound of cheeseburgers and I saw that they’ve just thrown them away. Surely, you could’ve used them, right? A woman of your age can’t possibly be happy being that thin. It’s dangerous you know. We’ve something called corned beef and taters where I’m from, and I’m sure a few months of it would put some meat on your bones there, dear.”
The entire crowd was speechless. The judges themselves were speechless. Did I say something wrong?
“If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in my dressing room.” she merely said, walking out from behind the podium and heading out of the large doors.
“And finally, I’ve got words to say to the judge on the left.”
Finally, the time came to teach that rude asshole a thing or two.
“I’ve never in my days seen a man, so unkempt as you are; built like a circus gorilla and with barely enough hair as he had brains…”
I had to catch my breath for a second.
“Be so bloody insulting, and… and… rude!”
“You really think that you can insult me, woman?” he laughed. “I’m on America’s side. They want to hear what I have to say. You’re just a little trained dog, compared to me! I can probably buy you and your little act. It’s because of my opinion, that I’ve become so wealthy.”
“But I’ll say it again.” he scoffed. “There’s no way your little Irish folk music punk stuff is ever going to be famous in this country. Maybe if you start losing your clothes and dance a little, we might like you.”
“I’ll not become a stripper!” I bellowed into the microphone. “You’re a little… ooh… I can’t say it. Not on television. I’d love to tell you just what you are, but I respect the American audience enough not to say another word.”
I handed the microphone back to the host. He was more than happy to have it back.
“Well, folks! It’s been quite a night, hasn’t it?” he said. “Anyone know if Franchesca’s going to come back?”
“No? We’re not sure?” he smiled. “Alright, well… We’ll go to a quick commercial break, and then see how things go.”
“We’ll be right back, with a man who can juggle twenty hats! Stay tuned!” he said.
Then a man in the back of the theater called, “Five minute break!”
Both of the judges walked away from their podiums and headed backstage. I suspected that they were looking for me. At the time I couldn’t quite figure out why they wanted to talk to me, but I’ll never forget the conversation we had, and the events that happened shortly after.
It made that night, one that I will never forget.
“I do hope yer proud of yerself, Heather.” Rachel scoffed, her Irish accent coming through.
“They’re comin’ to give us the old boot, I reckon. It’s probably time for us to head back out to the old country now. I’ve had enough of America anyway. Everything is bigger and better, but it’s all fake.”
“You might be right.” I said. “But we can’t just pack up if we don’t know. I didn’t mean to insult them so much, but they really got well on me nerves.”
We were both sounding like two old Irish bar wenches at this point.
“Heather Shree!” one of the judges called out. He opened up his hand to me and I shook it. It was the colored man, but I saw no reason to be a bigot.
“How do you do?” I asked.
He only nodded in reply. Apparently, Americans don’t answer that question.
Then the other man held out his hand to me, but I was rather hesitant to shake the hand of such a rude, filthy, and bottom-feeding beast of a man.
“Heather, I’m only an asshole on camera.” he laughed. “It’s all part of the act. I’ve got a reputation to uphold. By the way, I’m really surprised that you stood up to me the way that you did.”
“Huh?” I said, puzzled.
“What do you mean, “stood up to you?”
“Exactly.” he chortled. “Most people don’t stand up to me. I’ve got such a huge following in this country, because politics are such a big thing around here. I love throwing pointless nonsense out there and driving people into a frenzy.
“Why are politicians such a thing around here?” I asked. “I wouldn’t think that these people would give much of a damn about politics, let alone their own health.”
He laughed. “It’s because they think that they’ll actually be able to elect someone who has their best interests in mind. But the joke is, that every candidate only works to benefit a corporation. Do you think that any politician cares that they’re ruining the planet?”
He started speaking again before I could even answer the question. I guess I wasn’t supposed to respond. These Americans are strange.
“Of course not.” he smiled. “It’s all about corporations and money. We tell people what they want, what they need in life, and it’s all a big distraction from what’s really going on.”
“This whole planet could go belly up next year!” he smirked.
The other man then acknowledged me.
“I like how you said that you didn’t even know what “dope” means.” he laughed. “Well, I don’t talk like that either. It’s all an act. I’m supposed to be cool. Don’t you know that? But these Americans, they suffer from the chemicals we put into their air, their water, and especially their fast food. Because we work them to death, so they don’t have enough time to cook a meal, and even when they do, they’re still using food that’s been laced with more lethal chemicals than cigarettes.”
“Just about everybody’s overweight here. The food drains their energy, so they have to use energy drinks, and those are full of caffeine and other fine chemicals that in time will stop the heart quicker than all the greasy burgers we try to get them to eat.”
He smiled, but it was devious – like a smile coming from the devil. But it might as well have been.
“See, I work in advertising, and I work in the fast food industry. I’ve been to the plants, I’ve seen what goes into their meals. Sure it tastes good, but it’s only because of the nine-hundred chemicals we use. Even poison can taste good, if you mix it right enough.”
“That’s sick!” I shouted at the man. “How can you do this to people?”
“We love it.” he said. “We just do it for the money, and the freebies. You wouldn’t believe what kind of clothes I got for free, just because I wore them on one episode of this show. I’ve got forty cars and multiple women that I can call up and have sex with anytime that I want!”
I threw up in my mouth a bit at that statement.
“Each one of them is some mind-controlled bimbo we told to do nothing more than to look beautiful and show off, some of them even became famous, which is great! Works well enough for me! Go promote yourselves, ladies! That’s what I tell them.”
His laughter was vicious, but not in a good way. Warning lights appeared in my mind, telling me quickly that Rachel and I not only needed to find the nearest exit, but to find the nearest airport, and to do it fast.
“Heather, I’ve got an offer that I know you won’t refuse.” he said. “We’ll make you and Rachel stars. We’re gonna disqualify you because it’s part of the show, but we’ll make you stars, anyway. You’ll have your name in lights, billions of screaming fans, anything that life can offer you. You’ll both be household names, women will be killing themselves to try to look like you…”
“Get the fuck out of my face!” I hollered. “Rachel, let’s the get the hell outta here, now!”
But Rachel was already gone. She knew what was up. Must be that fairy sense she thinks she has, or maybe mine… Could be woman’s intuition, whatever – I just knew that I wasn’t going to stay here any longer.
To hell with having my name in lights. To hell with fame!
I ran as fast as I could, trying to escape the judges and other “people” that might be with them. I hesitate to use the word people, because whatever plans they had were clearly inhuman.
I ran towards the exit door, but saw no sign of Rachel. Where could she have gone?
I knew that I was being chased, even though I couldn’t hear the footsteps. It was just something that I felt. My heart thumped in my chest, probably the same sort of feeling I would’ve had from one of the energy drinks the man described… would stop your heart quicker than any greasy sandwich.
Speaking of greasy sandwiches, I found what I was looking for. Rachel was standing next to the other judge, Franchesca. She was literally hunched over the side of the dumpster, eating the cheeseburgers that the show through away earlier. I didn’t expect her to take my advice, and what’s more – I didn’t expect her to take my advice in this kind of fashion!
“I can’t take it anymore!” she cried. “I can’t eat anything! I just can’t eat anything! This is what they mean by beauty!? This is what they mean by being attractive!?”
Her sobbing was loudly heard throughout the back alley. I was standing right behind the both of them, but they hadn’t yet seen me. I was glad for that. I wanted to stay hidden. Especially with those two psychos and their men following me.
The woman was gobbling down the burgers as quickly as she could. She was eating them as if she was in some sort of professional competition.
“I don’t care if I get fat! My mother was fat! She lived to be almost a hundred! Why do I have to starve!?”
Rachel had put her hand on the woman’s shoulder. But it was at that moment that she turned around and saw me.
Immediately upon locking eyes with me, she ran towards me and knelt down at my feet. I’m glad I didn’t have opened toed shoes, or she might have started to kiss and lick them.
“Thank you!” she cried, looking like a nervous wreck. “You were right, you were right about me! I need to eat, I have not eaten in days!”
Did she just say what I think she did?
I’m no doctor, but if you don’t eat for several days and then try to overload your stomach like this woman just did, well…
Oh shit. This is not good, not good at all. Heaven help her.
“America is not what it used to be!” she screamed, now beginning to vomit. Her own words practically erupted in the vomit. It even made me sick to see it.
“America has been infested with evil! It is only a matter of time before it comes to your land too! They’re here! They’re here! I’m not supposed to talk, but I will soon die!”
She vomited a massive torrent after this, and I knew that there was no way to save her. I made the sign of the cross on my body and looked up at the sky. Rachel could only bawl. All of the fairy magic and miracles in the world couldn’t have saved this woman.
“There will be no way to stop them, as they’ve already grown too powerful! There is nothing we can do but watch, as they take over the whole world!”
I couldn’t watch this anymore. As much as I wanted to help this poor woman, I knew that it would not only be futile as she’s already probably damaged her stomach beyond repair and is probably suffering a mass hemorrhage; but also foolish, as there were still men looking for me, and I’m sure that it was only a matter of time before they decided to check the alleyway.
Then they’d shoot her. Tell the media it was a mugging in an alley, probably. These naive people will believe anything.
We simply left the woman to reflect on her life, as we ran out into the brightly lit streets of Hollywood.
It wasn’t much longer, before I did finally hear that gunshot. Rachel started to tear up profusely, so I did the best that I was able to calm her down. It’s very hard to be a strong woman, you know. But if you don’t do it, who will?
It’s very hard to describe the events of that night perfectly, but just know that it was a horrible thing, a vile thing, a thing that begins to eat at you intestines and works it’s way towards your brain. It was a parasite that ate you from the inside out, is what it was.
But I do remember what I heard in the taxi that night. Of course, I never would’ve believed that I’d have actually had a part in it.