Let me start from the beginning. I was in a metal band in the late nineties. I’m not going to tell you our band’s name, but we were big. Huge even. There were four of us…let’s say our names were Mike, Tyler, Rocco, and myself, Miles. Mike was on drums, Rocco played bass, and Tyler was our lead guitarist. I sang. Well…I sang when I wasn’t screaming my lungs out. We started playing in Mike’s garage when we were all in high school. We got good. We got really good. It seemed like everything fueled our passion and pushed us to write better and better songs. We started playing in bars, small time gigs, whatever we could get our hands on. People were taking notice.
And people loved us. Why wouldn’t they? We were maniacs. We thrashed around on stage, brought props to break, thrived off crowd interaction…it was awesome. It was turning into a full time lifestyle the better we got. Soon we had to start declining smaller offers because the big ones began to roll in.
We didn’t bother with college, our musical talents pumping plenty of income into our humble lives. When we all turned eighteen we moved out of our parent’s houses and got an apartment together. We lived like that for two years, rocking out, jamming, bouncing ideas off each other.
Our first record deal came during that time. We recorded ten songs in three months and the album soared to the top of the charts upon release. We were the talk of the town, every rock station playing our shit and singing our praises. It was crazy. It was a dream come true. We were twenty years old and had more money than we knew what to do with.
And so, being the brilliant young men we were, we started getting into trouble. Mike, our drummer, was the worst of us. He developed a coke habit that just wouldn’t quit. He kept himself sober enough to play, but he was high almost all the time.
Rocco smoked a shit ton of weed. He’d crack me up. We’d be back at our apartment and he’d just sit on his bed, baked out of his mind, and strum his guitar for hours. I honestly think some of his best work came out of those late night fiddlings.
Tyler liked women. Oh man did he ever like women. I don’t know how he got anything done during those two years. The guy never slept. You could always hear him in his room, slamming whatever chick he picked up that night. I don’t know how he did it. He wasn’t particularly good looking. I think maybe more than a few of those women were hookers, but who am I to judge? One of them got pregnant, I remember that much. She came to him for money one night and he told her to fuck right off, swearing it wasn’t his kid.
It probably was.
As for me, I liked to drink. When we weren’t playing a show, I was usually crushing a bottle of Makers somewhere. I can’t recall how many times I woke up in someone else’s bed covered in my own puke, the room reeking of stale cigarette smoke.
And man, did I feel like a badass. I’d push whoever it was off me, light up another smoke, wash my mouth out with some whiskey, and get about my day. It was the kind of life every kid dreams about at one time or another.
But it wasn’t all fun and games. No…
Because you see, something happened to us when we started touring. Something I can’t explain. Something horrible that eventually tore us apart.
After our first album, we got a twelve city tour, something our manager Luke secured for us. We were going to travel up the entire east coast of the States, playing in almost every big city along the way. Saying we were pumped was an understatement.
We got the bus, packed up our shit, and headed to Miami. The following night we played in the city’s amphitheater. And Jesus Christ was it a rush. The screaming crowd, the lights, the energy. I think I pulled a muscle in my neck I was screaming so hard. The people couldn’t get enough. And we sure as hell gave them a show to remember. I’ll never forget Tyler jumping into the crowd and body surfing all the way around the stadium, laughing and high-fiving the entire time.
The next night we played in Tampa.
That…that was the night I first noticed it.
Of course back then, I didn’t think anything of it.
We were about to go on, the four of us just chilling in the green room, listening to the roar of the crowd, hungry for us to start playing. About ten minutes before we went on stage, I had to take a piss. I went looking for the bathroom, my band mates telling me to hurry the hell up.
That’s when I first saw the door.
It was pure accident, my slightly drunk brain assuring me it was the restroom. The door was black and stood alone at the end of the hall. No one was around it. The face of the door was slick, almost wet looking. At eye level was a single word scrawled in red ink: Outer.
Without thinking, I pushed my way inside, bladder ready to burst. As the door slammed shut behind me, I froze. I was enveloped in complete darkness, all sound sucked out of the space like I was in a vacuum. I immediately turned, realizing my mistake, but couldn’t find the door. I spun around, hands reaching for a wall, a light, anything.
And that’s when I heard it. Soft at first, but growing.
It was a deep voice, echoing from the still darkness. I stopped moving and called out, but the voice only repeated it’s instruction.
Now it sounded less like a voice and more like wind rustling through trees. Something warm tickled my face and I swatted at it, but my hand passed through empty space. I realized the floor beneath my feet was vibrating slightly, a slight tremor running through my legs. Despite being completely blind, I felt like I had entered an enormous space not contained by walls.
And I realized that I felt…amazing.
It was like my energy reserves had been refueled, my chest bursting with raw voltage. I felt like I could sing all night, like every word of every song was suddenly sharpened and their true meaning revealed to me. I saw our playlist in my head and I grasped the depth of what I was singing in a way I had never appreciated before.
My heart thundered in my chest like Mike was playing a beat on it and I smiled in the silent black. Holy shit what was this place?
I was about to call out again when a new sound entered the space. It was the soft ticking of a clock, far off in the distance. I focused on its steady rhythm, the satisfying pace at which it called to me.
After a few moments, the gentle shush and the sound of the clock faded and suddenly I was standing in the hallway again. The roar of the crowd rushed back into my ears and filled my head, the bustle of crew and staff. I shook my head and turned back to the door. It remained standing at my back, the door tightly shut and that strange word on the surface staring red at me: Outer.
I sprinted back to the green room, no longer needing to use the restroom. I felt like I could burst into flames, I felt like I was truly alive for the first time. As the guys and I headed to the stage, I told them what had happened to me. They laughed it off, too stoned or hyped to care.
I sang like a monster that night, the notes tearing from my lips with a vengeance and passion that only the best metal singers possess. Every note was perfect, every word wrapped in thunderous emotion. My voice was like gasoline, igniting the crowd and blasting us all into outer space.
It was fucking sick, dude.
Even my band mates seemed to notice how improved my performance was. At the end of the show, when we were back in the green room, wiping sweat from our faces, they told me how crazy I had been on stage. Tyler asked why I hadn’t always sung like that and Mike just shook his head smiling and kept saying, “Damn man,” over and over again. Rocco slung his arm around my shoulders and asked me what my secret was.
Again, I explained to them what had happened to me before the show. Now that the concert was over, they listened a little closer. Mike thought I was whacked out of my mind, but the other two guys seemed genuinely curious. I asked if they wanted to see the room and all three of them nodded vigorously.
I led them to the back, down the long hallway, and showed them the door. I tried to open it, but it was locked tightly. I pushed and shoved against it, but it wouldn’t budge.
Frustrated, I told them I wasn’t lying, that something weird had happened to me inside. Now they really thought I was crazy. I went to one of the stage techs and asked him if he had the keys to the room. He asked me what the hell I was talking about and when I explained what door I was trying to get into, he cocked an eyebrow at me and told me there wasn’t any such room at this venue.
I dragged him down the hall, my band mates snickering at me the whole time, and showed him the door. The guy just looked at me and told me I should drink some water, that what I was pointing to was a blank wall.
I started to protest, but Mike butt in and dragged me away from the confused man. He told me to relax and just enjoy the afterglow of a good show.
I let him pull me away and we ended up meeting a squad of giggling girls who begged to hang out with us. Tyler, of course, enthusiastically invited them back to the bus and so our nightly plans were sealed.
I spent the night in the back of the bus with some girl named Chelsea, only half concentrating on what I was doing with her. The night rolled past the windows as we headed for Charlotte, North Carolina, the next stop on our tour.
As Chelsea moaned beneath me, I wondered just what I had discovered.
What had been inside that room and what had it done to me?
The next night, right before we were about to go live in Charlotte, I stumbled upon the door again. I couldn’t believe it. It was exactly the same door as in Tampa. The sleek back surface was impeccably smooth and the stark red lettering begged my attention. It read the same as before: Outer.
I raced to get my friends and soon we were all crowding around it. They looked as confused as I felt, but this time when I turned the handle, it opened. Without hesitating, I ushered them inside and when we had all made it in, the door slammed shut behind us. Again, I was enveloped by complete darkness. All sound was pulled away, leaving us standing in devastating silence. I felt blood pulse in my ears as I reached out searching for a wall, the handle, anything. I bumped into Tyler who jumped at my touch and cursed under his breath, asking me what the hell this place was.
Then we all heard it.
The voice, nothing more than a deep rush of breath or soft wind, filled the space, expanded it, surrounding us. I heard Mike nervously lick his lips to my left and Rocco called out to the voice. It didn’t answer.
And then I began to feel it. That same familiar energy pulsing around my heart, filling my veins, burning in my muscles. I welcomed it, feasted off of it, let my senses drown in it. I could tell the others felt it as well, a mutual gasp rushing past their lips.
After a moment, I heard a soft ticking in the distance, slowly growing louder.
Again, the music we were about to perform swelled across my lips, bursting with new life and fresh perspective. I drank it in, basked in its euphoric meaning, my pulse quickening with understanding.
And that’s when Rocco began to freak out.
His voice shattered the serenity, a dry hoarse cry, “Guys, what the fuck? Guy’s what the fuck is that?! Are you seeing this!? WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT!? JESUS CHRIST IT’S GETTING CLOSER! LET ME OUT! LET ME OUT OF HERE!!”
I blinked and suddenly we were standing in the hallway outside the room, the black door firmly shut at our backs. We exchanged bewildered looks, a grin spreading through us. Except for Rocco. He was panting, hands on his knees, looking up at our smiling faces.
“What the hell was that!? Why did you take us in there!? Did…did you SEE that!?” He gasped, wiping sweat from his face.
I didn’t know what he was talking about, none of us did. Right then, we were all lost in that incredible feeling, that vicious surge of power that tingled down our arms and legs, practically shooting out of our bodies.
We heard the crowd calling for us and we rushed to the stage, Rocco recovering enough to make it out in front of the screaming masses.
And goddamn, did we put on a hell of a show that night.
We had discovered something special and we all knew it. We felt it take us to the next level.
And shit, did it ever.
SECOND AND THIRD ALBUM
That tour rocketed us to the top of everybody’s hot list. Even people who didn’t listen to metal were converted to our sound. The offers we got after that run were incredible, each one bigger than the last.
And at every show, we found that door.
And we went inside. Everyone except Rocco. Something about it had scared the shit out of him and he refused to ever return with us. He warned us, told us, begged us not to go in. But we didn’t listen. We called him a pussy, laughing at him as we pushed inside, the door always shutting behind us. No one else seemed to be aware of the door. No one asked us about it. Nothing. It was our little secret, our source of pure, raw energy and inspiration. It fueled our careers to heights we had only dreamed of.
After the first tour we decided it was time to hit the studio again and start recording the highly demanded follow up to our smash hit first album.
There was no lack of creativity during that time and our producer was constantly amazed at the shit we came up with. We rocked harder than ever before, tuning our sound even heavier and more aggressive than the last album. I wrote a ton a songs, way too many for us to put on one album.
And so we recorded two albums at once. Twenty-six tracks in five months. And they were incredible. Mike’s drumming was the stuff of legend, the insane speed at which he played was almost overwhelming. And Tyler never seemed to run out of fresh riffs, each one more melodic and incredible than the last. The things he did with that guitar still blows my mind.
Rocco did his best to keep up with us, borrowing suggestions and observations from Tyler so he wouldn’t fall behind.
When our second album was released, the world gobbled it up like candy. The reviews were stellar, calling it one of the best metal albums of our time.
And we knew it.
Because we knew about the room.
We started our second tour on the day I turned twenty-four. Twenty-one cities across the United States. It was a massive undertaking and we were ready for it. We started in San Francisco this time and worked our way back to the east coast.
At every stop, every show, we found that strange door and went inside. We’d let the voice wash over us, listen to the steady tick of that elusive clock, and let the bizarre energy fill us. Rocco would always protest, warning us we shouldn’t go in, but we ignored him.
That tour holds some of my fondest memories. We felt unstoppable, like nothing could end this insane adrenaline rush we were riding. Every day was a dream come true. Every city was another place we planted our flag. Every screaming crowd another people conquered.
It was fucking metal, man.
After that tour we all took a month off and just chilled. We were tired, the road exhausting us, but it was a good kind of fatigue. We played a couple small local shows just to stay sharp and we always managed to find that room hidden somewhere behind the stage.
Our third album was released and again, our music rocked the world. Critics couldn’t believe we had another release of such caliber and more record deals came floating our way.
Mike wanted to get back out on the road and after some discussion, we decided we’d do another big tour before hitting the studio again. Shit, we had released two albums in one year, let the people get hungry again.
This time we toured Europe. England, Germany, France, the whole shebang. Twenty-six cities, twenty-six concerts, and a whole hell of a lot of booze, coke, and women. We had now ascended into gods, the most vicious rock stars to ever shake the music scene.
Towards the end of that tour though…something changed.
We were in Paris, about to go on stage. Mike, Tyler, and myself were standing in front of that black door, the red letters practically glowing at eye level. We could hear the crowd screaming for us, chanting our names.
We entered the door, into the darkness, and as the latch closed behind me I knew that something was different this time.
I stood, waiting for the familiar feeling of power and energy to flow through me…but it didn’t.
The voice cooed at us, a warmth across my face. The ticking of the clock began to echo in the far corners of the ebony silence. But instead of clarity, I felt…something different.
Dread. Crippling, heavy, dread. It snaked up my legs through the vibrating floor and coiled itself around my throat like a wet snake.
I could heard Tyler gasp next to me, the feeling infecting him as well.
And then I saw something growing on the horizon, impossibly far away. Color. Red. It bloomed like a sun, spilling out over a horizon that defied any logical understanding of space and time.
And there was something in that red…
I could hear it, oh so far away still…
And it was calling my name.
Fear exploded in my throat and my stomach rolled in terror, that deep rooted dread threatening to suffocate me. I stepped back, raising my hands against the dawning crimson, and screamed.
I gasped, falling to the floor in the hallway as the world rushed back in on me like a tidal wave of noise and smell. Tyler stood gasping against the wall, one hand over his heart. He looked down at me, sweat dripping from his nose. Wordlessly, I nodded at him as if to affirm the question I knew he would ask.
I had seen it too.
Mike stood before us, grinning, asking us what the hell our deal was. I asked him if he had seen it and he just laughed and starting sprinting for the stage. This was just routine for him, we had done this so many times that he was lost in the comfortable power I knew he was feeling right now. I looked at Tyler one more time and shook my head. I told him I was never going back inside that room again.
The image of that impossible horizon stayed with me throughout the show. I don’t even remember how we did that night, but it probably wasn’t very good. Regardless, the crowd loved us and I did my due diligence and then got off the stage.
Whatever happened that night changed something in me. Rocco didn’t speak to us about it, but I could tell that he knew we had experienced something in that room, just like he had.
I had nightmares for the rest of the tour.
FINAL ALBUM, FINAL TOUR
Three months later we decided it was time for another album. We spent six months working on it.
And it was shit.
I think we all knew it, but our stardom blinded us until after it was released. Critics destroyed it and fans cried out in disappointment. The edge just wasn’t there anymore. Our sound had lost a lot of its passion and I found my song writing abilities had greatly diminished. It was frustrating and that anger rippled out between the four of us. For the first time, we started fighting. Hostile, bitter arguments lasted late into the night. Everyone blamed someone else, the finger always pointed across the room.
I could feel us breaking apart. We all could. And it scared the shit out of us.
The best track on the album was a two minute drum solo that Mike insisted we include. Ironically, it was the only track that didn’t get slammed. I’ll admit that it was pretty unreal. I don’t even know when Mike recorded it. The talent I knew he possessed pulsed through every beat and I was blown away the first time he played it for us.
A couple weeks after the album released, we got signed for a tour. Eighteen shows all across the world. We knew we needed this to re-establish ourselves as the kings of metal. We weren’t ready to give up the throne. We weren’t letting go of the scepter just yet. This was our chance to reinvigorate an ocean of disappointed fans and light a fire in them again. We needed them to believe in us again. We needed them to know we weren’t done yet.
And so we departed for Boston, our first gig.
I’ll never forget it. It was the night that Mike started to lose it.
We were in the middle of our set, the crowd a surging mass of raised fists before me. Sweat dripped from my hair and I whipped it off my face and cleared my throat to launch into the next song. Mike was the only one who went into the room that night. He didn’t even ask us if we were coming. He just left and came back a few moments later looking ready to go. I could practically see the energy flowing out of him.
As I sang, I still felt passion and love for what we were doing, but that hard edge of clarity was lacking. And I knew why. But I chose to ignore it. It wasn’t the room that had made us good, it was each other. It was our enthusiasm for music and metal. It was the care and craft we all possessed.
Halfway through the song though, I began to hear Mike yelling behind me. It wasn’t unusual for him to join in my belting roars, but he wasn’t doing that. Still singing, I turning to look at him, throwing him a theatrical salute.
Mike was leaning over his kit, his eyes fixated on what he was doing. But his face was twisted into a horrific snarl. I could hear him yelling something at his drums, his eyes dancing wildly across as he beat on them. Drool leaked from the corner of his mouth and with every strike of the drumstick, he growled along with it.
He looked furious and when he finally looked up at me, I almost stopped singing. His eyes were burning red, two sunken holes of endless depth.
And then Mike vomited.
The crowd, not missing a beat, roared their approval as Mike heaved up another mouthful, never slowly his continuous pounding on the kit. Puke splashed across his chest as he licked his lips and then threw his head back and laughed. He sounded insane.
We managed to finish the set without another incident and when we had finally bowed out and were in the back room, I cornered Mike and asked him what the hell had happened. He laughed it off, his eyes his own now, and told me he probably should lay off the coke for a bit.
But I suspected something else. Rocco, Tyler, and I shared a look as Mike went to clean himself up in the bathroom. We knew.
This was about the room.
The tour continued and we had cautious success. We played a lot of our old stuff and the crowd seemed to respond with enthusiasm. The only track we played off the new album was Mike’s drum solo. I would usually leave the stage and pound water while he did his thing. But I watched him like a hawk.
He still went into that room before every show. I had given up trying to stop him. During his drum solos I would often see his eyes change, much like they had the first time. I would feel dread begin to dam in my throat as I watched him. The crowd loved it of course, but it scared me. A lot of the time, Mike would just start screaming and beat on his kit like he was trying to destroy it. His howls weren’t that of passion though…they were something else.
They were roars of unbridled fury.
They were the cries of raging anger. I knew Mike, I had grown up with him. I knew him better than anyone else did. He was like a brother to me. And this…this change in him was not Mike. This was not my friend.
During one of the shows, while he was doing his drum solo, a fan managed to slip past security and run on stage. It was just some teenager, fueled by the music to do something crazy. He jumped on stage and started head banging to the beat of the drums.
Mike immediately stopped playing, his eyes blazing.
Then, without warning, he jumped down from his kit and grabbed the guy by the back of his neck and slammed him face first into the floor. Security rushed the stage, but not before Mike stomped on the kid’s arm and reached down, jerking it backwards and breaking it in three places.
It took three men to drag Mike, kicking and screaming, away from the poor teenager. We cut the show short that night.
After two more shows, Mike’s condition only worsened. He didn’t talk to us anymore between concerts, keeping to himself, his complexion growing pale. I asked him a couple times if he was feeling alright, that we could delay the rest of the tour if he was getting sick. He always brushed my concerns off with a wave of his hand, muttering that he was just fine.
I also noticed that he was spending more and more time in that room before the show. It went from a couple minutes to almost an hour. We all tried talking to him, telling him he needed to stop, but it was impossible trying to control him. Between the coke and whatever energy that room gave him, there was no stopping him. And so we stopped trying, afraid that if we pressed any further he’d get pissed and leave the band.
As the tour started to wind down, with only a couple more cities to hit, Mike really started to lose it.
While I sang, I would hear him behind me throwing things, yelling, cursing all of us. I didn’t understand, didn’t know what he wanted from us. We had a show in Denmark where Mike just screamed the entire time. From start to finish he just pounded away, roaring at the top of his lungs, his eyes hot with hate and rage.
And something else. Something alien. Something inhuman.
I tried not to think about how his eyes looked during that tour. It still scares the shit out of me.
Despite his antics, we made it to the last show.
We were in Richmond, Virginia, moments before we were supposed to get on. Rocco, Tyler, and myself were waiting for Mike to get back from the room. The mood was grim. He had been gone for almost two hours now. Rocco asked me if we should check on him and I said to wait a few more minutes.
After ten passed, I knew we needed to get on with our show. I told Rocco and Tyler to go distract the crowd. They gave me a worried look and hurried off. Taking a deep breath, I went to find Mike.
I knew where he was.
It didn’t take me long to find the door.
I stared at it, hating it, those red letters burning like blood against the black. I put my ear to the door and listened. Silence. Every ounce of me screamed not to open that door again, but I knew I had to. I knew I had to go in there and get Mike.
The handle whispered to me as I turned it, the black growing in the crack as I slowly pushed it open. Licking my lips, I said a silent prayer to a god I didn’t believe in.
And then I went inside.
The door slammed close behind me and I was soon encased in thick darkness that swelled around me. My heart was thundering in my chest and I felt my shirt stick to my back as sweat coated me.
“Mike!?” I called, my voice zipping from my lips to fly off into the empty nothing. I couldn’t see anything, couldn’t hear anything. I reached out, trying to find my friend, but my fingers came away empty.
A shiver ran down my spine as the voice rose around me. Warmth kissed my skin with soggy lips and I bit down, balling my fists, fear caressing me.
“Mike where are you!?” I screamed, feeling my sanity slipping away in this nightmare stillness.
“MIKE!?” I screeched, voice cracking with hysteria.
My breathing became rapid as I felt energy and power flow around me, shifting masses of titanic darkness closing in at my sides. I felt like I was in a coffin, like the black was a blanket pulled across my face, suffocating me.
I was about to call out again when I froze, Mike’s name caught in my throat.
Forever away, a vermillion sun began to rise over the horizon.
I screamed, turning away and sprinting into the darkness as color bled over an expanse of nothingness, long maroon fingers reaching for me. I could feel something at my back, the presence of something sinister panting my name.
Tears poured from my eyes as I ran, lungs burning, panic erupting like a volcano in my chest. I stumbled and tripped, catching myself moments before I fell. I knew that if I went down now, it was over.
The voice rose on the horizon, coming with the color, the burning sun stretching across the impossible expanse at my back.
“MIIIIKE!” I howled, lost in madness.
And that’s when I heard him, from miles and miles away. He was crying, his voice echoing from the center of that horrific sun.
“I’m sorry! Jesus Christ, I’m so sorry! Run! RUN! IT’S COMING!”
Gasping, Mike’s words bouncing across the void, I suddenly exploded into something, the force of the impact slamming the air from my lungs.
I collapsed in a heap, my head striking a wall as color and noise rushed back at me. My vision swirled and the world rocked before slowly righting itself, my eyes focusing and adjusting.
I was back out in the hallway.
I had escaped the room.
Still crying, I bolted up just as the door slammed closed at my back. I turned and jiggled the handle, fists pounding against the smooth black. I sobbed for Mike, begged the door to give him back. But the door remained shut. Weeping, I raked my hands across the surface, pounding my forehead against the hard surface, tears streaming down my face.
Soon, someone found me, calling others to my aid. Everyone had been looking for me. I heard woman call for a doctor, but I barely registered it. I was lost in myself, the horrific image of that dawning sun burned into my skull.
As I was led away, I took one last look at the door and saw that the word had changed.
It now read “Awoken”.
I don’t have much memory of what happened next. Obviously the show was canceled. I spent a lot of time in the hospital the following months. I was asked a lot of questions and given a lot of medication. They tell me I wasn’t myself during that time period. They said I talked a lot of nonsense about the sun and how Mike was trapped in it. Like I said, I don’t remember much of that.
Rocco and Tyler stayed with me through that shit. They’re good guys, the both of them. When I was finally released from the hospital, they made sure I was truly ok and then just…disappeared. I don’t think they play music anymore. Something tells me they probably retired to a beach somewhere. I don’t blame them. I think they probably are trying to forget about what happened on that last tour. God knows I’m trying to.
Mike was never found.
I was asked over and over again if I knew anything, but I would just shake my head. How could I explain to the authorities what happened when what happened was impossible? Given Mike’s insane streak during our final months together, plus his coke habit, I think the police formed their own assumptions.
As for me…well…I’ve tried to distance myself from the horrific events that took place that night inside that room. I’ve given up trying to make sense of it because I fear that madness hides behind the answers.
I don’t sing anymore. I think I’ve lost my voice. Instead, I think I’m going to build a bar on a beach somewhere and spend the rest of my days in the sun. The darkness…it still scares me.
And as for what remains of our band’s legacy?
I can’t stand listening to metal these days anyway.