Chapter 11: Building a Mystery

Alley

I ran back into my bathroom, which was quickly becoming my comfort zone. I’d told him I needed to shower, which was true, but it was mainly an excuse to escape from the room. I needed to be alone for a bit, to get a grip… to figure out a game plan… and to get away from that gorgeous smile which had been so annoyingly attractive…

I locked the door, grabbing a towel from the shelf and looking for a fresh bar of soap. God, what was happening? Just one thing after another…  I’d just witnessed the single most frightening thing I’d ever seen in my life… when I’d seen those joggers run right through him, for a moment, I’d honestly thought I would pass out. He was real… yet he wasn’t. I could see him, but he had no reflection. I could touch him, but apparently no one else could. And not only that, but he really was Taylor Hanson. Once I’d seen a recent picture, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t recognized him in the first place. His hair was shorter, true, and his features a little more refined, but he hadn’t changed that drastically…

The emotions spinning through my head were making me feel ill. Fear, for the eerie, supernatural things I’d just witnessed… guilt, after realizing that the same sweet, unassuming boy I’d saved from those punks was the same guy I’d spent my teenage years mocking and putting down… attraction, especially to that gorgeous, genuine smile he’d just given me, which I found quite irritating considering the circumstances… but most of all, just confusion. A feeling of being lost; unsure of what to do. I didn’t like uncertainty. I always liked to have a plan, to be in control…

I sighed, turning on the water and running it extra-hot. Well, I’d whined about leading a boring, dull life, hadn’t I? And this was what I got… a full-fledge, creepy mystery, straight out of a Scooby-Doo episode or something. Once inside, I lathered up my hair, trying to concentrate, to think of reasonable explanations for his appearance. And trying not to think of how cute he’d been when he’d smiled, or how soft his hair had looked. Dammit! Not only was it messed-up to be thinking about a ghostly figure in that way, but it was also embarrassing. He was a Hanson! Hell, he probably wasn’t even 18 yet… weren’t they just kids? Jesus…

Concentrate, Alley… I rinsed the shampoo out of my hair, closing my eyes. Well, he’d said something had happened, didn’t he? And naturally, I could only assume it has been something bad. An accident, maybe… Could he be a ghost? I’d always believed in ghosts and spirits, though I’d never had any experience with supernatural things, unless you counted my Santana album… that explanation still didn’t make sense, though. Ghosts couldn’t touch people, could they? Didn’t they just talk and move shit around and try to scare people? I began to wish that I’d spent more time watching the Sci-Fi channel.

Well, he was probably right about searching the news archives. If something had happened to him, that was probably the easiest way to find out. Surely there would be newspapers, or fan websites, or hell, even MTV.com that could provide some sort of insight… that would be the first step. Figuring out the cause of this whole ordeal… then maybe we could think about how to solve it. Feeling a little more settled now that I had a set plan, I stepped out of the shower.

I stood in front of the steamy mirror, toweling my hair dry. After combing out my hair, I wrapped a towel around me and slowly opened the door, making sure he hadn’t come to this part of the house. When I was sure the coast was clear, I dashed into my room.

I hadn’t done laundry in weeks, so the stack of clean clothes in my drawers was severely limited. I grabbed the first shirt and shorts I found and slid them on, not even paying attention to color coordination. I debated on whether to dry my hair, but decided against it. It was thick, unruly, and took forever to dry. I’d already been gone for quite a while, anyway. He was probably getting antsy.

“Well, Taylor,” I murmured as I slid a pair of house slippers on my feet. “Let’s see what we can find…”

*****

When I re-entered the office, Taylor was sitting in one of the tall-backed wooden chairs, a book spread across his lap. I smiled tentatively and walked closer.

“What are you reading?” I asked.

He looked up, looking a little frazzled and nervous. I watched as he closed the book and held it up for me to read. I clapped my hand over my mouth, unable to stop the laughter that followed. He looked suddenly embarrassed, and his face blushed a deep crimson red.

For Yourself: The Fulfillment of Female Sexuality?” I asked. “Interesting. So how is it, Taylor? Have you learned the secret of the female orgasm yet? Or perhaps insights about mental and emotional attitudes toward sexual gratification?”

He scowled, obviously trying to play it off. “Well, women are always saying men don’t understand them… so, you know, I was just trying to make an effort here…” Whatever. I was sure he’d chosen it because it was the closest thing to porn that existed in this house.

Riiiiiight,” I said slowly. “I see. And what would your girlfriend say if she knew you were reading smut like that?”

He actually snorted at that and shrugged, gently placing the book on a small side table next to the chair. “Ah, I don’t know. She’d probably want to test the theories out.”

Oh. I don’t know why I was so shocked at his response – I mean, hell, he was a celebrity, and incredibly good-looking, so of course he would have a girlfriend… Oh, well. Why do I feel disappointed? God, this is irritating… I forced a smile on my face. “Okay. Well… let’s see if we can figure out what’s going on here.” I walked back over to my computer and flipped up the lid. He followed, again sitting in the chair across from me.

When I looked up from the screen, he was staring at me curiously. “Why did it take you 45 minutes to dress like that?” he demanded.

I looked down at my outfit, which resembled something a colorblind person would have picked out… actually, a colorblind person probably would have done a better job of matching. “Jealous of the shirt, are you?” I asked airily. “It’s a one-of-a-kind…” Meaning, it had belonged to Louise, who worked as an assistant manager at a retail store when she’d first started college. I’d had the shirt made for her when she’d been promoted, because I personally thought it was hilarious and clever. But when it became obvious that she was never going to wear it, I’d simply taken it. Might as well get some use out of it, right?

“I certainly hope it is,” he said. I glared at him. Little snot… “So… you look like you have an idea.”

“Okay,” I said. “I’m going to look around for any news about you all online… see if something ‘happened’, as you suspected. Meanwhile… I want you to write down everything about your condition you can think of. Like… I don’t know… any other things that have struck you as… abnormal.”

“My whole life is abnormal!”

“I know that… I mean… are there any details you haven’t told me? Stuff you might have left out?”

He chewed on his lip for a moment, and reluctantly nodded. I grabbed a notebook and pen from inside the desk and tossed it at him. “There. Write it down while I’m looking. That way we’re both doing something.” And maybe it would keep him from talking for a little while…

He grumbled, but complied. Meanwhile, I wasn’t even sure where to start… I went back to Google, typed in his name, and looked at the long listing of fan sites. Well… I would start with those. Rather than digging through potential weeks and months of newspaper back issues, I figured the latest news on Hanson would be on one of those. Sighing, I clicked on the first link. This was going to be a long process, I could tell…

*****

Odd, very odd… I discovered, after a long trial-and-error of clicking and backing up, that many of the pages listed no longer worked. Or if they did, they appeared to have not been updated in a long time, most of them at least a year. I was a little confused. Were people that fickle? Had they all moved on to worship some other teeny pop band? It was like a mass exodus, or something…

I was looking around in the ‘interview’ section of one of the un-updated pages. Typical stuff… old transcripts from Access Hollywood, VH1, MTV… articles from Rolling Stone, Billboard, and other various music ‘zines… one link, in particular, caught my eye. A radio transcript from a station out in Utah… the description the webmaster had written out for it said simply, ‘Taylor Pee Interview’. What the hell? I clicked and started reading.

“Okay, I think I’m done,” Taylor announced, tossing the pencil down. I ignored him, reading on and snickering. I felt him staring at me. “Well?”

“You really pissed on a roof at the Sundance Film Festival?” I asked in disbelief. “Wow, Taylor. Classy. Real classy.”

What?” he barked. “What are you doing? You’re not even looking in the right place!”

“Well, so sorry… I just came across it… believe me, it’s not like I was actively looking for interviews where you confess to urinating in public…”

“Listen, I had to go, alright? And there was no other option,” he grumbled. “You were an evil journalist in a past life, weren’t you?”

“No other option? How about ‘holding it in’? It’s a rather popular practice, I hear…” Sighing, I pushed the computer aside. “I need a break from this. Let me see your list.”

He glared at me as he pushed the notebook across the desk. I picked it up, studying it. Most of the stuff he’d listed were things he’d told me at one point or another. He’d also written out, in great detail, an incident where he’d scared his brother by moving a glass across the counter… how everyone referred to him in third person… how his mother looked gaunt and tired and got visibly upset whenever his name was mentioned… and how he’d worn the same clothes for weeks and hadn’t showered since he’d awakened.

I looked up, staring at him. “No shower?” I asked. I wrinkled my nose. “That’s kind of gross. Do you… uh… want to go take one now?”

He shook his head. “Do I look like a need a shower?” he asked. I slowly shook my head. It was true, he looked as perfect and pretty as he did in any of the photo shoots I’d seen online. “I’m not dirty… I don’t feel dirty. My hair hasn’t even gotten longer… I haven’t had to shave… I just figured it was just another freaky thing about me, to go along with all the other freaky things…”

I nodded again, silently going over the facts. Invisible, untouchable, except to me, and of course, to inanimate objects… perfect and never-changing… unable to explain how he’d gotten here, although he’d claimed he’d prayed for help…

“Keep looking,” he demanded. “Go to hanson.net, or mtv.com, or something…”

“We’ll go to mtv.com, as much as I despise that network,” I said dryly. I pulled the laptop closer and followed his orders. “Okay, headlines... news gallery.... type in band name. H-A-N-S-O-N...ok, la di da......right, here we go, archives…”

“Now was that so hard?”

“Shut up, I’m reading…” I scanned down the long list of headlines. Pure Pop Rules as Spice Girls, Hanson Rule the Charts. Ugh, thank God that era was over… No Kidding Around for Hanson Brothers. Hanson gets “Weird” with Director Gus Van Sant… wow, sounded like scintillating journalism. The next headline that caught my eye nearly caused me to choke. “Ozzy’s Daughter pays $16,000 for Hanson Passes?!” I shouted. “Are you serious? That’s insanity!”

He dropped his head in his hands. “Don’t remind me,” he groaned. “Please, don’t remind me…”

“Oh, is she your girlfriend?” I giggled. “How sweet… I’m sure you and Ozzy have plenty in common to discuss…”

“You are not helping matters here…”

“Okay, okay… Jeez… have a sense of humor… hang on…”

I scrolled all the way down the page, looking for the most recent headlines. The last one, updated not two weeks ago, instantly caught my eye. I stared at it, not believing what I was reading… Teen Star Taylor Hanson Remains in Coma One Year After Accident. What? Was that a mistake? I glanced over at him nervously before clicking on it. Taylor had turned around and was staring at one of my paintings.

“Hey, are these yours?” he asked, beckoning to the artwork on the walls.

“Yeah,” I said distractedly. Now was not the time to play art critic… I quickly began reading, feeling sick to my stomach…

“Wow, they’re really, really good… Is that what you do for a living?”

“Thanks, no…” Oh, God. From what I could tell, the article was real… I mean, it couldn’t be a joke, not even MTV had that poor of taste. No wonder none of the sites I’d visited had been updated… the band hadn’t been able to do anything in a year… “Taylor?” I asked softly. “What… what is today?”

“June 25, isn’t it? That’s what the newspaper said…”

“And the year?”

“What?” he asked, confused. He walked over to my side of the desk. “The year? What kind of question is that?”

“Just answer it, please…”

“1965,” he said, then grinned at his lame joke. When he saw the gravity of my expression, he sighed. “Fine. 2001, last time I checked…”

I slowly shook my head. “No…” I whispered. “It’s not.” His face instantly froze, and I could see the fear in his eyes as he replied.

“What are you talking about?”

“Read this,” I said softly, getting up out of the chair and beckoning for him to sit down. “It’s on MTV’s news page…”

He slowly sat down and started reading. I stood just behind him, rereading the article over his shoulder.

June 10, 2002

Teen superstar Taylor Hanson remains in the hospital one year after a near-fatal rock-climbing accident left him in a coma.


Hanson, now 19, was out rock-climbing with his brother and a friend at New Heights Gym last June when his harness came loose and he plunged nearly 25 feet to the ground. Kyle Sparks, the friend, recalls the awful incident.

"The carabiner came undone,” Sparks said. “We tried to tell him to stay still, so that one of us could get up there and save him before it slipped off, but he was up so high he couldn’t understand what we were saying. Then the rope just slipped out of it and he fell.”

Hanson’s fall resulted in five broken ribs, a broken ulna, several severe cuts and scrapes, brain swelling, and loss of consciousness. Since the June 2001 accident, Hanson has recovered from all the injuries but has yet to regain consciousness. Christopher Sabec, Hanson’s manager, says that they have not yet given up hope.

“We are still hoping, still praying for Taylor,” Sabec said in an interview with MTV last week. “However, there are no plans as of right now to begin working on another album without him. It just wouldn’t be right.”

The Hanson family declined to comment on his condition or the future of the band. Hanson’s latest album, This Time Around, was released in May 2000.

Holy shit… I slowly backed away, folding my arms close. Taylor sat in the chair, frozen, for several minutes – more than long enough to have read through it. I swallowed, unsure of what to say.

“Taylor?” I asked softly.

He slowly spun and stood up. His eyes were dark and set, and his face had gone strangely pale. I wasn’t sure what to do… I tried again. “Taylor?”

“Excuse me,” he said abruptly, brushing past me. I reached out and grabbed his arm.

“Wait,” I said haltingly, though I wasn’t sure why. What was I going to say to him? ‘Sorry to hear about your coma’? He turned, briefly, and stared at me, all trace of playful sarcasm gone. “I…” I said slowly. “Is it true? Do you… can you remember any of it?”

“No,” he snapped, jerking his arm free. I watched, helpless, as he ran down the steps. I wanted to follow, but the look on his face… instead, I turned back to the computer, walking over and sitting back down. I reread the article over and over, trying to make sense of it all. It just wasn’t possible, was it? How could one person be in two places at once?