The dimmed auditorium looked like the lair of an evil mastermind, lit on every side by wall-sized monitors showing maps, complex blueprints and detailed profiles of various men. These futuristic elements clashed eerily with the occult aspects of the room, such as the faint yellow light of the chandeliers drooping from the ceiling like giant spiders, and the candles glowing in a circle on the central oblong table. The four who sat around this table, their faces illuminated by candlelight from the chin up, looked and felt more like they were in a séance than in a business meeting. But they knew that it was business – serious business. And for the man who sat majestically poised at the table’s head ready to lead the convocation, it was nothing less than his life’s purpose.
“Welcome to the ninth annual Anti-White Guy With Guitar Coalition congress,” announced Tedius Zanarukando dramatically. He emanated a spark of intense passion for his work that was atypical of his usual stoicism. “I am your leader, Tedius Zanarukando. Kando for short.”
“You’re not our leader, Tedius,” the dark-haired Caucasian man to his left replied snarkily. “We all equally hate white guys with guitars. That’s why we’re all here.”
“That is where you are wrong, Never Going Home,” retorted Kando. “You may hate white guys with guitars because they are killing American Idol. I, however, hate them from the depths of my soul. There is no one in this universe who could ever dream to hate white guys with guitars more than me. To destroy them is my mission, my destiny. And it is the mission and destiny of our coalition.” With that, he’d strung into his answer the cue for their commencement ritual. Now all four members gave one strum of an imaginary guitar with their right hand, then raised it and dragged an extended thumb over their necks in a cutthroat motion. “Death to the white man,” they declared.
“With a guitar,” added NGH uneasily.
“Yes, yes, with a guitar,” mumbled the rest of the team diffusedly. They seemed to have forgotten.
“Would a speaker like to present the first point of interest in this meeting?” said Kando.
The only woman in the panel raised her hand. “Master Kando.”
“What was that, Linda? Oh yes, please speak, Master Kando,” he said, chuckling at how amusing he was. Then he put on his serious face. “The focus of today’s meeting will be on a very severe crisis that has proliferated across the interwebs and puts not only the entire anti-WGWG world at risk, but also, and most importantly, ME.”
The fourth member, a buff Latino in shades and a hoodie who looked as if he was trying to stay undercover, groaned in annoyance. “This better not be about what I think it’s about.”
“Please do not interrupt the speaker, Stefano Langone,” said Kando.
“Jessica Sanchez is not having an affair with Phillip Phillips,” said Stefano. “And even if she was, it’s none of our business. Shouldn’t we be focusing on WGWG issues that affect the entire world instead of your own petty concerns? I remember the days when the AWGWGC was relevant and not seen as silly by the public.”
“It is totally not silly,” snapped Kando. “It is totally our business, and it totally affects the entire world. Phillip Phillips is a highly dangerous character whose terrible voice is capable of initiating World War III. He is a great threat to the existence of a civilized and peaceful society, and the idea of my biggest star act Jessica Sanchez possibly seeing him makes me unable to sleep at night. I wish to eliminate him once and for all, by any means possible.”
“Where are you even getting all your info?” asked Linda. “I’ve never heard of this rumor.”
“It’s being spread online by a select group of shipper fans called PhilJess fans that went to see her shows,” said NGH. “To my knowledge the PhilJess ship was started back in 2012 during AI. The shippers would analyze every single motion and photo of them together and come up with elaborate romantic explanations. While the movement has since died down, it seems quite a number of them have been coming out of the woodwork after analyzing the new wildly popular encore song that Jessica is now singing on tour.”
“My All by Mariah Carey,” said Stefano. He’d been searching away on his laptop, and now a projection of a blog showed up on one of the screens. “Check this shit out.” They began to read the blog entry.
Is there a reignited spark between old American Idol rivals Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips?
Jessica Sanchez, world-renowned superstar, reunited with obscure singer-songwriter Phillip Phillips two months ago at a celebrity party hosted by Carly Rae Jepsen. The reason I say ‘reunited’ is that while most people don’t know this, they were in fact the top two contestants on the eleventh season of the reality show American Idol. And get this – Phillip actually won.
What was the reason to this sudden meeting? It’s no secret by now that the new hit single released by J-Chez, entitled I Lost You, was entered by Phillips himself into the songwriting competition she had been holding at the time. Phillips’ masterful composition struck a chord (no pun intended) with the audience, and the single has since gone platinum within the space of two months. But could there be more to the former rivals’ relationship than just musical collaboration?
Indeed, there had been some mention of ‘chemistry’ and ‘cute interactions’ between the two during their run on Idol, mostly by fans who call themselves PhilJess shippers – basically a group of people who envisioned them as a couple. Those rumors were shot down due to their age difference and Phillip’s commitment at the time. However, with Phillip now reportedly separated from spouse Hannah, some spicy speculations have been cooking up, especially in light of the two most critically acclaimed numbers from J-Chez’s setlist.
One of them is, of course, Phillip’s song, whose lyrics depict a despairing person who realizes he has lost the love of his life and tries to make sincere amends. It’s an interesting choice of a song to write to J-Chez, and an interesting choice on her part as well. And the sincerity of it all! It leads me to wonder if they might have had a past romantic stint that was kept low-key. But before you denounce this as just speculative bullcrap, hear me out. There’s more.
The second song, the encore song which comes right after that one, is where it gets interesting. Jessica Sanchez first changed her encore from her coronation song, Change Nothing, to Mariah Carey’s My All, at her Chicago show. Since then, it has become one of the most popular numbers on the tour, mostly because the emotion she shows during this performance is so tangible that there is no doubt she feels every single word. These particular lyrics caught my eye, however: Cause I can’t go on, living in the memory of our song. Our song? What is this special song, and who are you sharing it with? Oh, you tease us so, Jessica. Could it be the one you just sang? And if it is true, is the rest of My All also accurate to what you’re feeling?
Of course, there is an obvious catch: Jessica is committed to Chrystyl Myth lead singer and fellow Idol Colton Dixon. Could My All simply be Jessica missing her boyfriend, currently recording in San Francisco? Or could she be singing about somebody else?
“Yeah, so basically it’s a lot of speculative bullshit,” said Stefano.
“I agree. There’s no evidence that supports it,” said Linda. “Just a whole lot of paparazzi bullshit. The AWGWGC is above that.”
“I don’t think you realize what serious business this is,” persisted Kando. “It’s on the interwebs, which means it’s serious business.”
“Relax, Kando,” said NGH. “It’s a celebrity rumor. Those aren’t usually true. I think we should move on to more constructive topics.”
“Meeeeeem,” complained Kando, shifting in his seat indignantly. But he didn’t try to further the argument.
“I think what I have to say before Kando interrupted me was rather constructive myself,” quipped Linda.
“By all means,” said NGH.
Linda took a deep breath. “Gentlemen,” she said, “A few days ago I intercepted a message from our greatest WGWG enemy.”
Stefano’s eyes widened. “Wait a second. You don’t mean – ”
“Yes, him,” said Linda. “Our long-time nemesis, who has been in unreachable hiding for the past year. I intercepted the exact coordinates of his current location.”
“Wait, that doesn’t make any sense,” interrupted NGH, confused. “We don’t have any interception apparatus whatsoever.”
“Now that’s where you’re wrong,” declared Linda proudly. “You don’t know this, but the AWGWGC email inbox, which I moderate, is built to intercept secret information and has successfully done so with our sworn enemy, he who wields evil powers in wreaking and leading WGWG havoc, he who shall not be named.”
Stefano stared at her. “So basically he emailed you with his location.”
“He’s in San Francisco,” said Linda loudly. “I shall project the results.”
The email appeared on the screen, and they all read it silently to themselves, completely bewildered.
I know you’ve been looking out for me, Mr. Zanarukando. Well, come get me. I’m on 2650 California St., Presidio Heights, San Francisco. But you won’t need that; you can’t miss it. Want to destroy WGWGs? Now ‘s your chance to start with the biggest and the baddest. One catch, though: note who this message is addressed to. Only that person should come. Reckless enough for the challenge? Ready, set, go.
Still Remember Me?
“Why would he do this?” mused Stefano. “Seems a bit off. I’d advise against it.”
“Kando?” asked NGH uncertainly.
Kando was staring blankly at the screen, lost in his own thoughts. “I suppose,” he said slowly, “I’ve been worrying myself over a perilous and world-threatening rumor…” The team rolled their eyes. “But,” he continued, “but, this resurfacing of our enemy, who presents an even higher global danger than Phillip Phillips, is worth my full attention. I think I will take the trip to San Francisco, and considering Jessica will be performing there in two weeks, I may find out more about the bothersome rumor after all.”
Linda randomly burst into tears. “Don’t go, Kando,” she sobbed. “He’ll kill you.”
Kando held her hand and saluted with the other to a blank space. “I know, Linda. But as supreme protector of the world from the horror of WGWGs, it’s a risk I bear the responsibility of taking.”
But the only thing saving me is your love
Loving you is saving me.
Won’t you take me from the clouds buried in grey
All the colors are mixing in my head, I can’t see which way
Only see you out of thousands coming my way
You’re all I want to see, all I want to touch and feel in every way…
The words of his final song at a well-received gig he had just returned from floated in Phillip’s head. Once again, every word had been true. He was surprised at how well it reflected his situation, which did not exist at the time he wrote the song. It fit like a glove: loving Jessica was saving him. It gave him a purpose to drive himself through each day, motivations to find and land more gigs at which to perform, and most important of all, an increasingly enduring sense of happiness. He began needing wishful imagining or intoxication less and less, since he had memories. Actually, it was anything but easy to resist his addiction, but she kept in regular contact, to his pleasant surprise, and he was constantly reminded that he needed to be happy for her. She wanted him to be happy. It was the least he could do to make up for everything else, and it was altering his own life in dramatic ways. He wondered if this was the true essence of a relationship, though he couldn’t really say if what they had was one.
But motivation wasn’t the only way Jessica was saving him. A day ago he’d received a check in the mail from his long-estranged label, which up until then had put his promotion funds on an indefinite halt and threatened to drop him if his detrimental habits continued to affect the quality of his music, or if he continually failed to bring in an acceptable profit. The letter that came with the check informed him that his albums and tracks had been given a substantial boost thanks to his collaboration with Jessica Sanchez and her promotion of the single on tour. Its success had convinced the label to reinstate some of Phillip’s privileges and consider supporting a new single, that is, if he was working on any new material. Entrusted in the check, of course, was the revenue the label had received from his tracks that owed itself to Jessica’s free and extremely effective promotion.
On his way back home from the gig, Phillip had been torn on what to do with the money. Maybe he wasn’t in J-Chez’s financial circumstances, but he was managing, and getting better. He knew the most prudent thing to do at this moment would be to save it and keep working hard to ensure that his streak continued. He would’ve done it without hesitation, if there hadn’t been something specific he wanted to do with the money. Jessica’s tour was coming full circle around the US and ending at San Francisco in two weeks. After two entire months, he wanted nothing more than to fly there and meet her. She missed him, he knew, from their conversations and the songs she sang on tour, which had spawned some rumors that made him nervous. Nevertheless, he knew he had to pay her a surprise congratulatory visit and see her one last time before she left for Asia.
Now, staring at the check, he was strongly swaying toward that choice. His heart swelled at the mere thought of seeing her again. It reminded him of that rogue phone call two months ago, that surreal moment when she’d said Colton had left her. Colton… he hadn’t heard much from him. The last time he had, it had been from Jessica, who said he was working in San Francisco.
He became aware of his fingers gripping the check far too hard. Colton was also in San Francisco. Suddenly, Phillip felt uneasy. He was almost certain that Jessica had not told Colton. But what if he had found out on his own? He must have heard the rumors. What if he sees me – or me with her? But then again, it was all ridiculous. San Francisco was huge. The odds of them meeting were rather low. Also, what did it matter? They had broken up, hadn’t they? Still, Colton was his good friend… if it had to be done, how could he possibly explain?
He just had to make sure he could avoid that situation completely. There would be a time in the future, when he and Jessica were really together, that he would tell Colton the whole story. He deserved to hear it, but not now, when everything was still so confusing. But Phillip also had himself to think about. He had the right to pursue happiness.
As he ordered the plane ticket and vowed to stay out of Colton’s way, he felt the same rush of uncontainable excitement that he did that fateful night. The quiet ecstasy, the hazy moonlight, the warmth of their embrace. He closed his eyes and smiled, recalling the slightly faded memory, noting that the redness of her lips and the red fabric of the futon remained as vivid as ever. Bright red. Now the same color reminded him of something else. It was the exact same color as something else he’d seen. When had he seen it? What was another exciting moment that had made its way into his memory bank without him knowing?
Phillip dropped the check. He had suddenly had two realizations, one of them that chilled him to the bone.
The first was that he’d seen that same red during the kiss at the party.
The second was that he finally understood why the fedora man had seemed so familiar.
It had not registered in his state of distraught – or perhaps he had repressed it – but he now very distinctly recalled that as he raised his head to watch Jessica run away, he had seen a head wearing a red fedora walk with its back to him a little farther off in the same direction.
And judging by the man’s relative position to them, he seemed to have walked from the hallway, and in that case there was absolutely no way he could not have seen them.
Shaken, Phillip looked at the confirmation message of his ticket order. He decided to not contact Jessica until after the show.