“Oh, not any one of you. And certainly not the ones I actually know and love. Not the ones who have tried to be my friends. Not my brother. Not my mom. Not any of the guys or girls I’ve led on, lied to, cheated on. You. You mass of humans who I know nothing about, you are my best friend.
“And you know why? Because you like me, and no single person’s love can compete with even casual regard from a hundred million. That impossible, inhuman wave of support. Not inhuman because you aren’t humans, inhuman because no human is designed to process it, to understand it. Fame is a drug, and as I sit here in this gross little smoky-smelling room, trapped by some unknown prankster, I know that earlier today I was . . . I was really mean.
“I was a bad person and I hurt a lot of the people who I care most about in this world because I am addicted to attention. I do things that are bad for myself, and my friends, and my health, and my world so I can get more power because I think I need that power to do good things. But then I just do stupid things instead. And I’m streaming live so I can’t edit this or take any of it back. So thanks for listening. I really pretty much hate myself right now, thank you for being my friend.”
Everyone in the livestream chat, which had now dwindled enough that I could actually read some of what was being said before it flew by, seemed receptive to my monologue.
I tended to keep one eye on the chat anytime I was streaming, and while you can’t always read every word, you can get an idea of what people are saying, and if there’s something they want you to see, people will copy and paste it over and over to get your attention. In among the well-wishes and kind thoughts, I saw a word I didn’t expect popping up over and over: “Lyrics.”
I scrolled up the chat to see what that was about.
Ginny Di: What were the lyrics again? Touched with gold? I know that song, it’s definitely not in there.
Then a few threads of support, then:
Roger Ogden: I just re-listened like twelve times. It sounds like “In every town around the world Jesus must be touched with gold.” But wtf? It’s super hard to hear over April talking though.
“So some people in the chat are saying that the words to ‘Golden Years’ have changed? I’m going to stop talking so that you all can just listen.”
We had proved, over and over again, that thousands of people solving a puzzle are a lot better than one. But good lord, was shutting up for five minutes hard!
My personal phone rang—it was Robin. I didn’t want to answer because it would interfere with everyone listening. I just kept scrolling through the chat. They were transcribing the lyrics, which made it more or less impossible to read anything in real time. But then I saw this:
Lane Harris: Guys, the lyric changes happened on Spotify’s copy too! Everyone can hear them.
“Everyone, apparently it isn’t just this version of the song. It’s the same on Spotify. Go listen there, I’m getting a phone call.”
“April, thank god. I’m headed to where you are. Miranda already called the cops to help get you out. Can you get out of that room?”
“What? Not as far as I can tell. I tried to bust down the door.”
“I don’t like you being stuck in there. On the stream you said it smelled smoky?”
“Yeah.” And I had thought maybe it smelled like old cigarettes, but now that Robin had said it, it smelled like woodsmoke. Also, now that I was thinking about it, it seemed like the smell was getting stronger. But that was probably just natural anxiety at the thought of burning alive in an abandoned warehouse, right?
“Robin, I am now suddenly worried,” I replied.
“Does it still smell like smoke?”
“Yes, it maybe smells more like smoke?”
“April, hang up and figure out a way out of that room, I’m going to call the fire department,” he said in a demanding staccato.
I hung up and looked around the room.
There was a metal filing cabinet, on which was a terra-cotta pot that maybe once held some sort of life. The desk, which I could definitely not lift; the drawer I had pulled out of the desk, which now sat in the corner of the room; the desk chair; the little iPod thing; a bunch of empty jars of jelly. None of this looked particularly helpful. Whoever had decorated this place had skipped the traditional wall-mounted crowbar.
I looked out the window. It seemed maybe a little foggier out there. Or, I suppose, smokier.
In traditional April May fashion, I decided to turn my critical thinking skills over to the audience.
“Uh,” I said, picking up the livestream, “I am a little worried that I am trapped in a burning building?” I laughed. “It’s actually not funny, I don’t know why I just laughed. It’s getting smokier. Fuck. FUCK!”
I was saved from outright panic by Robin calling on my other phone again.
“Fuck, Robin, fuck.”
He answered immediately, “April, is there any way you can get out of that room?”
That scared the shit out of me. “I don’t think so?”
“Try, try very hard. I just got here. The fire department is on its way, they’ll be here soon, but the building is on fire.”
“How on fire?”
“Very, the police have been trying to get in, but so far they haven’t been able to.”
“There’s a window in here, it’s maybe a twenty-foot drop to the concrete floor below, that’s all I’ve got.”
“Let me get you on with a policeman.” As I heard the rustle of the wind as he ran, I thought about how clean and efficient we were being about this whole thing. It was like we were scheduling a TV interview.
“Hey, I have the young woman on the phone,” I heard Robin say, not directly into the phone.
“Hello, April?” a strange man’s voice said.
“How are you feeling?”
“OK, the smoke is . . .” I coughed, for the first time. And then I really started to panic.
“Can you see where the smoke is coming from?”
I took a look around the room, and for the first time it was thick enough that I could see it was coming from under the door. I told the cop as much.
“Stuff whatever you can in that crack. Your pants, shirt, whatever. The smoke is your enemy right now.”
So I took off my hoodie and stuffed it in there. It made a pretty good seal.
When I was back on the phone, he said, “If you have anything else to wrap around your face, that might also help with the smoke.” So I took off my shirt and wore it like a bandit mask. I couldn’t tell if it was helping, but at least I was half naked now.
“April, listen to me, we’re going to get you out of there. You’re high in the building, which means the smoke will be thicker where you are than lower in the building. Can you get lower in the building?”
“I’m locked in a room, the door is metal and I can’t break it down. But there’s a window—it’s like twenty feet off the concrete, though.”
“April, go over to the door for me. Feel it with the back of your hand.”
I did. I pulled my hand back sharply from the door. It wasn’t searing, but the feeling of any warmth coming from it terrified me.
“It’s . . . pretty hot,” I said, trying to keep my shit together.
“OK, April, we are working on getting into the building, but the entrances are all blocked or burning. We are working on making new entrances. How is the smoke in there?”
“It is not good.”
“April, when you break the window, a lot of smoke is probably going to come in through it. Which means that once you do that, you will have to jump out of it pretty quickly. When you do that, you will want to lower yourself by your hands over the edge and then drop. Land on your feet, but don’t lock your knees. I’ll talk to you once you’re down there.”
“When I break the window.” I said. Not a question, just a confirmation.
“Yes.” He did not try to convince me. He did not tell me that I needed to do it; he talked about it as if it was as natural a thing as taking my next breath. “Do you have something to break it with?”
I looked at the metal drawer I had removed from the desk still lying on the floor by the door. There was the pot too. It was a weird choice. Metal drawer or clay pot . . . which tool will I use to smash the window through which I will then hurl my body without regard for whether I can survive the fall?
But, like, I wouldn’t actually have to do that, my mind told me. Carl would save me. He had saved me before. Two times. Where was he now? Where was Hollywood Carl’s hand? Why had he let me come in here? A feeling of frustration welled up in me so intense that I almost screamed.
“April, are you OK?”
I coughed. “Yeah.”
“Can you break the window?”
“OK, just stay on the line, and when the smoke gets too thick, you’ll need to break that window.”
“How do I know when that is?”
He paused for a second, then said, “You’ll know.”
I looked out the window—it was so thick with smoke that I couldn’t make out the far wall. There was, however, an occasional flicker of orange light.
I grabbed the livestream phone. I can’t believe I was still streaming. The audience had now ballooned to well over ten million viewers. My largest stream to date! Turns out broadcasting your own ongoing attempted murder is a great way to get views. Also, probably doesn’t hurt to do it in just your bra and skinny jeans.