The second half of the concert started, with everything appearing a little colder, a little closer, a little more tangible. For the first time, Xie Lian actually heard the music, the notes spreading out from the speakers in perceptible waves, numbing the brain and heating the temper.
But this time, Xie Lian couldn’t witness it all from up close. Standing somewhere alone in the middle of the crowd, he was much too still for a death metal performance. Ironically, the little infusion of alcohol he had had sobered him up and cleared his head, settling his nerves to a standstill. Xie Lian himself wondered about this strange effect: Why was it that he had less control over himself when he wasn’t inebriated?? He had no explanation.
Xie Lian took this occasion of level-headedness to get a better look at the singer, hopefully this time without passing out after just seconds. Standing on his toes and straining to see over the sea of bobbing heads, he spotted the glistening body moving wildly on the stage, growling into a tightly-gripped microphone. Over halftime break he had changed into ripped jeans, revealing even more of his muscular body from beneath the fabric and nearly sending Xie Lian’s thoughts spiralling out of control again.
Sure enough, he was still breathtakingly hot.
Trying to avert the misfortune of the concert’s first half, Xie Lian shifted his sight away from the singer and onto the rest of the band.
Xie Lian was embarrassed that he only acknowledged them now for the first time in the night, but felt like the singer’s explicit choice of stage attire was to blame. First, he looked at the guitarist to the singer’s right, who was an amazing player according to Shi Qingxuan. Looking at her now, she did seem extremely focussed and charismatic, shredding away at her guitar with an expression of complete serenity on her face. Her long, straight raven hair was tied in a loose pony tail, letting strands slip into her static face like a draped curtain.
The bassist on the singer’s left seemed to be the macho-kind of person, wearing a pretentious sleeveless top, clearly trying to show off his trained arms. Xie Lian’s mouth thinned with distaste. What’s the point of highlighting your beef if you can’t even show your face?? Trying to take the spotlight away from the singer, but too shy to show your mug? Pathetic!, Xie Lian silently critiqued.
Xie Lian bent left and right trying to get a better look at the drummer, but the singer was right in front of him, making it impossible to espy more than a few green strands of wildly flying hair and long, lanky arms battering the drums in a flurry.
As time went on, it didn’t matter if he had drunken or not; CALAMITY’s music attacked the soul directly, piercing through head and heart without stopping. It was bewitching. No matter how uptight and self-controlled of a person you were, if you listened to CALAMITY long enough, you would get taken away by them.
Xie Lian closed his eyes and let his senses take over, surrendering his body to the screams and the shouts, the strumming and banging, the wild and unholy. He moved with the rhythm, raising his arms, joining the crowd in their cheers and cries. He danced, screamed, headbanged, pearls of sweat running down his neck and back. Finally, finally he was able to enjoy the concert properly, like a real death metal fan. He lost himself completely, while still remembering every single moment. It was ecstasy.
Sometime later in the concert, during a more quiet song, he suddenly had a drink pushed into one of his hands from behind. Turning his flushed face around in surprise, his eyes immediately widened with shock.
“SHI— Shi Qingxuan…!!!!” He started yelling, but lowered his voice at once, ducking his shoulders as if he was doing something illegal. “What are you doing??? How did you get in?”, Xie Lian asked frantically, afraid she was gonna get kicked out any minute. But Shi Qingxuan’s entire face lit up with a grin at his question, raising her hand in triumph: The back of her hand carried CALAMITY’s black stamp. Xie Lian was completely flabbergasted. When he wanted to ask questions, Shi Qingxuan pressed the drink into his hand with emphasis. “We’ll talk later, everything is fine!!!”, she shouted over the music and crowd. “You keep enjoying the show, I have to dish out some more drinks!” She winked at him, then disappeared back into the crowd as fast as she had come.
Still surprised, Xie Lian looked down at the drink in his hand, than smelled at it. Of course, it was wine, he thought with a crooked smile. The wine goddess had blessed him once again.
Sipping at the glass, his head slowly cleared even further, seeming to reflect an ice-cold, dark lake, its surface void of any ripples or movement… a perfect mirror.
Eyes so glassy they reflected all the light that entered them, Xie Lian slowly looked at the singer again.
Restarting at the heels of his boots, Xie Lian scanned his entire body anew, as if it were a game. A halo of black light seemed to emanate from his silhouette, spreading, embracing him. Breathlessl, Xie Lian felt the heat on his face, but didn’t turn his eyes away; he kept looking, up and down, here and there, burning holes with his unblinking gaze. Over his shoulders, down his bulging arms, down to his hands and fingers… suddenly, Xie Lian’s gaze hitched on a certain object clasped around the singer’s right wrist… an iron shackle, from which a long chain was dangling down, reaching all the way to the floor and gathering there in spirals. When the singer moved, the chain followed him and created an ominous clinking sound, adding to the ambience… but that wasn’t what Xie Lian worried about. The chain… the dark, iron links caused ripples within the emptiness of his memory, distorting the perfect surface of the lake… and suddenly, as if there had been an explosion, Xie Lian breached the surface and submerged in the cold darkness of his subconscious.
It was as if he got transported into a different time, a different dimension; all the colors were saturated vibrantly, the bodies of people flowy and see-through. Only one figure withstood all of that, appearing as the archangel of darkness and sin, emanating sounds of screams and flares of blackness. In front of Xie Lian’s distorted vision, there hung a thread— no, a rope, no, a chain… which connected directly to the ungodly figure, right there in front of his eyes.
The conscious part of Xie Lian realised that what he was seeing is what had happened during his blackout earlier in the evening… but no matter what, he couldn’t interfere with his vision and could only keep on observing helplessly.
During the first half of the performance, all concept of reality and existence had slipped away completely. Xie Lian’s brain was filled with screams from the deepest, darkest corners of his mind. Screams of despair, lust, desire, insanity, recklessness, destruction and avidity…. they all crashed in on Xie Lian, beckoning him to do their bidding, to surrender himself to their lecherous calls and cries. Xie Lian’s mind was already out of control, triggered by the overwhelming heat in his body, the roaring wave of people around him, the singer’s figure which drove him crazy.
Xie Lian could offer no resistance. He surrendered himself.
Xie Lian watched himself through a red haze, watched his hands as they reached out for the dangling chain in front of him, enclosing his fingers around it… and pulling on it as hard as he could.
The watcher Xie Lian’s blood froze in horror at that moment. No. No, no, no, he didn’t do that. He didn’t do that… he couldn’t have!!!
Through the crimson mist, an angel of darkness fell from the sky, descending with demon wings and devil horns, one arm extended in front of him, as if reaching for him. Xie Lian let the iron chain slip out of his hands and prepared himself to be crushed under the devil’s body, falling down to hell together with him. He imagined dying peacefully, wrapped tightly within the fallen angel’s embrace. He laughed.
The impact came, although not as intensely as he had anticipated; he heard a grunt, felt an arm wrap around his waist, keeping him from hitting the ground in full speed. But still, the momentum was too great to be stopped; falling backwards, Xie Lian tore the demon to the ground with him, gripping his shoulders for desperate support. The demon cushioned their fall a bit with his one free arm, but the rest of his heavy body slammed into that of Xie Lian’s with almost full brunt, crushing his slender body between his entire weight and the ground below.
Everything happened so fast and suddenly, nobody around them, neither the audience nor the rest of the band, realised what had made Hua Cheng fall off the stage in such a dramatic way. The band quickly adapted and kept playing without him; the audience was so intoxicated, they simply figured that the singer dove off the stage to crowdsurf, but had the misfortune of falling onto a pitiable, weedy mushroom who couldn’t manage to hold up his weight. Only Mu Qing, who had stood right next to Xie Lian and had witnessed everything, looked down at the two entangled bodies in utter dismay. His eyes widened even further as the seconds trickled by and none of the two made even the slightest effort of getting up again.
Not knowing what had happened, Xie Lian felt a dull pain in his hips and ribcage. Bracing for the fall, he had squeezed his eyes shut, and only now that he didn’t feel any more vertigo dared to open them again, wondering if he had fallen all the way to hell.
Breath still irregular and heart beating wildly, his eyelids slowly fluttered open… and immediately got frozen in place. He was stunned breathless, thoughtless. A singular, red-glowing eye stared at Xie Lian merely inches away from his face, seething through his skin and right down to his soul, sparking with fire, burning with wildness.
Xie Lian couldn’t breathe. He felt the scorching body press down on his own, its arm pushing his torso even closer to itself from underneath. He felt long fingers dig into his waist with force, evoking sparks of nerve impulses within Xie Lian, making him flinch and buckle with oversensitivity. An unbearable heat started spreading within his body and face. He released his held breath with a shudder as he sensed the other man’s raging heartbeat against his small chest.
Xie Lian was so out of his mind, he didn’t have control over his body or impulses anymore. His hands which were still resting on the other’s shoulders slowly made their way over his collarbones to the base of his neck, sliding upwards along his protruding sinews, gliding over his ears and slipping up to the back of his head. Lips quivering and arms trembling, every last remaining rational thought seemed to crumble within Xie Lian’s mind, as he tensed his arms and in a single instant, pulled the head in his hands down towards his own.
He didn’t know which heart it was that stopped first, his or the singer’s… all he knew is that everything after that moment was offset, foggy, lost in passion… an unsalvageable jumble of lips and tongues, hot breaths and moans. He could only recall Mu Qing’s outraged cries, a loud bang and everything going dark.
Through the church, the sound of a glass shattering reverberated, making people in its vicinity turn their heads towards its source. What they saw was a carpet of glittering shrapnels among a puddle of dark red liquid, spreading out quickly from around a pair of slender, black-clad legs. Looking closely, the limbs were shaking ever so slightly and looking at the person they belonged to as a whole, he seemed to be the personification of abysmal shock. Cheeks white as snow, hands trembling with mortification and eyes wide with disbelief, the young person took a few staggering steps backwards, looked up at the red-lit stage with terror, then suddenly turned on his heel and stormed out the church’s tall gate.
Xie Lian wanted to die. He actually wanted to disappear from this world. He wished the unstopping snowstorm would swallow him, disintegrate him atom by atom and sweep him up to the heavens with the cold wind.
Xie Lian couldn’t think, he couldn’t bear to think. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUUUUUUUUUUCKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!
WHAT HAS HE DONE!!!!?????
Vision blurred with snow and petrification, Xie Lian stumbled out of the gate, past the guards, over the field and eventually out of the church’s dim light into the dark forest. He didn’t think about where he was going, he just wished to forget everything and erase his memory. He couldn’t feel the frozen air against his skin, didn’t notice the cold wind seep through the thin layers of his clothes, he just kept running, kept running, deeper and deeper, further and further into the abyss of the endless woods.
(Suggested BGM: https://youtu.be/r6veaj2gst8 )
Time passed. Wind finally subsiding, the snowflakes now fell steadily and quietly onto the soft, white ground.
The night was dark.
There wasn’t a sound.
Xie Lian was all alone.
Cold air freezing his lungs, Xie Lian was bent over and heaved in pain, clutching at his constricted chest. He had run for what felt like tens of minutes, ran until he could no more.
Reaching this point of absolute exhaustion, the heat he had generated through movement slowly left his sweating body and was replaced by a clammy feeling of discomfort. But even this sensation was better than the gripping chill which settled in only moments later.
Fingers and nose red with frost, spasms of cold shook Xie Lian’s body, and suddenly, a frightening sense of doom overcame him. Forcing his rigid body to turn around, he looked back the way he had come, but already his tracks were barely visible through the fresh layer of snow.
Turning around again, Xie Lian looked left and right and up ahead for any kind of sign, any kind of implication of a path, of human life. But there were only tall black trees emerging from the untouched snow, extending endlessly into the distance, caging him in their midst with no chance of escape.
With no other options, Xie Lian forced his numb legs to lift and slowly, arduously doubled back the way he came. He looked like a ghost, a wandering sprite, without a single drop of color remaining on his skin. Frost gradually crystallised on his lashes, and the plume of white vapor in front of his mouth kept getting smaller and smaller. Before long, Xie Lian reached the point where his footsteps were no longer discernible in the deep snow. Unmoving, Xie Lian stared down into the silent, all-consuming darkness of the forest. But there was not a flicker of light, not a hint of life.
For many more minutes he wandered around the faceless trees in complete disorientation, trying to walk straight but encountering his own footsteps over and over again. The night gradually got even darker, even colder.
His shaking arms tightly clutched around his frail upper body, Xie Lian finally couldn’t help himself anymore. Choking out a sob, he let tears run over his frozen cheeks in absolute hopelessness. He faced up into the gray night sky, letting the snowflakes land on his cheeks, freezing his tears in place. He didn’t even have the energy to curse his fate or cry for help. Having long lost all feeling in his feet, Xie Lian was sure that he was about to freeze to death, but there was nothing he could do to stop it.
All of this, everything was his own fault. He was the only one to blame.
Things always, always turned out like this.
He hated himself so fucking much.
He closed his eyes and let himself fall backwards. Xie Lian finally had no more tears to shed.
Touching softly upon the ground, he let his body be enveloped by the snow, not longer feeling any of the cold.
Silence. Complete silence.
Strangely, lying there enclosed in frost, gradually a sense of peace overcame him; the snow cradled him gently, whispering words of comfort in his mind, making him see visions of light and warmth. He wasn’t worried. His heart was calm.
His eyes filled with sunlight… against an open window, he saw his parents standing hand in hand, gazing outside, looking at peace… they turned around and saw Xie Lian, both smiling at him lovingly, beckoning him to come over. Xie Lian’s heart lit up with joy, and he raised his arms, ready to leap to their side.
They were waiting there for him.
He breathed in, and out, in, and out. In, and out.
In, and out.
In… and out.
The angels were calling him, Xie Lian thought in his flickering consciousness.
What a pleasant voice.
He was surprised that he was going to heaven after all. He waited patiently, ready to hear the angel’s voice again.
He didn’t have to wait long… but what the angel said next made the last little glow of life within Xie Lian shrink back from the sunlight in hesitation.
Xie Lian thought he sensed the space surrounding him shift slightly, leaving him confused. Was there some sort of trial to get into heaven?, he wondered quietly.
Then, he felt a jolt course through his soul, which immediately destroyed the narrow door he had seen the warm silhouettes of his parents through, sending him into turmoil. Was he maybe going to hell after all?
“Xie Lian??? Ah Xie Lian, XIE LIAN, OPEN YOUR EYES!!!!!! PLEASE, PLEASE OPEN YOUR EYES, AH—“
The heavenly voice trailing off, Xie Lian suddenly felt like he was being squeezed in from all sides by a big, protective being… wondering at last if it was maybe god himself embracing him and calling out his name so pitifully.
But what god sounded so heartbreakingly terrified and panicked?
“Xie Lian, Xie Lian, I’m begging you, please, please… open your eyes, please, oh god… oh god, let him live, let him wake up, please, please, please… Xie Lian, wake up….please wake up… oh god, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry… please forgive me, Xie Lian, I’m sorry… ugh, I’m so fucking sorry…”
Xie Lian felt the last of his dying heart tinge with pain and sadness listening to the being’s soft sobs. Stumbling around in the darkness of his consciousness, he frantically started searching for a way out.
He didn’t want this.
He wanted with all his heart to soothe and comfort this crying entity, to rid it of its sorrow and hurt. He hated from the bottom of his soul to hear it cry… it broke his heart.
But how could he get out of this darkness? How could he leave? What… oh god, what did he do to himself?
No. I don’t want to die.
I need to go back, I need to go back!!
HELP ME!!! I DON’T WANT TO DIE!!!!!!!
Panic flooded Xie Lian’s consciousness as he finally understood what was happening. For the first time, he was completely aware that he was about to pass away. Going mad with fear, he cried out in agony, screaming for help, desperately clinging on to what little awareness he had left. He didn’t want to die, no, he didn’t want to die!!!! HELP!!! HELP ME!!!!! PLEASE!!!!!!!!
I DON’T WANT TO DIE!!!!!!
Suddenly, he felt a tremor somewhere in the distance, a tiny sensation that resembled warmth. The warmth entered him, and like a thin thread of light, appeared glowing in front of his vision. The thread curved, encircling him, stroking around his awareness lovingly. It was dim, but for Xie Lian, it was brighter and warmer than the sun, more beautiful than gold, and more divine than all the gods and angels on this earth combined. It was salvation.
Crying out in his mind with overwhelming hope and relief, Xie Lian grabbed onto the glowing lifeline with all his might and prayed. He prayed to awaken, he prayed to escape this place, he prayed to survive. He prayed to live.
The warmth of the thread seeping into him, strength slowly seemed to return to his soul, making it increase in size and grow past the dark space that had confined him until now. Suddenly burning with the will to survive, Xie Lian shook off the rest of the gripping darkness, escaping the deep inescapable abyss. He felt like he was rushing towards the surface of the ocean after having just been on the threshold of drowning, now being just heartbeats away from filling his lungs again with revitalizing air. The seconds ticked by with agonizing slowness.
Then, finally, the surface was breached.
Buckling and gasping, Xie Lian’s entire frozen body bent with shock as he sucked air deep into his depleted lungs, restarting his stopped heartbeat with a tremor. Although his limbs were still completely numb, he lashed them out, trying desperately to find support. He felt like he hit against something fleshy and alive, prompting him to open his eyes with great effort.
Entering his vision was a familiar face, but this time reflecting completely different emotions and circumstances than last time. The one big eye was blurred with tears, streaks extending downwards and smudging its owner’s intense makeup. All his facial features were distorted with worry and pain, his mouth open with breathless disbelief. The eye rested on Xie Lian’s face, anxiously watching his every move, looking terrified that he would pass out again any second… and never wake up again.
Sensing his fear and anxiety, Xie Lian wanted to comfort him as quickly as possible… but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t bring his frozen lips to move. Starting to realize just what damage he had done, Xie Lian’s eyes started to fill with tears of overwhelming regret. He wanted to scream out at the other’s face that he was sorry, that he wanted to live, that he would never do it again… but not a sound left his throat. Tears finally spilling over, they flowed down his icy cheeks incessantly. He was inconsolable.
But the man, who was sitting on the ground and embracing him with all his might, having wrapped him up in all the clothes he had been wearing, didn’t need more than a single tear to understand. Closing his own eye with a sob, he gently lifted Xie Lian’s head and buried it in his neck, hugging him like he wanted to push him into his own body, sheltering him from all the world’s cruelty and misfortune.
Eyes widening in surprise, Xie Lian felt movement, a different kind of movement within his chest, slowly making heat spread and thawing his limbs. Feeling this warmth, relief crashed in on Xie Lian, leaving him to weep unrestrained in the other man’s arms.
He was going to survive.
—-TO BE CONTINUED —
This is just one-sided ramble, but this kind of near-death experience… I haven’t had it myself, but I think I know what it might feel like. The most memorable dream of my life had one in it. I was having a normal day with friends, followed an unknown person into a building and after a while, an unsettling feeling of dread overcame me. I rushed back to the entrance, trying to get back outside, but an old lady stopped me and said: “Dear, you’re already dead.” The indescribable sense of disbelief and crushing agony still haunts me to this day… Just thinking about how you were alive, and then the next moment you weren’t, leaving everything behind, and there was nothing you could do about it, was heartbreaking. When you really realize, like COMPLETELY realize that you’ve passed away, panic overcomes you like nothing else, making you beg something, god or whoever, to let you wake up and return to life, you feel like you’re going crazy with grief. I think my mind couldn’t handle it and that point I woke up sweating and crying.
So yeah, sorry it’s this angsty haha, but I really wanted to try writing a scene with this kind of experience. Hope y’all enjoyed it anyway!! <33 Don‘t worry, nothing bad will ever happen to Lianlian with Fafa on his side :))
Also, let me just add that getting lost in the woods, especially at night is fucking terrifying. ^^