I sent you so many emails but you still haven’t replied. I sent you four emails last year, I’m sure you got them, I’m sure the email address was right. But if the address was right then why haven’t you written back yet? Chuck that man, how have you been? How’s your daughter? I’m about to be a father too! If I have a daughter I’m going to name her Jackie. I read about your uncle too, I’m sorry. My buddy also killed himself over some girl who didn’t want him. You probably hear this a hundred times a day but I’m your biggest fan. I even remember coming to your shows earlier,you brought the house down. All of your features were sick, man! Anyway, I hope you read this one at least, hit me back if you do.
Your biggest fan,
“Fans can’t contain their excitement as star singer-songwriter, Rowan Raymond, is set to release his fifth studio album—‘No Fear, King Lear’ this fall.”, Jae-ri read out loud, her eyes taking in the headlines hungrily.
Rowan, brows arched, didn’t take his eyes off his phone screen. He leaned against the van window as he finished reading the mail. It had been a while since he’d received fan mail personally. It reminded him of his debut days, back when he was still a novice with little idea about what he was doing. Now, all communication was taken care of by the PR team and nothing got to him without being thoroughly surveilled. Well, almost nothing.
“What’s wrong?” Jae-ri looked at him, her eyes filled with concern.
“Nothing, I just got a fan email.” Rowan replied.
“You got an email on your personal account?!” Her eyes grew wide. “Is it something weird? Is it stalker-y? Give me the ID, I’ll get it blocked.”
“Calm down man, it’s nothing weird, just a normal fan email. Just get the PR team to check my account security.” Rowan shrugged it off.
Jae-ri’s concerns weren’t all misplaced, some of Rowan’s fans were known to be, somewhat, obsessive. All his songs described stories of people dealing with intense mental illnesses and violent tendencies. At times, certain fans would get convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that the songs were describing them. Some even went to the point of believing that they were the very inspiration for them. This, along with general fan tendencies, had led to many instances of stalking. Thus, now, Rowan had very strict rules for fan interaction.
“We’re here!” His driver, Stanley, said merrily just as a swarm of camera flashes surrounded them, accompanied by the cheering screams of what seemed like a thousand fans.
“Well, we’ll worry about that later. Right now, we’ve got a show to put on.” Jae-ri took a deep breath and put a firm hand on Row’s shoulder. She turned to him and with a reassuring smile, said—“Bombs away”.
“Bombs away.” Rowan said, just as she pulled the door open.
You still haven’t replied to me. Believe me, I’m not mad. But I think it’s wrong that you can’t even take out the time to reply to people who love you. Last night, I drove across the state to bring my 6-year-old cousincousin to your concert. He waited after the concert for an autograph but you walked right back in after your set and didn’t come out again. That was some piss poor behaviour and my brother felt really bad Row, he’s a huge fan of yours. I don’t think you remember this but back when you were doing a show in Colorado, you told me that you’d write back if I wrote to you. So how often do you lie? You see, we’re very similar. My father left very early, mama and him didn’t get along well, he’d hit her. I understand what you’re saying in your music cause I’ve lived that life. So, every time I’m having a bad day, I put on your music and lose myself in it. I have your lyrics tattooed all over my body and your name on my chest. All of this makes me feel closer to you. Sometimes I cut myself a little just to feel something, the rush that the pain comes along with is unmatched. I keep reliving it cause then I feel invincible when I feel the adrenaline kick in. I talk a lot about you, even my girlfriend’s jealous. But no one knows me the way you do Row, it somehow feels like you’re my brother from another mother.
Your biggest fan,
P.S. We should be together man.
“Brother from another mother eh?” Rowan let out a little scoff.
“What?” Jae-ri looked up from her iPad.
“It’s that guy again, turns out he’s crazier than I thought.” Rowan’s expression held a mild annoyance along with a strange amusement that Jae-ri had only started noticing recently. She’d been his manager since the very beginning, he’d been her first artist at the agency and together, the two novices had trudged along to fame and success. But now, in these seemingly evanescent moments, she saw something in him that she didn’t quite recognise, it was always the slightest thing, just a glint in his eyes that seemed almost sinister? It made the hair on the back of her neck stand.
Just as she had this thought, she felt a pang of guilt shoot up her spine. He was her family, in fact, the only one she had, how could she doubt him? Always looking out for danger everywhere had likely made her paranoid, it was nothing. It had to be.
“Hey!” Rowan snapped his fingers at her.
“Huh, what?” She snapped out of it.
“Daydream much?” He flashed a familiar smile. It reassured her.
“I was just getting cold feet thinking about what mess you’re gonna get us into next.” She tilted her head and smiled mischievously at him.
“I like seeing you work hard.” He smiled back.
“Sure, wait so the guy sent another mail? What’re these people doing? And what do you mean ‘crazier than you thought’?”
“He seems deranged, says he cuts himself to my music.” The strange glint was back, but Jae-ri didn’t have time to process it as the green room door snapped open.
“They’re ready for you, Rowan!”
He got up to leave and all Jae-ri could muster was a weak-
He turned to look at her,
“Bombs away.” A wavering smile on her face.
“Bombs away!” He returned the smile and walked out to leave her in silence.
Hey a**hole, you think you’re too great to reply to your fans? Well this is the last email I’m gonna be sending you, I’m done with this. It has been 2 months now and you still haven’t replied Row? F*** you man. I know for a fact that you got the last 2 emails. I’ve been thinking of getting blackout drunk and driving myself off the cliff. You know that Phil Collins song, “In The Air Tonight”? It’s about a guy who could’ve saved the other one from drowning but he didn’t. You could’ve saved me man, but you were too busy to even write back.It’s too late now, I’ll be gone by tomorrow and then you’ll never hear from this crazy fan of yours. All I wanted was a reply man, couldn’t you even do that? You ruined me man, I hope this haunts you for the rest of your life. I hope you wake up in the middle of the night screaming to the walls, I truly hope you do. I hope you lose yourself in these messages and go insane, and end up dying in a ditch. My girlfriend’s gonna have a baby, but what’s the point of either of them living without me? Maybe they’ve gotta die too. Should I slit her throat or choke her? Well, gotta go now, not like you care anyway.
Your biggest fan forever,
“Jesus.” Rowan sighed and put his phone down. It was his first proper day off in a month, even Jae-ri had taken a vacation for once. He didn’t have time to deal with this. He flopped down on his couch and slipped into a nap.
Rowan’s eyes snapped open to the sound of his phone. It was Jae-ri.
“Bro it was supposed to be the one day—” he was cut short by her panicked voice.
“Row, Rowan, listen to me.” She said.
“What’s wrong?” He replied.
“Listen carefully, don’t go outside your apartment, okay? There’s a mob of reporters waiting outside your building.” He could hear the strain in her voice.
“What’s going on man?” He asked.
“A guy committed suicide, Row, h-he was your fan.”
“A fan, he had a basement filled with your posters, he left a letter saying you killed him.” Her voice was shaking.
“What the f-?” Rowan hung up the call and switched his television on.
“The deceased, identified as 29-year-old Rashad Remy, committed suicide after murdering his pregnant girlfriend by driving off Mariana Ridge in Ridgetown last night. The car, along with the bodies of the suspect and his girlfriend, was discovered around 5 AM today. Upon investigating the couple’s house it was discovered that Remy had a basement filled with posters of rock musician Rowan Raymond and a letter was discovered with a confession of the suspect’s plan to carry out the murder-suicide. The letter also included a series of obscenities meant for Raymond and a serious claim that Raymond ‘ruined his life and killed him’. When contacted, Raymond’s agency was unavailable for comments.”
“What the hell?”
“Rashad Remy? Murder-suicide? What?”
Rowan’s phone kept violently buzzing as if to reflect its caller, Jae-ri’s, desperation.
Wait a minute.
Rowan’s eyes went wide. He scrambled for his phone and looked up his name on the internet. As expected, the news reports were the first to show up. He clicked on one and read the details again.
“…drove off the cliff with his pregnant girlfriend…”
“..Rowan Raymond ruined my life. He fu*king killed me.”
His heart beating at twice its speed, Rowan opened his mail, the last letter.
“Rash” Rashad Remy.
“…blackout drunk and driving myself off the cliff…”
Rowan felt the world spinning around him. He held the couch arm to keep himself steady, his breaths came up short.
He found his mouth twitching into a smile, he couldn’t control it. He hadn’t felt this thrilled since his first tour performance. Hell, he’d never been this thrilled.
“This guy actually killed himself?! Over me?!”
He sank to the floor and covered his face with his hands. He felt like his blood had turned to fire, it was raging inside him, making him unable to breathe. He was shaking.
He felt a gurgle in his throat. It turned into a small laugh, turning bigger and bigger until he was laughing so hard, he felt like the wall behind him would start shaking, the ground itself would have tremors and his house would fall in on itself.
He laughed like he’d never laughed before, he felt like his stomach would cave in but he couldn’t stop.
“I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS GUY ACTUALLY KILLED HIMSELF OVER ME!”, He screamed at the top of his lungs, so loud that the window glass seemed to be trembling, his laughter choking the words in the end.
Jae-ri’s finger hovered over the call button waiting to press it again each time the ringing stopped. She’d been driving for an hour. The entire ride, not once had she taken a break from calling Rowan. She’d left the calls from reporters to the agency, her priority was Rowan.
It’s not like this was the first time something like this had happened, even though it had never been this severe. But Jae-ri had a terrible feeling she couldn’t place. It felt like her world was falling apart and she couldn’t explain why. She kept recalling Rowan’s expression as he talked about the fan who’d been sending him the mails, the glint in his eyes that terrified her. She couldn’t understand why it was coming back to her now, of all times.
She’d always dealt with such situations professionally but she couldn’t help but let her emotions get the best of her today. At this moment, she wasn’t a manager, wasn’t a suave professional with 10 years of experience, she was just a lonely girl who felt like she was going to lose her only family.
“Come on Rowan, pick up for God’s sake!”
She was relieved to hear the familiar click as he finally picked up.
“Rowan! Bastard! I’ve been losing my sh—” she began.
He was talking very quietly.
“Yes, I’m listening.”
“This asshat actually killed himself over me.” He was almost whispering.
She felt a sharp pang of fear.
She heard him take a sharp breath in, then—
“THIS ASSHAT ACTUALLY KILLED HIMSELF OVER ME!” His thundering voice echoed through the car. She slammed the brakes and stood still on the empty mountain road. She didn’t realise it, but she was trembling.
“I’ve gotta do something.” He hung up.
“N-no. Rowan!” She dialled again hysterically.
She felt tears running down her cheeks. What was he gonna do? She had a feeling that it was going to be something sinister. The person on the phone hadn’t been the man she’d known for ten years.
After what felt like an eternity, he picked up again.
“I’ve fixed it, Jae-ri, you don’t have to worry anymore.” He sounded excited, almost childlike.
“Rowan, what did you do?” She felt dread creeping up her back.
“I talked to the agency directly, they released the statement, you weren’t picking up their calls and I told them to do it so they did it.”
“Rowan, what are you saying?”
“I told them that he was crazy, made them release the emails.”
She couldn’t stop trembling.
“They’re creating a lot of buzz, I’m the most searched person on Google today. I told them to say that I replied to the last one and release a letter, you know how creative they are. They made it the sappy and ‘oh I care so much about you’ kind.” He chuckled.
Who was this person? He spoke with Rowan’s voice, sounded just like him, but Jae-ri didn’t know him.
“Oh, oh we can release a song dedicated to him!”
“Jae-ri, this is a jackpot!” He couldn’t even hear her, he couldn’t hear anything over the voice inside his head. The voice spitting fire, the voice that had been slowly growing and festering all this time, behind the curtain of a once-genuine smile.
It was finally set free, and it burned everything.
Written by Avaneesh M and Anika Shukla for MTTN
Edited by Avaneesh Jai Damaraju for MTTN
Featured artwork by Adil Khan for MTTN