Louise took a deep breath and posted the competition entry into the letterbox. Excitement filled her — it was so unlikely she would ever win, but what if she did? What if she got to meet him? She walked home in a daze, hardly noticing as she tripped over her annoying neighbour’s dog, Lucky.
“Sorry” she muttered.
“That’s alright” Dave said gruffly in his think Irish accent. He was a small, plump man with a massive beard. “You be careful, now.”
Louise went into her tiny London flat and through to her bedroom. Anyone else walking in here would get a huge shock, but Louise was used to it. Looking down at her from every inch of the room were the same frozen, sparkling blue eyes, the same charming smile, the ridiculous cheekbones. Chad Chipmunk, the latest pop sensation who, in the space of a year, had sky rocketed into the top of the charts. An early twenties something young man smiled in every poster. In some of them, he wore a sharp suit. Others, he frolicked half naked on a beach.
“One day” she said dreamily. She was 23, petite, quite pretty, and utterly obsessed with Chad. His music was incredible, unlike anything pop music had ever known before or ever would. Her favourites of his songs included Love Me Cos I’m Cute, Best Girl in the Whole Wide World and Oh Oh Check Me Out (La la la la la).
A few weeks later, Louise had almost forgotten she even entered a competition to meet her idol backstage at his next concert (to which she was going, third row, by herself because none of her friends could stand him). She returned home from her boring office job after another day of annoying her friends and co-workers with the latest details of Chad’s showbiz life. A few letters waited on the floor — bills, a menu for a local takeaway and a random, slightly smaller envelope. She picked them up and headed through to the slightly cramped kitchen, where she opened the smaller envelope first. She read the first few lines several times before any of it sunk in, and before she could help it, she began to scream with pure joy.
“Oh my god, oh my god!” she yelled, ecstatic as she examined the little backstage pass that fell out of the letter. She was actually going to meet him. Her dream was coming true.
“What the hell — !”
She barely noticed as her neighbour Dave came crashing through the kitchen, holding a knife.
“Where are they, love, where are they, I’ll get them! Have they hurt you?”
“What?” Louse stuttered, willing herself to calm down. “What are you — oh, no — nobody’s here. I’m just so excited, look, I’m going to meet Chad Chipmunk — “
“Oh for the love of Christ — listen, sweetie, you gave me a heart attack.”
“Sorry” Louise mumbled, she her eyes fell to the letter again and she read it once more.
“Dozy cow” Dave muttered to himself as he let himself out the flat.
The day finally arrived. Louise had taken the day off work to prepare. She spent all day making herself look as fantastic as she could. Excitement bubbled away inside her as she called the taxi. What would happen? Would he think she was pretty? Would he talk to her? She was physically shaking.
On the way to the venue, Louise was strangely subdued. She answered the taxi drivers usual questions, what are you up to tonight, is it your night off, have you any holidays planned. When she got there she handed over a twenty and told him to keep the change, only vaguely thinking of the unusually large tip she had given the driver.
Inside the venue was total chaos. Thousands of young girls, some with extremely bored looking partners, were milling around in a state of hysteria. Merchandise stalls were everywhere, for when you needed that £18 lanyard you couldn’t do without.
“Hello” said the friendly looking woman when Lily handed over her ticket and backstage pass. “Hope you enjoy the — oh, congratulations! A backstage pass!”
At once, a gaggle of young women turned round sharply and stared jealously at Louise. The woman who had taken her ticket had called over another staff member, whispered in his ear and turned to Louise.
“My colleague will show you where to go, have fun!”
Louise, her knees feeling weak, followed the man through the crowd until they reached the front desk. He led her behind it and opened a large door which said STAFF ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT. Louise, her heart hammering, followed the man down a long corridor, other young girls dotted here and there looking as excited as she felt. Finally, they came to a stop outside a room with a large black door which said dressing room one. The man knocked gently on the door and they waited.
Within seconds, a middle aged looking woman opened the door. Her hair was tied up in a tight bun, her make up was immaculate and she wore a suit and an earpiece.
“Another backstage winner” said the man, sounding almost bored.
“No problem” said the woman, and the man turned and left.
“You get ten minutes” the woman said, “After that, I’ll come in and escort you out. Don’t annoy him, don’t scream at him, don’t badger him. Be polite.”
“Okay” Louise stuttered.
“Pockets” said the woman.
Louise was confused.
“Empty your pockets” the woman said impatiently.
“Oh” said Louise, “Just my coat, look — “
She pulled out her pockets but there was nothing in them.
“Handbag” said the woman, who Louise was liking less and less.
Louise opened her handbag and showed it to her. The woman had a quick rummage and nodded.
“Right, I’ll see you soon” she said, and she passed Louise and held the door open.
Louise walked in, shaking all over. The dressing room was massive, and there sitting on the couch was —
Her heart plunged into her stomach as she gazed at him. He was even more perfect in the flesh. He looked up from his phone and flashed that beautiful smile. Perhaps because she was so excited, she thought she saw his smile falter slightly.
“Hi” she said breathlessly.
“Competition winner?” he asked kindly, smiling widely again. She nodded.
“I assume you want an autograph?” he asked, standing up and walked over to a table covered in pictures and a few pens.
“That — that would be great” said Louise, her mind completely blank.
He signed the picture and went to hand her it but he dropped it as his arm did a strange twitch. He giggled nervously.
“Sorry, too much coffee!” he laughed as he bent down to pick it up. His laughter was like music to her.
“I — I really love your music” she spluttered, not even thinking as the words came tumbling out.
“Thanks” he smiled as he handed her the picture. He coughed, once and then again, and began to pat his chest.
“Probably coming down with a cold” he muttered, and turned away from her.
Louise couldn’t believe her luck; she looked down at the picture, and began stuttering her thanks.
“You really didn’t have to — “
She broke off; Chad was bent over the table, retching.
“Oh, I’ll go and get someone — “
He shouted, and she fell silent. A small shiver went through her spine. He wasn’t the cheery, happy Chad she was used to in interviews. He turned to look at her, a strange, ugly look on his face.
“Knew you’d have showed up here” he muttered, taking a swig of water. “The sooner I get this over with the — SHIT.”
He was bent double, clutching his stomach. Louise didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. He was clearly unwell — did he have a fever? Was it serious? She had a very bad feeling, watching him, and backed towards the door.
“Don’t open that door” he growled, and she froze.
“I can get help” she said.
Chad laughed, but it wasn’t the laugh she loved. It was cold, nasty.
“I’m beyond help” he said in a low voice. He looked up at her, and Louise was stunned to see his eyes were changing shape — they became larger and more rounded, until they weren’t eyes at all. Chad’s roar of frustration was masked by the sudden thunder above — thousands of people were taking their seats. Louise wanted to scream but she seemed to have lost her voice — Chad Chipmunk was rapidly shrinking, faceless, limbless, neither human nor shadow. Louise felt like she was in some kind of bizarre dream. Yes, that was it, she would wake up any second now —
The bizarre form that was Chad Chipmunk grew upwards before her eyes, and Louise’s entire hold on reality fell around her as there stood a completely different looking middle aged man. In fact, not just any man. It was her neighbour, Dave.
“Oh, bloody hell” he said, looking down at his body.
He looked up and saw Louise’s astonished face.
“Sorry, love, I hoped you’d get your meet and greet before this happened.”
Louise’s voice seemed to be stuck in her throat somewhere. She just stared, open mouthed.
“Bloody idiots” Dave muttered, “Spending money on the talentless tosser. Never heard such tripe. I can’t even sing.”
“Wh — what the hell — “
“Listen, love” said Dave urgently, checking his watch, “You weren’t supposed to see this. It’ll take too long to explain, but I’m not from this world. Well, obviously I’m from this world, I’m human, but I belong in the past. I just sort of….never died. With every year that’s passed I can hold two identities and…it looks like Chad’s time is up.”
“Are you mental?” Louise said, utterly bemused.
Dave scrambled for the door but it opened before he could touch it — the woman from before walked in, a look of shock appearing on her face.
“Where is Mr Chipmunk — who are you?” she shrieked at Dave.
“He left, love” Dave shrugged, “I don’t know where he went. I’m in to do the cleaning.”
“Cleaning?!” she shouted, “Oh, what have you done with him, this is an absolute disgrace — “
“He left” said Louise faintly, “I got my — my picture and — “
Louise glanced down at the photograph in her hand. It was completely blank. She tried to hide it from view.
The woman looked suspiciously at them before she sighed.
“Well the concert starts in five minutes, he better come back. God, these young stars, think they’re immortal or something.”
She left. Dave and Louise looked at each other.
“I better get out of here” Dave said.
“What?” Louise asked. “You can’t! All these people are waiting for a concert!”
“Well they’re going to get a feckin’ shock when I walk out, aren’t they?” Dave growled.
“Well you’re just going to have to — do whatever is it you do to become him again — “
“Not on your nelly” he said. “I can only transform and hold the identity for a year, no shorter. I thought being famous and rich would be fun but that little twerp made my life a living hell.”
“You have no life, you don’t even exist!” Louise snapped.
“Bit harsh — “
“Look, how long do you have left of being Dave?”
“About seven minutes” he said, looking at his watch.
“Well you’re just going to have to become Chad” said Louise. “Do this concert and retire if you want, I don’t care. You’ve fooled so many people! They deserve one last concert.”
Dave looked at her, exasperated, but didn’t argue.
“I’ll probably just jump in front of a bloody bus, save a lot of hassle — “
“Oh, shut up” said Louise.
The next few minutes seemed to last a lifetime. Eventually, Chad Chipmunk stood before her again. She was a hell of a lot less fond of him than she was half an hour ago.
The door crashed open and in came the woman again, looking extremely agitated.
“Where have you been?” she demanded. “Never mind. Two minutes.”
“I’m on my way” he said, “Oh and I’ve had a few ideas about my next album title.”
The woman raised an eyebrow, looking bored.
“Immortality’s a Bitch” he said, and he followed her from the room.