Chapter 1: Ceiling Stains
Tyler and Josh are finally nearing the end of the tour, and it feels like it has too many negative connotations. They mean that in the best way possible when they think it — refusing to say it, so they don’t get into a conversation they don’t want to. It’d be much too depressing and much too real.
Too real that the tour was ending sooner than later. Felt like an imitation of death. A first round to the experience. Every time they did a show, it felt like that. They both knew it, just decided to ignore it verbally.
So when this tour ended, they’d release a new album, with another poetically pathetic name like the rest. Maybe something edgy. They used the word ‘edgy’ too much, Josh decided after their fifth conversation about the album name.
“Hey Josh,” Tyler had said on one far too early morning, bending his back a bit too far from his bunk to hang down beside Josh’s head. “Josh what’dya think about ‘ Excision ’?” Tyler asks and spreads his palms outward toward the other bunks in an arched motion.
Josh sets his phone on his chest and snorts. “Isn’t that like, a surgery thing, Ty?” he asks and rubs his eyes. Tyler nods and bends his back further, nearly bending in half and crashing down to the floor.
“Yes, but, it also means like, getting rid of a foreign body. Like a Blurryface deal-io.” Tyler quips happily.
“It’s, well it’s kinda edgy .” Josh replies snidely.
They continue to play and travel though; it’s not like they can freeze time and play forever at one show. They aren’t magical like the clique seems to think. ‘ Sadly.’ Josh chuckles out during a conversation about it.
Then it happens. They’re staying at a hotel after a concert, and they’re lying in the same room, two beds, looking up at the bumpy ceiling with odd stain.
”How do you think that,” Josh reaches up and points his right arm to the ceiling, cocking his finger toward a spot. “That one got there. That dark brown one. Looks like someone got up and threw a coffee maker at the ceiling.”
Tyler chuckles, he shrugs even though Josh can’t see him—he’s still inspecting the ceiling. Tyler rolls over and looks at Josh, smiling at how fascinated Josh is with making up stories about the ceiling stains. Josh rolls over too—but Tyler’s staring back at him—and Josh shuffles awkwardly.
They both stare at each other in silence for a minute. Josh doesn’t know what to do, and Tyler doesn’t make any moves to stop the unforeseen staring contest.
Tyler is expressionless, the only thing moving about him was the rising in his chest.
“What about that one? Looks like grape Koolaid.” Tyler chirps suddenly and points his long digit toward a stain in the shape of a diseased fish.
They eventually get bored of the ceiling and Josh falls asleep , blankets curling around him like a sea of hands. Tyler stays up a bit later, staring at the ceiling until his eyes flutter shut and he passes out.
He’s tangled in his blankets too, shedding layers throughout the night ‘till he’s only got the sheet and pants on him.
Josh’s phone vibrates from the nightstand, and so does Tyler’s. It’s loud enough to wake them up—with both going off at the same time.
Josh wakes up first and grabs his phone—it’s a text from their group chat with the crew. It’s Mark, ‘you guys see that thing about nick on twitter?’ Josh repeats the message aloud to Tyler who’s still waking up and running his fingers through his damp hair. Though, Tyler doesn’t remember taking a shower. He sees his shirt lying on the floor and concludes he was just sweaty.
“Uhm, what? Who’s Nick?” Tyler asks as if Mark is here to hear him.
Josh texts Tyler’s question because he's wondering the same thing. Mark responds quickly with ‘nick is the drummer from vinyl theater. he was killed last night. it was on the news and everything.’
Tyler’s head shoots up at the mention of death. “I’m still just as lost. He’s dead?” Tyler whispers and Josh nods and shrugs.
“Guess so. Fuck.” Mark texts them again, and Tyler’s getting annoyed when their phones go off at the same time. ‘Yeah said on the news he was all torn up too. that’s scary. he just had a show around here too. stay safe you guys.’
Josh shivers. Tyler looks at Josh and frowns, “What does ‘all torn up’ even mean?” Josh opens safari and searches Nick’s name, holding up a finger in a sign to wait.
Josh clicks his tongue as he scrolls and Tyler scratches at his face. “Ah, so I guess Nick uh,” Josh stutters slightly. “I guess he like, was kil—sorry— is dead and like—oh gross—his guts were all over the place.” Tyler cringes and blinks away the imagery.
They weren’t super close with Nick, but they’d talked in the past and it still hurt. Death always hurts. Josh sighed heavily and scratched his chin.
“Wonder what being dead is like, huh,” he whispered, feeling guilty for wondering so soon after the fact. As if Nick would hear him, which of course he wouldn’t. Would he ? Josh still couldn’t help hunching his broad shoulders high into the air and curling in on himself a bit.
“We’ve talked about this so many times and I still don’t know,” Tyler sighs. “And I’m not in the mood to talk about it. Christ I’m so tired. Feels like I ran a 5K.” Tyler hisses out and rubs his forearm, which now has a weird bruise on it that he doesn’t remember getting.
Josh nods in response and looks at his phone to read more about Nick.
“Hey Josh, come look at this.” Tyler speaks from the corner of his mouth and focuses his eyes on the bruise, prodding it with his fingers.
“Oh. That’s...weird. Looks like feathers, or like, a hand,” Josh traces his cold, pale digit along the bruise lightly, not wanting to hurt Tyler.
A shiver rolls down Tyler’s spine like a wave and he chuckles and rubs the back of his neck.
“See, one-two-three. I don’t see the other two but it looks like a handprint. Maybe you just slept on your hand there. Should get that tattooed.” Josh suggests and retracts his hand from Tyler’s arm.
“You’re right,” Tyler smirks and bats his eyelashes. “Geez, Joshy, you’re soooo smart.” Tyler says in a high octave, struggling to keep it and his voice wavers; he draws out the ‘smart’ for a bit too long.
Josh chuckles and puts his big hand on Tyler’s face, pushing him away and getting up.
Tyler pouts, sticking his bottom lip out like a child while he’s lying on his back on the bed. “Let’s go get breakfast and, like, not think about dead drummers.”
Chapter 2: You Take So Long
Chapter by HeaviDirtiSole
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Josh strides away from Tyler, grabbing his bag and snatches a change of clothes from it. Tyler is still sitting on his bed, reluctant to get up.
What? The bed was warm and comfortable.
Josh throws a brush at Tyler, it spins on its axis and hits Tyler in the side of the head.
He yelps, and presses against his temple. “Honestly, fuck you,” Tyler hisses at Josh, who’s standing in the door with a smirk, which turns into an innocent smile when Tyler looks his way.
“You kiss your mother with that mouth Joseph? Speaking of mouths, get up and brush your teeth. Your breath smells like...” Josh pauses for a minute.
Tyler tilts his head and motions for Josh to continue.
“I was gonna say death. But, uh, I think I’m gonna resort to a dumpster fire.”
Tyler sighs, getting up and pushes Josh out of the doorway.
“Really?” Josh says as he stumbles back and tries not to fall on his ass.
Tyler goes to the bathroom where his toothbrush is resting on the sink.
“I was about to take a shower too.” Josh sighs and juts his hip out, clucking his tongue at Tyler.
It reminds Tyler of his mother and he chuckles.
He grabs his toothbrush, his hand scrambling to find the toothpaste. When he doesn’t find it, he cocks his head toward Josh.
“Hey Joshy, you should go get my toothpaste. I left it in my bag.” Tyler smiles an uncanny smile and resorts to using the nickname—mostly because he thinks it’s funny—but also because it usually works.
Josh rolls his eyes “No way, bud. Not today.”
Tyler flicks his lower lip out and pouts, resembling the same expression from earlier that morning.
Josh groans, making his annoyance visible by throwing his head back and tossing his clothes on the floor as he stomps out of the room dramatically.
He comes back and smacks the tube into Tyler’s hand. “Hurry the hell up,” Josh glares daggers at Tyler and he chokes on his toothbrush when he practically throws it into his mouth.
When Tyler finally finishes brushing his teeth, Josh literally kicks his ass. Josh kicks his ass out of the bathroom and he hops into the shower. Then Josh yelps, calling out to Tyler through the closed door. “There’s cold water left on the floor in here and I did not want that. Did you take a shower last night asshat?”
Tyler pauses—he doesn’t remember that, but it doesn’t mean he didn’t. His hair was damp this morning, too. He must have. Must have his mind chants quietly behind his own thought. He shrugs even though Josh can’t see him. “I don’t know. Prolly.”
Tyler sits on the floor outside for a couple minutes, listening to the water run. Then, he hears music start playing; it sounds like Paramore—but Tyler didn’t listen to them as much as Josh—even if he lied to Josh and said he did. He felt a little guilty, he was friends with them after all.
When Josh finally gets out, a few songs have passed. And Tyler knew at least one. It was one of their own songs though, ‘Before You Start Your Day’. Tyler recalled the name a couple seconds into the song and smiled.
Cute, he’d thought.
Josh walked out, his hair still wet, but fully dressed.
Tyler wanted to scream.
“‘When will you learn how to dry off Josh?’” Josh said before Tyler could.
Tyler’s shoulders sank at how predictable he was, because that was the exact sentence in his head that he was about to spill out.
“Why the hell are you sitting on the floor, still in the pants you slept in?”
Josh’s smile turned into a thin line. “I’m hungry, Ty, and you’re taking so long. Wait, have you been there the whole time?” Josh says, and he glares at Tyler. Tyler nods. Josh scoffs.
“Get up and get dressed or I’m gonna dress you. Like a child,” Josh commands.
Tyler holds his hands up in the air in surrender. “Sheesh, alright.”
When Tyler finally finishes matching his clothes—which ends up being a black shirt and black pants—he steps out and smiles brightly at Josh.
“My stomach ate itself,” Josh deadpans as he gets up and pockets his phone. Tyler pockets his as well, along with the keycard, and they leave.
They decide to just go to Denny’s, they find one, and it’s close, so they go.
They sit down, and they both get pancakes. Josh also gets eggs. And bacon. Because Josh is a man, and Josh is hungry. Josh is a hungry man.
Tyler stalled and wasted precious time they could’ve been wasting eating. They eat quickly, Josh popping out of his feasting every once in awhile to say something like “Why couldn’t you have been this fast when we were leaving?”
When they were done, Josh sighed happily. Tyler stared, watching Josh rub his stubble and his stomach. They get up and begin walking back to the hotel. Josh groans. “I ate way too much,” he says and slumps over.
“Yeah, you smell like mistakes,” Tyler says and snorts, skipping a bit down the sidewalk.
Josh chuckles at him and his skipping. It reminds him of a little kid, skipping down to the park in the summer or something of the sort.
They get back to their room, a little late, and they need to get in and pack so they can get back on the bus and travel to the next show.
Tyler runs up the steps two at a time, panicking quietly each time he thinks he misses one—or does miss one. Josh just jogs up the steps, landing at the top a bit after Tyler, who’s waiting up there for him, panting.
Tyler strides down the hall to their door and whips the keycard out, slowly pushing it into the door.
The light on the reader turns red. Tyler had put it in upside down.
Josh jabs Tyler in the ribs with his elbow and laughs at him. Tyler takes it out and flies his arm back through the air, nearly smacking Josh in the face with the card.
He flips it between his fingers and pushes it back in. “Woosh!” Tyler exclaims happily and the door’s lock clicks open.
“God, you’re so over dramatic. Takes so much time to do anything with you. You take so damn long.”
Tyler freezes. His mind flashes with some kind of memory then blanks.
It was a repetition of the last sentence Josh had said, but in a slightly distorted voice accompanied by the sound of gurgling. His hands tingled and itched, feeling like someone was pushing against his skin from the inside, grabbing at his fingertips and knuckles sporadically.
Tyler shrugged, linking the feeling in his hands to anxiety of making it to the bus. The sentence continued to echo and bounce between his ears. Maybe he’d heard it on T.V….
mama spooks you'll see this bahaga
Chapter 3: Claws At My Skin
Chapter by HeaviDirtiSole
Even citrus sanitizer can't stop the feel of a dirty soul.
They’d packed quickly, Josh kept repeating he was forgetting something for sure, but Tyler assured him he wasn’t—even though Tyler was probably wrong. When Josh worried about things, it was usually reasonable.
They had to get on the bus though, there wasn’t time to deliberate looking around for a phone charger or a sock.
Once on the bus, they settled in and chatted casually in the small room with the even smaller couch.
“So Tyler, ready to play another show?” Josh asked with a beaming smile. Tyler nodded, huffing out an “Always,” even though he still felt tired. Still felt like he’d ran a 5K. Maybe a 10K. Tyler wasn’t big on marathons.
Tyler’s stomach growls quietly. Josh giggles at the interesting noise it makes. Tyler stands, going to a cabinet with granola bars in it and grabs one.
He rips the wrapper off and stuffs it into his mouth. He glances around, looking at the bucket of plastic utensils they were running low on. Remind someone to get more , he thought, taking a mental note.
He stared down a plastic knife, his hands spasming slightly. The feeling of hands being wrapped around his own engulfed his attention, and he felt dirty .
He virtually sprinted to the sink, but considered it. He didn’t really need to use it. So he resorted to hand sanitizer, the giant bottle sitting beside the sink.
He took a generous amount—a bit too generous—into his hands and rubbed all the way up to his elbows. It was cool and relieving, and it made him think of applying black paint before a concert.
Which in some way made him feel worse, and he shuddered, rubbing more into his calloused hands.
“Hey Ty,” Josh calls from the other ‘room’. “I just thought of something really cool.”
Tyler regains his posture and casually walks into the room. “What if like, we named the album, like, ‘ Rocket Ships ’. Somethin’ spacey, y’know?” Josh smiles, tilting his head at Tyler.
Tyler laughs. He laughs at Josh’s suggestion. It’s a fake laugh.
“See now, that isn’t edgy enough. We gotta keep up with our rep’. We’re the edgy, deep little shits and we can’t name our album ‘ Rocket Ships ’, Josh.”
Tyler laughs too much when he pauses, each laugh is forced and faked. What he’s saying isn’t that funny. He didn’t even tell a joke.
“Tyler what’s wrong?” Josh asks, concerned tint in his voice.
If Josh was a color, his shade would be ‘ Concerned ’. Tyler didn’t really know if ‘ Concerned ’ was a color or not, but he hoped it was. Probably an orangish-pink, or yellow-y
Tyler groaned in fake annoyance.
“Nothing Josh, just tired. Trying to look at least a little human and a little less AI. A little less like I’ve got metaphorical plugs in my skull.”
Josh nodded slowly, not really believing Tyler, but he didn’t want to get him worked up before the show, so he shut up.
When the bus stopped at the venue, the crew hopped out. Going in and setting things up the second they got their feet on the ground.
Tyler and Josh also grabbed their clothes for the show, running inside to get ready.
Josh would tap on his drums for a bit, and Tyler would sing in an almost empty arena—sans crew members. The show approached, they both flitted to their dressing rooms.
Tyler’s mask felt almost extra itchy today. It felt like claws were being dragged down the inside of his skull, and his eyelids. He tapped his foot. Scratching the mask and adjusting it around his face. Blehck , he thought, This sucks .
He walked up behind Josh, tapping his shoulder and faking a smile.
“Ready?” He whispered into his ear. “Always!” Josh yelled softly. Tyler kissed his palm with a ‘ smack ’ and pushed it onto Josh’s forehead. A faint black mark was left there. He figured there was also black on his mouth now.
“Kill ‘em Spooky.” Josh blushed and smiled, a drop or two of Tyler’s spit and some paint now resting on his forehead. Josh pulled his mask over his head anyway, though.
They both snuck to their places, Josh to the drums and Tyler up, up, up stairs to the audience, waiting for his cue to step out and sing in Hometown.
It always kind of reminded him of climbing and getting to the top of a really tall tree. Sequoia maybe. Why would he be climbing a sequoia? Hell if he knew.
The show was great, they always were.
Great except for Tyler, who was now so tired he could die.
And the entire show it felt like bugs were dancing across his skin, making his dancing even jerkier than usual.
After the show, as soon as they were out of their dressing rooms and hiding somewhere in the venue, Josh began peppering Tyler with questions.
“Are you okay? Your voice was all...waver-y?” Josh said in a questionable tone, he wasn’t really sure if ‘wavery’ was a word.
Tyler shrugged, using the “I’m tired.” excuse for the eleven-teenth time that day. Josh was tired of that one and cocked an eyebrow at Tyler. “If you’re so damn tired, why didn’t you even try to nap today?”
Truth is, Tyler was tired. He felt exhausted all day. But there was something else, that he couldn’t really explain, and so he didn’t want to.
Josh on the other hand knew Tyler well enough to know Tyler would jump at the opportunity to nap. Who wouldn’t? The thought of sleeping just hadn’t crossed Tyler’s mind between all the fidgeting and scratching that day.
“Tyler. I’m serious. Tell me what’s up.” Josh said and gave a sympathetic look. A knowing look.
But Josh didn’t know this . This was different. This was weird. Whatever it was. Maybe paranoia? He had almost forgotten that Nick had been killed last night.
He immediately felt remorse for that. He decided to go with paranoia. “I’m paranoid is all. Just had an acquaintance be… killed, y’know?”
Josh nods in response, slowly—he’s waiting for more—but nothing more comes.
They go to the bus, lying in their bunks. Tyler continously itches at his arms and hands, he can’t keep still. He’s not going to sleep.
He gets up, standing in front of Josh’s bunk. All Josh can see is the back of Tyler’s head and shoulders, and he slithers his arm out from the curtain and pokes it between Tyler’s shoulder blades.
“Where ‘ou going?” Josh asks, his voice raspy. He was on the verge of sleep, and Tyler had stolen it.
“Sorry. Did I wake you up?” Josh shakes his head, it’s a lie though.
“Didn’t ‘nswer my ques’ion.” Josh says quietly, rubbing his eyes. Tyler quickly tries to recall what the question was, but he can’t.
“What’d you ask me?” he whispers awkwardly.
Josh rolls his eyes, scoffs, and rolls over to look at the wall instead. Tyler shrugs and returns to his task of finding NyQuil. He wasn’t sick, but he needed sleep. And he knows they have it, somewhere .
So he goes to a cabinet, rummaging through medicine and bottles of spices. Mainly garlic salt.
Garlic salt makes everything taste good , Tyler thought, chuckling. He finds the pills, taking himself to the sink in the dark. He turns on the faucet and leans down, gulping water with the medicine. He stands up straight again and looks at his reflection in the sink.
He looks like shit.
His hair is fucked, he’d scratched red marks down his face, and his eyes had grown heavy bags under them.
Lookin’ good, Tyler . He sighs and drags his hands down his face—they smell like dirty coins, metal.
Hadn’t he used hand sanitizer earlier?
Was that before or after the show?
His mind was getting totally mixed up.
His thoughts felt brumous. He reached over and put some into his hand, feeling it dissolve. He might as well try to sleep now, so he went back to his bunk and attempted it.
When he laid down, he curled in on himself, putting his hands under his head. The smell was still there. Smells like copper , he thought.
Which didn’t really make sense, since he had just used hand sanitizer. Citrus hand sanitizer at that.
He groaned in annoyance, stretching his arms out as far away as he could instead.
He falls asleep listening to Josh breathe softly and whistle through his nose.
The bus is stopped at a rest stop right outside of a city, cars and trucks occasionally passing by with a beam of light going through a window or two.
Tyler wakes up standing in the middle of the small bathroom on the bus.
He’s staring himself down in the mirror.
He blinks rapidly, the LED lights in the room are burning into him. His hair is wet, and he has a laceration under his left eye.
He loses his balance a bit, shifting his weight foot to foot.
All he’s in is briefs, even though he knows he went to bed with sweatpants on. Did I take another —his mind races for the word— somnambulistic shower? If I even did the first time.
He pauses in thought, raises his arm to smell himself. He smells clean. On another note, did I shower at a truck stop?
He brings his hand up to scratch at his stubble, looking at his fingers in the mirror.
He raises them to his eyes, curling them around. He looks at his nails—there’s bits of rich red, well—rich red something , under his nails.
He considers clearing it away with his teeth, but he has no ideas as to what the hell it is, so he pauses.
He decides to go find a file. He uses the small end of the file to get the red out.
Once he finishes, he returns to his bunk, where he finds his sweats neatly folded on the pillow. He shrugs. He probably did just take a shower in his hazy state.
Tyler lays down, trying to get comfortable after he puts his sweats back on. He rolls around uncomfortably, he feels stinging in his arms and chest.
He checks the time, 3:34 AM. Ah, goody, he thinks.
He continues trying to get comfortable and sleep, but he just can’t do it. He looks at his forearms, the stinging become incessant.
His veins are pulsing black.
He freaks the hell out, yells and falls out of the bunk.
“What the fuck!” Josh whisper-yells, looking at Tyler on the floor. Tyler looks back up at him through the dark, and screams at Josh to come look.
Josh hops down, grabbing Tyler’s arm. “What, what is it?” Josh asks hurriedly, worrying and gnawing his lip.
Tyler points at his veins, and Josh looks. Josh searches for something to be wrong.
He really looks . But nothing is wrong at all, and Josh sits down next to Tyler.
“Are you alright, Ty?” Josh asks, looking sincerely into Tyler’s eyes. Josh cares about him, Tyler knows that. Tyler doesn’t nearly care for himself as much as Josh cares about him.
But when you see black goop in your veins, you tend to care a little bit.
Tyler looks back up at Josh, who’s running his fingers through his highlighter hair. They’re both surprised they didn’t wake anyone else up.
“Didn’t answer my question. Been doing that a lot. I don’t appreciate it.” Josh mumbles.
Tyler looks down, apologizing. “I’m sorry. I think I just need sleep.” Tyler says, rubbing his forehead to erase the confusion. Like it’s Expo on a dry erase board.
“People who ‘need sleep’ don’t usually jump out of their beds at what, 3:30 in the morning? And people who need sleep—I don’t know—sleep?”
Tyler sighs. “Why do you always gotta be so smart, Josh?” he asks and sighs, there’s a tear on the edge of his nose. Tyler doesn’t even know why he’s crying.
Josh leans forward and wipes Tyler’s tear away, then rubs it off on Tyler’s pants. “Not smart. I just know when something’s wrong.”
“Josh I thought you were doing something nice then you go and wipe my own tear on me.”
“Sorry. Alright, so why are you worked up?” Josh asks and pulls Tyler between his legs and rests Tyler’s back on his chest. Josh lays his chin on Tyler’s shoulder, closing his eyes and waiting for a response.
Tyler breathes in shakily. “Alright so uh, I woke up standing in the middle of the bathroom. I think I took a shower at the rest stop. I woke up and I was just,” he pauses to breathe in again. Josh nods as he talks, his chin digs into Tyler’s clavicle a bit. “I think I’ve started sleep walking,” he whispers like it’s a bad thing. Josh just nods again and yawns.
“So I went back to my bunk, and my sweats were folded on my pillow. So I put those on obviously, and I tried to go back to sleep. But, my arms felt really weird. So I looked at them, and uh. My veins looked, uh, black?”
Josh’s eyes widen up a bit. “That why you screamed, Ty?” It sounds mocking but Tyler knows deep down it’s genuine concern. Josh wouldn’t judge Tyler.
Something in his head tells him it was mocking, though. Something in his head repeats and repeats it.
That why you screamed, Ty? Because you’re fucking delusional?
He sighs and bats his hands around as if his thoughts are settling dust.
“Tyler,” Josh says again, to make sure Tyler isn’t off in space somewhere. Tyler nods. “Yeah. That’s why I screamed.” Because I’m losing my goddamn mind , he wants to add.
Josh frowns. He tilts his head to the side and sighs, pushing Tyler off of him. “Come sleep in my bunk with me. There’s probably enough room. I wanna make sure you sleep.” Josh demands quietly, and Tyler isn’t going to protest.
Tyler scoots in, and Josh curls around him. He grabs his hand, rubs his thumb soothingly. “Please just go to sleep.” Josh whispers into Tyler’s ear. He nods, I will , he’s saying silently. I promise .
Josh nudges Tyler’s arm, to make sure he's awake—or asleep—Tyler doesn't really know.
“It's okay to feel things, you know that though. Right Ty? I know you've got that somewhere in ya. You and your big brain.” he whispers, and it's silent past that.