"Hey, so did I hear that you'd actually gone and crucified yourself? Decided to do it yourself before someone else did, hey?"
Wil had blurted the question out before he had really thought about whether he'd actually want to talk about it, but it had been months since he'd seen him, and there he was, standing quietly in a corner, and Wil couldn't help going up to him.
He'd read the stories in the papers, seen the photos of John Safran up on a cross being carried through a crowd of people in the Philippines, but somehow it hadn't quite seemed real. At least, it didn't seem like the sort of thing that he'd actually do. He wondered if it had actually hurt. What would it feel like to have nails hammered through your hands and feet?
John looked over at him as Wil sidled up beside him, beer in hand. Before he could respond, Wil spoke again.
"I mean, it'd have to hurt, right? Why'd you even want to do it anyway?"
John shrugged against the wall, and the silence hanging in the air around them was thicker and more prominent than the noise that surrounded them. The Logies weren't generally the most interesting of awards nights, and Wil knew he was only there to get pissed and drunk-tweet the whole horrid mess of an awards night. Not that he was feeling particularly well at that moment. Perhaps it was the three beers he'd had in the past half an hour, or the dodgy canapés that had gone with them.
"I guess I was just curious to know what it was like. It didn't hurt that much, though. I think there was more pain from the flogging than the nails," John replied after a while.
Wil was both impressed and shocked. "You did the whole thing, then? Carried the cross and everything?"
John pushed his glasses up his nose, looking thoughtful. "Well, yeah, that's the point of it. You get crucified like Jesus, down to the Roman centurion yelling at you as you carry your cross through the streets. The crowds are just immense, and sometimes, I felt I couldn't breathe. It's really crazy."
Wil watched the man beside him, considering how much smaller he seemed. His voice was loud, because it had to be in order to be heard, but this wasn't the Safran on the tele. This Safran was softer, quieter, more intensely aware of others around him, and his place amongst them.
Wil had often thought that comedians didn't really have a place at the Logies, since they were the only ones who never took the marathon of an awards night seriously. And like all easily distracted children, comedians tended to get bored with it rather quickly, and instinctively decided to make their own fun, which was usually not in the best interests of the serious nature of the Logies. It didn't stop Wil going, though, not when it offered a chance to get drunk and live-tweet every depressingly sad moment of it. It gave him something to do, and he knew there were others out there who appreciated it as well. He'd never have kept on doing it if there hadn't been an audience for it.
Wil was sure more words passed between them than he remembered. All he knew was that, at some point after asking about nails and whips, he'd collapsed, and he was now in some shoddy small room, presumably still at Crown, lying on a sofa. He was sure he was alone, but as he turned to retch again into a nearby bucket, he noticed a figure sitting opposite him. He didn't have enough time to focus on them before he'd thrown up again.
"I thought the Logies weren't literally making you sick, but now that you mention it..."
Wil took a deep breath, recognising the voice, feeling a little relieved that John was still with him. Why, he didn't know. He wasn't sure exactly how close they were. They'd always moved in different but occasionally overlapping circles. He liked him, but that was about all he was certain about.
"Well, at least I've got a pass for the rest of the evening. Fuck, I just wanna go home now. I feel shit," Wil managed to say. He thought about getting up, but the ache in his head suggested otherwise.
"I thought you might. You don't need a hospital at all, do you? I mean, you've thrown up six times in the past fifteen minutes. I'd rather not have your death on my conscience," John said.
Wil took a long time to sit up. He needed to think, to see how he felt. His body ached, of that he was certain, and the after-taste in his mouth suggested he'd probably thrown up whatever was causing the problem, but he still felt like a truck had just run him over. He sat on the sofa, silent and still, slowly sipping water from a glass. Half an hour passed.
Wil found he quite liked the feeling of John rubbing his back gently as he sat next to him. Neither of them spoke, but Wil wasn't sure what he'd say anyway. He was too worried about trying to ascertain whether this was the sort of illness that could be slept off, or whether he needed anything more serious than that.
He'd thrown up a couple more times, but nothing in the past twenty minutes. His head ached, and his body was sweating. His muscles felt weak, but he was still confident he could walk out of there if he had to. He felt things were beginning to settle, though. The pain in his stomach was beginning to fade. Perhaps he might be up to going back to the hotel in a while.
"You can come back to my place if you like, if you don't want to be alone," John said, his voice penetrating the silence.
Wil turned to look at him, and a moment later, nodded his acceptance. "Yeah, thanks, mate. That'd be - that'd be nice."
"Want me to call a cab?"
Wil nodded. He was disappointed in himself for not lasting the night, but only because of all the jokes he'd fail to make. Missing the Logies wasn't really a tragic outcome, except for the live-tweeting. He wouldn't miss much, and it wasn't as if he didn't have a good excuse for it. He felt John get up and walk towards the door, listening absently to the phone call he made. He wasn't really taking in words, but he knew he'd be alright, if given enough sleep and quiet. Certainly that would be easier done at Safran's place than at the hotel.
John sat back down beside him. "Hey, so they'll be here in twenty minutes. I told them to go round the back, avoid the press pack out the front. You feel up to moving yet? We don't need to rush, I know where we're going."
"Yeah, alright. Let's get out of here," Wil said.
Still feeling like shit, Wil got to his feet, and arm in arm with John, and armed with a bottle of water, they headed out to meet the cab, leaving the Logies behind.
All Wil remembered of the trip home was staring at John's hands, touching the small wounds there as if he couldn't believe they were real. But he hadn't thrown up in the cab, which he thought was a clear sign he wasn't dying. He smiled as John caught his gaze, thankful for his companionship.
They put movies on when they got back to Safran's house. Wil was sat on the sofa, with some water and a bucket, if he needed it, and John sat nearby, moving the armchair close enough that Wil could hold his hand, reassured that he was there. He didn't care what they were watching; he just needed a distraction.
"I still dream about it. It's worse in my dreams," John said some time later.
Wil turned to look at him, watching his absent gaze. He could tell he wasn't watching the tele; then again, neither had he. "What's worse? The crucifixion?"
John seemed to sigh and shrug. "Yeah, all of that. We went through the footage we shot last week, and it's really weird to watch. I don't usually get that affected by what I do, but just seeing the nails being hammered in again..."
Wil felt him wince, and he pulled his hand away, as if in pain. Wil shifted to sit up, turning to face him. "Was it really that bad? You said it didn't hurt much."
"It didn't, not at the time. I'd been exhausted and beaten to the point where it didn't hurt as much as everything else did. And they were only small nails, too. They slip it through the bones. They wouldn't do that sort of ritualised crucifixion if there was a chance you'd injure yourself enough to die. But it's worse in my dreams, when I sleep, when it all just comes out. I pretend the criticism doesn't hurt, and most of the time it doesn't, but it comes back when I dream of that crucifixion. They're the ones nailing me there this time, and they don't take me down again. I don't know why it torments me more than anything else I've done has tormented me, though the nightmares I had after the exorcism were almost as bad. I don't know if I ever wanted to be one of those depressed comedians, who turn to black humour as a way of dealing with things. Then again, I didn't think the show would become as personal as it has. It's really strange to hash out your personal issues on national television. It's really very strange," John murmured, his voice fading out into silence again.
"Do you ever talk about it? Like, I've been watching your shows for years, and I don't know if I could do what you do. I think I'd need years of therapy if I'd done it," Wil said.
A slight smile passed John's lips. "I do try to keep on top of things, but sometimes it's not easy, and sometimes I don't have the time, and I think I over-think everything too much to the point where I don't think I need it. Sleepless nights spent over-analysing everything I've been through seem more productive than letting someone else analyse it for me."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. I do that too. Can't get that thought out of my head, so I can't sleep until I've dealt with it. Not that I think I've got the same sort of stuff to deal with that you have. I mean, I've never been crucified, unless you count having my show axed by Howard," Wil said.
"I'm still a bit mad about that, you know. I miss it," John admitted.
"Same here. I loved that show," Wil said. "Why do you do half the things you do anyway? Like, is it genuine curiosity? Or is there something more to it? I've always wondered."
John seemed to shrug a little, shifting in his chair. "It's genuine curiosity, for the most part. I just want to know what something's like, or what will happen if I do that. I'm not usually thinking about whether it'll make good television, though. That's sort of a secondary consideration. I think I'll do almost anything if I've never done it before, just to see what'll happen. Sometimes I think Bob Larson was right, that I've picked up too many evil spirits in my time, and they're driving me mad or something. I'm still not sure I believe all that though, but exorcism nightmares are pretty terrifying. My brain comes up with some very weird ideas for what demons are, and they're usually not very pleasant. Had one of those last week. I didn't sleep for days afterwards. Only just managed to sleep through the night two days ago."
Wil sympathised. "That bad, huh?"
John nodded. "That bad. I still feel tired, and at least I don't have to try to stay awake during the Logies. Thanks for saving me from that. I'm not sure I cared for it tonight."
"Mate, no one does. But we all go anyway, and try our best not to stab each other out of boredom," Wil said. "I keep hoping they'll stop inviting me, so I'll have an excuse not to go. It's not like I want to be there, and they're never going to give me a Logie on principle, so why bother?"
John offered a slight smile. "So you haven't bought into the Logies cult yet, I see. Don't worry, they'll get you soon enough. They give you one Logie, that's how they do it, then they prey on the joy you get out of it and tease you with another. By the time you have four of them, you're so infatuated it'd take several years of deprogramming to get you free of them. I'd have to chain you in a dungeon and never let you hear about them until you'd stopped obsessing about them."
Wil had to laugh, knowing he would actually be really pleased to win one, as much as he spent time trashing Australia's Night of Nights. But then, as he had never won one before, perhaps that's what everyone said who hadn't won before.
"I bet there's some secret brainwashing camp in the basement of Crown where they talk all the winners, and begin indoctrinating them. I mean, how else can all those soapie actors win year after year when they're having to act in such shite to get there? They're not that good," Wil said. "Maybe Eddie's got some sort of torture camp for escapees, in case any winners manage to show any derision after they've won. We can't have them trashing the good name of the Logies, can we?"
"I'm not entirely convinced you're joking, either. I wouldn't be surprised if that was true. How else can we still care about this shit? It's so terrible we bring international stars over to play a corporate gig. This isn't the Oscars. It's the fucking Logies," John said, shyly adjusting his glasses. There was a hint of confused irritation in his voice.
"I know, mate. I know. I hope they get paid well, because I'd want to get paid well if I had to fly all the way over here from the other side of the world and play a shitty awards night gig where no one cares, and it goes on for six hours," Wil said.
"I suppose we should be thankful they don't air all the awards during the broadcast. Then it really would go on all night," John said, as if it was some small consolation.
Wil held his head at that thought and groaned. "I'm chucking a sickie next year. I am totally not going. I couldn't bear to sit through that again."
"I don't blame you. It is appalling television, isn't it? It's a pity we can't have Chas running around bone-heading the broadcast every year. That was the only thing that made it watchable," John said.
"Nah, I bet they dragged him off for brainwashing afterwards, so he never did it again. We can't have comedians not taking a stupid awards night seriously, can we? I wish they'd just stop inviting comedians then, hey? Then we wouldn't complain about being there, and they could stop worrying that we'll get bored and wreck the night for everyone," Wil said. He paused a moment, suddenly not feeling alright. "Can we stop talking about the Logies, though? I'm beginning to feel queasy again."
John rubbed his back gently as Wil threw up in the bucket. "I'll go get you some more water."
Wil slept fitfully, when he managed to sleep. He wasn't entirely sure if there'd been some sort of 'going to bed' point, or if somehow, they'd both just ended up on John's bed, with the ensuite next door in case Wil needed it. He wasn't sure. He lay awake a lot, feeling queasy and sweaty, but he hadn't thrown up again, and felt perhaps the worst was over. He did have a killer headache, though, and he tried his best to wish it away.
His dreams were bizarre. They might've been feverish hallucinations. He wasn't really sure he could tell the difference. He dreamt of that dungeon under Crown Casino, where they indoctrinated all the Logie winners into the Cult of Logie. Wil resisted, pulling away as they tried to prise his Gold Logie out of his hands, but he wasn't strong enough. They wrestled him to the ground and beat him, dragging him away into a small, dark room.
He was left in a cell, in some daft prison that looked like it had come from Victorian England. He could see Rove McManus in one cell across from him. He was leaning against the bars, eyes glazed, as he murmured about wanting another Gold Logie. Next door, John Wood seemed to be in a feverish delusion, reaching through the bars, convinced that this year, they'd finally given him the Gold Logie, after being nominated for seventeen years in a row.
And then he saw John Safran walking down the hall, dressed in a crisp black uniform. He dragged a riding crop against the bars, and held a Logie in his hand. He smirked as he stopped in front of Wil's cage, kneeling down to offer him the trophy. Wil shivered, hating the expression on his face.
"You really want this, don't you? Go on, Ando, just claim it. Take the prize everyone else has so richly deserved. You always wanted one for The Glass House, didn't you? Best Light Entertainment? Best Comedy? Fuck it, Best Male Presenter? You could get a silver Logie if you wanted. Or would you rather have the Gold? Everyone wants the Gold, Ando. They all succumb to its shine in the end. You'll bow to it like everyone else has before you," John said. As he spoke, he left the small gold Logie on the ground in front of his cell. He stood. "Maybe you'll change your mind, hmm?"
Wil didn't know what to think. He shifted to the bars, though he didn't dare touch the Logie. His mind was paranoid enough to suspect it might be some sort of electrified trap. It's not like they cared about him. They cared about Adam Hills, but they didn't care about Wil. He withdrew his hand, and shrunk back into the shadows of the wall, away from the grasping hands he could see from the other cells, reaching for the prize they were so convinced was theirs.
Wil screamed, and fell back into another dream.
The cell was there, but this time, there was no bars, no locks. The doors were removed. Wil could see he could escape if he wanted to, but he just couldn't bring himself to move. He wasn't sure how long he stayed there. It might've been days, weeks. Months, even. All he knew was that he wanted to run away, but couldn't bring himself to move.
A girl came, once a day, to feed him. She would stroke his hair and tell him he could leave, that they'd saved him from the casino. But Wil didn't believe that. He didn't believe much at all that she told him. He was sure the food was drugged, but he ate it anyway, and let his paranoia consume him.
There was a quite graphic sequence after that involving Wil returning to Crown, year after year, flogging him self as punishment for running away. A huge Gold Logie stood on the stage, decorated as if it were an idol for worship, surrounded by flowers, candles, and offerings. Jessica Rowe came forth in a voluminous white gown, looking positively Vestal, and tried to get Wil to repent. When he didn't, and tried to run away again, they nailed him to the giant Logie, cheering and jeering.
Everything faded into darkness then, darkness and blood. What followed was a confusing sequence of images where someone tried to kill his Logie addiction with cocaine, and all it did was make him feverish and weak. He remembered spending a week drinking himself half to death after being permanently barred from Crown, crying about how he'd never have a Logie. The Logie addiction seemed impossible to break, and Wil knew he was too weak to succeed.
His dreams turned into a haze of confusion after that, and all he remembered was glimpses of being freed, of fleeing through the casino, running from mecha-Logies that fired lasers at him, and trying to find anyone who might take him in. He collapsed in front of a church, friendless and alone.
There was a point where he woke, wide awake, and stared at the ceiling, suddenly feeling quite sober. He turned to see if Safran was with him, and noticed he was alone on the bed. Getting up, he padded softly through the dark house, wondering if he was still there, or if he'd woken him up.
He found him on the back patio, gazing at the sky. It was slowly beginning to lighten. He had a mug of tea in his hand, and he didn't look like he'd slept at all. Wil sat down beside him, and let the silence settle between them.
"Can't sleep, hey?" Wil ventured.
John shook his head. "Kept dreaming about being crucified by demons disguised as Kerri-Anne Kennerley. How about you, then? You feeling alright?"
Wil nodded. "I'm feeling better, yeah. Thanks. Kept dreaming about that Logies cult, though. Dreamt all kinds of weird shit. You were one of my captors. I think I escaped, but I'm really not sure."
"Only your imagination would run with that idea, Wil. It'd be creepy if it was real, though, wouldn't it?" John said after a moment's thought.
Wil nodded. "I think I need deprogramming after that. I'll need something to make me forget the sight of Rove craving those Gold Logies like fucking Gollum. Ew." He shivered, involuntarily, at the memory.
John allowed himself a quiet laugh. "I'll go call Bob Larson. I'll exorcise that shit out of you. That'll fix you."
"Or send me mad. I'm not sure which would be better at this point," Wil conceded.
Silence fell again, and they watched the beginnings of sunrise, watching as the sky went from inky black to dark purple and gold.
"We're both really fucked up, aren't we? It'll take years of therapy to fix us," John said, voice oddly distant.
Wil glanced over at him. "Maybe. It sure would be nice to sleep at night."