Most people believed Blurryface was a metaphor. Why wouldn’t they? Even the most devote were convinced the evil they’d learned about in Sunday School was nothing more than a vague concept. Tyler, though, knew better.
Of course, he had more experience with evil than most.
Tyler didn’t turn at the compliment because he knew it wasn’t anything of the sort. His hands gripped the edge of the sink tightly. He wouldn’t turn. He couldn’t bear to see the smug look on the face that looked exactly like his but wasn’t.
28,250 people, to be exact. 28,250 fresh souls for the demon. Tyler felt a cold rush of horror sweep over him, as it always did when he thought about the evil web he’d found himself tangled in.
Oh, he’d tried to walk away from it all. A week here, a couple of months there. It didn’t work. Never did. Eventually, the demon’s incessant harping would drive Tyler back to the stage. When he performed, Blurryface quieted down, but the silence didn’t bring Tyler peace, not really.
All his return to the stage ever succeeding in doing was trading one torment for another. Instead of trying to get through day-to-day life with Blurryface screaming at him, Tyler just had to live with the fact that he was the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Blurryface leaned over Tyler’s shoulder to grin into the wall-mounted mirror. He looked almost exactly like Tyler. Almost. While Tyler’s eyes were a rich brown, Blurryface sported glowing red eyes. Although Tyler wasn’t exactly tan, the thing that looked like him had skin that was unnaturally pale – pale, like the color of death. And, when the demon smiled, his teeth ended in gleaming points.
Tyler shuddered and turned away from the mirror, twisting to avoid touching Blurryface as he went. He tried to busy himself showering and changing but the demon wouldn’t even leave him alone for that.
“You’re my favorite, you know,” Blurryface called over the roar of the shower. Tyler ducked his head under the spray, trying to lose himself in the rush of hot water. “If all my deals were as successful as yours, I’d own Hell by now.”
The bathroom lights flickered – a warning from the demon’s master.
“Joking! Joking!” Blurryface laughed, unrepentant. The deal he’d made with Tyler kept him in the Devil’s good graces and he knew it.
Sighing, Tyler shut off the water and stepped out of the water, dripping wet. It was one of his pet peeves, people walking around dripping wet, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. Not then, not when he knew 28,250 people had been consigned to an eternity in Hell because of him.
He fell, face-first, onto one of the cheap leather sofas in the green room. He was still there some thirty minutes later when his wife found him.
“Hey, Ty, everyone’s waiting... Ty?”
Tyler’s first instinct was to shrug away from the hand Jenna laid on his shoulder. He didn’t want the blackness corrupting his soul to touch her. As if that were possible... his wife, his reason for living, was one of the first people to be unwittingly taken after Tyler’s unholy pact was sealed.
It wasn’t supposed to be part of the deal, that was the worst part. Tyler had willingly given his soul; he had never agreed to any of the others. If he’d known...
“Are you moping again?” Blurryface taunted. “When will you get over it? I tricked you. Boohoo. It’s my job, you know.”
“Ty? Babe, talk to me.”
Reluctantly, Tyler lifted his head to look at Jenna. Her expression was drawn and full of concern, brows drawn together and lips in a frown. She always seemed to know when his struggle was worst, even if she didn’t know why.
“You’re worrying me, Ty.”
It wasn’t fair. She should never have been affected.
He should never have made the deal.
That was the crux of it, of course. Tyler should have trusted his own abilities, rather than sign away his soul. But, he hadn’t. When gig after gig had failed to get his little band the success they deserved; when the band started falling apart; when his faith was tested by stumble after stumble; Tyler had succumbed to the temptation so many who’d come before had.
He made a deal with the Devil.
Blurryface had appeared that first night. Desperation gnawing on his soul, darkness hanging heavily around him, Tyler had called out to the Devil to grant him what he thought nothing else would. He offered his soul up for the taking – and found himself face-to-face with... his own face.
The other him laughed. That twisted, hideously mocking laugh became the soundtrack to Tyler’s life. It had unnerved him, even then. If only he’d taken that for the sign it was, instead of stupidly asking, “Who are you?”
“Who do you think I am?” the other Tyler asked in a voice that was a more sinister, hissing version of his own.
“Are you... Satan?” The question ended on a breathless whisper.
The other Tyler laughed again. “No. The Master is far too busy for nobodies like you.”
Nobodies like you. That summed up what had driven Tyler to call on the Devil.
“Who- What- Why...” So many questions swam around Tyler’s frantic mind he couldn’t settle on just one.
The other Tyler seemed to enjoy his confusion. He grinned a sharp-toothed smile.
“Who are you? What do you want? Why are you here?” he mocked. “If you didn’t know the answer to those questions, I wouldn’t be here.”
I’ll do anything, give anything, to make this band successful.
The other Tyler, the one who came to be known as Blurryface, called him on it. Tyler had offered anything. In his heart, he thought he knew what that meant, but hearing it spoken was another matter.
“Would you give anything?”
Tyler hesitated – a lifetime of Sunday school and bible camp weren’t completely ineffectual – before nodding. “Yes, anything.”
Blurryface rolled his eyes. “Say it.”
“I’ll give anything.”
Tyler looked around. Nothing appeared different. His room was still his room and he didn’t feel any different.
Blurryface laughed. “Don’t be stupid. It doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye. But,” he added, “it will happen. I will give you what you ask and you... well, you’ll see.”
Tyler knew the deal was complete the first time he sang the words. He didn’t think there was anything special about them, not when he wrote them. But, when he sang the song he’d written about his struggle with depression, he felt something snap inside him. From that moment, Tyler had known his soul was gone.
He took an instant dislike to that song. He wanted to never sing it again – but that wasn’t what happened.
Of course it became their most popular song, the one fans unanimously voted their favorite, that fans associated most with. It took on a life of its own, a symbol of the band’s success. The band’s success, and Tyler’s own personal torment.
Blurryface faded into the background during those early days. As long as Tyler performed the song, the demon let him be. If he didn’t... that was when the torment began.
“Why is it so important to you?” Tyler demanded one night, when the demon’s screaming became too much to bear.
The demon stopped screaming. A slow, bone-chilling smile spread across his face. “The better question is why haven’t you noticed yet?”
But Blurryface didn’t answer.
The question kept Tyler up that night. And the next. It was the third night that he dozed off, dreaming of a concert in the bowels of Hell. Fans – his fans – screaming in agony rather than joy, begging to be released from the flames that licked at them. And, above them all, Tyler loomed, wailing into a microphone.
He woke with a start.
“Oh, God,” he gasped. “Oh, no...”
“Ah, you finally worked it out.”
Tyler gazed in horror at the demon that crouched at the foot of his bed. “No,” he said. “That wasn’t part of the deal.”
“The deal was anything.”
Anything. Anything. Anything.
“No, anything but that.”
“Too late,” Blurryface told Tyler. “It’s done. You’ll keep performing the song, keep collecting souls of the unwitting, or it will all end.”
Tyler didn’t hesitate. “Then it ends.”
“Are you sure about that?”
Josh burst through the door then, throwing the room into light as he hit the switch. “Ty, you’ll never believe it!”
“It” turned out to be the offer of a record deal with a big-time label. Tyler opened his mouth to tell Josh they couldn’t take it, but the look on his friend’s face stopped him. If he stopped now, he wasn’t just ruining his own prospects, he was ruining Josh’s too.
Could he do that?
Looking at Josh’s excited, innocent face, and the joy he saw there, Tyler knew he could never do that. But he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if any part of his deal tarnished his best friend’s pure soul.
“Promise me something,” Tyler said, trying to hide the intensity that drove him.
Josh smiled. “Anything.”
A chill ran up Tyler’s spine. He’d never be able to hear that word again without thinking of that hellish concert.
“Promise me you won’t sing,” Tyler insisted. “Ever.”
Josh looked hurt. “I know I’m not as good as you...”
Tyler grabbed the front of Josh’s tee-shirt. He knew he was hurting his friend’s feelings, but it was for the best. “Promise me you won’t sing along with any of our songs, ever.”
Looking confused and hurt, Josh nodded. “Okay...”
Josh, he could save. Not Jenna. She’d known the songs before they became an item – something he didn’t learn until it was too late.
“Babe, you’ve gotta talk to me. I’m getting worried.”
Tears streamed down Tyler’s face in a hot rush. “I’m sorry,” he told her, choking on the words. “I’m so sorry.”
Jenna looked terrified. “Whatever it is, Babe, we’ll sort it out. We’ll be okay, I promise.”
Blurryface laughed from his spot on the opposite sofa.
He and Tyler both knew Jenna was wrong. There was no working it out. Or... was there?
It took months. A year, to be exact. A year of locking himself away from everyone and everything he loved. A year of trying to write while Blurryface railed at him from the sidelines.
It took a year and a whole lot of soul searching, but Tyler did find a way. He couldn’t not sing the words, that much was painfully obvious, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t save the people who repeated them back to him. Eventually, he found the words, the cure, their salvation.
Not his salvation, but that was okay. After months of having Blurryface outraged screams in his face, Tyler was ready to say goodbye. He sang the words that would free his fans, his loved ones, one last time. He smiled at them, the fans he’d sold his soul for, and prayed they would never make the same mistake he did. Then, he went alone to the greenroom, locked himself in.
“What are you doing?” Blurryface looked furious.
The demon’s anger just made Tyler’s grin broader. “The better question is,” he said, “why haven’t you noticed yet?”
Blurryface frowned. “Why haven’t I…”
Tyler hummed the line, the one he’d hidden so carefully inside a story of fire and flowers. The one that would save them. Maybe not all of them, but as many as he could reach with one world tour. The demon’s burning crimson eyes grew wide as realization struck.
“You…” Blurryface made a move toward Tyler but the room’s lights dimmed, then flared.
“Uh oh,” Tyler mocked. “I don’t think your Master approves. Come to think of it, I bet he’s not best pleased you let so many souls slip through your fingers.”
He could almost see the wheels spin inside the demon’s mind. Too bad for Blurryface, Tyler didn’t plan on giving the demon time to find a way to fix things. There would be no coercion, no more deals.
Dragging the razor blade he’d discretely picked up along the inside of his arm, Tyler prepared to take a blissfully lonely journey to Hell.