Alone Among Thousands
A story about a hard-rock fan who goes to the concert that will change her life forever.
She had bought the tickets four months ago. Every day after, Quinn Davis spent time refining the plans in her head: how much for a beverage and merchandise budget, who she would take with her, and of course, her outfit. She had been listening to the headlining rock band, Ripped Stitches, since she was a teenager and couldn't wait to hear the songs that had captivated her during those stormy and uncertain years. Her love of hard rock in high school was also the inspiration for her career choice as a music therapist. As excited as Quinn was to see her favorite band, she was also super stoked to see the opening local band, Puddle of Blood; their music was explosive and she loved listening to it on her way to work, but she also had a secret crush on their large lead singer, Robbie Kane.
On the day of the concert, Quinn heard her phone chime from in her purse. She quickly dug it out, expecting to see a "so excited for tonight!" text from her bestie, Brendyn.
Disappointment crept in as she read the text: "Hey, Boo! So sorry I won't be able to make it tonight, I stayed home from work today to puke my guts out.. Please don't hate me!" Quinn chucked the phone back into her purse and sighed heavily. Of course she didn't hate her friend for being sick, though she could not help but feel a little betrayed. Then the worry set in; who would she talk to? Should she quickly try to find someone to take? Should she even still go? But that was a dumb question, she realized. Of course she needed to go! She had only been waiting 17 years to see Ripped Stitches live and she wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to possibly lock eyes with her hard rock hero, Robbie Kane.
The line up outside the arena was a bit daunting at first but Quinn settled in to her place in line and found they were moving towards the doors at a lively pace. Once inside, anxiety set in and Quinn took a deep breath, looking around for Security. The thought of them finding her pre-headliner doobie made her shiver but she assured herself it was well hidden and she wasn't usually the type of fan that security paid much attention to anyway. A group of people surrounded her and she got caught up in the stream of fans meandering through multiple security booths. Once through, she glanced down at her outfit comprised of red plaid tights, a tasteful but cheeky low-cut, black halter-top under a dark wash jean jacket, complete with army boots. She smiled to herself, feeling confident and a bit cocky having gotten through security with her smoky little secret tucked safely into her boot. Now that that was over, it was time to ROCK! An over- priced drink was just what she needed to take the edge off, she decided.
The thrill of what was to come hit her hard as she paid for two coolers; the stage was being set up behind a giant curtain and colored lights flickered above as some random rock song from the 70s rang out across the venue. "They could at least play some decent music," she thought, smirking as she chose a spot on the floor. Not long after, the lights went out, the music went silent and in that moment Quinn felt the excitement boiling up inside of her, causing chills and a huge smile on her face that nobody could see.
A deafening *BOOM!* tore through the building as spectacular red, blue and green lights lit up the room. She took a deep breath, trying to take everything in at once; the smell of smoke and body odor surrounded her, as flashing lights shone through a cloud of haze that loomed above and the bass pulsed through her body, making it impossible to hold still. A veil of fog rolled across the stage before revealing Puddle Of Blood and all its members. Quinn scanned the stage until her eyes fell onto Robbie Kane. Heart fluttering, she stared at him with such intensity that she had to close her eyes for a moment to regain composure. Sweat was already forming on his forehead under short, wavy brown hair, trickling down passed striking blue eyes that lit up his slim face and dark features. His voice was as rich as bourbon, yet sweet and silky like maple syrup. Meanwhile on stage, the drums, bass, guitar and vocals blended together so smoothly it overtook her and after the first song she hollered loudly along with the crowd. They finished their set as Robbie dramatically leaped off a platform, landing hard before making his way to center stage. She was close enough to make out most of his tattoos but a well executed raven and gnarly-tree sleeve up one arm caught her eye. "Thank you everybody!" He shouted. "I know you're all here to see Ripped Stitches so I won't keep you too long, but it's just so great to be back in my hometown and I wanted to let you know you are my family and I love you guys with all my guts!" The crowd erupted in applause and whistling.
Feeling utterly elated, Quinn slowly made her way through a sea of drunk people to the bathroom and bar while the next band, Cemetery Garden, started setting up behind the ominous white curtain. She returned in time for their first song and sipped her beverage happily while they jumped and spun enthusiastically on stage. Their set was electric. During the last song, Quinn drank in the hum of the crowd and an incredible energy that filled the building. There was a collective anticipation that radiated from her fellow concert goers and in that moment she knew they were feeling the same indescribable sensation that consumed her in the best way. Florescent lights flooded the arena and more random music started to play in preparation for Ripped Stitches to take the stage. Quinn carefully retrieved the weed from her boot and lit it up, along with several others on the floor, concealing the flame with a cupped hand. She inhaled deeply, savoring the earthy flavor as her head began to tingle. Trying her best to be subtle, she watched people spilling beer as they talked and stumbled around with their friends. Though still a bit choked up about Brendyn not being there, she had to admit that the concert was still pretty amazing.
Finally, the moment that Quinn and a thousand other people had been waiting for was upon them and every one waited impatiently for the mysterious curtain to reveal the headlining band. Adrenaline bubbled up inside of her as she grinned from ear to ear, catching the eye of the guy next to her who grinned back. Everyone moved restlessly as the stage lights suddenly flashed in a breathtaking purple and teal sequence. An ear-splitting *POP* and a burst of seven foot high flames on either side of the stage announced the arrival of Ripped Stitches. The crowd roared in approval as the heat rolled across them. "This is what I live for, but I could die happy right now," Quinn thought to herself, her head pleasantly spinning from the marijuana as she nodded along methodically to the beat. Halfway into their set, the lead singer of Ripped Stitches, Kyle Ashdown, announced last call.
"We are really feeling the energy up here," Kyle said. "We always enjoy our time in Canada and we know you will really dig these last songs we picked just for you!" Quinn always had a love-hate relationship with the last part of a concert: on one hand, she didn't want it to end, but on the other hand it was her favorite part when things started getting crazy on stage and the bands would play a classic favorite to satisfy old and new fans, then have a heart to heart with all their loyal followers. She really respected the musicians who thanked their fans because, as a therapist, she had seen the positive effects of music on a troubled brain. She knew that scattered throughout this crowd there were people who needed to know they weren't alone in the world.
The lights went off again and a heart-stopping *BANG* rang out through the darkness. An effect? It did not seem out of place at first but the collective screams became more shrill than ever before. Guttural cheering from the audience now turned into cries of pain and fear. When the lights came back on there was complete chaos on the floor; people spiraled in every direction, nobody really knowing where to go. Security staff frantically yelled into their radios and the band was ushered quickly backstage. With them gone it was no longer a concert, it was now a death trap. Another shot pierced through the noise and everyone looked around desperately to see if they could spot the gunman. A menacing alarm sounded around Quinn and the stage lights flickered several times before completely shutting off, leaving only the dim emergency lighting. Before she could decide where to go, she got swept up in a tsunami of terrified people trying to escape. She managed to keep up with them for the first 10 feet but a hand grasped her jacket, throwing her balance off and causing Quinn to tumble onto the sticky floor. Boots and shoes coming from every direction kicked and stepped on her as hands pushed her down, deeper into the riot. Just off to her left, she spotted a booth used by the lighting technicians.
Head down and on all fours, she ducked through the frantic crowd, getting kicked in the ribs and her hands trampled on, before diving under a table that had a sheet of wood across the front, making it the perfect place to hunker down until she could find a way out. Seizing the opportunity to assess her injuries, she noticed a trickle of fresh blood pooling at the corner of her mouth. Its origin was the tender gash throbbing against her temple that would surely turn into a black eye once sealed. She now recalled that someone had stepped on the back of her leg, putting all of their weight onto it and rolling her shin slightly while briefly pinning it to the ground under 150 pounds. The shin was tender and a sharp pain pulsed through her entire leg from groin to foot, protesting every little move she made. There, under the table, amongst the electric cords and garbage, she had never felt so crowded yet so alone in her entire life. Quinn decided it would be in her best interest to stay hidden until the crowd thinned out around her. Hundreds of people rushed by her, not noticing in the least. One young man's desperate cries for help could be heard clearly above the scuffle, sending a chill rippling painfully from her aching shoulders down to her busted foot; a disturbing assumption that he must be a victim of the shooting crept into her emotionally exhausted mind. Peering out from under the table through her own personal haze, Quinn could tell that there were not many people left on the floor around her and to her relief she could hear sirens now, distant but definitely headed for the arena. She tried so hard to stay alert until help arrived but the searing pain from her injuries got the best of her and shock set in, sending her into a deep, yet unsettled, sleep.
When Quinn awoke, her body felt crushed and her head felt foggy. She noticed her head full of cherry red waves had gone limp and stressed; the hair was now plastered to the side of her face with blood and grime. Panic set in when she looked around, not recognizing her surroundings. Vision blurred and askew, she tried to focus, despite one eye being almost completely swelled shut. A pastel curtain surrounded her on three sides and through the open side she could just make out a man in a bed about five feet away. "I'm in the hospital," thought Quinn, finally able to relax. Not long after waking up, a nurse came and informed her that her shin and ankle had been broken and her eye wound had been sewn up. Her hands, though not broken, were definitely in poor shape but would heal in a few days with lots of rest. She craved the comfort of music now more than ever. As a music therapist, she believed solely in the power of music to heal and to relax the body. "Does anyone have a radio I could listen to?"
She asked the nurse. "I'll see what I can do, but I can't make any promises." The nurse replied as she shuffled away.
"You can borrow my iPod," said an oddly familiar male voice from the bed next to hers. Startled, Quinn squinted, desperately trying to see his face but her eyes wouldn't cooperate enough to recognize him. Then she noticed the grey scale tattoo on his arm and thought for a moment that her mind must not be completely lucid yet, but it was unmistakable. She would know that beautifully bold, black raven tattoo anywhere. "It's mostly hard rock and heavy metal though. I listen to it in the bus on our way to a show," he continued. "Not sure if you're into that sort of thing."
"That sounds great... Robbie Kane," Quinn gushed. "Actually, I was at your show last night. I was on the floor when the shooting happened. How come you're here?"
Flattered, Robbie tried to hide a smile. "Wow, that would've been intense. I've been hearing about the accident. They said no fatalities, but it's still a real shame that someone could do that. Yeah, so to be honest, I was here right after our set because I wrecked my knee on that last jump."
Quinn couldn't help but giggle. "That's so metal," she teased.
"Don't laugh too hard, wouldn't want your stitches getting... ripped." He handed her the iPod with a broad smile that lit up his dark features.
"Thanks, I'm Quinn, by the way," she said. Leaning back against her bed, Quinn turned on the iPod, held the earbuds up to her ears and closed her eyes. "Apart from the intense pain, this might just be the best day of my life," she thought. For the next two days, the two of them shared his iPod to pass the time and talked about the importance of music in their lives. They came to realize that they shared a glowing passion for music and its power to calm, energize, to create memories and to unlock them. Quinn had daydreamed of meeting Robbie but never in her wildest imagination did she guess the two of them would have so much in common. Robbie thought she was great; she had a dark sense of humor he could not resist, while sharing his zest for life and live music. He had actually never even heard of music therapy before now but he agreed it was the most wonderful idea.
One evening, Robbie came to find Quinn reading a magazine in her bed. To her delight, she had got the OK for a shower that morning and her red, wavy hair had been rejuvenated; her face was clean and bright, with the exception of her swollen eye bearing a brutal purple and blue bruise. Despite the hospital gown and black eye, Robbie thought she looked awesome. He was happy to be going home in a few hours but the thought of their friendship ending made him sad. Quinn had really helped him through his stay; without her, he might have collapsed back down into his depression but she kept his mind busy and his passion ignited.
"Well I've done my time and I'm getting out tonight," said Robbie as he approached the foot of her bed. "It's been so long, I don't know if I'll survive on the outside."
Quinn set down her magazine and grinned, happy to see him. "Don't take your freedom for granted, you don't want to end up back in here," she said, trying to sound stern.
"Actually that's great advice, thanks. I wanted to give you this before I go; I really enjoyed your company these past few days," he said, handing her a paper bag. "It wasn't easy to obtain but I've got some friends on the outside." Quinn was a little surprised she meant that much to him. She reached into the bag and the feel of fur on her fingertips made her jump a little as she grasped the plushy object and pulled out a soft, stuffed raven with smooth, leather feet. Smiling shyly at him, her cheeks went warm and pink with delight as her heart nearly leaped out of her chest. "I may have noticed you checking out my tattoos. You aren't as subtle as you think you are," he laughed. "But I thought he could keep you company for the rest of your time here."
"This is the coolest thing anyone has ever given me," said Quinn. "Are you sure about that?" Said Robbie, moving in closer until his lips rested on her forehead. As he kissed her gently he noticed Quinn leaning against him, neither of them ready to part just yet.
They both blushed a little as he stood up again at the side of her bed. "Hey, one last thing," he said, "My buddy has a gig at Jerry's next weekend.. Want to be my date? If it's too soon I totally get it. They always put on a good show though, I promise, they really rock."
"I'd love to!" She replied, without hesitation.