Chapter 30: Drag Me Down

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He was spinning and buzzing as he stepped down off the stage, the crowd of thousands screaming behind him. Everything was electric, every cell in his body vibrating so rapidly it was like he wasn't even real. Performing always did this. Those first few moments after the show ended and desire surged. The desire of the crowd for more, more, more, and the desire on his part to run back out and give it to them. But the show was over, the desires were unmet, captured, saved. The energy caged up, twisting itself around in circles through every fiber of his being.

"Let's go back, yeah?" he said. "Can't we do one more song?"

"Come on, you," Niall said, linking his arm in Zayn's and pulling him along. "Always leave 'em wanting more, yeah?"

Zayn slumped his shoulders and fell into step with the rest of the boys. Harry was up ahead, chatting up some woman with a camera as they walked. Louis and Liam were just behind them, arguing about who could throw something farther off their hotel balcony.

They were slowly making their way from the arena to the hotel through the underground passageway. It was a shortcut, a way to avoid the wilding throngs of fan crowded around outside. It felt like a bit of a cheat, to Zayn. It made sense, from a security standpoint, but what was the point, if they couldn't interact with the fans? It was that love, that connection, that kept them going, that inspired them to be their best. They were nothing without that love. When they got back to the hotel Zayn would try to quickly grab a few fans out of the lobby and invite them up for the party. Security would hate him for it, but hey. Those fans were there hours, sometimes. And Zayn loved meeting them, loved hearing their stories.

He looked around--at his smiling bandmates, at the entourage that surrounded them as they slowly (Come ON, Harry, one foot in front of the other) made their way to the hotel. They'd be amped for hours off their performance adrenaline. Who knows what trouble they'd get into tonight? But they'd do it together. He would do this every night for the rest of his life, if he could. These boys. These songs. These fans. This love. This feeling. It was everything.

As they rounded the corner Louis and Liam came to some disagreement about a punchline, and Liam pushed Louis. This was a constant thing between them and no cause for real alarm in and of itself. But Louis lost his balance and grabbed at Liam, and he fell into Niall, whose arm was still hooked through Zayn's, and then suddenly they were all going down.

Zayn could almost see it happening in slow motion, their laughter and the surprised look on their faces. Zayn somehow ended up near the bottom and as he fell he could feel the doughy weight of the other boys' bodies as they landed atop his, pushing him down farther. He continued to fall, and the weight of the boys was lifted off him, as though they'd been plucked up at once by a giant hand, and he thought: Well that was quick, normally it takes us much longer to get untangled.

But he was still falling. The boys hadn't been lifted up, they had vanished. The sound of their laughter echoing through the hallway was gone and now he was just falling, alone, tumbling through endless black.

It was so dark he wasn't even sure if his eyes were open or closed. It was terrifying and then suddenly it wasn't. Because maybe he wasn't falling at all, maybe he was just sleeping. Of course. That made more sense. Why would he be falling like this, why would the boys all disappear, blinking off like lights around him? Of course he was dreaming. He should wake himself up.

"Awake," said a voice that was not his own.

See? He was dreaming. He would wake up and it would be morning and the hotel room would be trashed and Louis would be sleeping in the tub and they'd fly to the next town and barely make it to soundcheck in time and they'd sing their hearts out for thousands of screaming fans and they'd do it all over again, the next night and the next.

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