Fiction

Jonny’s Great Escape

Everyone must depart the realm sometime.

I poked my head out to make sure the hall was clear. It might’ve been fun to do this with someone else, but on my own, it was way scarier than preshow butterflies at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

I didn’t have Walter with me getting clearance to use the freight elevator, so I inhaled down to my diaphragm and ran to the regular bank. If we’d had penthouse suites, I could’ve just taken a private elevator to the private concierge lounge, but the label didn’t spring for them in every city this tour. They didn’t want to do it at all at first, but Jane fought them to a compromise.

One was coming down, and the closer it got to the 28th floor, the more nervous it made me that I was going somewhere by myself. I didn’t know what would be worse, encountering a child predator or Jane finding out I’d left my room alone.

So I imagined I was playing Level 63. Instead of being in Vegas, I was in the Secret Land of Zenon, and I wasn’t trying to get the keycard to Jane’s room, I was looking for the key to a locked castle door. The easiest part was pretending about experience points, since you get them in Zenon for exploring and experimenting with different actions you don’t do in other games. Like if you reach a real locked castle door and don’t have the key, you might get points for picking the lock, or breaking it down with your sword, or setting it on fire with a torch, or casting a spell to destroy all nearby wood. You don’t know what gives you the most points until you do it, and when you get enough, a gem appears, which means you can fight the Emperor’s minion on that level and advance to the next one. Most of the time, I don’t even care much about getting to the next level. I just like doing whatever I want, seeing what gives me experience points, and wandering around wherever I want in Zenon, over the tall mountains and through the deep forests and into the dark dungeons.

The elevator opened on a gray-haired guy in a relaxed-fit suit and tie. He looked up from his phone at me for a couple seconds when the door slid open, but I think he was wondering what a random kid in sunglasses was doing by himself in a Vegas hotel elevator at 10 o’clock on a Thursday night. That’s the nice thing about flying business class, the business guys are too far out of my demo to visually ID me, unless they have daughters who are rabid fans. He seemed safe, but I sized him up like Walter would, since sometimes the guys who look the most normal are the biggest pervs of all.

I got in and held up the glossy over my face. Jane was pissed they’d pushed back the pub date to over two weeks into the tour, after we’d already finished the South and Southwest legs. At least we still had the heartland ahead of us, where I need to bulk up my presence so I don’t project only a bicoastal identity, which is funny considering I’m from St. Louis, but St. Louis isn’t high-tier enough for me to strongly connect with it. Geographic background is a tightrope you have to walk carefully.

I folded it over to my profile to read it. I’d been putting it off all day, because in the interior photo I wasn’t wearing a track sweater and was slouched over and it looked like I had way more stomach chub than I actually did, and they didn’t help me out with Photoshop.

Will He Be Your Valentine?

by Wendy Detay


Send an RSVP to your local arena: Jonny Valentine is cruising into your city! We caught up with the 11-year-old heartthrob before he launched his cross-country Valentine Days tour on New Year’s Eve, with shows in 30 cities over 46 days, as he dished about what song made him want to be a pop star (Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”), what his life goal is (“To share the music and the love”), and, of course…girls!

“I love spoiling girls with one-on-one face time,” JV says, brushing his world-famous blond hair out of his eyes as his mother and manager, Jane, watches over him in their Los Angeles home. “Like, if a girl wants to see a movie, I’ll surprise her and rent out the whole theater just for us, like the rest of the world doesn’t exist, with all the popcorn and soda we want. It’s awesome.”

But the Angel of Pop swears there’s no one in his life right now—he’s focused on his supersonic career. And what he’s most psyched about is his final show on the tour, on Valentine’s Day at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

“It’s every performer’s dream to play the Garden, but I’ve only been to New York before on business trips,” says the “Guys vs. Girls” singer in his crush-worthy voice. “And we’re bundling it with an Internet live-stream for $19.95.”

I was glad the writer hadn’t asked why I’d never played the Garden before, because we always had gate-receipt conflicts with the bookers that Jane finally ironed out, but I was even gladder she’d put in the plug for the live-stream, which we were hoping would make it my exposure breakthrough in the untapped Asian market. The whole thing, the Garden debut plus the live-stream, could make this a brand-perception game changer, if we pulled it off.

The elevator stopped and a good-looking couple in their 20s got on in clubbing clothes, smelling like alcohol. They might be able to ID me. And if they did, and blabbed or tweeted about it, it might end up in a tabloid or on the internet, and it would eventually get back to Jane, and she’d enforce check-ins every half hour and not give me my own key-card, like on the first national tour. I held the glossy closer to my face like it was the most interesting article in the world, but I couldn’t focus on it to read the rest.

In real life you might encounter a child predator who could molest or kidnap or kill you, or a tourist who could take a candid of you with his phone and post it and create a mini-scandal, but in Zenon you encounter enemies who can reduce your damage percentage. The lower it gets, the slower and weaker you are, and if your damage percentage or anyone else’s hits zero percent, your ghost silently floats up into the air and the narrator’s voice and the screen both say, “Everyone must depart the realm sometime.” It’s for the 13-and-up demo, but Jane let me get it anyway. The online version against real people is supposed to be different, but I haven’t played it because who knows what kind of crazies I’d meet out there.

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3 Comments

  • emseely February 3rd, 2014 11:16 PM

    <3 this

  • sonnentanz February 4th, 2014 9:42 AM

    so good!

  • Bex_cygnet February 7th, 2014 3:45 AM

    Best fiction I’ve read on Rookie in a while :)