“Shelly Lloyd, the singer, has sensationally quit show business today after weeks of speculation by fans and media alike. Shelly shot to global fame with her debut single ‘Oh My, Mr. Kilroy’ (2000) and her eponymous album. Her subsequent three albums all went double platinum but her movie career fizzled after two attempts, both films performing under the studios modest expectations.
Shelly has been involved in several incidents recently, souring her well groomed public persona. In April of this year, she allegedly attacked paparazzi at the premiere of the new Tom Cruise movie. The court date for that case is still pending. And just last week it was reported that she screamed at a waiter in L’eve De Sant, Johnny Depp’s new restaurant, for bringing the wrong side dish and she had to be escorted out.
Her long awaited fifth album, still untitled, is nevertheless expected to be in stores by October. And here is Steve with two of her biggest fans. Hello Steve, can you hear me?”
Shelly turns restlessly in her bed; unable to fall asleep despite the three pills she just swallowed with wine. Even uncovered, she remains too warm to relax, the mid summer heat permeating her skin and fuelling her temperature, inducing bouts of sweating which turn her pyjamas sticky and uncomfortable to wear. The balcony doors are wide open, exposing the room to the city breeze. Her linen drapes hang listlessly, swaying every so often as if waltzing softly and the horns of cars twenty stories below play to her a lullaby more irritable than effective. Every so often, her mind manages to drift away to the pleasant land of dreams, only for her to catch herself dozing and come back to reality. But as the hours pass, she realizes that what’s keeping her awake more than the insufferable heat and noise is the electrifying anticipation coursing through her veins. And smiling to herself, finally finding a snug position to relax, she recounts the good fortune life has gifted her.
Born with an angelic voice that could cause sailors to cry and beauty unmatched in her town, she found immediate local fame, as a young girl, singing at sermons and various school recitals. These are Shelly’s most passionate memories, ones she would try to focus on when miserable. Singing was her first love and her mother used to say, even as a baby, she sang without a tooth in her mouth. It was completely natural for her to stand in front of her school, her entire class watching, and sing as if in private. And it got even easier as everyone remarked on what a wonderful voice she had, a seed of confidence sprouting into a bright flower inside her. For the following few years, she would perform every Sunday at twelve o clock mass and also at any funerals that may occur during the week. It became clear to her that people, even those grieving, appreciated her voice and forgot their worries for just a few minutes to listen.
And soon, notice of her incredible ability spread beyond the limits of her little town, a town she had never travelled from, to talent agents and executives looking for a voice just like hers. Men in suits came to hear her sing and, at twelve years old, she sang for them as well as she would anyone else, unsure why they wanted to hear her. But before she could be told, she was whisked away to New York City to train her voice and study dancing for four years. Years which would become Shelly’s most painful. From this period she learned some of her most enduring lessons about greed, spite and jealousy, as her fellow classmates treated her with contempt and sometimes even becoming aggressive because she was better than them, because she made it look so easy. As well as being ostracised by her own classmates, she was forbidden contact with anyone outside of the school, so as not to interrupt her training. And so, because of this, the sweet twelve year old who came from a quaint Washington town disappeared to be replaced by a sixteen year old woman, hardened by other peoples bad hearts, a child no more, she became self contained, not sharing herself with anyone. Shelly despised these lost years so much that she routinely refused to talk about them, even with her own family.
However they came to an end as things often do and soon she was thrust in front of audiences, singing and dancing across the country, an endurance test to prove if she was capable of a stars life. For Shelly, though, it was just an extension of school but with the added variety of a different location everyday, so the test proved unchallenging and she graduated with ease. Within a year, she was playing morning news shows for Middle America in support of her debut single, which shot up the charts, outselling more established artists two to one. Her album, released two weeks later, sold off the shelves quicker than they were placed on them and, at just seventeen years old, she was the brightest new star in the sky.
One of the biggest indicators for Shelly that she had reached the stratosphere was the merchandise, which included everything from pencil sets to posters, which hung every child’s room in America, and especially dolls. What shocked Shelly, more than how they didn’t resemble her, was how many versions of them there were. The first released was in the style of a typical teenager, which sold out within a month. So more were produced, each more absurd than the last. A Cowboy Shelly complete with lasso and pink Stetson, Astronaut Shelly with her sidekick ‘Puppy James’ in his own little space helmet and Diner Shelly with greasy spatula and dirty apron. It saddened her to see how excited children would become when a new one was released, their parents spending hundreds of dollars on worthless accessories, like the ‘Shelly Fairground’ or the garish ‘Shelly Make-up Dispenser’. And these were the same children who came to her shows, who sing along to every lyric dressed in clothes so shiny and processed that they looked like one of her dolls.
But her effect on children became the least of her problems as the media took a growing interest in her and her private life. At first, she viewed this with the proper detachment, aware that it is a necessary evil, however as she grew more famous, so did the aggressiveness of the paparazzi. They would stalk her down city streets as she walked with her friends and family, screaming her name so she would look their way. Outside restaurants, a pool of amateur photographers would form, each one tipped off by waiters that she had an eight o clock reservation. But she kept herself insular and distant from the world, all the while projecting a pleasant temperament outwards, which allowed her to involve herself in these cat-and-mouse chases without being provoked. But an accident abruptly demolished the safety barrier Shelly had built in herself. The paparazzi pursued her as she left a club and followed her in their cars, the subsequent chase resulting in a crash. The photo hounds didn’t help her but took hundreds of photos for the following days tabloids. And it was this night, lying at home with a bandaged head, that she first had the dreams of children in their bedrooms.
Her view of the children shifted and moved of their own will, some lasting longer than others, Shelly was just an unwilling participant observing the occupants of each room. Each child was different from the last, and Shelly didn’t interact with any of them, just watched as they shot past her eyes. She went to several experts who, after thorough examinations, could find nothing wrong with her, but the dreams persisted every night, loud and obnoxious. However her fear of these unknown images deflated as they continued. Shelly began to feel more involved in them over several months and began controlling where she visited, what rooms she went to. But still, she was unsure what was happening. Was she visiting these rooms or was she imagining them, a brain injury inducing hallucinations. It wasn’t long, though, before these questions were answered and more introduced, as one night she was flicking through rooms like internet pages, searching for something interesting, and she came upon a room with a young boy. The boy was looking at her and he was talking, saying something that Shelly didn’t immediately hear as she was shocked by the moment, that someone could see her.
But quickly she focused on what he was saying and ingested each word as if she had never heard another human voice. The boy was asking for help with a girl he liked in his school. His hands were joined, as if in prayer, and his voice quivered as he spoke. Shelly, for the first time since she began these visions, felt like a participant in what she saw, rather than just an observer, and she wished she could reach out and touch the boy. His head turned unexpectedly towards his door as he heard someone coming. He sat back on a chair quickly and swivelled around, as an older woman came in, his mother.
“Hey Tom, dinners almost ready.”
She was about to leave when he continued.
“Hey mom, can we take that poster down.” He pointed to Shelly and suddenly she understood, like an explosion going off in her head, why she could see these children. She was looking at them through her own posters, ones that could be bought in any store for $2.99.
“No”, replied his mother, “You know we can’t.”
Tom just nods and follows his mother to dinner.
And from then on, Shelly’s days just became empty time spent between sleep and this boy. When she was awake, she became argumentative and irritable culminating in bickering with her parents and snapping out at photographers for no reason. Her singing became secondary to her voyeuristic nights until the point where she didn’t even show up for recording sessions. So finally, despite her managements pleading, she decided to quit what she loved all of her life until three short months ago, and live through her nights.
And now Shelly, drowsy with sleeping pills, crumples up under her sheet and closes her eyes. The air has cooled down around her and she squeezes into the foetal position, breathing easily, eager to find out what tonight has in store. The familiar sights of her dreams unfurl behind her eyes, just like she knew they would. First lights, white, flash towards her until shapes form from blue outlines as if they were after images from staring at something bright for too long and then Tom appears, like he always does, playing in his room.