“Where the hell is Julian?!” Mickey had reached the end of his patience. “If he’s not here in five minutes I quit. I’m serious.”
“He’ll be here, man, he just texted me that he’s on his way!” Caleb said.
“He’s over an hour late already! this is bullshit.” Mickey brought his drum stick down on a crash cymbal with a force that would have sent it spinning to the floor were it not secured tightly. Instead, the stand wobbled violently for a moment before settling back to center.
“Honestly I’m with Mickey on this one.” Hunter was sitting casually on his bass amp, decidedly calmer than Mickey but no less frustrated. “We’re already over a month behind, the record label is gonna can us anyway at this point, we might as well cut our losses and stop wasting our time.”
“Look, just give me a chance to try and talk some sense into him.” Caleb pleaded. “We put a ton of work into this album, we can’t just walk away from it.”
“It’s the drugs, man, it’s gotta be.” Mickey was pacing back and forth in front of his kit. “He started doin’ acid and he lost goddamn mind. How can we trust him at this point?”
“It isn’t just the drugs. Lots of people do psychedelics. Something else is goin’ on, we just gotta figure out what.” Caleb said. “Just let me talk to him. I promise if he doesn’t change after today I’ll pack up my guitars and be out the door right behind you guys, but just give me one chance, okay?” He looked at his bandmates and awaited a response. Mickey only continued pacing, but did not object.
Hunter shrugged, and said “You know him best man.” Caleb took that as agreement, and breathed a sigh of relief. At that moment, the door opened and Julian, frontman and principal songwriter of The Julian Maxwell Experience, entered the rehearsal space. He was wearing a loose-fitting white tunic with laces tied at the neck, white slacks, and white sneakers. He had a clean-shaven face and wavy brown shoulder-length hair parted at the center. Upon entering the room, he immediately made a bee-line for his guitars, which were also exclusively white, and began speaking to no-one in particular.
“Sorry I’m a little late but I had the most exquisite epiphany on the way over here. It was like an angel came into my mind and sang the sweetest melody you’ve ever heard. Pure bliss. Seriously, you’re not gonna believe it. I’m gonna need a few minutes to work out the notes but then you are going to absolutely melt, I promise you.” He had his guitar hooked up, strapped on, and tuned before he registered the mood of his band-mates. He stopped, turned slowly, and asked: “What’s goin’ on?”
Caleb turned to Mickey and Hunter. “Why don’t you guys take five?” With a collective yeah, sure the rhythm section left the room, leaving Caleb and Julian alone. Caleb had known Julian much longer than the others, but at that moment, he wasn’t certain that he recognized his old friend.
“I’ve got to talk to you, man.” Caleb said.
“What about?” Julian asked as he placed his guitar back on the stand.
“This…” Caleb gestured non-distinctly at Julian, uncertain what word to assign to his current modus operandi. “...this. Whatever this is you’ve got going on. You’ve changed.”
Julian crossed his arms and offered Caleb a patronizing grin. “What do you mean I’ve changed? Changed how?”
“Your attitude. Your look. Everything.”
“What’s wrong with my attitude and my look?” Julian made no sign that he was prepared to take Caleb’s criticisms seriously.
“I don’t know man, you’ve got like a Christ complex or something. You’re all holier than thou, talking down to people, wearing all white, and you keep coming in here with new songs when we already have tons of perfectly good songs that we need to start recording.”
Julian sighed and shook his head. “The songs we already have aren’t the right songs. And I’m not going to accept criticism for the enlightenment that I have recently attained, nor how the beauty of my discovery has impacted my personality.”
“You are so full of shit.” Caleb blurted out.
Julian responded with a derisive snort. “You just don’t understand.”
“Understand what?! What’s to understand?”
“If you could see the things I’ve seen, you would get it.” Julian’s priest-like calmness was beginning to show cracks. He was visibly irritated by the confrontation.
“Seen what? An acid trip?” Caleb’s tone was becoming increasingly sour. He had intended to keep his composure, but found he could no longer hold in his exasperation. “Is that what this is? Huh? You dropped acid a few times and now you think you know everything?”
“It was no ordinary trip, Caleb! The LSD opened my mind to something...Something that I think was always there, inside me, but I couldn’t see it until now. It was like, a message meant specifically for me.” Julian uncrossed his arms and began gesturing as if he were painting a picture for Caleb. “I saw things as they truly are. Not as we see them, Caleb, but as they truly are. I saw...consciousness. Tangible, visible consciousness, connecting all things. People, nature, objects. It’s all connected, Caleb! We are one, single, connected consciousness! And I realized, in that moment, that it was my destiny to share this knowledge with the world. That’s what the album is about. The songs we already have aren’t right. I need this album to share my discovery. I was chosen to do this!”
Caleb stood with his mouth hanging open for several seconds before responding. “Do you realize how crazy that sounds?”
Julian dismissed the criticism with a wave. “I told you, you can’t understand.”
“Do you seriously think you’re the first person to drop acid and discover some secret truth?!” Caleb continued. “Do you know many people who’ve done psychedelics reported seeing exactly what you just described? Do you know how many musicians have already sung about it? How can you possibly think your experience was unique? Oh but I’m sure they were just high, huh? But not you, no, obviously you’re special. Clearly you’re the goddamn chosen one!”
“Don’t blaspheme!” Julian barked.
“Here’s a newsflash for you. The label is about two seconds away from firing all of us if we don’t start recording the songs we have.”
“The songs aren’t right!” Julian repeated.
“They’re never going to be right, Julian! Right now they just need to be! Okay? And here’s another newsflash. Mickey and Hunter are ready to walk out on you. And I’m right behind them if you don’t drop this messiah bullshit right now!”
“Fine then, walk out! I knew the burden I was taking on when I had my vision and I don’t expect you to help me carry it!”
“Oh you’d love that, wouldn’t you? To be a martyr? But guess what, you’re not gonna be a martyr, Julian. With no band, and no record deal, you’re just gonna be nobody!”
Caleb knew he had gone too far as he watched all of the color leave his friend’s face. Julian fell silent and sank into a nearby chair. He seemed to wrestle with a response for a few moments, then buried his face in his hands and began to cry. “I’m...I’m sorry…” he said to the floor.
“Yea...I’m sorry too man.” Caleb replied.
After several minutes, Julian sat up. He took a deep, shuddering breath, and said: “I guess…*sniff*...If we need to start recording to keep the record deal...Then that’s what we should do.”
Caleb, fighting back his own tears, nodded. “Yea...That's good...I’ll go get Hunter and Mickey.” As he made for the door, Julian called out to him.
Julian’s voice quivered as he asked his question: “Who am I?”
Caleb looked into Julian’s bloodshot, vulnerable eyes, and gave the only response he could think of: “You’re Julian Maxwell.”