The concert has been sold out for weeks. As I navigate the maze of tunnels closed to the public, I overhear the head of security complaining about the traffic jams around the stadium. My music is causing traffic jams. The idea makes me grin.
I tousle my hair expertly with the fingers of my left hand. I used to do it with my right, but I found that the product residue sometimes made the microphone slip in my hand. There are plenty of things that can go wrong during a show, but dropping the mic does not need to be one of them. All I need is one lip-synching accusation to end my career. Not that I am lip synching, per se - that is my voice you hear multiplied by 1000, but it is nearly impossible to stay on tune while dancing. Try it. So they supplement my live voice with a recording. It's not illegal, it's just stage magic. Show business. We all do it. That's what my manager tells me, anyway.
If my friend Max was here, he would probably refuse to do anything but real live music. But that's exactly why I am here and he is not. You have to sell your soul to be famous. Everyone knows that. And I intend to.
As we approach backstage, I can hear the roar getting louder. Thousands of people - girls mostly - who have paid good money to listen to my voice for two hours. And they sound extremely excited about it. By the time we reach backstage it is nearly deafening. I feel the adrenaline start to pump into my blood, my toes and fingers tingling with anticipation. I can hear the pre-show entertainment finishing up their last song.
I check my earpieces, making sure they are firmly implanted. I check that my shoes are secure and snug (I accidentally kicked one off during a song once. Luckily the girl I hit was so excited to keep the shoe she didn't press charges). I adjust the straps of my second costume underneath the more loosely fitted top outfit, already beginning to feel warm.
"Dorian!" I look behind me to see my manager, Ed, and his clipboard. "I just wanted to remind you about the meet-and-greet after the show as well. I know you don't like the sick kids, but they're good for the press and you can barely tell they're dying."
I know what you're thinking, but I am not actually a horrible person, I just hate being confronted with my own mortality. I prefer to - like most teens and celebrities - believe that I am invincible. But I know better than to argue. "Thank you, Ed. I am sure it will be fine."
"Okay, now last thing: what city are we in again?"
You might think this is a joke, but when I'm on tour, I can barely keep track of my own name, never mind which city I'm currently in. Besides, its not like we ever get to see any of it.
Ed doesn't look amused.
"Dallas. We're in Dallas."
"Very good. Now, break a leg, Dorian James. And remember, don't use all your energy on Get You Girl because we changed the set list and Night Sky is right after it."
"You got it."
"Dorian, you're on in three," the stage manager says into my earpiece.
Ed leaves to watch the show from his special spot backstage. I move into position underneath the stage. The familiar hype-up music starts pounding from the speakers. It's actually quieter behind stage than almost any spot in the arena. None of the speakers are pointed towards me. I used to smile when I popped out of the stage. Now I have a new smouldering expression that I worked on with my dance coach. He said girls like a serious pouty boy-child more than a grinning idiot. I pinch my eyebrows in the slightest frown and lower my chin so that my eyes are wider when I look straight ahead. Back-up dancers get into their crouched positions fanned out on either side of me.
A remixed version of my most popular song starts blasting. It was number one for 3 weeks on the charts. I can barely remember a time when I enjoyed singing it. I start the countdown to the beat. Three ee-ee, two ooh-ooh...