"As many of you know, Steve Perry, lead singer of the wildly popular rock 'n' roll group Journey, has been afflicted with several mysterious ailments that have mystified countless doctors and specialists. In addition to experiencing a strange hip disorder, and unexplainable blindness, the popular singer has now been struck completely dumb. However, manager Herbie Herbert says that the band is too dedicated to let that stop them from promoting their latest album, Escape. Thanks to an innovative idea, the band will not be canceling their live tour dates. Production is already underway for a special tour, wherein the band will play live music, while Steve Perry lip-synchs to his previously recorded vocals. They will also be filming music videos for almost every song on the album, set for release a few months after the tour is over. There you have it, Journey fans! Despite the rocky path their lead singer has been forced to trod, Journey's adventure is not at an end!"
He folded the newspaper up and pulled out a small pair of binoculars. They were already opening his gift.
Steve set the canvas down on the coffee table and wrote on his board. "This is getting scary."
"You're telling me," Beth said. "I know that had to have taken several hours to make. Herbie couldn't have told the press early enough for the evening papers to print it."
"How did he know?" Steve wrote.
"It must be one of those nurses leaking information," Beth said.
"Still, it's pretty freaky all the same." Steve nodded. "Are you going to read it?" Beth asked.
"Is it all black, like the last one?"
"No. It's an abstract. Just a bunch of swirling colors, but it is pretty." Steve smiled slightly, imagining it. He fingered the rounded buttons, then wrote the message down for Beth.
Words can't express how I feel either.
Still your number one fan,
Steve sat on the couch thinking. He erased the board and wrote, "Doesn't exactly sound threatening, does it?"
"No," Beth said. "But I still don't like it. I know it sounds paranoid, but none of this stuff started happening to you until after we met that guy."
Steve frowned. "You're right," he wrote. "Do you think it could be connected?"
Beth sighed. "I'm not sure. I mean, I don't see how it could be. How could he possibly be doing these things to you? And even if he could, why would he? He's obviously a huge fan of yours. So much so as to be fairly frightening. Why would he hurt you?"
"I don't know," Steve wrote. "I don't think he would. And you're right. Even if he wanted to, how could he?" Steve let Beth read that message, then wrote another. "I think I'll go ahead and send him a thank you."
"Okay. Do you want me to write it?"
Steve shook his head. "I think I'm getting the hang of this blind writing thing," he wrote. Beth found him another picture and turned it over in front of him. Steve found the proper corner and wrote his message.
I'm touched by your heartfelt support.
Beth wrapped the picture for him and they took it to the post office on the way to rehearsal.
The doll's creator scowled. The last affliction should have worked. But the doll's mission had failed again. One thing more remained to be tried. It must work! It must!
Beth sang while she made their lunch. She was in a great mood. The past week had been wonderful for Steve. Now that he knew he could still perform - at least for now - he was in excellent spirits. He was smiling a lot more than he had since this whole ordeal began. He'd even started playing his instruments again - serenading Beth every night. He didn't even seem too depressed not to be able to sing along.
They were both a little concerned by the fact that his medication didn't seem to work as well anymore. He was forced to take it four times a day now, instead of two. Beth wanted to ask Dr. Reynolds about it, but Steve refused to set foot in the hospital again. "I hate it there," he wrote to her. "Just because they don't last as long doesn't mean they don't work. I'll just take more if I have to." It still worried Beth that Steve was taking more medication, when he was supposed to be weaning himself to less. But she hated to press the issue when he seemed so happy.
Beth put the finishing touches on their lunch. She was about to put it on the dining table when she heard the tinkle of Steve's bell. "Be right there," she called. The bell tinkled again almost immediately. Beth stopped what she was doing, wondering what could be wrong. "I'm coming, Steve," she called, making her way down the hall. When the bell rang again, more insistently, Beth started to get scared. He must have hurt himself somehow! She ran the rest of the way and found Steve in their bedroom.
Beth stopped in the doorway, feeling perplexed. She had expected to see Steve lying in pain on the floor, having fallen and hurt himself somehow. Instead, he sat on the bed, holding the bell in a shaking hand. His face was completely white. Before Beth could ask him what was wrong, Steve slammed the bell onto the night stand repeatedly. Beth gasped. "Steve, what's wrong?" Suddenly, he flung the bell across the room, narrowly missing Beth's head. She ducked and it rolled down the hall. "What's the matter, baby," she asked fearfully.
Steve ignored her. He yanked the lamp from the night stand and slammed it against the wall, shattering it. Next, he attacked the night stand itself. He ripped the drawers out, scattering their contents and pounding them against the floor and walls until they splintered. In a rage, he proceeded to trash the rest of the room, smashing everything he put his hands on. Beth looked on in horror, terrified by his unrestrained fury.
Eventually, Steve's tirade ended. He stood amid the debris, dripping with sweat and shaking violently. Then, without warning, he fell to his knees and started to heave. Beth gasped and stepped into the wasteland that had been their bedroom. "Steve?" she asked hesitantly. "Steve, what's wrong!?" Steve wiped his mouth and turned away from the foul puddle. Still on his knees, he curled in on himself and started to cry.
Beth walked toward him, stepping gingerly over the mess. "Steve, baby, what's the matter? What happened?" Steve only continued to sob silently, not even looking up. Beth knelt in front of him and took hold of his shoulders. "Baby, what's wrong?"
Startled, Steve jumped and looked up, his face a study in pain and sadness. "I can't hear!" he mouthed.
Beth gasped. "Oh, God," she whispered, her own eyes filling with tears. "Oh, Steve!" She wrapped her arms around him and held him tight. Steve put his arms around her, buried his face in her shoulder and cried - his violent, racking sobs shaking his entire body without making a sound. Beth tried to hold back her tears - to be strong for Steve's sake - but she couldn't. She cried almost as hard as he did. They sat together in the middle of their decimated bedroom, faces buried in each other's shoulders, crying their eyes out.
When at last, Beth felt she couldn't cry any more even if she wanted to, she continued to hold Steve until he stopped. He pulled away from her and waved his hand toward the room. "I'm sorry," he mouthed. "I'm so sorry."
Beth lightly put a hand over his mouth. Then she took his hands, placed them on either side of her face and shook her head. She kissed him several times, trying to make sure he knew it was okay. Then she looked around the room. Good God. It was insane. How would she get Steve out without him getting hurt? Beth put her hands on Steve's shoulders and pressed down, telling him to stay put. Then she set about clearing a path from where he sat to the door. Hardly anything was intact anyway, so she just tossed everything aside, being careful not to cut herself on the many shards of broken glass she found.
She went back to Steve and helped him to his feet. He winced when he put his left foot down, and Beth looked at it. Damn. He'd already stepped on some glass. Beth supported Steve on the left side and helped him hobble to the couch. She set his bleeding foot on the coffee table, pressed down on his shoulders again and went to find some bandages. When she returned, she touched him again to let him know she was back.
Beth gently cleaned the blood from Steve's foot and pulled out two fairly large pieces of glass, along with several smaller ones. She cleaned it again, then wrapped it up. She checked his other foot just in case, and found two more tiny pieces. When she'd pulled those out, she brought him his lunch and his pill. She braved the bedroom again and found Steve's dry erase board underneath the overturned mattress. She took it to him, and he gave her a wan smile.
"Thank you," he wrote. His hands were still shaking and she could barely make out his writing. "I'm sor-" Beth grasped his wrist before he could complete his apology. He sighed and started a new message. "How will we talk?"
Beth had been wondering just that. She tried to remember everything she'd ever read about Helen Keller. She'd communicated with her teacher by feeling the manual alphabet. Maybe that would work with Steve. She formed the letter "h" and placed Steve's hand on it, hoping he would figure out what she was doing. He felt her hand for several moments, looking puzzled. Then he smiled and wrote on his board. "U?" Beth sighed. Figures, Beth. You would pick something ambiguous. She covered Steve's right hand with her own and slowly wrote an "H" on the board.
Steve nodded, then snapped his fingers. "Why not just do that?" he wrote. "I could probably catch it faster than sign language."
Beth erased Steve's message, held his hand again and wrote "DUH." Then she told him, "I'll call the hospital."
Steve shook his head vigorously. "No! I won't go!"
"But they may be able to-"
Steve pulled his hand away and erased what she'd written. "You know better than that." He sighed, looking utterly depressed. "I'm deaf. Nothing they can do."
Beth could feel tears coming to her eyes again. She wanted desperately to believe that something could be done to help Steve. But she knew in her heart that he was right. The doctors hadn't been able to help him so far. She didn't really believe that it would be different this time. Steve slumped further into the couch. "Tired," he wrote.
Beth helped Steve into the guest bedroom and tucked him in. He turned away from her, curled himself around a pillow and stared straight ahead. His eyes glistened with fresh tears. Beth climbed into the bed behind him, wrapped her arms around him and gently rocked him to sleep.
The doll now had two small balls of colored wax melted over its ears.
With his binoculars, he watched them come out of the guest room and have dinner. They wrote notes to each other on Steve's white board - Beth guiding Steve's hand with her own when she wanted to tell him something. Steve was listless and despondent. Beth - worried and sad. There was no music that night.