logo FourTeens The lights were dimmed and the screaming had settled; Jonas could still hear the muffled voices as the crowd made their way out of the amphitheatre. They had rewarded their fans with an energetic encore, and now backstage, he and the other fellows toweled themselves off in silence. Time had been once that one encore would not have sufficed to satisfy the hoards of young, screaming, teenaged girls, but the latest album hadn't sold well, and they had been forced to cancel several dates due to a bogus case of swine flu. Although he tried not to ever actually pay attention to the audience, this night he actually found himself spotting vast areas of empty seats within his viewpoint as he twirled onstage.

Now backstage, he looked around at his fellow bandmates: Terry was already on the cell phone and talking angrily to someone, while Drake greedily drained a tall beer in one swallow. Pete sat on the floor and shook his long sweaty mane. "You shouldn't drink that stuff," he said to the tall youth. "Fuck you," came the reply. That was about the extent of communication these days between them.

It wasn't always like that: Jonas remembered how they had competed against hundreds of other fellows at try-outs. Once they had been selected, they spent countless hours together practicing their moves and how to lip-sync and make it appear real. It had been fun and they all got along. Now it was a business, and business wasn't so good.

"I just meant you're getting a bit of a gut, Drake," Pete said sullenly as he stood up and patted the tall boy on his midsection. Fists were raised and Jonas had to step between them quickly to break it up. "Can you guys shut the hell up?" Terry snarled from his corner. Drake consoled himself with kicking over a trashcan.

The door creaked open and their manager, Leon, slithered in. Leon was one of the ugliest men they had ever seen - a cross between a toad and a troll, but he was one of the best in the business. He was one of the first to come up with the idea to put four cute boys on stage to an R&B beat, and it was he who discovered the four of them and named them the "FourTeens." They were 14 at the time, but now they were early twenties and the years of hard living has taken its toll on their looks.

"Fellows, I've got some bad news," Leon croaked. "N&M Records is canceling the rest of the tour - they're pulling the plug on us."

Jonas was not surprised. The others expressed indignation. "They can't do that!" Terry spat as he hung up the phone.

"Hey guys, what can I say? We had a good ride, didn't we?" The short man was all sugared vinegar.

"So what's next," Jonas asked softly.

The dwarf cocked his finger silently and led the young men out the door of the dressing room and down a circular set of stairs. They turned down a dirty hallway and saw four doors in the distance. A red light shone above each one. "You choose a door - that's your exit," the gnarled manager shrugged and pointed them down the long hallway.

The four walked slowly down to the doors and each stood in front of one. "Well, guess this is it," Jonas suggested. Terry snarled and waved away any emotion as he opened his door. Silently, and with merely the slightest acknowledgement of goodbye, Pete, Drake, and finally Jonas exited the building through their doors.

Inside, Pete found himself in a dark and empty room. He called out softly, but there was no sound. Just as he expected, his fate was to be forgotten. He smiled to himself; he didn't mind.

Drake opened the exit and found himself in a suburban house with a beautiful wife and several children. He sat on the couch strumming a guitar and watching TV. He noticed that his belly had grown considerably, as his wife brought him a large plate of steaming food. Not so bad, he thought, as the children fought in front of the television and he stuffed his face. Not so bad - except "I'M GAY!" His horrified thoughts bounced off the walls of his mind.

Terry climbed out the fire exit and found himself in Greenwich Village. He was surrounded by other people dressed in black leather, laughing and reciting poetry to parked cars and stray cats in alleys. They passed the bottle back and forth - it warmed his belly. He felt high. This wasn't so bad - he finally could work on his art like he always wanted to. These people would take him seriously!

He didn't hear the car, until the tires squealed behind him and he saw for a moment his shadow in the headlights against the wall ahead, and then he went head over the top of the car as it struck him. He lay bleeding in a broken heap, while his friends tried to comfort him. He knew it then - he had to die. He was the dangerous one. He thought for himself.

In a bluer haze, Jonas walked slowly across the thickly carpeted room. It all seemed so unfair. He, at least, had been the only one with any talent in the band. He could actually sing a bit and had spent hours trying to sound like Prince and Marvin Gaye when he was growing up. Now it all had to end. He sighed and opened the heavy door.

The sunlight blinded him as he stepped into a whirl of palm trees and thick heavy air. Above him the sign on the hill read: "Hollywood." Leon sat under an umbrella with a drink in his hand.

"Congratulations kid, you made it," he said with a leer.

"But..." Jonas stammered.

"No need to thank me - I got you a new gig - you're an actor now."

"But my music?" Jonas choked.

"Don't worry about it," the reptile slurped his drink, "besides, you'll always be big in Japan."

Jonas would never know if the tears were those of sadness or of joy, as he stood for a moment in the streaming sunlight. Leon pulled out a chair. The young man sat down and sank deeply into the chair cushion from which he knew he would never escape.

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