The boy was sitting up in bed. Before him, a black-clad man sat upon a stool. The man’s hair was long and dark, like his clothes. Resting on the man’s nose were tinted spectacles. Even with the difference in attire, the boy recognized Jon Crowley’s face, even if Mr. Crowley had become wrinkled with thirty years of age. Most fans would’ve lost it if greeted by the King of Chaos, Jon Crowley. But, y’know, the kid wasn’t like most fans.“Hello, Wayne,” the All-Father of Metal said. “I’m here to grant your wish.”“I didn’t wish for you,” Wayne said. “I want Dee.”Mr. Crowley had been dreading that moment. When he got the letter from the Dream-Come-True Organization, stating that one Wayne Alabaster wanted a guitar lesson with Dee Mountain, Mr. Crowley almost lost his nerve. There had been many interviews, even a couple biographies, where Mr. Crowley says how regretful he was- -and still is- -for the death of Dee Mountain.Mr. Crowley looked up to a woman. This woman was dressed in white, cotton-polyester pants and a work shirt. These were called scrubs. They were worn by most nurses. The nurse moved over to Wayne. She bent over him, and smiled like a know-nothing misfit.“Wayne,” she said, “Mr. Crowley’s come a long way from Los Angeles to see you. Why don’t you say hi?”“Because I want Dee.”Mr. Crowley’s mouth twitched. Years of sobriety were in danger thanks to one, delusional child. But Mr. Crowley couldn’t say anything. It would’ve been too cruel. The cruelest thing, Mr. Crowley thought, is that Wayne will see Dee before I do. As Mr. Crowley sat there, he noticed how similar Wayne was to Dee. Wayne’s hair was long, blonde, but curly, unlike Dee’s. His face was slender and thin, and his eyes shined almost like Dee’s. Even in the face of disappointment and death, the kid’s eyes shined.“Maybe I should come back later,” Mr. Crowley said. “Just bring Dee.” Mr. Crowley moved away without replying. He stopped at the white Les Paul leaning against the hospital wall. On the table next to the guitar were pictures of Wayne with the Les Paul and three other guitars, each a replica of Dee Mountain’s guitars. Mr. Crowley sighed, and left the room. The nurse looked over Wayne. Her smile was sunny and practiced, but it comforted most kids. Wayne wasn’t like most kids.The nurse released her smile, her lips sagging in a slight grimace. She moved around the room, checking charts and cleaning up spills other nurses missed. What a lot of people didn’t know was that the nurse was a huge Jon Crowley fan. In fact, she had traded shifts with another nurse just to be in the same room as the King of Chaos. But her glorious day had turned into a flop thanks to Wayne Alabaster. “You’re ungrateful, you know?” “Hm?” “Jon Crowley…And you just sit there! He wanted to grant your wish. You know, death only happens once. You can’t take it back. Everyone else knows that.” Wayne didn’t reply. He didn’t want to reply. He wanted Dee. He wanted a guitar lesson with Dee Mountain. The nurse rolled her eyes, left the room, and slammed the door shut. Unfortunately, the nurse would get fired later. She hadn’t been aware of the cameras planted in the room for Mr. Crowley’s safety. The people supervising the cameras didn’t like how she treated the boy. So, they told the nurse’s supervisors. And so on. Wayne sat in silence. He looked up at the opposite end of the room. There, pinned to the wall, was a regular-sized poster of Dee shredding on his favorite 1974 Les Paul Custom. The guitar sitting next to Wayne’s bed was almost an exact replica. Almost everything Wayne owned was a replica of Dee’s. Wayne had to be exactly like Dee. His setup of amps and pedals were almost exactly the same as Dee’s. Wayne also possessed talent. He wasn’t a wannabe, like a lot of his friends thought he was. Poor Wayne just got stage fright, and never played for people. He didn’t want to play for people. There wass only one person he needed to play for.It wasn’t Dee.But Dee could prepare him. If Wayne could have just one lesson with Dee, then he would be ready to play.***The next day, another nurse had taken on the kid. She brought Mr. Crowley back to Wayne’s room, and Mr. Crowley had a guest, a guitarist. The guitarist was muscular, clad in leather, biker-wannabe getup. His beard was long and tied to prevent it from getting caught on anything. His name was Phil Moore, and he carried a guitar, his signature black and white bulls-eye Les Paul, and a small Marshall practice amp. “Hello, Wayne,” Mr. Crowley said. “Heya kiddo,” Phil said. “Who’s this?” Wayne asked. Phil almost dropped his amp. Most people the world over had heard of Phil Moore. But Wayne wasn’t like most people. “Well, he’s my guitarist, Phil Moore.” “No,” Wayne said, “Dee’s your guitarist.” “That was in nineteen eighty, kid,” Phil said.“Phil,” Mr. Crowley grumbled.Phil wanted to say something snide. But he knew better. Wayne wasn’t going to be alive much longer. So, Phil sighed and let the comment go. He set his amp down and pulled up a chair. Wayne watched him in silence. What’s he doing? Wayne thought. Mr. Crowley folded his hands into his lap.“Dee…can’t make it. Why don’t you take a lesson from Phil? He’s pretty good.”“But Dee’s better,” Wayne said.Phil clenched his fists, and slowly glanced at Mr. Crowley. The black-clad man shook his head slightly. Phil went back to setting up his guitar and amp. Then, Mr. Crowley took a deep breath. He waited a moment before opening his mouth again. When he did, nothing came out. Why try talking to Wayne? Perhaps, if Phil played something, the kid would be impressed enough to drop the Dee-thing. It was worth a try.When Phil finished setting up, the guitarist-supreme wasted no time: Bending on two strings, Phil forced a loud, guttural screech from the amp. Then, as if someone had startled his fingers, Phil began scaling up and down the neck. The result was a sonic assault resembling that of a pin ball on speed from hell, and any guitarist-wannabe would’ve gone crazy. In fact, any guitarist Wayne’s age would’ve loved to have been in the same room as Phil. And, indeed, most guitarists Wayne’s age would’ve felt blessed to have a lesson with Phil Moore.But Wayne wasn’t like most guitarists his age.After Phil finished, “That sucked,” Wayne said, “compared to Dee.”“That’s it,” Phil said. “Kid, Dee’s dead. You ain’t gunna get a lesson from ‘im.”Mr. Crowley looked up at his guitarist. “Phil.”“The kid can’t be lied to, Jon. If you’re gunna lie to ‘im, then I’m leavin’.” And the bearded guitarist stormed out of the room, axe and amp in tow.Mr. Crowley sighed, and slumped over as if he wore a brick on a chain around his neck. The old man took off his tinted glasses and looked up at Wayne. The boy didn’t move, nor did he look at Mr. Crowley.“Dee’s…?”“I’m afraid so,” Mr. Crowley said.“He can’t be,” the boy cried. “My father…He’ll be here any day! I…I have to learn the solo of Cold War!” Cold War was Mr. Crowley’s first, and biggest, single. It was popularized by Dee’s iconic and instantly-recognizable guitar wizardry.“Wayne, Phil could’ve taught you…”“No! I have to learn Dee’s way!”“Calm down.”“Get out! I have to practice…I can’t let Dad down!”Mr. Crowley was taken aback. Whatever the kid’s problem, Mr. Crowley felt sorry for him, but there was nothing more Mr. Crowley could do for Wayne. So, he left the boy alone. Then, Wayne tried to get out of bed, the new nurse by his side. His legs refused to work properly, and Wayne fell to the floor.Actually, Wayne’s legs hadn’t functioned properly in a few weeks. And, within another day or so, they wouldn’t function at all. None of Wayne would function at all.“Let’s get you back in bed, Wayne.”“I…I have to get to my guitar. I have to practice.”“Wayne, don’t be difficult.”“I just want…I want…”“I know. You want your guitar. But you’re just gunna have t’wait.”The nurse hoisted Wayne’s near-lifeless body onto the bed. It wasn’t that Wayne’s life had left his body, but he hardly had any control. As the nurse placed Wayne upon the bed, Wayne’s hair fell off. On the back of his head was a nasty, black bruise the size of a fist. This was the first and last sign of Wayne’s End Days.“A boy your age wearing a wig?” She replaced the wig on Wayne’s head. Wayne didn’t move. His eyes were empty and glazed over. “I guess kids will do anything to imitate their heroes.”Then, the nurse was gone, and Wayne was alone again. Except: Wayne had wanted to be alone. And there he was, sitting up in bed again. The room was silent save Wayne’s shallow breathing. Wayne couldn’t believe what he had heard. Dee Mountain was dead. How had he not known that? Perhaps, he had known at some point. But his memories were spotty. Still, Wayne remembered that his father loved Dee Mountain. Wayne remembered that his father thought the guitar solo from Cold War was genius. And, Wayne remembered that his father expected Wayne to be Dee-incarnate.His head pounded, the black, angry splotch pulsating, a countdown. You’re gunna die soon, it said. Yeah, and Daddy still won’t be proud of ya.The door opened. Wayne thought it might be the nurse, or Mr. Crowley. Wayne was prepared to drive either of them off again. But when he looked up at the intruder, Wayne lost all the breath he had prepared for shouting and rejecting.The person who then sat in the chair was none other than Wayne’s father. Despite his age, Wayne’s father was, appearance-wise, fairly well-to-do, except for his broken nose. His name was Wayne Sr.“Son,” Wayne Sr. said.“Dad,” Wayne Jr. said.Wayne Sr. sat there, hands folded in his lap. What could he say? He didn’t rightly know, I guess. Of course, if you caused your son’s pathetic existence, wouldn’t you find it difficult to say anything?Wayne Sr. created the black splotch on Wayne’s head. Was the cloud of bleeding and broken tissues created intentionally? Not even Wayne Sr. knew the answer to that. He had been drugged up on LSD, and, in the midst of his high, Wayne Sr. mistook his son for an otherworldly creature. Thanks to his intoxication, Wayne Sr. also thought himself to be a valiant warrior, and the creature could only be slain by his own two hands. Of course, when Wayne Sr. grabbed onto the creature, it struggled against the warrior’s grip.“Nuoh! Stuopoh oiut!” the creature shouted.It was cussing out the warrior. So, the warrior tossed it against a corner of a wooden entertainment center. And the warrior stood over the creature and basked in his victory. Then, he passed out.The police arrived a little later after receiving a phone call from a frightened neighbor. Wayne Sr. had been put in jail. He shouldn’t have been let out. Ufortunately, Wayne Sr. had good friends with deep pockets.“Son, I want to apologize,” Wayne Sr. finally said. Wayne didn’t reply. The silence discouraged Wayne’s dad from saying anything else. So, they sat there for a while.Wayne only thought: I hope he doesn’t ask me to play Cold War. I’m not ready. I’m not ready…Suddenly, Wayne Sr. stood up. “I’ll come back later. I’m sorry to bother you.”And, he was gone.***It was the third day, and Wayne sat alone in the room, until a nurse came to check Wayne’s charts. Of course, Wayne’s health kept declining. His brain activity kept slowing down. Wayne himself sat in bed, eyes half-closed, his breathing shallower than the day before.“Not much longer,” the nurse mumbled sadly.Then, she left the room. Mr. Crowley and Phil had left and weren’t coming back. But Wayne’s wish had yet to be granted.Wayne struggled to fully open his eyes. The splotch weighed upon his head like wet cement. But he managed to straighten his neck. He forced his eyes up to the poster across from him, the picture of Dee, his guitar hero, his idol. But his idol was dead. To a normal person, in a funeral speech, maybe, one might say “At least Wayne’ll get to do something most never do. He’ll get to meet his idol.” Of course, the meeting would be posthumous.The door opened again. Wayne half-expected his father. Then, the person said: “Oh, that’s a nice guitar. And those amps in the picture…yeah, the white Marshall stacks…they look nearly identical to mine. But they’re only replicas.” Wayne looked up. And his jaw nearly dropped. The blonde, long-haired man smiled gently at Wayne. “Well, Wayne, you’re certainly trying to be a little-me, aren’t you?”“Dee?” Wayne said.“Who else would I be?”“But…how…why are you here?”“You wished for it, didn’t you? Y’know, it takes a long time to get from the sky to the earth. As soon as you die, you’re there instantly. But, if you want to come back…it’s worse than an airport.” The man grinned. “So, I heard you wanted a guitar lesson.”“Y-yeah.”“Well, I can do that. But I think it might be hard for you to play.”“You…you know?”“I’ve studied a thing or two about you.” He paused, moved to the chair, and sat down. Then, “Is getting a guitar lesson from me what you really want? Is learning Cold War’s solo really your last wish?”“I…uh…”“Or, do you just want to impress your dad?”“I…um…”Dee set his hand firmly on the boy’s shoulder. “You should learn the guitar because you want to. Don’t learn it for anyone else. Putting everyone else before you is a terrible, terrible decision. Now, tell me, what do you truly wish for?”***What happened next, no one can explain.Wayne Sr. returned to the hospital room. In his hand was a special treat for his son. It was packed away in a box. The box was made of polished leather and about as long as a small dining room table. Obviously, it was a hard-shell guitar case.What’s inside? Wayne Jr. wondered. He already owned every Dee replica guitar, yet Wayne Sr. wore the worst shit-eating grin one had ever seen. Whatever was inside the box, it had to be pretty damn special.“One of my friends in L.A. saw this and thought you’d like to have it, Son.” Without waiting for his son’s reply, Wayne Sr. set the box in front of Wayne and opened it. Inside, resting on a shabby red interior, there was a sleek, slightly dinged-up Les Paul Black Beauty. What made this guitar different from the one leaning against the wall was that this guitar had three pickups whereas the Dee replica had only two. “This is another guitar Dee used. It even has a certificate of authenticity. It’s the only guitar the Mountain family didn’t have locked away in a vault. And it’s for you, son.”Normally, Wayne would’ve been excited for the gift. But he didn’t want another guitar. No, he didn’t want his father’s pathetic attempt at an apology. Despite what the cost of the guitar might’ve been, no price would’ve been good enough for Wayne. His father sat there, waiting for a response, perhaps forgiveness, perhaps praise…but it never came.It never would.The door opened and shut. Wayne Sr. turned and nearly lost all his breath. Before him stood Dee Mountain, the long-deceased guitarist of Jon Crowley. Of course, Wayne Sr. couldn’t believe it.“W-who are you?” Wayne Sr. said.“I was just a man. Just a man. And when I was a man, I wasn’t one for long. I’d barely grown out of childhood when my life ended. Maybe some of it was my fault. I shouldn’t have gotten on that damn crazy train. But it was my own choice. And I didn’t have anyone to talk me out of it.” Then, Dee grabbed Wayne Sr. by his shirt’s collar. “But you and your son have had choices. You, Mr. Alabaster, chose to do drugs, and took ‘em in heavy doses. Then, you’d find your son and hound him ‘til he cried.” Dee punched Wayne Sr. in his jaw, crack. Wayne Sr. fell to the ground, and Dee stood over him. “I believe you did something like that one time. Yeah, poor Wayne couldn’t eat right for a couple of weeks. You felt bad, and you didn’t do any drugs for a time. But Once Wayne was healed, all your guilt disappeared as if it had never existed.”“Please,” Wayne Sr. groaned, “have mercy.”“Mercy? Did you have mercy on Wayne?”“It wasn’t my fault. I couldn’t control myself.”“Tell me, could you’ve stopped doing drugs? You could’ve. I don’t care how addicting they are. You could’ve stopped, and none of this would’ve happened.” Dee grabbed Wayne Sr. by the throat and pulled him to his knees, and bent him over the bed, the father kneeling to his son. “You know what your son wishes for, Mr. Alabaster? He didn’t really want me. He did, but not as much as he wanted you where he is. So, I’ll be taking your life so your son can live a life I didn’t get, a life that you wasted on drugs and abuse. So, Mr. Alabaster, do you still want Dee?”And, he was gone.