Every song in the world has an end.
From the longest operatic epic to the shortest bleating punk rock tune.
And to Lex Rydell: Denny was just another song.
Faint, weak, and now, at his hands, about to be brought to her end.
He leapt at her like an animal, all his weight crashing into her torso as she screamed in fright.
His music player tumbled right out of her fingers, spilling into the sand as Lex’s hands went straight from her throat.
Denny choked out a weak word, as Lex tightened his grip, keeping his weight on despite her shuddering body and kicking legs.
“DENNY!” Michael shouted, fear clouding his vision as he sprinted towards the struggle.
Denny’s eyes twitched, her face turning red as she fought to break free from this embrace of death.
As her vision blurred, Lex simply shook his head, his mouth twisting into a crooked smile as his grip became tighter.
Michael’s foot came straight for his face in the next moment, sending him flying off of Denny and giving her lungs a vast breath of life.
She coughed and sputtered, alive but quite uncomfortable, as Michael leaned down and attempted to calm his own pounding heart.
“Are you okay?”
Denny nodded silently, a short whine escaping her lips.
Michael narrowed his eyes, turning them back towards Lex Rydell.
What he saw was the Trackmaster standing up in the sand, headphones in his ears, and a familiar music player in his hands.
“Get out of my way, Michael.” Lex said, the hint of a growl at the end of his sentence.
Stalwart, Michael didn’t budge.
Lex gritted his teeth. “This is between me and her. I have a score to settle with her ilk. Be grateful: I’m giving you this one chance to walk away.”
Next to Michael, Denny found the strength to get up.
Nothing needed to be said between them; they both pulled out their music players and knew exactly what was coming.
Lex glanced to one side, then shook his head.
His gaze suddenly darkened. Like some sort of demon of the night, he pounced, his song screaming behind him like a crescendo of battle.
Then two more songs joined the fray, amid the spoken land of confusion.
The familiar: Michael’s Dancing Machine form in all its disco, silvery glory.
And another, previously unseen to Michael, as Denny’s outfit metamorphosed into a sleek white suit and matching fedora.
Lex was a good twenty steps away, and it was Michael Kay’s first instinct to charge him.
All they had to do was get his headphones off, and the fight would be over. It was easy, Michael thought.
Maybe a bit too easy.
That last thought bounced around in his mind, as the boy felt his body careen backwards, hit by a fist the size of a couch.
Skidding into the sand, Michael made no noise, not that he could. Instead, he got to his feet as quick as possible, looking up to see none other than himself.
It was a splitting image of sorts: a sort of horrifying puppet that shared his likeness in the most mocking way possible. It had no legs to speak of, jutting out of the sand from some unseen arm that broke right through the fabric of reality itself.
It made no noise as it came at him again, huge fists slamming down with all intention to crush him into fine dust.
Michael rolled to one side, barely dodging the weight of the blows as the afro-puppet shook in frustration.
Back on his feet, he didn’t dare look behind him.
He didn’t have to. He had a pretty good guess as to what Denny was dealing with, as he dodged another swipe and rushed in for the fight of his life.
So far, Denny had done remarkably well, even against such an unfamiliar song effect.
Here she was, facing off against both Lex Rydell and a massive puppet Sentonal crafted in her own twisted image, and they’d yet to put a scratch on her.
Of course, it was easier with Smooth Criminal on her side.
Its power was in how straightforward it was: a song effect to rival Traveling Without Moving, she could appear and disappear in a flash of white light.
Whether it be a crotch-grab, a hip bump, or a smooth shimmy, Denny vanished before puppet fists or Lex’s fingers could grab at her.
So long as she could make a pose, she could get away, searching endlessly for the perfect moment in which she could get her hands around Lex’s headphones and put him down for the count.
But that moment seemed out of reach, for though she could avoid him, his new Sentonal stopped any approach lest Denny risk getting caught in its grip and finished for good.
As she vanished to and fro across the beach, she noted Michael’s plight, watching him struggle against another massive puppet that looked like his freak twin brother.
“You know, I really hate hide and seek. It’s a tiring game.” Lex announced, his puppet Sentonal twitching erratically at it waited for Denny to reappear at a moment’s notice.
“Won’t be for much longer.” Denny quipped as she flashed back into existence.
The shadow of Lex’s puppet was on her in an instant, trying to smother her only for the girl to point her finger into the air and vanish once again.
Lex furrowed his brow in annoyance. He mentally urged his puppets to fight harder, more recklessly, knowing that at least one could keep Michael busy while he dealt with Denny.
The Trackmaster twisted his lips, his tone becoming more sly as he waited for Denny to show herself again.
“We both know you can’t do this forever.” he remarked, his hand slowly moving towards an unseen piece of broken vinyl, held snug just underneath his trenchcoat.
“You’d be surprised.” Denny answered, reappearing to taunt another swipe from her puppet doppelganger before disappearing again.
Lex grinned through his one black tooth.
The most devious idea finally hit him.
“Think about your friend, Denny. I don’t need to kill him. But I can. Oh believe me, I can.”
Denny came back into sight, tipping her fedora up as her expression betrayed her.
Fear in her eyes, finally. Her breath quickened as she tried to keep her composure.
“I…I won’t let you. I’ll beat you before that happens.”
“Will you?” Lex said with a laugh. He put a hand to his forehead, a more wicked smile growing on his face.
“Oh, but he’s more than just your friend, isn’t he?”
Lex laughed again, his tone darkening. “I was in love once too.”
The smile vanished, his fingers tightening.
Behind his glasses, his eyes were as cold as ice.
“And look how I turned out.”
Denny felt her heart tighten in her chest, but by the time she finally remembered the fight, a heavy hand swatted her in the face.
Blood shot out of her nose as she tumbled backwards into the sand. She was quick to get up, expecting the puppet doppelganger to be descending upon her.
Only the cotton monstrosity was nowhere to be found. Instead, horror filled her eyes as she saw the thing pounce upon Michael, bear-hugging him from behind and lifting him high up in the air.
“MICHAEL!” Denny screamed, as the puppets grabbed at his limbs in an attempt to pull him apart. He flailed with all his might, dodging limbs that despite their fluffy appearance could tear him into pieces.
“You should have taken my offer, friendo!” Lex declared, watching with glee as his two puppets finally got their mitts around Michael’s arms and legs.
With inhuman strength, they held him in place, positioned to tear him in half at Lex’s mere mental command.
Denny stopped in place. Her stomach dropped, and she turned to Lex, searching for a threat or comeback but finding nothing.
On the coast of the Mirror Chrome Sea, fate had finally dealt her a losing hand.
“Ah, that’s better.” Lex said with a sigh, putting a hand up as his two puppet Sentonals began to tighten their grip.
Then, they began to pull. Michael couldn’t make any noise in his Dancing Machine form, but the strain in his eyes was all too clear.
“Wait, wait, stop!”
The Sentonals ignored her request, pulling harder now as Michael’s limbs buckled, holding on only just barely from the power of his song effect.
“You can end this, Denny.” Lex said, pointing to the headphones around his head. “I’m right here.”
He grinned, then showed off the cracked vinyl in his free hand.
“But I will tell you: it’s your life for his.”
Denny looked back, and the Sentonals kept on pulling.
Her gaze swiveled to Lex, and two thoughts surged into her mind.
The question was all too easy.
All her life she’d been led by an obsession, a love for a singer who never even knew she existed.
And now, with Michael Kay, obsession turned to love.
Not some schoolgirl love that would be forgotten years later. Not plastic love.
No, it was beyond that.
It was love that never felt so good.
And it was worth dying for.
Denny didn’t say another word. She pointed up in the air, and vanished.
Lex grinned like a psychopath, plunging the vinyl shard into the air in front of him, watching as Denny re-materialized right in its path.
But she she didn’t scream, or even wince, as the shard cut right through her chest and into her heart.
Instead, she placed one hand on the headphones around Lex’s ears, and in a silver flash, they disappeared.
Satisfied, Denny smiled, and she made a brief sway, before collapsing into the sand. Blood pooled out quickly from the wound, and all life soon passed from her visage, as Lex Rydell began to breathe in anticipation.
He touched her face, and she didn’t react. The fact his headphones were gone seemed meaningless to him, as he raised in arms in triumph.
“I…I DID IT! Ellie…oh, Ellie.”
Land of Confusion had stopped, and Michael was free.
His steps were groggy, his mind dizzy as he failed to acknowledge the reality before him.
Lex made no move to attack him, as Michael finally reached Denny’s lifeless body and put his hand on her face.
She was cold to the touch.
He put his hand on her chest, and found his palm slick with dark, arterial blood.
She had stopped bleeding completely now. Michael was silent at first, his head sinking as he felt the entire world fall apart around him.
His whispers became more frantic, turning into frantic sobbing.
Then, he felt Lex’s hand on his shoulder.
“You’ll be stronger from this, you know.”
Michael looked up. His gaze was blank, but tears streamed down his face.
Meanwhile, Lex simply smiled like the devil.
“You didn’t need her. It was all fake, really. I read up on her. She didn’t love you. She didn’t know what she loved.”
He leaned down, as if speaking to a child. “I always told Rob: attachments are the death of us. I mean, just look at me. Look what I did, all for Ellie. It’s insane.”
“You’ll thank me for this one day, Michael.” Lex said, standing up with satisfaction.
But as he tried to walk away, a hand grabbed at his wrist. He brushed it off at first, not even bothering to look down at Michael.
“Oh, don’t be such a baby. Do you know how easily I could kill you t-”
His words never came out. A fist, shrouded in black, crashed into his jaw and sent him flying.
Lex’s glasses were now a few feet away, broken in four pieces. He felt blood on his forehead as he focused his now blurry vision.
Approaching him, step by step, was the black silhouette of Michael Kay. All discernible features were gone, as Michael’s eyes lit up with orange light. Music soon followed, forced to play on his music player through force of will alone.
Lex had seen this sort of thing only once before.
“P…Perfect Beat…” he said.
Michael stopped ten feet away from Lex. He was completely silent as the Trackmaster was allowed to get back on his feet, taunting the boy despite his shock.
“Oh, who cares!? You think this will make a difference, Michael? Give it up! I killed her! I killed her, and there’s nothing you can do to change it!”
Michael’s eyes narrowed, glowing an even brighter orange. The sound of disco filled the air, as a looming shadow formed behind Lex Rydell.
He turned around to see the Big YMCA, as tall and as imposing as ever.
Lex had enough time to take one more breath before a massive fist crashed into his body, sending him flying into the air.
He didn’t scream, even as multiple bones broke on impact. Wind rushed past his face, only to stop when he finally hit the surface of the Mirror Chrome Sea face first.
Liquid metal filled his nose and lungs, and Lex felt his body sink into the abyss.
He made a weak grasp with one of his non-broken arms, but it was to no avail.
As his vision waned, he saw one last reflection of his life before he sank past the light.
The image of Ellie.
She was smiling.
It was a good minute until Perfect Beat ran out, and Michael Kay came to.
What he found waiting for him was a strange figure, half black, half white, that was crouched down over Denny’s body, inspecting it like a child might inspect an insect.
“Hey!” Michael said, his voice cracking. You…you get away from her!”
He belted into a run, but found his legs weak. He stopped on his knees, tears welling up in his eyes again as he remembered the horrible fact of the present.
They had what they needed, and Lex Rydell was gone.
But the price of it all? Denny was dead.
Michael began to cry, as Mr. Lostman tilted his head and wondered to himself.
“She…was a friend?” he asked, with unexpected innocence.
Michael wiped tears away with his shirt.
“More than that. I think…no, I’m pretty sure…I lo…loved…”
He couldn’t finish the sentence, crying again.
To this, Mr. Lostman looked up towards the sky. He stared at something beyond Michael’s sight, and then noticed the article on Denny’s hand. Without a word, the motif removed the glove.
“Don’t you touch that!” Michael declared once he noticed what was being taken, but as he moved to stop Mr. Lostman, the motif put his hand around Michael’s face.
Like Lex before, the world vanished.
Michael saw black, and then, a rush of color.
He saw his friends, he saw Rob and Colleen, and he saw all the enemies and allies cultivated over the course of half a year.
And at the end, he saw Denny. She was waiting for him, on the other side of that massive record, drifting through a musical galaxy of dreams and delights.
Words echoed in his mind. Rapid images followed.
You can save her.
Mr. Lostman let go.
The tears on Michael’s face stopped, and it all clicked in his mind.
Without skipping a beat, he took the glove given by M-Son, and put it on.
When he turned around, the previously empty sky glowed with golden light.
Like a palace of disco, a golden paradise now waited up in the sky above the Mirror Chrome Sea.
And in the center, was a towering fountain, filled with liquid of every color of the rainbow.
Michael had no idea what any of it was, but he found himself drawn to it. Somehow, he knew it was the answer.
Confidence returned to his step, and as gently as he could, he picked up Denny in his arms.
She was as cold as ice, but Michael didn’t care. With her in hand, he looked down at Mr. Lostman and gave him a final nod.
It was the only way Michael could think of to say thanks.
After that, the black shroud returned, and Perfect Beat overtook him. The song switched automatically on his music player, as the sound of Starlight surrounded him.
Michael took one look back at Mr. Lostman, then stepped upon his newly formed CD chariot before flying off up into the sky.
Watching Michael for a few seconds, Mr. Lostman turned his attention towards the pair of broken glasses in the sand, and a disused music player nearby.
His head hung low.
Try as he might have, this was to be expected.
These strange beings called humans proved to be more complicated than any song.
When Michael touched down upon the golden paradise, he wasn’t at all surprised by the sights and sounds.
The Soundscape had proved to be a mystical place by all accounts, so golden statues in the likeness of all three members of the Bee Gees and a grand entrance door modeled after a record player weren’t the most far-fetched things.
He had only one goal in mind: the fountain.
Michael still didn’t know what it was. He just knew it was what he needed.
More importantly, it was what Denny needed.
Mr. Lostman had shown him. It was like being injected with a week’s worth of memories; they were overall dislocating, but if Michael just focused, then sense could be found among all the refuse.
By the time he reached the fountain, Perfect Beat had worn off for good. Michael’s own self returned, and he remembered just how cold Denny’s body had become. He couldn’t look at her face directly, lest he catch the blue in her lips and the pale color of death on her face.
Not wasting a moment, Michael stepped to the edge of the fountain shown to him in Mr. Lostman’s vision.
In the center, a statue of the greatest of disco legends could be seen. Michael Jackson, James Brown and Donna Summer: a trio of a giants, like the very same ones that had tested Michael and Denny only hours before.
Michael paid them no mind.
Gently, he put Denny’s body down into the shallow water of the fountain. It glowed with all colors of the visible spectrum, and as he let her go, Michael noticed the the silver glove in his hand was shining brighter than ever.
An implanted memory ticked in the back of his mind.
The Mirror Chrome Sea had no power. It wasn’t going to save Paul, and it certainly wouldn’t bring Denny back from the grave.
It was this place, this Discolight, that had true power.
But like all things, like all song effects, it needed a catalyst.
It needed a song.
Sighing deeply, Michael thought back.
All of his memories with Denny.
Laughs, love, trials, tribulations, heartache, stress, fear: so much good and bad with just one person.
She was special, if only to him.
Michael looked up, admiring for a moment the golden glint of his surroundings and the pleasant light all around.
What else could he want in a moment like this?
He looked down at Denny’s still form, and said but one sentence.
“I want to rock with you.”
In the next instant, the glove slipped off of Michael’s hand.
It flitted into the air before Michael’s eyes, spinning in a pirouette before giving him a brief wave of goodbye.
Then, it dove straight into the rainbow water below, sizzling into nothing as it the colors glowed with a vibrancy Michael had to shield his eyes from.
Red, then blue, then green, then yellow, each color in time with the music. Each pulse grew faster and faster, a whirlpool of color and energy that focused itself around Denny’s body.
The spinning vortex moved towards her heart, as Michael Jackson’s voice became higher and higher in response.
Then, as quick as chaos had come, time itself froze.
Michael watched in wonder as a ghostly hand, with dark skin and a single gem-encrusted glove, touched down from nothingness.
It placed a single finger on Denny’s chest, pushing down and then releasing.
Denny’s eyes snapped back to life.
Next came a loud breath, like she’d been underwater for minutes.
The color returned to her face, and her skin went warm as her body rebooted.
Michael didn’t know what to say. He looked on in pure amazement, as happiness welled up throughout every corner of his very being.
Thankfully, Denny spoke first.
“Um…hey.” she said, clearly confused but very much alive.
Michael made a big grin.
Then, without a care in the world, he picked her up, and kissed her.
It was long, and a bit clumsy, but to him, it was everything he could ever ask for.
Denny’s eyes widened with surprise, only to sink into pure bliss as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
“I thought I’d lost you. I’m so glad…I’m so glad you’re back, Denny.” Michael said, tears in his eyes as he held her tight.
Denny smiled wistfully, trying to hold back the wave of happiness that had overtaken her.
“Me too, Michael. Me too.”