Amy sat up, blinking rapidly. She looked around, but the room she was in was blurry around the edges. She raised a hand and tentatively felt her skull. Had she hit her head on something? As she began to focus, the first thing she saw was a plain-faced woman with unruly hair. The woman loomed in front of her, seemingly frighteningly large at first. "Ah, there she is!" the woman crowed, seeing Amy stir. "Thought you'd never come around, girl."
Amy shook her head, trying to clear the cobwebs. The woman's voice was raspy, and she spoke with an unfamiliar drawl. Her smile was wide, though, and though she felt overpowering, there was something comforting about her. Amy licked her lips, still trying to take stock of where she was. Something about the room felt familiar. "Am I in the hospital?" she asked the woman.
The woman laughed. It was a big sound, seeming to echo. "Hey man," she said, turning to speak to someone in the periphery of Amy's vision, "she wants to know if she's in the hospital! Would that make you the doctor?" She cackled again.
Amy turned her head slightly and saw a thin black man with a great afro. Amy smiled. "I like your hair."
The man smiled back, a big wide grin. "I like yours too, little sister."
Amy sat up a little more, the room slowing coming into better focus. The more she could see, the more confused she was. Another black man, this one with crazy short dreads and a very intense expression, was painting a mural on one of the far walls. Though she could barely see it, Amy was struck by the color and intricacy of his work. She turned to the loud woman again, suddenly realizing where she must be. "Is he going to get in trouble for painting on the wall?" she asked. "This is rehab, right?"
The woman's laughter was joined this time by another loud voice. "That's some funny shit," the voice said. "Rehab." It seemed to be coming from behind her, so Amy turned to see the man to whom it belonged. She drew in a quick breath. There was something about him that was so captivating. His hair was shaggy, curling around the collar of his unbuttoned shirt, and his eyes bore into her. "No, baby," he said, smiling in a way that almost seemed to be a sneer. "This ain't rehab."
Amy shook her head again. This had to be some kind of bad trip. There was music coming from somewhere, she realized, and when she turned to find it, she saw a strangely formally dressed man, his head ducked and covered in a hat, picking at a blues guitar. He, and his song, seemed more familiar than anything yet. It took her several moments to tear her eyes away from him, and when she did, she remained oddly soothed by the sound of his guitar.
There were many more people in the room than she'd initially thought, Amy realized. She could see some of them more clearly than others. Normally, waking up in a room this crowded would cause panic, but this place didn't seem at all threatening. Though she couldn't put a finger on it, she felt like these people were here to help her.
Amy turned back to the woman, who was watching her curiously. "We wondered if you'd be joining us," the woman said. "Seemed like you might be on your way." Seeing Amy's startled expression, she smiled again. "Don't worry honey," she said. "This isn't a bad place to be."
Just as Amy was opening her mouth to demand someone tell her where the hell she was, another man approached her bed. This one didn't meet her eyes. He looked down, mostly, only occasionally glancing around the room. He was blonde and seemed sort of dirty, wearing an old sweater with holes in it, but his eyes, when she caught sight of them, were amazingly blue. "Give her a minute," he said, his voice soft. "She's gotta be freaked out." He looked up suddenly, then, meeting Amy's eyes for only a moment. "She's right," she said quickly. "This is an OK place to be. A...better place to be."
Amy looked confused again. "Better than what?"
"Better than down there." The thin black man spoke again.
"Down there?" Amy's question trailed off. "Jesus. Am I...am I dead?"
"Now she's gettin' it." The man standing behind her chuckled. "That one'll throw you through a loop."
Amy's eyes widened. "I'm fucking dead." The words sounded so strange coming out of her mouth. "I'm dead." She looked around the room again, casting around for an escape. She didn't see a door. A man with a big belly and a wild beard was playing a keyboard in the corner. A joint hung from his lips. "He's smoking a joint." Amy spoke almost to herself. "I'm dead and he's smoking a joint."
The plain-faced woman laughed that big laugh again. "Don't take it personal. He's always smokin' a joint."
"There are drugs here?" Amy shook her head again. It was all too much to understand.
"There are definitely drugs here." The handsome man behind her spoke again. "As much as you want. Different here, though. We do them, they don't do us."
"After a while, you don't really want 'em anymore," the woman added.
Amy looked at the woman again. "Is this heaven?" As much as she'd thought about dying, it had never really occurred to her that she would end up heaven. As she looked around the room again, she noticed that nearly everyone she saw had an instrument. It wasn't just the bluesman in the corner, or the man smoking a joint at the keyboard. A punk looking girl carried a bass, as did a long-haired guy with a very 70s vibe to him. A man with shaggy hair seemed to be giving multiple instrument lessons. Now that she noticed, even the thin man with the afro had a guitar strap around his neck. "Do you play music here?" she asked.
The woman smiled. "We do play music here," she said. "Some days, that's all we do. And I'm glad you brought that voice, girl. We're gonna have a great time."
"The music...doesn't hurt, here." The blonde man spoke softly again, his eyes turned down. "That part's all over."
"So it is heaven?" Amy started to feel herself relax again. Maybe this would be OK. As her body woke up, she noticed she wasn't in any pain. Her head wasn't pounding, her throat didn't hurt, and she was oddly hungry.
"No baby, this isn't heaven." The woman reached for her hand. "Welcome to the 27 Club."