My death metal fairytale is now online and ready for reading!
Available at all of these fine online bookstores:
Barnes & Noble
And also available on Oyster and Scribd (signin needed to access these book subscription services)
Have a taste…
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It was just a guy in a t-shirt. On a barstool. All she had to do was walk up and hand him five bucks. Right? She should have asked Pam before she left. All these years reading about shows in Blast! and Aardschok America and it only just now occurred to Danae that she didn’t know how to get through the door. Sure, she knew all about who gave an amazing live performance, but the reviewers never mentioned anything about needing ID. And despite what the flyer said, this place kind of looked like a bar. Any kind of velvet rope, even one so mangy, made her anxious for not understanding how it all worked.
What spell could she cast, to get the door open? She was flipping through the runic alphabet when two kids walked up and handed him their fives, got their inner wrists inked in return. That was all. Feeling silly, she walked up to the door and held out a five to him with a small smile. He didn’t even look at her, eyes pointed elsewhere down the street as he raised the stamp and told her to turn her wrist over.
The stage was straight back. Bleacher-type seats descended from the wall all around the room, giant steps covered in black carpet. She sat down on the lowest step and commenced people-watching. The first band had already finished and were hauling their equipment offstage. Some flyers for upcoming shows were scattered nearby, local groups hoping to follow in the arena-bound footsteps of their Bay Area brethren. Their videos would play on Headbanger’s Ball, and Saturday nights she’d turn her TV up as loud as possible despite the abysmal sound. The city was their backdrop, slamdancing in the cells of Alcatraz or speeding through the steep streets when they weren’t wailing away before rabid crowds.
A guy in a Giants cap was talking about some blood-soaked show he’d been to last week; she couldn’t tell if he meant the band’s shock rock performance or an actual fight. Another guy in a handcuff belt was going on about his first lesson from a killer guitar teacher in the area. All around her, biker pins and embroidered patches, white basketball sneakers smudged over from mosh after mosh, punctuated here and there by spiky fingernails. Teased hair. The girls. Smudged black eyeliner, cigarettes tucked between filigree rings. One of them further up in the bleachers was wearing an amazing pair of spike-heeled boots, shiny buckles climbing up her calves, the perfect shoes to crush a man’s heart. And Danae hadn’t even known how to get in the door. A black wave of utter loneliness came rising up within her.
And then, before it could crash, a bass guitar came strumming up through the amps, followed by the guitars, quick sound check. She stood up to see the band – oh.
They looked just like anybody else in the crowd, the four of them: torn jeans, scuffed sneakers, leather bracelets. On the bass drum: ENSPELLED in angry black paint. She got up, slung her backpack over her shoulder and gently nudged her way to the front, the crowd letting her through, saving themselves for the headliners. He stood behind the mic, spotting her just as the drums kicked in. One nod, just to her: I have a show to do, but I know you’re here. Four cymbal crashes and the guitars came to roaring life.
Distorted riffs came galloping hard from the amps, mean and foreboding, a spiked gauntlet thrown straight into her bloodstream. The drums came in to nail down the sinister pace, and then the lead guitar sparked a breakneck tempo change, summoned double-blasts of percussion at manic speed, and they all jumped into the pandemonium at maximum volume.
And his voice joined the cacophony: guttural growling over the chaos, his dark side unleashed as the lights played over his face. The boy from the woods – onstage was his photonegative, wrenching all the doom possible out of a human voice, the guitar in his hands now electric and arachnid and obsidian.
The others she caught in glimpses: the lead guitarist whipped a long mane of straight black hair around a determined sneer, plucked the notes from the neck of a flying V; the bassist, shaggy blonde hair that dusted his shoulders, tall and solid and holding it all together from the low end, glancing at the others as if keeping them in line; the drummer, a blotch of eyes and curls and sticks and derangement.
Most of the metal she knew was the kind conjured from leather jackets and beer cans, sweat-soaked missives that raged against conformity, corruption, the lies of the family and state. Fast and severe and truthful. Then there were the glam acts from L.A., spandex and sequins and rock’n'roll benders. Fun, but they were the junk food of metal, Pam’s favorite but not hers. And then there were those who dabbled in arcane lore, singing of ancient battles and spirit evocations, but she hadn’t heard anyone do it with this kind of ferocity.
And the stories they told. A cathedral full of murderous ghosts. Wasting away from a flesh-eating disease. Planet Earth, poisoned to death. Dark visions, all; and, she noticed, not one word about fallen angels or eternal damnation, no supreme being above to defy, no infernal puppetmaster pulling the strings from below. That eternal game, that endless source of lyric fodder, completely absent.
Beside her, the rest of the front row was a line of crossed arms and hard eyes: impress me. A few of them were nodding their heads, only a couple dancing. This was the mad whirl around the bonfire, the destination of all those witches on their broomsticks, delirious rites of yore reincarnated right here between pawnshops and discount clothing stores. All this bedlam, for only five dollars, and hardly anyone was enjoying it. What idiots.
She dropped her backpack to her feet, banged her head. I understand this. I like this. Her hair flew, her fists clenched, lifted up on all that sound, and she escaped inside the pounding drums, the shrieking guitars, ravenous for whatever horrific scenario they would fly her to next.
Three furious riffs to end it all, and the lights went on. The audience broke up behind her, knotted back up in their cliques, lighting cigarettes or going off for cokes. Wow. Just…wow. Whatever wild art the candle was nudging her towards, whatever form it would take, it was definitely here. She rummaged in the pocket of her jean jacket. She needed her notepad. Her mind was on fire.
Sneakers hit the floor in front of her. She looked up.
Hello, said the gray eyes.
What to say? You were great? No. They were no mere “great.” I found it to be very…ugh, too pretentious. He was staring at her. She had to say something.
Your band is fucking amazing, she was about to blurt, but -
”What were you writing?”
Deep voice. Totally hot. Writing? Writing what? She hadn’t even gotten the notebook out of her pocket yet. What did he mean -
The word, that shared sunlit stretch of time in the grove, it shone like a piece of gold. She didn’t even know his name yet and already something was theirs.
”Poems. Well, not really, not like rhyming stuff, more kind of freeform.”
He said nothing, just waited for her to go on. She felt her chest tighten as she saw all her work, all the dreams she tried to capture with words, and tried to figure out how to cram them into the tiny box of her next sentence.
She took a deep breath, and continued.
”I was writing…I was just listening to you play. And the wind, and the trees, like the forest was part of it. Like some kind of instruments themselves. I listened to all of it together and tried to follow where you were going. It was like you were painting pictures, and I wrote them down as I saw them.”
”What’d you see?”
She paused, thought about the harsh gloom his music had cast over her hand. It was like her mind wasn’t even there, just the conduit of her pen pressing onward into the paper.
”At the end of it…blood. Lots of blood.”
His eyebrows lifted. “From…that?
She shrugged and nodded and tried to slow down her pulse.
”I wanna hear more. Come back with us.”
She followed him up onto the stage as he led her through the rest of the band, still packing up. The platform beneath her feet was just one foot up from the rest of the club, but a whole other world – like standing on a giant altar, where all the power came from. A hallway appeared beside the drumkit. Oh, yeah. Her first night at a show, and already she was going backstage.
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