Saturday, February 21, 2009

Drums and Bass

The music was loud, the crowd cheered louder, the world was dark and bright and neon. The night was cool but the crowd made it humid, the wind was gentle but the music made it buzz. The band had come, they had rocked the town, and now they were saying good bye.

The bass player plucked a few notes in the song. The electric guitar picked it up with a gentle strum. Then as the drummer counted them off, they rocked once more. They played and swayed and jumped and jammed and smashed and screamed and cursed. They sang of chaos, anarchy, and the coming end of the world.

In the swaying crowd of humans and punks, stark faces raised in ecstasy, the lighters swayed as one whole creature, a swarm of fireflies caught in some strange dark sea. They screamed and worshiped these perfect strangers, and would sell their soul to be noticed. But the three players were that, just three players and all they ever did was play.

They played that night like never before, a screeching hiss of serpents at war. They didn’t see anything else, but they saw everything else. They didn’t hear anything else because they didn’t hear anything else. They were there and they were not. They were playing but they were also playing. They were in a stark and black Neverland, painted with streaks of ash and blood.

As they played they didn’t see him. They never saw him. He was always there and that’s why they couldn’t see him. He was the fourth wheel, the one last friend. The one who should have been playing as well. But he wasn’t. He didn’t. No one quite knew why.

He stood where he always stood, in the spot to the side where the gleam of the lights brushed across his face but never stopped on him for long. He stood where he always stood, in his black t-shirt and black skinny jeans, his long black hair hanging in his face.

He was hearing the song but he wasn’t at the same time. He was hearing his song as they played it all wrong. The wrong way which the crowds loved but still the wrong way. He had birthed the song, he had travailed long and hard to put his sorrow to words. He was the supreme architect of Neverland. But people preferred the ash and smoke and burning buildings of blood.

He walked through the desolate fields of embers and saw in their burning the last glimmers of life. The lives he had made, crafted, and loved. The words he had spent hours and hours to find. Gone and done and embers in the ash while the smoke rose heavenward on a staircase of wind.

But the songwriter knew what they did not know. He knew that the words carried power and life. He knew that they would no longer be safe, singing his songs now badly deformed. He smelled the smoke in the crowd of ash people and knew that there was something coming.

His song, his song, his precious song, wrought with fire of passion and life. Now was a number one money maker, breeding the very things that caused him so much pain. He was there, along, together with them. And his song was slipping through fingers of glass and sand. He gave it away, like a father gives a daughter, and now he regretted it with all his being.

The drummer hit the cymbals, and it brought his mind back. He saw the ash rising in the pit of the people. He knew what was coming, the long dread beast. The thing he fought and wrestled with every time he heard it. The song that was his and wasn’t and would never be. It was coming. It was coming. It was coming ever closer.

He smelled it before he saw it, the ash and the smoke, like walking into the house of a chain smoker. It grabbed his chest, and his lungs constricted, while he was torn by the urge to gag or breathe deeper. The smell of something dead and burned. And then he saw it arise.

Long grey wings that flecked and fluttered as ash flew from them into the sky. Long white body, impressive but sterile, with no beating heart or tears to cry. Its scaly feathers shimmered and shone as limelight flickered between its plates. The black feet were grasping, clawing, seeking, ready to tear or rip apart. Its beak wide open, glowed as a dull red coal. Its eyes were wet and grey, no life left there anymore. It was a dead thing clothed in life and decked with ashes of its former self.

And so this thing, this hideous thing, this horrible, terrible, unbearable thing, arose from the crowd and the songwriter’s own heart. It was silent and terrible as it swooped ever closer, closing the gap, its intent clearly seen. Ready, ready, ready to kill and tear those three on the stage, the vengeance of Neverland had come on at last.

But he knew he should, could let it fall, tearing and baring to the fans all. Let them see what lay beneath the fa├žade of the three Peters. Let all go down in fire and ash even as they burned his song. But he knew he should, and could, but the question was really if he would. He looked at the thing and the three and himself, and thought of the purpose that was greater beyond all. The picture that seemed bigger because his eyes were so smaller. The picture that laughed at his best laid plans. The larger Neverland that was the father of his song. Should he, its mother, let it be destroyed?

The thing swooped low and then drew back, its claws and beak ready to attack. But the man in the black t, and black skinny jeans, extended his arms, and behind them large ebony wings. With a flap and a jump he was into the air, he flew and he flapped and he dove towards it. He had pulled out his drumstick and his pen.

Then as the thing neared him, its jaws opened wide, he thrust both into its heart as it screeched and cried. But no one saw him, no one heard. No one would praise him. No one even cared. He had saved the three, and the song and the band. He had kept the illusion alive in the crowd’s mind. He landed so softly, he walked on so slowly, his wings gone once more, a shadow again.

The band was finished, the crowd went wild, but the guitarist/singer seemed distracted as he came back stage. He called the group together and told them something strange. He could have sworn as he played, a black angel feather had fallen in front of him. And he has an idea, an idea for a song. A song of an ebony angel who was bound in chains of ash.

The song was a hit, they toured three times more. Both songs were immortal, and known by the world. And he sunk deeper into the shadows as his baby grew up and went into the world. Hand in hand with the song of the angel and the chains of ash that he heard every day for the rest of his life.

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