Short Story: Dead Gods

On-stage the band were throwing themselves into every lick and power-chord. The effort culminated in all the lasting effect of lint in wind. Long hair flung sweat and other bodily fluids through colored stage-lights with twirling abandon. The lead guitarist leapt and bounded about, readied to kick a stack before using it as a launch-pad instead.

The madness onstage was matched only by the madness of a crowd that might’ve brought tears to Uncle Lemmy’s eyes. The poor old sod may not’ve been there in person, dead or alive, but there was no doubting he was there in spirit. The slam-pad mentality of the mosh-pit exceeded the loss of drugged-out brain cells by an untold measure. All around it, the pumping of fists and screaming of fans made sure Neu-Ballistix raged all the harder for them.

All told, a good crowd. Powerful. One that deserved better than the rabble they were forced to contend with. Perhaps that was the problem. In the end; all feeling, no discipline. A different world for a different kind of person. Thus, Neu-Ballistix would be no more remembered than the nameless rabble from the night before, or the night before that and so on.

Lee Felton flipped his leather-jacket’s collar down and slipped out past a bouncer. He thumbed a cigarette into his mouth as he surged through the few people waiting about, coming and going. They were faceless the way any crowd was; confirmed to the senses as humans, but clustered so as to be inaccessible, personally.

Like the bands every night, every weekend; All feeling, no discipline. All discipline, no feeling. No matter what, all of one thing and none of the other, and all nothing because of it.

Then again, beneath scattered streetlights, who wasn’t faceless and unfamiliar?

To Lee, most people were sterile sperm; the assumed potential of greatness, but that could never be attained. It wasn’t their fault they were blanks– duds, but they were. Fact was, it was really the 21st century’s damaged testes that had done it. The same ones that promised a world of flying cars and hover-boards, but in reality, had turned into slum-lord ghetto-living and dehumanization.

Even smoking in public was outlawed, required standing in the cold. Fine for bouncers on-duty, but why for him? Specially when the chick in the corner’s doing rails off a whore’s cock. They can still get their jollies, why not him too?

In the end, it wasn’t about what was cool, or in, it was control. No-one knew it, and no-one could. The artistic community lived on vibes. In a digital world, that meant being blind. It was a trade-off. The vibes were bountiful when harnessed right, but required certain sacrifices be made. It was the same trade every artist made, personally or publicly. More spot-light, more heat.

It just so happened Lee’s industry was especially good at using the light to blind and dazzle, before pillaging and plundering talent, image, and any hope of reputation. And why not? They were damned good at it. Had been for a century now. Never mind how much sleaze the artists had to contend with.

Lee lit his smoke with a cupped hand, fighting Chicago winds blowing in off the lake.As usual, Winter’s Autumnal-guise arrived in time for coeds getting blasted at weekenders. Lee wasn’t sure why he came out anymore; the bands weren’t hitters, the beer was watered downand too expensive, and he’d long ago given up the hunt.

Were he surfing one-nighters, he’d have hits left and right. That was the problem though; in the industry, you went along or you went against. In either case, you chose a side. Those one-hitters were a dime a dozen, and the corporate industrial music-machine thrived on them.

The shows were more habit than anything. That sort one went about once a week to decompress from reality’s attempts at collapse. Some people were weekend warriors, college kids especially. Others were simple party-addicts bingeing on one vice or another, burning away rotted brain cells already consigned as victims of wage-slavery or normal-joery and its weekly, excess-purge.

Lee couldn’t blame people for wanting to burn cells or war away weekends. Young or old, life was passing by and the more people were forced to sit and accept it, the more it hurt to watch. Lee had seen it enough in himself the last few years, he no longer cared to watch either. Instead, he went to the shows, the bars, the open mics, waiting and listening and hoping he’d find a sound; the right mix, the right person, to make another God out of them.

He doubted he would, even that any existed in these lean, silent times. Funny, everyone everywhere was screaming into mics or acoustic wells and no-one was making a sound. Lee’d figured that was the real problem. The difference between music and noise wasn’t the notes themselves, the sounds they made, rather it was the space between, the silences formed of off-noise; the style.

Lee knew those silences better than most, had built a career on them. It was in the toilet nowadays, but stuck out enough to live off royalties.

Lee started for the apartment off Lakeshore Drive. It was one of the higher-end places. In these times and parts of the world, that meant the heat worked when you wanted it to, ‘stead of when it wanted to. The twenty or so minutes between home and the juke-joint meant enough time for the liquor to run its course.

The cold had only started edging in, but not enough it to chill the bone, wind or no.

The elevator lurched with gut-punching familiarity. Lee lit another cigarette; he’d torn the no-smoking sign off the elevator months ago. Only three people other than he and Rhein used it with any regularity. Two were smokers.The other was an old man that couldn’t smell anything from all the blow he’d rammed in his sinuses over the years.

None of them cared if he smoked.

They were all like him; burnt-out fools with ties to the industry and more mental scars than normal humans had a right to. Lee’d decided long ago the apartment building wasn’t really an apartment building. It was a retirement home for old rockers. He’d lucked out and retired earlier was all.

He slunk to his door, thumbed his way past the print-lock and stepped inside. Rhein was slumped over the couch wearing only leather pants. He looked like Billy Idol might’ve had he been naturally platinum blonde and decidedly less-straight. He’d splayed out on the leather couch in front of the flickering fireplace, looking as if waiting to be taken advantage of– in one way or another.

Lee’d get there eventually.

He tossed his coat down and sank to the far side of the couch, between the widest points of Rhein’s splayed feet. He hunched to unlaced his boots and felt Rhein’s foot playfully close to his back.

He heaved a sigh and it stopped.

“Nothing, huh?” Rhein asked, sparkling blue-grays licked by fiery reflections.

Lee didn’t bother. They both knew the industry was dead, along with everyone attached to it. The few left were unaware. They were headless chicken-bodies and headshot-deer; adrenaline-drive from half pulverized-brains that had yet to decipher their rapid and immutable exit.

Fact was, not much could be done about it. The industry was dead; taken over by corporate ass-hats and frothing mouth-pieces. All of them, demanding everyone be the next pop-rock idol or gang-banger wannabe. Didn’t matter which because they were all the same; sluts on their knees sucking for the money shot– or hoping to get some of the splash-back, if nothing else.

Lee laid between Rhein’s legs, head on his navel, only then noticing he’d been throwing back sips of whiskey from a rock-glass. Lee looked up Rhein’s torso as he sipped, the Billy Idol image damned-near complete. He couldn’t forget what drew them together, even if he barely remembered how or when.

Rhein was a God; Lee, the demi-God at his side. They’d rocked the country, torn down stadiums, halls, and homes with walls of sound. One did it live, the other did in the studio. In that way that living fast makes Relativity make sense, they lived and did it all in a decade.

Then, the bubble burst with the touring fan-base. The boredom and rot set in. The silence came with it. They’d done their best not to acknowledge the haunting truth ever since that Rock was dead, the industry with it; its Gods now fables sinking into obscurity to eventually fade forever.

Lee let his head sink back to Rhein’s navel, finally at-peace with the idea. At the very least, if they were dead, the Gods had a good run. Now, they could sleep, secure in what they’d been.

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