Guardians of Liberty: Part 19

19.

Paradigm

“You’re not unlike him, you know?” Ket remarked, pouring herself a drink from a carafe. He could only guess it was filled with wine.

It wasn’t. She offered him water from it. He declined by evading, “I’m here–“

She about-faced, “Why are you here, Commander Ozell?” He opened his mouth to speak. She was quicker, more practiced. “Your creed tells that you are here by grace of the altar of Justice. We both know this is not true. You’re no peacekeeper.”

“You are here to establish order,” she accused. “A specific kind of order.”

“I’m here for Martin Black.”

She hesitated.

“Yes,” she whispered in slow distance, as if slighted by divinity on such sour lips. Ozell heard her all the same. “Martin Black is dead. The man you seek, N1T3, is not Martin Black. Whatever it is you believe you will achieve finding him, you are mistaken.”

“You have seen him, then?”

“You would not have come here otherwise, Commander. Do not foolishly attempt to evade reality. You are hunting my former lover–” She said slightly to herself, “–or someone wearing his face. I am not certain which.”

“When did you last see him?”

“It doesn’t matter,” she assured him. He believed her. “Your presence does. You’ve come seeking information. I can provide that, but as with all things, for a price.”

Ket had already ensnared him. She’d sign-posted herself to draw Ozell, her audience, in. Now, she would take her place behind the curtain and wait for it to rise.

“I’m here on official business,” he argued, eying her graceful approach of the conglomerate of racks behind her– N1T3’s fountain, her own aquifer.

“I’ve no doubt of it,” she replied succinctly. “But you must understand your own role. Else, you’re sure to fail and take Paul with you.”

His nostrils flared and his face flushed.

“No-one would ever harm your son, Daniel,” Ket assured without looking. “We’re not without feeling.”

The use of his name hit him hard. Her blatant admittance to a part in the scheme hit harder, but with a sad panic that tempered fury. Reality cascaded in on him; he’d been played since the night of the attacks. Every step of the way. They’d wanted him here. Or, if not him, someone analogous.

‘Til now. Now they wanted him. He was the one they were pinning everything on. That want, need even, made them extra clever. Their traps more logic games than snares or spikes. Why anyone would bother, Ozell couldn’t be sure yet, but he’d let them divide and conquer him, left himself vulnerable.

In spite of that, he lived, still well-armed and capable of erasing them all from history.

“No, we are not without feeling,” she reiterated from the back wall. “Quite the opposite, in fact.”

The make-shift wall broke unevenly in the darkness before flaring blinding light. He blinked watery eyes and the light resolved itself into a large flat-screen. Thousands of small, broken up vid-feeds winked and flickered across it, contents barely visible as it cycled the various cameras.

“London Cit-Surv,” Ozell surmised. He’d seen the official room more than once. This was anything but.

“Every single camera in London,” Ket re-affirmed. “Many unregistered. Some corporate. Others aren’t.”

“Every one?” He asked curiously, confounded yet awed.

“Every one connected to a vulnerable node.” Her head tipped slightly, “So. Yes.”

Ozell’s passions stirred, “This is illegal.”

“Highly.”

Ozell’s eyes begged an explanation. Ket ignored it. She stood at the fountain’s controls, typing, “This was the footage N1T3 took his post from.”

A vid-played, jumping angles here and there, easily imparting its multi-point capture of Paul. Even if small, he remained visible in every frame.

Ket explained, “A weapon is a weapon, no matter the hands. It can harm as you equally as another simply because that is the nature and purpose of its existence.”

He didn’t understand, remarked as much.

“A tool, no matter its purpose, is dangerous whether misused, abused, or lying idle. The more capable the tool, the more damage can be done, and the more security it requires. Often that security requires only the skilled hands of its operator. Otherwise, this is the result.”

He stared at Paul: Kay’s eyes and smile were plastered across the boy’s face as he hugged his father goodbye. The vid replayed, showing the whole wait. Editing had more or less dissolved into long plays of each angle. Ket stepped away from the screen. The room dimmed, save the fountain’s screen still glowing with the running vid.

She returned Ozell’s side, eyes tracking her every swaying movement. She used it to relax and hypnotize him, goad him into accepting his own arousal. He let her. That was the attraction; he knew it as anyone worthy of her would. He was more than prepared to take the ride. Especially with a comatose wife destined for the nut-house and everything riding on him.

He needed her… And that was how she got him.

She sat beside him on a small couch before the glowing vid, lit a cigarette. Her motions kept drinking-bird tempos in the active room, however slowed by circumstance. The intimacy set Ozell ablaze.

“You will not find Martin Black, Commander. You will only ever find N1T3. And he would never tell me where to find him. Beyond that, I do not care where he is. I can, however, show you how to find him. To do that though, you must learn to think like him. Or, at least, understand how he thinks.”

It sounded good– or made sense at-least. He trusted her as any trusted a force of nature: to be unpredictable, unstoppable, chaotic. He was fine with that. Chaos was his stock and trade.

She was closer now. The tempo of her smoke had slowed. She began lulling him with soft tones and neck-line– hints of what more lie beneath.

“Martin Black was not a man, but neither is N1T3. He is something more. Like all of us now. We are not born the creatures we die as. It is a process to become them. Sometimes for the worse. Sometimes not.”

She leaned her head longingly on a hand, eying him from the side. Her eyes said she wished to draw him further in. His said he was perfectly fine with it.

She smoked, “To understand N1T3, you must understand his world. He is not unlike you. He sees this and admits it. Yet also acknowledges he is different in specific ways. Ones that are not like you, if only because you’ve yet to achieve them. But you can, likely will.”

He winced, “Is it the same with you?”

“In certain ways. With certain things. But he and I differ fundamentally. He recognizes this as well. Thus, we can never come to understand one another fully, no matter how we try or wish to.”

She leaned away to ash, prompting slight, desperate grief to incise Ozell’s chest. The slight hint of her shape in his periphery refocused him.

She continued unabated, “Incidentally, that is also what sets N1T3 apart from Martin Black– the figment you’re chasing. He is not either, or. He is both and neither. As all of us are, to some extent.”

Ozell didn’t understand. Hopelessness and fear bled frustration. Paul flashed larger on-screen through the darkness. “Cryptics don’t help either of us.”

She oozed a tempered excitement, as if viewing a newfound prospect, “On the contrary, Commander, it is precisely what we need.”

The shift threw him. He almost stammered, “…Why?”

“Anything capable of obscurity can be protected. So long as that obscurity remains possible in any context, proper application can protect it.”

“Paul,” he breathed, seeing his son flare across the fountain.

He didn’t know how, only that it happened. The aftermath.

Suddenly, a flash of Paul. Then a flash of movement. Metal cold at his throat. Sharpness in a lethal crook. The only weak point in his armor, physical and meta. She was ready, had been. Now, she’d use it.

In one movement she’d turned the tables entirely.

Missing weight at Ozell’s side rippled panic through him. The fountain flared. Ket’s knife was poised, lethal and steady. He froze in terror. Paul’s face reflected in his father’s eyes: Leaving the house. Hugging him. Waving good-bye.

Ozell didn’t breathe, only watched, too fearful to.

His son’s partings were moments of growth. He watched himself recognize it time and again on the fountain. His own passing of the torch; Mortality. Humanity. Knowledge that his son would one day have a place to take; his– And so-on to the end of his line or species. Until then, he’d assured himself, his family, that they were safe. All of them.

Short-sighted given the blade at his throat.

Ket was feather-light, but her strength immeasurable. Her hands and thighs paralyzed him with lethal precision of bone in pressure points. Her voice rasped disharmony; eyes and aura demonic as Galadriel in the One Ring’s presence; a fury the likes of which Daniel Ozell had never met.

Just over her shoulder was a still of Paul, glowing, smiling.

“Choose now, Daniel Ozell; your life or your son.”

Paul’s face burned his eyes. Steel punctured his throat ever-so slightly. Blood trickled beneath the collar of his armor. Ket could kill him without hesitation, mercy, or fear of reprisal; Ozell’s system needed her a fuckuvalot more than him.

The blade pressed deeper, forcing him to block out everything until only two things remained; Paul’s face, and Daniel’s fears of its suffering. At times it was unavoidable, but so long as he lived, he’d live and die first as father and Guardian. If Ket, force of nature and power she was, demanded his blood for his son’s, she knew his choice already.

His neck stiffened until the blade cut deeper. “I would die to protect my son. If you’re my executioner, so be it, but I’ll take no less in trade.”

She flung the knife aside, rolled off him and onto her feet in one move. She faced away from him, panting slightly– from exertion, it seemed. In reality, something far more powerful was the cause. It left her reeling. Ozell didn’t know it yet, but both would come to understand it better in time.

She about-faced, recomposed, and offering his pistol back. “If you find N1T3, rest assured what comes was preordained by your system. For good or ill.”

Ozell mind was lost for moments. Then he found himself on his feet, moving. Fleeing from something primal, like excitement but deeper, more dangerous. It was a knowing one had before a moment of great action, where all things secured await only proper leverage to catapult time and history along.

Daniel Ozell’s world was long past the tipping-point. Now, he and it would be falling at terminal speeds.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: Beauty-Suicide

In the West,
with the rest,
should’ve guessed,
but was blessed,
on the edge,
of time’s ledge.

So indeed,
we concede,
that belief,
is a leaf,
on a wind,
in a bend.

What a task,
could the mask,
upon such a face,
of such a race,
contrive to hide,
beauty-suicide?

Perhaps when,
“we were then,”
is a thing,
to seldom sing,
and recompense
becomes suspense.

We must wonder if she’ll ever come back.

VIN 13- Monsters (Retribution Is Not Justice)

We have to stop looking at the people damaging our society as parts of our species. They are, but simultaneously, are not. They are aberrant. Anomalous. Evolutionary Fraknestein-monsters so hideous and frightening to look upon them is to vomit blood in repulsion. Not from any physical malady, but rather psycho-social and emotional ones– because the reality of their personalities and effect make them dangerously caustic.

But what to do once we’ve identified them, revealed their madness, located and cast them into light? How then do we seek retribution?

Simply? We do not.

Consider that idea, just for a moment; do nothing in retribution.

Why? Despite the damage and needless suffering, why do we not retaliate?

Why need we? The system these creatures have exploited is damaged and tearing itself apart. Thus, we need only push back where desired to bulwark what needs remain. Meanwhile, others of us can begin making repairs and changes to the new boundaries where required– at least until our society has reiterated, re-stabilized.

Huh? Exactly. This is why we seek no recompense.

So few people would understand these ideas, yet all of us exist via their principles– the mutational ones that dictate the simplest organisms survive. Also known as the path of least resistance, it is more than that; the shortest distance between two points, conceptually, of change in a system.

Society is a system. Change is the constant. For change to assert itself, its effected system must fracture, mutate, then reform having cast out its refuse and damage in the meantime. Again, in our case, these are concepts; ideologies, ideas, philosophies, ways of living incapable of coexistence between the two groups of Human and Mutant, “man” and “monster.”

But why do nothing, again?

Herein lies the point; not seeking revenge is not the act of a coward. Rather, it is the act of one whose mind and heart conflict with their nature. In essence, it is the benevolence of turning thyne other cheek, even if one knows it will be struck in turn.

Consider those monstrous aberrations for what they truly are; genetic mishaps.

We should neither fear nor hate them, but disallow them to possess the power they currently do. Not for any prejudicial reason, but because of the inherent, emotional instability at their own differences from the majority.

Ultimately, inside all of these Cronenbergs is an ugly child acting out from sadness and fear. Never having been loved nor sated, they simply grew bigger, uglier, and louder. Therefore, seeking retribution is engaging in that which perpetuates the cycle that has formed them.

Justice, on the other hand, will always be served. Swiftly. For life is much harder than death, and punishment need not be violent; only transforming, lasting. One need only find the perpetrator’s deepest weaknesses and pains, and strengthen or heal them.

Only then can Humans truly begin to heal themselves and their damaged kin.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: Only Ourselves to Blame

It used to be,
you could do or say,
whatever you wanted,
but not today.

Electro-eyes catch all,
we see, say, and do,
and those that fight it,
are really far too few.

Spectral spies,
in darkened skies,
death’s gath’ring above.
Through them flow,
autonomous raptors,
whom slit the throats of doves.

Give a name,
they’ll show you a target.
Feel the same,
you’ll soon be mark-ed.

And we’ve only ourselves to blame.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: Defy

I don’t want to go home,
smell the flames and death,
taste madness in the air.
Despair.

I’d rather drown
in a pitch-thick abyss,
than a sea of bright lies.
Realize.

I’d prefer a painful truth,
over comfortable nothings,
and watching them spread.
Dread.

Given the choice ‘tween,
happy lies, dark truths,
I choose the latter,
for nothing will extinguish truth’s glow.

Know.

Reality fades,
the universe with it.
Learn why,
defy.

Short Story: Someone Else’s Heaven

She awoke on her bed, certain of where she was and completely unaware of how she’d gotten there. Kris had a bad habit of waking up in familiar places for unfamiliar reasons. More often than not, it was a combo of drugs and The Arcade that did it.

The bar was a retro-retrofit of an old-time saloon. Someone had once attempted cash in on a wild-west craze with it, but far as Kris knew, she’d never lived through one. That the Arcade had been abandoned thirty-odd years or more before its present incarnation.

It wasn’t the best or the worst place in town. That was reserved for Downtown and the ghetto respectively. Though nowadays an argument could be made that everywhere that wasn’t Downtown was a ghetto, it was an argument made only by the people unaware of a real ghetto’s realities. Kris had grown up in that part of the city, and really, it was a different world.

One of the things about being black in Jackstaff; Male or Female, you were certain to interact with the ghetto, no matter how hard you tried not to. If you came from it, you lived it. If you didn’t, your family or friends did. Else-wise, your enemies or rivals did.

Of all the options, that last was the worst. Hood rats, Kris knew, stuck together like a rat-king. They traveled in packs, could devour you in passing swarms. She was just glad she’d managed to dodge them as much as she had.

She let her eyes focus. The groggy blur of perpetual hangover resolved into the water-stained ceiling of her loft. Like the rest of the world, her place was in between worlds; not a slum, (mostly in name only) but not the hangout of the Elite either.

Mostly, it wasn’t a slum because some damned fool got it in their head to paint half the town without actually repairing it. Then, they charged higher-than-normal rent rates for ghetto-slum living. The idea caught on, spread like wildfire.

Now, it was damned near impossible to find a place not molding, mildewed, or otherwise rank. Even if, you’d be nearer uptown than was affordable.

Kris couldn’t complain too much though. She’d lucked out. Even as she stared at the spotted ceiling, she felt a warm body beside her. She was only vaguely aware of it until her periphery resolved again and formed into the smooth, supple outline of a petite body.

The night rushed back like a freight-train. If she’d been standing, it would’ve knocked her down; sitting, it would’ve stolen the wind from her. The body was the newest bartender from the Arcade, Yuki.

Yuki was the kind of Asian-American girl whose parents hailed from their homelands. They never let her forget that. Half-Nipponese, half-Korean, she’d said once she’d “been cursed with the worst of both worlds,” from parents both monumentally judgmental and over-demanding.

Yuki’d played along until she’d turned eighteen, then fled San Diego to wander North, fucking, sucking, smoking and snorting until ending up in Jackstaff older, broke, and looking for work. She’d yet to recognize that was how most people ended up in Jackstaff.

All the same, she’d bar-hopped and couch surfed since her arrival. Months had passed with the only semblance of stability the nightly rush of gaming, drugging, and bar-tending. In a way, Kris felt, they were perfect for each other.

That feeling had gotten the best of her. She couldn’t say for sure how much so yet, but the aching in her legs and the warmth in her groin said it was enough. The distinct feeling of her cotton mouth spawned by moaning rather than drinking and getting high confirmed it. Unbeknownst to Kris, Yuki remembered it all, was too dead asleep to say it.

Didn’t matter in the end: good nights were marked by lost memory; the best by the severity of bodily exhaustion come morning. Judging by Kris’ strained lower-half, this was one for the record books.

She tried to rise from the bed; her legs wobbled, knees buckled. She fell to her ass on the bed with a whompf of old mattress. Yuki groaned half-asleep, mumbling something in Nipponese first, then Korean. She pulled the wool blanket over her head, further blotting the gray leaking in from the frosted windows, then stilled again. A moment later, she was snoring again.

Kris surveyed the room, awaiting her legs’ wake up: nights were cold already, forced the peeling trim to condensate and peel further around the windows. The drafts were enough to make her knees lock-up first thing in the morning. Usually though, that was only if the windows iced over on the coldest nights.

She suspected Yuki as the cause for her lameness this morning. Or part of it. It explained why they’d slept ’til noon; they’d been unconsciously spooning for warmth.

Kris shivered, boyshort panties and t-shirt too little to cover anything worthwhile. Her nipples hardened, forming small circus-tents on her chest. She groaned, rose again, and wobbled like a drunken sailor until she caught her footing. Gait wide, low, she sumo-wrestlered her way to the kitchenette to make coffee, lace it with Irish cream.

The ancient auto-drip protested its continued life with spitting hisses and gurgling moans. Kris ambled across the loft, returned in flannel pants and a spare blanket; as near to fully clothed as she was willing to approach so early in the morning.

Yuki tossed again. Kris poured liqueur in, then coffee, stirred. She swiveled to lean back, letting the warming plate radiate at her back while staring headlong at the bed. Yuki’s outline deformed, re-formed, pulsating beneath the woolen blanket that rose and fell with her breaths.

Kris’ eyes wandered again, up, to the decor tacked to the plaster wall. A black and white photo, enlarged to poster size; two women, spooning from a side angle. Perfect shapes, perfect skin, perfect nudity, and perfect joy; all hinting that level of perfect, pornographic class every half-romantic/half-pervert aspires to and knows doesn’t exist.

Kris stared at it, as she did every morning, assessing whether or not she’d attained that level of perfection. As usual too, she doubted it.

Even if something felt different– she guessed her jaded cynicism was finally taking over– waking up beside Yuki felt the image’s utter antithesis. The girl’s life was so hellish she’d begun running, never stopped. No perfection involved, save perfect despair.

Fact was, Kris knew the pair in the image. They weren’t a couple. They weren’t even gay. They were straight. Straight as every lipstick Lizzie drunk on curiosity then hungover on shame.

So far’s she knew these days, they weren’t even friends. They had been, once, when the photographer took the image. Somewhere between there and here, one screwed the other’s man, and they ended up at each other’s throats.

Still, the image had a resonance. Art was art, regardless of reality’s shortcomings.

She’d zoned out so hard she didn’t even notice Yuki ambling over. “Some for me?”

Something stirred inside Kris. Her eyes fell dully to Yuki.

So much happened in the span of a heart beat, it felt as though time stopped with her outside it, still running. Yuki’s voice; the high softness as petite as the rest of her. An edge of perfectly feigned timidness suffused it, concealed otherwise atom-honed steel. Something in its timbre, its rhythm, opened a flood gate in Kris’ mind.

The night came rushing back.

As if happening again, in doubled-time, Kris saw herself in the Arcade alone, bored. She saw herself getting high in a bathroom, Yuki with her. Nipponese lips pressing hers, shotgunning pot-smoke into her with growing heat of arousal,

Then, Kris remembered the hustling; players at the tables where the oldest console games ran on emus. She faked out a bar-full of players, letting Yuki run the bets’ odds rise until they’d worked the crowd to a sufficient level of belief.

Then, Kris wantonly kicked ass.

She stormed and combo’d her way through ultra-gore M-Ks, Doom M-Ps, and Street-Fighters. Each time, she won killings, killed winnings. She drank and drank, smoked and smoked. Before long, she was making eyes at Yuki; the girl who’d run from hell, somehow wound at its edge as herself someone else’s heaven.

Kris realized it then. That was what she’d felt. Why she’d brought Yuki home. The girl had wandered, drifted. She couldn’t be allowed to anymore or who she’d become would begin to be tainted. Kris felt all her feelings anew. Her stoned revelations hit in double, triple time along the gallop of a metal beat from a long-past era.

Love at first feel, and they both knew it.

They hated it for making them wrong, making them have to take back what they both thought they knew about the world, about love, but loved it too because they loved each other.

Time resumed at-once and she found Yuki before her, coffee steaming in a hand. She shoved the mug onto the sink counter separating the kitchenette and loft, shoved Yuki atop it. She didn’t resist. In mere moments they were back in bed, breath heavy, bodies slicked with sweat.

The collapsed beside one another afterward. Kris lit a mix of hash and grass, still naked on the bed. Liqueur coffee steamed the air, melding into the skunky smoke of the lit spliff. Kris watched Yuki’s small breasts sink with hit, thoroughly enjoyed the sight.

She recollected her bulwark of memory, her feelings. Mostly, she wanted to be sure Yuki’d felt it too. Her tacit admission came with a smile and nod. Then, a deep kiss that ended with blowing smoke into Kris’ mouth.

She took their joint as Yuki slurped up coffee.

“I guess you’re right, ya’ know?” Yuki finally said. “I was running. For a long time. Now I don’t need to.” She laughed paraphrasing Kris, “Running from hell to end up someone else’s heaven.”

Kris was right, too, and neither one minded a bit.

Short Story: Rock ‘n Roll Lifestyle

Scents of fresh cigarette smoke mingled with stale beer and dry sweat; the same scents that greeted Ethan every early afternoon at work. The painful truth of the rock ‘n roll lifestyle was that it didn’t really exist, never had. In fact, one of the few things it accurately claimed to have was long nights and late mornings, and even those weren’t the same, really. Fringe benefits, Ethan called them, hard truths of sound engineering for the local dive.

That’s all he could ever think to call the Club. It had an official name, but nobody used it– a claim to Ethan’s generational droves offlowing apathy. The Club wasn’t a club. It wasn’t even a bar, though it had one. It was a collection point for the aimless and brainless to nightly smash into each other. If they weren’t doing that, they were smashing other shit into their brains or veins. Regardless of its seeming differences, the road taken was always the same: ride the groove of the latest, least-audibly offensive metal jocks stuck in Podunk like the rest.

Every night was roughly the same. Unless the joint was bust from a cancellation, the band or bands arrived, set up, ran sound check, then lingered until their slot whilstdoing their best not to drink away the night’s profit. Most did. If, after the long wait, they were still fit to play, they went onto the makeshift stage and did their best to murder a set or two. By the end of it, the drinkers were drunk, the stoners were high, and everyone else was everywhere in between.

More often than not, Ethan watched from behind the mixing board. Drugs and booze made their way through the crowds. He could always tell the inebriated minors from the crowd; they didn’t move in time with it, as if knowing they stood out and completely incapable of helping it. No one cared. What was a few wasted teenagers to a crowd?

It wasn’t just the music and intoxicants that drew the kids either. The girls did their best too. If the bartenders and concession girls didn’t appeal, there were always the few regulars– cougars and their younger counterparts on the hunt for more stamina and cum than brains. Sometimes, even the occasional flamer or dyke surfed the crowd. Like the others, they too, found their select few to get something from or give something to.

Ethan still laughed at the thought of his closest brush with the rock ‘n roll lifestyle: He went to piss, walked in on a freshmen poking “Lightning Lucy.” She was fast, easy. Before Ethan knew what was happening, he was suddenly double-teaming Lucy with the freshmen– who was more and more jealous of the fact.

But Lucy was quick and easy because she wanted to be. It made life easier. The last thing she wanted was strings. By the end of it, Ethan figured he’d done the kid a favor: gave him a story to tell and made the break easier. The last thing anyone wanted was a love-sick hanger-on, Lucy especially.

That was the closest Ethan had come to the rock ’n roll lifestyle he’d been promised. Even then, he had a hard time believing it had happened. Life was hardly as fast and easy as the legends made it sound. Mostly, it was standard fare; sit at a board, keep the lights green, and ensure no-one skipped out on the tab.

Maybe that was why it felt like every other day to Ethan. Maybe it was just his generation’s total apathy from the knowledge that they’d missed “the good ole’ days.” Maybe it was nothing, or everything, or some of one thing and a little or none of another. All he knew, was after the fact, he knew even less than he’d thought he did.

He took his place behind the board to watch the lights. The latest incarnation of wannabe rock-star nobodies were on stage. They droned on with the same bullshit metal sound Ethan heard night after night. There was nothing original in town nowadays. The only thing that distinguished one set of screeching vocals and open-string pounding from the next were the various shades of gray eyes or their faces. The bands around were as dead as the horse their music beat.

The guys on-stage that day were no different. The only thing even relatively noteworthy was their singer’s utter lack of vocal enthusiasm. He looked like a caricature of late Floyd-era Syd Barret; on stage, head down, guitar hanging; no life whatsoever to him. The only real indication of his continued existence was the noises emanating from below his head. He seemed to be doing his best to do nothing at all, and was succeeding expertly– not that he’d have noticed nor cared. Someone had left a hang-dog expression hanging too long, and this was the result.

The drummer finally exploded with rage, angry at another night potentially ruined. It was then the singer came to life… in the most awful way Ethan’s apathetic generation could muster. He rounded toward the drummer, suddenly raised a loaded .45.

Where it came from, Ethan still wasn’t sure, all he knew was the sound of a round fired off into the drummer’s forehead. Then another, into the bass player as he booked it for the door. The third cut down the rhythm guitarist at the edge of the risers. After him, one-by-one, went all of the crew and the hangers-on that had tried to flee but weren’t quite fast enough.

The barrel angled onto Ethan and the frozen, deer in the headlights expression remained unchanged. The rampaging frontman stopped, stared. To an outsider, he looked as if trying to decide if Ethan were a man or an armless marble statue. Something suddenly shifted in the guy’s face. The gun turned on the shooter, and the guy let himself out as he had his mates.

Through all of it, Ethan was frozen, petrified. Terror had coursed through his veins. He was terrified, of course, but also utterly confused and entirely confused. A creature of such despair and hang-dogged emptiness had managed to erupt into a ball of fire. It was as if the last pocket of existence inside a formless shell had burst forth to ensure it be remembered, for good or ill. It was safe to say it had completed its task.

Ethan was more concerned for himself; a dozen people were murdered in front of him, and he could do nothing but blink. For a while, he wondered if someone had slipped him acid or peyote again. Instead, the police and EMT’s arrived to find him standing, staring, traumatized.

It took a long while to coax him back to reality. In the end, he returned from his curious fugue state unharmed carried on with life. The Club eventually began functioning again too, as much as it could be said to. Ethan wasn’t sure what life he nor it led, but something told him neither qualified as rock ‘n roll.