E. S. Martell
I’m really scared. This thing has got me down. The next thing I’m expecting is a knock on my door. Actually, it’s worse than that. I don’t know if they’ll knock on the door or break it down. I could find myself in the bathroom with my pants around my ankles, face to face with a bunch of black rifles; all undoubtedly set to full automatic fire.
It’s not because I planned to do it. It just sorta happened by accident. But, let me back up and tell you the story so you’ll understand. Maybe you can help me out somehow.
Our band, The Demon Dementors, is successful in the local metal scene. I mean we have a lot of fans, but we haven’t broken out yet. Even though “Masters of Metalbation” has been selling well on the net, we haven’t really impacted the old time distribution channels. No real radio play – but we don’t care. It isn’t as if that ancient tech is still the main channel for music distribution.
We do have a big following on social media, and in the local club scene. We usually sell out where ever we’re playing. So, while we’re not a national phenom’, we do okay for ourselves.
The problem started when our manager, Fred, decided that we needed more spark to our show. That’s how he put it: “Spark.” Sometimes I think that guy was born in another time, then I remember that he is 37, and try to give him some credit. He’s old. I can’t imagine what he’s been through. You know, the civil war, Vietnam, WWII, and so on. He can probably recite who we actually fought in those conflicts.
Anyway, he wanted more spark, so I got hold of Jenny Mercury. She’s some kind of genius. Went to MIT or somewhere like that. She knows a lot about electronics. I think she works for some military contractor and develops some kinda weapons or somethin’.
Jenny is pretty cute. Short, about 5′ 4” or so and really stacked. I try not to encourage her too much, but I’m pretty sure that she’s got a thing for me. So, I asked her if she could help give us more “spark”. She thought about it for a second or so, then asked me if I could get her tickets to our next venue.
We were scheduled to play outdoors in Red Rocks. The high altitude makes it one of my less favorite places. I get out of breath easy. Maybe I been smokin’ too much, but hey, man, that’s what I do. I couldn’t get through the day without layin’ back and relaxing once in awhile.
Well, I asked Freddy, and he promoted me some tickets for Jenny and her girlfriends. I was kind of stoked about the idea. It seemed like I might actually make out with her over the deal. Like I said, I knew she liked me, but we’d never gotten together. Too many other choices for me, I guess.
She told me that it’d be about a week before she had anything to show us. I basically forgot about it, except whenever Freddy asked. Then I’d tell him that I had it covered. Sparks, ya know?
We’d been practicing a couple of new pieces, one of them was long, about twenty minutes. It was supposed to be the big climax of our show. The name was “Mad Riot Dogs”. Vern wrote it, so I can’t take any credit. Not that I want to. What with the disaster and all.
There wasn’t much of a verse, just basically a lot of screamin’ and growls. Jason, our vocalist, does that real good. His voice is so rough from yelling through a mic that his growls sound like they come directly from the throat of the devil himself. It sends shivers up my spine sometimes – especially when I’m high.
We wanted to give a good show. The word was out that there would be someone from some national magazine there. With any luck they’d give us a good write-up and we’d get some needed press. We all agreed that it could be our big break.
We practiced daily and the sound was getting pretty tight. Everything was clickin’. We were hittin’ on all four cylinders. Whatever that means…
We were in the middle of “Monsters of Mayhem”. The volume was cranked, and the studio was absolutely shakin’. This was the last practice we had before the big gig, so we were trying to get every lick perfect. My guitar work was good. I was feelin’ in the groove and every lick I laid down was just about perfect.
Burnin’ Vernon was on with his bass, too. Yeah, I know. It’s a corny name, but that’s what he demanded we call him. Anyway, he had piled up more wattage in his gear than I could believe and with the distortion module he was using, the bass made your heart feel like it was about to come out of your chest. It was a little bothersome to me. I had to crank my treble a lot, in order to be heard over the dinosaur-like rumble. In fact, I’d taken to playing through a different amp. This was one I’d borrowed from a friend. Like Burnin’s, it put out an amazing amount of sound. I was having some trouble keeping it in speakers. Blew out one or two, just about every practice period.
So, we had the doors closed and were making the walls shake, when Jenny comes piling in right in the middle of Monsters. The first thing I knew about it was Mark stopped his beat.
I turned around. I’d been watching him pound the drums. There was Jenny with a group of guys who were carrying in some of the most unlikely stuff. They had large boxes full of cables, and a bunch of speaker-coil controlled lasers. These weren’t just any old lasers either. The things were heavy duty.
Freddy came bustin’ in from the control room, hollerin’ about what the h’ was goin’ on. Jenny waltzed over to him, smiled, and laid a big kiss on him. That shut him up. Nobody kisses Freddy, unless he pays for it. That dude is just plain ugly. I try to ignore it, but he gives me the chills when I look at him. He makes up for it, though, by being the best manager we ever had.
So, Jenny kissed him. He shut up, and her guys finished dragging all these boxes in and then they connected them with a bunch of cables.
Jenny came up and took the mic away from me, then she announced that she’s going to make us famous. Vernon commented that we already were famous, but that didn’t slow her down. She was excited. I guess she had a good idea and really believed that it would make our show special.
She had some new kind of lasers. These were high power devices. I think she’d somehow smuggled them out of the research facility where she works.
She explained that these would work like normal speaker coil controlled lasers. They’d make patterns from our music. All we had to do was to run a line signal into the controller and it would cause the lasers to move their light beams through the air in sync with the music.
Well, that wasn’t new, so I asked her what the big deal was. She said that the lasers were some kinda super-hetrodyne powered things that were so hot they’d actually burn the air. She warned us all to stay out of the beams. They’d burn us, too, and quickly, at that.
That sounded interesting, but I still wanted to know what the effect would be.
Jenny said, “Listen, Olaf, you big oaf. Those things work on a pulsed signal, so the air burns in little pockets. When they go off, they’ll make a steady sound of little flashing explosions, sort of like miniature thunder claps. It won’t be so loud that it’ll overwhelm your music, but it’ll be spectacular.
She made some adjustments to the laser power supply to tone it down. It couldn’t be too powerful in the studio. She said it would burn the ceiling.
Our engineer ran a line signal out to the laser controller and we started on Masters of Metalbation. It went well, until Jenny kicked on the laser system right in the middle of Burnin’ Vernon’s bass lead break. He was shreddin’ his big ax like a wild man, and then the lasers started up.
It was something to see. They created patterns of small explosions in the air. Vernon seemed to take the light show on as part of his persona. He doubled his efforts and played better than I’d ever heard him.
The lasers flashed in patterns around the room, all aimed above our heads for safety of course. The only thing was, Jenny got too enthusiastic and cranked her power supply up too high. The sound insulation started blowing off the ceiling. The Sonex started smoking, and flaming pieces fell everywhere. Vern liked that even more and played faster.
Joe, our engineer, stopped the whole thing by flipping the master breaker to the studio. He was responsible to the studio ownership, and didn’t want to explain how he’d managed to burn up ten thousand dollars worth of Sonex to them.
When we got the power back on, and the smoke had been blown out, we all agreed that this would put us over the edge. It was definitely the “Spark” that Freddy had asked for.
So, it was the big night. We’d set up in The Rocks, a well known, outdoor concert venue. It had been no end of trouble, because we had to get additional power cables run for all of the stuff, both our amps, and the lasers. A single breaker wouldn’t handle the load, so we had multiple cables, one for each power supply. The whole stage looked like some kind of nightmare with wires snaking everywhere. We had to watch our step so as to avoid tripping on the things.
It was a clear night; perfect weather for a concert. The venue was filling up. A lot of our fans were there, stoned as usual. They were already dancing down in the front to the canned music we were playing before we started. It looked like this was going to be a success.
The show started off well. We went through Mad Cow Eats and Doctor Downer without a flaw. The music flowed over the crowd. The new amplifiers were plenty powerful, too. When I cranked out my Doctor lead, I could see the front row of the crowd back up. It takes a lot of sound to back those fanatics up, too. My guitar lead came through like a combination of a banshee and a fighter jet on steroids.
Burnin’ Vernon wasn’t going to let me have all of the glory. He cranked his bass to match and we wailed away to the end of the song. The crowd had backed up to about the tenth row from the stage by the time we were finished. I saw one guy staggering off, blood running from his ears. Having that much power was kind of exhilarating. I figured I’d better chew on a brownie to mellow out a bit.
It was plenty strong. After a couple of minutes, I had this grin like a jackass eatin’ cactus spread all over my face. It got bigger too, when Jenny slipped out between a couple of piles of speakers and kissed me. I couldn’t hear what she said; we were right in the middle of another song, but her eyes told me that I was lucky and about to get luckier tonight.
We were getting close to the middle of the show, so we took a little break. Vern stepped off through the speakers to the back of the stage. I followed after a bit. He was back there doing what I was afraid he was going to do. When I got there he’d taken a whole handful of prescription painkillers, and was chasing them down with about half a bottle of Jack.
I cussed him out. “Damn it, Vernon. I’ve asked you not to do that. You know what it does to your playing.”
He was already feeling the drugs. He turned to me and said, “Yeah, but I only took fifteen pills this time. You know I can handle a lot more. This’ll gimme the edge I need to blow this crowd away. Relax. We’ve got it made. This show is gonna be wild.”
I shoved him back on stage. We picked up our instruments and went through the next two numbers with no problem. Everything went well.
The drugs really hit Vern in the middle of the next-to-last song. He started getting a little sloppy on his fingering, then I noticed that he was staggering as he danced around with the music, while trying to avoid the power cables. He staggered over the cables, narrowly avoiding falling.
Jason noticed, and looked at me with an angry look. He knew what was next. Vernon would quickly get out of control and his playing would fall apart.
We didn’t pause after that song. We went directly into Masters. Vernon seemed to pick up a bit, but then at about the ten minute mark, he picked up the bottle of Jack. He’d somehow put it between a couple of stage monitors where I couldn’t see. He took a big gulp before I could stop him. In fact, he drained the bottle.
That was bad. He had a solo coming up. He was supposed to crank the bass and hit the distortion. The part represented the Masters coming up out of Hell. Normally, this sounded pretty good, despite the gruesome description.
This time, it really did sound like hell. I’ve never heard someone make noises on a bass that sounded like a pack of dogs vomiting on rotten roadkill, but somehow he managed to evoke that image. My mellow feeling, courtesy of the brownie, faded to a dull headache and a sense of horror that we were blowing our big chance.
It got worse. I had a lead solo right after his part. It was supposed to represent the masters climaxing. I played it perfectly.
The start of my solo was the signal for Jenny to turn on the laser system. She hit the mark exactly. The system came on, and the crowd screamed as the lasers reached high into the sky, filling it with flashing explosions as the air vaporized. Ozone drifted down, creating the sense that we were actually in hell. The crowd roared in response.
Vern couldn’t take it. He was totally wasted by this point. His rhythm had deteriorated into a series of sounds like hyenas fighting hippos, but he cranked up his amp to the max. I had no choice but crank mine to try to keep up.
His bass roared like all of the demons of hell were coming onto the stage. Overhead, the lasers erupted into a doubled series of explosions, chained upwards as far as the eye could see. It was amazing.
That perfect moment was when Burnin’ Vernon turned towards me and vomited all over the stage. He spewed Jack and burritos from his huge stomach. The vomit went everywhere over the power cables strewn between us. He stood, wavering, looking at me with an expression that somehow seemed triumphant, as if he’d aspired to puking in the middle of the show.
Time seemed to halt for a brief instant, but then he slipped in the vomit. He didn’t fall down. Instead, he staggered right through the scattered power cables, pulling them all together into a big, vomit soaked mass, tangled around his feet.
Somewhere in the tangle, there was a worn spot on a cable. What with power draw, and the multiple breakers, the vomit, and Vernon staggering, the entire system shorted out with a loud bang.
It didn’t hurt Vernon. He flew through the air, his beard smoking, and knocked Mark off his drum stand. Drums flew everywhere. The crowd thought it was part of the show and cheered loudly in response.
The lasers somehow received a huge boost in power from the short. It was only for a fraction of a second, before the breakers flipped and everything went dead, but that was enough.
Now, I’m waiting for the FBI or some other group to bash in my door. Who knew the International Space Station would be right overhead? And, why did that guy have to be doing a spacewalk right at that precise moment?
I don’t think the Russians are going to be pleased with me for vaporizing their cosmonaut.