by Erik Cotton
The sun was already well into the sky when Kerry, whose real name was Nathaniel Bright but insisted that everyone call him that, awoke. The clock, barely visible under the piles of clutter on the nightstand, flashed 12:00. Of course, it always flashed 12:00, Kerry had never bothered to set it after the last power outage. He didn’t have to really, school was out for the summer and he didn’t have a steady job.
He lazily reached over to the stereo and pressed play on the tape deck. Instantly the room was filled with noise. Megadeth was hammering out their cover of “No more Mr. Nice Guy.”
I got no friends ’cuz they read the papers, they can’t be seen with me and I’m getting real shot down and I’m feeling mean.
Feeling mean indeed, Kerry thought. The only way to be. He sat up and attempted to guess the time and day. Sunday he thought, parents probably in church or out socializing. He tried to recall the prior night… right, party at the Slammin’ Watusis. Lasted well into the morning too. Mac, the owner, had managed to get Running Wild to play there. Kerry didn’t care for their current pirate motif, but back when they were black metal they had some killer albums.
In fact, somewhere amidst all the clutter, Kerry had their first album Gates to Purgatory autographed by all the members. Feeling somewhat nostalgic for their sound, he half-attempted to find the album, but gave up and headed for the shower instead.
Later, back in his room he dug through his closet for something to wear. Buried beneath Exodus posters and a Cradle of Filth backpack he found his old Destruction tee-shirt, from the ’85 Bestial Invasion Tour. He slipped it on and grabbed his only pair of leather pants. Pitch black and encrusted with spikes, studs and chains, they matched perfectly his worn out leather biker jacket. On the back was a huge monocled grinning skull. Above it was the word “Cyclone”, a Belgian thrash band, and below the phrase “Inferior to None.” He also pulled out his best combat boots. Made from Spanish leather and German steel, the New Rock Gladiators had set him back several hundred dollars. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he’d had to bribe his geek brother to order them off the Internet. But it didn’t matter, these boots would last a lifetime. Looking at the back of the jacket that’s just how Kerry felt today. Today was the big day. His band, “Wardance” had lined up and audition with an out of town record exec from Combat Records. The label was a subdivision of Metal Blade, and was primarily a showcase for up and coming talent. Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica had all debuted on Combat. Kerry wanted Wardance to be mentioned right alongside the Big Three.
Today was also the day Kerry was going to buy his dream. A used but in good shape B.C. Rich “Rich Bitch” Warlock guitar had showed up at the local pawn shop. Black, with a custom head, just like Blackie Lawless used. Sure W.A.S.P. was a little light for Kerry’s musical tastes, but there was no denying that Rich Bitch looked good in Blackie’s hands. Kerry had slaved for months as a dishwasher at Hank’s Bar-B-Que to save up enough cash for a new guitar and fortune had smiled upon him with the Warlock.
Exiting his room, he snatched his Walkman and his inverted cross from the bathroom counter. Slipping them on over his greasy way-past-the-shoulder black hair he mashed down the play button on the tape deck. Sanctuary was in mid-chorus of “Die for my Sins”
…As you fill the lies hypocrisy chokes the life from you Die for me, die only for me…
Downstairs his younger brother was hunched over the computer, deeply involved in a game. On his way out the door, Kerry pulled the power cord.
* * *
At the pawn shop, Kerry was waiting impatiently behind some old lady trying to foist off her family silverware. He wasn’t really listening to the discussion going on between the owner and the old lady but he could tell it wasn’t going her way. Instead, Kerry cranked his Walkman even louder as Annihilator’s “Word Salad” was reaching its crescendo.
Woken up from death, nausea. Catatonic stupor, anoxia. Remaining still I hold on to a sense of permanence. Negativistic fear of pain, algophobic life sentence.
Kerry was so caught up in the thrashing end of the tune he didn’t realize the old biddy had left until the owner had tapped him on his shoulder. Kerry slipped the headphones off his ears, “Yeah?”
“What’cha need buddy?” asked the owner.
“Right, I want the Warlock over there.” Kerry pointed to the black guitar.
The owner looked at Kerry skeptically, “That’s a lotta cash pal.”
“Yeah yeah,” nodded Kerry absently, his eyes locked on the Warlock. He fumbled in the inner pocket of his leather jacket and pulled out a wad of bills. “There’s four hundred there.” he said as he shoved the wrinkled bills toward the man.
The owner looked at the crumpled and sweaty bills as if they might contain some hidden curse. Wiping his hands on his stained shirt, he slowly started smoothing out and counting the money.
“Yup, that’s four bills awright, but the tag says four-fifty.”
Kerry looked right at the guy, “So negotiate, it’s not that much difference.”
The owner thought about it a moment and shrugged, “What the hell. Here.” and handed Kerry the guitar.
Grasping the Warlock in his hands Kerry knew today was going to be special. The guitar felt natural in his hands, felt right, like it was made for him. He put the strap over his shoulder and ran a quick succession of chords over the fretboard. Yup, it was even in tune. “Right on, absofuckinlutely right on!” Kerry grinned.
* * *
“Where the hell is he?” complained Set.
“Aw man, you know Kerry, that fucker is never on time,” said Thoth.
“You know it pal, he’d be late for his own funeral,” replied Leviathan.
The three band members, dressed to a man identically in black leather and spikes, were sitting on ragged cast off furniture at their rehearsal stage. Actually, to call it a rehearsal stage was overly optimistic. It was a run down studio loft in a very iffy section of town. But between the four band members, it was all they could afford. In the background “Soldiers of Hell” was playing.
You see the ranks beside you, and their long black hair, Soldiers of Hell, Soldiers of Hell.
“Hey man, do you think the exec will know how to get here?” asked Thoth.
“Kerry’s supposed to meet him someplace, Hank’s I think,” said Set.
“Do you think it’s wise for Kerry to talk to him without us around?”
“Doesn’t matter, it’s his band after all, besides the guy’s gotta come here and catch us play before he’ll sign us.”
“If he signs us.”
“He’ll sign us, we’re the best.”
“Shit, we’re the only metal band in this town.”
Leviathan got up and lumbered over to a window. “Hey, here he comes now. But I don’t see the exec!”
Kerry opened the metal door, “Hey guys, you seen the exec yet?”
“Shit no, man. We thought you had him,” spat Set.
Kerry shrugged, “I was supposed to meet him at Hanks, but he didn’t show.”
“Maybe he’s lost?” suggested Thoth.
Before Kerry could respond a man appeared at the far end of the loft, “I’m sorry gentlemen to keep you waiting, I had a few other duties to attend to.”
The band turned and looked at the man. He was tall, taller even than Thoth, who in his combat boots was over six four. The man was also very thin, with dark black hair slicked back and wore a very expensive red and black suit.
“S’okay,” said Kerry, “yer here, that’s what matters.”
“Indeed,” said the man. “Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Mr. Louis Seefer.” He smiled and raised his eyebrows, as if in expectation.
Kerry started, “Uh right, I’m Kerry lead guitar and vocals, the tall one over on my left is Thoth, our bass player. Leviathan, the big guy here is our drummer, and that’s Set, rhythm guitar.”
Mr. Seefer smiled, “So pleased to meet you, I’ve heard much about you and your band.”
Kerry grinned, “Really? Yeah man, we’re the best!”
The others nodded in agreement.
“Well now, that’s what I have come to determine. You certainly have the looks down.”
Kerry and the others nodded in unison, “Yeah, we’re a black metal band you know? Gotta have the look to back it up—inverted crosses, a few goat horns here and there, songs about death and Satan and hell and stuff like that.”
“But you are named ‘Wardance’, hardly a black metal name,” posited Mr. Seefer.
“Yeah, but neither is Venom, and they’re the kings. Originally we started as a straight thrash band, but our lyrics drifted into the black metal realm so we changed our looks to match,” chimed in Set.
“And your names…” said Mr. Seefer.
“Well of course, gotta have a stage name, can’t hit the road with names like—” said Kerry.
Mr. Seefer cut him off, “Like Nathaniel Bright, Warren Allison, David Little and Martin Stanley.”
The band was silent for a moment. “Hey, how’d you know our names?” asked Kerry.
“The same way I know your birthdates, your past, future and deathdates. It is my job to know these things.”
The silence was deafening. “Deathdates… how in hell would—”
“How in hell indeed, gentlemen,” intoned Mr. Seefer. “Would you like to see how?”
Mr. Seefer made a grand gesture and the room darkened and shifted. The roof disappeared and flames rose around the band, screams and the smells of sulfur and brimstone assaulted their senses.
* * *
The choir’s last notes of “Glory Be” were trailing off as Pastor Jones approached the podium.
“Friends, I wish to talk to you today about Repentance.”
Pastor Jones overlooked his flock. Most of the town was there, listening attentively to his speech. Pastor Jones took his job seriously, the job of saving souls after all should not be taken lightly. He was about to go on when the double doors at the front of the church banged open.
Four figures stepped in and for a moment, Pastor Jones thought they were demons. But as his eyes adjusted to the sudden bright light, he could see they were four youths, dressed all in black, with scruffy long hair and wild shirts.
“Ye… Yes?” he stammered out.
One of the youths stepped forward, “Pastor Jones? My name is Nathaniel Bright and my friends and I are in dire need of salvation.”
Pastor Jones smiled, “Then you are in the right place, my sons.”