Becker had been to Virginia Beach many times before on family vacations, but he hadn't expected how it would change. Rather than delightful hotels and beachfront views, he found himself staring up at the face of big business. Time-shares now dominated the shoreline, raping Mother Sky with their towers. It made Becker a bit ill.
Landing the bus on the beach, Becker discovered that their bus wasn't the only one here for the concert. Another bus had followed them (this one much nicer-looking), and he learned it contained two other bands: Milishia and Toxick.
Milishia was Carl's band, and they were pretty metal looking themselves. Carl was pretty much looking the same, but his bandmates were decked out in hard rock t-shirts, ragged jeans, and at least one occurrence of black metal design. Becker was actually a bit frightened.
The other band, Toxick, was a punk band. Becker seemed blissfully unaware that punk bands still exist outside of SoCal. It consisted of a series of mates that Becker just wanted to tell, We get it, the government sucks. Take off the spiked jacket. But he didn't have the guts. Most of them looked like they were the let's throw a Molotov at anyone who questions us punk, so he stayed away. But one member in particular stood out to him.
Robert? Becker asked, approaching the slick haired bassist, who grinned like an idiot (which he was, of course).
Hey, man. Robert replied in a stoned little accent. What's up?
I was going to ask the same thing. Becker said, placing his hands behind his head to look non-threatening to the burnout. What are you doing here?
I play bass for Toxick. Came Rob's curt reply.
Becker had heard him play his P-bass in music class, and everyone around knew quite well he sucked a railroad spike of bad playing. However, Becker found himself laughing at the thought of Rob getting smacked with a beer bottle when the crowd realized he sucked. He gave a smile.
Well, good luck with that. Set's in a few hours.
And with that, Becker disappeared into the throng of people gathering around the beach parking lot. The stage wasn't there, exactly. It was actually a bit more onto the beach. Becker soon learned there were a lot more bands here, as this was the third annual Beach Bash. Apparently (as Mike had forgotten to mention), this was a rather popular event in the general area.
Gentlemen, he said to the gathering Chagrin. Tonight, you play your best, and afterward you get so piss drunk you cannot remember your name. Which is why I created fake ID's for all of you.
He took a series of plastic fake Ids from his pocket and handed them out. Becker looked down at his with amusement, and to his surprise it was rather well made. He had to give him props.
Nice work, man. Becker said, patting Mike on the back.
My fake name is Christian Cutter? Charlie asked out of nowhere. He looked quite amused.
At least it's not McLovin'. Eric laughed. Charlie shrugged and walked off toward the stage steps, ready to go on after Milishia.
Well, here goes our return gig. Anson said. He looked to Eric. You sure you're ready?
Eric placed his ID in his back pocket and nodded.
Sure. But assuming this ID brings on sex and drugs, I can go without the rock n' roll.
Shut up and get your guitar. Anson replied good-naturedly while shoving the heavy built guitarist toward the steps.
Becker shoved his own ID deep into his left pocket. It rested there comfortably as he reached for his bass, which had been laid out nicely on a table behind the stage. Anson and Eric soon followed for their guitars, with Eric choosing his new ESP over the Ibanez, mainly because, Becker guessed, it meant more to him.
Milishia ended a bit earlier than Becker expected. Looking down at his watch, he could see it was only 10:13. They weren't supposed to be on until 10:25. But it didn't really matter. They had gone over everything on the bus, during a bout of terrible insomnia.
As Milishia walked off stage and past Chagrin, Becker gave Carl a high five. It was a momentary thing, but as he could sense, it meant a lot to both of them. Carl was a hard worker, as he had a bit of arthritis in his hand, so he had to practice guitar fingerings much more than the average guitarist. Becker admired him for his work ethic and hoped it could rub off on him.
It took a few minutes for their equipment to get set up, but when it was finished, the adrenaline prevented Becker from sensing any problems. He took his place near Jay at the set and watched at Eric didn't wait for an introduction. He simply started the riff for Inferno and ripped it up. His ESP didn't have the same feel as the Ibanez. The ESP workers must have tossed in Alexi Laiho's preamp booster with the model.
From there, they transitioned through the rest of the set, ending spectacularly at 11:11 exactly. Becker laughed at the notion of making a wish, because that would just lift his hopes. What a silly premise, he thought as he walked off stage and La Migra went on.
Chagrin decided collectively to wait for La Migra's set to end before heading off to some godforsaken bar. The group played marvelously. That is, until the final song, King Taste, where Kris began his solo.
He was about halfway and bending a high F sharp when he suddenly convulsed and fell to the ground, and, as Becker could see, there were a number of sparks flying from his amp. Andrew acted quickly and kicked Kris's guitar away from him. Luckily, the strap had broken off during his convulsions. Becker felt himself flying through the crowd, and before he knew it, was on the stage with La Migra, kneeling down to Kris, whose hair had become frazzled. Kris opened his eyes and gave a gasp as he sat up.
Holy hell. He said to himself, looking at his hands. That was awesome.
Dude, are you okay? Andrew asked as Mike leaned over his shoulder to look at Kris.
Yeah, fine. Kris said with a slight grin. But I'm not drunk anymore.
I'm pretty sure we can fix that in an hour or so. Mike laughed and tossed out a hand to help Kris up.
I hope so. Also, we need girls. Kris continued.
No objections. Becker said. Butwhy?
Have you ever been electrocuted? Kris asked devilishly. Blood rushes tocertain areas.
I did not need to know that. Becker sighed as the four rushed offstage among cheers and applause for Kris.
Why in the hell did that happen? Jay asked them as they walked off toward the boardwalk. He and the rest of Chagrin had met them halfway up the beach, concerned and filled with a yearning to get wasted.
Beats the living hell out of me. Kris answered, sounding exasperated. That amp has never given me problems. Luckily I had it on low voltage or you'd all be having roasted Kris sandwiches with your tequila.
Sandwiches & tequila? Eric asked blatantly. Are you kidding?
I know, I know. My liquor-snack delegation is off. Excuse me, I just got ELECTROCUTED!
And so came the evening of illegal drinking and socializing with random girls from the Bash. Becker soon found himself in a dark, quiet corner of a bar about 20 blocks down from their tour bus, downing a Brain Hemorrhage. Yes, he realized it was more for the Halloween spirit, but in late June, you don't really care what you're drinking, so long as everything seems so much more warm and fuzzy.
He was seated with Eric and Kris. Becker knew Anson and Charlie had taken off with two girls for the beach, and that Jay was already back at the bus sleeping (lightwiehgt). Mike and Andrew were probably out playing games on the boardwalk, and Becker had a feeling Carl was trying to find room for another piercing.
Some and electricity don't mix. Kris said over his beer. His eyes danced across the wall, but eventually focused on Eric and Becker.
Guess not. Eric muttered.
But that's the thing. Becker said, leaning over the table. You said your amp was working just fine until tonight.
Oh, don't start with this Shredder s**t again. Kris begged in an annoyed tone. Whoever that little bastard is, he's back in Jersey, locked in the suburbs like the rest of our friends and family and assorted ex girlfriends.
Becker paused. Love was a lie, anyway. Who bothered with things like that? Why?
Man, if I could have seen his face. Eric lamented. We would've had this whole thing over with.
Besides, Kris continued. There was no blame graffiti this time. The Shred-meister's MO is absent.
Okay, I guess you're right.
But he didn't believe him. In his heart, he knew somewhere the Shredder was waiting for his moment. He was in the shadows of the bar. He was in the dark alley. He was at the bottom of the pool. He was just waiting to finish them.
Eventually Kris up and left, leaving Eric and Becker to stare uncomfortably at the memorabilia-lined walls. After a short while, Becker grew tired of reading the same California license plate and looked to Eric.
Hey, man. He said, obviously tipsy. Sodo you remember anything about the fire?
Not much about the fire itself. Eric said with his eyes closed. But I remember life before the fire.
Oh. Can you tell me about it, or--?
Sure. I was the youngest of three. Oldest was my brother. He must be college age by now, and then it was my sister. Don't know how old she's be by now. And then me. The tall pudgy one.
Remember their names?
No. Post traumatic stress disorder is a bitch, and my social worker won't let me see the files til I'm 18.
I know, right? Anyway, I can remember a bunch of weird stuff. Likethe stories my mom used to read to me, and the Mustang dad drove, andI think our hair color.
Becker stifled a giggle.
Hair color? That's kind of a given.
No, it'sit's weird. Mom and dad and me were all brown haired. And I swear either my brother or sister was a redhead.
That's oddly specific. But you can't be sure?
Not while I'm drunk.
And I'll never get you to talk while sober.
That's how it works! Eric finished with a drunken grin.
After about fifteen more minutes, the two left for the tour bus, but Becker took a side route and ended up on the beach. He must have been overly excited, because he began to run toward the block where the bus was parked, but he soon found himself face down in the sand, a result of his drunken footwork.
Rolling over, he sighed and looked up at the stars. If mum could only see me now, he thought with a laugh. But as he watched the moon drift gently across the night sky, he began to feel very tired, and he closed his eyes. A smooth rocking in the horizon of nowhere
His eyes suddenly shot open. Why? He had no idea. It was still dark, and Becker looked down at his watch. 3 AM. He sat up with a shaking motion and couldn't believe his eyes. He was staring at a small white rabbet that had appeared at his feet. The rabbit cocked its head, and Becker did the same in curiosity.
Huhdrunken hallucinations. That's new. He muttered to himself. The rabbit suddenly stood up on its hind legs, sniffed the air, and stared at Becker.
You're not gonna lead me down the rabbit hole to wonderland are you? Cause I didn't do any shrooms
The rabbit fell back onto four legs and ran off down the beach, leaving no footprints behind it. Becker gave a sound of utter confusion and stood up on uneasy legs. What was that? he thought. Then he felt something in his pocket. Ah, the ID, he thought, removing it from his pocket.
It was slightly bent at the corners, and Becker could see something black on the over folded edge. He turned the ID over, and was found staring at a phone number. But he hadn't met any girls that night, and the ID had only left his pocket to show to the waitress. And she had never laid hands on it.
He pondered it as he worked his way back to the bus. Once inside, he found most of the occupants asleep, except for Andrew, Anson and Jay, who were playing a rather dull cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit in the back room. Becker decided to join them, despite his overwhelming desire to sleep.
Look what the cat dragged in. Andrew said as Becker sat on a large amp.
Actually, more like what the rabbit dragged in. Becker corrected with a dreamy gaze out the window.
Huh? Anson asked.
Uh, nothing. Becker caught himself. Anyway, uhwhere's the gig tomorrow?
We got an 8 PM show in DC. Andrew said.
DC? Where in DC? Becker asked.
The bad part. Anson answered. You knowthe whole I am a two minute walk from a pawn shop' part of DC.
Oh Becker replied curtly. Jay looked to him, knowing something was up. When the four decided to head off to bed, Jay caught Becker and dragged him into the small bathroom.
Something's up, Becker. Jay began, sitting on the edge of the bathtub. You have that look.
Yeah, I guess. Becker gave a long, drawn out sigh as he leaned on the pull-out sink. It's the whole anonymous blood donor thing. I mean, doesn't it feel a bit too Deus Ex Machina?
I suppose. Jay said. But why are you worrying about it?
I don't know. It'stoo perfect.
Don't question acts of God, I say.
It wasn't an act of God, Jay! Becker shouted in a hoarse whisper. Someone physically had to go to the hospital and donate blood for Eric, knowing he needed it. Someone knows something we don't!
You're thinking out of proportion. What if it was just a good Samaritan?
I doubt it. I just think maybe something beyond our knowledge is going on.
That's God's will. Jay laughed at his own joke.
Becker grew annoyed and bade Jay a good night before disappearing to his bunk with Kris.
All through the night, Becker held the number aloft in his hand, reading the ten digits over and over in the dim light of a nearby streetlight. Should he call it? No, no. That would be too obvious. But how would he know who it is? He could swear he had seen it beforebut where?
Eventually he put it away and closed his eyes. He didn't dream that night.