Come one, come all! We need blood, and you need beer money!
Jay echoed the chant all through the day in front of the First Presbyterian Church of Harmony Hill. He said it was a scowling intensity, like it was his last breath each time. And with each time he said it, it became more biting and sarcastic. His eyes were falling with his spirits. Why he had thought it would work was simply foolish.
After 5 hours trying to reaffirm his faith in mankind, he began taking down the blood donation stand. All the forms he had laid out were useless so long as humanity had no pity for the dead and dying. The bright and hopeful world he knew as a child growing up in Nebraska had faded. It was now dim, and he had only a candle to light his way. But it was windy, and the candle was seconds from being blown out.
As he got to removing the sign he had made from scratch, he stopped to stare across the street at his house. It was the oldest in Harmony Hill, and his family had gotten it for free because his father, as the minister, was a public servant. The age didn't show because Jay and his father had repainted it last summer. And still it shone a magnificent pasty white. Jay could swear it was haunted, as he could hear strange sounds all through the night. And maybe they were just the echoing screams of his slipping sanity.
He looked down at the donation papers. Really? Absolutely no one took one all day, and at least more than a hundred people had passed by. He hadn't even mentioned what blood type was needed. All that mattered was that blood was needed, and no one had the decency to even ask. He was suddenly infuriated. Where had every bit of good left in Harmony Hill gone?
With the sign in his hands, Jay felt a current of rage. In an ungraceful movement, he snapped the wooden board in half between his hands. He had attained this odd strength through the shot put on track team, and he could bet the coach didn't expect his players to use that strength like this. And with the two pieces in his hands, he unceremoniously tossed them back at the church.
Where are you?! he asked no one in particular, but noting he was tossing them at the church, he guessed he was speaking to God. The boards bounced lamely off the large double doors and lay there on the concrete, fallen angels of a greater good.
Jay turned his back on the idolatrous building and sighed heavily. He wondered how the others were doing.
Without concerts going on, the Garden was actually a lot less smoky and chaotic. In one corner, a pleasant little easel had been set up for anyone to use when the muse strikes. Becker had been wondering if he could find an appropriate illustrator for his short stories here, but that urge soon passed when his black coffee arrived at his table.
He had been reading a book on how good people turn bad when there came the familiar sound of a chair scraping and someone sitting. Becker lowered his book to stare into the cool blue eyes of Kris, who grinned.
The Lucifer Effect? Kris asked amusedly. His grin now seemed to be genuine, as opposed to when he was playing a set. It was a faade.
I figured it might help us out. Becker explained, placing the book so that Kris could pick it up and thumb through it. After all, we don't really have any suspects.
I took forensics at school. Kris said as he read from line to line and skimming. Assuming this Shredder guy has a true motive for messing with you guys, he or she must be someone you know.
I'm not really close to anyone outside of the band. Becker admitted. I keep to myself.
Maybe that's it. Kris said as he placed the book down on the table. Maybe you've gone and scorned someone.
You're assuming it's my activities. Maybe one of the others.
Anson's a slime ball, naturally. Kris laughed. But Eric's dated nearly every girl in the tri state area. Maybe one of them.
And I assume Jay's harmless. Church boy. Becker added.
And Charlie's a dumbass horn dog. Kris finished.
So that really narrows it down Becker sighed. He placed his head into his folded arms on the table, but was soon awakened by an unfamiliar voice.
'scuse me, but I heard about your Shredder issue. It said.
Becker raised his head to see a very tall, thin young man of about his age. He had short curly hair, a gaunt sickly face, and a pair of dull brown eyes. But Becker's eyes were drawn to the sparkling piercings in his ears.
I know you. Kris said, pointing vaguely at the stranger. Carl Masher. You're the guitarist for that metal bandoh, what was it called?
Milishia. We played the Warlord Festival last fall. Carl finished. But then his face turned quite serious. Here, I found this out back the night your guitarist was attacked.
He then withdrew a strange red object from his pocket and placed it on the table, Becker's eyes moved from Carl's Death From Above' shirt to the object. He immediately recognized it as Eric's pocketknife.
Huh Kris muttered, flicking it open. It was then Becker felt all the blood rush from his face. The knife tip was coated in dried blood.
I thought you said the cops took the knife Eric got shanked with. Kris said, narrowing his eyes.
The cops said they had. Becker replied. But with this here, what did they take?
Red herring. Kris announced to his associates. The Shred-meister's tossing us off on wrong trails. There's probably fake DNA on the one the cops took. But this oneit might have our Shredder's prints.
Not likely. Carl said, taking a seat at the table and stealing the remainder of Becker's coffee in one gulp. It rained these past two nights and I found that thing stashed in the bushesall muddy.
Prints are wiped away by now. Kris finished. S**t.
So where does this leave us? Becker asked.
Right where we were ten minutes ago. Kris answered while placing the knife into his coat pocket. Clueless.
Jay sat staring at the pile of unfilled blood donation sheets on his coffee table. His parents had taken off for the night, leaving only him and Kristin, his sister, home alone. A downpour of rain had battered the house for hours now, and it was still raging strong. It was beyond Jay how not a single person could even take a glance at the sheet that could save a life. He gave another sigh and lay back onto the green couch his mother had bought two years ago. The dust thoroughly bothered his allergies, but he didn't care right now. He had no reason to even get up from the couch.
Hey, are you okay? Kristin asked from the kitchen, a short walk away. She had his best interests in mind, but she couldn't reach him tonight.
I suppose. Jay said curtly. Kristin gave in and brought him a yogurt before fleeing upstairs. Jay stared at the yogurt, but he wasn't hungry. How could he eat at a time like this?
He closed his eyes lazily, wondering if sleep could help him escape from the cruel reality of the world. But before he could stop it, he was dreaming. It was the same setting as before. He was in the church, surrounded by a number of pews, acting much like the guardians of the holy place. And now, for some reason, there was a playing of Dio's Holy Diver in the background, although Jay seemed unconsciously unaware of it. He walked to one and took his place, closing his eyes in prayer. Then came the flutter of wings, and Jay opened his eyes to see the angel.
You again? he asked in a bored manner. Sorry, but you can't
The familiar movement of the angel slipping its sleeve above its wrist stopped him. Jay looked down with tired eyes at the hourglass watch. But to his utter surprise the hourglass was not almost out of sand. The sand was running backwards, refilling the upper portion of the hourglass. Jay raised his head to look at the angel, who smiled and disappeared into a flash of blinding light.
Wait, what does it--?
He awoke with a yelp, sweat dripping from his forehead. His breathing was shallow but he soon caught it and composed himself. It was the same dream, but the hourglass. What did it mean?
His thoughts, like many of them, were then disrupted. This time it was by his cell phone, which he grabbed eagerly but wondrously from the coffee table. He looked down at the ID. It read simply Charlie. Curios, Jay flipped it open and put it to his ear.
Last line of humanity, how may I help you? Jay answered.
Dude, get to the hospital! Now!
Why bother? Jay asked sadly. Woohoo, I get to watch my friend die before my eyes.
No, man. He's not dying. At least not this week.
What? What do you mean?
A glimmer in the darkness. Jay sat up excitedly.
What? Who? Why?
Doctor-patient confidentiality. They're not allowed to say.
It's glowing in the sea of darkness, casting it away. The hydra is slain. The hope remains.
That's he paused. What was the word he was looking for? It had disappeared into the confusion and rage. That's great!
I know, I know. Charlie said. Get here quick, man. They say he's recovering, and we can visit him in a bit.
I'll be there in a minute. Jay said quickly and hung up. He smiles and looked out the window.
The rain had stopped.
Here goes. Jay said with a grin as he opened the door to Eric's room. He had awoken a while earlier, but had seen his parents first due to semantics' sake. The four now rounded his bed eagerly, wanting to have their own time with him.
Ah, so good to smell your dirty selves again. Eric joked. No one laughed, but a mutual feeling of relief flowed through the room. His humor center was luckily uninjured.
So does this mean you're up for the tour? came Kris's voice from the doorway.
You're all about the music, eh? Becker asked. Gee, out of his drug coma, now let's rock!
That's the idea. Kris said nonchalantly, removing himself from leaning on the doorframe. Call me when you're all put in. We leave in two days.
And with that, he disappeared into the hallway's massive surge of people. Becker rolled his eyes.
He's a brilliant guitarist, but he's also kind of a d***. He noted. Jay gave a small chortle and turned to Eric.
Which reminds me he began, reaching under the threshold of Eric's vision. He returned with a rather unimpressive gig bag, which he laid on Eric's lap.
Go on, open it. Anson implored. I mean, we all put our heart and souls into it.literally. You do not know how fast they had to build this mother. I was getting it for myself, but then all this stuff happened, so take it.
Eric looked apprehensive, but nonetheless opened the bag and tossed it aside, where Charlie dully leaned it against the wall. Now, lying in Eric's lap was a brand new, custom ordered ESP Alexi V neck-thru with a fiery red finish and a perfect layout.
I made em rush this freaking thing. They were soooo pissed at me. But I figure it's worth the cusses. Anson went on, almost droning about how awesome he was.
And check out my contribution. Put it on last night. Charlie pointed to a small corner where rather well designed pair of drama masks, the tragedy in black and the comedy in white, was painted over the finish. Eric looked confused.
Meet our mascots. Cha and Grin. Becker said. Guess which is which.
Eric was dumbfounded.
How: through ESP and its bastard child subsidiaries. Anson said simply.
Why: because that's what we do. Jay finished.
You did all this for me? Eric asked, still so very confused.
No, we just planned the whole shanking just to piss you off. Charlie replied sarcastically.
Damn. I didn't think you guys liked me this much. Eric said, cringing. I mean, I never hang out with you guys outside of the band.
Which is precisely why we got you this. Becker laughed. Because. Band unity. And I want to see you rocking this thing on La Migra's tour.
There was a pause as Eric looked over the guitar. He still looked very shocked, but he smiled fully.
Hell yeah. Let's do it.
Welcome Home. Mike said, leading the members of Chagrin into the sardine can of a bus. It was as big as Becker remembered, but now that La Migra had cleaned it up for other human beings. The smell of earthly plants and alcohol was missing, but Becker knew it was around somewhere, stashed for just after playing a set.
Now, you guys are going to have to share beds in pairs of two, except for Becker, who will be stuck with Kris for this trip. Mike went on, leading them to the hallway double beds, which were routed into the walls. Yup, slide out, slide in. And if you have to piss, you have to wake up your sleep mate.
Pleasant. Anson muttered under his breath.
Your equipment is in the back room, yes? Andrew asked from a nearby couch. Jay nodded yes and Andrew stood to hand Chagrin a dull-looking piece of paper.
Thisis the tour schedule. Andrew announced as they looked over it. Charlie suddenly perked up.
You expect to get to Vriginia Beach by noon tomorrow? he asked, thinking Mike was just a little bonkers.
That's why Kris is already working the wheel. He noted, and the bus started up. It sounded almost as if Satan himself was crawling under the bus to devour their souls.
How did you guys get class C licenses? Becker asked with a raised eyebrow.
We didn't. Mike admitted, shrugging. Just hope we don't get pulled over. Now, you'd best get some sleep. Big day tomorrow.
But Becker didn't sleep that night. He couldn't get over the idea of someone anonymously donating blood to Eric. And they had disappeared into the night. He turned his head to look out the window from his bunk with Kris. The night floated by, like it was being sucked backward into nothing. Somewhere out there, he thought, is a demon. But also out there is an angel.