Rumble Strip. Part 2

The band reform, and Dominic is forced to confront his own demons.

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Part 2: Dom

"Then what happened?" The tattooist pauses for a moment to sponge off Dominic's bicep. "Takes more than a couple of guitars to make a band."

Dom is lying on his stomach. He glances over his shoulder and grins. "How do you know we aren't an alternative acoustic duo?"

She pushes his shoulder back down. "I'm sorry. Perhaps while we're here I could turn that skull into a flower? Don't bullshit me. You're more metal than even I am Dom. Plus; I was at your show. Probably remember it better than you do." Embarrassment colours her words.

He winces into the table as she resumes her efforts. "Ah. So that's who threw the first bottle." She ignores the sarcasm and he continues, voice steady, despite the pain that seems to throb across the entire surface of his arm. "This patient's mate was there, his names J.C.. Can't play an instrument to save his life, but he actually has a half-decent voice."

She pulls away, "That dickhead on the microphone? He was shit! What was that wannabe gangster bullshit he was trying to pull?"

"He's Ricky's friend, not mine." he mumbles defensively. "Anyway, he has a car." This was a partial truth. J.C. actually had three cars, all high price, late model Japanese imports. Among the many businesses his father owned was the largest car yard in the city.

"Whatever Dom. If you want to sell out it's up to you. How did you convince Kace to play drums?"

"It wasn't easy." Another partial truth. Kace was perfect for the drums. It gave him an outlet for the surplus of anger the young man possessed. However, he never did anything unless there was something in it for him. Dom knew he could convince him somehow. He had tried everything.

Flattery:

"C'mon Kace. You're the best drummer in this city man. I'll bet even Dave Grohl would be jealous if he saw you play."

Threats:

"You do that, form your own band, we'll f--king crush you, you psycho. You couldn't write a song to save your life."

Bribery:

"Forty bucks bro, please. For just the six minute set. That's like two hundred dollars an hour or something. Alright, forty-two. But that's my final offer. I'll be living on instant noodles for the next fortnight as it is. Forty-three fifty. There, you have officially cleaned me out. You want my t-shirt as well? What about my f--king kidneys Kace? I'm sure they're more useful to you than me."

Reverse Psychology:

"I don't want you in the band anyway. Wait, where are you going bro?"

In the end the solution had been exceedingly simple. He grins up at the tattooist as he says it "I said he could sleep with Noriko."

"Your ex? But Noriko would never sleep with . . .oh I get it. Wait . . . Kace fell for that?"

"You have to understand how his mind works; he's a bigger misogynist than Don Draper. He doesn't think woman have rights, but if you break his man code' he'll probably gut you in your sleep."

She takes a moment to admire her work. "You need to get some new friends. Enough with the albino rappers and midget he-men. How did your social life manage to crash so badly?"

"It never really got going in the first place." He drifts out of his conversational wavelength as she starts to re-ink the lines. Kace had been his first real friend. An unlikely duo, one horror-film obsessed goth kid, and one midget jock with testosterone to burn. They had found themselves hanging out halfway through the senior year at their small town high school when a drunken Guy Fawkes prank resulted in the expulsion of eight male students, including the head boy. The resulting fire had destroyed the school gymnasium, two classrooms, and Headmaster Richmond's car. Fire fighters had managed to drag Mr Richmond and his secretary from the car, but not before the fire had destroyed most of their clothes, leaving their skin miraculously unharmed. Mrs Richmond had moved to Australia a month later leaving room in the marital bed for the secretary to slide into. She was the new Mrs Richmond within a year. Kace had been away at a regional soccer trial, and Dominic just didn't have any friends, so when they found themselves the last two males in their year, trying to get along seemed like a smart move.

"Didn't you and Kace start a band in high school?" The tattooist jerks him back to the present by seemingly reading his mind. How nice of her, Dom thought. Usually she'd just push the needle in extra hard.

"Yep, I taught him to drum, and that's how we met Noriko." One of the perks of being outnumbered by females was the extra attention. No less than eight girls had asked to sing in their band, most of them just turning up to the audition to flirt with Kace. They had all been varying degrees of terrible. Dom expected that would be the end of his band idea. He and Kace were just packing up when she walked in and changed his life forever. He pulls himself out of the memory. "You got long to go?"

"Done." The tattooist turns away to clean her equipment.

"How much do I owe you?"

She surprises him. "This one's on the house." She turns around and wraps her arms around his neck. "Happy birthday little cousin. I know you're going to have an awesome year. Twenty-three was when my life started to fall into place."

Dom is a little taken aback, but he gingerly pats on her back with the arm that isn't raw. "My birthdays not until Wednesday. And when did you start giving out freebies? Are you feeling okay Marie?"

She pulls back from the hug and reveals the reason for her good mood. His cousin's face glows as she speaks. "I won't be here on Wednesday. Tom's going to take me up north to meet his family. I think he's going to pop the question."

"That's great! Congrats!" His enthusiasm is genuine, but there's still a little bitter piece inside of him going; there goes my last unmarried relative. "Tom's a really great guy. You guys are going to make an awesome family." There better be a ton of booze at this wedding.

---

He plans to head home for a couple of hours sleep before work, but quickly changes his mind when he checks his phone. There's a text message from Kace; br0, i g0t a girl c0ming 0ver. The walls of the flat they shared were so thin that he could hear every bedspring, every giggle, every squelch. Usually Dom just turned his amp up, but with a siesta in mind, that wasn't really an option. Instead, he took the bus across the harbour to the hospital.

---

The hospital towered a mighty eight stories high, only cheap blue paint disguising the cheap concrete and tinted glass. He recalled Noriko had been stunned when she first saw it. "That's the whole thing? In Tokyo that would be the size of the admin building alone." He'd laughed and kissed her gently and she'd squirmed out of his grip and pouted. "Don't be vulgar Nic. There's a time and place." Then she'd glanced around shyly and whispered in that slightly hoarse way that stopped him from thinking straight. "Later."

Sometimes he thought she was never going to get out of his head.

He was cautiously anticipating to the nights shift. Thursdays were always interesting. You got all the really creative injuries. Sunday to Wednesday were filled with accidents, broken hips, and concussions. Friday and Saturday were hectic and angry, overdoses, fist fights and police brutality. But Thursday was unpredictable, a combination of boredom, cruelty and suicides. There had been a suicide last Thursday. One of the orderlies. The week before, Ricky had come in, delirious and moaning in his sleep. Neither night had been what he'd consider fun.

But when the night was filled with blood and terror and pain, dying men shitting in their pants and crying for their mothers, when Dom was bandaging and wiping and trying to avoid eye-contact with the ones that wouldn't be saved, telling them it was alright, the bleeding would stop, they just needed to take the rest of the f--king pills, that's when his mind was too busy to focus on anything else. When the night was filled with blood and terror and pain Noriko left his mind.

He greeted a few of the other staff, and their responses were polite, but not overly friendly. It wasn't a job you tried to take home with you. Dom finds an empty bed and goes down.

---

By eight o'clock, the night is humming along, and Dom finds his first chance in several days to visit the pharmacy. The head nurse dispatches him to fetch various pain medications when a bus-full of passengers come in nursing fractured bones and grazed scalps. The driver of the oncoming Mini Cooper is diverted straight to the mortuary.

Behind the hole in the wall counter are stacked shelves and shelves of white and brown pill bottles of varying size. Some have labels. Most don't, only different in the mind of the bald man with no eyebrows. As Dom approaches the counter, the bald man puts down his crossword and greets him with mock formality in his thick eastern European accent. "Nurse Wringer. How may I assist of you on this delightful evening?" As if cued, thunder rolls, and the first few drops begin to spatter on an opposing window. He scowls at the inconsiderately timed precipitation. "F--king Auckland weather. It is raining then it is pouring and you are wanting some drugs to keep an old man snoring, I presume?"

It takes Dom a moment to adjust to the chemist's speech patterns. "I don't know who taught you English Doc, but they did a shit job of it. The E.R. wants sleepers and feel-goods." Dom drops his voice. "And some rubber-duckys." He hands the prescription slip over and the chemist raises an eyebrow before he begins filling it.

"Let us see what you got first. I don't give out rubber-ducks for just anything." He turns to the shelves behind and reaches for several blank bottles that look like clones of the hundreds surrounding them. "You know most junkies go for something that is physically addictive? It is why they are junkies."

Is he talking about me or him? Dom leans over the counter to the tiny shabby stereo by the chemist's crossword. Half a dozen discs have been crammed down the back of his scrubs since he visited his locker, waiting for this meeting with their new owner. He puts a CD in and presses play. "I think you're going to love this one Doc."

The music kicks off hard and fast, drop-tuned distorted guitars chugging along while a snare rattles and cymbals cascade at a fantastic pace. The chemist makes a poor attempt of hiding his delight. "Ah. This is the shitting, I presume? What is this called?"

"Megadeath."

"Megadeath. Very well Dominic. You can have your rubber-ducks." The grating vocals of Dave Mustaine begin to flow atop the brutal riffing and the chemist sighs. "You Westerners have all of the privileges and all of the luxuries. All that money, but you can still create such beautiful art." He deftly pushed a small pill bottle into Dom's hand. Dom surreptitiously slips the bottle into his underwear, safe for whenever he needs it. "What else have you got Dominic?"

Dom places down the other cheap, recently-burnt, hand-named CD's, noting the hunger in the chemist's face.

"Tool, the Melvins, Mastodon, Shihad, and Deftones."

"I will give them a listen. Dominic?"

"Yes?"

"Next time bring more of The Black Sabbath. Understood?"

He looks into the chemist's eyes and sees himself in the future, but instead of begging for metal, he's pleading for something much more dangerous. "Yes Doc." It's okay. I can stop this when I need to. It's not even addictive. He gathers the rest of the prescription and heads back upstairs.

---

The first time he'd encountered the chemist was a year ago. Noriko was still a month fresh in his mind and he'd desperately tried to hit on Melinda, his stunning co-worker, before he'd even learnt her name.

The impulse to try and f--k Melinda hadn't just come out of the blue. He was leaving the hospital, putting his Mp3-player (not an IPod, this was his during his anti-corporate phase where he only wore handmade clothes, drank locally-sourced organic coffee, and shunned Apple in favour of a stolen Microsoft Zune) earphone buds in as he walked when the song came on. Immortality by Pearl Jam. The first song he, Kace, Murph (Kace's kid brother on the bass), and Noriko, with her fragile feminine twist on Eddie Vedder's lyrics, had learnt to play together.

Dom got as far as "trapdoor in my soul" before ripping the earbuds out and slamming the player down on the nearby counter. He just want to do something, anything, to get her out of his head, anything to forget she existed, to forget how absolutely ruthlessly clear she had made it that they were at an end. He spied a pair of breasts coming down the hallway, and stepped out into her path, wrapping his fingers around her upper arm.

"Hey." It wasn't really a protest that slipped out of her lips, merely a surprised uttering. His two older sisters had taught him girls couldn't resist confidence. What they hadn't taught him was how to overcome his panic attacks. "I just was wondering if . . me and you . ." Confidence was useless without something to actually say.

It hit Dom then, crushing his lungs. He couldn't breathe, couldn't move, couldn't talk, hear, see. He briefly realised the girl had raised her voice.

"Let go of me please." He somehow pulled back, and the instant her eyes fell away from him, he was himself, good old confident Dominic Wringer. He shut his eyes wanting the darkness to swallow him. It didn't, but it caressed him until he was back in his own skin again. It was somewhere between a second and an hour before his breathing returned to normal and he was able to open his eyes.

He opens his eyes and glances around for his Mp3. A strangely hairless man sitting behind the counter has one earbud in and a look of wonder on his face. Dom's first instinct is to reclaim his piece of stolen property, snatching it rudely out of the man's grip and turning to get out of there, to somewhere he can rest, somewhere he can meditate. Somewhere he can sulk.

"I can help you."

It takes him a moment to realise; the bald man is talking to him in a dense Russian accent. The response pours out of his mouth bitterly "You can't help me mate, no-one can. Not the shrinks, not the police, not even my friends. The only one who can help is a pink-haired Japanese girl who wants nothing to do with me." He's vaguely aware of how pathetic he sounds, but he's beyond caring now.

The hairless man shrugs. "I just help you get laid, yes? These stop you from freezing up." He tosses a small bottle of pills at Dom, a lazy slow underarm slow that he can't help but catch.

Dom doesn't even look at the bottle. "They won't work. Nothing does. I've tried everything."

The chemist picks up a newspaper and begins to browse, interested in Dominic no longer. "You haven't tried these."

As Dom walks away, he chances to glance down at the player's screen, where the playlist has moved past Pearl Jam. It's hard for Dom to comprehend, but the song that captivated the Doctor is still playing. Displayed on the screen, it reads; Meshugguh New Millennium Cyanide Christ.

He'd have to be crazy to take those pills.

---

Barely an hour later Dom found himself re-evaluating his sanity. Melinda's straw blonde ponytail swung from side to side barely a foot from his nose as the bus creaked up the hill. He wondered why he was stupid enough to sit directly behind her, where the temptation was so close he could see her split-ends and smell her vaguely citric deodorant. Maybe it just wasn't meant to be. Maybe he'd found his one true love, but he wasn't her one true love? Maybe he'd only ever be truly comfortable around her, and the panic attacks were his hearts way of saying "She's not the one, now go home and cry, masturbate if you have to and get on with your life as a perennial bachelor, doomed to die alone." Mayb-

He opens the jar. There are only a few pills in it, and a sniff of residue at the bottom. Instead of taking a whole pill he tilts the jar to a nostril and inhales swiftly, sucking the little powder inside into his sinuses. While he waits for something to happen he examines one of the five candies. He's seen a lot of pills, but nothing else in the whole hospital is that precise bright yellow. Like a rubber-duck. If he were colour-blind, they could be anything. Small diamonds, with little x's engraved into them.

The bus is fast approaching his stop, but he has no idea whether they work or not. What the hell. He's already crossed the line and he's still alive. He leans forward. "Excuse me."

She glances round, recognising him from earlier, but shows no indication that this is a bad thing. "Yes?"

"I just wanted to say that you . . uh . . you are . ." Oh God. He waits for the freeze to come. "I just wanted to tell you that your ponytails off-centre. Just makes you look a little-bit crazy." He smiles into her ever-widening eyes. "Can I fix that for you? I just hate to see a pretty girl like you looking like a nutjob."

She seems unsure how to respond, but she laughs, and he takes that as his cue to reach up, running his fingers through her hair as he re-arranges the scrunchie, pulling it tight. Behind his cheesy smirk he's grinning from ear to ear. (Where did than come from? These pills are incredible, it like I'm someone else, it's like hem knows the perfect way to behave, this is just pure confidence.)

"Dominic Wringer"

She laughs again and he knows she's putty in his hands. "Melinda Wood."

"Do you prefer Melinda or just Mel?" Before she can respond he holds up his hand to stop her. "Mind if I call you Linda?"

"Linda? Umm, I guess. My daddy calls me that."

He already knew that somehow. "Pretty girls always have two syllable names. Except my ex, Noriko. She's Japanese. I'm still not over her." F--k, why did he say that?

Luckily she laughs again, nervously touching his arm. "You're funny Dominic." Her voice is girlish and a touch nasal.

"I know." He stands. "Come on, this is my stop. It'll be much easier to woo you once I have you in my house."

She protests lamely, without taking her eyes off him. "I have to get home to get my washing in."

"It won't rain tonight." He takes her hand to lead her off the bus and notices out of the corner of his eye that the bus-driver has electric-pink hair. "Manly haircut, mate." He snickers and the driver gives him a confused glare.

The bustop is right in front of the flat he shares with Kace. It's an old two bedroom house, faded moss-green paint peeling and the guttering chocked-up with rotting leaves. In other words, it's a shithole.

He leads Linda up the short path and onto the doorstop, where he pauses for a moment to fish around for his key. "I'm sure it was here somewhere." His eyes wander over Linda's body and beyond to the doorframe, where he notices that beneath the curling green paint, the wood has been painted a grubby pink. "Where the hell is my key?" He tries the door handle and it opens without resistance. "Ah, Kace is home. Ladies first." He gesture's widely into the poorly-lit hallway, and she gives a nervous laugh.

"This is like one of those horror movies. You aren't going to cut me up and feed me to your' pigs, are you?"

"Maybe. If that's what you're into."

She walks inside, trying to look tough.

Something inside Dom is withdrawing, he can feel the buzz receding, his confidence depleting. For the first time since he took the powder, Dominic feels unsure of what to do next. So he takes a pill. A whole one this time. It sticks a little in the back of his dry throat. This is just to be on the safe side, he tells himself. A little extra boost here, just to make sure he doesn't lose this girl. Just to make sure he doesn't freeze up here. He follows her into his house. Thinking; I never noticed those streaks in her hair until now. That lovely shade of pink.

---

"Bro! Wake up!"

It's Kace's voice. Dom's never heard him that scared before. The back of his head hurts and no matter which way he turns his head, the room seems impossibly black.

He opens his eyes. "Where am I? This place looks familiar."

Kace rolls his eyes. "It's your room. You feeling okay?"

Dom springs to his feet. "I'm feeling great! I'm feeling like I still have those pi-" Careful, his brain warns him, Kace doesn't even smoke pot. "those Pilates workouts in my system." Nice, says his brain. Argument averted, and the only cost was your' masculinity.

Kace raises one eyebrow. "Are you sure you're okay? Before you passed out you freaked out. You were yelling about the celling being pink or something."

"I- " It's coming back to him now. It hadn't just been the celling. Everything, the walls, furniture, even his own skin had looked pinker than an anime characters hair. F--k, what was in those pills? And that hadn't been all. In those few seconds when he'd been down on the floor, he had heard something. An odd tune that seemed almost too good to be true.

"And Melinda's gone. She split as soon as you hit the floor. Shame. A root would get you over that ex of your's."

He can't help but feel a little bit of pride at this point. Kace might bring home two girls a week, but most of them looked like dogs next to Melinda. How did Kace know her name already? He was a fast operator, but surely he hadn't tried it on while Dom was flat out on the floor? "How did you know her name?"

"I hit that. Like two months back. That girl is a freak, trust me, you're better off without her."

Huh. So maybe the pills hadn't made him into such a ladies man after all. He had to find out what was in them. He pivoted and left the room at almost a run.

"Dom! You should go see a doctor!"

"That's where I'm going!" Not just any doctor. There was only one who could answer his questions.

---

"You!"

The chemist looks up to see Dom bearing down on him. "Me? Whatever have I done?" His accent is so posh, so smug, so evil, that Dominic half expects to be addressed as Mister Bond'.

"You almost f--king killed me!" He slams the pill jar down on the counter. "What's in these, you Russian f--khead?"

The chemist gives him a patronising stare. "Please lower your voice. People are staring. Now I am assume you took one of these to boost confidence around Miss Melinda?"

"Yea, and it nearly f--king killed me!"

"Calm down. You are not dead, I presume? Some people's systems take a little while to adjust to new medication. You know this, I presume? You not just dress as a nurse for fun, I presume?"

He can feel his anger dwindling, washed away by the chemist's calming manner and logical argument, but he still has enough strength for one last attack. "F--k you. Those things are dangerous. Tell me what they are or I go to the cops."

For the first time, the chemist looks ruffled. "Alright. Those pills are made in Slovakia for . ." His brow furrows. "There is not really an English word that fits. You ask questions at people who don't want to tell you answers. The pills help you get answer."

Dom's mind races, questioning, interrogating, "Torture?"

"No!" It's the chemist's turn to raise his voice. "More like . . . truth serum. The pills make you act like yourself. They make it so you cannot and don't want to tell anything but truth."

Dom's words float into his mind and out of his mouth; "I'm still not over her." He shakes his head. "But what about the hallucinations?"

The chemist gives him an appraising look. "There should be no hallucinations when the pills act on a healthy mind. If you see things, there may be another problem inside your head. What did you see?"

Noriko. Everywhere and in everything. "Nothing." He'd already made up his mind to keep taking the pills. He'd just have to be more careful with them. It'd be worth it if they got him laid. A thought occurred to him; "You knew Melinda was a slut, didn't you?"

The hairless man smiles. "I believe the phrase goes; I already hit that myself. Like a month ago. She is a freak." He laughs, and Dominic finds himself joining in. "Tell you what nurse, I make you a deal."

It was quite simple. Music for medicine. As long as they kept their mouths shut, the chemist could have his fun, and Dominic didn't have to worry about panic attacks.

As Dom walked away, the chemist watched him go. He knew he would have to keep an eye on that nurse; he had nearly blown his cover as it was. Never mind. If the pills didn't finish him off, the Ghost would be more than happy to. Speaking of the Ghost . . . He was getting a little too comfortable with that local girl. The chemist toyed with an empty pill bottle. Next time he saw the Ghost, he would get the information out of him. One way or the other. It would require the utmost care. There was one thing about the rubber-ducky's' that he hadn't told Dominic Wringer.

They were extremely addictive.

---

Dom speeds up the steps three at a time, clutching the various pain meds to his chest. The elevators were out of order tonight while a grotesquely fat man had become wedged in the doorway of one. Fire crews had blocked off most of the first floor as they tried to figure out a way to get him out.

"The worst part," One of the fire-fighters had confided to Dom, "is that he keeps asking, nay, begging for food." In the end, the fire-fighters had decided to oblige the man, with a steak and cheese pie laced with half a bottle of laxatives. "I figure he'll lose about twenty kilo's and wander out when his diaper gets full."

When Dom reached the fourth floor, his breath was eluding him. Nine years of bass and guitar had left his arms looking permanently flexed, but it had done nothing for his cardio. He straightened up, straining for breath and an odour hit his nose with a vicious right hook. It smelled all at once of dying flesh, of livestock corpses left to stink and rot in the sun. It smelled of war crimes, of atrocities that would drive a man past the edge of sanity. Dom coughs, fighting to breathe clean oxygen in through his mouth, and somehow, the smell gets in there too, layering his tongue with unspeakable filth.

The smell grows stronger, and Dom can hear footsteps approaching around the corner, and with them, an off-key humming. It's this humming that causes Dom's windpipe to lock up, causes black rings to drift across his vision, causes his knees to fold like paper, causes his hand to plunge beneath his waistband and drag out the small bottle he can't survive without. He knows that tune. Ricky knows it too. They thought that they were the only ones who heard it, in dreams, drug trips, fleeting notes floating just out of earshot. The pills spill across the hallway floor as he pulls off the cap, and the feet that own the smell and the melody stop just in front of Dom.

"Those are very yellow. Distinctly yellow" The voice is cold and steady, and its owner lifts his boot to hover above one of the pills and Dom's scrabbling right hand. The moon takes its cue to swing out from behind a thundercloud. It doesn't do much to enhance the dim hospital florescent lights, but it does glint off sharp steel concealed in the boot's underside, a glint that shines through the darkness swimming in Dom's vision and causing him to snatch his hand away as the boot smashes down on the little yellow pill. The boot comes up, yellow dust sticking to it, and comes down again and again until every one of Dom's precious pills are nothing but dirt and dust. The other medications lie where they fell from his hands, most still bottled, some scattered loosely, yet the boot discriminates, taking from him only the yellow lifesavers.

"I feel better now. Which way to the drugstore?" Dom can hardly believe It's talking to him, and he rolls onto his back to see the face of his assailant. He wishes he hadn't. One of those boots hovers just above his face waiting for the signal. He can see nothing human in those watery blue eyes, only cruelty. Red blood and green rot seep through a poorly applied bandage on his neck, and Dom finally knows where the smell of death has come from.

Dom's voice is little more than a whisper; he can hardly believe he can talk at all, the paralysis near complete, despite the adrenaline rampaging through his terrified body. "Drugs down stairs." Then the boot is gone, and so is the man, leaving Dom motionless as he listens to yelling and thumps drifting up the stairwell, wondering how the man ended up on the fourth floor.

The paralysis dissipates after a couple of minutes, as police sirens began to wail. Dom drags himself to the closest yellow apocalypse, not caring about the dirt, and flecks of dried blood mixes amongst the powder. He sticks out his tongue and licks it straight from the floor. Even the shit from the floor refuses to cover the taste in his mouth. It tastes like defeat, tastes like he has nothing left to lose, tastes like Dom has hit the bottom of the pool. He can't sink any deeper. At least now he knows how deep it goes.

When he makes it downstairs, the chemist is missing. He organises a band practice the very next day. Almost as if they were waiting for his call, Ricky, Kace and J.C. agree to give it another try. This time they try to practice for more than fifteen minutes. They even write a song.

---

"How's everybody doing? We're Rumble Strip. This song's called Mindf--k." Kace launches into the snare intro as Dom takes the measure of the room. The crowd are already amped up, drugged up, and ready to go. Dom can already see heads in front of him starting to nod as the simple drum pattern reacts with poor quality ecstasy and copious amounts of alcohol. This is it Dom tells himself. This is when Rumble Strip make their mark on this town. The drones in front of him eagerly await new heroes to worship, and Dom's fingers slip into position as he counts up to the start of Ricky's riff.

two

This was going to be easy. He didn't need the pills to combat stage fright

and

this time. There was no way it could go as wrong as their first gig.

three

He can see a couple dry-humping each other in the midst of the crowd. Noriko would

and

be disgusted. He wasn't sure why he found her hate for

four

public displays of affection so maddeningly sexy. Maybe it was because

and

she would only allow her lover to see her in an aroused state.

Ricky's opening chord sounds, not with a grunt, but a twang. Steel whips through the air, faster than the eye can comprehend, leaving a thin line of red across his cheek. To his credit, he keeps playing, while Dom only stands amazed as the blood pours like wine down onto the blue Ibanez and beyond, down to Ricky's recently cleaned white sneakers.

"Do I misunderstand?, Do I misunderstand? I can't believe what I hear, coming straight from your mouth so fair. Do I misunderstand? Do I misunderstand?" J.C. is well into the chorus and Dom looks down at the bass hanging limply from his hands. Is that where they were up already up to? He should play something. Kace is glaring at him, and Dom realises, despite the missing A-string, Ricky still sound f--king incredible. The crowd is beginning to act as a unit all of a sudden, rising as one, as J.C.'s vocals get louder and stronger. He should play something. He tentatively strokes his top string. It clashes with Ricky's chord, the dissonance engaging the guitarist's ears. Ricky glances up at the off note and Dom realises in awe that he hasn't noticed the blood covering the fretboard, even as it sticks to his fingers. Somehow Ricky tunes everything out. He should play something. He tries again, getting the right note this time, which surprises him so much he stops again. The crowd are withdrawing again now, the white light of energy inside them craving the lower frequencies more than water at this moment. Rumble Strip have the crowd in their hand and they are losing them, Dom is losing them. PLAY! screams a voice at the back of Dom's head(He realises afterwards, that it isn't the voice of his subconscious, but an extremely pissed off Kace), and his fingers finally detach from his paralysed brain and muscle memory kicks into the simple three note octave jump that comprises the main body of the song.

It all comes together, Ricky's tremolo flicking, Dom's rounded thump, Kace's chattering cymbals and J.C.'s inspired lyrics; "Is this goodbye, I don't want to believe, say it's untrue, say you won't leave." Dom can feel the four of them clicking like Lego. He gets to appreciate it for a whole ten seconds and the song ends.

A confused look comes across Ricky's face. There is blood on his hands (not good), blood on his shoes (bad), and blood on his fretboard ( . . . NOOOOOOOOOOO)"OOOOOOOOOOOOOO"

The crowd stand stunned watching the red-soaked apparition howl as he tries to wipe the guitar clean with the sleeve of his jacket "It won't come off! It won't come off!"

A dangerously intoxicated thirteen year-old boy in the front row nods his head sagely and raises his hand in a fist, index and pinkie pointing up to the sky. His voice cracks with emotion as he makes a sacred vow to worship this demon-god of guitar and bodily-fluids. "Metal."

Ricky didn't notice at the time, he was far too preoccupied with rushing off stage to heal his precious axe. Had he been paying attention though, he might have realised he had just earned his first fan. Although FAN may have not been the right word. Try STALKER.

11 comments sorted by best / new / date

    hiwaychild1
    who cares? This story is amazing! Im interested to see how everything is tied together.
    jurnag12
    I'm trying to remember when Megadeth actually put out a drop-tuned song(D# doesnt count).
    GrimmShadowbane
    jurnag12 wrote: I'm trying to remember when Megadeth actually put out a drop-tuned song(D# doesnt count).
    Yeah, same here.