CHAPTER FIVE - VIOLENCE AND REVELATION*
*Lyrics for the song "My Angel" by Alice Montrose
"Are you ready, Dylan?" Justin, Label Rejects' guitarist, asked, as they waited just offstage. Justin had spiked red hair and a splash of freckles across his nose. His warm brown eyes were often filled with mischief just before he did something to harass Lyssa. Like when he used to snap her bra strap back in high school when they had all met.
"Ready as I'll ever be," Dylan admitted.
The thrum of the crowd's voices sounded like a flock of seagulls down by the old docks. Dylan adjusted his leather jacket. Justin slapped his shoulder companionably.
"Don't worry. Your voice will own them. And if, for some reason it doesn't, my good looks will earn us their homage," Justin promised.
The guitarist struck a pose: right hip jutting out and hands in front of himself like he was accepting gifts. His black mesh shirt and leather pants with the huge silver belt buckle made the pose even more garish. Dylan was laughing in spite of himself. His shoulders relaxed.
"I think you mean your looks will turn them to stone," Lyssa responded dryly as she sidled up to the two of them. Dylan saw her hands flex and he knew that she was jonesing to get her hands on her bass. It was sitting onstage on its rack, just waiting to be played. She didn't like to be far away from it when there were people to entertain.
"I think Medusa is your cousin, not mine," Justin pointed out.
"Medusa -- you mean Rachel? I thought you liked Rachel." Lyssa's brow furrowed.
Justin flushed slightly and looked down at the fingernails of his right hand. "Well, at first, but then I got to know her and there was just way too much of you in her."
"She turned you down, didn't she? Another person joined the millions that make up the League of Not Dating Justin," Lyssa laughed.
"Her loss," Justin said and yawned as if to add that this conversation bored him, which meant that he was totally bummed about Rachel if he didn't want to keep sparring with Lyssa about her.
The truth was that their guitarist had about as much luck with women as mold spore did. Lyssa would say it was because Justin acted no more evolved than a single celled organism, but Dylan was convinced that Justin simply didn't know how to relate to girls beyond the hair-pulling level.
Lyssa punched Justin's arm lightly. "Hey, it's her loss. She's a bit -- well, uptight, for you anyways."
Justin gave her a catlike grin and rocked back and forth. He was mollified. For now anyways.
"How are you doing?" Lyssa asked quietly of Dylan.
"Fine. Good. You?" he asked her back.
"Liar," she clucked. Lyssa wrapped a sisterly arm around his shoulders. She was several inches taller than him in her platforms. "Just think sweet dreams of Karidon when you're out there and the crowd will --"
"Seem like the frying pan rather than the fire?" he joked back at her. "Thoughts of Karidon aren't exactly going to relax me, Lyssa."
Her kohl-rimmed eyes narrowed. "Now you do realize that you are going to tell me everything that went on in the hallway. You do know that right? There are no secrets from me!"
Dylan gave a nervous chuckle.
"You met the owner? The crime lord?" Justin made a wooing sound after the last and wiggled his fingers in the air.
"He was being personally escorted in when I found him. I believe they were practically breathing each others' air," Lyssa said innocently even as she wrinkled her nose at him.
Justin let out a bark of laughter. "Karidon is interested in our virginal Dylan here?"
He clapped Dylan on the shoulder. Dylan pulled away in annoyance.
"No, he isn't. And what the hell! Why do you think I'm virginal? You're not in my bedroom!" Dylan knew he was flushing and protesting too much.
Justin merely shook his head and said with definiteness, "Virgin. Crime lord bait."
Lyssa giggled at the description. Dylan tried to act nonchalant, but he was cracking a grin as Lyssa and Justin put their heads together and mouthed "virgin" at him.
"Fine. Fine. Say what you will," Dylan said. "Why is it two against one here? Where's Kenny?" Dylan glanced around for their drummer.
"He was just behind me," Lyssa said as she got up on her tiptoes, which was an impressive feat in platforms.
"Do you really think a few more inches to your already huge height is going to make a difference? Nothing is as freaking tall as you here!" Justin groused.
"Ah, there he is!" she said, gesturing towards a group of boxes.
"Where?" Justin asked.
"He's just behind those boxes and he's rounding the corner ... now!" she said as their drummer came into view.
Kenny was skinny as the drumsticks he always carried. He dressed in earth tones only. No bright colors. And he had on a scuzzy pair of boots that were never laced making it look like he was going to trip over his laces. His brown shaggy hair was hanging down in front of his eyes, which made it even likelier that he would take a header since it was unclear if he could actually see between the strands.
"Yo," he greeted them and did a slow hand wave.
"Where did you go?" Lyssa asked, stomping one foot.
"Had to finish my tea," Kenny explained. He was known for drinking some evil home-brews. Dylan had tried some once and nearly gagged. Kenny had given him a small smile and said that he liked it bitter, because everything else tasted so sweet in comparison.
"You better not have to piss in the middle of the set like last time!" Justin sighed sourly.
"Everything good, Kenny?" Dylan asked.
Kenny gave a slow nod. "It's all right. We're going to do well."
The drummer was another Scorcher. Unlike Lyssa and Justin who were born a year before the Scorch, Dylan and Kenny got the full brunt of the Scorch's otherness. Kenny though didn't see the monsters. He had another gift: he could see glimpses of the future. The future changed so his predictions were only right about eighty percent of the time. That allowed most people to write off what he said as some freakish form of luck, but Dylan knew it was more than that. So did Lyssa and Justin as was evidenced from the bright grins on their faces. The gig was going to go great.
"So sounds like we can start planning for stardom," Justin said as he mock combed back the hair on the sides of his head like Elvis.
Kenny frowned and everyone stilled. "Gig's going to go good, but ..."
Dylan lightly touched Kenny on the forearm. Sometimes when he did this, the other boy's visions became clearer. "But what, Kenny?"
Justin squawked, "Yeah, seriously! We gotta get rich and famous off this shit, man, because it's the only way --"
"That you're going to get laid?" Lyssa responded in jest, but there was a worried gleam in her eyes.
Kenny's mouth screwed up. "It's not about our music -- not really. But something -- I don't know. Something's going to happen tonight."
"Yeah, us becoming stars," Justin insisted.
"Or me punching you out. Now shut up and let Kenny talk!" Lyssa hissed.
"I just keep seeing two words. Floating in blackness," Kenny said, his head turning towards Dylan's.
It was disconcerting not seeing Kenny's eyes, only that curtain of hair, at that moment. Dylan was reminded of blind seers from ancient times and a shudder went through him. "What words?"
"Violence and revelation," Kenny whispered.
"What the fuck does that mean?" Justin blurted out, slapping his forehead.
Just at that moment, they heard themselves being announced. Whatever else Kenny could tell them about those words would have to wait. Dylan just hoped that whatever Kenny saw coming wasn't going to happen before they could talk again. All four of them strode out onstage, plastering grins on their faces.
With the bright stage lights in his eyes, Dylan couldn't see the crowd. It was just an ocean of barely visible silhouettes. He could hear their thunderous cries and feel them through the vibrations in the wooden floor of the stage. The club was packed and this wasn't the area where people danced. That was separate. So they were all in here to listen to Label Rejects. He felt a burst of pride at that.
There was a single mike standing in front of center stage. It was made to look old-fashioned with a rectangular silver head and a long pole that ended in four padded feet. He could actually lean against it as he sang. He was grateful for the support, because his knees felt wobbly as adrenaline coursed through his system.
The crowd became even more boisterous as the band took their places. He heard the swell of voices, urging them to play and some wolf-whistles of appreciation. The smell of alcohol, tobacco sweat and heated dust filled his nostrils. The hot glare of the lights on stage made him sweat underneath his jacket, but he kept it on like a talisman. He needed its familiar weight around him. He so didn't want to mess this up.
So stop thinking of this as the end-all be-all and just sing! he told himself fiercely. Kenny said it was going to go good ... until violence and revelation happen anyways.
He looked back at Lyssa and she gave him a thumbs up. His eyes then went to Justin who grinned and shouted, "Yeah, baby!" And finally, his gaze met Kenny's hair-covered face. The drummer gave him a single nod. It would be all right. For now.
Dylan swung back forward, took in a deep breath and centered himself. They were going to start with "My Angel". It was a piece that had been written by his friend Alice ages ago, but somehow after that discussion with Karidon about wings, he couldn't seem to get it out of his head.
He's out there. Waiting to listen to me now. He's probably in those rooms behind the one-way glass at the back of the theater. The ones above the crowd, Dylan realized with a start. He had noticed the glass at the practice. He couldn't see them now, but he felt their reflective surface and behind them he imagined Karidon standing, hands in his pockets, slightly amused smile on his face.
For a moment, the image of the man was so real that Dylan was sure it must be true. A shiver worked through his lithe body. He should have felt more nervous thinking of Karidon watching him, and he did to an extent, but he also felt comforted, too. He erased in his mind the crowd and pictured himself simply singing to the crime lord. His cheeks flushed and his heart beat harder. But he felt more in control than before.
He grasped the hilt of the mike and closed his eyes just as he heard the tap of Kenny's drumstick against the snare to get them going. The crowd quieted. It felt like some of them were even holding their breath as the haunting intro to "My Angel" began. His heart picked up the low throb of Lyssa's bass. Dylan let the music flow from him. When he sang he was like a plucked cord. He vibrated inside. Light always danced before his closed eyes and sometimes images. He opened his mouth and the first verse floated out of him.
Fall, my angel,
Fall and with your broken wings
Of crimson velvet feathers, cover my world.
The image of the man and boy on the velvet divan appeared in Dylan's mind. But suddenly the scene shifted and it was Karidon lying down, his long white hair spilling over the crimson fabric of the divan, and Dylan straddling him. In his vision, the crime lord's face appeared more open than it had before. More relaxed perhaps. His mouth was curled into an easy smile, his lips slightly parted, revealing a snippet of white teeth. Dylan suddenly wished he could taste that mouth, lean down and press his lips against Karidon's. The boy's voice was steady even as something in him trembled. Need. Longing. Want. These were things he never thought he'd desire from a man.
Virgin, his own mind whispered this time.
The music became melancholy, somber, almost heart-wrenching. The sound from Justin's electric guitar soared. The crowd roared with approval as the last shimmering notes of the guitar disappeared. Dylan heard Justin's yell of satisfaction and smiled. The crowed appreciated his hard work at coaxing, begging and pleading with the guitar to unleash more and more of its music. Dylan felt like he was riding a wave up then smashing downwards as the second verse began.
Chased from Heaven by a master
Who took your soul as payment for life.
Karidon was reaching for him in his vision. He felt the man's strong hands on his waist then sliding up his bare sides. Dylan realized he was naked. Completely bare. And open to whatever would happen. Karidon's hands touched his nipples and they tightened into nubs. His cock pulsed and he pressed down onto the muscular body beneath his, wanting some friction against his aching member.
Dylan's cheeks pinked as he sang. He was hard in front of this audience. His jacket wasn't covering what was surely a massive bulge. His cheeks flamed hotter as he imagined that Karidon would somehow know it was the crime lord that was turning Dylan on.
Great. Just what I need! Dylan thought and was pleased as the music went dark and sorrowful again. It suited his mood. After all, in reality, Karidon would never want him. Or if he did, it would be for a quick fuck and nothing else. What did Dylan want from a man? A vow of eternity? And why did his heart soar at that? Dylan grimaced. He would never have Karidon like he did the man in this musical dream. The crime lord would never sprawl loose-limbed beneath him. Dylan knew he could never be brave enough to straddle a man as powerful and frightening as the crime lord.
Even if he's kind, I know that he's capable of infinite cruelty, Dylan realized. He's killed people. Some say that he single-handedly murdered the heads of all the disparate gangs in Daimon's Cross so that the Mars Crime Syndicate could take power.
The third verse was coming. Lyssa's bass kept up its heavy rhythm. It was like the inevitable tide when he heard her instrument play. Kenny's drumming was hard and shattering, too. The words radiated out of his chest even as the sound supposedly only came out of his mouth.
Blood will cover the marble
Steps of the Lord's Temple, flowing free.
Dylan envisioned Karidon standing now. He wasn't lolling on a couch with an easy smile any longer. There was none of the languid sensuality about him. Instead of the red of the crimson of the divan beneath him, there was red spread out below him. Karidon was perched like an obscene bird of prey on top of a pile of corpses. The corpses were shocky white, bled dry. Their blood was running like a river away from them. A burbling brook of red. And as the blood drained away, the bodies began to change from wet, spongy flesh to dry, dusty bone.
Dylan's mind gaze drifted back up to Karidon. The smile that had been confident in the street was arrogant and cruel now. And behind Karidon, his coat swirled --
It's not his coat. It's wings. Massive silvery feathered wings! Horns, too, sprouted from Karidon's temples. They grew out and curled backwards. Like ram's horns only white as snow. He was smiling, full and happy, as all his enemies were dead. He was king. The king of this place.
A prince, still, only a prince. There is but one king and he reigns supreme, but he is not here yet, a voice that sounded almost like Kenny's whispered in his head.
Dylan's heart pounded harder. The words were disturbing, but the images of Karidon's beauty among the wasteland of corpses was worse. Grinning skulls, severed limbs, pools of tacky blood and scraps of tattered clothing waved just as Karidon's wings did in the wind.
Shocked and sickened at what he was seeing, Dylan's eyes shot open for the first time during a performance. He should have been blinded by the stage lights again, but he wasn't. Instead, he was able to see over the crowd's heads to the rooms at the back. The wall of mirrored glass was suddenly translucent to his eyes and he saw Karidon standing there. The crime lord had no wings or horns, but the power of his unnatural beauty and the fact that he was looking straight into Dylan's eyes at that moment, made the young man falter.
He could feel Lyssa's gaze on his back as he nearly missed his cue for the fourth verse. Thankfully, the crowd didn't notice and he was surprised at how clear and beseeching the words came out when they tumbled half a second late from his lips. He sang the lyrics as if he were truly speaking to Karidon, as if he were offering the crime lord something.
Fall, my angel,
Fall into the light, purify your heart,
Come into my arms and find your solace.
As he sang that last word, the note riding long and hard out into the vastness of the auditorium, the crowd, who Dylan had completely forgotten about, burst into thunderous applause. Their shouts and cries for more were deafening. Dylan was almost blown back by the noise. Justin grabbed his shoulder and squeezed. The red-haired guitarist was grinning from ear to ear.
Dylan couldn't hear what he was saying, but he guessed it was, "We did it! We fucking did it, bro!"
He turned to catch a glimpse of Lyssa. Her eyes were shining. She was bouncing up and down with the biggest smile on her face. She blew him a kiss. They'd done it. The crowd loved them and was primed to love them more. Album sales would skyrocket. More gigs would flow in. Money and fame and freedom best of all was coming. Everything that each of them had worked so hard for was in their grasp.
Then Dylan looked over at Kenny and his heart iced over. The drummer was sitting up straight and still on his stool. His hair-covered gaze was towards the doors of the auditorium. His mouth was moving. Repeating two words over and over again. Dylan already knew what they were.
The doors to the auditorium slammed open and three men strode in. They pushed through the crowd that parted for them like a hot knife through butter. All of his band mates stared at the interlopers now, too. Their success was forgotten in an instant. The crowd though was completely unaware of what was happening. They were yelling for more and didn't understand why the band was just standing there, staring with looks of horror dawning on their faces.
Dylan could only see the interlopers' outlines.
Not right. They're not right, Dylan's mind told him.
Something was off about how the interlopers looked. They were too big with mounded backs as if they were wearing backpacks underneath their coats. They had bullet-shaped heads with long pointed ears. And their arms and legs were the size of tree trunks. And when their arms hung down at their sides, their hands were level with their knees.
Like apes or -- what are these things? Dylan thought. His gaze flickered over to where he had been able to see Karidon before, but thick darkness clustered there now. Karidon, damnit! These guys are trouble!
But as soon as Dylan had the thought, the interlopers' too long arms moved all at the same time, drawing something out of their long coats. The something glinted. Dylan was flying to the mike before he consciously knew why.
"They have guns!" he screamed into it as he pointed to the interlopers. "Everybody, they have guns!"
Two of the interlopers began to fire into the crowd. Screams of pain and shock rose up and blotted out the happy revelry. Dylan's tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth and his pointing arm slowly lowered as he saw that the largest interloper had raised his weapon. He was aiming it towards the stage, aiming it directly at Dylan.