by Terry Durbin.
The Place looks just like I remember, a wide, low, cement block building squatting like a sick white toad between two slumping warehouses. “Why the fuck did you bring me here?”
“I made you a promise, bitch.” Travis is grinning. “I always keep my promises.” He pulls the car to the curb and we both get out. “How long since you’ve been here?”
“Sixteen months.” Actually sixteen months and thirteen days. Six more weeks and I’ll get my eighteen-month medallion. I don’t know why I’m going along with this. Travis means well, but he’s a dumb-ass.
Even from the street I can hear the music; mean, jagged guitar chords, and a manic drum line. I know the sound. It’s DBD, Dead by Dawn. They never play anywhere but here.
“Hey, dude, this ain’t a good idea.” I mean it. I really do, but that doesn’t stop me from following my dumb-ass friend up to the makeshift plywood doors. A long time ago somebody painted the warped plywood black and added two blood-red eyes and some gray bars to make it look like a gate into Hell, or some shit. I remember thinking it was cool, but now it just looks stupid. Sobriety will change a guy’s perspective, I guess.
I stop and look up at the unmarked, white-washed façade of the building. It’s the worst kept secret in town; an illegal club with no official name, no bouncers, no manager, no rules, and only one band, DBD. Everyone just calls it The Place – if they call it anything at all.
Travis, still grinning, grabs the knotted rope ‘door knob’ and pulls. The plywood scrapes across the filthy pavement. “D’you ever bring, Em here?” Even outside he has to shout to be heard over the frenetic music.
“Just as well.” Grabbing my arm, he pulls me through the gate. “That skank wouldn’t ‘preciate the culture.”
“Emmy’s no skank,” I shout.
“Then how come she’s up on Geiger Hill bangin’ that hipster and you’re down here all sober an’ shit?”
I’m not going to answer him. Fuck him.
I feel guilty just breathing the air in this obscene shit-hole. But damn, it smells… comfortable. Pot mostly – will a contact high fuck-up my eighteen? – but, there’s booze in the air too and that nose-burning, industrial strength, cat-piss stench of somebody burning crystal close by. I’ve got no business being here. What if I just get tight with the music? Ignore the other shit? Let DBD build a wall of sound I can hide behind, hide inside of? Like angry hands, waves of music are slapping against my chest – something that solid has to be able to protect me, right? My body’s jumping and twitching in syncopation with the hammering drums. I can’t see the band. There are too many bodies packed together between me and the stage, all of them jerking and bouncing just like I am.
“Told ya, bro,” Travis screams. “You’re forgetin’ her already.” That was his promise, to make me forget all about Emmy before morning. He thinks it’s working. He’s wrong.
I use my elbows and shoulders to push my way through the mass of people surrounding the stage. No one minds. One guy with eyeballs tattooed on his cheeks sticks out his tongue at me; it’s pierced with two studs. “Kiss me,” he shouts. I head-butt him in both his left eyes and leave him bleeding and laughing. At the stage, I wedge myself between some bearded fat guy and a skinny chick with green hair and a hand on fat guy’s crotch. His eyes are closed and so are hers. Their expressions don’t change as I push my way in, but her hand moves to her own groin.
Above us, the band is puking out its sound as if there’s no one else in the room. The lead guitarist stands motionless except for his hands, which move in a relentless blur. His head is bent, a black cowl of hair covering his face. Tattooed runes cover every visible inch of his naked torso. The bassist wears a long-sleeved white shirt, black pants, and sunglasses. Behind the front-men, the drummer attacks his kit with psychopathic glee. An open sore the size of my hand runs from just above his right ear to the top of his bald, yogurt-white head.
Somebody else shoves the skinny chick aside. It’s Travis. “Far fuckin’ out!” He’s still got that grin on his face. Does anybody say ‘far fuckin’ out’ anymore? The music explodes from the amplifiers, pushing at my face and chest. The crowd presses against my back. In between, Emmy is fucking a hipster.
“We there yet, bitch?” Travis pulls something from his pocket.
“Noskank City? In the land of Fuckitall?”
“No.” He’ll never understand. Emmy didn’t get me sober – I did that. But I did it for her. To keep her. Then she left anyway – fuckin’ hipster.
“Well, maybe you need a map.” Travis slaps a small tin-foil pouch down on the edge of the stage.
“I’m sober,” I say, but my fingers are already picking at the crinkled edges of the foil. I know what’s inside. Nothing is inside.
Nothing is sweet.
The wrinkled flaps of foil unfold like the petals of a silver poppy revealing a thick line of white powder. “One bump don’t mean you’re not sober, dude.”
I hate that stupid grin.
I bring the shit up to my face and take it all in one deep snort. The nothing is cutting through my sinuses like cold lightning and the floor is falling away under my shoes. I jerk back, starting to drift. DBD’s guitarist is looking down at me. I can see his face now through the greasy black curtain of his hair. He’s grinning too. A permanent, lip-less sneer framed by ivory planes of ancient bone beneath eye sockets filled with empty… hungry… darkness. I’m the only one who can see him.
Damn, I love this band.
I’m a little bit older than rock-n-roll.
I’ve been telling stories since my teeth were new, and have been reading them almost as long. My greatest dream as a writer is to give my readers an experience they will remember long after they close the book. If you have just one moment when you say, “Oh wow!” or “Holy crap!” or even have a good “Oh yuck!”, then I’ve done my job.
I want my books to be like an old time county fair, loud, colorful, comfortable, and fun. So buy a ticket and climb on for the ride. You may get dizzy, and the seats may be sticky, but I think you’ll want to come back for more.