I swivelled. It was Jane. She looked quite flustered, which somehow belied the aura of suavity exhibited by the crisp business suit she was clad in.
“Yes, of course.”
Eddie helped Roobie in hauling the chest; they hadn’t allowed me to procure help for that either. The applause hit us with the force of a brick. And we weren’t even near the stage. The numbers had to be phenomenal today.
If the pandemonium wasn’t strident enough, it rose to a cacophonic uproar as the Lysergic Lunatics trotted onto the stage with the dry ice machine pumping in a generous amount and the eruptions going off in the freezing indigo air. From my position beside the stage, I could just make out the tiniest hints of a face bawling as if there was no tomorrow, lost in that din emanating from that vast deluge of limbs and bodies. The atmosphere held the semblance of charged ions cackling with bristling energy. Bernie had taken his place behind the drums, Eddie was tapping on the bass, Roobie and Matt slung their respective guitars around their shoulders while Pete took centre stage. The fly cam captured Pete’s heavily bloodshot eyes, splattering the image all over the huge projection screen in the distance.
“Mad crowd, this.” spoke a female through the earphones.
Pete’s prologue faded into nothingness as Jane materialised beside me. Her lips were held slightly crooked in amusement and to some extent, relief. This was the culmination of a very hectic ordeal for her. I looked at her strong cheeks, now giving off a lilac glow as lights went on. She looked stunning.
“Yeah.” said I, looking once more into the distance.
The raucous cheer of the crowd seemed to usher on the first riffs from the bass guitar as Eddie cavorted around the stage with his instrument. The soft, three-beat rhythm segregating the first strum of the delayed A minor lulled the audience into a soporific state of consciousness. Roobie struggled to keep his head afloat, his nimble fingers the only evidence that he was alive.
“The ones up in the front appear like they are rocking in a cradle.” I said.
“The ones in the front section look quite…I dunno…”
She nodded with an accompanying flash of a cherubic smile, though something told me that she wouldn’t be surprised if I told her that the entire stadium probably was. Her eyelids drooped slowly in a languid manner, head tipping lightly from side to side as the song progressed.
“…behold through phoenix eyes, the flame of resurrection…”
Lights and lasers cut through the heavy smoke that cocooned the band members, lost now in the torrent of the surreal melody that poured forth from the speakers. Only music remained as the mode of conveyance between them now. Numerous cellphones with the backlight switched on and an equal number of lighters made way to the surface, resembling millions of fireflies swarming over the sea of heads, which by some miraculous fluke of nature, comprehended the music and danced along.
“…swirling the vapours recede, one loaf of bread and mead…”
“How many times have you listened to this one?”
“Lost count.” I said. “It still holds a goose bump potential.”
“God.” She shuddered. “I don’t think I could have taken that. I would expect the first few times to be pleasant enough, but for 6 years in a row…” she raised her eyebrows and brought them down again as my gaze pierced her.
“I expect you like some other genre more?”
“Yeah, country blues, folk, stuff like that, while peacefully sprawled out on a recliner. Though I hardly get to listen much, there has been a boom in the number of local bands trying to ape what your band attempts. Insane number of gigs happening all over the country. My company now makes three times more than what it used to a year a-”
“…lynching and stabbing the maiden of dusk…”
“Hold on, this is where it gets really trippy. Watch out for the trance beats.” I said, focusing my unadulterated attention now towards Pete.
Eddie began, the notes pulsating in and out, like a cardiac patient’s heard beat careening out of control. The rest followed suit, creating an eerie, omnipresent sound, one that never felt to take my breath away. Jane seemed to be taken aback, as if pleasantly surprised by the abrupt change that was wrought in the ambiance. Exchanging a secretive smile, she went back to looking at the crowd, presumably at a heavily bearded bloke in the nearest row raising his arms heavenwards, his eyes closed, and gaping mouth open. Looking back, I saw Roobie appearing quite animated, pulling his guitar off and ambling towards the chest. Finally.
He bent down to open it, and through the smoke and dazzling demonstration of lights, for a moment, all I could make out was his ass with a plumage of feathers. He straightened, and he carried something of which I really wasn’t sure he possibly could.
He came with it close to the brink of the stage. He pointed it at the bearded man, eyes still closed, arms open wide in a prophetic gesture of benevolence.
The next moment I saw his eye cave in, liquid erupt, and a slight grimace contort his face before he went down.
I stood rooted to my spot as each decibel shattering bullet went on a murdering spree, camouflaged under the music and those brilliant lights. I failed to make out Roobie’s face. A heart-rending shriek pierced my ear through the headphones, but my mind was in such a tizzy that I couldn’t even muster the will to find her face and share the panic. People kept piling up, none of their faces evident, none of the last gasps of existence being brutally snatched away discernible. I saw Pete bent over the chest now, emerging with several objects which he now lobbed into the crowd. A deafening explosion, one which was perceptible over everything, rocked the concert, and people and burnt flesh and broken bones lay everywhere. A second explosion hurled people into the air, and a putrid stench of singed flesh entered my nostrils. I keeled over as my stomach roiled, the diaphragm begging to spasm and make me retch, the fear-stricken, taut muscles, however, refusing to abide. There was a third boom, and a flash of black hurried past me.
“Jane! No! Wait!”
She ran wildly towards Matt, who saw her approaching with a very astonished look on his face. I saw him gesture towards Pete, who was about to lob a fourth. Roobie gestured everyone to huddle together.
Pete removed the nail let it drop.
An aggravating whirr ringing in the ears. Desolation. And excruciating pain. I could feel the air rushing by. Lights floated around in a flurry. A sudden thud. Then hideous, long, unbearable silence. Everything was pitch black. I allowed my breath to even out.
* * *
“Enough already Sanchez! You want to go home a dead man?”
“Come on, man. One more. On the rocks. Absolutely the last.”
“I will be damned if it isn’t.”
The bartender stomping off was Roy’s cue. “So, now you are clear?”
“Hell, yeah. Pretty broke though, the lawyers humped me dry right after they brought me out of the ICU. But they did get me out of that fix. I could be serving life without committing any transgression.”
“And what of the other mystery?”
“What of it?”
“The police said they could only ever find four of the band members. In bits. But they did find ‘em.”
“Yeah and him possessing supernatural powers and shit. I heard that.”
“Do you think he is still out somewhere?” I could make out his voice going edgy.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he is holed up somewhere, trying to give a discourse on his screwed up philosophy to those who don’t give a fuck about it.”
“Ok that’s it Sanchez, nothing of what you asked remained, other gents took a special liking to it. Kindly fuck off now.” The bartender had returned.
I stared deep into my empty glass. I suddenly felt a bitter aftertaste at the back of my throat.
“Aaah, Ruben, you motherfucking bastard…”