Andrew Packer, the former guitarist for Gypsyhawk, is writing a serialized novel for GSA at present, about a fictionalized band and its travails. The first, second, and third installments should be read before reading the following fourth chapter (‘Roy’s In The Basement’) of Andrew’s “The Band.”
“Long you live and high you fly
And smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be.”
– Pink Floyd
It was dark in Denver. The night was chill and the wind was stale. There were billions of stars shining above the dreamy city. The air was so thin up there that stars like Polaris, Adhafera, and Alpha Cassiopeiae pulsed with a rhythm you might not see any where else, or on any other night. They went on stoically transmitting their aura onto the planes below them in Denver where tonight everyone’s heart has just stopped.
Peter and Leo were lifeless on the ground outside the Hi-Dive on Broadway. Zack was using all of his pressure point techniques along Peter’s neck, arms, and back trying to wake him up. Roy was frantically shaking Leo as hard as he could, assuring him that he’d be alright, that they had help chopperin’ in, when he heard giggling voices behind bleed out from the club into shouts of consternation.
“What the fuck are you guys doing??” demanded one. Roy turned around hoping to see someone that might be able to help, but instead all he found was Naomi. An old friend of the band, she helped book their last few shows here in the Queen City of the Plains. She was a stunning brunette with huge hazel eyes and milk colored skin you could cut up into lines and put up your nose. A barely fitting leather jacket clung to a tiny Judas Priest shirt, with dark grey jeans, and biker boots below. “Why are Peter and Leo already passed out?!” she shouted.
“Those fuckers!” yelled the next voice. “I got a bunch of people to come out for your fucking show tonight because Leo kept whining like a boyfriend on his period.” Marie was basically dressed like Naomi, but with longer, straighter hair, and an Exodus shirt. As usual towing behind her was Vickie, who looked just like Marie, but with glasses and a Steel Panther shirt. She stared wide-eyed at the damage on the floor.
“They’re not fucked up,” Roy shouted at them. “They’re just… they’re… they’re fucked up!” Roy looked at Leo and back at the girls. “I can’t wake him up. Do any of you know CPR??”
“They don’t need CPR,” laughed Marie. She reached into her purse and pulled out a little amber vile with a black cap. “Here. Put this under his nose.”
Roy took the vile and unscrewed the top, then took a sniff for himself. “Whoaaa,” he said with a subtle laugh. “What is this?”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Marie. “Just shove it up in there and wait for the magic to work.” Roy waved the vile around Leo’s nose for a moment before his eyes popped open. Roy was finally able to breathe again.
“Where am I?” Leo couldn’t have asked the question more at ease than if he woke up on a couch in the darkness of his parents’ home.
“LEO! It’s Roy! We’re in Denver! Do you know what just happened??”
Leo sat up and pushed himself out of Roy’s lap and looked around. His eyes blinked furtively. “Uh, oh. Oh, yeah. Yeah, I know.” He noticed the girls looking down on him with shades of scorn, concern, and reverence. “Hello, ladies.”
“Hi, Leo,” they said in unison.
Zack slapped Roy on the shoulder with the backside of his hand. “Gimme that, dude.”
Roy handed Zack the bottle of poppers and he waved it under Peter’s nose. Nothing happened. “Dude, I think Peter is fucked up.”
“What?” demanded Leo. “What did he take?”
“Please tell me he has a pulse??” pleaded Roy. Roy wouldn’t know what to do without Peter. They were the Bonehead Brothers, the Disaster Duo, the Broken Guitars. Peter was always there for Roy when he fucked up off stage and Roy was there to laugh with Peter when he fucked up on it. If everyone else was in the van waiting to go, Peter was always present to help Roy get into his bench, conscious or not.
“Of course he has a pulse,” laughed Naomi. She walked over to Peter and crouched next to him. “I’ve seen this dude do this a hundred times. You just have to do one of these.” She bent down and put her breasts in his face and waved them around. She leaned her head next to his ear and whispered something inaudible, rubbing his belly underneath his shirt. After a moment of that a smile crept onto his face and he started smacking his lips. She leaned back up tossing her hair whimsically and turned to Roy’s wide open eyes.
“Dude,” yelled Roy in disbelief. “What the hell was that?? Leo, you threw a fucking ball of –” Roy got the weird feeling he shouldn’t finish this thought yet. And if he wasn’t ready to confront what had just happened, maybe Denver wasn’t either.
“A fucking ball of what?” asked Leo.
“A fucking ball of, your, uh — your balls. You tried to teabag Peter.”
Leo looked pleased with himself. “Always a good one.”
Peter sat up rubbing the back of his head and looked around. Zack and Roy’s faces were anxious, Leo was staring at his fingers, and some girls he couldn’t remember the names of were looking at him half-concerned, half-confused. Naomi, one of his favorite people in the world, was smiling at him, looking like he better not say anything stupid.
“I really love your rack mount effects.”
After the band finished playing and the trailer was locked and loaded and their guarantee was collected they all piled into the van with Roy at the wheel. Naomi sat shotgun to navigate across town to the ladies’ house with Zack and Peter in the bench behind them. Leo sat in the bench behind that with Marie, and in the bench behind them were Vickie, and another girl, Tina.
Tina had a face like the others, but she wasn’t rock and roll. She had on a grey cowl neck sweater with a gold cross hanging down and dark jeans stuffed into knee-high reddish-brown boots. She was one of the coworkers Marie dragged along, but so far she was keeping up pretty well with the band, who were passing around a bottle of Evan Williams that Zack snatched from behind the bar.
When they got to the house most of the bottle was gone. Roy confiscated it, finished the rest and threw the empty bottle into the bushes in front of the porch. The ladies had a fridge full of some esoteric microbrew no one in the band had even heard of so they went for the bottle of Absolut in the freezer.
Zack, Leo, and Peter found some cranberry in a cupboard and poured the two together on ice. Roy, still feeling the tension from not being able to drink with the rest in the van, just guzzled the vodka straight from the bottle, and chased it with the dark, bitter beer.
After a few hours of drinking, smoking, snorting, and pill popping it was time for fornicating. Leo meandered into Marie’s room after she stood off the couch, removed her pants and walked away. Soon after Naomi tired of Peter’s pontificating that grew louder with every drink and told him it was time for bed.
That shut him up and they disappeared.
Zack fell asleep a little earlier on the couch. After the bedroom doors shut Vickie crawled up onto him and started kissing his neck. Tina sat alone in a chair on the other side of the coffee table flipping through an issue of Cat Fancy. Roy was in another chair next to the couch and was leaning forward watching Zack and Vickie make out.
Roy tried to make contact. “Heeyyyy, Vickiieeeee. Whatcha dohin?” Roy was about to touch her when Tina stepped in.
“Hey, Roy,” said Tina. “What’s goin’ on?” He turned to her and squinted.
“Tiffannyyyy! What’s goin’ on?” Despite his words crashing together like sleigh dogs slipping on the ice Roy took another swig from his beer.
“Nothing, dude.” She put the magazine down on the coffee table and leaned forward to look Roy square in the eye. “You want to do an adventure?”
“I like adventures.”
“There’s a bar downstairs in the basement.”
“I like bars.”
Tina stood up and gestured for Roy to follow her to the stairs. She took the steps slowly, absorbing the darkness each one inhabited. Roy stood swaying at the top watching her go deeper into the earth.
“You coming down, or what?”
“Yeaaahhhh.” Roy touched the first stair with his foot, lost his balance, braced himself on the banister and skied down the rest. He grabbed Tina at the bottom to keep himself from falling over.
“Careful, now. We wouldn’t want you to miss out on the adventure,” Tina said.
“Where are we?”
The first thing Roy saw in the basement was a bar in the corner with two strangers who weren’t upstairs during the party. One was a guy with long brown hair wearing a dark grey bathrobe. He kind of looked like Leo, but he also looked a bit like Peter, but he couldn’t have been either of them. The other was a blonde woman wearing a white evening gown with a black Stetson hat on her head. She was covered in jewelry from head to toe and had a sophisticated glow that Roy found both alluring and alarming. The two strangers were awaiting drinks from the bartender.
Roy walked up and stood between the two. Neither looked at him. They just stared ahead at the bartender. His back was to them as he toiled away with his alchemy. He was dressed all in black and had a blood red aura surrounding him. Two massive appendages coming off of his back that looked like dark leathery wings seemed to breathe with a life of their own, the sight of which gave Roy pause about placing an order.
The bartender had beakers and coils running along the walls like glass serpents above and around liquor bottles that Roy didn’t recognize at all. They had decorative cryptic symbols on their labels and Roy couldn’t tell what was vodka, what was whiskey, what was tequila. There were jars filled with dried herbs, ground charcoal, what looked like eyeballs, and other occult components. The bartender removed some glass vials from heat, added larger ones to it, and mixed and shook compounds sending fumes levitating off in all different directions. Roy continued looking at the bottles for anything he might recognize.
“I’ll take the one with the three X’s on it,” he said.
The bartender’s wings lifted and he turned around. Roy was taken aback when he saw the red and black lifelessness of his eyes. The bartender smiled baring a mouth of long, jagged teeth filled beyond a human capacity. This did nothing to ease Roy’s misgivings.
“Where are the rest?” asked the bartender. “We aren’t ready yet.”
“The rest of what?”
“The men you traverse this country by.”
“Are you looking for Leo? I don’t know where he is.”
“You know not why your fellowship grow long and weary?”
“I think Peter is upstairs with that big booty bitch.”
“Ah, the road taken by nations before and hereafter.”
“I don’t know. You should ask him. He has National Geographic magazines under his bench.”
“A place we call home moves silently through the shadows of our own diminishing light.”
“Right! That’s what I’ve been saying. I think Zack is hooking up on the couch with that girl.” Roy clenched his teeth as he looked away. “Bastard.”
“What follows is known not here, but elsewhere in the cause exemplified by the simultaneous existence of their fates and bonds.”
Roy didn’t have a response for that one. He looked at the blonde woman to his left and couldn’t resist. He reached out and touched her exposed shoulder. It felt earthy like hard dirt. When he removed his fingers they glowed and became translucent. He felt a touch on his shoulder by the man to his right. He had a thick, dark, graying beard and an iron pince-nez snug on his nose. His blue eyes pierced through Roy’s with an icy intensity. In front of him on the bar was a map of the ancient world. Scrawled on it by an archaic hand were ambiguous messages like Starless & Bible Black and Cosmic Keys To My Creations & Times. He said nothing, but his mouth was stern as he shook his head at Roy slowly like the swaying hull of a massive ship.
Tina called to him from the other side of the basement. “Come here. I have a bottle in this room. It’s all yours.” Roy looked to the bartender who’s back was to him again, then at the bar patrons who remained staring ahead in silence. “Come on,” Tina repeated. Roy eased away from the bar and followed her into the room.
When Roy made his way through the door he came out onto an empty city street at dusk. Large buildings that looked much older than anything in Denver were all reaching high for a cloud-covered sky. Their exteriors were mired in air conditioning units, window bars, and fire escapes. He was alone. Then, what looked like snow, or maybe ash, began gently falling all around him.
“Over here,” Tina shouted from behind as she ran into a bar at the corner of East 11th Street and 3rd Avenue. Roy chased after her but when he got to the door he couldn’t open it. He banged and shouted to be let in, but it was impregnable.
He heard something snorting heavily behind him. When he turned there was a moose. Roy blinked both eyes involuntarily.
The moose looked deep into him in a way that told Roy he was safe and should trust it. He reached out to pet it on its massive snout. It remained calm and didn’t move as though it were trying to share its tranquility with Roy. He reached up for its enormous antlers, but it moved away and started walking back up 11th. After a few paces it paused and looked back. It snorted again and motioned for Roy to follow. He did.
The moose went up the entrance stairs into Webster Hall. Roy looked around and up, thought about what the rest of the band was doing and wondered why these things only happen to him before he entered. The entire venue was silent and dim but the moose kept moving forward. There was an illusory feeling in the air and the floor creaked like thunder in the stillness of the hall. They went up the stairs to the left continuing all the way to a large double oak door.
The moose put its mouth on the handle and pulled it open. The auditorium was filled to capacity with a crowd enthralled by a band on stage. Their sound was immense and bore through Roy like the first rising wave of an impending acid high.
He followed the moose in and was enchanted by what he saw. The band was playing atmospheric, psychedelic textural music and there were swirling misty lights of purple and red penetrated by green lasers rising and falling and spinning all around them. There was something familiar about the faces of the persons on stage. As Roy focused they looked more and more like Leo, Peter, Zack and himself. Above them was a huge, swarming nebula that soared infinitely distant into space.
He felt the snout of the moose nuzzle his arm. He looked over and saw that it was balancing a glass of water on its nose for him. He took it and gulped it down.
“Are you Rufus?” asked Roy, and the moose smiled like a big dog being scratched behind the ear.
“Hey,” Tina said out of nowhere.
“Theresa! There you are! Are you seeing this??”
“Come on. The bottle’s in the green room. Upstairs.”
Roy followed Tina up to the balcony and she lead him to the left side overlooking the band. He kept staring down at the crowd absolutely entranced by the music emanating off the stage. Tina opened the door to the green room and Roy stumbled in.
He came out into a figure eight shaped parking lot next a massive postmodern skyscraper. Up above was a crystal clear blue sky and everywhere around him were palm trees swaying in the breeze. He was transfixed by the building and tried to recognize it, but he’d never been here before. All that he could ascertain was from a sign outside the entrance that said Nakatomi Plaza.
The rest of the band was there with him. They stood in a diamond formation and stared straight ahead of themselves. They were silent and motionless.
“Whaasss up, guyss?”
Just behind Peter Roy saw three large rocks lift up out of the ground. They propelled through the air by phantom forces and stopped only a few inches away from Peter’s head before encircling it. They hovered around him like granite gallopers on a carousel. The rocks were jagged and oblong, but as they continued floating they morphed into perfect spheres. Then they were cubed. And then they were cones. And as they kept moving in a circle one went back to a cube and the third returned to a sphere. Peter opened his eyes, a glowing ultramarine, and smiled at Roy.
How was Manhattan, my friend? Peter’s lips didn’t move, but Roy could still hear his voice. This took Roy aback for a moment. He then saw in Peter’s eyes, somehow, that he was waiting for a response. But Peter beat Roy to his own thoughts. I’m well, he heard Peter say. Are you still looking for Tina? She’s on the roof. Before he could speak, Roy was cut off by Peter again. You’ll figure it out.
Zack disappeared from Roy’s periphery. He looked around trying to find him, but Zack was gone. He felt a tap on his shoulder and turned around. Zack’s fist was flying for his face and he threw up his hands to block the attack. When the impact never came he put his hands back down. Zack was gone again.
He turned around and saw a car racing down the street beyond the parking lot. Zack appeared out of a puff of red smoke clinging to the roof of the car. He reached his arm through the driver side window and grabbed the wheel. Zack gave it a hard pull to the left and the car careened into the oncoming lane crashing headfirst into another car. The two exploded in a mushroom cloud of smoke and flame that lifted up out of the collision.
Roy heard rushing air above him and turned his head up. Zack was coming down right on top of him foot first for his face. Roy closed his eyes again and, again, nothing happened. He opened them and looked around. Zack was back where he started, practicing slow, focused moves with his arms and his legs.
Roy’s attention was then taken by Leo when he heard his hands slam together. Leo turned his elbows vertically and as he gradually pulled his hands apart a bright, amber flame grew between them. It was so bright Roy had to raise his arm up over his face. The light started churning rapidly, forming and hourglass shape. It took on the appearance of tiny little stars spiraling upward then reappearing out of the bottom palm and continuing back to the top. They were moving so fast Roy couldn’t pinpoint a single one nor determine how fast they were moving. It was if it were the same few beads of light being in more than one place at the same time.
“ROY!” He heard his name come from the top of the building. It was Tina. She was waving to him. “Jump up!”
Roy lifted one foot up, but really wasn’t sure what Tina had meant by “jump up.” He was about to run to the building when Peter spoke to him again.
It’s locked. There isn’t much time. Someone is coming. You’ll have to jump.
Yes, you can. Jump.
Roy jumped, but only went as high as a normal man. He focused a little harder and got a little higher. He tried a third time and only got up about three feet.
Stop trying and just be the jump.
I don’t know what you mean.
Live for the jump. Don’t be afraid. It’s why you are where you are.
Roy crouched deep and felt the earth wobble beneath him. He leaped up. This time he got up about ten feet.
That’s it. Your intention has been noted. See it through.
Roy crouched all the way down again. Now the earth was shaking beneath him. The pavement of the parking lot began to crack. Then it started to steam. The asphalt melted away from where his two feet stood. He jumped, and flew all the way to the top of the building touching down right beside Tina, crackling the roof where he landed.
“That’s Peter’s trick,” said Tina. “Not yours.”
“Oh, right,” realized Roy. “Someone’s coming. We have to go.”
“Is it them?” Tina pointed into the distance behind Roy. There was a helicopter approaching and it opened up machine gun fire on them.
“Shiiiiit!” Roy yelled. He grabbed Tina and jumped to the other side of the helipad, crouching behind it for cover. “Who are they? What do they want?”
“I think they want to kill you.”
“God damn it.”
A barrage of .50 caliber bullets blasted pass Roy when he tried to poke out his head. They had the two of them pinned down tight. They were stuck.
“How’d they find out where I am?”
“You have to do something, Roy. They’re not going to stop.”
Roy looked back over the top of the helipad, but again machine gun fire just barely missed his face. Roy looked around the roof for anything but came up empty.
“’Join the band, we’ll see the country, have a few laughs.’”
His search for another refuge landed on a huge satellite dish about 30 feet away. “Do you have that whiskey?”
“No, it’s in China.”
“Figures. Come on.” Roy grabbed Tina and ran with her while still ducking behind the helipad and pulled her behind the satellite. The bullets from the midi gun burst on the ground just behind their heels. They continued firing into the face of the massive dish. They were safe for the moment, but trapped, and the helicopter was moving along side their flank.
They got us pinned down, Roy tried communicating to Peter.
You’ve got the touch.
You’ve got the power.
Roy shook his head and looked at Tina. “I think Peter is just singing to himself.”
“Get a clue, Roy. He’s telling you to do it.”
“Why is this all so confusing? I hate dreams. This is why I drink.”
“You better figure it out quick. They’re circling around.”
“Can’t you just tell me?”
“If I do that your head will explode.”
“Shit.” Frustrated, Roy hit the back of the satellite with his fist. His hand went through and the dish twisted around half a foot. He felt almost nothing. “What a shitty satellite. Bullets won’t go through, but my fist will?”
You got the touch.
It finally clicked within Roy’s hazy, wet brain. He had superhuman strength.
“All right! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!”
Roy crouched to grab the base of the satellite. He got a firm grip then turned to Tina.
“Stay close to my butt, babe.”
He ripped the satellite out of the ground with the ease of picking an aluminum daisy from the earth and walked it across the roof toward the helicopter like a giant Spartan shield. The bullets kept bouncing off as he and Tina kept pushing forward. His stride accelerated as he got closer to the edge of the roof from a cautious crawl to a confident gallop. He looked down at Tina before he hit the precipice.
“This is a bad idea!”
Roy leaped off the high-rise toward the helicopter. The bullets kept flying off the satellite trying to take down the brute, but there was nothing they could do. With one hand Roy pulled the dish behind his back and swung it forward with the force of an Olympian’s discus and it tore through the helicopter like the sickle of Azrael.
He fell through air, wind and fire, the wreckage all around him, and Tina’s gentle gaze following him down to the parking lot. As he came closer and closer to the ground he could feel himself start to wake up like a midnight drifter falling helplessly toward the end of his dream.
Instead of asphalt Roy landed on wood. When he realized he was on his feet and not splattered across a Los Angeles parking lot, or awake on a couch in Denver with the most brutal of hangovers, he clasped his hands together in a simple gesture of celebration with himself. Then he looked around at his surroundings. He really wasn’t sure how to feel after that.
He tracked a gargantuan wooden beam with his eyes up into the sky and discovered it was the mass to a magnificent sail. Upon further inspection he saw that there were eight more in line with it, and realized he was on a gargantuan old ship that, judging by the writing on the barrels and chests along the deck, must be some kind of Oriental trading vessel.
“Ah,” Roy said to himself. “Tatiana said that whiskey was in China somewhere. That must be where I am.”
But it was impossible for Roy to say for sure. On all sides as far as he could see were mysteries that all felt out of place, even more than himself on a 17th century Chinese treasure ship.
He was relieved when he saw the rest of the band sitting at a makeshift table by the bow relaxing on piled sacks of potatoes smoking opium and laughing among themselves. But not more than a few feet away were some other strange characters.
There was a Chinese man that looked like a pirate, with tattered clothes, a long ponytail, and a massive cutlass on his belt. He made the most sense. The monk staring out off the deck next with long flowing brown robes seemed out of place, and so did the soldier in a long grey winter coat and World War II era helmet, babbling something that sounded like German, and holding a sniper rifle against his shoulder. There was also a comely blonde woman with her hair in two braids wearing a dark grey tunic with animal hide stitched into it, a long sword on her belt and a spear in her hand. She was eating a peach. The fifth person had an olive complexion, was wearing colorful blue robes, had a long curved saber in his hand and a bow on his back, and had a huge ridiculous headdress that was matched in impressiveness only by his moustache. Roy was about to approach his band to figure out what the hell was going on when he felt something push into his arm. It was the moose from New York.
“Rufus! Where am I?” The moose just smiled at him. Roy looked around, lost, confused, and tired. Beyond the ship’s deck all he could see was open sea. He examined the closest mass of the ship and noticed the notches leading up to the top.
“I have to see up there,” he said.
Roy began climbing the wood piece by piece. It was hard for him to comprehend just how high he could go. The moose kept getting smaller as he went, and so did the band, and the five strangers. Leo was the first to notice him.
“Roy!” Leo shouted. Roy looked at him and waved.
“I have to see up there!” said Roy, pointing with a free hand.
Leo, Zack, and Peter got up off their sacks and walked towards the mass to watch Roy’s ascension.
“Roy,” began Leo.
“Roy,” repeated Peter.
“Roy,” all three said together. They said it again and again, chanting his name as he climbed. The five strangers took notice and also watched Roy make his way toward the top. The moose looked on as well.
“Roy…” his name went on in unison.
“Roy! Wake the fuck up!” Peter yelled.
“Hold on,” Roy answered, squirming on the couch in the basement of the girls’ house in Denver. “I’m almost up. I just have to see up there.”
Peter looked at Leo and grunted a laugh. They smiled and shook their heads.
“Better check the couch. It looks wet,” said Zack. He reached down and began shaking Roy. “You’re there, dude! You’re at the top!” Roy opened his eyes.
“Whaaasss up, guys?”
“You been up all night ‘ghost whispering’ again?” Leo asked.
Roy sat up slowly like a quarterback hit from the blind side. “I think there were some ghosts, yeah. Whispering to me.” The words came out of Roy’s mouth stuck together and drawn out all the same.
“Come on, dude,” said Leo. “We got an eight hour drive to Salt Lake and you know that’s more like ten hours in our time.”
“Yeah, I just, give me a minute. I didn’t sleep that well.” Roy rubbed his eyes and looked at Peter. “Who’s that slut you hooked up with?”
“She’s not a slut,” said Peter. “She’s Naomi. She’s my ex.”
“Man, you guys always get the sluts. I was stuck down here. I couldn’t sleep because these people were cooking meth or something in the corner.”
That made Leo Laugh. He looked at Zack and Peter and pointed at Roy. “Are you hearing this guy right now?”
“There was a horse or a unicorn or something in here, too,” said Roy.
“Awesome,” said Peter. “Let’s go.”
“This part of the country is terrible for tour,” said Zack. “We need to update the transmission to teleporting status.”
As they went up the stairs and through the house and out the front door something about what Zack had said lingered in Roy. It stirred up phantom images in his head slipping back and forth through his mental grasp until they were outside and he saw the van. Then it all rushed back. Everything he just encountered on his unconscious voyage.
Roy stopped dead in his tracks.
“Guys,” he said. They turned.
“We’re gonna need a bigger van.”
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