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Ari

The Death Song(IC)

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May 28th, Sunday, 2017, 5.51PM

Maniac Park, Downtown Bedlam, Wisconsin

 

The last set...

 

It was finally here. The last step on a journey across America. The last song that would put an unquiet soul to rest.

 

Val had met the shade named Jane Westerling months back, on a tour through LA. A cover of Michael Jackson's hit 'Billie Jean' had been interrupted by the lights shorting out, a spectral wail and the appearance of a translucent floating figure with every limb out of joint, her head twisted around and her enormous eyes on the back of her head.  

 

Thankfully, Jane had just been trying to cheer and her powers had gotten out of hand. After making her earnest apologies and providing her own illumination of shimmering ghostlight, she'd dropped backstage after the show to gush and make a very odd request.

 

"The music makes me whole, Ms. Cain. If I could hear more like it...I could remember myself. Where I can rest. Will you carry me there?"

 

All had become clear as the weeks went by, Val sharing her body with the bubbly, now-healed ghost. No longer monstrous, the music of her long-gone teenage years had formed her back into a flickering, tiny brunette with a small, catlike mouth and large green eyes. She couldn't go far from Val, not that she wanted to. After so long alone it had been a relief to meet someone who could talk to and see her all the time again. Most of the time, she stayed in Val's head and made occasional small talk or went on stream-of-consciousness rambles about this or that, occasionally hitting on a common interest. She had been a music fanatic as a kid growing in Woolverton back in 1983 and when she'd turned 15 in '84 had struck out into the world in a stolen Chevy, following the Star Gods, the greatest musicians of her time. Four years, many life lessons and one lost finger later, she'd finally come home. Then something had happened, she had died been shattered into pieces. A part of her in every place she'd heard the songs she'd loved so much.

 

Right then, Val could feel Jane jittering with excitement as the first chords were struck. The crowd of tired-looking Bedlamites that had gathered in the sprawling, ill-kept park weren't nearly so enthusiastic, but they'd at least made signs. Val could see the less flattering ones at the back torn down, their holders the target of a perfunctory scrap. Everyone not involved kept their eyes front and ignored the shouts and curses drifting in the air. The people in suits around the stage weren't so relaxed. Valerie Cain's security detail were used to rough towns, but they'd been on edge since arriving in Bedlam, Wisconsin, almost paranoid thanks to the rundown city's enormous crime rate.

 

But that couldn't stop the music or dampen the spirits of 'Sweet Child of Mine'

Edited by Ari

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Before the Show

Wayward Tour Bus

Dressing Room

 

"...you don't have to call me Ms. Cain," she explains again, more amused than annoyed.  "Makes me feel old; call me Valerie."  Such a cute thing.  So shy, despite her energy, but start getting her out of her shell, and...

 

...but now probably isn't the time.  Not that Val is often one to yield to prudence.

 

The star looks into her mirror.  She can't always see Jane out in the rest of the world, but in the mirror, she's plain as day, and as she invites her from mind to body, her own reflection fades, and it's only Jane before her.  She lifts her hand to her own cheek, the sensation resonating between souls, more real than real.  A kiss, to her knuckle, is as a kiss to Jane's hand.  The only way the ghost can know another's touch anymore.  She wraps an arm around her hip and simply holds her, for a time.

 

They can never be together.  Not really.  The distance is uncrossable, but the bond that has grown between them, mind to mind and soul to soul?  It would kill them both if she ever got this close to another human.  It's nearing her limit, even with a ghost, but this may be as close as she can ever get to another person ever again.  But it has to end.  It always does.  No matter who it is, forever is not a luxury Valerie Cain can ever afford.  Gently, she places one hand atop another.  Any other day, atop Val's hand, but right now, atop Jane's, given freely to explore as she will, but it's time.  As she has for every other tour they've gone through, Jane takes that black silk ribbon and silver padlock, and clips it around Val's neck.

 

It's time.  No more words.  Just let the music speak.  Marianne in hand, it's time for Wayward to take the stage.

 

 

Present

 

No limits.  No barriers.  We are the music...

 

There is always a tension in the air as her concerts start.  An energy filling the air, that Val can feed on, mold.  The hopes, the dreams, the love of the crowd flows into the music, and the music flows back into the crowd, building that same energy, and letting Val shape the crowd.

 

But not today.  Any other day, that cord is right.  Perfect.  Grabs the audience and won't let go.  But today?  A dissonance fills the air.  Rage; not righteous and motivated, but caged and seething, a poisonous hate looking for somewhere to turn, a bitter emptiness desperate to be filled, pain left to fester, hope left to rot, and it all washes over the artist, poisoning the music with a discordant strain while Val suffers to build a wall, to force the madness to stay at bay.  Anathema to her way, doomed to fail, and even in the moments it buys, she bleeds of herself into the music, ending her first song drained, instead of empowered.

 

The opener cuts off early, in an eerie, bitter end as she grabs the key and tears the padlock from her neck, casting it into the crowd.  Usually a focus of energy, excitement.  Today?  Of pity.

 

She continues to the next song, hungry to get what she needs from the crowd.  She needs that heat, that passion, that hope.  She needs one spot of happiness in all of this, and so, she looks to Jane and, full of poison, draws on her, sings to her that final song.

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GM

 

A single face, a lonely-looking girl on the edge of the crowd, caught Val's eye. She was probably in her early twenties and had all of the stylings of punk, from her spiked hair to the chunky boots with elastic bands for laces, but none of the energy, the anger. Instead there was a deep, slowly-churning abyss, something adrift and hopeless. She turned from glancing nervously at the rowdier tagalongs of the crowd to the stage while the Bedlamites fought and scuffled over the padlock. Quite by accident her dull brown eyes met Val's bright green, whose colour was even more vivid with Jane in her brain. There was a dart of something like lightning across the dismal sea of the girl's psychic emanations. She blushed slightly and looked away, but only for a moment before tentatively trying to make that contact again.

 

The ghost gently urged Val to smile and beckon her closer. 

 

I remember her Jane whispered as the music began to rise above the shouts, most of which quieted down as the padlock was claimed, its new owner bursting out of the crowd and racing for the safety of the nearby trees, chased by a gaggle of whooping men. 

 

She used to live where I worked before...anyway, she just needs a little help out of her shell. She was learning to sing.

 

 Her name's Rebecca. You're already doing so much for me, can you help her, too?

 

A beer bottle smashed on the stage near Val, a drunken man lurched to the front of the crowd, screaming obscenities at the her-before the women who had consolidated the front of the crowd dragged him down. For a moment, the seething flared into a searing. 

 

And Rebecca stood forlornly at the edge, not daring to hope.

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Rough crowd.  But Val's dealt with rougher.  Granted, 'rougher' usually means 'trying to shove a robot fist through her spleen, but it's amazing how many skills from the field translate to the stage; dodging the beer bottle doesn't even break her flow, and one of the perks of dancing in combat boots?  Don't have to worry about broken glass.  And the tough?  Well, can't worry about him.  Gotta trust security to bring him in line.  The show, as they say, must go on.

 

But this one, this Rebecca?  There's a treat.  She may not be able to turn the room, but if she can reach one person, bring one light into this place?  That's always worth it.  When she looks back, there's an intensity to Val's gaze that takes hold, won't let her go.  Last time was an accident.  This time?  Not a chance.

 

It goes from a song for the crowd to a song for only one, each note diving into that pit, reaching to find that spark, to nurture it.  The next song goes on, to an a cappella section, building to a soulful moment of release, and Val puts the mike in front of Rebecca, eyes full of faith.  Make me proud, gorgeous.

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GM

 

Unsteadily at first, but with each step stronger than the last, Rebecca was drawn toward the stage. Her cramped face loosening into a faint smile as she hopped up onto the stained wooden dais and edged next to Valerie. 

 

Taking the mic like someone in a dream, Rebecca took a deep breath and glanced briefly at Val, just to make sure she was really there. Meeting Val's eyes, she shivered and closed her own.

 

A moment later a voice clear and strong as diamond soared from the speakers. Leaping, gliding from note to note, entwining itself with the melody and turning the human voice into a thing of transcendent magnificence. It didn't matter that the speakers wavered, that the power flickered dangerously after Rebecca came alongside Val and Jane. The ghost, who could only barely keep herself from bouncing with glee right out of Val's body, bent a little of her spectral might to coax submission out of the electronics. The Bedlamites, who had quieted while expecting disaster after the new girl came onstage, roared and flung things with relief and pleasant shock, some of them tussling off into the dark to seize a rare moment of beauty and joy.

 

It was almost a shame when the music finally had to draw to a close. The lights slowly dimmed, the crowd dispersed even slower, the road crew started to dismantle the stage equipment. Little by little the magic was torn down.

 

"That...That was amazing," Becca(as she'd introduced herself) blurted with a giddy grin as she, Val and Jane left the stage "I haven't sung for months! Not since-" she checked herself sharply, her face apologetic "Family stuff, you know."

 

Suddenly, she stopped. "Hey, uh...Ms-er, Val? I..I have a band. Not nearly as good as yours, of course, but we get by. Would" she shuffled a little, looking for a moment like the lonely little thing Val had plucked from the sidelines "would you be alright singing with us, before you go?"

 

'It will be a while before I go,' Jane murmured 'At least three days. Could you, Valerie?'

 

"When we're back together after one of Roger's blowups, we play at the Circle Perk downtown, near the community college. It's kind of a dumb, post-anti-ironic s###hole, but the crowds are good and they know good music when they hear it." Becca smiled hopefully.

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