Dead or Alive
“The End Is The Beginning.”
Since the band was going to be spending an extended period of time in Hawaii Herbie had the foresight of thought to buy a huge beach front house, a two story configuration with a bedroom for every guy and their own bathroom, a stucco type structure with a terra cotta tile roof, a wrap around balcony and French doors that lead out to the balcony from every bedroom. A wide open floor plan, with ceramic tile, throw rugs, and a state of the art kitchen stocked to the gills with every manner of food stuff and drink. It takes at least a day or two to prepare the house for their arrival, the small staff airs the place out and armed with a grocery list they descend on the local grocery stores buying enough for a small army, making sure they get everything that each guy likes. The living room has a fireplace and two sofas and an entertainment center; the guys have dubbed it the Journey Frat house. There were no bad views in this house; every window had a view of the ocean and the white sands of the beach and the lanei surrounded by tall coconut laded palm trees that swayed in the warm tropical breeze.
The guys flew out of Marin County Municipal Airport in the Sojourn and they landed five and a half hours later in Maui at the Municipal Airport and from there they had to take a ferry over to Lanai where the Journey Frat house was located and by the time they got there they were dragging ass and starving. There were large plates of food placed out on the dining room table and the guys just dropped their bags anywhere and they made way to the table and loaded up their plates and then they spread out all over the living room.
“Neal Joseph Schon were you raised in a barn?” Steve asks.
“Yes Perry actually I was.” Neal looks up at him from the sofa.
“Get your feet off of the coffee table you big dummy.”
Steve says then Neal makes a face and he moves his feet back down to the floor and Steve walks passed him and he sits down with his plate. After eating they all gradually drifted upstairs to pick out a room and the rooms, being all the same, you wouldn’t think there would be a problem, well think again.
Neal picks his room and he is unpacking when the door opens and Steve is standing there.
“And you asked me if I was raised in a barn? Don’t you knock?”
“Let’s switch rooms.” Steve says.
“Why?” Neal asks as he continues to put his things away.
“The mattress is lumpy.”
“That room has bad karma.” Steve says and Neal laughs.
“What? Look you do this every time. I practically have all my shit put away so the answer is no.”
Steve just stands there, his hands on his hips, looking mildly disgusted.
“I saw a big ass spider in the bathroom.” Steve says and again Neal laughs.
“Stop being such a girl! The answer is still no.”
“Your door has a star on it.”
“All the doors have a star on them!” Neal says.
“Yeah but your star is bigger. So that means this is my room.”
Neal just looks at Steve then he walks over to the door and he peels the star off then he walks down the hall to Steve’s room, he takes the star off of that door and he slaps the one that was on his door on Steve’s door then he walks back to his room and he slaps that star on his door.
“Oh alright.” Steve replies as he goes back to his room.
Neal feels that he is off to a good start in doing what Ed wants them to do and if anybody, on the face of god’s green earth can do it and do it well it would be Neal. It is simple in style and design, compact and easy to carry and something Neal has been doing since he has known Steve, and what is this marvel of human nature and condition that Ed wants Neal to do? Simple piss Steve off. Try and keep him good and angry and just below the boiling point, that good old righteous indignation, Neal and Jon trusted Ed when he said that it would come in handy later. This was an easy thing to do and accomplish and Neal could do it and he wouldn’t even break a sweat, everybody knew that Steve and Neal could grate on each other’s nerves, they were so much alike. So this was a cakewalk.
“Neal, what are you doing?” Smitty asks.
“What does it look like I’m doing?” Neal replies.
“Steve will throw a rod when he sees that.” Ross says.
“Tough titty said the kitty when the milk ran dry.” Neal says.
“What is that?” Steve asks.
“That would be a cantaloupe with strawberries.” Neal replies.
“Not that! That! Steve points.
“Oh this, this is the finest cigar money can buy!” Neal answers as he blows a smoke ring.
“Put it out!” Steve says and Neal laughs.
“I’m not putting it out, it’s expensive!”
“It’s in the morning!” Steve says.
“And, your point being?” Neal asks.
“You know how I feel about that stuff!”
“Too damn bad! I got em and I’m going to smoke em!” Neal says as he blows another smoke ring and Steve stands up.
“I’m only the frigging lead singer!”
Neal stands up, “And I’m the frigging lead guitarist! I started this band!”
“And I saved it!” Steve replies loudly.
“Hey guys!” Ross says.
“Shut up!” They both turn to Ross and say at the same time.
“Yeah cool it; it’s too early in the morning for this shit.” Smitty says.
“I...didn’t start it!” Steve says.
“I didn’t either, all I wanted to do was enjoy a cigar and I didn’t know that my mother was the lead singer of this band!
Smitty and Ross nudge Jon.
“Oh no I’m staying out of this one!” Jon says as he throws up his hands.
“I have certain rules....!” Steve replies loudly.
“Fuck you and your rules! You don’t tell me what to do!” Neal says as he practically blows a smoke ring in Steve’s face.
“That’s it! I’m going to eat in the kitchen!” Steve says as he grabs his plate.
“Ewwwwww ! I’m going to eat in the kitchen!” Neal mimics Steve. “Well go then! I’m sure the housekeeper will wet herself from excitement when the omni powerful Perry walks in! Oh he’s so sexy! That hair! Those eyes! That big nose and that even bigger mouth!”
Ross, Smitty and even Jon immediately burst into laughter and when Steve glares at them they cover their mouths, Steve, holding his plate walks off.
“Jackass!” Steve says.
“Dummy!” Neal replies.
“Prima Donna!!” Neal yells.
“Kiss my ass!!” Steve responds.
“I would but I can’t tell which end is which!”
That sets off another round of laughter and Steve slams the door behind him as he goes into the house. With Steve and Neal it was always the little things that meant so much, like Neal flushing the toilet while Steve was in the shower, that was always a good one, short sheeting his bed but most of the things that pissed Steve off during this time Neal couldn’t take credit for. Jon was in his room and he could hear Steve on the phone and Steve wasn’t being quiet.
“It might take longer than anticipated? Why is that? They said what? They actually used that word? Well shit...! No, I’m not mad at you, you know that, yeah I got the guy’s number. Okay, I love you too, bye.”
“Problems Steve?” Jon asks.
“Oh that damn insurance company! Their still trying to decide about the car accident, they call it dubious, they have their suspicions that it wasn’t an accident!”
“Imagine that, you deliberately drove your car off of a cliff and your insurance company doesn’t think it’s an accident. That is one smart company you got there Steve.“ Jon says.
“Well....” Steve replies.
The first half of the week they spent in
Neal and Jon were terrified, they were paralyzed with fear, the fear of the unknown, dreading the end of the tour because the end of the tour would be the beginning of the end of everything. Their world as they know it would cease to exist, a long chapter of their lives closed with only mere memories and pictures to remind them. Neal and Jon ran out of words ages ago to try and describe their feelings so now they just push them aside, like boxes in a crowded attic where you try to make room for other things. After this they will never complain about being away from home again because at least they will be going home.
They wondered how Steve did it, how he maintained the slim tether of existence that had been left to him, how he processed all of this, all the emotions, the feelings. Steve usually took his time, taking whatever the issue was and weighting it and analyzing it, trying not to let his emotions overrule his head but most times losing. Just when he thought he had gotten over something he would find years later that it would come back to haunt him, rear it’s ugly head and laugh in his face, the curse of being an Aquarius. In his mind he acquaints this to having a terminal disease, it ate away at his soul everyday and the minute he set foot on Hawaiian volcanic soil he could feel it.
He felt its growing excitement at the prospect of reaching the end, finishing its work and like a worker who has worked a long, hard day, looking forward to its rest. Steve would sit in his room and look out toward the mountains, his sight always drawn to them, knowing the ending of both of their lives is to be played out there in a macabre power play. Steve had no fear, whatever fear he did have had been replaced by anger which had grown steadily since he drove his car off of that cliff and what of Ed.
Ed, the second piece of the puzzle, how is he doing? He had his affairs in order, explained his wishes to Tony and Jack, there wouldn’t be a funeral per se just a quiet memorial type of service but of course that idea would go out the window, what with him being a public servant. Working for the FBI no less and he pursuing another serial killer that would vanish without a trace, dying in the line of duty, he let Tony and Jack think what they wanted to, thinking there would be a body left to bury. Tony and Jack have never been to Hawaii, Ed has on a few occasions but those have been strictly for business, he never really had the chance to enjoy the various islands.
Setting foot on the
The closer to the end it got the worse the moods got, Neal was more volatile than usual and Steve equally morose and even Jon seem to have a touch of something or other.
“Jeez Louise! What in the hell is wrong with Steve! Is it his time of the month or what?! “ Ross commented after a run-in with Steve then Neal turns on him.
“What in the fuck does that mean?” Neal snaps at him and Ross takes a step back.
“Whoa! Nothing! Nothing! I was just making a joke! Jeez what is wrong with everybody!” Ross says as he walks off.
The night of the last concert in Hawaii and it had to be the largest crowd in the history of that venue to date, the Big Island surely sank a little deeper in the water what with all the people there that night, it was the world’s biggest luau. To Steve the last encore and the fireworks were the death rattle and when he said goodnight and goodbye Hawaii for the last time he meant it, there were tears in his eyes, standing in the wings he took one last long look out at the crowd, trying to burn it into his memory then Jon stood beside him, his hand on his shoulder. Jon speaks to him and Steve nods his head and they move off together.
The after concert party, luau, in the Hawaiian vernacular, a pig roasted in the ground, Hawaiian dancers, tikki torches and drinks with little umbrellas in them and a lot of people, so many people that no one really noticed when Steve left.
How does one spend their last day on earth, for Ed he was up early, there was no point in sleeping in, he had too much to do. He spent a good part of the day with Tony and Jack, talking, making final preparations, then alone later he meditated to make sure his resolve was stronger than ever, he needed to be calm and have a clear head, he prayed and cleared his mind of everything but the task ahead. Then hours after sunset, he took his bag, checked out of the Hotel and in front of the Hotel he gave the valet driver his keys and he brought his car around, Ed gave him a very generous tip which left him speechless after all it was only money. Ed tossed his bag in the back seat then he drove off to meet his destiny.
The venue where the guys had been playing was part of a huge multi-purpose complex, the arena, a four star Hotel that surrounded the beach and that beach was where the guys were having their luau. Even though it was way pass dark the front of the Hotel was lit up like Christmas, ornamental lights in the trees, all matter of fancy lights that enabled Neal to see Ed standing on the curb waiting on his car.
Neal yelled at Jon to get his attention then he waved Jon over. Jack and Tony were working the party and they saw Jon run over to Neal and they saw Neal point and that is when Tony and Jack joined them and when they saw Ed, Tony and Jack started for their car. They ran and they got to the car just as Ed drove off, in all the commotion they didn’t notice Neal and Jon had followed them until they were on the highway. It was the time of evening when rush hour had long since passed but there was still a lot of traffic as they merged onto the highway, they kept well back but they were still able to keep an eye on Ed. Ed wasn’t trying to lose them, he picked a lane and he stayed there and being an FBI agent Tony and Jack knew that Ed knew when he was being followed.
“Where is he going?” Jack asked to no one in particular.
“You guys okay?” Tony turned around and he asked Neal and Jon.
“We...we just sort of tagged along, sorry.” Jon replied.
“Oh well too late now. We’re in this together.” Tony says but Neal and Jon don’t reply.
They continued on down the highway, one following the other, eventually leaving the city traffic and lights behind as the highway hugged the coastline and an hour later Ed finally took the exit for the State Park, by now they were the only two cars on the road so they slowed and they came to a stop altogether as the tail lights of Ed’s car disappeared over a hill.
“Hey we’re losing him!” Neal says.
“No we aren’t.” Jack says.
Ed’s car topped the rise and he followed the road until he came to a fence and a padlocked gate, Ed stopped and he got out carrying bolt cutters, the light of the full moon his only source of light as he cut the lock off of the gate, then he swung it open, leaving the bolt cutters on the ground.
“Why are we just sitting here!” Neal asks after they have been sitting for ten minutes.
“Relax.” Tony says.
They waited another minute then they followed the road, their headlights off using the full moon as their guide as they drove past the gate and into the park. Once in the park the road forked and to the right was a small gravel parking area where Ed’s car was, to the left but set off from the road was a concession stand, closed up for the season with one light on a pole, the only other source of light other than the moon, Jack parked his car there.
From where they stood at the concession stand they could see a clearing with picnic tables, barbeque grills, and in the middle of the clearing a huge pit that was used for campfires and standing in the middle of the pit was Ed.
“Stay here!” Tony said to Neal and Jon as they turned and ran off towards the clearing.
“But why I...” Neal asks and Jon points to a small bench by the concession stand and they sit there to wait for what they didn’t know.
To the right of the clearing was a mountain ledge, with a stepping stone of rock leading up to a higher elevation, at ground level there were outcroppings of rocks and boulders that had fallen away and came to rest here and that was were Jack and Tony hide themselves.
The moon was high in the sky signaling the hour of , Ed stood in the middle of the pit, his eyes closed, meditating, unaware that there were witnesses. Where there was once calmness in the night, no breeze to speak of there was a sudden coolness in the air, the trees began to sway lazily, the birds and the crickets quiet when just a moment before they were making noises, the silence falling heavy around them. The four of them felt the change in the atmosphere, the air sudden leaded and heavy, filled with static electricity, the clouds in the sky even seem to have stopped moving. They feel the hair on the back of their necks stand up.
The ‘thing’ stood on the rock ledge, surveying the territory, looking down on the clearing, his eyes glowing with an inner fire as he identifies the five mortals but only needing the one that is standing in the pit, it doesn’t even have to turn it’s head to see the bright glare of the light at the concession stand, it simply raises it’s hand and the light flickers once, twice, then it goes out completely, leaving the area in darkness.
When the light begins to flicker Neal and Jon both look up at the same time then they look at one another as the light goes out.
“I don’t like this.” Jon says as Neal puts his hand on Jon’s arm and points in the direction of the mountain.
The ‘thing’ from his perch discounts four of the mortals, they not being important to him, the one that he seeks is here, the last life to be taken or it thinks if it wished to count the host, this now almost useless relic of a soul that has almost outlived it’s usefulness, it would be getting two for the price of one! To the ‘thing’ the inhuman logic of that is funny, he laughs because it is almost over, the last night in this realm among these insignificants, they would be delegated to slaves in it’s world.
When it laughs it is like nails on a chalk board, it bounces off the side of the mountain finding it’s own life causing Neal, Jon, Jack and Tony to cover their ears and cower in fear, but Ed did not, he stood steadfast, holding his ground, his eyes still closed his blood singing in his veins with the ‘thing’s’ arrival.
The wind picked up slightly as it made its way down the mountain, walking down the ledge like a staircase, it makes no sound as it moves, except for the sound of the leather coat. The instant it steps down the ground seems to tremble and the grass turns brown in it’s wake, as it walks passed Tony and Jack they have to cover their mouths to stop themselves from being ill as it finally stops in the middle of the clearing, five feet from Ed.
Ed braced himself knowing it’s pattern of calling it’s prey by their first names, that way making it intimate and personal but this time the voice was not what he expected.
“Do you not know my voice Ed?”
It was Steve’s voice. Ed slowly opens his eyes but even though it was wearing that hat and coat earlier it isn’t now and it is Steve, or what it perceives to be Steve dressed in his regular uniform of jeans and t-shirt and Nike’s and a jacket, his hands in the pockets of his jacket, his long hair falling about his shoulders and smiling. A good but sinister imitation.
“Neal!! Look! Look! It’s Steve!” Jon says as he tugs on Neal’s arm.
“No Jon it isn’t!!” Neal insists.
It now stands there, its arms out to its sides, still smiling. Mocking them all.
“Is this form more pleasing to you?” A persona you recognize? What is it again that this mortal calls you? Doc?”
“What are they saying?” Jon asks?
“Sssshhhhh!” Neal replies as he takes Jon by the arm and they crept a little closer.
Ed didn’t know what disturbed him more, the fact that this ‘thing’ called him Doc or the fact that this ‘thing’ is engaging in normal human type banter.
“Are you always in the habit of making polite conversation with all your prey?” Ed asks.
The ‘thing’ laughs again. “You Doc, are not my usual type of prey.”
“Don’t call me Doc, you haven’t earned the right.”
The ‘thing’ slowly starts to walk towards Ed then it suddenly veers to the right and it walks in a circle around the pit where Ed stands. By this time Neal and Jon have positioned themselves even closer, they lie in the grass watching, as Jack and Tony do the same from behind the boulder.
“Ed, come now, have we not known each other for months? Became friends, confidants?”
The ‘thing’ asks as he continues to walk around him.
“You are not my friend! Steve is my friend and you are not him!”
“Oh Ed! Why do you mortals become so attached to each other? What is it about this mortal?”
“You wouldn’t understand.” Ed replies.
The ‘thing’ laughs as it makes another circle then it comes to a stop in front of Ed. It’s arms behind its back and it leans in closer, looking Ed in the eyes.
“Ed you fascinate me. You intrigue me as no mortal has ever had, I see no fear in you, your will is strong, almost as strong as this host. You have a...desire...no?”
“I desire a trade.” Ed replies slowly.
Neal and Jon lying in the grass look at one another. “Did he say trade?” Jon asks. Behind the rocks Jack and Tony have the same reaction. “Did he say trade?” Tony asks.
“You have the power to grant my desire. This I know and this I shall ask.”
“A wise mortal you are, there have only been a few of your kind before who would have known to ask such a thing. Tell me of this trade.”
“I wish to trade my soul for the host’s.” Ed replies.
Jon, Neal, Tony and Jack all gasped loudly and Neal suddenly realizes what Ed meant by all those vague answers he would give. He eluded to the fact that he was planning something but he would never say what it was, and this was it. A trade, he was willing to make a trade. His soul for Steve’s. Now it all made sense.
“Oh my god.” Neal says as he covers his mouth.
“This mortal means that much to you?” The ‘thing’ replies.
“Yes.” Ed replies.
“You wish this mortal to do...what?”
“I wish him to live.” Ed replies.
“What shall you...do?”
“I shall sacrifice myself for him.” Ed replies.
“How shall you give yourself to...me?”
“I shall give myself to you freely. I have shall sacrifice myself to take his place. It’s a dying man’s...wish.”
This was an ancient ritual, Ed couldn’t believe it when he had found it, it was recorded that only a few brave people have tried this, when the last prey wanted to save the host, but he couldn’t find any written proof in the text that he had deciphered if it ever had been actually accepted. During this ritual they continued to have eye contact, his gaze never faltering, staying calm and showing no fear, which was important he knew. Ed can feel him and see him in his mind’s eye, tallying this up, weighting it, they stand there, their gazes locked, time seems to stop then finally the ‘thing’ takes a step closer.
“I am the servant of another, I was brought here to right the wrongs of generations, after my work is done I shall rest for a hundred years and I shall have as my reward two to serve me in the afterlife. This is owed to me, it was promised to me and it won’t be denied to me. There will be no trade, I shall have you both!”
The ‘thing’ said with just a touch of anger, wrapped around frustration and seal with animosity and Ed found himself becoming angry as well, it was not suppose to turn out this way, granted there was nothing written in the text saying that the offer, once made had to be accepted or denied but this was his last and only chance. He and Steve were free men, not meant to be slaves in this life or in the afterlife, especially to this abomination.
“Would this mortal do the same for you?”
“My, my mortal that was certainly a quick answer, are you so sure that he would take your place?”
“Are you so sure that he wouldn’t?” Ed counters then the ‘thing’ with it’s hands on it’s hips throws back it’s head and it laughs.
“Touché mortal! Touché!”
Ed watches as the ‘thing’ laughs. Steve and himself are on the losing end of the stick and Ed knows that he will die anyway so he pushes it.
The ‘thing’ stops laughing then and looks at him, tilting it’s head to one side, it’s hands still on it’s hips.
This was surely something new, a kink in the armor, a horse of a different color the ‘thing’ thinks. Of all the centuries of walking the earth this was a first, this mortal, having the balls to stand up to him! Yes, this one will make a fine trophy indeed, just as the other will, the one with the voice. With these two it will be a fine way to pass a hundred years.
“No! I demand....!!”
Ed heard himself say it, he had to, needed to and that is when the ‘thing’ reached out with all the quickness of a snake and the power of the centuries behind it and grab Ed by the jacket and pull Ed with such force that Ed probably had whiplash, they were now nose to nose, Ed’s feet off of the ground dangling.
Behind the rock Tony gets to his feet ready to run out into the clearing in an attempt to save Ed but Jack stops him, grabbing him by his arm, he stops and looks at Jack. “I know....but...you can’t. You cant.”
Tony, knowing that Jack is right, falls back down to his knees as he fights back tears.
“YOU DEMAND NOTHING!! YOU DESERVE NOTHING!! YOU DESERVE ONLY WHAT I SEE FIT TO GIVE TO YOU! “
It’s quickness and strength surprised Ed, why he doesn’t know, he knows what it is capable of and the destruction it can rain down on the heads of others so when it grabbed him, he should have been ready, should have been prepared but he wasn’t, it knocked the breath out of him his head threatened to snap from his neck. He instinctively grabbed a hold of it’s wrists, their noses touching, his feet off of the ground.
“I......” Ed takes a deep breath. “DEMAND!”
The ‘thing’ shakes him like a rag doll. “Mortal why do you persist!”
“Steve! Steve! I know you can hear me!”
“He isn’t here! Not anymore! How strong is your desire? How strong mortal! Will you still want to make your trade after you have seen? Will you!”
The wind carries their voices out to Jack, Tony, Neal and Jon and not knowing what to say they say nothing, each of them lost in their own hell as they watch Ed go through his.
“Why endure this? Let me end it now. Let it be the way it was meant to be. Let him go mortal. Let him come with me. I offer you this one last chance!”
“No! I want this! Take me in his place!” Ed says.
“Endure this and I’ll shall give you what you ask.”
They look at one another for half-a-second then the ‘thing’ closes it eyes and leans it’s head back, the wind picks up, moving the trees in a dance, the leaves singing, Neal and Jon covering their heads and eyes huddling together. Jack and Tony hidden by the rocks had better cover as they watched the effects of the wind on the landscape, the wind running it’s fingers through the grass and anything that isn’t anchored down is seized by the wind but the only two that aren’t affected by the wind are Ed and the ’thing.”
They were encased in a cocoon, a bubble, and the ‘thing’ was still clutching Ed and they watched in horror as a seam begins to split open at the top of it’s head and like a snake shedding it’s skin, the ‘Steve’ facade that it had been wearing fell away, it sloughs off like so much old skin. Free from it’s old skin it grows taller and broader, it’s shoulders widen, the hands holding Ed transform into claws, it’s feet into talons.
When the ‘thing’ leans it’s head back Ed knew, he knew that he was about to witness something that only a few before him had witnessed, it’s true self, how it looked in it’s world and Ed didn’t feel anyway privileged by this. Before transforming it created a protective shield, a bubble and in this bubble it was silent, Ed could see the wind, beating the trees down into submission, gathering the leaves into a whirlwind. In the silence he could hear it, the sound of a seam ripping open, then he saw the seam rip down the middle part of ‘Steve’s’ hair, Ed choked back a scream as he felt his heart begin to race, feeling sick to his stomach as the seam grew wider and the two halves fell away from each other. He heard the ‘thing’ breathing deeply as he watched it grow taller, it’s shoulders widening. He heard the bones pop and crack, the muscles and sinew groan as they took their rightful shape and form. He saw and felt the hands become claws, the claws piercing the material of his jacket, glancing down he saw the feet change.
The wind whips and swirls around them and before Neal knew what had happened Jon had gotten to his knees and then he was trying to get to his feet, to do what Neal didn’t know, common sense would dictate to run away but Jon was running towards them, when Neal finally realized what Jon was doing it was almost too late, he grabbed a hold of Jon’s leg and literally crawled up his back like a ladder, wrestling him to the ground.
“Let me go!”
“No! Jon! Jon, you can’t save him! Steve....Steve is gone! He’s gone!”
With the wind whipping around them, they look at one another with the same sad look on their faces, the look of defeat, then Jon drops his head to his arm, the wind drying his tears.
Behind the rock Jack and Tony were facing the same dilemma, both of them wrestling with their consciences, arguing back and forth, Tony the loudest. He had known Ed longer, years, of course they weren’t as close as they were in their college days, truth be known Ed was the reason he became a cop. After college, Tony knocked around a few years, no direction to speak of until the summer he visited Ed and from then on his future was set. Everything and anything he had ever accomplished and achieved in his police career was due to Ed and Tony owed him a lot, it was the least he could do.
As Ed hung there by it’s claws he prayed to god that it’s change was complete, by now it’s skin was closer to scales, taking on the texture of stone, it’s head fashioned into the shape of a gargoyle’s but the metamorphosis wasn’t complete, it was still missing one thing. Ed heard it before he saw anything, he heard that popping and cracking sound, the sound of sinews and muscles being knitted together, then he saw them just peeking over the shoulders, wings. They had formed in between it’s shoulder blades, raising higher and higher, taking on the appearance of a canopy. Ed watched as it flapped them once, then twice as if to test them then they settled back and nestled between it’s shoulder blades.
Jon still rested his head on his arm when he heard Neal inhale sharply and exclaim. “Oh sweet Jesus!”
Jon raises his head, “What!?”
The look on Neal’s face was enough, his eyes wide, his hand over his mouth then Jon looked to where Neal was looking.
“Dear God in heaven!”
They heard Jack scream Tony’s name and inside the bubble they could see Ed shaking his head and mouthing the word ‘no.’ The ‘thing’ let go of Ed long enough to change his position and now he held Ed from behind, it’s arm around Ed’s waist as he turned his gargoyle like head in Tony’s direction, it’s eyes burning red and pointed it’s hand at him. Tony then stopped suddenly, the gun falling from his hand, both hands clutching his head as he slowly sinks to his knees then he let’s out a sharp cry of pain and he falls face down into the grass.
When Jack realized that Tony had ran out into the clearing it was too late to stop him and Tony didn’t want to be stopped, Tony wanted to save Ed and that was the only thing on his mind. In mid-stride Tony pulled his gun from it’s holster and that was when the ‘thing’ raised it’s hand, it’s eyes burning red like it was charging it’s battery then Tony stopped suddenly, his muscles seizing up and the gun falling from his hand. A searing pain, like someone had jabbed a hot poker in his skull causes him to clutch his head in agony and he feels himself slowly sinking to his knees, he cries out afraid his head will split open, he feels his brain dying then he hears a ‘pop’ and now he feels nothing as he falls facedown into the grass.
Neal and Jon are horrified, frozen with fear as they cling to each other. This is like some late night, black and white horror movie Neal thinks and Jon thinks he is having a nightmare, this cant be real, this cant be real, Jon repeats to himself.
Ed saw Tony, he saw Tony run out into the clearing, level headed Tony who always thought every action out, Tony who never put the cart before the horse, the first time that Tony had a truly impetuous moment and it killed him and he had done it to save him, add another life notched onto this hideous ‘thing’s’ belt. This ‘thing’ now held him tight to itself, almost like a lover would, his back up against his chest, it’s arms around him. His heart is pounding, his blood pressure is soaring, he feels light headed and dizzy as the ‘thing’ moves it hand up and cover Ed’s eyes then he feels it’s hot breath as it leans in closer to his ear and Ed winces and tries to pull away from the stench.
“It is not too late Ed to turn back.”
Ed swallows and he takes a deep breath as he shakes his head back and forth.
“Then you shall see it, see it all.”
The ‘thing’ closes it eyes and Ed stiffens as the ‘thing’ builds a connection between them and Ed begins to see the images stored in it’s memory, it starts like a trickle, a sporadic display of sights and sounds then the images came faster like a movie and Ed now sees it’s homeland, a land devoid of anything green and living, trees of skeletons whose bony fingers reach up to touch an ashen sky, their daylight much like our twilight, no brightness or color anywhere. The air smells of dust, heavy, leaded, electrically charged which no human could breath, the wind brings the sounds of voices, voices crying out for release from their one hundred years of servitude, here this ‘thing’ is a servant to another but in it’s world the servant becomes the master. Every host that is taken becomes the slave for the ‘things’ hundred years rest, the slaves soul forever branded to it’s owner and when the hundred years is over, the slave is discarded as so much useless trash. The roads are paved with souls of the ones who have finished their tenure instead of concrete.
Some are there for it’s pleasure and Ed sees that as well, the kind of torture they consider pleasure, the things they do to amuse themselves, their insane rituals, their fascination with the human flesh. Now the visions go from the mundane to the horror filled, the hell he will have to face, endure, the skin flayed from his body, he feels the pain and the humiliation of having to do this ‘things’ bidding, whatever it asks. His eyes sting, fighting back tears then he winces, he feels the ‘thing’s’ hot breath on him again.
“Your friend will make the perfect companion in my world! Oh yes, he will be highly sought after for his voice and his flesh and that hair. There is much we can do with it after we remove his scalp and yours as well.”
The ‘thing’ says as it runs it’s hand over Ed’s head as Ed whimpers.
“No! No! Steve! Steve! I know you can hear me! I wont let this bastard have you! Take me in his place!” Ed cries out and then things begin to happen all at once.
The ‘thing’ pulled Ed even closer to itself and it’s wings that were resting flat against it’s back were now open and they wrapped themselves around Ed, covering him like a blanket, now Ed truly felt like he was suffocating.
The moon, when this begun was bright, hanging high in a cloudless night sky but now as the wind begins to build even more the clouds move in and slowly obscure the moon leaving the landscape dark. The ground begins to rumble under their feet and Ed feels it, he feels himself dying, the very marrow being leeched from his bones, his heart pounding in his chest, each breath harder to take than the last. He can hear the bones in his spine crack, he bites his tongue to keep from screaming out, his eyes tearing from the effort, and he begins to whimper.
“WHAT WILL IT BE MORTAL! DEAD OR ALIVE! DEAD OR ALIVE! DEAD....OR....ALIVE!”
From inside a fog he hears the ‘thing’ speak to him, his eyes half-closed, his response only a whisper. The ‘thing’ squeezes him tighter, tighter.
Ed manages to take the deepest breath he can, his lungs protesting as he says loudly,
“I....I....want him....to” then he screams “ALIVE!! SWEET JESUS, I WANT HIM AAALIVE!”
Suddenly there was a bright flash, causing Neal, Jon and Jack to cover their eyes from the onslaught, the ground shook the pit beneath their feet then a minute crack formed then it split open wider and wider with each tremor. The ‘thing’ uses the energy around it to create what it needs and in this case it tapped into the power line, the transformer begin to buzz, louder and louder, sounding like a swarm of angry bees then it begin to pop, sparks flying in all directions.
“Jon! Jon! Come on! We have to go!” The wind is now at it highest and Jon is right next to Neal and he can barely hear him.
“Jack!! Jack!! ”
Neal yells and waves his arms but it is in vain, the wind taking his words and throwing them back at him and Jack doesn’t notice, he is preoccupied, preoccupied with Tony. On his knees by him mourning the lost of a friend and partner. The ground rumbles again, knocking Jon and Neal into each other as the ground beneath the feet of Ed and the ‘thing’ become a canyon, the transformer overloaded from the power surge explodes sending shards of metal into the wind and the wind taking them and making deadly weapons out of them. Neal and Jon seek safety behind a tree and Neal covers his eyes with his arm as he watches the ‘thing’ and Ed slowly descend into the earth as great plumes of dark smoke herald their arrival.
Jon saw the transformer blow and when it did he also saw the power line separate with a loud “pop” and “crack” sparks flying. Jon yells at Neal but Neal doesn’t hear him, the power line arcs and jerks as it falls to the ground and Jon knows that they are dead if they continue to stand there.
Jon grabs Neal and they turn to run, covering their heads from the flying sparks, Jon looks behind him to see where the power line is and Jon doesn’t know how fast electricity travels once it hits the ground but he is sure that it is faster than they can run. They run for Jack’s and Tony’s car that is parked at the concession stand, the rubber on the tires being the best insulator, the car was insight, they were almost there when another burst of energy surged through the light that was hanging on the pole next to the concession stand causing it to explode. The roof of the small metal building shot up into the air and it was reduced to rubble in a matter of seconds, Jon was heading for the car and he was almost to it when he was jerked violently to the side by Neal and pulled away from the car just a second before the burning roof from the concession stand plummeted back down to the roof of the car, immediately flattening all four tires, rendering it useless.
The power line, now alive, sparks as it makes contact with the ground and Jack is too late, too late to move, too late to even stand. The electricity coursing through the ground kills him outright, where he sits, dying next to his partner, partners as they were in life they shall be in death.
“Run! Run! Run! Jon! Run!”
Ed’s car was close and as they run they hear a whine that turns into a howl and then into a ear piercing scream that even the wind can’t take away, Neal runs and jumps on the hood, Jon does the same, sliding across the lid of the trunk having to stop his progress by reaching out and grabbing the spoiler on the trunk and Jon cries out in pain.
The power line, drops finally, the current flowing into the ground, arcing, spitting and the smoke from the pit billows upward, the hole in the earth glowing red as Ed and the ‘thing’ disappear down into the earth, but they can still hear Ed screaming one word over and over.
“ALIVE! ALIVE! ALIVE! A........L.............I.............V..............E!”
The ground gives one last violent shake, almost knocking Neal and Jon from the car, then the hole closes up upon itself, making a solid ‘thud’ noise as the two sides come together, not even leaving a scar in the earth. The power line, now having all the energy spent from it dies, lies lifeless in the grass, the wind dies as well, the clouds move away from the moon allowing it to cast it once again bright light down onto the clearing.
Breathing hard both Neal and Jon rest upon the car, tired, too much physical, emotional and mental overload, Neal rests his back against the windshield, his eyes closed. Jon also sits with his back against the rear windshield, his feet bracing himself against the spoiler, his left hand numb.
“Jon.” Neal says.
“Yeah.” Jon says.
“You alright?” Neal asks.
“Yeah, you?” Jon replies.
“Yeah.” Neal answers.
Neal slowly opens his eyes and what he sees is a war zone. The car and concession stand both destroyed, Tony and Jack dead, Ed and the ‘thing’ gone and Steve with them.
“It’s over?” Jon says.
“I think so.” Neal answers.
Jon looks around, the smoke from the pit still hanging heavy in the air like a dense damp fog, covering the clearing. The smoke from the car and the concession stand debris, which is still burning but not with the same intensity since the wind died down mingles with the other smoke, as it dances silver in the moonlight. Jon can hear Neal breathing in the stillness, Jon coughs and he rubs his eyes the acrid smoke making them tear.
So that is why he disregarded it, ignored it, it was simply a trick, a trick of the moonlight, the smoke. He was only seeing what he wanted to, his mind not wanting to acknowledge what his heart already knew but by the second glance, the smoke had dissipated enough that he could actually see what was lying in the grass only a few feet away.
“Neal!” Jon yelled as he jumped off of the car slipping in the gravel as he ran.
“Jon! Jon! What are you doing! Jon!”
Jon runs up the small rise in the land and he trips and falls to his knees next to the body with Neal close behind him. Jon was afraid, afraid to touch him, he looked broken, damaged, like he had been dropped from a great height.
Jon reached out slowly with his hand and gingerly put it on his shoulder and rolled him over onto his back. Jon looked at his face expecting to see what exactly, he wasn’t sure, as far as he can tell he seemed to be unmarked. By the moonlight he can see dirt on his face, his once long hair now singed off in many places. His clothes, grimy, burned around the edges as if he had been expelled by some great furnace. Jon lifts his head and carefully places it in his lap then he takes one of his hands and holds it in his, Neal has been standing, watching, not sure what to do or what to say but now he drops to his knees.
Jon doesn’t speak, he doesn’t think he can, his eyes closed, his head bowed, Jon bites his lip and he inhales sharply then a tear escapes the corner of his eye and runs down his cheek. Without even looking up Jon says,
“No! He can’t be! What about what Ed did for him! The trade!!”
They heard the beginning of sirens in the distance.
“Jon we have to go, the sirens, the police will be here soon. They will think that we did this.”
“Jon we have to go!”
Neal puts his hand on Jon’s shoulder and Jon looks at him.
“I....we cant leave him here! We have promises to keep!” Jon pleads.
The sirens once distance now seem to be gaining, the sirens grow louder signaling their immediate approach. Neal looking at Jon knows that he is right, in his death they could do what they couldn’t do in his life, protect him.
In the moonlight and accompanied by a chorus of sirens they carry Steve’s lifeless body to the car, then they drive, leave, put as much distance between themselves and this place as they can, resign it to a memory.......an happening......an circumstance.......a bad ending to a even worse movie....resign it to a place where.......the end is just the beginning.
(C)Copyright 2004-2009 by Perry-Tales and LAB. All rights reserved. No reprints or reproductions without author’s permission. Steve Perry and the members or management of the band Journey are just used as characters for the purpose of story-telling. This is a total work of fiction and if anybody believes otherwise, then they need more help than I do. Any resemblance to anyone living or dead in this story is just a coincidence and not intentional. Steve Perry and the members of Journey have had no input, or knowledge of this story, and have they have not given me permission to write this story. Again it is an original work of fiction.