Suggested Audio Candy
 Gizmo “We Made God”
 Sound Critters “Dead Ahead”
 Sunna “Power Struggle”
 Relentless Pursuit “Toxic Implosion”
Trent Jackson was moving up in the world. He had always been of modest origins but the last twelve months had seen him catapulted to the brink of fame as his death metal band Head Case Apocalyptica had enjoyed their first taste of commercial prosperity with the release of their second album Reign. It had snuck inside the Billboard Top 100, quite an achievement for a piece of work which was anything but mainstream. Its overnight boom was unprecedented, from being the guy that folk walk past in the street without so much as blinking, Trent had become something of a celebrity. He performed lead vocals in the band and therefore enjoyed the adulation which came with the territory of being front man while his band members remained largely anonymous. They were more than happy for him to enjoy top billing as, when they started out in Trent’s garage three years ago, they all pledged not to fall foul of the rock and roll lifestyle. Trent was in on that particular tryst but that was before every groupie in the state wanted to jump his bones.
In the past month alone he had had sex with fourteen different women, all of which were considerably his junior and he was just getting started. Tomorrow night was the prestigious Metal Gods awards in Seattle and his four-piece were fully expected to scoop top honors.
“All we’ve got to do is turn up, you know that right?” he boasted to his lead guitarist Phil, as the pair took a break from recording their next single Retaliate.
“You’re a modest motherfucker Trent. I will never know how it is that you manage to practice such humility you know” Phil replied sardonically.
“Fuck modesty man. We are on the cusp of greatness here. All that hard work looks like it has finally paid off and it’s no less than we deserve.”
Both men knew full well that grafting wasn’t something in Trent’s repertoire. He was regularly tardy and often skipped band practice in favor of more nocturnal pursuits, leaving his long-suffering band mates waiting around while he played catch me if you can with all manner of STDs.
“What happened to you brother? You used to be as cool as shit but you let a little taste of success go straight to your head and now I hardly even recognize you” said Phil.
“What are you talking about? Twelve months ago we were nothing, zip, zilch, nada. Now we’ve got our own tour bus and, after tomorrow’s ceremony, we’ll have every record label in the country clamoring to sign our asses up. You need a little perspective my friend.”
“I need perspective! That’s grand coming from the man who has become blinkered by fame. You’re a real one-off Trent, I’ll give you that.”
Trent took this as a compliment “Thanks man. I couldn’t have done it without you guys.”
“You’re damn right you couldn’t” Phil added, deciding that his words were falling on deaf ears and packing up his guitar.
As he left, Trent sat for a moment and soaked it in “the best band award goes to Head Case Apocalyptica and, in particular, Trent Jackson for his pitch perfect vocals” He was nothing if not painfully deluded.
“Same time tomorrow losers” he joked as he left the other guys to pack up the equipment and lock down the studio.
“Whatever” they replied in unison, although Trent had exited before their collective rejoinder even left their lips.
He decided to celebrate a hard day in the office by paying a visit to the nearby bar and grabbing himself a little tonic. He’d been drinking at Coulson’s since he first turned twenty-one and the owner Mike knew his father Gil before his dreadful accident. Gil had died in a twelve car pile-up on the state freeway but, the night before he passed, he had asked Mike to always look after Trent. He’d tried his level best but the last few months he had become largely unrecognizable and never listened to a blind thing his unofficial guardian ever said so Mike had all but given up trying.
“I’m here bozos. No need for applause, okay just a little” Trent quipped, taking his seat at the bar and gesturing to Mike’s daughter Teri that he was ready for his usual Vodka on the rocks. She rolled her eyes and poured him his poison although, had it not been for the fact that her father ordered her to go easy on him, Teri would have told him a long while ago what she really thought of him. Ignorance was bliss, in Trent’s mind, she was just playing hard to get and he had no place for a challenge, despite her cute derriere.
“On your tab right?” she asked.
“Yeah baby doll. You know the routine” he replied, grabbing his tumbler and making his way to the nearest table to daydream about tomorrow night’s pre-destined award sweep.
“Don’t call me baby doll” she muttered under her breath, biting her lip as she invariably did each time he opened his mouth.
Just as he was preparing to finish up his drink, a somewhat disheveled lady shuffled over and took the seat opposite.
“Can I help you love? he asked.
“Yes. I was hoping you could” the mysterious stranger replied.
“Shoot. But make it snappy, I’ve got places to be, people to do.”
“My son is a big fan. He has your record and listens to it pretty much non-stop” she informed him.
“Which one, Uprising or Reign?”
“I’m not sure which. It’s not my cup of tea you see. It all seems so decadent, I prefer my music with a touch more class”she responded.
“Oh you do, do you? Tell you what, why don’t you just go ahead and say that to my face” Trent was dumbfounded by her comments and ready to tell the old hag where to go but not before he finished up his drink.
“Anyway. It would make his day if I could get your autograph for him. He’s been ill you see and the doctors can’t seem to work out what’s wrong with him” she continued.
“Look lady, I’ma make this real plain for you. If you wanted an autograph, you haven’t gone about it the best way. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to finish my drink in peace here. I’m not signing anything today okay.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, bowled over by his lack of sympathy for her son’s plight.
Trent chuckled to himself “What do I mean? I mean fuck off lady. Go and get under some other guy’s skin. You’ve had your chance and guess what? You blew it”
“You mean you’re not going to sign this” She held out a tattered serviette pleadingly.
“What am I speaking dutch here? NO I’m not going to sign that. Listen you old battle-axe, there’s a way to approach people and that wasn’t it. I hope your boy gets better, really I do. But if he wants his autograph maybe he should come ask me himself” he barked “Now please. Take that bony ass out of my sight and go and annoy someone else.”
Suddenly her face changed completely “You’re a nasty evil little man. I hope you learn the hard way.”
“Can someone get this walking corpse out of my face please?” he called, at which point, she reached into her pocket and produced a handful of dust, blowing it directly into his face.
“You fucking bitch!” he screamed at the top of his lungs, temporarily blinded by the grains. Rubbing his eyes frantically, he could just about make out her rear view as she vacated the building, surrounded by stunned onlookers.
“Did anybody see that? Stop her. What the fuck did she blow in my face? That’s assault. Stop that bitch” he hollered but all the other patrons were more than aware of Trent and his bloated ego and not a single one of them were willing to throw him a bone.
Teri strolled over, decidedly nonchalantly, and offered him a hand towel to wipe his face. He snatched it from her grasp, furious that she hadn’t spoken up or tried to restrain the woman “You okay?” she asked, with little conviction.
“Thanks for nothing” he bleated, before downing the remainder of his drink and stumbling away furious “When I’m a global superstar I’ll remember this stank hole. That’s the last time I’m giving you my business.” He slammed the door on his way out and everyone returned to their drinks, thankful that they’d finally ridden themselves of such an egotistical prick.
It was almost unheard of for Trent to sleep with the same woman twice but he had decided to give Candy the benefit of the doubt mainly on account of her being double-jointed. Candy was barely eighteen and a huge fan of Head Case Apocalyptica, or more accurately, Trent Jackson. As a devoted fan, Trent knew he could exploit her affection for all that it was worth and coerce her into acts that regular dates wouldn’t dream of. He only had her word to take for her being eighteen and took it willingly as it seemed like the rock and roll thing to do.
“That was amazing. YOU were amazing” she said adoringly.
“Yeah I was wasn’t I” he replied, leaning across her to grab his box of Marlboro and light one in celebration of the best sex this sweet young thing was ever likely to have.
“Can I ask you a personal question?” she requested timidly.
“That depends” he responded, amidst an intake of smoke.
“On what?” she asked.
“On whether or not I want to hear it. You’re on the pill right?”
“Well go ahead then. Ask away sweet cheeks”
“Do you think this could become a regular thing? I mean, in any interviews you have given, and I’ve read them all by the way, you say that you only sleep with girl once. Is there something between us? It’s just, my feelings are getting pretty strong. I think I…”
Trent interrupted her flow by pressing his finger against her lips “Love me. I know. Get it all the time. Look, you’re great. We had a lot of fun and who’s to say that it won’t happen again”
Candy was only too aware that there was a but coming. “But in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a pretty fucking big deal. The biggest. If I tie myself down to one chick then I’m compromising my vision you understand.”
“Of course…totally” she hurriedly replied, not wishing to rock the apple cart any further.
“Listen, tell you what. I’m back in town in seven weeks, flying to Orlando at the weekend for some lame-ass festival, so I’ll be out-of-town. Why don’t you give me a call then and we’ll see what happens”
“But I don’t have your number” she informed him.
“Then I’ll call you. Tell you what, why don’t you grab me another cold one from the fridge and jot it down on my white board on your way back. Actually, better make it two beers”
Candy did exactly as he requested and Trent laid back watching her rosy ass jiggle as she bounded from beneath the bed sheets and made her way out to grant his wish.
“Damn I may just call you, y’know” he mumbled to himself, content with himself for another sterling display of sexual prowess and considering cramming in another session before kicking this bimbo out. As he had just blown his bundle once and was starting to feel the beginning of a migraine, the suggestion was fleeting and he decided better of it.
Outside in the kitchen, Candy had retrieved the lager and was excitedly scribbling her digits across the board. “C.A.N.D.I.” She spelled it that way often in an attempt at being edgy and signed off with a love heart which sat atop the I. After checking that the numbers were legible, she placed the marker back down and scampered back to her man like the obedient little kitten she was.
“You got them from the back right? Where they’re coldest” he checked.
“No I’m sorry. I just grabbed what I saw…would you like me to go get some more?” she asked.
“Nah. You’re here now. Throw ’em over”
She did as he asked and he started the first right away, very nearly emptying it in one fell swoop. This encouraged a customary belch but, considering she hung from his every word, he figured there was no requirement for niceties. Candy went to snuggle back beneath the sheets but Trent held his hand out as he finished his beer and crushed the can “Hold on there missy”
Candy was only too aware that she was in the altogether and was a little self-conscious at the best of times, but of course, was only too happy to oblige.
“Second thoughts. I’m pretty tired. Got a big night tomorrow as I’m gonna be crowned the king of metal. I think it’s best if you just grab your shit and wiggle that fine little ass out of here don’t you?”
“Yes. Yes you’re right, you’ll need your energy when you’re knocking them dead” She feigned glancing at her wristwatch even though she clearly wasn’t wearing it “I’m gonna go”
She collected her belongings and loitered for a moment hoping for some indication that he cared. After ten seconds, she realized that this wasn’t going to happen “Bye then”
As the front door closed and Candy skipped off to brag once again to her gay friend Mark , Trent grimaced “Goddamn it, could you slam that any harder? I’ve got a banging headache. Jesus”
He ambled out to the hallway and noticed her details scrawled on his white board. Grabbing the marker, he wiped the slate clean and scribbled Ibuprofen in its place, then returned to his boudoir to crack open his next beverage.
“And the award for best album goes to…” Alice Cooper was guest of honor at the 5th Official Metal Gods ceremony. He opened the diamante-strewn envelope and peeked inside “Head Case Apocalyptica for the awesome Reign”
This was a popular choice and the 5,000 strong audience were in rapture, none more so than Trent’s fellow band members who were bowled over by the accolade. Trent however, was not surprised in the least. If he was, then he certainly wasn’t showing it. As he made his way to the stage, leaving his affiliates to do any customary hand-shaking en route, he prepared his non-scripted speech and readied himself to address his rapidly growing fan base. Alice held out his hand to congratulate him on their win but Trent ignored the gesture and, instead, honed in on the silver trophy in his other hand.
His troupe had barely so much as taken the stage before he began his speech. “It’s about time” was his opening statement and the entire auditorium immediately fell silent.
“That’s right, you’re expecting me to kiss asses aren’t you? Not gonna happen” The rest of the band looked mortified as he carried on “When I wrote Reign it was a signal of intent. Two years ago nobody gave us the time of day and now everyone wants to suck Trent Jackson’s lollipop. Well I’m telling you now, I ain’t sharing. I’d like to dedicate this award to Metal Pedal Records whose lapse marketing made my job a thousand times harder. In particular, Chris Cordoza. I have a message for you Chris. You’re fired buddy. As of right now I am open to offers, Trent Jackson is rising to the fucking stars and ain’t got time for tagalongs.”
Suddenly he felt a searing shooting pain in both temples. It was so monumental that it almost threw him clean off-balance but he managed to steady himself on the podium and carry on “The next album will be the best motherfucking piece of genius y’all have ever seen” The twinge returned, only this time even more agonizingly. Despite his discomfort, Trent wasn’t about to cut short his big moment. He’d waited two years to say it as he saw it and in his mind there was no such thing as bad press “The future of death metal is here” A third dose made it impossible for him to continue and he began wandering off stage, leaving his horrified band mates to clean up his mess. “THE FUTURE OF DEATH METAL… IS HERE!” he cried, grimacing as he did and he left the building in considerable discomfort.
Once he had arrived home still wincing and threw his leather-studded jacket on the couch, Trent made his way straight to the kitchen and necked himself a handful of Ibuprofen, knocking them back with a swig of Smirnoff and staggering off to the shower. It was almost intolerable and he spent the entire time propped against the wall as the hot jets hosed his weary ass down.
“Ugh. Fuck!” he shouted, almost blacking out as he slid open the door and faltered in the direction of his sink. He fell to his knees in tears of anguish, never before had he felt anything like this quota of pain and he was besides himself as he dragged himself up to a standing position before the condensated mirror above the faucets. Sliding one palm across the screen, he was finally afforded a little clarity.
His head, ordinarily pretty vast anyway as he believed that amount of cerebellum needed somewhere spacious to hang out, had almost doubled in size. He baulked at his new-found abnormality “What the actual fuck man?”
It resembled a medicine ball and appeared only to be swelling as each second passed. Desperate, he began his pilgrimage to the boudoir to take the weight from his fast-buckling legs, clutching his over-blown dome in visible agony. By the time he made the bedroom doorway his knees, already shot from years of alcohol abuse, gave way entirely and he tumbled headlong to his mattress. His first thought, and the only one right now which wasn’t playing what the fuck on perpetual loop, was to call Phil and get him over fast. It was a good job he had him on speed dial as his brain felt fit to burst. After several rings, Phil picked up the other end.
“You really did a number on us tonight you know that?”
“Shut up a second and listen” Trent ordered “You have to come over here…NOW. I’m…I’m in something of a fix” That was putting it rather lightly.
“After the stunt you pulled I almost didn’t answer. What makes you think I’m gonna waste my boot leather coming over to help you out? You fucked us Trent, people hate us now. Everything we’ve worked so hard on you’ve managed to piss on from a great height in two minutes flat. Hope you’re proud.”
“Please listen to me. I’m not well” If Phil could have seen him now then he may have felt more like lending a hand as Trent’s head was now of equivocal size as a satellite dish.
“I ain’t your wet-nurse bitch. Sleep it off and don’t even thinking of calling back until you remember there’s no i in team” Phil hung up.
“You bastard. Everything you’ve got is because of ME.” Trent knew already had he no longer had a captive audience but felt better by getting things off his chest “You’re nothing, there’s a thousand guitarists who wield an ax better than you but not one fucking person alive who can do what I can.” Contrary to making him feel better, every venomous word he spat just made him recoil further.
Trent’s next port of call was his estranged brother Kurt who hadn’t spoken to him in over a year after a heated debate ended in fisticuffs. No answer. Typical “You know who your family are when you really need them. Shit, I don’t need any of you latchers-on. I can do this on my own and I intend to do just that.”
It still hadn’t dawned on him that he was his own worst enemy as he slouched on the sofa, tears streaming down his cheeks “I’m gonna be the greatest. Ain’t another man alive fit to lick the tip of my shit kickers”
His head was an impossible passenger now and it hit the carpet, overcome by the sudden growth spurt. Easily the size of a wagon wheel, its augmentation was taking considerable toll on his features. Blood replaced tears, flowing freely from both eyes as they took the brunt of his ever-swelling cranium and ultimately burst in their sockets. Although hysterical, and palms lined with optical fluids and other nasal emissions, he still remained belligerent “You know what you can do…you can all just kiss my face!”
At precisely the moment the words became unable to be taken back, his head underwent one final metamorphosis. It was now brushing against the chandelier and rapidly escalating as it began to approach the artex ceiling “Trent Jackson is GOD” he cried, epidermis snapping from his skull as its elasticity reached the point of no return. “Bow to me” he screamed and, with that his head exploded, the whole room erupting in a mass of brain matter and fragments of bone. As the residue began to settle his cordless phone began to chime. After twenty seconds or so the answering machine intercepted.
“You’ve reached the domain of Trent Jackson. Whatever you have to say, say it fast as I have this shit rigged to cut your ass off in thirty seconds”
“Mr Jackson. Trent. It’s Andre Shapiro from Sony. We love the album, big fans really. Wondered if you fancied hooking up? I have a proposal which I think your band may well dig. You guys rock hard! Others think you’re a loose cannon but I respect you for using your head”
The answering machine cut out at that point in his message.
Truly, Clearly, Really, Sincerely,
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2014