5,900 Words

For now, you can still watch Marty’s creation online. It begins with this disclaimer:

WARNING: IF YOU VOTED FOR GOVERNOR YVETTE POLSON, DO NOT WATCH THIS VIDEO. IT CONTAINS POWERFUL SUBLIMINAL TEXT AND IMAGES THAT WILL IMPLANT SUICIDAL TENDENCIES IN YOUR MIND.

Every time I read that message, I do indeed get Suicidal Tendencies stuck in my head, specifically lyrics from their classic “Institutionalized”:

Sometimes I try to do things
and it just doesn’t work out the way I wanted to.

About sums it up. I tried to be a songwriter and a singer, but I can’t do that anymore, unless the words, like pretty much all of them before “Thick,” are about myself. And that’s just impossible. I have statements to make, commentaries about the state of our culture and politics. I have an agenda.

The video is a masochistic salt to the wound. I hit replay, over and over again. After the disclaimer, there we are, Phalanx, under a blue-lit haze, grainy and somewhat out-of-focus, on stage at Tavern Belmondo. Me on vocals and lead guitar, shaggy-headed and unshaven; Marty on bass, his white T-shirt a mundane façade hiding monstrous flesh beneath; Kim on drums, sneered lip and arms bulging as she pounds away, her hair a murder of crows in flight; and our newest member Jone on rhythm guitar, tall and elegant like a European model. She played this one and only gig with us.

There’s roughly forty seconds of us playing before the amateur videographer begins filming the incident at the bar.

It’s that forty seconds I re-watch. I don’t care to see the rest again.

The sound is terrible, a wall of discord, void of distinction save my vocals, which somehow came out audible. Visually speaking, we’re four blobs pulsing in relative unison.

Even still, it’s clear we were great. Better than great.

Had things worked out, this performance, this song, would have catapulted the band into a bigger, better sphere. But as it stands, Marty’s in jail, Kim and Jone want nothing to do with me, and I’ve been vocally castrated.

One little song. One lyrical suggestion. And now, here we are…

I don’t leave the house much anymore. Reporters still hound me as more bizarre facts about Marty surface — that his father abused him, that he was a member of the Socialist Party (such as it is), that he had bomb-making manuals downloaded to his computer. I don’t know how much of it I believe, but at the same time, what do I really know? About Marty, about the world? About myself? It’s like electricity doesn’t exist and the sun’s been blotted out from the sky. All is black and confusing.

This darkness is the only thing that makes sense anymore, and unless I strike upon a plan to turn things around, it is within this darkness I will remain.

§

It all started with “Thick,” the anti-player-dude, anti-misogyny anthem that brought Phalanx some long-sought recognition. The chorus, screamed over Marty’s nasty detuned bass and Kim’s pocket beat, went like this:


You wanna fuck me
Yeah you wanna fuck me
I know you wanna fuck me
No you don’t? Then leave me alone.
‘Cause I don’t wanna be friends
I don’t wanna be friends
I just wanna fuck you
Fuck you and leave you alone

“Thick” was penned from the POV of a sexually-entitled shithead. It was meant to be satirical and pro-feminist. This fact was obvious to everyone but sexually entitled shitheads, who thought it was a rallying cry, but also to more than a handful of women who displayed a paradoxical reaction to the song, a phenomenon we witnessed after the very first performance.

We debuted the song at Harbor Bar (HarBar for short), a claustrophobic dive with walls painted yellow from years of cigarette smoke. Phalanx was still a three-piece then, but we were a full orchestra on “Thick,” exhaling the song like trees giving oxygen to the packed house.

Afterwards, there were cold beers waiting for us at our usual booth. Marty, Kim and I plopped down, sweaty and exhausted. As we gulped our beers and discussed the show, this girl with white blonde hair and black-and-white striped tights approached the table. She stared at me with a hunger that seemed to erase Marty and Kim from existence.

“Uh … Hi,” I said.

“Hello,” said the girl. “Can I sit with you?”

“Um … Well, we’re just trying to relax for a minute, you know … but maybe I could meet you at the bar in a bit.”

“I don’t want to be friends.”

“What?”

“I just wanna fuck you.”

My “Thick” lyrics. I thought at first she was throwing them back at me, as though she misunderstood the words or didn’t pick up on the irony. But she wasn’t angry. There was total seriousness in her eyes. Total lust.

I glanced at my bandmates. Their eyebrows were cocked to the ceiling.

“Um … No thanks,” I said.

I’ve never seen a face drop like that. It was the epitome of dejection.

“I’m sorry,” she muttered, and hurried away, the skin of her pale cheeks turning a deep plumb.

I felt bad about that, embarrassing her, but I didn’t chase after her either. I was never in the music game for the groupies, like all those 80s hair metal dumb-asses, getting drunk and stoned, banging women left and right. That’s not my scene, and embarrassed or no, that girl was a part of it. So I just chalked it up to too much alcohol on her part, and mostly forgot the incident.

That is, until “Thick” started picking up on YouTube and the college radio station, and we began moving up the local club ladder — from HarBar, to Pony’s, to Craft Lounge and beyond. But the more we played, the more the women poured out of the woodwork, throwing themselves at me, making no secret their intentions, many quoting my lyrics, just like the blonde girl in the striped tights: “I don’t want to be friends, Luke, I just wanna fuck you.”

Then there was Sylv. She was a friend of Kim’s, this skinny, shy girl who wore her paint-splattered oversized jeans everywhere she went. It’d always been clear she had a crush on me, but she was too timid to ever do anything about it. But then she hears “Thick” at our Vast Expanse gig, and suddenly Sylv is sidling up next to me in our booth, laying her head on my shoulder, and telling me how much she wants to experience me in bed, insisting that we don’t have to talk again afterwards, that we can go back to being friendly strangers, so long as we can have one night of perfect sexual bliss.

We were all disturbed by Sylv’s behavior. She wasn’t drunk, because she didn’t drink. She wasn’t stoned, because she only smoked pot on Sundays. She was just … different.

I politely declined her advances, and we didn’t see her at a show again.

“It’s gotta be the exposure,” I reasoned later that night, in the living room of the one story bungalow we shared, summertime cicadas serenading us through the mesh screen door. Kim agreed, insisting this kind of thing would happen more often, the bigger we got. Marty expanded upon this theory, stating that the natural sexual energy exuded by any band was coupling with the visceral nature of “Thick” and creating this kind of suggestive mental trickery.

Made sense. Still, it got to the point I wouldn’t socialize after shows. I even considered axing “Thick” from our set list, but I knew that was impossible. For better or worse, it was our H-I-T at the moment, and we had to keep riding its momentum.

Like it or not, this was the path I’d chosen.

§

I think the perceived confusion surrounding the “Thick” lyrics partially guided the bluntness of my next song, “Silver Screen.” It was about our conservative governor Yvette Polson, a former actress who appeared in a few B-movies before transforming herself into a tax-dollar-wasting, arts-defunding, bigoted gas-industry slave. Polson had recently been reelected for a second term, and I was feeling particularly angry about that. I didn’t understand how anyone could cast a vote for this woman, who had reversed numerous advances we’d made in this state, including putting an indefinite halt on our public transportation initiative. Not to mention her countless anti-gay statements and actions, including vetoing state legislation that would have implemented stricter anti-discriminatory measures and ensured job safety for gays and lesbians in the workplace.

In my frustration, I wrote these words (utilizing a bit of double entendre, given that we still used a chad-punch ballot system):

You pricked her box
And now you’re infected
By the oil-blooded cunt
That you selected.
Fooled by the glamour and sheen
Of the sad old Silver Screen Queen

You pricked her box
Might as well have shot
Yrself in yr dumb-fuck head
So DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT
Shoot yrself in the head!
DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT
Shoot yrself in the fucking head

“I don’t know, man,” Marty said after I read my bandmates the words.

Kim agreed. “This might be going too far.”

I was persistent though. This was punk rock, which was offensive by virtue. I’d grown so tired of these pop punk acts whining about their hard lives in the suburbs. Where were songs like “God Save the Queen,” “Washington Bullets,” “Holiday in Cambodia” and “This Ain’t No Picnic”? I wanted to shake people up. If the song made them uncomfortable, then I’d done my job.

“Yeah,” Marty said, “but what about the suicide thing? I mean…it just seems a bit much.”

It’s a metaphor, I said. By voting for Polson, the royal WE were basically killing ourselves anyway. This woman wasn’t our friend or a public servant. She was an opportunist committed to personal advancement, and she would only make the lives of her constituency worse. So from my perspective, there wasn’t a difference between electing Polson and blowing your brains out. The acts were one and the same.

Eventually, Marty and Kim came around. I think the prospect of creating some truly visceral, gut-rumbling music was too appealing for them.

Down in our basement/recording studio, Marty plugged into his Big Muff fuzz pedal and crunched out a hook. Kim was all bass pedal and toms, with some ominous stick scrapes along the rim of her snare and skin-crawling cracks to the splash cymbal. I used a cheapy no-name electric guitar prepared with bottle caps, nails, and the ring clamps from some clothespins. The guitar’s dials and my amp cranked, I made these feedback-drenched skronking, demon-shriek sounds by tapping and plucking all that junk twined into the strings along the neck and around the pickups.

We bonked around, improvising and shaping what would become the verse/chorus/verse structure — jamming off it, just playing around and having fun in this gnarly noise landscape.

We were alive. I was alive.

When we had the song’s structure down, I switched to my Fender Jazzmaster and played a more traditional fuzzy rhythm to give the song some extra crunch. After one practice run-through, we laid down the basic track in one take. Then I dubbed over my vocals and jangly lead guitar parts myself, late at night after Marty and Kim had gone to bed. Mixed it on my laptop, played around with the left/right channels on the prepared guitar bit, added a touch of reverb to my vocals, and presented it to my bandmates the next day.

Sitting on the worn-down basement couch, their toes tapped. They bobbed their heads to the beat, especially during the DO IT DO IT chorus, like they couldn’t help it, the hook was so captivating, the words sung with such conviction, you had to say, “Yeah …Yeah … DO IT.”

The song was sonically similar to our previous work, and yet it crackled with progress and maturation — more post punk than punk, a blend of groove and grit. Even my voice was different. I didn’t sound like some snotty twenty-five-year-old, but rather a wise old sage, looking out onto the world and recording his less-than-enthusiastic observations. There was a huskiness to those vocals, a weathered quality.

We all agreed it was the best thing we’d created so far. Hands down.

§

Phalanx got invited to play Tavern Belmondo — basically the CBGB’s of our city, the top of the alternative venue food chain. The Tarts were scheduled to play in two days, but they’d abruptly called it quits that afternoon, and club owner Greg Mann needed a replacement. He heard “Thick” and immediately shot us an email. We’d be opening for Brat Pact, a popular but tiresome sugar rock act. It felt like a weird pairing, and maybe a bit disingenuous on our part, but you just didn’t turn down an opportunity like that.

We planned to debut “Silver Screen” at the gig, but in order to recreate the song live, we’d need another guitarist. Kim persuaded her girlfriend Jone — a violinist with the Philharmonic who could learn any instrument—to come on board and play rhythm guitar, leaving me with lead duties. Within two hours of rehearsals, she had our set list down, including “Silver Screen.” “Dude, they’re all like three chords,” Jone said, “it wasn’t hard.” We all laughed at this, and Kim planted a kiss on her cheek.

That night, we celebrated Jone’s seamless entry into the band with a joint and a round of “Dubbed Movie Theater,” whereby we muted the TV and improvised ridiculous dialogue for a serious movie. We chose Taxi Driver. Marty pretty much played Travis Bickle all night, doing a quasi-Mickey Mouse impression, while Kim used a husky biker dude voice for Betsy and a Valley Girl voice for Iris. I provided dialogue for pretty much everyone else in the movie, while Jone did sound effects and score. All throughout, we laughed so hard our faces hurt, but during the scene where Martin Scorsese plays Bickle’s passenger — during which I griped in a Droopy voice about the price of pastrami while Jone made well-timed fart noises with the palm of her hand — we actually had to pause the movie for a good ten minutes so we could catch our breath.

Joking and laughing in perfect sync with each other, it was just like being in the band, that tightness of intuition and complementary styles. We were stitched together, an autonomous and yet connected entity. And I was certain the thread binding us together would never fray, never break. In my head, we could only grow closer and more tight-knit.

We’d all be dead to each other in a week’s time.

§

The next day, I stumbled into the living room and found Marty sitting on the couch, working on his laptop. He wore the same clothes as the day before, and his bloodshot eyes and slackened face screamed sleep deprivation.

Without looking up at me, Marty said, “I want to show you this.”

I sat down next to him on the couch. He’d put together a video collage to be played during our show, mostly a hodgepodge of old film clips — no real meaning, Marty admitted, it just looked cool. But then, to coincide with the reveal of “Silver Screen,” the collage changed. There was footage of Polson in her crummy B-movies, desaturated and tinted with a frosty cyan filter, superimposed with shots of melting ice caps, huge avalanches of frozen water plummeting into the sea — a pointed message to counter balance the previous nonsense. It visually symbolized this “new direction” we’d found with the song.

As we watched the montage flowing by on the screen, Marty said, “This thing we’re doing, this new territory … It’s going to destroy us as a band. You know that, right?”

“No,” I said, taken aback.

Marty nodded his head. “Even with ‘Thick,’ we were still ‘us.’ We were playful in our anger. This new song, though, this footage, it’s all pretty heavy. It’s a turning point, and even though I’m one hundred percent on board, it signifies the beginning of the end for us. We’ll be going from fame to infamy with this, and I just want to make sure you’re prepared.”

I told Marty he was being ridiculous. This new song represented our evolution, nothing more. He had nothing to worry about. He panicked sometimes, that was all. I patted him on the shoulder and told him to get some sleep. We had practice later, and he needed to be in tip-top shape.

So he did, and I convinced myself I shouldn’t worry too.

§

None of us had any idea that Gregg Mann, the owner of Tavern Belmondo — the number one hangout for hipsters, hippies, atheists and anarchists — was a registered Republican. Moreover, we were totally unaware of the loaded 9mm handgun he kept tucked underneath the bar, a safety precaution in this “rough part of town.”

Even if we had known these things, that wouldn’t have stopped us from playing the song. Greg of all people needed to hear it.

But if I had known what would happen …

Yeah, I don’t think we would have debuted “Silver Screen” there. Or anywhere, I guess.

I don’t know though. We say harmful things, and then we say, well, I didn’t really mean it. But then, why did we say it in the first place …?

The performance up until “Silver Screen” went off without a hitch. Under the crisp bluish glow of Marty’s collage, with our usual balletic thrashing about the stage, and with the new addition of Jone standing statuesque with her Fender Jaguar, we looked like a cacophony of sea creatures manically worshipping a stone Goddess. We played “Thick” three songs in at my insistence, eager to appease anyone only there to hear our hit (and also weed out the groupies). I wasn’t going through the motions of the set, of course, but at the same time, our finale and the big debut couldn’t come any sooner.

Timing our songs to the slideshow helped to speed things along. I kept audience banter to a minimum, and we crashed through the set, the proverbial sweat, blood and tears drenching each tune, each one a piece of rock we had to climb, ascending the mountain with energy and persistence, “Silver Screen” awaiting us at the peak.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, we reached the summit. I said, “New song,” into the mic and we launched right into it, Marty gnashing on his bass, Kim kicking in with her low, hellish beat, Jone slicing into the main rhythm and me, grabbing my prepared cheapo off stage and shattering into the music, right on queue. The crowd didn’t know whether to boogie or run away screaming.

I started singing. There was scant differentiation between my voice and my fucked-up guitar — loud, aggressive, weird, unsettling, but sublime, hacking at our governor like a psychopath, shaming the people who gave her power.

Visually speaking, I wasn’t so much aware of the audience, but I could feel them, congregated in alliance, absorbing and unifying themselves around my piercing words. There were, however, a few spots of dissent out there in the haze, little blips of light psychically expressing their displeasure at my blunt message. I’d anticipated this — there were likely more Brat Pact fans out there than our own, and that band wasn’t as political as we were. So I held nothing back. All that frustration and hatred flowed through me and escaped via my hands and my mouth.

They needed to hear it. I’d make sure they did …

It happened during the second round of the chorus. As one, Phalanx beat down on the crowd again —

DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT
Shoot yrself in the head
DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT
Shoot yrself in the FUCKING HEAD

One of those opposing lights out there popped like an old-school camera flash, and the other dots swarmed around the burst of energy.

Marty stopped playing first. He saw the whole thing.

Kim followed, and saw Greg Mann sliding down the wall of shattered, liquor-leaking bottles, blood gushing from his nose and staining his white Rolling Stones lips/tongue T-shirt.

Jone stopped short when she saw, she would later tell the police, a pimply young woman with round sunglasses leap over the bar. Rather than assisting Greg in some way, she scooped up his 9mm and pressed the barrel to her temple.

I was the last to stop playing. I heard the shot and looked up to see a hoard of people pressing themselves behind the bar and scrambling for the gun, which had fallen to the floor with Round Sunglasses. A scraggly boy snatched up the pistol, put it under his chin, and fired. His body fell back against the bar, his hand stretching along the lacquered finish now slick with three people’s blood. A guy in a trucker hat reached for the gun still pressed in the kid’s lifeless hand.

The rest of the audience was screaming by now. A man slightly older than most of the kids grabbed Trucker Hat’s arm, but the boy yanked himself away, slid the gun’s barrel into his mouth, and pulled the trigger.

I couldn’t move. I was transfixed on this … impossible scene. Impossible is the only word to describe it.

Someone tugged at my arm. It was Marty, his eyes wide and pleading. Behind him, the rest of Phalanx retreated backstage. Though her back was to me, I could tell Kim was sobbing.

Another gunshot popped, and I let Marty lead me away.

Backstage, the lead singer of Brat Pact was on the phone with 911.

§

Of course, someone filmed the whole thing with their cellphone camera and uploaded the video to YouTube. It was removed after a few hours, but found new life on LiveLeak.

It was a train wreck video. You couldn’t help but watch it.

As such, a rash of suicides spread throughout the state. It wasn’t long before the media, and the police, drew the connection.

Not that it was particularly hard. There I was onstage, snarling out to the crowd SHOOT YRSELF IN THE FUCKING HEAD. Followed by Gregg Mann and fourteen other people in the crowd doing exactly that (could have been more, but the pistol ran out of bullets). Followed by countless people watching from their homes, their places of work, in other places of business, in public spaces, collectively losing their shit and blowing their brains out.

If viewers didn’t own a gun, they went to outlandish lengths to obtain one and carry out my “directive.” One guy was hanging out in Liberty Park watching messed-up, lurid clips with his sister, so of course they stumbled upon our performance. He’d voted for Polson, she hadn’t voted at all. When the siblings got to THAT part of the video, the man went nuts and, seeing a cop on horseback trotting by, began chasing the officer, begging him to hand over his firearm. I know because the woman, shocked by her brother’s sudden irrationality, began filming the incident.

This bit of footage went viral too. It was “proof,” according to the sister and many other people, that the video somehow possessed the ability to control people’s minds.

By this point, the police had already questioned me numerous times, holding me for hours at the station, grilling me. What did I know about subliminal messages and the mind’s susceptibility to suggestion? I wouldn’t lie and say I didn’t know about those subjects. I’m not just a lover of music, but also of sound and media in general. I knew, for instance, about the subtle techniques commercial directors used to convince viewers they wanted to buy this fast car, that this ice cream cone with its perfectly-sculpted, bulbous dollop of deliciousness would give them the happiness they sought (never mind the fact the ice cream was actually mashed potatoes). I knew about Daffy Duck secretly shilling for the government (BUY BONDS!) during World War II. I knew about Pazuzu grimacing in one frame of The Exorcist.

Yeah, I knew about these things, but I certainly didn’t use those methods in my songwriting — how could I? The lyrics were right there in front of them, in plain black and white, SHOOT YRSELF IN THE FUCKING HEAD. Doesn’t get more direct than that.

But what about the footage playing behind us? Here, the two detectives stared me down, neither one of them inclined to play “good cop.”

There were no subliminal messages contained in that footage, I insisted.

Except … They showed me the video again, frame by frame, and … there they were. For every ten seconds or so of images depicting our fearless governor “acting” her black heart out, there were blips of text and hidden images.

YOU ARE EVIL one frame said.

DO WHAT HE SAYS said another.

DO IT.

Still images of men and women holding guns to their heads, followed by the gory aftermaths of their suicides. The kind of stuff you see on LiveLeak. Bud Dwyer was in there, and that surveillance footage of a man blowing his head off in an interrogation room not unlike the one I sat, the fluorescent lights too bright and sickly green. A man on a highway exploding his skull with a shotgun. Other instances of self-inflicted gunshot wounds I didn’t recognize. One graphic suicide after another.

Marty. He was “off” the morning I found him on the couch, working on the montage. Stating that this moment would end the band. He knew something I didn’t.

My genuinely shocked reaction to the presence of those frames, coupled with my repeated insistence I had nothing to do with it, eventually convinced the detectives I was telling the truth. They needed to focus their attentions on Marty.

Not me, not Kim and Jone, even though they had a motive, given their “homosexual leanings,” as the detectives put it.

No, it was just Marty.

The fact he’d disappeared shortly before the police arrived at Tavern Belmondo that night only bolstered this conviction.

§

None of this added up, of course. Subliminal messages didn’t work like that — a common misconception, and one Marty’s defense lawyer would no doubt debunk at his trial. The only way indirect instructions to kill yourself might work is if the victim in question was already suicidal to begin with, and even that’s a stretch. Greg Mann and most all the other people who shot themselves did not display any telltale signs of depression or a desire to harm themselves. Only a few of them had substantial histories of substance abuse. That a few violent images and some declarative text would inspire these people to take their own lives was a dubious notion, and scientifically impossible.

Not to mention, the woman who filmed us at Tavern Belmondo stood slightly to the side of the stage, so the screen displaying the footage was partially obscured by a column, Kim’s kit, and Marty’s rig. Moreover, the montage was rear-projected to ensure none of it bled out onto the band. This meant anyone who watched the now infamous video would’ve seen only fragments of the text and images. How could it be argued these people where tricked into suicide when it was impossible for them to see the messages in their entirety?

Finally, while Greg Mann wasn’t the only person “affected” that night, he was the first, and it’s doubtful he watched any of our performance, because he rarely watched the bands at all. During shows, Greg always cleaned up the bar, or opened new bottles of liquor, or tapped new kegs. So even if it was possible that visually subliminal stimuli could induce suicide, Greg couldn’t have had direct or continuous exposure to Marty’s handiwork.

If he couldn’t see it, why would he DO IT?

He could hear. That’s why.

He could hear everything I said. So could everyone else in the Tavern. So could the hundreds of people who watched the video.

It wasn’t Marty at all.

It was me. Just me.

The women, reacting to my “Thick” lyrics, wanting to fuck me. And now this.

It was me.

But it couldn’t be me. There were no X-Men. No Scanners, no Village of the Damned kids, no Jedi masters waving their hands and telling Storm Troopers these weren’t the droids they were looking for. The world didn’t work that way.

And yet … How else to explain what happened?

Nothing else made sense.

§

We were relaxing at Jone’s apartment one afternoon, passing around a fat, smelly joint, trying to forget the whole ordeal for a while. There was cloud cover outside, causing the light inside to be thin and dull. Still summer, but looking very much like winter.

I tried to relax. But the question gnawed at me, prodded me, taunted me. I had to be sure.

I picked up Kim’s acoustic guitar, began strumming a C chord and improvising some words:

Kiss yr lover, kiss yr lover
Kiss yr lover right now.
Kiss Kiss Kiss yr lover
Kiss yr lover, right now.

The couple stared at me for what seemed like several minutes as I put my heart and soul into this silly love song. My strumming and singing grew more intense, impassioned. Deep down, I kinda hoped they wouldn’t, but I sang as though I did, as though it was the only thing in the world I’d ever wanted and would ever want again.

Kiss Kiss Kiss yr lover right now!

And just when I thought this whole display was stupid, Kim and Jone, in perfect unison, turned to each other and kissed.

I stopped playing. We were silent.

The entire room, even the walls, felt awkward somehow.

I had my answer.

And, I think, deep down, Kim had hers too.

Quietly, she asked me to leave.

§

At some point while I was gone from the house, Kim gathered most of her belongings and split. I haven’t seen her since.

Of all the things she took, she left her drum kit in the basement.

§

Marty’s grandmother found him hiding out in her pool house and called the police. Cuffed and hauled away by men in tan-and-brown uniforms, Marty managed to slip in a statement to the gathered reporters. “Listen you fuckers, you screwheads: here is a man who would not take it anymore … Here is a man who stood up.”

Taxi Driver. Great for the cops and the media. Aligning himself with one of cinema’s most deluded, violent sociopaths, Marty sealed his fate as the pariah society wanted him to be. He was the lone gunman, the sick mastermind behind a wave of subliminally-influenced suicides. A Charles Manson-like figure. Pure evil.

Everyone disregarded me. I wasn’t a madman. I was just some punk screaming inflammatory lyrics. As one journalist put it, “a singer unschooled in the art of subtlety.”

But he was wrong. Everyone’s wrong.

Marty thinks he is God’s lonely man. But he isn’t.

I am.

§

I play my cheapo guitar late at night. Headphones jacked into my practice amp, volume nob and fuzz pedal cranked. I drown out the statements snaking their way from my brain to my throat until my fingers are numb and my eardrums throb from the distortion.

It’s no use. The words creep out anyway.

I deposit them onto paper, close my journal and try to forget them.

Doesn’t work. I find myself humming a tune, and before long, I’m singing about this or that social issue, damning those I find disgraceful. I have a knee-jerk inclination to call my bandmates into the living room.

But it’s just me, alone in this house, the remnants of Phalanx lying dormant in the basement like an unspeakable secret. All that equipment, all those instruments, silenced.

Just like me.

§

Tonight I’m drunk. The video’s gone from the Internet completely.

They removed it from LiveLeak, and they’ll show anything.

I replay the memory in my head, but I can’t remember the actual gig. I only see the video, compressed for smaller screens, fuzzy and pixelated. And I can’t even see that clearly.

We were so fucking great. Beyond great.

We didn’t even get to finish the song.

I robbed Kim of her desire to play drums. It’s my fault Marty’s in jail.

We’re not in a band anymore. We’re not friends anymore.

And I can never get it back. Because if I do, I’ll kill a bunch of people, or I’ll make otherwise sensible women drop their collective panties, or some such other indirect consequence.

This is what I was born to do — make music, sing lyrics. A piece of me has been torn away.

Maybe I should take my own “Silver Screen” advice.

Do it do it do it do it, shoot myself in the head …

§

I woke up with a searing headache. My first hangover in a long time.

This is stupid.

§

Today, Yvette Polson said she’d make illegal all marriages in our state if gays were granted the right to wed by the Supreme Court.

Here I’ve been these last several weeks, rotting away in this empty house I can no longer afford on my own, wallowing in self-pity, wasting my talents.

I do have a talent. I have a power. And if I can’t use my power the way I’d originally intended, then I think it’s time to find a new path. One that’s similar to the first, just different. Maybe, arguably, better.

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. Perhaps that’s true. All I know is, I cannot sit idly by and let people like Yvette Polson veto us back into the Stone Age.

I cannot let that happen. So …

There’s an open seat on the city council. I’ve entered the race.

I don’t have a campaign manager. I have zero funding. I have no political experience whatsoever. But I do have a new, clean-cut look, a pearly-white, winning smile, a nice, firm handshake.

And, I have a song.

I play it on an acoustic guitar so it has mass appeal. The lyrics are simple, straightforward. Everyone can appreciate them.

The song goes:

Vote for me
Just vote for me
You want to vote for me
I’m the one you want
I’m the one you need
The one the one the one
I’m the one and only
One.

Repeat as necessary until the crowd sings along.

Preliminary polls look good. I’m not worried.

I’m already thinking about 2016. State House. From there, I don’t even know. Sky’s the limit.

Once I tried to do something, and it just didn’t work out the way I wanted to. That’s no longer the case.

It’s like Kurt Cobain said in “Smells Like Teen Spirit”:

I’m worse at what I do best
And for this gift I feel blessed …

Things will definitely work out for me this time.

Christopher Shultz writes weird, dark fiction. His stories have appeared both online and in print, including most recently in freeze frame flash fiction, Grievous Angel, and Apex Magazine. He contributes columns on books and film at LitReactor.com, and he also wrote a guest article for Tor.com. Christopher lives in Oklahoma City with his fiancée Lauren and their two mostly well-behaved cats.

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