Groupie Murder Cult
by Brenna Ehrlich
It really wasn’t that out-there that he had noticed her, swaying in the front row in a leather jacket, pin-up dress and black – raven-black, pitch-as-night-filled-with-ravens black – hair. It really wasn’t that out-there that after he took out his switchblade and drew it across his bare, tattooed chest, she was the one whose forehead he marked with a bloody cross, before throwing his red-stained fingers across his six-string and wailing into the mic in misery or ecstasy – who can say? It really wasn’t that out-there that she was the one that he chose – she of red cupid bow lips and ringing bell laughs and fingers that looked long and delicate no matter what they were doing (flipping someone off or smoking a cigarette).
It really wasn’t that out-there, but it still didn’t feel that great. It still didn’t feel that great to be standing there while she looked up at him with dewy, melt-eyes and he looked down at her like he wanted to suck her meat from her bones like BBQ.
I was the one who told her about Legion – about their frontman and his skeleton-bone face and his ink-spill eyes and his smile that – despite the skeleton-bones and ink-spills – was soft and sad and bright. He was mine, that dude was – or should be. She was just supposed to come as moral support—to stand by me all stoic-like as I swayed in the first row. She was supposed to make sure I didn’t back down when, after he came down from stage, I planned to go up to him and utter the words that I had practiced so long in my head that just seemed paltry and sad now, “Nice show. Can I be one of the Chosen? Can I be one of you?”
I watched now, as blood dripped down her ski slope nose and pooled on her ample lower lip and inside my heart beat itself against my ribcage until it felt like it bled, too. I muttered something into the buzz of the guitars and bash of the drums and – even though he was playing my favorite song – I pushed myself back through the moshers and stoners and bored boyfriends/girlfriends, blindly propelling myself into the back of the gloomy club and the dark-dark-darkness. Then something rammed into my back and my wind was stolen and there was a crash-crashing that was softer than that on stage but cacophonous all the same.
“Whoa there.” His voice was soft and his hair was ashy blonde and his face was the kind you forget and lose in crowds of similar-looking people. His T-shirt was ripped. His nose was freckled. “Whoa there,” he repeated. “Are you OK?”
I looked down at all the Legion pins and T-shirts and posters and tapes scattered on the floor and blinked. He looked at me and blinked.
“No, it’s cool, I got it,” the boring-faced dude said, kneeling to scoop up all the merch with a completely out-of-place smile. “Thanks for rushing to help and everything,” he said (sarcastically, in case you missed it), then dumped all the tapes and papers and pins onto the table and drank a beer really fast, his Adam’s Apple bobbing like a real apple in a bucket on Halloween. He crushed the can on his forehead like the bros do and cocked his head toward me. “You want one of these?”
I nodded, and my eyes wandered again to the stage, where she was now held aloft by all the mosh-pit hands, her cleavage bouncing and her smile ultra-bright. He was looking down at her like a banquet table covered in meats and wine and sweet things. I only looked away when his dry, square hand grabbed my wrist – the boring-faced dude – and he pulled me toward a door in the back of the room, one that led to a hallway covered in scrawled names and sad, curling setlists. The last song on every one of them was, oddly Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping.”
The boring-faced dude pulled me through a door to the right and fell, as he opened it, onto a ratty green couch that seemed to be in a constant state of vomiting its stuffing onto the floor. He grabbed a (warm) beer from a card table littered with beef jerky and rogue Fritos and tossed it toward me. I caught it against my denim-clad (flat) chest.
“You’re a Supplicant, no?” Boring Face asked, blowing his boring bangs off his boring white forehead with a boring sleepy grin. His boring eyes were ringed in red.
I shook my head, all non-committal-like, and shrugged. “I don’t like labels.”
“But you do like pins – they’re all over your jacket…” Boring gestured at the smattering of Legion buttons prancing across my (flat) boobs like spiders.
“Either way, I’m guessing you’re disappointed you weren’t a Chosen One tonight. I saw him eyeing up your Pinup Girl-friend earlier – must suck to be the sidekick,” he said, sneering.
I glowered and crossed my arms, the (warm) beer unopened and dangling from my fingers. “Must suck to just be the Merch Boy, huh? What do you play? Bass? I bet they let you jam with the band on every Tuesday during the week of Never.”
Boring laughed, kind of, and drained his (warm) beer. This is why we were sidekicks, him and I, you know? The witty dialogue was lacking. The chemistry wasn’t crackling. The silences were awkward and not laden with anything but stuttered sighs. We were just here to fill up space next to the people in the spotlight so that they didn’t look too bright and lonely in all that glow.
“C’mon,” Boring said. “The Chosen Girl van is leaving in about 10 – we can cram ourselves in the back and follow them.”
I figured I should text Pinup Girl-friend and let her know where I was at, but I also figured I’d see her soon anyway – way up in the Cat Bird seat on Legion Man’s lap. Boring and I broke out into the night, after stealing bottles of Legion’s whiskey, and shimmied into the back of a black van painted with a grinning Jack-O-Lantern face and a cat whose back was eternally arched. We crouched behind the drumkit – miraculously (I mean, magically) – already stored and sipped our whiskey. Boring put his hand on my thigh like it had just wandered there and I let him.
The bassist and the drummer and the guitarist and the guy who fiddled with the synth all crammed themselves into the backseat of the van, Chosen Girls on their laps all dark hair and red lips and frowning. Then, with a sound like a thousand crows settling, Legion Man rustled into the passenger seat up front, pulling Pinup Girl-friend behind him, his hand on her ass. A figure all in black and hooded slid into the driver’s seat and fingers white like bones took the wheel. The van whirred to life, but the headlights stayed off, and we peeled onto the street like those proverbial bats are supposed to escape from that proverbial hell.
Boring put his lips to my neck and kissed it weakly. I let him, watching Legion Man’s gleaming head dipping down toward Pinup Girl-friend’s cleavage and his hand wander between her knees. The other band guys followed suit, about five seconds behind Legion Man as if he was the frontman in all things.
The van whirred through night and electric storefront highways and side streets rattling with cats and garbage cans and, finally, jerked to a halt outside a warehouse lurking and crouching next to an inky river. The band dudes sucked one, last, cherry red kiss from the lips of the Chosen Girls before piling out of the van, following Legion Man and Pinup Girl-friend – who followed the solo man in the black night hood – through a garage door into more, somehow even deeper, darkness. Somewhere a foghorn cried and somewhere someone died and I thought of the tarot card in Pinup Girl-friend’s pack with the spinning wheel that was supposed to always be spinning toward something bad. Pinup Girl-friend was the kind of girl-friend who read tarot cards and knew what crystals meant. The kind of girl-friend whose skin was always white and whose eyebrows asked questions all on their own. The kind of girl I wanted to be – the kind of girl I made girl-friends with because they were the kind of girl I wanted to be. Like Natural Nature Beauty Girl-friend and Punk Girl Who Looks Hot In Men’s Clothing Girl-friend and Shiny Bun Smart Girl-friend who wears pencil skirts and button-ups that were always clean. I was none of those Girl-friends. I was just me. The kind of Girl-friend who is simply meant to be “Girl-friend” like Boring was meant to be Boring.
Speaking of, he snaked his arm around me then and nipped at my neck as we followed Legion and the Chosen Ones into the black, black, black.
I blinked. I wonder if he blinked. Because it was so dark. It was dark like velvet paintings without the paint. It was dark like Pinup Girl-friend’s black opal stones she kept on her nightstand to ward off who knew what. It was black like a window is at night when you have the light on in your room and you’re blinded by it as you sip wine and wait and wait and wait for your life to start happening. But all around, I could hear them – muffled sighs. A snicky-snick of metal. Liquid drip-dripping to the ground. And then the candles came to life, one by one, and flickered across the floor, where red, red, red – like Pinup Girl-friend’s lips – poured and poured and filled and filled the strange star carved deep into the warehouse floor.
In each point of the star stood one of Legion, their Chosen Girls seemingly asleep at their feet – seemingly because, you know, they were dead. And in the center of it all stood Legion Man and the hooded one, who lifted Pinup Girl-friend limp and doll-faced toward the ceiling. She looked like she was moshing again – like she had looked smiling and held aloft by all those swaying hands. Everyone had their eyes closed. Everyone was humming. Everyone was stamping their feet in heavy boots. Everyone was alive – except for all the Chosen Girls sleeping forever at their feet.
They couldn’t see us – me and Boring – as we crouched behind a pile of boxes near the mouth of the warehouse. And as the fire started – as Legion stamped out toward their van – Boring grabbed my wrist and dragged me into the night-black. The van tore away, the hooded man’s white fingers tight on the wheel. The fire behind us bit at my nostrils. The wind off the water raised bumps on my arms.
“Want to come over to my place?” Boring finally asked, snaking his arm around my waist. “I have beer.”
I thought for a second and then nodded “yes,” and we walked away from the wreckage like heroes at the end of an action movie do after an explosion.
Brenna Ehrlich is a senior editor/writer for MTV News and founder of the small press/label, All Ages Press. Her debut YA novel, PLACID GIRL, comes out August 25.