Chuck had me pick out a random band name and roll with it.
Devon usually liked to admire his Stratocaster. He’d hold it in his hands, watch the light play on the stainless steel frets, run his fingers along the rosewood neck, admire the deep black finish. Tonight he just stared at it. The opening band was wrapping up. He could hear the feedback from the amps and the shitty drum fills despite sitting in the green room. Time was running out.
“Dude, we’re on in, like, ten minutes. You okay?”
He looked up at his drummer, Felix. They’d known each other since junior high, a couple of abnormal kids struggling to survive. Devon had sought Felix out after he’d found his guitar.
“Yeah. I’m fine. Make sure the roadies don’t mess up my pedals, okay? I just need a minute.”
Felix nodded, closing the door behind him. Devon was alone. He took a moment to close his eyes and breathe, reminding himself that the guitar was, in fact, real.
“What troubles you?”
He didn’t open his eyes at first. He felt her presence behind him, and said nothing. It was the feeling of her hands on his shoulders that made him look. She watched him in the mirror. Her eyes were still the deepest, darkest blue he’d ever seen.
“I couldn’t play a single note at sound check until I thought of you.”
“You’re a very sweet young man.” Her hands moved down his arms.
“I thought the music came from me, not from you.”
“It does.” She helped him grip the fretboard of the guitar, his other hand guided to the cool sensation of the cream pickguard. “Not every mortal can make the journey from this world to the one in their mind on their own. Some, like you, just need the occasional guide.”
Devon shook his head. Her hands moved over him, caressing him, and it felt so good, so soothing and electrifying at the same time, as riffs and lyrics spun in his mind like the most lively and sensual of dancing girls. He swallowed, trying to find his voice.
“Why did you choose me?”
“So many songs are played and sung in this age, but few truly honor the source of all music, the cosmos, the firmament, the divine spark in all things…” She leaned down and sighed softly in his ear. “I chose you because you have passion. You have skill. And you’ve grown so handsome and strong as I knew you would.”
Devon was uncertain of that. Sure, Lasik surgery and a pretty sparse diet coupled with life on the road and playing gigs constantly gave him the Iggy Pop body he’d always wanted, but sometimes he still saw the nerdy trumpet-player staring back at him in the mirror. It was that kid who had prayed for someone, anyone, to listen to his pleas for freedom, for inspiration, for anything to get him out of his town and that life.
“Felix got a call from his parents today.”
“That must still be hard for you.”
He didn’t turn to look at her. He always feared when he did, she’d disappear. “I don’t talk about it. It doesn’t seem right to bring my best friend down when he’s happy as he is when they call.”
“You’re so good-natured, and yet such a beast on stage.”
“I play rock and roll, nothing more or less.”
“You shake the heavens when you do it.” Her full lips smiled as they brushed his ear. “You prove yourself worthy with every strum of this guitar, every call of your voice, every pulse that races at the sight of you. Did I not promise you would be a star?”
He closed his eyes and nodded. “I know you’re not a liar. I just don’t know what you want in return.”
“You sing of days long past, of my kin and their exploits, bringing them back into the imaginations of modern youth. Don’t you think that’s payment enough?”
“Everything has a price. I feel like I’ll always been indebted to you.”
“Would that be so bad?” Her voice sent shivers through his body, the way it always did. He licked his lips, finding them way too dry.
“No, I… I just want to be sure the music’s mine.”
Her fingers dug painfully into his shoulders. “It is ours, mortal, and you’d best not forget. Without me you’d still be living in that dead house with those dead parents who had no passion for your music, no desire to see you shine.”
“That’s not true. My parents loved me.”
“Not the way I do.” Her hand went down his chest towards the buckle of his belt, nails on skin. “Not the way that makes you come alive.”
Devon wanted to turn on her, to push her away, to tell her the price was too high and to take back the guitar she’d given him, the tour be damned. But just like that, her touch went from painful to soothing to something else entirely, and pleasure sang in his veins. His eyes closed as her lips touched his ear in a soft, inviting kiss.
He looked up to see Felix opening the door, followed by Molly and Cherise. Molly, their bassist, grabbed her instrument and adjusted her short skirt. Cherise loosened her tie and put on the fingerless gloves she liked to wear while keyboarding for the band. Devon glanced at the mirror. She was, of course, nowhere to be found.
Am I going crazy? He stood, guitar in hand.
“Let’s do it.”
The venue erupted in cheers when they took the stage. Devon stood up to the microphone, plugged in his Strat, and looked out at the crowd. He saw a tall, curvy woman with eyes dark as the cosmos watching him from the back.
“Good evening, and welcome to the Maze of Uranus. Take it, Molly.”
Molly started up the bassline of “Calliope’s Gate,” and Devon saw the woman in the back smiling.
Answers could come later. Now, it was time to rock.