starfish chapter 9

 

The next day Susie moved out of Victor’s house. She had spent the morning telephoning various people until she’d found what she was looking for. Then she packed her bags and told Victor that she was going.

“I can’t stay here,” she said flatly.

“But where will you go?” said Victor.

“I’ve got that all arranged, I’m moving into a clinic.”

“But why? I told you I’ll never see Michael again, if that’s what you want.”

“It’s too late for that,” she said.

“But Susie,” he said, “we’ve been getting along so well. And I’m getting better. Why throw it all away on a whim?”

“Whim? You call it a whim? You want me to participate in some devil worship and you call it a whim?”

“I told you, it was meaningless. We’ve been happy together haven’t we?”

“I was all right until I moved up here, Victor,” she said “and I don’t want to get sick again. You can do what you want but I’ve got to think of myself.”

“But where will you go?” he said.

“That’s all taken care of,” she said.

“Won’t you even tell me where you’re going?” he said. She picked up her bags and went to the front door. She was being difficult but felt justified. She went outside without telling him goodbye, got into her car and drove away. Victor was flabbergasted. He was angry and annoyed and lost. Susie drove into the city and went to a large building. She went inside and found the office she was looking for. Inside was a nun dressed in her uniform.

“I rang this morning,” said Susie.

“You must be Susie Walton,” said the nun.

“Yes, I am. I have to get admitted today if possible. I don’t have anywhere else to go.”

“Well, let’s see. You’ve been hearing voices? And you’ve been to a hospital for this before? You wish to stay for at least month. Is that right?” said the nun.

“Yes. A month should see me right,” said Susie.

“You understand that we don’t rely on drug treatments here. We believe in natural healing. The spirit must be allowed to heal and harmonize the mind, itself. ”  

“I quite agree,” said Susie.

“Are you a Catholic?” asked the nun.

“No, I’m not. But I’m a Christian,” said Susie.

“Normally we require that all patients be members of a congregation of the church, preferably Roman Catholic, but last week that rule was changed. We’re taking anyone these days. But it is important that you have some faith in your life, otherwise you’ d be wasting your time and ours. And our valuable resources.”

“I believe in God,” said Susie emphatically.

“Well, that’s a start I expect,” said the nun and shuffled some papers on her desk. “You’d like to be admitted this afternoon?”

“Yes, if it’s possible,” said Susie.

“If you’ll just sign these papers we can get you going. There on the bottom line.”
Susie signed the papers and was given a carbon copy for herself. The nun stood up and directed Susie to the door. Outside was another nun, much younger looking. The older nun spoke to her and she took Susie by the arm and led her down the hall.
Once at street level, Susie felt more cheerful. The nun was to accompany her to the clinic but because Susie had her own car there was a slight mix up. Eventually they agreed to go in separate cars. Susie drove like a maniac with the nun in hot pursuit. They went to the Eastern side of town to a quiet residential area.

The clinic was large and newly built. It stood next to a church surrounded by green gardens and lawns.

Susie parked her car on the street and waited for the nun to arrive. She took a few minutes and then parked behind Susie’s car.

“You were driving like a demon,” she said when she’d gotten out of it.

“I hate the traffic. It makes me nervous,” said Susie. “Is this it then?”

“This is it,” said the nun.

“St. Peters psychiatric clinic.”

“Do we go this way?” asked Susie, pointing to a big modern looking building. 

“No dear,” said the nun, “that’s the administration block. Reception is the other way, in that house.” She pointed towards an old house that stood in the grounds. A path led from the road to it. They walked along the path until they reached the front porch. Susie dumped her bags there and both women went inside. Susie was asked to sign some more papers and then given a wrist band to wear. She was also given a white hospital gown. Her bags were kept at the reception centre. A few minutes later Susie and the nun were going to her room in the St. Mary ward. It was a new building, low and sleek set behind the reception house. They remained silent and walked briskly. Finally, Susie was shown her room and shown the cafeteria.

“Meals are at six in the evening, and breakfast is served at seven. Lunch is at noon,” said the nun. “You’ll be expected to attend all meals. We have a prayer service in the morning and before each meal which you can attend if you wish. The bathrooms are not to be used before noon and you can make outside phone calls between six and eight. The duty doctor will see you shortly. Any questions?” Susie
had none and went back to her room to wait for the doctor. She felt happy and slightly tired. She lay on the bed and stared out the window. There was a car park outside the window and she watched as people drove in and out. Half an hour later came a knock on her door. A priest dressed in black came in and introduced himself. 

“Hello, I’m father Tony O’leary,” he said. Susie got up off the bed and shook his hand. They sat on the lounge chairs in the room.

“You were admitted today?” asked the father.

“Yes, a short time ago. I’m waiting to see the doctor,” said Susie. “That’s me,” said the priest.

“But I thought you were a priest,” she said.

“I am, but I studied medicine as well. I’m a specialist psychiatrist. Now what’s the trouble?” he said.

“I’ve been hearing voices,” she said dryly.

“Oh? And how often do you hear them?” he said.

“Not very often,” she said, “but recently two or three times a day. A male voice behind my head.”

“Have you tried to kill yourself?”

“No.”

“Taken any drugs? Such as Heroin, LSD or Speed?”

“No, I don’t use them.”

“Do you drink?”

“Yes I have been fairly heavily recently.”

“Does that affect the voices?”

“I hadn’t noticed,” she said.

“How do you feel right now?”

“I’m a little sleepy, quite a good mood.”

“As you know, we don’t rely on drugs here, so if you’re taking any prescription medicines you’d better leave them with me. Our approach is less intrusive. We have therapy sessions four times a week, group meetings and we encourage our patients to explore their own feelings for the answers. Of course if you get extremely unwell I can give you something to help.”

“Thank you Doctor. I do have difficulty sleeping soundly. I’ve been having a lot of bad dreams lately. Nightmares.”

“Oh? Do they follow a pattern? Always the same imagery?”

“Yes and no,” she said. “Sometimes they’re the same, but mostly they change depending upon what I’ve been doing during the day. They scare me a lot.”

“Because they’re so true to life?”

“That, and because I don’ t want them to come true.”

“What about your appetite?”

“I’m eating enough. I enjoy food.”

“Well then, why don’t you take a little nap and we’ll see you at dinner? I must be off, I have some other patients to see.” The Doctor stood up, shook her hand and left the room. Susie lay back on the bed and listened to the noises coming through the window. There were a lot of cars coming and going, but hardly any birds called. She thought it odd. At ten to six Susie got up from bed and put her slippers on. She went to dinner and found the cafeteria easily enough. It was full of patients dressed in white hospital robes. There were several girls her own age, several older men, some middle aged women, and some younger boys. They all looked depressed and downhearted. They shuffled past the kitchen window holding their trays. A nun put their food on a plate and passed it through. They walked away slowly and found a table. Susie had come last and when her meal had been given to her she walked
around the room looking for somewhere to sit. It was crowded and no one paid her any mind.

“You can sit here,” said a small mousy woman. Susie sat next to her and picked up her fork, took a mouthful of food and swallowed.

“My name’s Susie,” she said.

“I’m Lyn,” replied the woman.

“Glad to know you,” said Susie and took another mouthful of food. “You been here long?”

“About six months,” said Lyn.

“That’s a long time. What’ s wrong with you?” “I’m a manic depressive,” she said. 

“Feeling any better?”

“Pretty much so. I’ll be going home on weekend leave soon. I’ve gotten over the hump, it’s down hill from here on in.”

“You like the nuns?” asked Susie.

“They’re very good to be with, and Doctor is terrific.”

“Yes, I met him this afternoon. I just got here. It seemed like a nice enough place. Do you go to group therapy?”

“No, I go to mass every morning. Then I usually have a session with the Doctor. He’s very good. He puts things into perspective.”

“I suppose it’s a slow process,” said Susie.

“You have to use your own inner strengths,” said Lyn. “The Doctor is there just to guide you along.”

“You’re religious, then?” said Susie.

“I am, really. It gives me a lot of support and my husband thinks I’m getting much better.”

“You’re married? Got any kids?”

“Yes, I have two boys and a little girl. Their daddy is taking care of them. I’ll be fine when I get out and go home. It was such a chore looking after them, I don’ t know why but I cracked up. I couldn’t help myself.”

“Will you be cured?”

“Oh, the Doctor says there isn’t a cure. You just learn to live with it, like a disability. I can control my moods better than ever now. I don’ t lose control anymore. No more tears, or tantrums. I’m pretty steady.”

“Will your husband come and get you when you go?”

“Of course he will. I love him very much. I’ll go home for the weekend to be with my family. They’ll get to know me again and we’ll see how things are. We haven’t had a real family for years, I’ve been going crazy on and off. I’ve neglected them and they’ve distanced themselves. But the Doctor thinks I’m almost ready to start again.”

“That’s good,” said Susie and finished her meal. The two women talked until the dinner room was closed and then went into a lounge and continued to discuss the details of their cases. Lyn was very talkative and aggressive. Susie was withdrawn and secretive.

At eight they both retired back to their rooms. Susie had a shower and felt fresh and clean. She began to miss Victor and started writing him a letter but the words wouldn’t come. Every time she tried to tell him that she still loved him, she would get angry and frustrated with the thought of him a Michael’s. She started crying and didn’t stop until she fell asleep hours later.

Two weeks later Susie had met some other patients. There was Joe, a middle aged father of three who hadn’t worked in ten years. He was withdrawn and quiet. He heard voices, too, telling him to invent some new machine he’d never heard of. Then there was Steven a younger musician. He’ d started seeing visions and had gone on a spree of sexual adventure that resulted in his getting a case of gonorrhoea. He had admitted himself on the insistence of his girlfriend. And there was Philipa, a grey haired mother of two who believed she was the Devil. She had improved much, but had been a resident for nearly a year. Her progress was slow and retarded. Her husband had taken to drink and didn’t want her back home until she was her old self again. Susie would attend the therapy sessions with Father O’ leary every few days and they would talk about life, about her past about her future and about her history.
He told her he was very encouraged at her prognosis. He expected her to recover completely within a few months. She hadn’t heard any voices and signs were that they would not return. Susie, however, felt that she was hiding her true feelings from the Doctor. She felt she was telling him little white lies all the time. She wanted to leave the clinic and didn’t want to go through her therapy. She would send Victor letters that told him how much she loved him and would wish him well. Sometimes she would call him in the evenings and he would beg her to let him visit, but she would insist it was too early. Several times she thought she heard the voice again but didn’t tell Doctor O’ leary about it for fear that he would discount her progress. She talked about everything except what was really troubling her, and the Doctor didn’t seem to notice. He was a fastidious man who always looked immaculate in his black suit and white collar. His hair was silver around the edges and was short. He was bald on top and had a loud laugh. He liked to tell patients little jokes and loved to see them laughing with him. He wore gold rimmed glasses and hardly ever discussed religious matters. Susie liked him but didn’t trust him completely. After each session she would go to her room and lay down dreaming of when she would be able to get out again. The Doctor had advised her she could leave anytime but had said that he thought two or three months wouldn’t be an unreasonable time to spend at the clinic. Susie began to consider whether or not the whole thing was working.

She thought that drugs could do a faster job and were more reliable, particularly whenever she thought the voices were coming back to haunt her. She found herself attending mass in the morning. At first she sat at the back of the small chapel and watched the ceremony but gradually she moved closer to the altar until she began taking communion and reciting the creed. She learned the Hail Mary and had prayer beads with her at all times. She got anointed with the oil of the sick and prayed before each meal. One day she went to see Doctor O’ leary feeling uplifted and high. He seemed sombre and preoccupied.

“Hello, Doctor,” she said casually.

“Good morning, Susie,” he said. “How are you today?”

“I’m feeling better than I have for a while. I’m happy and cheerful, full of enthusiasm. I have great expectations of you Doctor.” He smiled and took up a pencil.

“What have you been thinking? About Victor, I mean.”

“I’m missing him very much,” she said. “He’s the only one true love. But he’s so strange in many ways.”

“He loves you?”

“I’m sure he does, but he’ s too bound up with himself to ever allow anyone 100% of his time. And he has some strange things going on in his life. You heard he was shot?”

“You told me about it, Susie,” said the Doctor.

“Of course, I must have mentioned it. But did I tell you that he had to go to court to give evidence? He had to identify the man who shot him, and the defence lawyer asked him about his past. About Satanism and his song lyrics.”

“And what did he say?”

“He told the court he wasn’t a member of the band when they were interested in the occult. Which was true enough. But he never told me about his own preoccupation with Satanism until it was too late.”

“You mean he harboured a secret interest in the occult and never told you about it?”

“It went further than that, Doctor. He actually took me to meet a friend of his named Michael. And we went there and Michael did some kind of ritual to summon Satan and they all drank blood from a silver cup and carried on like it was something they all believed in.”

“And it surprised you? Shocked you?” said the Doctor.

“I had this strange feeling that the voices I was hearing had something to do with Satan, with the Devil. It scared me a lot. I really lost control and left him the next day. He said he’d never do it again, but that wasn’t the point. I had a very strong feeling that I was possessed by some evil power that could be contacted through the ritual they did.”

“Did you drink the blood?”

“No, it smelt awful and by that time I couldn’t believe what they were doing. They seemed so normal, nothing out of the ordinary to look at, but they were chanting and calling for the Devil to appear and it got to me. I thought I’d start hearing voices again. I actually believed the voice I heard was the Devil and he wanted me to hurt myself.”

“Yes? But you didn’t and that’ s the point. You were strong enough to resist the temptation. That’s a very important point to remember Susie. You have that strength and you mustn’t let yourself get carried away. Satanism and the occult present very real dangers to the innocent. It’s not just a game people play. I’ve seen some very serious cases involving the occult. The danger should not be under estimated. There is an evil power and God is the only other person who can over come it. God is the source of all good, Satan is the source of all temptation and evil in the world and you have to be strong to reject him.”

“I know that, Doctor, but it came as such a surprise. It really did. One minute we were sitting there in a normal living room and the next Michael was chanting something and everyone was taking part. I don’t know how long Victor’s been involved with all of this, but he must have lied in court when he said he had no involvement in Satanism. That’s one thing that troubled me, not to mention the fact he was almost killed because of it.”

“That’s not as surprising as you might think, Susie,” said the Doctor stretching back into his chair. “There have been many instances of Satanic possession recorded in history. God and the Saints have a way of dealing with those who become immersed in it. But I’m sure your case isn’t as extreme. He’ s a successful musician, after all.”

“That’s what worries me,” she said. “He could have been doing it for years. It all fits in place. He got his big break through me and then I started hearing the voices again. He didn’t seem to care about me when we were at Michael’ s. He’ s just too guarded and secretive. He never goes to church and I don’t even think he’s a Christian. He has no foundations that he’s told me about apart from his music. And his songs are so strange. They’re melancholy and mix up images in strange ways. He says he loves me but he doesn’t say anything about the future. I’m lost really. Sometimes I think I should never see him again. He frightens me, too.”

“You can’t deny your feelings, Susie. But it’ s dangerous to place too much importance on what you think when you’ve been under so much pressure. You are afraid of hearing voices and they don’t tell you very pleasant things. If you were hearing God’s voice or angels it would be a different matter. Perhaps nothing to be concerned about. No, you have to tread carefully here. You say you love him, but
you don’t know enough about him. That’s normal. Have you ever thought of what your life should be like? I mean you’ve started taking the sacraments here and will you continue doing so when you leave? Will the Church become an integral part of your life? These are the questions you must think about. Pray and ask God to forgive your sins and to guide you to your salvation. You have the strength, I know you do.”

“Sometimes I don’t know that I do. Sometimes I feel I’m falling apart. There’s something I haven’t told you about yet. In these last two weeks I’ve been sure that I’ve heard the voices again. Nothing very clear. But a nagging thought in the back of my head. Sometimes it’s just a thought, but I keep thinking the voices are going to come back and then what’ll I do? I can’t stop them.”

“But you can refuse to be influenced by them, can’t you? You’ve done it before and you can do it again. There are drugs I could give you to reduce the frequency of your episodes but I don’t want to drug you unless it’ s extremely urgent. You have to conquer this on your own and with God’ s help. Pray and I’ll pray for you.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” said Susie. “I appreciate it, I really do. And I believe you. I can overcome them, it’s just that the thought of them scares me. It’s good here. There are a lot of nice people and the sisters are wonderful. Everything is perfect, but I keep worrying that it can’t go on like that for much longer. Something has to happen to break it all down. And I don’ t want to see Victor while I’m like this. He’s just too confusing at the moment. I haven’t got the strength to help him any more than I do to help myself. I know he has to change too, but I can’t convince him how serious it is. He thinks it’s going to be fine when I get out of here. He thinks I’ll just come home to him and everything will be good.”

“You can’t be unchaste, you know. You will have to settle this one way or another. Will he marry you, for instance? Become a member of the church? Reject his past, confess his sins and be reborn? Those are the real issues here.”

___________________________________________________________________________________________

starfish chapter 8

 

 

The week of the trial arrived and Victor’s bandages were gone from his neck and chest. He had healed at the expected rate and was much stronger. His lung, however, was still sore and he couldn’t do very much strenuous activity. His wrist was wrapped in plaster and his fingers didn’t move as easily as they had done. He felt he would never be able to play again, but at least his voice was back in shape. He had to catch a flight to Stockwell in the afternoon of the day before his appearance as a witness for the prosecution. He didn’t look forward to it and dreaded seeing the accused man in the docks.

After his landing at the Stockwell airport Victor caught a taxi to a hotel down town and booked in. He was going to stay for two days and then go home. Susie had been well since her relapse and things at the house were going good. He had never been happier despite his afflictions.

The morning of the trial was bleak and windswept. He dressed warmly and caught a cab to the courthouse. There were several reporters covering the story and one or two photographers. He snarled when a flash gun went off in his face. The trial had attracted a lot of media attention. Once inside the austere building he found the court room and went inside. There was a packed audience and proceedings were about to begin. He took a seat at the back of the court room and waited to be called.

An hour later his name was announced by the bailiff and he strode to the witness box. He swore the oath of truthfulness and and took his seat. The questions started simply enough. His full name, his place of residence, his occupation. Then the prosecutor asked him to describe events of the night in question. Victor related how he had seen a man standing in an aisle two or three rows back from the stage, how he had seen him pull something from his jacket, and how he had then felt a sharp stinging pain in his left wrist followed by two more shots to the body. He described how he had fallen backwards and about the blood in his mouth. Then the prosecutor asked him to identify the man whom he’ d seen and he pointed to the accused. It had taken twenty minutes for his testimony and he was feeling tired. Next came the defence.

They began slowly enough with questions about the concert, what he’d seen and what he’d heard. Then they asked him if he had ever been interested in the occult.
“Not really,” said Victor.

“What about Satanism?”

“No, never,” he said, flinching.

“What about the previous incarnation of the band. Wasn’t it called The Possessed?”

“That’ s true, it was, but I didn’t play with them,” he said.

“And isn’t it also true that their song lyrics were about Satanism?”

“That could be true,” said Victor, “but like I said, I never played with them. I joined the band much later.”

“But why did you join the band if not because you were enamoured of Satanism and the occult?” asked the defence.

“That had nothing to do with it.” he replied, “It was a matter of pure chance that the band reformed with me in it. I’ d never heard about them prior to personally meeting them.” The defence changed tactics and went on asking about the band’s previous incarnations. It quoted song lyrics and asked whether they were Satanic. Victor parried the questions as best as he could and finally after fifty minutes was allowed to step down from the box. He was exhausted and each breath made him wheeze. He went back to his seat in the body of the court and listened to the final arguments. He was certain the accused man would be found guilty despite his defence pertaining to Satanism.

Victor went outside when the jury was charged to reach a verdict; it was mid afternoon and the sky was heavy and overcast. It fitted his mood exactly. Two hours later the jury returned to the courthouse and Victor went in again. The foreman read the result. The accused had been found guilty of attempted murder and was given ten to twenty years in prison. Victor sighed in relief and left the court building, fetched a taxi and went back to his hotel room. He knew his face would be on the front page of the newspaper the next day and looked to seeing what sort of story would accompany it. He went to sleep and didn’t wake until early the next day. After his breakfast he went to the airport and caught a plane back home.

When he got to Stirling Victor was feeling quite exhilarated because the news papers had printed a story about the band and himself that avoided any mention of their Satanic past. It was excellent publicity and pointed out that the band’ s new single was at number 25 on the charts and moving steadily up to the top position. Victor knew what that meant. It meant the money would be pouring in.

Back at the house Susie greeted him at the door and took his things inside. She kissed him tenderly.

“I had a terrible night, Victor,” she said. “I slept like a lamb,” he said.

“I kept waking up dreaming they wouldn’t find him guilty,” she said.

“No worries there,” he said. “They found him guilty as hell and put him away for a long, long time.”

“Yeah,” she said, “I saw it in the morning papers.”

“He won’t be bothering anyone for a long time,” he said. They went into the living room arm in arm and sat on a sofa. Susie pulled out a cigarette and lit it up. She was chain smoking now and seemed to enjoy it. They sat for a few minutes and then Victor got up to lay down as he was feeling tired. Susie remained where she was and smoked another cigarette. She was feeling nervous and jumpy because of her dreams.

When Victor reached the bedroom he had a sudden moment of inspiration and picked up the telephone. He dialled a number and spoke to the other end. After that he lay on the bed and closed his eyes. Outside a wind was blowing and leaves were being pelted against the window. He could hear them plainly. Susie continued to smoke and then poured herself a whisky and drank it in silence. She didn’t know what to do with the day and mused about shopping trips she could make. Since the shooting they had received a large cheque from Diana via the insurance company and money was no longer tight. They could buy anything they wanted.

Susie remained sitting on the sofa all afternoon and went through a packet of cigarettes. By nightfall she was feeling high and self assured again. Victor woke up and came back to the living room and talked to her. They discussed going out for dinner and then decided they could have something delivered. They phoned out their order and waited.

The pizza delivery van arrived, they paid the bill and had a hearty meal. Afterwards Victor poured himself a whisky and watched TV until ten. The evening news showed the courthouse and the accused man and then showed Victor and his injuries. Everyone agreed that the verdict was justified and sound.

Victor and Susie went to bed at eleven and made love until Victor fell asleep at one. The night was stormy and wet. The rain boomed down on the iron roof and echoed throughout the house. It felt warm and secure being in bed. In the early hours Susie awoke in a fit of fear from a bad dream. She went to the kitchen and made some warm milk for herself. Drank it and retired again. By morning the storm had cleared away and it was a sunny day again.

Victor slept until noon and woke up with a hangover complaining about the pain in his wrist. Susie brought him breakfast in bed and then went to the living room to smoke a little. She was always to be seen with a cigarette dangling from her mouth.

Victor joined her mid afternoon and they talked about the money that had been sent. Then, changing the subject, Victor told her that they would be going out later on.

“There’s someone I want you to meet,” he said.

“What’s his name?” she said.

“ Michael,” said Victor. “He lives nearby, actually, and I haven’t seen him for ages.”

“Is he a friend of yours?” she said.

“We met a few months ago and I’ve seen him once since then,” said Victor, “but I’ve got a feeling that I ought to see him again. He might be able to help me with my wrist.”

“What does he do?” she asked.

“He was a musician, but he gave it up for writing,” he said. They stopped talking and enjoyed watching the afternoon through the large windows set in the wall opposite. At sunset Victor and Susie drove the few miles to Michael’s house and parked their car. The moon hung low on the horizon and clouds covered the hills. It was chilly and Susie was drunk. They knocked on the door. Michael opened it and showed them in.

“I’ve been reading about your brush with death, Victor,” he said when they reached the living room.

“I was lucky,” said Victor, “I could have lost my voice not to mention my life.”

“How are you now?”

“I’m not 100% yet, and my wrist is hurting all the time. I haven’ t been able to play anything for weeks, it’s depressing. That’s why I called, actually.”

“Oh really? I was surprised to hear from you at this time.”

“This is Susie Walton, Michael,” said Victor.

“Pleased to meet you Susie,” said Michael and sat them in chairs near a blazing fireplace. There were two other people in the room sitting on a nearby sofa. They wore suits and ties and looked stiff and formal.

“ Michael? I need your help,” said Victor casually.

“I thought you might,” he replied. “You’ve been through some fascinating times recently.”

“The music was coming along fine until the shooting, but all that’s behind me now. I can’t get the mood right anymore. I just don’ t want to do anything, and I can’t really do much with this broken wrist.”

“They found the man guilty didn’t they?”

“Yes, I gave evidence in court. I actually had to identify him as the gunman. I’ll never forget his face. When they announced the verdict he went as white as a sheet. I thought he was going to faint. But they gave him ten to twenty years.”

“That’s a reasonable verdict given the circumstances,” said Michael. “I read that your band was questioned about its occult interests.”

“Yeah, they went into some depth in court, too. I was glad they phrased the questions the way they did because I didn’t have to lie. Really, I didn’t know anything about them before we met. And nothing about them made me aware of their past.”

“That’s how it should be,” said Michael. “You just go with the flow and take each day as it comes. Meet luck half way and it will meet you. You’ve been very lucky, Victor, and I’ll help you in any way I can.”

“ Susie’s had some problems as well.”

“What sort of problems?”

“She’s half crazy. She hears voices sometimes.”

“Half the people in the Bible heard voices, Victor. What do they say to her?”

“They tell her to hurt herself. Or that she’s a whore, or some such stuff. It’s got to be a memory circuit that’s doing it to her, but she can’t believe it. She thinks it’s something greater than her own mind. She’s on pills right now.”

“I’ve seen such cases before. Some are memory that’s become disturbed while others are genuinely tapping into supernatural realms. The voices can be quite helpful in some cases, and nothing to worry about at all. Is she a whore?”

“No, I don’t think so. She’ s mixed up and going mad. She doesn’t want to take pills for the rest of her life, but she doesn’t want to hear the voices. They terrify her and she gets weak and withdrawn.”

“Nothing positive in the experience at all?”

“No, nothing. She’s very capable most of the time, but when it comes to this she falls to pieces. She almost stabbed herself in the belly one day. She ended up in an emergency ward.”

“That’s not good. Not good at all. Does she know why she’s here?”

“No, I thought I’d just bring her and introduce you, and let her see what you do and bring it on before she has a chance to have second thoughts. By the time she knows what’ s going on it’ll be over.”

“Now Victor, you can’t do that.”

“But that’s what you did to me.”

“It may have seemed like it, but I knew I could trust you. I don’t know Susie and I don’t know if I can trust her. Plus her mental state might be tricky.”

“Don’t worry about trust, Michael. She’s living with me twenty four hours a day. She doesn’t see anyone and she trusts me implicitly. She won’t freak out, I assure you.”

“Yes that may be so, but you can’t tell how a person might react. She could have an attack here and it could send her over the edge.”

“She’s on pills, Michael. They calm her down. She hasn’t heard a voice for months. We had a few drinks earlier but really she’s very stable.” Susie was sitting in her chair warming her hands in front of the fire. The other two people were talking to each other in hushed whispers. Michael and Victor talked to one side. She felt warm and comfortable, almost sleepy. She was half drunk and her head spun gently. As she closed her eyes to reorient herself she grabbed Victor’s hand tightly.

“Victor,” she said, “I’m feeling dizzy. Can I have a cup of coffee or something to drink, please?”

“ Michael?” said Victor.

“Of course,” said Michael, “I’ll go and get you something. Do you want a head ache pill?”

“No thanks. I’m a little hung over that’ s all. I’ll be fine when I have a drink.”

“ Susie, are you sure you’re OK?” said Victor.

“It’s nothing. Just a slight feeling of being vague, of being sleepy. It came over me when I sat down. It must be the fire.”

“What do you think of Michael?”

“He seems nice enough. But who are those two? They look like accountants.”

“They must be friends of his. He holds meetings here. He’s very eccentric. Don’ t worry about it, he’ll introduce you later.” Michael came back into the room holding a glass of water and gave it to Susie.

“Sorry Susie the kettle is broken and it takes ages to heat up water. I thought this should do for the time being.” She took the glass and thanked him. It felt cool and wet against her lips. Her throat was very dry and the water went down quickly. She gulped it down and put the empty glass on a small table.

“I feel much better,” she said and put her fingers through Victor’s. He squeezed back and kissed her palm. Michael went to a table on the far side of the room and arranged utensils on it. He came back to the centre of the room and made a movement with his arms. Victor and the others stood up. Susie remained seated, looked at the others all standing, and rose to her feet. She had no idea what they were doing it for. Michael then began to chant some incomprehensible words while waving his hands about. Susie wanted to laugh but stopped herself. Victor was staring intently at Michael. He was trying to understand the chant but couldn’t focus his mind on the individual words. It sounded like gibberish to him. He began to feel like the room was slowly undulating around him, moving in waves of motion from left to right. Michael seemed to be taller and his voice louder. Victor held Susie’s hand tighter. She was watching Michael and wondering what on earth he was doing this for. It wasn’t entertaining and it wasn’t funny. It seemed very weird until she suddenly found herself thinking that it had something to do with the occult.

Michael moved to the small table and picked up a dagger and waved it in the air, still chanting softly. He then made defined movements through the air in the shape of a pentagram. Victor felt his ears popping and then noticed his throat was very dry and it was hard to swallow. He began to see things around Michael, floating on all sides. It excited him because he thought the ritual was working. He hadn’t seen this before and imagined that his perceptions had somehow been attuned to the purpose. Michael continued waving the silver dagger in the air and chanting, but his voice was faltering as if his throat were dry. He coughed a few times and began again.
Susie watched in growing understanding. She could see it was some sort of ritual but she couldn’t understand the words. Then Michael began speaking in slow English.

“Oh, Satan, Lord of Life we summon you here today…” Victor was taken aback by this and Susie was surprised. She realized it had something to do with Satanism and at the same time also realized that the voices she had been hearing were connected to it somehow. She fumbled for words but could find none. The voices she had heard had come to her from some dark supernatural realm and Michael was doing something to bring them back to life. A great feeling of peace engulfed her when she made this link, but she was helpless to stop the ritual. Michael continued waving the dagger until it seemed almost fruitless. He then picked up a silver chalice and sipped the red liquid it contained. He frowned and passed the cup to Victor who took it and raised it to his lips. It tasted like blood again and Victor felt his stomach rebel. He stopped himself from throwing up and handed the cup to Susie letting go of her hand.

In a robotic movement she took the cup and raised it to her lips but did not swallow. She could not bring herself to taste the liquid, but passed it along to the man standing three feet to her right. He sipped the contents and gave it to the man next to him who did the same, then the cup was returned to Michael. He put it back on the table and told everyone to sit down.

“Victor, what the hell is going on here?” said Susie furiously.

“Don’t worry about it, Susie,” he said, “it’s just a game.”

“I thought you said he was a writer? This is some kind of coven. You didn’t tell me about this.”

“It’s all right Susie, don’t get upset. It can’t hurt you.” Michael came to Victor’s side and bent down to his ear. He whispered a few words and Victor stood up and the two of them went to the other side of the room.

“Victor,” said Michael, “I couldn’t get it right tonight, sorry.”

“What do you mean?”

“The ritual didn’t work. Satan didn’t come, sorry.”

“He didn’t come?”

“Yeah, I noticed it wasn’t working. I must have done something wrong or forgot the chant. I don’t know what, it’s never happened before.”

“But we did everything the same as last time.”

“I know, I know, but Satan didn’t make his presence felt. It was empty. There’s nothing to be gained from it, tonight, but we could try again in a week or so if you wanted.” Victor was staggered. He had stretched his credulity to the limit in attending for the second time, but now he felt foolish.

“What do I tell Susie?” he said.

“Tell her what you like. It didn’t work, that’s all I know.”

“ Susie,” Victor yelled to her, “we’re going, come on.” She stood up and walked to the door. Victor shook Michael’s hand and went to her. They left through the door with Michael saying how sorry he was. Once outside Susie was fuming.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she said.

“I didn’t want to get your expectations up, that’ s all.”

“You were afraid to tell me, weren’t you?” she said. They got in the car and drove down the roadway. Susie sat in fatal silence while Victor whistled out loud. He felt humiliated and didn’t know what to say. He’ d never seen Susie so angry. They drove in complete silence back to their house and went inside without speaking to each other. Victor poured himself a drink and offered her one. She refused and went to the TV set, turned it on and sat down sulkily. A few minutes of tense silence passed before she ventured to say anything; Victor was sitting by her side on the sofa.

“Tell me you don’t believe that sort of ridiculous thing, Victor. Tell me,” she said.

“OK, I don’ t believe in it. It was just something I thought you might find interesting.”

“Drinking blood out of a silver cup? You thought I’d go along with that? How could you?”

“It wasn’t human blood. It’ s chicken blood, or lamb’s blood. It sounds disgusting but it’s just part of the ritual Michael performs. It’s harmless.”

“Harmless? He’s a psychopath. How could anyone go through with that?”

“Look, he does it for healing people, not for personal power or anything.”

“And that makes it all right does it?”

“His intentions are good, that’ s all.”

“He’s into some Satantic ritual and you wanted his help. Tell me, Victor, what sort of help did you need?”

“I thought he could fix up my wrist. It isn’t getting any better.”

“But that’s ridiculous,” she said searching for words. “He’s a witch or something. He’s probably crazier than me.”

“Nothing happened. He said he did something wrong in the ritual, so don’t worry, nothing can come of it.”

“Did something wrong? Victor, that sort of thing is just plain insane. It never works. It’s as fake as fake can be. How could you think I’d enjoy doing it?”

“Look Susie, can we drop it? It didn’t work and that’ s that. I promise I’ll never do it again. I won’t see Michael again if you don’t want me to. Can we just forget it, please?”

“No Victor, we can’t just forget it. You thought I would be interested in it, which means you just don’t know me at all.” Susie got up off the sofa and went to the bedroom leaving Victor to himself.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Hawkwind Live 2003

Hawkwind is a UK band that’s been around since the late 60s. Its genre is space-music.

I was actually introduced to the band via their record, “In Search of Space” by a high school friend named Rob Stevens in 1972. He had played a few games with our school baseball team of which I was the captain, but hadn’t really gotten into it, whereas for myself it was a full time occupation; I played for the school and for the district in little league and was the captain in both teams. The district team won many awards and premierships and at one stage competed for the Intra-state championship, which of course we managed to win.

Rob played on the school team in our final year and wasn’t very well trained. He was known as an outsider and an eccentric and I had never visited his home. But when I moved out in late 1971, he heard about it and visited me at Ben Acre Close. He brought with him some girls he knew who attended the new Mercedes College, supposedly a Catholic Girl’s school about half a mile from our school, Unley High. Two of them were sisters named Jane and Fiona, while another was named Anne Brewster. Rob also brought with him some illicit drugs, LSD mostly and offered some to me. I naturally accepted and took my first trip on California Sunshine gelatine tablets. I had a good time too.

All 4 of us, Anne didn’t participate, went for a long walk down Glen Osmond Road just after sunset when everything was bathed in a surreal pink glow. Afterwards we went back to the flat at Ben Acre and listened to pop music until well after midnight. Jane and Fiona lived very nearby and walked home with Rob around 1 o’clock.

Then, of course, I moved out of Ben Acre because there had been a small fire inside the flat caused by a leaking kerosene heater that had been left on while we all had gone for a drive to see Lyn Rolf down at Strathalbyn, a good hour’s drive.

The place I moved to was half a house in Salisbury Street, North Unley, a five minute walk from the city. It wasn’t long before Rob started coming around with grass to smoke. It had been grown locally and was quite strong; one joint would get you stoned for a couple of hours. Back then, grass was sold by the ounce @ $30 and lasted for a month, whereas these days they sell “skunk” which is supposed to be much more potent, for $20 a ten gram deal. It isn’t really any stronger and the effect only lasts for about an hour, but you can’t get the normal grass any more, which is a great pity. It means that growers and dealers are making much more money, whereas in 1972 the dealers I met were doing it for the cause and hardly covered their costs. As for growers, they were usually farmers who would plant a few dozen seeds and watch it grow to six feet high. Ten or twenty plants would furnish several pounds of dried cannabis, and dealers would get a pound for $350, sell 16 ounces @ $30 each and make $130. These days a kilo of skunk will set you back $1,000 at least and you can get 100 ten gram deals out of it, enabling you to earn $1,000.

 

hawkwindpictureforwordpress

Hawkwind 1 hour concert film

Anyway, Rob would call in on his large motorbike once a week for a smoke and occasionally would bring Fiona, his girl friend with him.  On one such occasion he produced a couple LP records, saying they were exceptionally good to listen to while you were stoned! There was Hawkwind, In Search of Space and The Grateful Dead, American Beauty. Both proved to be seminal.

Buy some unusual books! Some are about UFO’s.

Starfish Chapter 7

 

 

On the first day of the third week Victor was well enough to be released from the Stockwell hospital. Susie picked him up in a rental car and drove him to the airport. His voice had improved but his throat was still heavily bandaged.

“It’s a nice day out, isn’t it Victor?” she said.

“Good for a change. I’m sick of being indoors,” Victor replied in a semi whisper.
“I’ve got it all arranged,” she continued. “We have a six month lease on a house
near Stirling and it’s beautiful. Big and spacious. You’ll get all the rest you need and lots of fresh air. I’ll do the cooking and we can live together in peace and harmony.”
“You’re moving in?” said Victor.

“I thought I might as well do it now. It’s convenient for both of us. It’ll save me rent money and we can see how we get on together.”

“You know I need you Susie,” he said, “but I’m not sure I want to commit yet. You’re a fine girl and we get along just fine but I don’t know how we’d go living together long term.”

“That’s just it, silly,” she said, “this will give us a chance to find out. You know I love you and I’ll do anything to help you get better.” Victor smiled, mumbled something about how he was in a weak position and then closed his eyes, drifting off to sleep. The airport was a small one and when they arrived their jet was being pulled out onto the runway. They checked through the ticket office, loaded their suitcases and went on board. Susie held his hand firmly and led him along like a small child. When they’d both got seated she called the attendant to get some more pillows and then arranged them behind Victor’s head. He was drowsy from the pain killers he was taking and soon fell asleep.

The plane journey lasted two hours. Landing was a bit bumpy but Susie was glad to be home at last. She woke Victor up and they walked off the plane together. Victor’s arm was in a sling and going down the steps was a little difficult because he felt dizzy and disorientated. When they got inside the terminal they heard a public address announcement paging them. They went to the desk indicated and saw that Diana was waiting there for them She looked radiant. With her was a press photographer and someone who looked like a bouncer.

“Hi Victor, Susie,” she said greeting them.

“Hi,” said Susie. Victor remained tight lipped.

“I’ve got a car for you outside, and the house is being cleaned up. We’ll just take a few shots for the papers and then we can be off. We’ll pick up your luggage, too.”
“That’s awfully nice of you Diana,” said Susie, “but we thought we’d take it easy
for a few days before doing anything. I’ve got a car on rental anyway.”
“Well, suit yourselves, I was only trying to help. But we can’t let you leave
without a few pictures. Gene? Can you set up over there?”

“ Diana, you know I hate photo sessions. Can’t you see I’m in pain?” said Victor annoyed.

“I know, I know,” said Diana, “but you have a public now that’s very interested in your welfare. It’ll be on the front page and that’s the sort of publicity you can’t buy.” The photographer meanwhile, had set up his camera nearby and was testing his lights. When that was done he motioned for the group to move into his field of view. Victor complied, Susie remained where she was.

“Can you look up a bit please?” said the photographer.
“This better?” asked Victor and looked at the ceiling.

“That’s right.” Click. “Now turn to your right.” Click. “Now can you turn to your left and show me your arm?” Click. Click.

“How is he?” asked Diana. “I mean really?”

“He’s weak and doped up. His spirits are low,” said Susie. “Will he be able to play again?” Diana asked.

“It doesn’t look good. His wrist was pretty mangled by the bullet and he can’t do
much with his fingers. They did microsurgery but he’s going to be in a sling for two
months.”

“That long? If he can’t play again, at least he’ll be able to sing won’t he?”

“His voice is much stronger but the bruising was severe, there’s no telling how long it’ll take for his voice to get back to normal. And then there’s the question of whether or not he wants to sing again. He seems quite depressed.”

“That’s to be expected,” said Diana confidentially. “He’s been through a lot, but the record is selling like hot cakes and went to number 25 on the top forty charts this week. If it goes any higher we’ll need to do some more TV and radio, and it would be good to get some more product out there in the market place.”

“And what about his health?” said Susie.

“I won’t allow anything to jeopardize his health, but everything is covered by insurance including the cancelled tour. When is the trial?”

“It’s been postponed until June 26th, he’ll have to appear as a witness. It should
take a day at most. He’s already identified the man from police photos. They’ve
charged him with attempted murder. Did you hear that his girlfriend killed herself?”

“Yes I did and I didn’t like it. They put it on the front page and tried to illicit as
much sympathy as they could. They’re saying the accused man had very good
reasons for doing it and they’ve dug up some dirt on James and Roland from when
they were called The Possessed.” Victor finished with the photographer and returned
to Susie’s side. They held hands again. Diana went to talk to the photographer and
then led them to where their baggage was. She picked up the suitcases and placed
them on a trolley. Wheeling them towards the front doors she watched Victor and
Susie walk ahead. Susie had placed her arm around his shoulders and his head was
resting on her shoulder. It looked a pathetic sight she thought.

Susie brought her car around to the pick up area and Victor got Diana to load their bags in the trunk and said goodbye. They headed off West towards the hills and fifty minutes later were driving along a four lane freeway. It was a mildly sunny day. There had been clouds in the morning but they’d been blown away by the breeze and now all was sparkling and fresh. It was cool and moist.

“Victor? Should we have a party when you’re feeling better?”

“And invite who? You know I hate those record company hangers on, they’re
blood suckers,” he replied. Susie drove along in silence. She had a lot to do with the
house. Their first night together would have to be special. She had planned to have
a candle lit dinner and some wine, and then they could go to bed early and enjoy
being together again. All of her stuff had been moved in the week before and
Victor’s equipment had come just the day earlier. There were clothes and guitars and amplifiers and tape players and books and shoes and boxes of notes and drawings.
Victor had been a messy person and had kept things he should have discarded years
ago.

At the house Victor soon discovered it to be a large comfortable place with
central heating and a spar bath. There were views all around of the bush and the hills
and it was very quiet and subdued. He immediately upon arriving went to lay down
leaving Susie to unpack the car. She didn’t mind, she expected things would be like
that for a few weeks at least. Victor was soon asleep and Susie covered him with a
blanket and then went to the kitchen. The cupboards were empty and the fridge
hadn’t been turned on. She switched it on and wrote out a list of things she’ d need.
Candles to begin with, and a couple bottles of wine. Some groceries and something
to eat for dinner. Coffee and tea. Milk and sugar. Candy. Snacks and soft drinks.

When she was ready she left the house and drove to the Stirling shopping centre
and proceeded to buy what she wanted. It took her half an hour to get most of the
things and then she had to go into a supermarket. She got a basket and started
walking down the aisles. Half way down one she suddenly stopped and turned
around. She thought she’d heard someone talking to her saying something in
whispers, but there was no one there. She continued on selecting purchases feeling
uncanny and on edge. When she’ d bought everything she took the parcels out to her
car and put them on the back seat. It was getting near to 5 and she didn’t want Victor
to wake up in an empty house alone. She raced back to the house and took her stuff
into the kitchen. There was an intercom system fitted to one wall with outlets into all
the rooms in the house. She found the button for the bedroom and pushed it.

“Victor? Are you awake?” she said. There was no reply. She went on packing
foods away until the job was complete. Then she went out to the dining room and
laid the table with a white cloth and silver cutlery. She brought out the candles she’d
bought and put them into holders on the table. It looked formal enough, she thought.
Then she went back into the kitchen and turned on the stove. She wanted to cook
some meat and after placing it on a roasting tray, put it inside the oven. While that
was cooking she prepared a green salad and washed the dishes she wanted to use.
Half an hour later everything was more or less under control and cooking. She
pressed the intercom button again and asked Victor if he was awake yet but no reply
came.

At seven Susie went into the bedroom and shook Victor until his eyes opened.
He looked better, calmer, and upon seeing her he took her onto the bed next to him
and kissed her passionately. She was surprised at his good mood but didn’t let him
distract her.

“Come on Victor, I’ve made a nice dinner and it’ s getting cold,” she said.

“All right, and afterwards we can go to bed.” She nodded her head in agreement
and they went out to the dining room. The candles were lit and the room darkened.
It looked picturesque and romantic. Victor was hungry and ate like a horse. Susie
drank several glasses of wine as did Victor. They began to get merry. When the meal
was concluded Susie cleared away the dishes and Victor helped as best as he could.  

She made coffee and they drank it in the study watching TV news. There was a
report about Victor saying he’ d been released from the hospital and was back in
town to recuperate. It made him feel important and he joked about it until Susie
produced a third bottle of wine. They polished it off and then went to the bedroom.
Susie had to help Victor undress and then came the problem of washing. She ran a
bath and Victor got in. She washed his back and face and when he was feeling
relaxed and clean, towelled him dry. He put on pyjamas and got into the bed. Susie
then bathed herself and washed her teeth. She fixed her hair in a bun behind her head
and put on a nightie and came back to the bedroom. Victor admired her and told her
to turn off the light. It was about nine and outside it was pitch black and windy.
They lay in bed together silently communing. Victor’s wrist was in plaster and he
had to stay on his back. But Susie came to him and they kissed and kissed again. She
snuggled up to him and went to sleep.

The next morning they woke early and went out to have breakfast. Victor was chirpy and gay, Susie was slightly moody and not talkative. They ate in silence and when that was finished went out onto the veranda for their morning tea. Victor read the newspaper and Susie stared out at the lush surroundings. Birds called here and there and a wind rustled through the trees. Large clouds had gathered overnight and everything was wet with a coating of dew.

While drinking her tea Susie had been startled when she thought she heard someone talking to her from inside the house. She got up and went to see who was there thinking it must be Diana or James or Roland, but after looking she couldn’t find anyone. It hadn’t been a very clear voice and she assumed she was imagining things. This made her apprehensive. She was afraid of hearing voices when there was no one around.

Later in the morning she was watching TV when it happened again, only this time the voice was much clearer and right behind her neck. She could almost understand what the voice had said. When she turned around to look, no one was there. She began to feel very nervous. Victor was sleeping in the bedroom and she didn’t want to wake him up but when it happened a third time she got really frightened and went to him.

“Victor wake up,” she said.

“All right,” he said, “what’s the matter?”
“I don’t feel very well,” she said.
“It’s only a hang over,” he said.
“No it’s worse than that,” she said.
“Do you need a doctor?” he asked.

“If it gets any worse I’ll need a doctor,” she said, “but at the moment it’s not too bad.”

“What is it? A pain or something?”

“No, it’s worse than that. It’s happened three times this morning, and I think it happened yesterday, too.”

“What?” he said.

“The voices are coming back,” she said. “You’re hearing voices again?”
“I think so,” she replied.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” he said.

“Just hold me for a while,” she said. They embraced and she lay down on the bed and closed her eyes. Everything was as it should be. She drifted into a half dream state and dreamt that she was being chased by a wild dog that wanted to attack her. Just at the moment when the dog’s teeth sank into her flesh she woke screaming. Victor opened his eyes, too.

“ Susie, wake up. You had a bad dream,” he said. “It was a nightmare,” she replied.

“Well, it’s over now. You know it was a dream don’ t you?”

“Of course I do,” she said, “but it was so life like I could feel the pain. A dog
was chasing me and then it bit me.” They resumed their position on the bed and lay
there with their eyes open listening to the wind outside. It was a quiet day, apart
from the wind and Victor was feeling very peaceful. Susie was feeling agitated and
couldn’t lay on the bed very long. She got up and began to pace the floor. Then she
went into the living room and looked at it. Everything appeared perfectly normal.
She then went into the kitchen and looked at the dishes in the sink. She put some
water in it and started washing them when she heard the voice again. This time it
was clearly audible right behind her, and was telling her to take a knife and stab
herself with it. She was so shocked she dropped a plate on the floor and started
weeping. Victor heard the commotion and got himself out of bed and went to the
kitchen where he found Susie sitting on the floor crying. He went to her and placed
his right arm around her.

“It’s all right,” he said to her. She continued to cry. “Come on Susie, it’s all right,” he said.

“It happened again,” she blubbered.
“It won’t last long,” he said.

“It told me to get a knife and stab myself,” she said.

“Just ignore it, can’t you?” said Victor.

“It’s getting clearer and closer. A gruff male voice,” she said.

“What can you do about it?” he said.

“I’ll have to go to hospital,” she said.

“Can you drive yourself or do you want an ambulance?” he said.

“I can drive, but I’m fairly shaky,” she said.

“Do you want to go straight away?” he said.

“I think I better before it comes back again. They’ll give me an injection and some pills,” she said. She stopped crying and stood up. She was frail on her legs but walked to the table and steadied herself.

“Do you have any cigarettes?” she said. “No, I don’t smoke,” said Victor.

“I’ll have to buy some, I’m dying for a smoke,” she said. With that she grabbed her handbag and headed down the passage to the front door, Victor followed. She went outside and started up the car. For a moment her memory failed her and she couldn’t remember where first gear was. She crunched the gears, got it into second and hopped off gathering speed. When she got to the end of the driveway she was wet with sweat. Her horror was growing. She turned onto the road and sped along it
until she came to the freeway turn off. Cruising at sixty she opened the window and
let her hair get blown by the wind. It was soothing and cooling.

The day was getting brighter and the clouds were all behind her around the hills.
When she reached the hospital she parked in the grounds, got out of the car and
stumbled to the emergency entrance. It was packed with injured people. Nurses were
here and there attending to the worst cases, while doctors lounged around. There was
an antiseptic smell in the air. She felt comforted and went to the reception desk.
Having given her details to the woman behind the counter she went into a cubicle
made of hanging cloths and sat next to a stainless steel bed. She could hear the
noises from the waiting room. Little children moaning in pain. People talking.
Someone shouting. She began to feel dizzy and climbed onto the bed. She closed her
eyes and watched the lights fade from her eyes in magical images. She was on the
verge of sleep when a young doctor poked his head through the curtains.

“Hello? You must be Susie Walton? What’s the problem?” he said coolly. “Oh, Doctor, I’m hearing voices,” she said.

“Oh really?” he said, “Have you heard them before?”

“Yes Doctor,” she said, “but not for a long time. It’s driving me mad, I can’t afford to crack up again.”

“Any thoughts of suicide?” he said.

“No, but the voice told me to stab myself with a kitchen knife.”

“You really ought to be in the psyche ward Susie, they can look after you,” he said.

“Doctor, I can’t afford the time. Can’t you give me a needle and some pills?” she said.

“I can give you an anti psychotic injection,” he said, “but not until the ward
psychiatrist OK’s it. Can you wait here for five minutes? I’ll get him on the phone.”
Susie nodded and lay her head on the pillow. She closed her eyes and dozed off. The
doctor went to a phone and spoke to someone in an urgent voice. A few minutes
later a large, older man wearing glasses and a white coat came down the lift and to
the foyer. The younger doctor caught his arm and walked him to where Susie lay.
She was fast asleep.

“That’s a good sign,” said the young doctor.

“What’s her problem?” asked the older man.

“She’s psychotic. Hearing voices,” said the younger man.

“Wake her up. We’ll see how she’ s doing,” said the older man.

“ Susie? Wake up,” said the young doctor. Susie stirred and opened her eyes. She couldn’t focus for a moment and rubbed her eyes.

“I’m awake,” she said and raised her head.

“This is Doctor Higby, the ward psychiatrist,” said the young doctor. Susie extended her hand and he shook it.

“Now then, young lady, what seems to be the trouble?” he said.

“I’ve been hearing voices,” she said. “It happened two or three times in the last day or so.”

“Are the voices clear?” he said.

“They weren’t to begin with, but the last time it was as clear as your voice. It was right behind my head.”

“Did you feel giddy?” he said.

“A little. More of a panic than anything,” she said.

“Do you want to admit yourself to the psyche ward?” he said.

“No Doctor,” she said, “I haven’t got the time. Can’t you give me some pills.”
“I can give you a shot now and that will calm you, and I can give you some
tablets to take with you, but you really ought to be seeing a doctor on a regular basis,” he said.

“Thank you Doctor. I know I need to but I can’t find the time. It only got worse
today. I’ve been fine until then,” she said. The Doctor pulled a glass ampoule from
his pocket and held it up to the light. Then he went to a sideboard and got a packet
injection. He fixed the needle to the plastic barrel and stuck the tip inside the
ampoule. He drew the liquid into the syringe and hit it with his finger nail. Then he
approached Susie telling her to raise her shirt sleeve to the elbow. She did as she was
told, and then the other doctor placed some rubber ribbon around her upper arm
while the older doctor put the needle tip into her arm. It stung and the liquid burned
inside her. A second later she felt it hit her brain. She instantly became alert and very
awake. She raised her eyebrows and looked around the room.

The stainless steel instruments looked frightening.

“That was some shot,” she said.

The younger doctor smiled and nodded his head. “How do you feel now?” said the older doctor.

“Very awake, Doctor,” she said and meant it.

“Any shaking in the hands?” he said.

“A little,” she replied and raised her arms to show him. Her hands and fingers shook a little.

“That will go away in a few minutes,” said the doctor, “but the injection will last
you ten or twelve hours. After that you should take one of these tablets every four
hours until you feel better. If you can come back in a week or so, we can see how
you are.”

“All right,” she said, “I can do that. Will the injection affect my driving?”

“It shouldn’t unless you mix some alcohol in with it. Don’ t take a drink. Drink and these drugs are a fatal combination.”

“I understand,” she said, and got up from the bed to leave.

Starfish Chapter 6

 

 

Stockwell is a small city fifty miles from the coast; Bob and Brindi arrived in it
slightly after dawn. They parked their beat up old car in a K-mart and watched the
sun rise over the distant hills. It was a cloudy crisp morning. Brindi had slept most
of the night and was famished. After watching the sun come up they headed for a McDonald’ s and ate breakfast, Bob drinking three cups of coffee with his egg muffin. Brindi was quiet, they’ d driven off into the night several times before and she knew what to expect.

At nine they found themselves a room in a small hotel on the fringe of town. The
Toyhorse it was called. The room didn’t have a toilet or bath, so they lay down on
the bed and dozed until noon. They didn’t speak and they didn’t turn on the radio.
Bob was unusually calm but couldn’t sleep. He was tired but alert and on edge.

At lunch time they went out to a nearby cafeteria and had some burgers and a coke, then went back to their room and lay on the bed. Brindi changed her clothes and went for a walk outside midafternoon, Bob stayed back in the hotel.

For dinner they went out to a Chinese restaurant and had a sit down meal. Bob
paid for Brindi but said he was running out of money fast. Brindi didn’t seem to
mind. Afterwards they drove over to the university and parked next to the river that
runs behind the campus. Bob had said he wanted to see The Starfish again, and the
concert started at 8 which meant they had an hour to kill. They got out the car and
walked onto the university grounds looking at the buildings and the students going
to and fro. There was a large crowd hanging around one building so they went there
and found out it was the auditorium where the concert would be staged. The crowd
seemed to be mainly first year students with a smattering of older students here and
there. They were brightly dressed and rugged up against the cold.

Bob and Brindi joined a line and stood their ground. Gradually the line snaked
its way towards a ticket window, and finally when they got there Bob bought two.
They were fifteen dollars each, and searching in his pocket for change he announced
to Brindi that he didn’t have any money left for petrol. She smiled and told him
she’d go to the bank to get some more. They had to pay for the room first and then
they had to get back home. Bob hadn’t said how long they’d be away, but Brindi
assumed they’d leave after the concert and drive all night again.

Finally the doors to the hall were opened and the audience was allowed in. Bob and Brindi scrambled to get as close to the stage as possible and grabbed seats in the third row. The stage was all lit up and the instruments were already there ready to go. A bank of speakers lined the back of the stage and spot lights glimmered on the drum kit and the centre stage microphone. There was a hum in the hall as it filled up and then the lights dimmed and the student union president walked onstage carrying a piece of paper. He told the crowd that The Starfish would appear momentarily and then walked off. The crowd started to clap and when that reached a crescendo the hall went pitch black and the band members walked on.

Victor picked up his guitar from the stand it had been resting on and turned it on, the amps clicked to life as he strummed the instrument and did some minor tuning. James took his seat behind the shining drum kit and Roland plucked his bass until he was sure it was still in tune. Then Victor counted them in and the concert began with a fast rocking tune. The audience went wild and screamed and clapped. Bob and Brindi sat stone faced amid the mayhem.

With the second number the audience quietened down a little to let Victor’ s vocals come through, and whenever he’d sing an interesting line everyone would clap and cheer. The stage was down to three spot lights by the time the third song began. It was a slower ballad with Victor barely speaking the words. The people were mesmerized.

Suddenly Bob rose to his feet and started yelling at Victor, telling him to repent.
When the song ended Victor saw a thin scraggy young man standing in an aisle
shouting at him, then he came closer to the stage and pulled something out of his
jacket. Victor couldn’t make out what it was, and then a second later he heard a loud
cracking noise and felt himself pushed backwards. He dropped the guitar to its strap
and looked down at his left hand. It was bloody and misshapen. Then he heard two
more cracks and felt himself fall backwards while around him came screams of
panic and fright. Someone was yelling at the man holding the gun and then two or
three people jumped on him and brought him to his knees. He dropped the gun and
with the weight of his attackers upon him fell to the floor. The house lights went on
and the place was eerily quiet. James had noticed the gun at the second shot and had
gotten up from his kit by the time Victor had fallen. When he reached Victor there
was already a lot of blood everywhere. Roland had also come to his aid, but because
of the blood he didn’t know what to do. He yelled for someone to get some help and
cradled Victor’ s head in his arms. He looked as if he’d been shot in the chest and his
eyes were glazed and half shut.

A few minutes later an ambulance siren was heard and then Victor was stretchered away. He had lost consciousness and hadn’t been able to speak. They’d got the guy who did it and the police had him under arrest. He’ d been led away through the crowd while everyone booed. It was a frantic scene.

At the hospital Roland was told that Victor was on the critical list. He’d been
shot in the wrist, the chest and the neck and had lost a lot of blood. An artery was
severed and his hand was badly damaged. James couldn’t believe it but answered
questions from a news reporter. She’ d been at the concert to do a review for her
paper and had gotten a picture of the comatose singer being taken away by the
ambulance officers. She said she’ d put it on the front page. It was totally out of
character for this type of thing to happen in their town and she’ d help to get to the
bottom of it.

Victor went into emergency surgery at nine and was on the table for four hours.
The bullet wound to the chest was causing most of the trouble. He couldn’t breath
because his lung had been punctured and the bleeding wouldn’t stop. They had to
remove the bullet and then plug up the hole; they also did some micro surgery on his
hand. His neck was a clean hit, going through the front and coming out the back,
nicking his wind pipe and voice box but nothing else. His wrist was broken in seven
places and they had to remove particles of bone before they could set it with pins.
By the time surgery was over he was on life support and teetering on the edge.

Back at police headquarters Bob was being questioned by a team of detectives.
He didn’t say much apart from stating that he thought Starfish was a satanic band
and he was glad he could rid the world of one more evil influence; he was charged with attempted murder by 3 am and put in the cells a little later. Brindi had watched
the whole thing and when Bob had shot at the stage she’ d screamed along with
everyone else. As soon as they had him in custody she’ d managed to sneak out of
the hall back to their car. She was sweating and in a panic. Finally she went to
headquarters to tell them that Bob had the car keys and she couldn’t get home
without them. She was questioned for two hours and then released without the keys.
On her way out a photographer snapped his flashgun in her face and got a picture of
her, saying it would be on the front page by morning. She reacted with horror. She’d
never been in trouble with the police before. She went back to the hotel and went to
bed but couldn’t sleep.

In the morning, as the reporter had promised, the story was on the front page of every newspaper. It was reported that Victor had been gunned down by an unknown out of town maniac who was still being held in custody. Background details were scant and so the story went into some lengthy discourse about the recent success of The Starfish with their new record deal. James read it back at the motel and told Roland about it over the phone. Diana called early to see whether it was true or not and when told the facts ordered them to stay where they were because she’ d come to them. James and Roland had drunk the early hours away with a bottle of whisky and fell asleep mid morning. The story was covered in the breakfast news shows on TV and then other midday programs. The Starfish were shown at recent concerts and their new single was played half a dozen times.

A vigil was held outside the hospital with student fans lighting candles and singing Starfish songs. Victor was gravely ill and the thought that he might die added a deeper dimension to his plight. Nothing like it had ever happened in Stockwell and the media was milking it for all it was worth.

In the afternoon the police chief held a press conference about the incident and
gave out details of the man they’ d charged with attempted murder. A charge that
could change should the victim not recover. They said he was a student from out of
town, had attended university for two years and was a member of a religious group
on the campus. They gave his name and age and showed pictures of him shortly
after the arrest. He looked like the crowd had got to him and beaten him up, his nose
was bloody and his hair dishevelled, his shirt was torn down the front and he had a
tooth missing. They went on to say that at the present time the accused man was
going to defend his actions and plead not guilty. He would face a court hearing the
next day.

Susie had been shocked when she’d seen the man approach the stage and start
firing a gun. She was standing in the wings watching Victor perform and then saw
him go down in a pool of blood. When she reached him he was coughing up blood
and bits of lung. They’d taken her in the ambulance to the hospital and she’d stayed
there all night until he’d been placed in a room. Then she’d fallen asleep in the
waiting room and had to be roused mid morning so she could get some sleep. She
went back to the motel room and cried her eyes out. Every few hours she’d call the
hospital to see how Victor was doing. Was he still on life support? When was the respirator going to be removed? Did they need blood? Did they think he’d recover?
Victor lay unconscious for nearly seven days and then one morning he opened
his eyes and saw Susie sitting by the bed. He had been taken off life support on the
third day and was making progress. Susie had visited him every day and simply sat
by his side holding his hand. When he opened his eyes she called a nurse, who
checked his pulse and gave him a going over. His eyes were still glazed but they
held some life.

He tried to speak but couldn’t form the words properly. His voice box had been
damaged and all he could do was croak words. It was very painful too. He stayed
conscious for twenty minutes and then lapsed back into unconsciousness. Susie was
pleased because it meant he’ d be getting better. Slowly but surely. The doctor had
told her that his hand and voice box were both damaged and that he might never sing
again, and most probably would never be able to play a guitar again. They had done
their best but the wounds had been too gross. Diana had arrived on the first day and
from then on had managed the media with daily press briefings from the hospital
and the police.

Bob was brought into court on the second day and formally charged with
attempted murder and carrying an unregistered pistol, bail was refused and a court
appointed attorney took on the brief. He was going to say that because Starfish had
been an occult band he had every right to stop them performing, since he was a true
Christian and had been one for many years. Brindi had stayed at the hotel not daring
to visit Bob in the police cells. She was terrified that she might be implicated and
didn’t know what to do for him. She talked to his lawyer and was told she’ d be
called as a witness at trial. She slept a lot and ate very little. On the fifth day she
went to the bank and drew out her savings. Had a good meal and bought some
Vodka. She went back to the hotel and drank it, washing it down with water. By the
time she’d finished the bottle she was deliriously drunk and began sobbing. Bob had
been her first real boy friend. They’d done many things together and she’d always
thought that one day they’d be man and wife. Now all that was finished. The lawyer
had told her that it was an open and shut case. There were dozens of witnesses and
the state could prove the gun belonged to him and that the bullets that hit Victor had
been fired from it. He’ d be lucky if he didn’t get ten or twenty years. She was
absolutely mortified by this news and couldn’t stop crying. Lying on the bed drunk
she suddenly found calmness within her and wiped the tears from her face. She
would be strong and do her best for Bob.

She left the room and went up a fire escape to the roof of the hotel. It was about
seven stories high. She locked the fire escape door behind her and went to the edge
of the roof. She spent a minute or two looking down at the road and then climbed
onto the railing that prevented people from falling. For an instant she tottered on the
brink and then with a screech she jumped over the edge and plummeted to the
pavement. She hit it feet first and then came down onto her head. She lay there for
a few seconds and then coughed up blood and passed out. Five minutes later she had
died.

When the press heard about her suicide they put a photo on the front page of her. She was leaving police headquarters on the morning of the first day, looking tired and unkempt. They described her as the assassin’s girl friend and went into intricate details of the relationship and the ride to Stockwell speculating on how intimate she and Bob had been. They didn’t inform Bob of her death for a couple of days and after he’d been told he didn’t react at all. He’d settled down to the routine of incarceration and didn’t feel anything, not even loss.

In two weeks Victor had regained consciousness and was taken off the critical
list. He was able to breathe on his own and eat normal food, but his voice remained
nothing but a grunting sound. Susie kept up her vigil, while the student fans outside
forgot about the whole thing by the second week once they were sure their wounded
hero was going to recover. The press started playing down the story by the fifth day
and two weeks later the most it could get was a column inch on page four. The trial
had been set for the next month and Victor would be required to attend to give
evidence. He understood it when Susie told him about it, but couldn’t see how he’d
be able to speak. The doctors had told him that his voice box was still badly bruised
and they didn’t know how much permanent damage had been done. He was able to
walk around by the end of two weeks but the chest wound caused him great pain.
The bullet had broken three ribs when it had entered into him.

Diana prepared to move Victor and Susie back home after the second week had
passed. James and Roland had left on day five and insurance claims had been made
on day nine. The tour had been cancelled, but record sales had picked up because of
the national publicity the shooting had got. Victor was on news bulletins from coast
to coast for a day or two and The Starfish had been seen by millions. Most stories
emphasized the band’s sudden success and Victor’s contribution to it with his song
writing. Clips of concerts would be shown and bits and pieces of various songs
would be played. Teenagers across the country had found a new hero and the band
quickly assumed the status of a cult group. Within three weeks record sales had
soared to fifteen thousand units a week sold, and Diana couldn’t have been happier.

The tour cancellation had cost her thousands but once the insurance claims had been made she felt better. Things were working out to her advantage. James and Roland, having nothing else to do had turned to drink in a big way and spent most other days plastered. The money began to roll in and their only concern was getting back together to play. They would sit around discussing how close to death they had all come. What if the gunman had aimed an inch to his left? Or a little higher? What if Victor had been hit in the head? What if…?

Starfish Chapter 5

 

 

Six weeks later The Starfish began a national tour of university campuses, jetting
off to Maryland for their first date. A live album was also released on Major Records
and it started selling two or three hundred copies a week. Diana accompanied them
everywhere, acting not only as manager but as personal assistant. She organized
details down to the last minute and patiently waited backstage whenever the band
played. Susie went with Victor as a backup singer and their life together seemed to
blossom.

Maryland is a large campus of about twenty thousand and the concert venue was
the basketball stadium; it held ten thousand when full but Starfish didn’t expect
more than half that number to attend. The set got off to a good start. Victor walked
onto the stage once Roland and James were already there, and counted the band into
their first number. A rocking blues number about the life of a misfit musician on the
road; next came a folk tune about the crazy times in which we live. Victor would
sing the words and play his guitar and the others would provide a steady backbeat.
The crowds loved it and cheered wildly. At the beginning of the concert the hall held
about five thousand but by the time it was finished it was almost completely full.
Tickets had been ten dollars a piece, and the band was happy to be able to record a
profit on their first night. Diana was especially happy because she needed the
money. Christian Stein had sent her a cheque the morning after the deal had been
signed, but she’ d banked it and used some of it to pay off outstanding debts. The rest
had gone toward instruments for the band and personal effects. Victor had got his
Honda repaired and James had bought himself a new set of clothes. There was still
some left in the bank, but Diana knew that their success depended upon a steady
inflow of cash. As soon as the tour reached Holmethorpe the band would go into the
first of many radio studios to promote their album, and if sales picked up the extra
income would be used to replenish the depleted bank account. The Starfish had formed a limited company to that end and it said in their contracts that all profits would be paid to the company first; band members could use five hundred dollars a week on condition that should they over spend they were personally liable to repay any outstanding sums. Diana had said it was the usual means employed by bands to keep their income under control. Leo went along with the band as their sound man,
and at each concert was expected to record what had taken place. The band had
invested a large slice of their advance in a mobile four track recorder and Leo played
with it like a baby with a new toy. He loved gadgets and electronic devices and was
always at a gig hours before anyone else, setting up speakers and mikes. The tour
had been planned so that they flew to major cities and from there chartered buses.
They would stay in motels overnight and fly out early the next day. When they
reached Holmethorpe they checked into a Hilton hotel and made their way to the
local FM radio station for on air publicity of their new album. Victor would do all
the talking and the others would join in only after the album had been played. It was
forbidden to mention which bands James and Roland had played with before and the
occult was strictly taboo. Things went smoothly enough and record sales gradually
got stronger until the band was selling a thousand copies a week. They were doing
two or three shows a week also, which meant their income picked up considerably.
They drank a lot in their idle hours and never wrote new material. Victor felt that
new material should be composed at leisure and hoped for a period of time after the
tour when he’ d be able to write without any pressure.

The second week of the tour passed without incident and venues were getting fuller and fuller. In some smaller towns only a thousand people showed up, but in the larger cities they drew crowds of five and ten thousand, all by word of mouth advertising. They were getting a reputation as a no nonsense progressive band with a political message. Their fans were growing in number and whenever they did a TV appearance their record sold like hotcakes.

The Starfish were seen live in regional noon time TV shows across the country
and because their performance was professional they sold more records than ever
before. Within five weeks they had reached number 39 on the top forty charts and
were selling ten thousand albums a week. The money poured in and things looked to
be on the up and up. Diana was negotiating a deal to get them on the principal
concert circuit, as the warm up act to a big international name band. These were
stadiums of twenty and thirty thousand seats, and would be sure to boost record
sales. Things were progressing nicely. In the fifth week of the tour the band was
playing at the Layton university, an afternoon show in front of two or three thousand
persons. It was a good show and Leo was taping it all. He had set up a booth from
which members of the audience could get a tape of the concert simply by plugging
in their own recorders. This went over with the fans in a big way. He’ d done it in
nearly every place they’ d played but it had taken a while for the idea to catch on. A
row of sockets was attached to a line out of the mixing console and nothing was said
about it during the show. People would walk past and look and then finally one or
two realized what it meant, pulled out their previously hidden cassette recorders and plugged in. Leo knew that concerts are always recorded by members of the audience but because it was done surreptitiously the quality of the sound left much to be desired; this way no one was disappointed. At Layton during a lull in the concert Leo was approached by a slender, short young man wearing wire rimmed glasses. He wanted to know more about the band.

“Hi, my name’s Bob. How long you been working for these guys?” he said to
Leo.

“Good day, Bob. I’m Leo the sound technician. These are my boys, been with `em since day one.”

“They used to be the Possessed didn’t they?” he said. “Not that I know,” said Leo.

“Sure they were. They were right into the occult. I got one of their records.” “Could have been. A bit before my time. You could be right,” said Leo. “It’s this singer, he changes everything. What’s his name?”
“Victor, Victor Verona,” said Leo.

“Victor? Good name that. Pity he’s a punk.” “He’s good though, isn’t he?”

“He’s changed them, man,” said Bob. “He’s brought something new to them, they don’t sound the same anymore.”

“You liked them back then did you?”

“Never said that; they just sounded better. I always wanted to know what they were really like.”

“What you see is what you get; they’re exactly what they seem to be,” said Leo.
“They haven’t found Jesus that’s certain.” Bob walked away from the console
and merged back into the crowd. He went to a seat in the second row and put his arm
around a small woman. They held hands and gazed into each others eyes intently.
During a pause between numbers Bob suddenly stood up and began yelling at the
top of his voice, “Repent, repent.” Victor, on stage, could hear his voice loudly and
tried to divert him by saying a few funny lines, but that infuriated Bob and his shouts
got even more intense. The band launched into another song and drowned Bob out,
he sat down again and held the woman tighter. In the next break he did the same,
yelling as loud as his lungs would let him. From the rear of the hall came cat calls.
Bob was getting worked up by all the noise and shouted throughout the next song.
His words were lost in the general confusion. His girlfriend also stood up and started
mouthing words at the stage. They seemed to be in a frenzy. Victor could see them
from where he stood next to a mike stand and their movements distracted him; at
one point he forgot the words he was supposed to be singing and had to hum the last
verse. There were boos from the back of the hall every time Bob’s voice came
through. He wouldn’t let up in the breaks and trouble seemed immanent.
At the conclusion of the set, when Victor bowed and the band left the stage there
was lots of clapping and cheering, but beneath it all you could still hear Bob
screaming, “Repent.” Gradually the hall emptied out, but Bob and his girl remained
where they stood staring wildly at the stage. Finally everyone had gone and Bob turned to leave. He grabbed his girl’s hand and dragged her along an aisle fuming.
They walked through a throng of people standing around the exit door and went
towards the university cafeteria. When they got there they went up two flights of stairs and made their way along a corridor to a room. They went in the room and saw it was being used by a group of students.

“Hope we’re not interrupting,” said Bob to the group. “Not at all, Bob,” said a young man wearing a tie. “John, glad to see you here.”

“What’s the reading for today?” asked Bob. “Revelations 3:14,” said John.

“That’s a good passage in the light of what we just saw,” said Bob. “They staged
a concert in the hall, the place was packed with first year students. They had a band
that used to be famous for its occultism. They were actually cheering and clapping.
It was disgusting. I don’t know who organizes these things but we’ll have to get onto
them as soon as possible and protest that they’re promoting Satanism and devil
worship. There’s nothing wholesome about Starfish and they’re as subtle as Lucifer,
himself.”

“That’s why we’re here,” replied John. “To overcome the influence of the devil. This campus has become a hot bed of all that’ s bad in society today. We have to take a more verbal stand if we’re to help change the situation.”

“That’ s alright as far as it goes,” continued Bob, “but the union isn’t going to change because we protest. They think we’re nuts and pour scorn on us every time I approach them. I made noises about the condom machines in the toilets and they called me a reactionary.”

“It’s immoral Bob, and we must change it before it corrupts many more. These first year students are fresh out of high school and they’ve done the best they could to follow God’ s ways, and they come here only to be hit with a wall of filth. It’s everywhere and they can’t close their eyes to it, so they accommodate themselves to it and think they’re being liberal by accepting it, but they don’t have to. They should stand up for their rights.”

“It’ s more than that, John,” said Bob. “They have to fight for their rights. We’re
thought of as being right wing Christians who support the conservatives, but we’re
more than that. What we have to do is get ourselves mobilized and strike at the root
of the problem. Take the concert today, the students’ union booked the band
knowing they were a Satanic group, and they paid them our hard earned money.
They put the show on at lunch time because they knew they’d get a full house. They
don’t care what sort of crap they promote as long as they get their slice of the action.
It’s not the first time we’ve had a band that supports drugs and immorality, and
unless we do something now it won’t be the last. The union is anti-Christian and has
plans to go even further. We have to boycott them, and we have to boycott the
bands. Do both at the same time.”

“I agree with you, Bob, we have to get the message out to more and more
students first, and then we’ll have the numbers to use in a boycott. As it is we hardly get fifty a week coming to fellowship meetings. The Catholics have a hundred at
their services, and they’re being pressured even more than us. There’s a large
movement against us because we represent fundamental values and they paint us
with the same brush they use on the royal family, the Ayatollah and the Papacy.”

“We have to get militant, John,” said Bob. “We’re too soft and we’re too easy a
target. They don’t attack the Catholics as much as they do us because at least they
have a large social organization behind them, but we’re just seen as a fringe
development that’s come along in the last ten or twenty years. We have no means at
our disposal and we don’ t have a mother church to protect us. And we don’t fight
back.”

“I understand that, but there’s also too much sinning going on and nobody is interested in repenting. We ought to get in some high powered speakers from the crusade movement and get them into the hall some lunch time. Have an old fashioned revival rally and just see how many converts we get. I’ve got lots of literature here and we could have more printed up.”

“That would go a long way towards helping our cause John, and we ought to try
to do something along those lines; what we have to do in the meantime is strike at
the root of the problem. We’ve got to take an ax to the condom machines, and we’ve
got to censor the music the book shop stocks. We have to get the filth out of the
campus life altogether. Get someone on the union to influence their decisions about
what bands they stage. Get the union interested in Christianity and have a regular
feature in the campus newspaper. We have to know which staff members are against
us, and who’s for us, and then have them show public support. The Catholics will
support us with the condom machines and the anti-abortion issue, but right to life
isn’t the central focus of our struggle. We’re a vibrant ministry and we have to get
to the people and witness to them, and spread the gospel.”

“Well, everyone went to the concert today, which means that we don’t have the numbers to really do very much. This meeting was advertised as a fellowship seminar and look how many came. This is Peter, Roger, David and Wolfgang; four of us to do the Lord’ s work.”

“That’s exactly why we have to strike at the root of the disease. It’s no good letting them get away with it any longer. We have to arm ourselves and fight for our white Christian heritage. Why not right now? Get a fire ax and smash the condom vending machines in the toilets?”

“We’d need some photos, and someone from the paper to document it, Bob. It’s a good idea though, I’m all for it. The sooner the better.”

Bob went to the glass fronted cabinet and tried to open it. It wouldn’t open
because the “in case of fire” sign said it was locked and had to be smashed. Bob
understood and put his elbow through the glass. The fire ax came into his hands. It
weighed a few pounds and made him feel stronger. He motioned his girl friend to
follow him and John and the others kept a discreet distance behind him. He went
down a corridor to the first toilets, entered and was soon smashing the machine
which was attached to the wall. A loud thud resonated throughout the room when it fell to the tiled floor demolished. The others witnessed its demise.

“That’s a start, anyway,” said Bob. “We’ll have to tell the newspaper we did it and why. They’ll publish a story about it next week without fail.”
“I’ve sent Peter down to their office to tell them. We better wait here for them,”
said John blushing.

“Right then,” said Bob. “We’ll do the same bloody thing to every condom vending machine on campus. We’ll wait for the press and they can come with us and watch. Just to make sure it was us and we’re not mere vandals. Is there anyone on staff who’d join in?”

“Not that I can think of, off hand Bob,” said John mincing his words. The small group stood back and leaned against the wash stands. The white condom machine lay stricken near the far wall. In a booth someone flushed a toilet and then innocently opened the door.

“What’s going on out here?” he said.

“This is a protest against wickedness,” replied Bob holding his ax high above his head.

“What? The condom machine? Are you guys crazy? With AIDS around you need safe sex.”

“AIDS is a plague sent to chastise the sinners,” said Bob vehemently. “Sex outside of marriage is a violation of God’s law.”

“Will you can it big boy. This is university property and you’ve just done it criminal damage.”

“I don’t have time to stand here arguing with you,” said Bob. “This protest is against sin and those who condone it. If you don’ t like it, you can leave.” The young man gingerly went to the door and disappeared.

Moments later three young men appeared. One being Peter from the group, the other two, a photographer from the newspaper and a reporter.
“Who’s in charge here?” said the reporter.

“I am,” said Bob.

“What’s the idea of breaking the vending machine. They’re not cheap, you know.”

“We’re protesting. The right to life is sacred. Anything that interferes with God’ s law should be done away with. We are going to destroy every condom vending machine on campus, you’re going to write a story about it.”

“Alright,” said the reporter, “we’ll take some pictures and I can write about it, but I’ll also give the details to security so they charge you with wilful damage.”
“Suits me, friend,” said Bob casually.

“Shall we go then?” said John and they all piled out into the corridor again. The
group moved towards a stair well and down towards the ground floor. They found
another toilet and broke another vending machine, then they marched off looking for
quarry. All the while, Bob’ s girl, Brindi, held his hand and kept her Bible firmly in
the other. The black book soothed her troubled mind. She was as enthusiastic as the
others. There was no shouting, no outward signs of a protest, but they moved systematically from building to building on their search and destroy mission.
Eventually they had destroyed fifteen machines and the day was wearing on. The
reporter had his story and his cameraman had some nice photos. Campus security
was called and a uniformed guard showed up. He took down Bob’s name and
number and told him he’ d been reported; he also took down the names of everyone
in the group. He said they could lose their office in the union building if any action
was taken, and he made sure they understood that action would be taken. It was a
criminal offence to destroy university property, he said, and they were lucky he
didn’t call the police to deal with the matter. Bob was in control and felt his blood
boil.

“Come on Brindi,” he said to his girl, “we have to get to the bottom of this right
now.” With that they left the building and went to the car park and sat in Bob’s car.
Brindi read from her Bible while Bob muttered to himself trying to bring on a tirade.
After some time he gunned the engine and drove off campus back to his rooming
house. It was an old ramshackle building on the edge of town he shared with three
science students.

He and Brindi went inside to his room. The place was a mess with rubbish
littering the floor and beer cans everywhere. In Bob’ s room was a bed and a desk,
the curtains were drawn and all was silent. Brindi lay on the bed and continued to
read her Bible while Bob scrounged around in some draws. Finding what he was
looking for, he bent over and tucked it into his belt and covered it with his jacket.

“Time to go, Brindi,” he said. She automatically got up.

“Where are we going Bob?” she said.

“We’re going on a drive Brindi. We’re going to another Starfish concert.” “But I thought you said they were evil?” she said.

“I did, and they are, but that isn’t going to stop me from seeing them again. They’re playing in Stockwell tomorrow night. That’s three hundred miles from here. We can drive all night and be there in the morning. Do you mind?”

“Where will we stay when we get there Bob? You know I don’t like sleeping in the car.”

“We’ll rent a room Brindi. Don’t worry about it, the Lord will provide. You got any money?”

“A few dollars, but I’ll have to go back to my college and tell them I won’t be home for a day or two.”

“You can get a change of clothes too,” said Bob.

With that they left the house, got in the car and drove off back towards town.

Starfish Chapter 4

 

 

Diana was sitting at her desk in the Wentworth building when the telephone rang. She picked it up and spoke.

“Hello, Diana here,” she said.

“Hi, Roland here,” came the reply.

“Oh hello Roland. How are you? I haven’t heard from you for months. What have you been doing?” she said.

“That’s why I’m calling Diana, I’ve got a new tape for you to listen to. And we’ve changed our name and have a new member,” he said.
“The last tape you gave me was terrible,” she said. “I couldn’t listen to it really.
Your songs are too brutal.”

“We’ve got new material. We did a sixty minute tape and as soon as it’s mixed we’re sending it to you. You’ll love it. But you’ll have to draw up a contract for the new boy. His name is Victor, Victor Verona. His songs, so standard royalty for performances, and a third of the door,” he said.

“New material? That’ll be a change. I’ll draw up a contract but unless you guys have changed considerably there won’t be much point in doing it. You haven’t got a gig in sight,” she said.

“Wait till you hear the tape,” Roland continued. “It’ s better than we’ve ever sounded. You’ll love it, honestly. And we want some gigs. And you’ll have to take the tape to a record company. We want a deal this time.”

“Look Roland, you still owe me money from your last gig. I get twenty five percent you remember, and you never paid me. You owe me fifty dollars.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll get it to you,” he said.

“Victor Verona? OK, I’ll draw up a standard contract this afternoon. You’ll have to get him to sign it as soon as possible. I’m not listening to any tape until I’ve got exclusive rights to it. Is that clear?” she said.

“Right Diana, anything you say. I’ll get the tape over to you by messenger. It’s great. The name new is The Starfish, like it?”

“The Starfish? Why not plain old Starfish. Why the the?”

“Makes it sound more formal. Starfish have five arms like a pentagram. And we’ve dropped the occult trip altogether so you’ll be pleased to hear that our attitude has changed, too. We want gigs, and the bigger the better. We’ll be at the hall on Sydney Street every night this week. The tape should be done by this afternoon, so you’ll be hearing from us before the day ends.”

“This afternoon? I’ve got a meeting at three. I’m clear after that. I’ll get the contract made up straight away. Listen Roland, you could have made it big, but you guys just screwed it up with your attitude and your words. You can’ t sing about stuff like that and get away with it.”

“I know, I know, but we’ve got a hundred new songs and we sound different. Victor plays guitar and writes songs. He’ s not bad at all. We acted like his backup band, and it came out fine. Really, better than we ever sounded. No wall of sound, and you can hear the vocals.”

“I’ll believe it when I hear it,” she said.

“Alright, must go now. I’ll call you again tomorrow,” he said and hung up the phone.

Diana sat back in her swivel chair and chewed on a pencil. She had managed the
band for five years and for her trouble hadn’t collected more than a thousand dollars.
They were a bunch of losers if ever she’ d met any. They had a fixation with the
occult, and their playing was too loud and brash. She couldn’t even try to get them
a major recording deal and ended up funding an independent album that just
managed to break even. She’d given up attending their shows because she drank too
much and couldn’t stand their music any more. Album sales were so slow that she
didn’t get her money back for two years. And there had been fewer and fewer gigs
since then. Roland wasn’t a bad musician, he just didn’t have the self discipline to
stick at it to make it, and James was a fine drummer but he wrote terrible songs and
couldn’t sing for nuts. They tried to disguise their short comings by creating a wall
of sound effect. It drowned out the vocals, but clouded the tunes so much that in the
end all one heard was a thumping bass and clashing drums. They didn’t even have
any value as a novelty act.

Roland went to the studio where Leo was mixing down the tape and listened as
he did his magic. It was a simple thing to do. The master was in good shape, and all
they wanted was a good overall sound. From four tracks to two tracks of true stereo.
Leo had done this many times before and worked quickly.

It was easy because the four tracks had been recorded as is, and all he need do was mix them down into two tracks. Occasionally he would speak out loud to no one in particular saying how
good the song was and how an extra guitar or vocal would improve it noticeably.
Roland hung around drinking whisky from a bottle, humming along to the now
familiar tunes. His bass sounded subdued and calm, very methodical and rhythmic.
His solos were works of art and his background vocals were quite good. He was
pleased and excited by what he heard. As the sounds were blended they emerged
from the speakers with depth and clarity. He felt sure they had a success on their
hands. When the tape was completed, Leo copied it several times onto cassettes and
gave one to Roland. He kept the master and the master of the final mix. They might
want to complete the task with additional vocals and instrumentations. Roland got
on the phone and ordered a messenger to get there as soon as possible. He put the
tape into a cardboard box, wrote Diana’s address on it, and sealed it with tape. The
messenger arrived and Roland handed him the box and signed the credit slip. It was
a bill he’ d pay later. The messenger left with his cargo and Roland relaxed with his
bottle. Leo kept playing with tapes of the band. He wrote their new name on one
cassette and played it through the speakers at full volume. It sounded clear and
distortion free, the background noise wasn’t discernible and the Dolby treble was
well below saturation point. In his estimation the tape was as good as it ever would be.

“Are you coming to the hall tonight, Leo?” asked Roland, between swigs from his bottle.

“Sure, I’ll be there. I’ll tape the whole thing. If it gets better than this, you’ll be in the money before you know it,” he said.

“Can you drive me over? I’m a little too pissed to do it myself. What’s the time anyway?” he said. Leo stood up from the mixing desk and went into the studio; he returned shortly and told Roland that it was five minutes past four. They had two hours to kill.

“Mind if I use the phone again?” he said.

“Go ahead Roland,” Leo said, “it’s all yours.” Roland dialled some numbers and waited, then said hello.

“Is that you Victor?” he asked.

“It’s me Roland. How’d the mixing go?” he said.

“Just great,” said Roland, “and Diana is drawing up a contract for you to sign. She gets a copy of the tape this afternoon. She’s got your details and wants you to sign before she listens to the tape.”

“No problem. I can do that tomorrow. What time do we meet at the hall?” he
said.

“I was thinking six would be good, but the sooner the better for me. I’m raging to go. We’re going to be taped again, so bring along all your songs and we’ll try them out.”

“OK,” he said, “I’ll be there as soon as I can. Susie’s here and she’ s not feeling too good.”

“She’s cracking up again?” said Roland.

“Yeah, she seems to be on the verge of going insane.”

“Well, bring her along and we’ll give her something to ease her pain. I’ve been drinking whisky all day and I feel fabulous.”

“So long as you can play that’s all that matters,” said Victor.

“I’ll be fine, I’ll be fine,” said Roland and hung up. Victor reached out and put
the phone back on its cradle. He was laying in bed half clothed, Susie beside him.
They had slept fitfully from dawn after making love again. She was terrified that the
voices would come back and that Victor was part of their plot. They had almost
argued but Victor had gotten the upper hand. He’d convinced her that it was fate and
meaningless coincidence that had brought them together. Everything was working
out well, and apart from her mental state they were a good team. Susie woke up with
a start and looked about the room casually. It was messy with clothes lying on the
floor everywhere. There were half empty cups on the night stand and the room
smelled musky and enclosed.

“Why don’t you ever open a window in here?” she said.

“I don’ like fresh air,” he replied and lay down beside her. They snuggled up
together and kissed. Victor was awake enough to know that he was hungry. He
finished kissing her and then got up out of the bed and went to the kitchen. Looking in the fridge he found some cold meat and pulled it out. He cut some bread and
made a sandwich and bit into it eagerly. The food tasted good and when he got back
to his bed he broke the bread in two and gave the other half to Susie. She took it
laconically and devoured it. They hadn’t eaten for a long time and both were
famished.

“Why don’t we go to the hall and see what’s doing?” said Victor. “ Isn’t it a bit early?” Susie replied.

“We’ve got an hour to kill, and there’s nothing much to do here. I suppose I could sing you some of my songs,” he said.

“Save it for later,” she said. “You’ll need all your inspiration for tonight. You know you fitted in with James and Roland like a bug in a rug. It was amazing you guys just played together like you’ve known each other for years.”

“Yeah, we were lucky,” he said and finished his sandwich. “Shall I make some coffee?” she said.

“If you like.” Susie got out of the bed and went to the kitchen, found the kettle,
filled it with water and got out a coffee maker. She spooned in the raw ingredients
and waited for the water to boil; a few minutes later she poured the hot water into
the coffee maker and let it brew for a few seconds before pouring out two cups.

“You have two sugars?” she yelled to Victor.

“That’s right,” he yelled back. She spooned the sugar into the cups, topped them
off with milk and brought them back to the bed. It smelled pleasantly warm. Victor
gulped his down and Susie sipped hers. They lay on the bed listening to the sounds
outside the window. There were cars and trucks going past. There were also birds in
the trees. When they’d both finished their coffee they got out of bed and dressed.
Victor pulled on his pants and then put on his boots. Susie threw a dress over her
shoulders and put on her shoes. Half an hour had gone and they were ready to
depart.

Diana had been sitting in her office when the messenger boy had arrived with the package. She signed for it and took it to a tape player and tore open the box. She placed the cassette in the player and turned it on. She then went back to her desk and waited for the music to begin. The opening guitar work sounded good, she thought, and then within a few minutes she was immersed in the song. It was a good song, she thought. As she listened the sound bathed her and with each new song she became more and more enthused. Finally when the tape was over she knew that it was going to be a hit. It had all the qualities she had always wanted to hear from a band. She picked up the phone and called a number.

“Hello,” she said, “I want to speak with Christian Stein.”

“Hello Christian? It’s Diana here. How are you?” she continued. The voice on the other end made some noises.

“I’ve got something for you. When are you free?” she said. The voice said something in a long sentence.

“It’s urgent Christian. I’ve got a tape I want you to hear. Could I come over now?” she said. The voice on the phone said some more and she agreed. She put the phone down and picked up the tape and walked out of her office. She caught an elevator up to the sixteenth floor and got off. At reception she told the girl she wanted to see Christian Stein and was ushered through to a plush office. Christian sat behind a large oak desk puffing on a pipe.

“What’s the big deal?” he said.

“I just got this tape Christian. It’s what we’ve been looking for. A new band called The Starfish. Can I put it on?” she said.

Stein motioned her towards the tape player, and got up to pour himself a drink.
“You want one Diana?” he said. She nodded her head and turned the player on.
The room quickly was awash with guitar sounds.

Picking up her drink from the desk Diana swished it down and smiled at Stein. He held his half full glass and sat absorbed. The music was loud and very good, he thought. Catchy words, too.

“You got an exclusive contract on them?” he yelled through the sounds.

“ Yep, exclusive and I’ve got twenty five percent of them,” she said. Stein nodded his head and took another sip from his glass. It was old Scotch. He looked every part the executive in his three piece suite and patent leather shoes. His office walls were lined with gold records and group photographs. He was a record company executive of some standing.

Half way through the tape he stood up and went to the player, turned it off and resumed his seat.

“This is a band we could use,” he said. “They have style and something unique. The words are elusive but not over the top. The vocals are good, the bass is tight and the drumming is excellent. We could use them, if you have the rights.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that, Christian,” she said. “I’ve got the rights and they’re hungry. They want gigs and soon.”

“Is this tape a final version or do they need studio time?” he asked.

“This is the final cut, but they could go into a studio, too. They’ve got a hundred songs and they’re all as good as these.”

“Good. I’d like to see them before we sign anything. Where are they playing?” he said.

“They don’t have any gigs Christian, but they’re rehearsing in the hall on Sydney Street.”

“Tonight?” he said.

“Tonight and every night,” she replied.

Well, Diana, I could audition them live tonight then. We’ve got an opening for
an act and this is a band we could use. They could have a hundred hours of studio
time, an album contract and some money up front. How would you agree to such
terms?”

“Christian,” she said, “I’d agree wholeheartedly. They’re a great band and they
want to tour as soon as possible. What did you have in mind?”
“Well, Diana, we have a tour of universities that has a hole in it. The band we
originally signed broke up, so we have a placement for one. It’s a cross country tour of ninety six campuses. We pay all expenses and release an album during the tour.
We also get radio and TV exposure. We have an option on their next three records
and they’re guaranteed to packet fifty or sixty thousand, maybe more if the record
sells.”

Diana was smiling broadly. She seemed to think it was a good deal. Mentally she was working out how much she could expect for herself. They were a good band, and record sales could be high with the right promotion. She stopped when she reached fifty thousand and stood up to shake Stein’ s hand.

“It’s a deal then?” he said.

“It’s a deal Christian. How soon can you have the papers drawn up?”

“I’ll get my secretary to issue a standard contract and we can fill in the details right away. I’ll need to see your contracts and go over your options before closing the deal.”

“I understand Christian, I understand. I was just on my way to see them. We can go together.”

“We can use my limo,” he said, “and have dinner together.”
Diana was on her feet, her head spinning with exultation.

Stein also stood up, put his empty glass on his desk and escorted her to the door. The two of them rode the elevator down to the basement and got into Stein’s limo. She told the driver where to go and in moments they were cruising through the afternoon traffic of rush hour. The limo had a bar in it, so Stein poured her another drink while they chatted.

Victor and Susie arrived at the hall only to find it empty and locked. They sat in their car smoking cigarettes until Roland showed up. He and Leo were half drunk, but excited. They were going to tape everything tonight and Leo had his arms full of boxes. He would get at least three hours of tape down and cull it to see if he could use any of it. When they saw Victor and Susie they ambled over to the car and sat on the hood. Victor and Susie got out and joined them. It was an early Autumn twilight and the ground was slick with rain.

“We sent the tape over to Diana and she’s listening to it at this moment,” said Roland. Leo agreed.

“How do we get into this place?” said Victor.

“I’ve got a key,” said Roland and fished in his pocket until he found it. They walked over to the front door and Roland did the honours. Soon they were inside the dark hall. They turned on the overhead lights and switched on the equipment. They sat down on the stage and smoked some more.

“Did you bring all your songs, Victor?” asked Roland.

“Sure I did,” he replied. “I’ve got a book of them.” He handed Roland an exercise book full of fine writing. Roland opened it up and began to read the words. Finding something he liked he smiled and muttered to himself, then turned the page and continued.

“Leo? Did you mix the tape properly?” asked Victor.

“Did the best I could do. It was fairly simple. Just blended four tracks down to two. There’s enough there to let you add some vocals and guitar if you like.”

“I was thinking we could do something to make the introductions a little more full. This time I’ll be counting us in. We’ll start and end together. It’ll sound better and the recording will be more like a conventional record.”

“It was good enough to release it as is,” said Leo. “Our first album wasn’t any better. If it were up to me I’d put it out on an independent label and push it to the radio stations.”

“That good, eh?” said Victor. Susie grabbed his hand and squeezed it. She was happy that Leo was impressed.

At that moment Diana and Christian walked through the front door of the hall. Diana swayed on her feet. The drinks had gone to her head. Victor and Leo stood up and went to her.

“ Diana? This is Victor” said Leo.

“Pleased to meet you Victor,” she said fumbling in her purse for some papers.
“I’ve got your contract here for you to sign and I’ve got some good news for you
all.”

She gave Victor the piece of paper and he read it. She showed him where to sign and handed him a pen. He knelt down and used the floor as a backboard. When he’d finished signing he gave it back to Diana and felt more at ease.

“This is Christian Stein,” said Diana. “He’s the CEO of Major Records. I played
him your tape and he liked it a lot. He says you could record it if you liked. Also,
he’s got an opening for a tour. He’ s here to see what you sound like playing live.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mr Stein,” said Victor and shook the man’s hand. “This is Susie Walton, a friend of mine. She got us together.”

Christian released Victor’s grip and extended his arm towards Susie; she took it up and briskly shook it. The hand was warm and clammy. His palms sweated.
“ James will be along any time,” said Leo to Diana. “He’s excited that we sound
like a band again.”

“That’s what Christian was saying,” she said. “That you sound like a band. And
a very good one. He wants you to get into the studio as soon as you can to lay down
an album. He’ s also got tour dates for you. A big one, to universities across the
country.”

“That’s the kind of thing we were looking for,” said Victor. “A tour would get us up to speed. We could record ourselves and put out a live album.”
“That’s just it,” said Stein, “we have a live album. I heard your tape and it was just fine. We could release it in six weeks after some mixing. But what I’d like to see is a studio record to really let you explore your potential.”

“This is our second gig together,” said Victor, “we’ve got more potential than experience.”

“I have a contract for you to look at,” said Stein. “You get a record deal and we
pay you up front for your studio time. Plus you get to do TV and radio during the
tour. Of course we’ll have to release some product during the tour, but I liked your
tape and that ought to be good enough. It’ s an unusual sound you guys have. Who’s in the band?”

“We called ourselves The Starfish. There’s Victor on guitar, Roland on bass, and James on drums,” said Leo.

“ Diana? You wish to sign the contract for the boys now?” said Stein.

“Christian,” she replied, “don’t you want to meet James, too?”

“No,” he said. “I’m convinced. I don’t need to hear anymore. It grows on you. I’ll sign if you’re ready.”

“Well Christian,” she said, “I’m always ready to sign on the dotted line. When do you pay us our advance?”

“I’ll have the cheque on your desk first thing in the morning Diana, and we can go over the tour dates and studio dates.” Diana shook Stein’s hand while he produced a large folded sheet of paper; she took the contract and briefly read it through. Everything seemed in order. She pulled out her pen and signed it in three places. Stein smiled and shook her hand again.