Author: Christopher Fielden City: London, England
I’m sweating, captivated by the frenzy of a beat so powerful it sounds like a living, breathing monster. The rhythm section motor behind me is like some sort of hell-fuelled engine. Smoke clouds the air and the stage lights burn.
As Ian Maiden’s bass rumbles with wrath, Jack Sabbath unleashes a demonic riff, accompanying the thundering rhythm like a rabid banshee in the midst of a sugar rush. The atmosphere is vibrant, the crowd are hungry and Wembley Stadium throbs with life. The stage shakes beneath my feet with the thrum of the music and the mass of bodies before me, all bouncing in unison.
Dwight Snake moves to the front of the stage. He points back at me and shouts, ‘You wanna hear some guitar, London?’ The crowd roar. ‘You asked for it, you fuckin’ maniacs. I give you, Dave,
I face my wall of Marshalls and allow the hum of feedback to grow, like a screeching abomination from the abyss. The volume becomes painful before I turn to face the audience, unleashing a solo which feels as though it’s oozing from my fingertips rather than me having to play it. As I hold the final note and push down hard on my Les Paul’s whammy bar, Dwight begins to holler his lyrics.
‘Going down the road and what did I see?’
The hundred-thousand strong crowd are singing with him, almost drowning him out.
‘Six-thousand psychos, coming at me.’
Maiden and I move in front of the drum kit, and watch the blur of sticks and the spray of sweat as Geoff Leppard hammers out the rhythm.
‘I ran, I ran, I fuckin’ ran.’
We strike a chord hard, letting the sound resonate while the drums stop dead.
‘But I wasn’t fast enough,’ growls Dwight.
Sabbath, Maiden and I approach our mikes for the chorus as the drums explode back into life, accompanied by pyrotechnics blasting flames into the air from either side of the stage.
‘Shot in the head,’ Dwight hollers.
‘And left for dead,’ we shriek.
‘Shot in the head.’ Dwight cups his left hand around his ear and holds his mike towards the audience.
‘And left for dead,’ they chant.
‘Shot in the head.’
‘And left for dead.’
‘I was shot in the head.’ Dwight makes a sweeping slash through the air with his right hand and the music stops instantly, save for the soft count of Leppard’s hi-hat, keeping the beat. ‘And left for…’ The noise of the crowd begins to grow, but before it can crescendo, the music crashes back in and Dwight screams, ‘Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeead.’
I’m about to dive down the fretboard out of a high lick and join Jack Sabbath with the main riff when I see a bright flash from somewhere near the front of the crowd. It stands out amongst the myriad of camera flashes and the glow of mobile phones. It’s crisp and definite, filled with purpose and pain.
Something smashes into my face. Everything changes.
I’m lying on the stage, but it’s empty. Everything looks grey. There’s no band, no gear, no pyrotechnics and no crowd. After all the mayhem, the colourless silence seems surreal.
Above me, one solitary spotlight shines a cold circle of illumination, like a grey moon. The light looks inviting and I wonder what it might be like to drift towards it, curl up and sleep.
‘Oh no you don’t, you lazy shit.’
I see a figure move out of the shadows. At first, the way the person moves makes me think it might be my dad. As the figure steps into the light, I realise it’s me; a much older me, but definitely me. The tattoo on my forearm is faded, but still spelt wrong. Amidst the skulls, flames and motorcycles, a banner reads ‘Rock ‘n’ Role’. You’ve got to be pretty poor at spelling to get that wrong. Or paralytic on Natch. Unfortunately the tattooist was the former and I was the latter.
‘Nice mullet,’ I say, getting to my feet.
‘It’s on your head, asshole,’ Old Dave replies.
At least age doesn’t seem to have tamed my tongue. ‘Am I dead?’ I ask.
‘Nope, not yet.’
‘So what the hell’s going on?’
Old Dave grins, ‘Man, this is going to fuck your mind.’
Given the current situation, I sense a plethora of wisdom writhing in Old Dave’s words. Feeling something trickle down my face, I wipe it away. Inspecting my fingers, I see blood. It looks unnaturally red amidst the grey pallor of everything else.
‘You’ve been shot in the head,’ says Old Dave.
‘And left for dead,’ I say.
‘Not quite. I’m here.’
‘But you’re me. Does that count?’
‘I told you this would fuck your mind.’ Old Dave grins, revealing too few teeth for my liking, which reminds me that I need to sort out a dental appointment.
‘My brain hurts,’ I mumble.
‘OK, let’s get all the mind blowing shit done in one hit.
‘I’m dead. I… we got shot by some moron who did too many drugs and thought Dwight’s lyrics were some sort of divine fuckin’ message.’
‘To shoot me?’
‘LSD doesn’t induce sensible reasoning.’ Old Dave gives me a wink. Jesus, he looks like dad. ‘When this happened to me, there was no one here. I saw that light,’ he says, pointing at the grey-moon-spotlight, ‘and I drifted towards it. Now I’m some sort of ghost that gets older, has a mullet and all my fuckin’ teeth are falling out. I’m seriously hoping I’m not immortal, because ghosts feel all sorts of shit, including pain.’
‘But you’re me and I’m you. So this happened to you too. You can’t be dead.’
‘Wrong. You have to go through the cycle once, or I wouldn’t be able to be here imparting all my “been there, done that, it’s a shit idea, don’t do it” wisdom, would I? We’re both Dave Against The Machine, but now this has happened, we’re on different paths.’
‘So we’re different people?’
‘Yes, and no, but yes makes things easier to get your head around.’
My head isn’t getting around anything, least of all having a bullet lodged in it. This must be a dream, or a hallucination. Dwight did say he had some new pills he wanted us to try. Maybe he spiked our drinks and my imagination has gone into insane-turbo-berserker mode.
As if reading my mind, Old Dave slaps me in the face, hard.
‘This is real?’ I ask.
He grins. ‘Realer than tax. You with me so far?’
‘You’re dead. I’m not… yet. We’re both Dave, the same Dave, but you’re you and I’m me. That the basic gist?’
‘You’re on fire.’
‘Is that all the mind blowing shit done with?’
‘Oh no,’ chuckles Old Dave, ‘there’s a whole dimension of crazy for you to wade your stumpy little legs through yet.’
I’ve had enough. ‘One hit, you said.’
‘Stop interrupting, then.’
I give him a nod, and gesture for him to continue using my middle finger.
‘I want you to live,’ says Old Dave, ignoring my provocation. ‘Trust me, being a ghost is a pile of shite. You don’t wanna do it. But more important, back in the land of the living, the world has gone bat-shit fuckin’ mental. Not long after we were shot, and I’m talking moments, all the active volcanos erupted.’
‘What? All of them?’
‘There’s that many?’
Old Dave gives me a look I have yet to hone. It simply suggests that the wisest decision for on-going lifelong happiness would be to stop the words tumbling out of my mouth. Now. I shut up, making a mental note to work on that look. It’s awesome.
‘Out of the volcanos came an infection that spread like buggery,’ he continues, ‘instantly turning about half the human race into zombies.’
‘You are shitting me.’
‘Nope. And there’s more. With the lava came monsters. Big fuckin’ things, that’d even make Andy McNab squirt ass-chutney into his pants like he had salmonella.’
‘So the world’s a volcano ridden mess,’ I say, ‘with zombies and lava-monsters running around killing everyone?’ Sounds kind of cool, but not somewhere you’d want to live. Like Belgium.
‘Oh no. These monsters, they might be all lava and claws and breath like sulphur, but they ain’t stupid. They’ve got a taste for zombies, so it’s in their interest to farm them, see? Make sure their food don’t run out.’
‘No fuckin’ way.’
‘Yes fuckin’ way. And what do zombies like to eat?’
‘Boom. But zombies don’t breed, do they? They turn humans into zombies. So now there’s some crazy farming techniques being developed that would make the EU regulators shit a breeze-block.
‘They got these big-ass farms to grow food for humans. Then they farm the humans to become infected by zombies so there’s enough zombies for all the monsters to eat.’
Volcanoes, zombies and monsters, resulting in a food chain nightmare – it’s too much to take in. ‘Please tell me that’s it,’ I say.
‘Almost,’ says Old Dave. He takes a meaningful pause, then says, ‘You can stop it.’
This is now officially A1-major-mind-melt-mental. The premise sounds like it might make a great B-Movie, if you could find an investor with pots of money and an incredibly low IQ, but not something that’s actually happening. No way.
‘This is a windup,’ I say.
‘No it’s not.’
‘How do you know all this shit?’
‘The story’s long, boring and hard to believe. Let’s just say there’s some knowledgeable beings this side of life, and I work for one of them.’
‘I don’t buy it.’
‘You’re half past dead, talking to yourself; an older you that’s a fuckin’ ghost. Open your mind, asshole.’
He has a point. ‘OK, you gonna tell me how I stop it all?’
‘You can’t stop it. It’s happening no matter what you do.’
‘You just said I could.’
‘OK, “stop” was a bit misleading. The zombies and the monsters, that’s happening.
All the ape-shit farming – that you can do something about. In this soon to be reality nightmare, we’ve moved down to third on the food chain, right?’
‘And we need to be back at number one,’ I say.
‘No. You need to move us down to fourth.’
‘By summoning something that’s bigger and badder than the monsters and zombies combined. Something with a taste for lava-monsters that finds humans good company.’
I go to speak, but Old Dave interrupts me. ‘We ain’t got much time. If you’re going back, you need to go soon or you’ll die. So listen.’ I nod. ‘There’s a song brewing and the band has been jamming it, saving it for the right moment. I know it, ‘cause I was jamming it before I decided to be a lazy take-the-easy-way-out-and-go-to-sleep-in-the-pretty-fuckin’-light ponce’s road to ghostdom.’
He’s right. We have got a song brewing, and it’s a beauty. ‘And?’
‘You got to play it, and play it fuckin’ loud.’
Old Dave reaches out and grabs either side of my head in his hands. I can’t feel my body anymore. Visions swim through my mind, hideous visions of the most bizarre and hideous farming practices known to man. You thought farmers feeding cows to cows and BSE was bad? That was a meat production paradise in comparison to what I’m seeing.
‘You’re going back now, Dave.’ Old Dave’s voice echoes like the wind. ‘Keep these visions fresh in your mind. Use them as inspiration. Make the music happen, you lazy shit. There’s magic in that song. Don’t think, just play. And play it fast.’
I sit up, feeling the stage shake beneath me. The vibrations aren’t coming from the thunder of music or the energy of the crowd – this feels like an earthquake. After the greyness of death, the noise and colour of life startle me, but not as much as what I see kicking off before me.
There’s a gore-fest of pandemonium going on in the audience that would make Quentin Tarantino proud. Half of the crowd are trying to eat the other half’s brains. The ones who are reluctant to have their heads ripped open are trying to run away and, or, kill their attackers with anything they can use as a weapon, including bits of other people. Things couldn’t be redder – it’s like a tomato puree production factory.
Before I can fully digest the scene, a mass of smoking devilry dives out of the sky and starts munching zombies like a ravenous bulldozer. It’s about the size of a three-bed semi. Its teeth are as big as buses and it stinks like sulphur.
Ignoring the ache in my head, I wipe the blood out of my eyes and stand up. My head is pounding with pain and I want to puke. The adrenaline squirting through my veins is all that’s allowing me to function.
I look at the rest of the band. None of them seem to be zombies, although it’s always hard to tell with the rhythm section. At the side of the stage I notice two of the roadies eating one of the sound guys, while my guitar tech is using a spare Les Paul to try and behead what used to be our A&R man. Everything is turning to shit faster than swill through a pig.
I grab Maiden’s arm. ‘Fuck the fuck,’ he says. ‘What the bastard?’ Eloquently put. Kind of sums up what I was thinking.
‘Noise,’ I scream. ‘We need to make lots of it.’
He looks at me like I’m mental. To be fair, he might be right. Bollocks to it. This zombie-monster-fest is coming to an end. Now.
I start up the riff to ‘There’s Something in my Pants and it’s Evil’. The three-bed-semi-smoking-hell-monster screams and launches back into the air, out of Wembley’s open roof, disappearing over the city of London.
Seeing the zombies all clasp their hands over their ears, Jack Sabbath joins me in the riff and Geoff Leppard hammers out a long triplet-rich fill before settling into the rhythm. Dwight Snake looses a chaotic scream. Maiden slides into the bass riff, feeding the maelstrom.
Building the crescendo with a Hendrix-esque improvised solo, I feel the magic of the band gestating, like a mouth-burning chilli bubbling in a cauldron. The pain from the bullet in my brain is forgotten.
‘Fear, of the dark,’ hollers Dwight.
As the music swells with life, a tear opens in the sky.
‘Fires, the spark.’
Wreathed in flame, something humongous bursts through the portal in the sky.
‘Sets my stomach shaking, my inner tubes are quaking, God only knows what my intestines are making.’
Something drops from my head. I look down and see a bullet casing. I quickly rub my forehead. The wound is gone. A sorcerous tingle crawls over my skin. Old Dave was right – there is magic in the music.
‘I got so scared I drank too much beer, my mud-flaps can’t contain the smell of fear.’
The thing in the sky is colossal. It must be miles long and looks like it’s made out of concrete. Colossal explosions of fire erupt from its sides, seemingly guiding its flight. A mouth opens at the front of the thing, revealing a black void of death.
‘There’s something in my pants and it’s evil.’
Never have lyrics been so poignant.
‘Winking sphincter, the eye of a needle.’ Dwight is howling the words like a madman, hell-bent on tearing his vocal chords to shreds.
‘Badgers nose, it smells medieval.’
The thing we’ve summoned is gorging on the smoking-lava-hades-monsters, moving with a speed and agility that belies its vast bulk. I notice a myriad of eyes shrouding the gargantuan mouth, glowing with dark intelligence. At first, I thought it was some kind of spaceship. Now, I realise it’s alive.
‘Ride the chocolate speedway just like Evel Knievel.’
As the massive thing comes nearer, zombies start exploding. Humans are being showered in tomatoey gore. Judging by the jubilant looks on their faces, this is better than being eaten.
With a titanic blast of its engines, the thing in the sky moves towards Wembley. Dwarfing the stadium, it hovers above us.
‘My bitches, you’ve freed me,’ it says, in a voice more formidable than death. ‘I am the Concrete Death Machine.’
Sweet insanity. Now what?
As if reading my mind, the Death Machine says, ‘We fly.’
Reality wobbles. Suddenly we’re on the Death Machine’s back with all our instruments and amplification.
‘Play,’ it says. ‘Play loud, my bitches. Let us purge your planet of filth and bring wrath to the skies.’
As we launch into the second verse of ‘There’s Something in my Pants and it’s Evil’, the Concrete Death Machine flies, pulsing our music out over London in waves of chaos. Everywhere we look, zombies and monsters explode like pots of Bolognese sauce in a microwave. Blood is spurting in torrents. The scene looks like the world’s worst tomato ketchup advert.
‘Cut,’ shouts the director, Dan Halen.
I watch him turn to the producer, Stacy Dee Cee, who says, ‘Heinz are going to fucking love this. So are the cinema audiences.’
‘What about the rest of the population?’ says Halen. ‘They’ll hear about it, even if it is only shown before horror films.’
‘It’s going to piss people off big time,’ says Dee Cee. ‘It’s going to make them bitch like hell. And bitching equals publicity.’
Halen turns back to us and says, ‘Thanks guys, that’s a wrap.’
I just hope the fans don’t think we’ve sold out. But that can wait. Right now I need to get out of this spandex costume. It’s making my balls itch.
Image credit: flickr/Creative Commons