So here we go with a little music track I envision as being the theme song for my novel in progress, Zombie Drift. Just thought I’d share it with you today.
The piano sits silent. I can’t bring myself to touch the keys, to place nimble fingers on the black and white and produce the smallest measure. I am empty, devoid of music and sound, preferring this, the beauty of the vacuum left behind by my melancholic spirit. I am but the husk of an artist, bewildered by the absence of inspirational thought, or the motivation to create something from the nothing. I long to see the notes again within my mind’s eye, fearing it is now lost, cast out into the void to be found by someone else, who will make more of it than I ever did. The hall is unoccupied, the applause a memory. The piano sits silent. Alone.
Paul D Aronson July 2017
No poetry today. No stories. Just devastation over the death of Chris Cornell, one of my favorite singers of the grunge era. We have lost so many of these amazing artists. Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Layne Staley (Alice In Chains), Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots), Andrew Wood (Mother Love Bone), just to name a few off the top of my head. Adding Cornell to the list was unexpected, and like other fans I’m in shock. Today I won’t be writing . I’m too numb. Instead I will be listening to Chris’ bands, Soundgarden, Temple Of The Dog, and Audioslave, as well as his amazing solo work. For in the 90s he helped provide the soundtrack of my life and moved me on a deep, emotional level. Rest In Peace, Chris.
If you are familiar with my writing habits, you know I create playlists and soundtracks for my stories. These are designed to help pump me up for what I’m writing, and to help illustrate the story in some small way. Sometimes the songs in my playlists get referenced in my chapters , other times no one but myself is aware of their influence. So, as I have been compiling the rock and roll soundtrack for Advocate For The Dead, choosing songs by artists like Alter Bridge, Daughtry, and other modern rock acts, I came across a very cinematic track by Midnight Syndicate that I thought would make a great instrumental theme if my story were a movie. I play this song every time I get ready to go over another chapter for its second draft. If you like horror or Halloween themed music , you can’t go wrong with Midnight Syndicate, so check out the song I selected below and have a listen. ..
Time Of Our Death
By Paul D Aronson
Halloween or not, it was still early in the day. It was a Saturday, so school wasn’t in session. Lori had an idea to sneak into the high school and change our grades so we’d look like better students. I thought that was a cool idea and was all for it, however Brian and Kelly didn’t seem to care what others thought of them. And anyway, they kept their grades up pretty good. Donald was also uninterested and just wanted to go see his mother again. I understood that. After all we were living in the mystery hour, meaning we didn’t know how many hours we had left until they pulled up the bus and it’s bloating occupants. So Lori’s idea was scrapped in favor of checking in on the folks one last time.
Donald said we didn’t need to go with him to see his mom, but I felt like it was the right thing to do. After all, we had started out as ghosts doing this very thing. Might as well be what we end on as well. I hated having the attitude of “it’s only a matter of time”, but it was inevitable that this would come to an end soon. We couldn’t wander around as ghosts forever, especially when recovery operations were underway to bring us up out of the river.
At Donald’s we were surprised. Over two dozen neighbors were at his house. They had brought over food for his grieving mother. Some had brought flowers and cards with money to help her out. As we moved among them all, I caught snippets of conversation that led me to believe no one carried any hope that Donald was alive, and that soon there would be a funeral, with or without his body.
The outpouring of goodwill towards his mom touched Donald. In life, apparently not many of these neighbors ever came to visit, but with the tragedy they all pulled together to comfort and console a family that was wrecked with grief. Perhaps in all this, the good to come was that Don’s mother didn’t have to be alone. His passing had drawn others to her, and she was finding herself with offers to join the bridge club, the ladies civic club, as well as several churches extending their condolences and open arms to her.
“This is nice,” he said. “I was worried she would be all alone now.”
I had to agree. It was very touching, this outpouring of neighborly love. I had to wonder if Lori’s family could expect the same thing. It made me think of my family too. I was trying not to think about it much, but seeing all the neighbors here reminded me that my parents had seemingly vanished from public life.
Lori, ever the one for reading my mind, tried to be a comfort. “I’ll help you look for them if you want.”
“I don’t know where to begin.”
“Maybe there’s a clue somewhere at your house.”
Brian and Kelly had tagged along with us to Donald’s, but they opted to remain outside, sitting under a tree and sucking as much face as they could until the end. I couldn’t blame them there; part of me just wanted to take Lori’s hand and run away from all this. Spend whatever time was left making out and sharing promises that would certainly be tested soon. With that thought, my mind was filled with the image of Lori and I laying in my bed, curled up together, kissing, touching, and becoming all we could be if only we were alive.
“Hello, anyone home?” She asked, bringing me out of my silent rapture.
“Oh, sorry. I was lost in thought.”
“Yeah, I could tell. Everything alright?”
“I was just thinking how I never had a girl alone in my bedroom before.”
She smirked. “Are you sure you want to be telling me this?”
I chuckled. “No, it’s not like that. I just never had a girl in my room at all. I used to lay awake sometimes, wondering what it would be like to fall asleep curled up to someone. Or when I first started teaching myself guitar, I used to say to myself, one day you’re going to play a song for a pretty girl right here. You’ll be sitting on the floor playing, and she’ll be laying across the bed, listening to your song.”
“That’s a nice image. I used to think something similar. Except I would be playing this boy my cassettes and CDs. I’d play him my favorite song, and he would lean over and kiss me and absolutely beg me to run away with him.”
I smiled. “I like that. What’s your favorite song?”
“Just Like Heaven.”
I smiled. “I can play that.”
“It’s not heavy metal.”
I laughed. “Yeah, I know. There’s more to me than long hair and screaming guitars.”
“Alright, I will.” I grinned. “But that means you’ll have to come to my bedroom.”
She smiled. “I’m not scared.”
“Scared of what?” Donald said, walking up to us.
I looked at him. “Of whatever comes next, I guess.”
“Same here,” he replied. “Hey, I’m just going hang out here for awhile, if you guys don’t mind.”
“That’s cool. We’ll come back and get you. We’re going to go see if my mom and dad ever showed up.”
“That’s fine.” He grinned at us as if he knew it wasn’t just about checking on my parents. As we headed off, he called out to us with a laugh as if he were our doting mother, “Don’t stay out too late. Use protection!”
The first time we had went to my house, after discovering Lori’s mom at the library, the television had been on, so had my dad’s computer back in his office. Now, both of them were off. In fact, the only thing on was a small lamp in the living room. Sitting on an end table next to it was a pile of unopened mail and several days worth of newspapers, still folded up the way our paperboy Jeffrey Tompkins delivered them.
“Well, it looks like they were here at some point,” Lori suggested.
“Yeah, it does. Them or someone else.”
“Who else would be here?”
“I don’t know. We are on good terms with our next door neighbors. Mom and Dad play Uno with them some nights. Maybe they are getting the mail and paper.” I stopped for a moment and listened. “And I don’t hear Jake.”
“Maybe he’s sleeping.”
“I don’t think so. He knew we were here the first time. We heard him in my room.”
“Well, you’re supposed to take me to your room anyway,” she replied with a wink.
I smiled. I really adored the flirty Lori.
We went down the staircase to the basement. The door to my room was open. The lights were off, but we didn’t need them anyway. The room looked untouched from the last time we were there, with all of us and Jake. But now Jake was gone. The exuberant Doberman wasn’t in the house. As I noted this, Lori moved around my room, looking at all the rock and roll clippings from Heavy metal mags I had pasted to the wall. Standing in front of the Nikki Sixx poster, she said, “I still think he needs a sandwich.”
I smirked. “What about Bon Jovi?” I asked, pointing to a fold out poster of the group standing in front of a trans am laden with bikini clad girls.
“He gives love a bad name.”
I laughed. “Oh, good one.”
“Oh wow,” she exclaimed, spotting my record collection. The albums were kept in two blue milk crates by a closet, and she squatted down to look through them. I stood there with my arms crossed. This was an alien moment, by myself with a beautiful girl in my room, as she took interest in things that were me. She looked up, holding up the Ratt album, Out Of The Cellar. “Do you have anything other than Metal?”
“Well, I’ve got The Motels in there somewhere. I like Mission Of Mercy.”
“Yeah, they aren’t bad. Only The Lonely is pretty good.”
“I’ve got the Charlotte Sometimes twelve inch in there too,” I told her.
“No kidding? Wow, you are pretty darn cool after all.” She found The Cure single and lifted it out of the box. “Charlotte Sometimes was the first song I fell in love with. That, and All Cats Are Grey.”
I told her I hadn’t heard that one. “Oh wow, you’re missing out. Next time we’re at my house, I’ll play it for..” she stopped, perhaps realizing there was a good chance there wouldn’t be a next time at her house. A sad look crossed her face for a moment, then she mustered a smile. “Weren’t you going to play me a song?”
I smiled, but I was a little nervous. “Yes, I was.” I opened up the closet and got out my electric guitar. “I wont plug it in,” I said. “I blew the amp the other day anyway.”
She rolled her eyes and laughed, getting up from the crates of record albums to go sit on my bed, cross legged style. I did a little tuning of the strings, and thought to myself, please let my energy hold out long enough to play her a song. It would be weird to be half way through the song and the guitar passes through my fingers.
Despite my nervousness, I found the key of A major and began the opening chord progression. From the first lyric of “show me, show me, show me how you do that trick”, Lori sat enrapt, watching me play and sing the song about a boy’s first feelings of romance for the girl he wants to be with. I performed it slower than the original so I could make the chord changes easier, but she didn’t seem to mind. Even as I stumbled on a few words here and there, she smiled with her own set of longings etched plainly in her eyes. I wanted to just stop singing, throw the guitar down, and take her up in my arms to dance in the deepest oceans like the song said.
Three minutes later when I ended the tune and the last chord faded into silence, I did just that. I set the guitar back in the closet so it wouldn’t be out of place the next time someone came down in my room, and then joined her on the bed.
“That was beautiful,” she said.
“You’re beautiful,” I said. “Just like a dream. Like the song says.”
She blushed. “Chris, I….”
I touched her lips with my fingertips, shushing her. I didn’t know what she was getting ready to say, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered to me was that my mouth was on hers, and as my kiss found her wanting me just as much, we laid back on the bed, the room spinning around us. While our lips revealed the secrets of two hearts discovering each other, our hands fumbled across each other, neither of us knowing quite what to do. We laughed at this inside each other’s mouths, and renewed the kiss with a different fervor. One that was not of confused, nor reckless desire, but of a deep affection that said we would live and die together like this, for as long as we had left. Stolen breaths and mutual longings were all we needed, and maybe in the next life, if there was one, we would find the right time to physically consummate all the things our bodies felt.
“I have something to confess,” she finally said.
“Remember when we were in my room, and there was that photo I took of you and Donald? One of you asked me why I took it.”
“Yeah, I remember. It was a sneaky voyeur pic. From last year.”
She smiled and the look in her eyes were soft. “I took that picture because I had a crush on you. I didn’t really know you then, just knew who you were. You looked so sad and lonely, this nerd boy that no one was paying attention to. You reminded me of myself.”
I started to say something. This time she put a finger to my lips to quiet me.
“I really crushed on that nerd boy. I like your long hair and the rocker I know you want to be, but you’ll always be that cute nerd boy standing on the smoking block, looking out of place to me.”
My eyes started to well up with tears. No one, and I mean absolutely anyone, had ever said such a thing to me. I wanted to respond somehow, but she wasn’t finished.
“When I see you,” she said, “ I see you without disguise. I think I see you as you truly are: the most beautiful boy with the purest soul I have ever met.”
The tears fell. There was no use in trying to stop them.
“If there’s ever a way someone progresses from this life into something better, you’re already there.” She put her hands on both sides of my face, so my tears would stop on her fingers. “You’re my angel, Chris.”
“I love you, Lori. I wish…Oh God, I wish I had gotten to know you sooner. It’s not fair.”
A new round of tears came, but they just weren’t mine. They were hers, too. And as she wrapped her arms around me, taking me into her soft embrace, I clutched her tight as I could, swearing that when the real end came I would never let her go.
Time Of Our Death
By Paul D Aronson
To be honest, I had been to only one school dance in my whole life. That was back in Junior High, eighth grade. In that stage of school, all dances took place during fifth and sixth period, and was more of a way to get out of class than to take a girl to a dance. Most of the boys stood around pencil fighting or finger flicking, while the girls sat on the gym bleachers wishing they were older so they could go to a real dance. The All Hallows’ Eve dance at Murray Senior High School was much different. It took place at night for one, as most teenagers had drivers licenses and could drive to the school themselves. For another, boys had noticed girls in a big way, and pencil fighting was so stupid when there was a real DJ playing records that teenagers actually liked.
When the five of us sauntered through the gym wall, we were assailed with the sound of Def Leppard’s Hysteria and I knew it was going to be a good night, if we could survive it. A bit of fortune had come our way. Earlier that evening, the news had spread that the cranes and winches they planned to use to bring the bus up malfunctioned. Mechanical difficulties, they reported. We hadn’t done anything ourselves, so maybe Sister Fate had a little mercy left for us. No matter the reason, it was being said around town that they wouldn’t be able to get things working again until tomorrow afternoon, or even later. We all drew a collective sigh on that one. We could relax and enjoy the dance. Well, as far as any ghost could anyway.
We were taking the Halloween dance seriously. It wasn’t just another to crash or place to play pranks. We dressed up in costume just like anyone else, though us five were the only ones who could see it. And we had to rely on things we had already owned. For some reason, we just couldn’t go into a costume shop and take what we wanted. If we had, everyone would have seen bodiless clothes just moving around the dance floor. Not a good thing if you were trying to blend in. But like we had done a few days ago, we learned we could ‘think’ our way into clothes we owned, or had owned at one time.
Brian took advantage of this by creating a makeshift Frankenstein costume and then allowing Kelly to apply green and black makeup to his face. For bolts in the side of his neck, she used two of her favorite lipstick holders. Apparently, you could share these items you owned with other ghosts. I made myself a mental note that if we had enough time I would write the ghost handbook to help other spirits that might come after we are long gone.
Kelly had taken an old white dress and some of Brian’s Ace bandages he used for football sprains to fashion herself as Elsa Lanchester in The Bride Of Frankenstein. An entire bottle of hairspray and temporary black face paint helped her create the bride’s frightening hairdo.
Donald took the easy way out and made himself into a punk rocker again, down to the misfits t-shirt and safety pin through the eyebrow. He had let Lori draw the anarchy symbol on his cheek, and to top things off, he spiked his hair and applied four different colors to it. You would have thought Johnny Rotten had just crashed the dance.
Lori dressed herself as a dark gypsy. With her black goth make up, she looked like a cross between Stevie Nicks, Elvira (minus the revealing cleavage), and that chick from the Lost Boys movie. In my honor, she had adorned her cheek with the Kiss logo. Of course, I’m not sure if she intended it to represent the hard rock band or a target spot for Robert Smith’s mouth.
For myself, that’s right you guessed it, I cheated and went as a long hair rocker. Jeans so tight I could hardly move in them, a spandex shirt that revealed way too much of my bare chest, and black boots with chains wrapped around them. On my head I wore a Guns and Roses headband, on my hands black leather fingerless gloves. Lori had gotten me with the makeup too, adding a bit of painted flourish to bring out my eyes and cheeks in ways that made me look like I was auditioning for a spot in Poison. Brett Michaels would have been proud, if not downright jealous.
We drifted among the costumed dancers. Many of the boys were Freddy Krueger, Jason, and Michael Myers, with a few Klingons and Imperial Stormtroopers thrown in. Girls had selected Princess Leia, the wicked witch of the west, and She-Ra. One adventurous lass was dressed as Sheena, Queen Of the Jungle, but several chaperones made her cover up.
The DJ, a young man with mullet and beard, changed the song to Whitney Houston, and altered the tempo of the dance floor. It was easier to dance to Whitney than Leppard, so the gym floor found itself with a lot more kids dancing. Some swayed as couples, but most seemed to be single individuals hoping for someone to dance with. Because of the nature of costumes as disguises it seemed our peers were braver than usual and actually approached each other to ask for a dance. Or perhaps it was the newly realized notion that life was short and could be taken away at any time that caused everyone to take a few extra chances.
I looked at my favorite companion. I had to ask myself how in the world I had missed her all this time. How did she move through high school without me taking real notice of her? She was beautiful. Not just pretty like other girls, but strikingly beautiful. She’d hidden it all under her goth attitude an make up, but really when it came down to it, she put others to shame. Kelly may have been the reigning queen of the high school, but Lori was like the gorgeous princess hiding her true self from the wicked stepmother.
“What are you staring at?”
Her voice brought me out of my thoughts with an embarrassed flush. “Um, no reason. Just glad to be here.”
She smiled. “Me too. I don’t think I’ve really been envious of anyone, but I’m feeling kind of jealous now.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Jealous? How?”
“They get to enjoy this next year. We wont be here.” I thought I saw a glistening tear at the edge of her eye. “I can’t believe how I never appreciated any of this. How I just came to school because I had to.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. But hey, we don’t have to miss it just yet. We’re here now. At the All Hallows Eve Dance. Together.” I took a deep breath. A thousand butterflies invaded my stomach. Under the gym lights, she looked so beautiful I wanted to cry and just take…
“Look at them silly asses,” Lori said, pointing out on the dance floor, and making the butterflies scatter as if hiding from a collector’s net.
Brian and Kelly were in the middle of everyone, Frankenstein and his Bride doing a hilarious variation of the twist. While it threatened to become dirty dancing, it was quite comical as they were exaggerating every move. You would think they believed all eyes were on them and that they were still the king and queen of the ball. Perhaps they were.
“I’m going to go to the punch table,” she said. “See if I can sneak a glass without being noticed. You want anything?”
I hesitated. There was, but I couldn’t speak it. “No, I’m alright, “ I said.
She flashed a brief smile. “Okay. Be right back.”
I watched her walk over to the refreshment corner, careful to avoid as many people as she could. A few passed through her, but none had the effect that had overcome me at Brian’s house. Her gypsy dress swayed around her, her bare feet gliding across the polished floor. I couldn’t take my eyes away from how she moved with a slight swish of her dark hair as she lightly bounced up to the table. She reached for a glass of punch, and I turned my head away to see Donald out on the dance floor now acting like a fool. No, that wasn’t right. I was the only fool here.
A new song began. Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. I’ve Had The Time Of My Life. I looked to heaven as if to utter a prayer, and then went on the move. I dodged around dancers, shifting from foot to foot, graceful and fluid, as if I were Johnny Castle in the movie. I reached the table where Lori was standing. She had spotted me swaying towards her across the floor and was laughing at my antics. I bounded up to her and held out my hand with the biggest, bravest grin I could muster.
“Nobody puts baby in the corner,“ I drawled. “Not even herself.”
We both stood there a moment, me with my hand held out, and her savoring the moment. Finally she smiled and took my hand, allowing me to pull her out on the dance floor. We tried our best to emulate the signature moves from Dirty Dancing, but it was no use. I was no Patrick Swayze, and thank the stars she wasn’t a Jennifer Grey. But we were Christopher and Lori, having fun under the gym lights, and dancing the best we could, not caring how goofy our attempts to be footloose and fancy free might look. Only three other people in the whole place could see us anyway. Lori laughed as I spun her, one hand holding hers straight out from her, and the other lightly on her hip. Then someone scratched the record.
It was a loud, scraping sound, like long nails on a chalkboard, as the stylus needle was drawn across the black vinyl of the record, interrupting the whole mood. We turned our head to the DJ table and found him looking at his twin turntables in complete confusion. A hush fell over the room, except for a solitary snicker. Donald stood beside the DJ with a finger to his lips, grinning foolishly. Then the DJ’s second turntable started to spin a new song.
“Oh My God, “ Lori whispered, with an exasperated sigh. It was Whitesnake. The song, ‘Is This Love?’ began to play and she looked up into my face. “Well, it looks like you get your wish after all.”
“I don’t see a disco ball,” I replied.
“You can’t have everything. This is 87, not 79.”
I smiled. I did have everything. I pulled her close to me, and folded up into my arms easily. She lay her head against my shoulder as I began to sway with her in time to the power ballad. If you’d asked me days ago if I would be dancing with Lori O’Donnell in my arms to Whitesnake under the gym’s bright spotlights I would have accused of messing in the super weed, but tonight it was just as natural as breathing. The slow yet steady bass and drums of the song propelled us in slow circles to new dizzying heights of existence. We were truly ghosts now, because for me nothing else existed but the girl in my arms. And as the verse moved into the chorus, with the singer pondering the notion whether it’s love or a dream, Lori lifted her head to me and I kissed her. Her lips met mine softly, as if they had always belonged there, pressed against mine and breathing in my kiss. Her arms slipped around my neck, mine around her waist, and we danced so close we could have been one entity. And in this embrace, her hips swaying gently against mine, her mouth partially open on my own, I no longer felt like me. Now I was us, and nothing, not even the reaper himself could drag me away from this girl, this song, this dream. And no matter that the song ended four minutes later. We swayed, and turned, moving like forever lovers that none could separate through three more songs, our lips never once leaving the other.
So to celebrate my NaNoWriMo win, I thought I’d share a little song with you tonight. If “Time Of Our Death” were being made into a movie, this would be the opening theme. As I was writing the early chapters, I kept on imagining this being played on a boombox somewhere on that fateful bus. Having lived through that time period myself, it seems to fit the generation of whom I’m writing. Not only that , it helps to fit with the Bon Jovi wisecracks that come later in the story 😉 I also like the line in the song that says, “if you want to cross that line, break on through to the other side.” Just kind of seems to fit the story…
Hope you enjoy! Rock on dudes and dudettes 🙂