TWYLIGHT — LIVE!
Inside, they found a larger crowd than usual. The setup on the karaoke stage, where he and Max had a fun time belting out a few tunes on occasion, was being moved aside, and several speaker amps, as well as mics and various instruments, stood in their place. Even the lounge tables were being rearranged around the show.
“Hmm…” Shades commented as he looked around, “I never knew Bankshot got live entertainment…”
While Max wandered over to take a gander at the stage set, Shades ambled over to the bar to talk to DJ and see what was up.
“Yo Deej!” Shades called, seeing his friend serving drinks with his usual flair, “I never knew you did live shows here!”
“We do now!” DJ informed him as he sprayed something greenish and carbonated into a glass of shaved ice and sent it down the bar to someone near the end. Of course, the place had an awesome bar setup that DJ was fiercely proud of, so it came as no surprise he would find something to do with it, even in this place where the Management didn’t allow alcoholic beverages. If nothing else, Bankshot served the widest assortment of soda flavors Shades had ever seen. “What do ya want?”
“The usual. So, who are these guys?”
“Dey’re J R Serling and Twylight,” DJ replied. “De newest residents here.”
“I suppose there’s a story here,” said Shades, knowing exactly what type of residents Deej was talking about. He snatched up his drink, reflecting that being the friendly guy behind the counter did make one privy to a lot of secrets. After digesting that info for a moment, he asked, “By the way, the R in there wouldn’t happen to stand for Rod, would it?”
“Please tell me they’re not some whiny alterna-crap, are they?” Of course, he knew DJ had better taste in music than that— and DJ managed to give him a hurt look that suggested he have a little faith— but he was still kinda worried because whoever they Twylight guys were, they also happened to be the only act around. Then again, seeing the range of instruments mostly set up on stage did give him a peculiar feeling. “Anyhoo, how did they end up here?”
“Given where you’re staying,” DJ told him, “I’m surprised you missed dem.”
“No way…” Slept right through your window of opportunity… Helluva way to start your day… “That’s gotta suck. So, do you really have enough equipment to pull it off?”
“Guess we’ll find out…” Of course, DJ made no secret of the fact that he had a high-end sound system at Bankshot, which Shades always said was such a tragedy to waste on karaoke. “I’ve only heard a demo CD dey’re packin’, but if I like deir live show, I’ll try to get dem a regular act. So what’s up with you and Max? It’s been a while.”
“Same-old, same-old,” Shades told him. Same old curse. Same old places. Same old friendly and courteous Security staff. “Max and I are thinking about heading out into the Unknown.”
“And just how are you going to do dat?” As Shades’ words sank in, his voice dropped a notch or two; Management had a thousand eyes and ears, he had learned during his years here. “Seriously?”
“Yeah,” Shades replied. For some time, he felt as if Max somehow held the key to this prison, and thanks to recent rumors, he believed he had finally found the key he felt he was so close to. Now he just had to figure out how the lock worked before it was too late. As they talked, he casually slipped a folded-up napkin across the counter, saying, “You remember what I said about Max entering this place a little differently than most people? That’s all I can say for now.” DJ crumpled the napkin, then surreptitiously stuck it in his pocket. “You might try it yourself if you ever get sick enough of this gig.”
After Max’s encounter with the mailbox, Shades found himself looking around anew. Even at the phone booths, but just the memory of his first unnerving experience with them was enough to hold him back. No matter how many numbers he knew, he already knew that, wherever the mail might or might not be delivered in this dimension, the Operator was quite explicit on this subject. This line doesn’t serve that area code… and so forth. Since he had no way of knowing at what level he was being blocked, it was beginning to make him nervous about his little “s-o-s” but there was nothing he could do about that now.
The most he could do was offer DJ the same chance at escape that he and Max would soon be testing out.
“I see.” DJ resisted the urge to snatch the napkin back out, making a mental to wait and examine it in greater privacy later. “So tell me, when are you going?”
“A-s-a-p,” Shades informed him. “I guess this show will be our going-away party…”
While they were talking, the band was almost finished setting up. Shades expected that in a few minutes da Boss DJ would jump over the counter, as was his usual fashion, to go introduce them. Meanwhile, Max had struck up a conversation with one of the band members.
While Shades had seen stage sets before, Max had never seen anything like it. Had seen most of the instruments, or variations thereof, as a child, either in the Islands or with more musically inclined Outlanders, but remembered only vaguely. A double-guitar thing the like of which he had never seen before, bass, trombone, sax, drums outfitted with an extensive array of percussion, a couple mic stands… and Max was fascinated with every piece of it.
“You look like you’ve never seen a double guitar before,” remarked a young man wearing a charcoal grey pinstriped suit. He walked across the small stage, looking from Max over to Shades at the bar, then back, asking, “You a friend of DJ’s?”
“Yeah,” Max replied. In his short time here, he had met a wide variety of people, heard languages and accents that were completely new to him, and had seen things he would never have dreamed existed. Had very quickly come to know what Shades meant when he said that variety was the spice of life. “This place is pretty cool, isn’t it?”
“I suppose,” the man said, then lowered his voice a notch and asked, “So, you know your way around here pretty well, don’t you?”
“I guess.” Though of course Shades had been here longer and knew even more. “By the way, I don’t know if DJ told you, but—”
“He did,” the man assured him, seeming to relax more now that he was sure Max knew of the curse as well. “So what’s your name, man? I’m John. John R Serling.”
“Just Max.” Though many Outlanders had more than one name, he still wasn’t fully used to it in his everyday life. “It’s the only name I’ve ever had. So, how did you end up here?”
“We spent the night at the hotel,” he told Max, who immediately realized that they must have just missed each other back there. “And right at the beginning of our first out-of-state tour…”
“Hey Rod!” shouted a female-sounding voice from behind the stage, “I know you like to hang with the crowd before the show, but we have to finish setting up!”
“I know,” he said. “I’ll be there in a sec.”
“Rod?” Max intoned.
“Rod’s my middle name,” he explained. “It’s what all my friends call me. Just a warning when you have kids— don’t let their uncle name them.” Then he winked. “Anyway, we need to finish setting up. Maybe I’ll catch you later. Enjoy the show, Max!”
With that, Rod went back to helping his bandmates.
A moment later, Shades came up, saying, “Hey Max! The party’s about to start!” His enthusiasm was quite possibly the greatest Max had seen in all this time. He handed Max his drink, adding, “These guys should kick ass! And this is your first concert, too, isn’t it? If even half of what DJ says is true about these guys, you’re in for a real treat!”
And so the two of them went over to a table to await the start of the show. Max told him about his brief conversation with Rod, and Shades speculated about the array of instruments on stage. A short while later, DJ hopped over the counter and made his way over to the stage to announce the band.
“Welcome, everyone!” DJ crowed, and Shades wondered if his friend hadn’t done something like this in his previous life, before he ended up in here. “Tonight I am proud to announce Bankshot’s first-ever live concert. Please give a big Bankshot welcome to Twylight!”
And the band itself gave a wild musical flourish as the audience cheered.
“Take it away, Rod!”
As DJ hopped down, the lights dimmed down to almost total darkness. Then blacklights came on, turning the members’ plain suits and instruments a rainbow of fluorescent colors, except for Rod’s guitar, which remained black. With that, Twylight launched right in.
Shades could tell right away that this was going to be a great show. A full set. They were dead-set on playing a real live show somewhere, thus they busted out here. As if to make up for all the concerts they would be missing elsewhere.
He could see Max having the time of his life. Just as he himself had at his first show.
As he listened, Shades found himself half-remembering a song from his dreams when he was a kid. At first he had thought it was something that had been playing on the radio in the morning, before he woke up, yet he could never remember much about it. One of the strangest disappointments in his life was finding out that this mysterious song just didn’t exist. Years later, he wished he could remember something of it for John and Sandy. For a moment, a stray memory crossed his mind, of once hearing Amy humming part of it in class, but he was fairly sure he must have been mistaken.
Of course, it had been a long time since he had thought about it, and now that he had, he wondered if he couldn’t find it in this world if he searched long enough.
As he suspected from the selection of instruments, Twylight did indeed play something akin to ska. And something else, something that was not ska, as if someone had invented a whole new way to play punk rock on horns. He just wished he had the words to describe it, and knew that Sandy would be tearing his hair out at Shades’ attempts to do so. Hell, while he was at it, he may as well wish his friends were with him to hear it for themselves.
He knew, just knew, they would love it.
So lost were they in the music, neither Shades nor Max noticed the security guards DJ had had no choice but to have on hand for this event.