Wednesday is now Wicked Wordsday!
I'll be posting spooky short stories and poetry.
So, if you'd like your work featured, email me!
Today I present a delightfully dark short story
written by A.D. Vick of The Gothic Embrace
But first, some background info:
This story is the third in my Raven series.
I chose this one because it's much shorter than its two predecessors,
which would likely take up too much space.
Raven is a beautiful dead witch who occasionally comes back to the land of the living to play violin in a metal band.
She also uses it as a magical instrument.
The Raven series is told in the first person and the narrator is her lover--
a relationship that has endured over numerous lifetimes.
This story gives a bit of a background early on so that any new readers should have a fairly good idea as to what's going on...
“I’ve got some news for you,” he said while looking at me from across the table, “metal is not Gothic.”
Bringing my hand up to the side of my head, I sighed. “Come on, give me a break! Do you have any idea how many times I’ve heard that argument?”
“It’s true Dude! Bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees have nothing in common with metal.”
“So, even though metal often creates an atmosphere of dark melancholy through the use of eerie but atmospheric harmonics, choirs, death grunts and angelic female vocalists who sing of despair…it still doesn’t qualify as Gothic? And what about Type O Negative—you know, Peter Steele and all that?”
I was in Fayetteville sitting in my favorite restaurant enjoying a late lunch—Mexican. Eric had entered shortly after my arrival. Somehow, we got talking and before long, I invited him over to my table. He was a likable sort, a bit younger, but seemed to enjoy a good conversation as much as I do. Still, I grew a bit impatient when the conversation turned to the old what’s Gothic and what’s not debate.”
“Hmm…I wasn’t thinking about Type O,” he confessed, “but they’re an exception. Real Gothic music is post punk like Siouxsie and the Banshees or The Cure; also industrial or maybe death rock. Metal is a different scene altogether.”
Not being one to pass up a good debate I continued. “Edgar Allan Poe published most of his work during the 1830’s and 40’s. That was at least 140 years before the modern Goth scene. Would you argue that his material is not Gothic?”
I continued. “So you say that any dark music, metal, dark ambient—whatever, that does not have its roots in the post punk or dark wave of the 80’s cannot rightly be referred to as Gothic?”
As he considered my perspective Eric seemed somewhat lost for words, so I offered him a way out of his dilemma as I rose from my seat. “I’ve got to hit the road right now, but my sweetie’s band is playing at Lucia’s On Dickson tonight. Why don’t you come down and check them out?”
“Who are they?”
“Dark Gypsy. Have you heard of them?”
“Nah. Not that I can remember. What do they play?”
“Gothic metal,” I told him. “I hope that doesn’t prejudice you. Come on down. The show starts at 8:00 p.m. You won’t be disappointed. I’ll even buy you a beer.”
“Okay, I’ll see you there.”
After shaking hands with him, I paid up and left.
It was April 4, the day I had been holding in anticipation since my arrival back to earthly reality in late February—a return from Raven’s world; a land of surreal forests and majestic landscapes, where the deceased find peace and refuge from earthly stress, one in which powerful noble Fae lords and noblewomen command the forces of nature, the mind and the spirit to achieve their ends. It is a realm in which time and space do not conform to the accepted physical reality that Earth-based humanity experiences.
This was the day upon which I had hoped the love of my life—no, the love of many lifetimes, would come through the portal to perform with Dark Gypsy. It was at the group’s Halloween performance at the community center in Fox Grove that I first met her, at least in this lifetime. In a sense, we connected too late, as she passed away years ago. And although she occasionally returns to the land of the living, there are usually months between her visits—agony for me; yet, it appears that one full day in her realm equals a couple of weeks here.
Raven arrived in Fox Grove the night before the band’s scheduled performance, and we spent an incredible night together.
I arrived at the venue a bit early. The band was still setting up and as had been the case ahead of the group’s previous gig in Fox Grove, she was nowhere to be seen. I wondered if her pre-performance invisibility might be a part of the group’s act—the element of surprise—the sudden appearance of a dark angel from the realm of the dead whose hauntingly beautiful virtuosity with the violin creates melodies that alter the consciousness and present the listener with a deeply emotional glimpse into worlds unfathomed.
Resigned to not seeing her until she made her stage appearance, I staked my claim to an empty bar stool and ordered a Pale Ale. Then, I simply kicked back and watched the goings on as more people trickled into the club, waiting for the music to begin. I had been nursing my drink for twenty or thirty minutes and had just ordered a second when Dark Gypsy took to the stage. No sooner had the band kicked in with their opening tune, than Eric walked through the door.
The band started off with a thunderous high-energy but melodic tune that relied heavily upon power chords, creative guitar riffs and a symphonic background provided by its keyboard player. The vocals consisted of both death grunts and cleanly sung lyrics provided by Pete, vocalist and grunter extraordinaire. By the time the first song concluded, the band had already garnered the full attention of its audience. Then, Raven took to the stage.
She looked absolutely stunning as her alabaster skin contrasted with her darkest finery; her lips and nails coated in black, her penetrating green eyes surrounded by the darkest of eye liners. I could tell that the crowd, unfamiliar with her until this point in time, was both exuberated by and enthralled by her sudden presence. Eric took a stool next to where I was sitting and asked, “Is that your girlfriend?”
“That’s her,” I proudly responded.
“She’s totally awesome!”
I just smiled as the second song of the evening commenced.
Raven’s haunting vocals presided over a piece of music that was slower and much more melancholy than its predecessor, her voice sounding a mournful dirge supported by symphonic melodies emanating from the keyboards, a steady hypnotic beat and heavy guitar chords. It was only when her voice yielded to a lead-guitar solo that I noticed it—the absence of her own instrument. The violin, I thought to myself. Where is the violin?
The guitar work—the entire song for that matter, was so masterfully done that I temporarily dismissed the absence of Raven’s medium for magical music. Still, as the opening set continued and she hadn’t yet produced her instrument, I became concerned. Surely nothing had happened to it since I saw it with her on our trip to town earlier in the day. I considered the possibility that my concern, or should I say frustration, was purely selfish. After debating metal’s Gothic attributes or lack of, with Eric earlier in the day, I wanted to see him totally blown away by her musical prowess with the violin. Glancing in his direction, I noticed that he seemed to be enjoying himself well enough, so I relaxed for the remainder of the set—well, sort of. I was determined however, to find out what was going on when the band took a break.
“So where’s the stunning violin performance I was expecting?” I inquired when Raven made her way over to me.
“The restless masses hungering for your surreal virtuosity with the violin know nothing of patience.”
“And the restless masses present here tonight know nothing of violins; at least not as regards Dark Gypsy,” she responded quickly. “I don’t see one face here that I can remember from a past performance—except for you of course,” she added with a smile. “We have another set to do, and I promise you, it won’t disappoint.”
“If you say so,” I answered with a hint of defeat in my voice.
“Enjoy your beer and the rest of the show. I’ll see you later on.” With that, Raven placed her dark and cold lips upon mine, kissing me sensuously—teasingly. Then, she made her way back toward the stage.
Much to my satisfaction, the second set opened with Dark Gypsy’s unique cover of Tristania’s Deadlocked, the tune that first exposed me to the magical and rapturous effects cast upon the listener by Raven and her violin. It was no different this time, for as she began to play the introductory solo, I was once again held spellbound by the hauntingly beautiful sounds engulfing the room. The otherworldly visions with which I was now familiar, danced across my mind’s eye anew, creating within me euphoric sensations of Raven’s world—an eerily ethereal landscape in which exist dark forests with gigantic trees and twisted limbs appear to stretch to the heavens; where Fae horsemen can be seen riding swiftly through the moonlit night on the backs of mighty steeds.
Even as I beheld the rapturous images running through my mind, I looked around the room. Were the others seeing the same things as me? There was Eric, still sitting a short distance away staring at the stage, mouth held half open. The others appeared to be in various states of trance; this, in spite of the seemingly unconscious body movements and head banging. What are they feeling? What are they seeing? I wondered to myself. Are their visions like mine; or is each being taken to his or her own special place?
As the piece concluded, the crowd remained silent; but only for a moment—just enough time for a return to earthly reality. Then, the maloik—the metal horns were thrust into the air amid the sounds of passionate screams and enthusiastic applause. Finally, Raven and her band had begun to work their magic.
The rest of the second set continued to captivate the audience in spite of Raven’s restrained use of her violin. After the set’s opening piece it occurred to me that the she was still holding back; perhaps in order to avoid overwhelming the crowd or overdoing a good thing. Finally the set finished with a rocking tune that was heavy on growls and guitar work. At the song’s conclusion Dark Gypsy made a hasty retreat from the stage in favor of a back room.
The venue’s lighting still turned down, the crowd began clapping, stomping and shouting, “More, More,” in an attempt to elicit an encore. The boisterous appeal for the band’s return continued for an indeterminate amount of time until…
The banging suddenly gave way to a loud cacophony—boisterous shouts of approval that came with the opening of the back-room door and Dark Gypsy’s reemergence and ascent to the stage. Closer to the performance platform a big guy, with whom the crowd seemed familiar, nearly fell to the floor and spilled his drink over himself while turning to catch the band’s reentrance. Clearly, he’d consumed plenty of alcohol during the evening and was thoroughly enjoying himself. Raven took to the microphone off its stand and began to speak.
“We want to thank you all for being here tonight. It’s people like you that inspire us to keep making music.” The crowd screamed anew.
“For our last song of the night, we’re going to do a new one for you, and we hope you like it. It’s called Only Despair Without You.”
Upon hearing the title, the crowd shouted and applauded. The big guy shouted, “Yeah! Despair baby! Despair!” In order to keep him from further making a fool of himself, his lady friend took him by the arm, leading him back to their table.
The tune began with a slow and melancholy solo on the violin. It was haunting—mournful, quickly bringing tears to my eyes. Slowly, the other instruments began to join in; first the keyboards with their emphasis on choir voices and atmospherics. Next, the rhythm guitar added mellow chord arpeggios to the mix. Then suddenly, and with a roll of the drums, the bass and lead guitar joined in to create a dark, melancholic symphony of gloom—doom metal.
After the intro concluded, the sound of Raven’s angelic voice engulfed the room.
Oh there once was a time
When I knew your love was mine—
For all time
When we soared through the dark of the moonless sky
There once was a time
Suddenly, the vocals were passed off to Pete. With the vocal change came a shift to short and choppy power chords on the guitars as he grunted through a now distorted microphone.
And it’s into a shadowy abyss that I fell
I have become like a lost soul in Hell--
A lost soul in Hell
Do you—can you feel it too?
I know only despair without you.
This masterful Beauty and the Beast effect continued for a few minutes; then…suddenly, a shift occurred. At first, there were only choir effects—an exquisitely occult chorus of voices that transported my mind to the seen of a castle perched high upon a rocky bluff—colorful flags with images of red dragons lining the upper reaches of the structure’s great walls—the majestic edifice reaching to a sky darkened by gathering storm clouds—refreshed by gusty winds. Although my inner senses were focused upon this magnificient vision, I remained aware of my physical surroundings and the musical changes that continued to unfold.
First, atmospheric and symphonic keyboard sounds provided an eerie background to the vocal chorus, thereby creating a truly evocative opus that abruptly morphed into a spine-tingling but rocking symphony of harmony; the surreal music occasionally assisted by various moans, growls and Raven’s soprano voice. Where was I? What was this castle that hovered so far above me—so realistically in my mind’s eye? Had I seen it before? Was I beholding Bran Castle itself; that fortress on the edge of Transylvania that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula; the place that was once called home by Vlad the Impaler himself? I felt the anguish off all those that suffered there. There was a dark foreboding, and then…
In an almost classical fashion, the music segued back to the somewhat slower but original beauty and the beast vocal arrangements. My attention came back down to Earth. I was in a nightclub on Dickson Street listening to a band—watching the people and events taking place around me.
A sizable crowd had gathered outside the large front window that faced toward the sidewalk. People were peering inside. Behind them, the street traffic had come to a complete stop; the heads of passengers and drivers alike hanging outside the vehicles in an attempt to better hear the music.
Inside, the audience appeared somewhat disoriented; admittedly, so was I. It wasn’t the drink that had been flowing so generously during the evening that caused this stupefaction, for the wide open mouths and expressions of pure bewilderment upon the faces of patrons spoke volumes.
The voices went silent abruptly; the music slipping into a short symphonic interlude before resuming its pace with a somber guitar solo. As the instrument wailed, the lighting, with the exception of that on the stage, dimmed. Lamps mounted on the walls suddenly appeared as candles, casting a plethora of dancing shadows in their flickering light. Mournful harmonies contrasting against the slow and sustained notes that emanated from the guitar induced in me a state of near euphoria. Chills traveled down my spine as I descended into a musically-induced trance.
Finally, the powerful voice of the electric guitar yielded as Raven brought her magical instrument to her shoulder—bow stretched across the neck. As she slid the implement sensually over the strings, it produced a profoundly seductive and surreal sound. My mind suddenly filled with visions conjured up from my very soul. Memories of past lives—moments of anguish resurrected—now tormenting me from the hidden depths of centuries past. A poignant sense of loss and anguish afflicted me as I recalled a dark and windy autumn afternoon--somewhere back in time. Having just made a final plea for the hand of his daughter in marriage, I stood by helplessly as a young blond woman, crying hysterically while seated on the back of a horse, was being led away from me to a faraway land by her father. Was it Raven in another incarnation? Could I be reliving the last moments that I would spend with her in that distant lifetime?
Her pace on the violin quickened; the notes coming rapidly now as her hand guided the bow while it moved swiftly over the strings of her instrument--black hair dancing over her shoulders in perfect synchronicity. As the music headed toward a climax I was overcome by an almost indescribable barrage of emotions, a confusing mix of joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, euphoria and despair. Yes, despair! Isn’t that what this song was about; the anguish of separation? I knew it well. It had all just come back to me.
Studying those around me in the dimly-lit room, I saw the reflection of candlelight in eyes filled with tears. Raw emotion was everywhere. The intensity of the music was overwhelming--dark and yet, oh so beautiful.
Raven brought the music to a sudden culmination—one last sustained crescendo of sound with drums rolling, guitars lashing out with rapid tremolos, keyboards holding a sustained chord, the violin playing rapidly around all of it. Then, with one last bombastic chord the music ended.
For a moment that seemed to linger on the edge of eternity the semi-dark room assumed an eerie silence. You could hear a pin drop. It was the big guy who finally broke the stillness. Thrusting his two fingers into the air he uttered an impassioned but drunken cry. “Metal! Metal!”
At that, the room broke out in a thunderous round of applause, howls and screams. The spell was broken. As the wall candles reverted back to wall lamps and the lighting returned to normal, the vehicles out on the street sounded their horns in approval before moving on. The crowd, which had gathered on the sidewalk, began to disperse—its members shaking their heads in disbelief. Within a few short moments there was only a stunned but delighted audience left to ponder the marvelous events of the evening.
I knew it would be a while before Raven would be ready to leave, so I decided head out to the street in order to clear my head. Before I got to the door I approached Eric. “Have a good time?” I asked.
“Hell yeah! What just happened anyway?”
“I’ll leave you to ponder that question yourself,” I told him. “Anyway, thanks for showing up.”
After patting him on the back, I walked out the door and stood watching the passersby and the traffic. There was a sudden rumble of thunder and a light rain began to fall.
It’s been a magical night indeed, I thought to myself, a magical night indeed.
Copyright © 2011 A.D. Vick, All Rights Reserved