He twisted slowly as if he’d been smacked in the face, and his eyes rolled into his head. Then he fell flat and hard, like a thousand-year-old pine in the forest, crunching on the forest floor. He was motionless and awkwardly positioned, like a hit and run victim, and soon his face turned white then a little blue.
Abigail screamed. She and Tammy watched as Damien fell. In the dimly lit room the girls looked at each other. They were best friends, and the absolute, unrivalled, biggest fans in the world of Damian and his band The March. In fact, they were fans before the band had a name, when they were playing covers at unpaid gigs as the Elastic Band. Now Damien was on the ground and to Abigail and Tammy, it seemed as though he wasn’t getting back up.
‘Is everything okay?’ Mr Richards strode into the room and flicked the switch on the ceiling light, his eyes darting around the room for an explanation of the scream. He stood above Damien like a school teacher standing above a troublesome pupil and said, ‘Why can’t we throw a fucking album release party without one of these fucking louts getting too smashed to bother talking with the press or the fans.’
‘Is he okay?’ asked Tammy, who was now clutching Abigail’s arm. ‘He fell down hard.’
‘He’s just had too much to drink is all,’ replied Mr Richards, who was now tapping Damien’s body with the side of his foot. When Damien didn’t move, he kneeled down beside his client and stared at his lifeless face. ‘Jesus, I don’t think he’s breathing.’ He then checked for a pulse.
‘Are you a doctor or something,’ said Abigail.
‘No, but it doesn’t take a doctor to know this he’s in serious trouble. Quick, lock that door; we don’t need any of the press seeing this.’
When Mr Richards said this Tammy gasped and Abigail whispered, ‘O…M…G.’ ‘I said one of you lock that fucking door.’
But before either of them could follow the order, the door swung open again and in walked a man that looked as though he would have fit in seamlessly on stage with The March.
‘Here he is,’ he said with a wonky smile, revealing a blackened tooth. The man closed the door and locked it. ‘My friend here thinks he is a god. One EP and then a record deal and he thinks he’s fucking immortal.’
‘I’m sorry, who might you be?’ asks Mr Richards.
‘I’m Laz. And this rockstar here owes me money.’
‘Don’t talk about him like that,’ said Abigail.
‘This is obviously not a good time. You need to leave,’ Mr Richards said to Laz. ‘This fucker bought a fifty worth of heroin off me but said he only had twenty on him and that his manager would fix me up later. I came to the party so I could cook it up and get high with him, but the lousy bastard couldn’t wait. He’s gone and snorted it all.’
‘Jesus. Are you saying he’s overdosed on heroin?’ said Mr Richards, eyes wide with panic.
‘Yeah. That’s right. Now, where’s his wallet,’ Laz said approaching the body.
‘Listen you little shit, you’re not gonna touch Damien or his wallet.’ Mr Richards stood face to face with Laz, who considered his words, smiled, took one step back, reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small knife.
‘No, you listen, you old fuck. I need my money. I got a kid you know, he’s as annoying as fuck but he still needs to eat. And I’m trying to run a business. Now you either get outta my way so I can take the wallet, or point me in the direction of his manager who owes me thirty bucks.’
‘I’m the band’s manager. And I don’t owe you shit, rat.’
‘Why are you arguing about money?’ Tammy said, ‘Someone call an ambulance.’ ‘It’s too late,’ said Laz, relaxing the knife, ‘our friend here is walking the tightrope. Any minute now he’ll err a little further to one side and slip away.’ He said this with a grimace; it wouldn’t be the first time he’d seen it happen.
Mr Richards held his phone to his ear and thought to himself that this was no way for a band’s breakthrough album promotion to begin. Or was it? And that’s when the light bulb clicked. He stared into space for a moment and ignored the voice on the receiver asking him if he needed the police, an ambulance or the fire brigade. He hung the phone up.
‘What are you doing,’ cried Abigail.
‘All of you just shut the fuck up for a moment.’ He stood there scratching at his jawline, then, and as if winning an argument in his own head, he smiled and began to nod. ‘Nobody leaves this room until the paramedics take Damien out in a body bag.’
The two girls and Laz just stood dumbstruck.
‘This album will have the sort of media attention that no promotional budget can buy. With both hands Mr Richards frames a headline in mid-air, ‘Dead Rocker’s Final Masterpiece.’
‘You’re out of your mind, old man,’ laughed Laz.
‘And think of the money we’d make,’ said Mr Richards, frantic, with the genius idea reaching fruition in his head. ‘Yes, yes, that’s it. We can each sell our story to any of the papers and magazines.’
‘I could make more than thirty bucks, right?’ asked Laz.
‘Ten times more.’ Mr Richards assured him. ‘And you girls, you ever wanted to be part of rock and roll history?’
‘It would be kinda cool to say you were there when the guy from the The March died,’ Abigail said.
‘And I can say he wrote the song ‘Infinity’s Daughter’, off the new album, about me,’ said Tammy.
So, the four of them reached an agreement: nobody was to enter or leave the room until they were all certain he was dead.
‘But, we need a consistent story,’ began Mr Richards, ‘So this is how it will go. I was sitting in the room discussing what Damien thought to be The Marchs’ key influences, when – ‘
‘But we were in the room with him,’ Abigail interrupted, ‘and he was about to tell me he loved me.’
‘No he wasn’t, he likes me so much more,’ said Tammy. ‘Just listen, we need to decide on a realistic –‘
‘Oh, I’m fucked, then,’ Laz interjected, ‘I can’t say I was here to collect money for the drugs that killed the motherfucker.’
‘Then don’t, you moron. You can say you’re a friend who was just hanging out. Maybe you were in here talking with the girls over in that corner.’
‘Gross. Didn’t you just say realistic? We would never talk to someone like that.’ ‘Well, I wouldn’t talk to you bitches either,’
‘Listen we just need to…’
And amidst the arguing there was a single cough, which seemed to reverberate around the room like a giant church bell. The four of them became silent, which made the second cough more pronounced. It was Damien; he had rolled to his side, vomited and was now coughing the residue and acidic taste out of his mouth.
‘I need some water,’ he muttered.
Mr Richards’s sighed and Laz cursed. The four of them looked down at Damien who was now spitting on the carpet, then sternly at each other.
Mr Richards pulled a twenty and a ten from his wallet and Laz disappeared, like a cockroach when the light turns on. The girls shuffled out of the room and went back to the party looking for the cute bass player, and Mr Richards knelt down and said, ‘I’m here for you buddy, you’ll be all right.’
Erin Kelly is a wannabe retiree who enjoys napping and waiting for the kids to call. Her interests include shopping, talking over the fence with Jenny Hilton, and writing. Erin’s work can be found in print and on the screen (Word Riot, Out of the Gutter, Hypallage and Regime Magazine).