☦Fifthism puts on a show.☦
Clyde plucked the metal strings of his guitar with no audience save for his pet cat. The sound echoed against the walls of the apartment with no other harmony save for quiet breaths and soft purring. Clyde’s apartment was plain despite his wealth; the only indication of the roots he grew from were the guitars he played, several thousand dollars each. Not that anyone in his band knew enough to know.
There was a swipe of shadow against his ear, a sensation of the teasing lips of a lover. A shiver raced up his back and the music acquiesced to silence. Clyde turned his head, pressing a hand against his ear. Odd- his cat was by his feet.
Clyde found himself with an idea, an inclination. He put the guitar away and fetched his phone. In the darkness of the unlit apartment, Clyde called his father for the first time in three years.
“Ms. Silva speaking, how may I help you?”
“This is Clyde. Let me talk to my dad.”
The line on the other end was silent for some time. The honeyed voice melted to the old nanny he remembered well. “Clyde? It’s been so long. Where di-? Your- your father, yes. I’ll transfer you right away, dear.”
“…Son.” The voice was gruff, tired. Older than he remembered. More worried. He could hear the balding through the phone. “Where the hell have you been? I thought you were dead.”
“Hi dad.” Clyde had to steady his voice. “Look, are you still in contac- wait, that’s stupid. Of course you are. I need to ask you a favor. Is that annual banquet still happening? The one in Cali, with the MCD people? I have a favor to ask you.”
The annual banquet was grand, as every banquet hosted by Marshall, Carter & Dark Ltd. had been. Satin curtains lined the walls, matching the tablecloths in bold crimson accent, which were themselves accented with candles. Save for the fashionably late, everyone who was someone was there. Women in classic evening gowns reintroduced themselves to acquaintances; men in custom tailored suits discussed about nothing in particular. All around, wine was shared and the crowd waited for the opening speech.
Nothing was out of place this evening, as wholly expected by the guests.
The host, wearing a suit that a lesser man could cut himself on, addressed the crowd. He thanked Marshall, Carter and Dark for their generosity in funding the banquet. He thanked the guests for arriving, even those that had arrived mid-speech in a fashionably late style. He thanked their yet-to-arrive evening entertainment, an unknown group by the label ‘Constellation Starfish’. He thanked the chefs and the waiters. He made an unfunny joke that was met with polite laughter and then thanked the guests for laughing. After his list of thanks, he moved on to advertise for Marshall, Carter and Dark’s summer collection. Nothing was out of place at all.
Constellation Starfish arrived later, during the course before dessert. Their beat up van rode into the parking lot, much to the confusion of the valet workers. The only reason the band wasn’t thrown out immediately was the lead guitarist, who carried himself like a patron despite his shabby clothes. The guitarist seemed a little uncomfortable as he settled into this demeanor, as if he hadn’t used it in some time. He was the one that explained the situation.
The band didn’t need any help with setup, although according to many of the guests they certainly needed help with their fashion sense.
When the desserts were served, the band introduced themselves. The drummer was Brook, a girl in a dated hairstyle and an unironed shirt. The backup vocal was sung by Rosa, another girl with her unstyled hair and unflattering, vintage clothes. The lead singer, Morgan, sported a piercing gaze and socks that didn’t match his pants, which were fashionable last season. There was supposed to be a big burly man that helped with unpacking, but he had snuck away somewhere. The only one who acted with any kind of respectability was the lead guitarist, Clyde. He was the only one that acted like them.
Expectations were low. A no name band. A shabby no name band, no less.
Morgan tapped the mic once, tested it. “Good evening ladies, gentlemen. We’re Constellation Starfish. After the show we’ll be selling some albums and t-shirts near the entrance if you want to pick up any. Our first song will be a nice upbeat tune to start the night…”
As the music began, the air of disquiet stifled and acquiesced. The only person who played professionally was Clyde, but there was something about the music that rattled into the bones of the guests. The notes slid into the mind through the ears, squirming around one’s consciousness until it was all that could be thought of. It evoked memories before this human existence and the guests began to remember what they had forgotten they had forgotten. What they used to be.
About halfway through the second song, one of the women grabbed a decorative candle. She held it into the relative darkness of the room, hot wax pouring down and over her tender skin. She didn’t let go and instead waved the candle back and forth. The candle was joined by others, creating a dance of shadow and light over the walls and the floor to the music of Constellation Starfish. Audience and performance became one entity, singing a collective memory and reminiscing times beyond their comprehension.
When Morgan opened his eyes to gaze at the audience, he took in the sea of candles and saw instead stars against the darkness of a void. The shadows twisted into tendrils, curling around arms and clutching at the hands that clutched at warm wax. Flickering darkness drowned the crowd in unfelt caress. Ethereal arms wrapped around bodies like a possessive lover, around him and his band. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he recognized what he was doing. He tried to break the spell, to stutter his words, to sing off key. Anything. But his words were no longer his. His voice was no longer his tool of expression.
He wasn’t sure if he wanted to run away screaming or fall to his knees in worship.
The unified collective remained well into the evening, until its voice was hoarse and the last candles had burned away in the now-singed hands that held them. The shadows stilled and returned to their usual lifeless mimicry. Morgan found himself capable of speaking at his own will again, though he didn’t want to anymore. “Thank you for being such a great audience, everybody. As I said before, we’ll be selling t-shirts and albums near the exit. Don’t forget to like us on facebook and twitter…”
The paraphernalia stand was empty by the end of the night, with some further generous donations on top of it. Constellation Starfish made more money that evening than they had in their entire existence previously.