You can call me Youngblood. That’s obviously not my name, but that’s what people called me back when this story takes place, the mid-’90s.
There was no way I was going to miss the show. Dogs of War were my favorite band and it was the first time they’d played the East Coast. So I snuck out of the house on a school night to see them at a bar downtown. I hadn’t graduated high school yet, but I was 18 so I figured I was enough of an adult to go to a hardcore show on a Wednesday night. Packed shoulder to shoulder with a couple hundred tattooed punks, I screamed until my throat was sore. During their second to last song, someone did a somersault stage dive and their heel caught me in my right eye and I went home with a massive shiner.
My ears were still ringing from the guitars when I snuck back into my parents’ house after midnight. And they were ringing from my dad’s screaming when I left the house with a bunch of clothes and my toothbrush in my backpack. I can still hear him screaming “my house!”
I went to YeahMan’s house and knocked on the door. “The fuck happened to your eye?”
“I got kicked at the show tonight. Then got kicked out of my house when I got back. Can I crash here?”
“Yeah, man. Bunch of people are crashing upstairs.”
parents paid for his house. Huge but old, in a shitty part of town. I made a pallet of old blankets and a couch cushion on the floor of one of the upstairs rooms and fell asleep.
I woke when the light poured in through the curtainless windows. I felt warm and safe, which turned to panic when I opened my eyes and found a thick, heavily-tattooed arm draped across my torso. I pushed it away and stood up. On the floor next to me lay a huge punk with a shaved head and tribal tattoos, on his face, down his torso, shoulder to fingertips.
“Sorry dude,” he mumbled drowsily. “I tend to get cuddly in my sleep.”
“Uhhh. No problem,” I answered.
I put on my shoes and hustled downstairs. “Do you have any food?”
“Yeah, man. There’s bananas in that bowl and cereal in that pantry. I think the milk’s still good.”
YeahMan’s backwards hat was attached to his dirty blonde hair at the cellular level. He was half asleep on his couch and the hat was still firmly in place.
“Why are you sleeping on your own couch?” I asked, my mouth full of cereal.
“Too tired to go upstairs last night.”
My bunkmate came down shortly thereafter with his eyes all the way open and wearing a shirt.
“Everyone else asleep but us three?” he asked, grabbing the cereal from beside me on the counter where I was perched.
“Y’all two,” YeahMan answered into the couch. “My name’s Quinn.”
“Can I ask you a favor?”
“You wanna go on tour?” “What?”
“My bandmates are trying to bring this guy I hate to sell merch. But I told them that I had already promised my best friend he could come along and sell merch.”
“So why can’t your best friend do it?”
“I don’t have a best friend, and I don’t actually have anyone lined up. So, if I can’t find someone to do merch for us, they’re going to bring along this guy I can’t stand. I don’t know anyone else in this town so you’re my last resort.”
“But we just met.”
“Believe me, I would rather have someone I’ve never met than the guy they’re trying to bring.”
“I don’t . . . I don’t . . . ” I stammered.
“Oh my god, just go!” YeahMan shouted, again into the couch.
“OK, I'll do it,” I said.
“Great. You just became my best friend.”
Quinn’s band was playing one show in Springfield before joining another band for the tour. I rode along in the back of their van next to Quinn while his bandmates gave me suspicious looks. I helped the band carry their gear into the hole-in-the-wall club, and took my place behind the rickety folding table covered in their T-shirts, seven-inch vinyl records, and cassettes. I twiddled my thumbs, and wished I had brought a book. After an hour, people began to trickle in as the first band was sound-checking. It was a motley assortment of kids in oversized clothes with inflammatory political messages. Angry, insecure punks with shaved heads and pimples stared one another down to establish dominance. The merch table was my parapet.
“Is Cannibal God a straight edge band?” asked a kid with a bandana tied around his head and giant black X’s marked with Sharpie across the back of his hands.
“Ummm,” I stammered, “I don’t know. I only know the guitar player, Quinn, and I don’t think he drinks? But I don’t know if he’s actually straight edge, or if the band is officially a--” the kid walked away before I finished my sentence. Across the back of his shirt, in large letters were the words I support the use of violence to achieve animal liberation. I made a mental note to ask Quinn about his band’s stances on drugs and alcohol if I was going to be a successful shirt salesman. And vegetarianism too.
Quinn’s band played second of the four bands, and I managed to sell several shirts and several records after their set, of which I was proud. I stood on my chair behind the merch table to watch their set. Over the crowd of heads I watched Quinn as he played guitar in an almost trance-like state. While the rest of his band seemed angry on stage, Quinn seemed to be in a state of religious euphoria, like he was meditating. I swear it made him glow.
When the last band of the night, Brimstone, took the stage the room got quiet. Again I stood on my chair and watched from the back of the room as uncomfortable-looking punks packed in tighter and tighter near the stage. The singer was a lean, pale kid who looked much older than he was on account of his angular face and pale skin. His hair was dark and his eyes were big; he looked like a vampire. He picked up the microphone as the guitarist started a low-pitched, steady driving riff that was the cue for a maelstrom to open up in the middle of the venue. The crowd began rushing side to side, pushing and shoving until everyone was forced back. As The Vampire began screaming into the microphone and the drums came in, people began throwing themselves from the stage into the crowd, mowing down those not strong enough to catch them. Men in the crowd wildly kicked and punched--some trying to hit the people around them, some trying not to. To someone at their first punk show, it probably would’ve looked like a prison riot.
The Vampire called out, “This song is called ‘Hades.’” Before the guitars or drums even began, the crowd rushed forward and the people closer to the stage jumped onto and over one another, fists and feet flying recklessly. Several real fights broke out. When the chorus approached, people climbed onto each others’ backs to get up closer to the singer. He held out the microphone, and everyone within arm’s length reached out to grab it and scream into it in unison:
“You! Are a murderer! You! Have blood on your hands!”
“That song is about genocide,” said The Vampire, wiping sweat from his face. “There’s a genocide going on that a lot of people in this room are participating in. Over fifty billion animals are tortured and killed every year to feed entitled assholes who think their taste buds are more important than a life. If you’re religious and you think you won’t face punishment for that in whatever afterlife you believe in, you’re a fool. I’m not religious, I don’t wait for punishment in the hereafter; I’m just looking forward to the day that you die of a heart attack in your 40s.”
Someone in the crowd yelled something I couldn’t understand.
“What the fuck did you just say?” The Vampire asked into the mic.
“I said you’re full of shit!”
Without a word The Vampire launched himself into the crowd, and I could see a massive swell of people pushing and pulling one another. The scuffle was brief, and from what I could tell, a combination of kids at the show and the bar’s security threw the heckler out the door. When The Vampire got back on stage, his face was covered in blood but he seemed unbothered. He ran his fingers through his hair, the blood like pomade slicking back the hair on one side.
“You got some shit to say, start your own fucking band.”
“So we’re headed to Franklin next?” I asked Quinn in the back of the van that night.
“Yes. That’s the first show of the Dark Dreams tour.” “Wait, Dark Dreams? That’s who y’all are touring with?”
“Yeah, they’re back together now”
“But didn’t Gabriel--” here I gave an awkward shake of my right hand.
“He wasn’t the guitar player. He can still hold a mic and sing.” Quinn shrugged his shoulders.
When we arrived at the Franklin show, I went out of my way to anticipate some of the band’s work getting loaded in. After helping Quinn’s bandmates with some of the heaviest gear, I set myself up at the merch table. I made a price list, labeled all the shirts and music, and having confirmed that Cannibal God was in fact a straight edge band, I felt more comfortable Xing my own hands while working their merch table. Quinn however, was the only vegetarian in the band, and for religious reasons also didn’t eat garlic or onions. So I’d probably lose all the vegan sales.
I didn’t see anyone from Dark Dreams until right before their set. The musicians came in through the back just in time to soundcheck, and a few minutes later, Gabriel. He was gaunt and his eyes were dark. His hair hung down around his face. He wore a hoodie and kept the hood pulled up over his head. His right forearm stayed conspicuously tucked into the pocket. He walked past me and for a moment we made eye contact. He looked old, but strong. His eyes were full of anger and determination.
Gabriel picked up the microphone. The crowd was hushed; the room was dark. The guitar player rang out a quiet and unnerving mix of guitar solo and feedback. Gabriel, still underneath his hood stared out into the crowd.
“You can’t run from your past. Your demons never forget and they never forgive. We are Dark Dreams and we’ll be with you for the rest of your life.”
There was something in the way that he spoke those words that gave me goosebumps. The crowd exploded, the guitar and drums came in and a wall of crunchy sound washed over the venue. Dark Dreams were one of my favorite bands but they’d broken up before I ever had a chance to see them. Watching their set, I remembered why I had enjoyed their music. Instrumentally, they had a tough, aggressive metallic punk sound. But what really set Dark Dreams apart was Gabriel. Rather than the macho political ultimatums or blustering threats that you’d expect to accompany their music, Gabriel’s lyrics were vulnerable, emotional, literate. His voice, too, was equal parts anguished and angry, like the ghost of Hamlet’s father calling to him from purgatory. People joked that Gabriel would start with the heaviest metal riff and write lyrics to it about being dumped by his girlfriend, and half the people in the room would sob while the other half would stage dive and punch each other.
After the show, Gabriel immediately went back to the van while the rest of us packed up gear and merch and carried it to the parking lot. Stanley, the lead guitarist for Dark Dreams and defacto tour manager, emerged from the venue with money for both bands. We stood around out back making small talk. As we packed the last of our gear and prepared to leave, Gabriel got out of the van, accompanied by an enormous, terrifying man with tattoos from his chin to his fingertips and cauliflower ears that proved he had either been a professional boxer or in so many street fights that the difference was a matter of taxes.
The Monster didn’t speak but stood behind Gabriel with his arms crossed. Gabriel paced back and forth in the midst of everyone.
“This is an important moment.” We all stared at him. “People thought we’d never play again. No one considered the psychology. Take a hiatus and everyone misses you. Absence . . . it makes . . . ” he trailed off. “It doesn’t matter. The next show is in Greenville. Everyone knows how to get there?”
“Greenville? We’re not playing Greenville. We’re playing Bristol,” Stanley interrupted.
“We’re playing Greenville,” Gabriel said with an icy glare made scarier by the Monster behind him staring daggers at Stanley. “I changed the show. We’re playing Greenville.”
Stanley fumed. “Did you talk to the promoter in Bristol?” “No. I talked to the promoter in Greenville. You’ll have to call the promoter in Bristol.”
At this, Quinn offered the Cannibal God crew the reprieve we all desperately wanted by announcing “Greenville! Right! See everyone there!”
Back in the van, I questioned Quinn. “Why Greenville?”
“I don’t know. But they’re the headliner, so we go wherever they go. Dark Dreams’ reunion is a big deal. They just need a room and six hours notice to fill it with kids.”
“Do the guys in Dark Dreams not get along?”
“They certainly don’t appear to. Gabriel’s a scary dude, even without his hired muscle.”
“That guy is . . . professional security?”
“Gotta be. Gabriel is paranoid about fights after . . . yeah.”
“So it’s true he lost his hand in a fight?”
“Not exactly. You know that band Leviathan?”
“They’re like crust punk metal, white dudes with gross dreads. They’re on tour right now too, aren’t they?”
“Dark Dreams played with them, and the guitar player from Leviathan tried to start a fight with Gabriel over Gabriel being straight edge. Comes up to Gabriel after the show and starts spitting beer in Gabriel’s face. Gabriel smokes him right in his mouth. People say one of his front teeth was still lodged in Gabriel’s fist. Sounds like bullshit to me. Either way, Gabriel smashes this dude’s face so bad that the guy is bleeding everywhere and Gabriel’s hand is all cut up. The bands are at each other’s throats, people break it up. Next day Gabriel’s hand is swollen, next day it’s super swollen, next day he’s basically walking around with a cantaloupe at the end of his wrist and Stanley convinces him to go to the ER. Turns out those Leviathan dudes are grosser than anyone realized. Whatever gross shit was in the guitarist’s mouth got into Gabriel’s hand and by the time he went to the hospital it was so infected they had no choice but to amputate. People say he’s been weirder since it happened, as if that dude could get weirder.”
More shows went by without incident. The Dark Dreams guys would stay in their van; we’d stay in ours. They’d come out right before their set, Gabriel last, we’d settle up the money, and then we wouldn’t see them again for another day or two until the next show when we were all loading our amps and drums into another dirty bar in some unfamiliar city.
I didn’t miss home. I didn’t tell my parents where I’d gone. Everyone else had been on a half dozen tours at least; this was my first and I was fascinated by everything. Wearing the same clothes all the time and living on gas station snacks and smelling all the guys in the van didn’t bother me. I stood on my chair every night to watch Dark Dreams’ set. Gabriel was like a prophet, and as much as the more level-headed folks like Quinn poked fun at his weird behavior and his half-nonsense speeches on stage every night, he had a gravity that pulled everyone in.
“The world hates us,” he said one night. “And I’m not just talking about the people and the cops. The whole world hates us. And we try to pretend that we’re too enlightened to anthropomorphize the world. Everything we have, food, medicine, technology, it all had to be wrenched from the maw of a hostile world. Whether the world is our prey, or the world is our predator, it hates us. And you’d be a fool not to return the favor.”
I couldn’t tell whether the punks he was ranting at from those stages between songs understood anything he was saying, or whether it was lost in the guitars and terrible PA systems. But watching him night after night I learned to speak his language. Over time, Gabriel came out more often at the end of the night when we would load the gear into the vans, not just to argue with Stanley or deal with logistics of the tour. He’d just sit and watch us work, or occasionally talk. And when he spoke, everyone, even Quinn would hang on every word.
The only person seemingly unaffected by the general gloom and tension surrounding Gabriel, was Dark Dreams’ drummer, Eugene. He was built like his drum kit: low to the ground, wide and stable. He was balding in his twenties and was the only person who didn’t seem to need punk. Examining the neuroses of even the most approachable people around me, it was obvious that even folks like Quinn could never leave the scene and go be “regular” people, with or without his tattoos. But Eugene seemed like someone’s dad from Brooklyn, a blue-collar guy who’d seen enough that nothing ever shocked him.
“How’d you like that opening band tonight?” Eugene asked me one night as we were loading up the vans.
“The one with all the pamphlets about environmental stuff? They were cool.”
“Oh no, guys. They’ve got another convert!” Eugene laughed and punched me in the arm. “You guys might need another merch guy. Henry David Thoreau over here is ready to go live in the woods with the squirrels.”
“Bunch of teenagers touring in a car, wearing sweatshop clothes, playing music through electric amps, talking about how everyone needs to go back to nature to save the planet. Alright fellas, you first!”
“People like dogs,” Gabriel interrupted, sitting on an amp in the parking lot. Everyone stopped laughing. “They like wildlife that doesn’t threaten them. They pet their dog and think they could pet a wolf. They’re stupider than dogs. They think we owe nature an apology for the battles we’ve won. You nurse a snake back to health and it murders you. What makes a dog tame?”
We all stared at him, unable to tell if his question was rhetorical. He stared at Stanley, who finally answered “Breeding. Selective breeding. That’s how you make a wolf into a dog. You breed the ones who bite you the least, and eventually you have an animal that never bites you.”
“Almost never,” Gabriel checked him. “But that’s what we do to the wolf. What’s inside the dog makes it tame?” Silence again. Gabriel stood up and put his right arm around Eugene.
Involuntarily, everyone’s eyes went to the loose sleeve hanging over the stump at the end of his wrist. “Stupidity. That’s what makes any animal submit itself. Wolves lose some important genes becoming dogs. You take those same genes out of a human and you end up with Williams Syndrome. It’s a mental disability, but it makes you real friendly.” The contempt with which Gabriel said this last word wiped the smile off Eugene’s face. He shuffled out from under Gabriel’s arm and finished loading the gear in silence. “The next show,” Gabriel announced gloomily, “is in Fairview.” Stanley started to speak up, and Gabriel spoke over him, “Fairview.”
To the uninitiated, every hardcore show feels tense. Angry tattooed young people staring each other down, the semi-controlled chaos of a moshpit, and the occasional fistfight that breaks out, can give a newcomer the feeling that violence is always around the corner and that you might be the proud owner of a broken nose for violating some unknown bit of protocol. But for regulars, it’s hardly more scary than a rollercoaster. Things might seem out of control, but it never gets too dangerous. The Fairview show was different. From the moment we arrived, there were kids hanging around who didn’t look like the normal crowd for our shows, and they were glaring at us.
Watching the opening band from behind the merch table, I saw sunburnt kids with dreadlocks coming in, looking around, then leaving. Gabriel’s security Monster--usually posted up by the door--was stalking around, looking suspicious. I tried to talk to Quinn, but he shrugged me off and busied himself with the amps and the sound system.
When Dark Dreams took the stage, Gabriel looked uneasy. He didn’t introduce the band; he faced the back of the stage until they started playing. The first time he leaned out into the crowd with his microphone, an olive-complected kid took a swing at him and missed. Immediately people nearby started pulling the kid away from the stage while other people threw wild punches at him. The Monster eventually made his way through the crowd and put the kid in a chokehold, dragging him outside. The attempted assault only served to amp up Gabriel’s nervous energy, already winning the battle against his bizarre sectarian charisma.
No one made any friendly small talk while loading out the gear. Eugene was the first one out the back door, with me and Quinn close behind him. Stepping into the alley behind the club, we saw Gabriel in a fury, kicking their tour van and punching it with both his hand and his stump. It was the first time I had seen that scarred bit of flesh at the end of his wrist, normally covered by the end of his sleeve, now slamming into the side of the Dark Dreams van. His hair whipped around, he was spitting and screaming incoherently.
“What the--” Eugene yelled and dropped the drum cases he was carrying, “our fucking tires!” All four tires of Dark Dreams’ van had been slashed.
“Those motherfuckers!” Gabriel yelled.
Stanley came out and grabbed Gabriel. “Who slashed our tires?”
“Leviathan is here? What? Are they still a band?” Stanley asked, incredulous.
“They were supposed to play a late show tonight, after ours.”
“Wait! Wait,” Stanley rubbed his head in confusion, “did you change the show to try and run into them? Are you still looking for that guy?”
“Gabe! What the hell, man!” Eugene, losing his normal composure, pushed Gabriel hard in his chest, and he stumbled back. Immediately the Monster and Stanley stepped between them.
Quinn and I stepped back, unwilling to get involved in the Dark Dreams conflict.
“Gabe, I’m not getting dragged into your stupid beef with Leviathan!” Eugene screamed from behind Stanley.
“They started it then, and they started it again tonight.They slashed our fucking tires.” Gabriel spat back.
Stanley tried to reason with Gabriel. “They slashed our tires because you came here looking for them, trying to start some bullshit from seven years ago,”
“Stabley’s a pacifist now, huh? Hey Eugene, who’d have ever thought that Stabley would go soft on us, huh? You’ve grown up in the last seven years, haven’t you, Stabley?”
“Shut up, Gabriel!” Stanley’s face was red. “Getting us into stupid fights used to be your job,Stabley. And I seem to remember spending a few nights in jail because of some stupid high school beef you couldn’t let go. But if you’re scared, then stay home. Someone else can play guitar.”
Stanley let go of Eugene, whom he’d been holding back, took one step forward and hit Gabriel across the jaw with a right cross so hard that the click of Gabriel’s teeth knocking together echoed down the alley. Gabriel fell and the Monster advanced on Stanley, who stood his ground and held up his fists, before Gabriel called out “No!” The Monster stepped back. Gabriel stood up and spit out a mouthful of blood into the alley. He took a quick couple of steps and peppered Stanley with jabs. Gabriel was quicker and tougher than he looked, and didn’t seem bothered by his missing right hand. He kept his right arm bent and covering the right side of his face. He danced around like Muhammad Ali, hitting Stanley with jabs until Stanley got frustrated and rushed him. Gabriel grabbed Stanley around the neck and started elbowing him hard in the ear with his right arm. I watched in horror as Gabriel’s right elbow battered Stanley’s ear until it was swollen and bloody. When he had sufficiently dazed Stanley, he delivered a couple of quick knees to his gut which collapsed him in the gravel.
Looking around, I seemed to be the only person who was surprised by the gaunt, one-handed Gabriel beating the square-jawed, athletic Stanley to a pulp. Gabriel stepped back and Stanley stood up. He was exhausted, dirty, his hair was matted up and his ear was bleeding. He spit on the ground.
“Fuck you,” he said with a creepy smile.
“Can you still tune your guitar with a busted ear?” Gabriel laughed.
“What do you mean, ‘still?’” Eugene interrupted, “his guitar hasn’t been in tune since high school.”
“The next show is in . . . ” Gabriel trailed off, looking at the Monster, who pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to Gabriel, “Madison.”
Grabbing a Dark Dreams shirt from a box of merch, Stanley held it up to his bleeding ear. “Is that a Leviathan tour flyer?”
“You’re paying for that shirt you’re bleeding all over,” Gabriel informed him.
“It’s a collector’s item now,” Stanley said sardonically, holding up the blood-stained shirt, “you can sell it for twice as much now.” He walked over and kicked one of the flat tires of the Dark Dreams van. “How the hell are we going to get to Madison?”
Eugene, Stanley, and Gabriel looked over at us for the first time. Quinn glanced from our van to the Dark Dreams guys. “If we can share some equipment, I think we can all fit in one van. Might be a tight fit.”
“Good enough,” said Gabriel. “I’m driving.”
“Um, our van is a stick . . . ” Quinn offered, timidly.
Quinn shut up.
By the time the gear was loaded and the members of both bands crowded in, the only place for me to sit was on Quinn’s amp in the back cargo area of the van, next to the rickety doors. I tried my best to sleep during the drive to Madison, but even with some of my clothes for a cushion, the amp was miserably uncomfortable and I didn’t trust the back doors enough to lean against them. So I kept my eyes closed and enjoyed a miserable night of micro-naps, dozing just long enough to fall over to one side and snap awake in a panic. I had no dog in the fight between Dark Dreams and Leviathan, but as I considered that Leviathan slashing Dark Dreams’ tires might mean riding on an amp in the back of the van for the next month, I started to feel real hatred for the filthy, infected bastards.
We stopped at a gas station in the middle of the night, and Gabriel got out to fill up the tank while everyone else went for snacks and the bathroom. I wrestled with whether I was hungry enough to deal with the precarious, uncomfortable task of climbing over all the bands’ equipment to get out of the van and get some chips. I had a unique vantage out of the back window due to the way the van was parked, and I saw before anyone else a white Chevy van pull up to one of the pumps on the other side of the parking lot. The doors opened and five or six guys in their late 20s poured out. They were all unkempt with varying lengths of dirty, dreaded hair. They wore boots and brown, workman’s jackets. When the doors opened I saw that their van was also full of guitar cases and amps. In the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere with my brain in the middle between conscious and unconscious, I simply stared at them wondering if they were a dream.
For what seemed to my drowsy brain like hours, there was quiet as the guys from my van milled about while Gabriel filled the tank, and the guys from the white van milled about while their driver filled their tank. But then there was an abrupt flurry of activity. I could barely hear the shouting with the doors closed, but one of the guys from the white van pointed at me and grabbed one of his friends and pointed at me again. There was a visible panic on their side of the parking lot as they all jumped back into their van. A moment later all the doors of my own van opened in a hurry and everyone came flying back in, yelling “White van, white van! They’re in a white van!” Gabriel started the engine and our van was in motion before the last door closed. The white van had a head start and they were flying down the long state highway ahead of us when we pulled out of the parking lot.
Gabriel’s foot pushed the gas pedal to the floor and I was thrown back and forth as the van sped down the road. Our van was not built for racing; the suspension was shot and it sounded like the chassis was coming apart underneath me, screw by screw, bolt by bolt. Thanks to adrenaline I was finally alert, and I blurted out “Was that them? Was that Leviathan?” But no one bothered to answer me.
Gabriel was still behind the wheel, with the Monster riding shotgun. From the back it looked like he was flailing about furiously, crossing his body with his left arm to shift while clumsily keeping the steering wheel straight with his stump. The engine sounded like it was going to explode out the front grill. We swerved right and left, but luckily there were no other cars on the road, just the huge white van on the horizon. Everyone around me was yelling, either curses at Leviathan, or questions about what we were going to do when we caught them, or much quieter questions about Gabriel’s sanity or his ability to drive. Between the noise of the van and everyone’s screams, it was deafening.
“You can’t run from your past! We never forget! We never forgive!” Gabriel screamed behind the wheel as we steadily gained on the white van. He was spitting and the wind from the window whipped his hair around his face. He pounded his knuckles against the steering wheel, scaring more speed from the decrepit engine.
Either to overpower my fear, or because of the tribal rage in the moment, I became enraged and threw myself behind Gabriel’s cause. I didn’t know anyone in that band, but I was ready to jump out and fight any one of them. I didn’t flinch as the van began to fishtail at intervals, I just watched as the white van grew closer. The wind was blowing through the van like a hurricane, drowning our screams.
When we approached the white van, Gabriel swerved over the yellow lines to the opposite lane and my heart jumped into my throat. We were on the wrong side of the road going almost a hundred miles an hour in an old van that was falling apart. The next hill or the next curve could be a head-on collision. We pulled up next to the white van and the Monster began screaming out of his window, “Pull over! Pull over!”
The guitar player was behind the wheel. His missing front tooth was visible when he screamed back with a lisp, “Fuck you!”
When he saw the guitar player, Gabriel erupted in anger that made his previous fits look tame. He swung his right arm out, smashing the stump against the side of the Monster’s face as he brandished it at the driver of the white van. “I have destroyed greater things than you with one hand! You are a dead man! I have one hand and one life and I will give them both to see you in a grave!”
I felt a whipping sensation as Gabriel yanked the steering wheel to the left and then to the right in an attempt to ram the other vehicle. The mountain of gear I was sitting on in the back seat toppled and rolled to one side with me riding along. They accelerated in that moment and so only the very front end of our van clipped the back bumper of theirs. I watched as the white van fishtailed briefly but righted itself. Our van, however, was impossible to correct. In his attempt to ram them, Gabriel turned the van sideways going ninety miles an hour. I saw the people in front of me smash into each other and the thunderous crashing as all the heavy equipment banged over and over again into the back doors. The latch which had made me so nervous came loose and I flew from the back, riding on top of Quinn’s amp. It came down hard on the concrete and skidded for a split second before throwing me off and through the air and into the grass beside the road. I heard the crashing and squealing but by the time I looked, the van had already flipped and rolled and smashed into a tree a few hundred feet ahead. The guitar cases and amps were scattered around the road. In the distance, the white van showed no signs of slowing.
I’m told that an older couple had stopped when they saw the wreck and that the woman, Rachel, had waited with me on the side of the road while the husband had driven back to the gas station to call the police. None of the others survived. I was bruised and had a concussion, but if I hadn’t been thrown from the van I would’ve died. And if I hadn’t landed on Quinn’s amp in the process the asphalt would’ve skinned half my body. In the hospital, the police told me that my parents had filed a missing person’s report. I had a lot of questions to answer--questions about myself, about Gabriel, about Stanley and Eugene and my best friend Quinn, about a Cannibal God and about a Leviathan and some extraordinarily Dark Dreams that never forgave, and never forgot, and will be with me for the rest of my life.