Muses to Muses
“Get in here! Somethin’ I want ta show ya!”
Frustrated, I take off my computer glasses and set them down on my desk. Wiktoria, that punkish, tanned pyrow, was demanding my attention and refusing to walk over to where I was working to show me. Again. I could only imagine what benign distraction she had in mind this time. I stood up from my desk to begin my trek to her sound room, where she was probably calling from.
This had better be good, making me walk to whatever little gag she had planned.
I opened the door to her practice room and was greeted with that usual cigarette smoke atmosphere, the same leather couch, and the walls plastered with soundproofing foam. Wiktoria was nowhere in sight, with the only hint of her presence being a lit cigarette in an ashtray and an open closet door.
“Alright Wik,” I asked with exasperation, “where are you? What’s so special I had to get up from my work to see?”
“Sit down on th’ couch an’ I'll show ya.” Wiktoria responded from the closet.
“Great,” I muttered beneath my breath, the couch squeaking and rustling beneath my ass as I sat down, “this had better be one hell of a lap dance…” As I took my seat, Wiktoria made her entrance, holding some large, cumbersome looking object obscured by a what was undoubtedly one of her gig bags. “Is that what you wanted to show me?” I asked.
“Yup.” Wik responded gleefully, “check it.” Working a zipper down the bag, she began to pull out one…no…two guitar necks. After Wik threw off the gig bag fully, I was practically forced to sit back in awe at the specimen before me.
It was a thick, heavy looking, double-necked guitar with a black, scaly, ridged body painted a lacquered red on the edges. It was as if the thing were carved directly from a chunk of some large, living reptile or stone. The necks were attached separately and were made of gray, ashen looking wood with silver strings running along the frets to similarly silver screws. It wasn’t until later I would find out that the two guitar necks served as two differing instruments, one of a regular electric guitar, and the other an electric bass. The front of the guitar itself served as the base for several black dials and a gold plated output jack, tying together the theme of primal material meeting industrial fabrication. As much a work of art as an instrument for creating it.
“...What is that?” I ask, barely hiding my curiosity.
“I call ‘em Wera and Wioletta. Mom got me these babies fer my 18th.” Wiktoria tucked the guitar closer to her chest as she traced a finger up the body of the instrument. “Told me she got th’ body from some creature from th’ old days. Had a custom job fer gettin’ it carved into a body like this. Ash wood necks and actual silver ‘n gold string. Said they were better for conducting electric magic fer a sound with snap to it.”
“Wik, the more I learn about your mom the more I realize she spoiled you rotten.” I reply, unimpressed with the likely expensive make of the thing.
“An’ I love her fer it. Wouldn’t have this otherwise, hehehe.” The initial awe beginning to wear off, I lean forward while Wiktoria chuckled in her own sense of self-satisfaction.
“Well, it’s certainly impressive. I don’t know what else to say about it since I’ve no clue what the body could’ve come from nor have I heard any sound from it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you playing it.”
“Don’t pull it out often. I’ve been meanin’ to play it more.”
“A bit of that ‘too much a work of art to actually use it’ type thing?”
“A bit. More I usually play with my other guitars and don’t have a need for switchin’ tween strings.”
“...So what’s got you showing me Wera and Wioletta right now?”
“Got a gig with the girls in a few days; a small thing at Donica’s. I want ya to come watch.” I shift in my seat on the couch as she made her invitation known.
“I take it you plan on playing those two for the show?”
“Yup,” Wiktoria answered, nodding in response. “I plan ta use it fer a little somethin’ me and the others have been workin’ on. Somethin’ only me and these beauties can play.”
“Sounds very much like a breakout piece, then. Don’t suppose you’ll be regaling me with a sample of the work?”
“A sample? You gotta be kiddin’. Just cause we fuck around don’t…” Wiktoria stopped in her snarky response as her face creased in momentary thought. “Actually, know what? Ta hell with it.” She walked over to a nearby speaker and plugged a cable into her guitar. With a loud click, the speakers buzzed to life and began to reverberate with ambient sounds as the guitar seemed to glow with inner fire between the scales. Wiktoria fiddled with the volume knob on the front of the thing for a brief moment, seemingly to keep my ears in consideration, for once. “Needed ta get a run through of this anyways. Maybe you can tell me how it is.”
“So long as my eardrums don’t get blasted out. I look forward to hearing what this thing can do.”
“Ohoho, believe me, there’s going to be more than just listenin’. Watch this an try an’ keep up.” Retrieving her cigarette from the ashtray, she placed the stick in her mouth and brought the guitar up to bear. With a brief pause, she flexes her wings, muscles straining and bones cracking as she readied herself for her performance.
“What, wing’s getting tired from tryin’ to fly or something?”
“Nah, just gettin’ ready. Sit down in that couch and let me show ya how it’s done…!” With a great thrust of her arm, Wiktoria’s guitar pick collided with the strings of Wera, while her wings began to pick at Wioletta’s strings. The speakers of the room roared and shrieked with the chords of the twin guitars in tandem, unleashing a hail of shredding metal as Wiktoria’s fingers and wingtips danced and dashed across the strings. Her hands practically a blur, she played hellish frets as her wings individually plucked string after string of low bass shouts that strengthened and cushioned the cries of the guitar’s strings. Wiktoria tried to hide her exertion with her usual smug and confident demeanor, but her creased brow gave away the sheer demand the act required of her skills. To date, I don’t know if it was her own skills, or magics imbued within that guitar, but I could’ve sworn it sounded like she was playing for more than just two sets of strings.
Just when I had thought that her hand or the strings on the guitar might burst in flames from friction (where there is smoke, after all), she stopped. Taking the cigarette from her lips, she flicked it back into the ashtray as she took great heaving breaths, a bead of sweat working its way down her face. She ran her hand through her hair, convalescing after the undoubtedly preternatural act.
“That’s it,” she blurted out between breaths, “that’s all I’m showin’. Rest’ll remain a surprise.” She looked back to me, smiling as she took in my awestruck expression. “I take it you liked it. Neat trick, huh?”
“More than a neat trick,” I stammered out, “that seems like a gift from god, if I didn’t know better with that OTHER gift you got from your mom.”
“She often thought that. So tell me some deets. What’d ya think? Any specific parts you like?”
“I…can’t say I have any specific parts I liked…” I started. When Wiktoria’s expression began to visibly dampen, I quickly qualified with, “To me it all worked together to paint an incredibly epic portrait. One that I think I’ll have trouble describing in the here and now…”
“C’mon Bobby boy. You write all fanciful like. I bet you can put out some words if you wanted to.” I leaned forward, resting my elbows on my knees and my head on my closed fists as I began to formulate my thoughts into a proper description.
I see, in my mind’s eye, Pandaemonium, in a lake of fire-
Pandaemonium? Like what those fallen priests talk about?
No no, Pandaemonium from Christianity; Satan stuff, Milton.
Anyways, Pandaemonium, Satan’s citadel atop the lake of fire in a great cavern with a building structure of silver, gold, and jewels; a symbol of his and his follower’s pride and greed if nothing else. Rising from the lake of fire, instead of gilded golden pillars, I see many different large stone columns hidden in a hazy, red smog. They tower above all else, as if desperately trying to keep the roof itself from collapsing to bury the accursed citadel in its hubris. But, atop a broken pillar, far above the teeming masses of fallen angels, there emerges a melody that slowly gets louder the further I ascend.
Standing atop the pillar is a being of fire, with glowing hot, metal branding. She’s playing an instrument of molten rock and precious metals. With wing and hand, she viciously and unceasingly strums the strings of the guitar, the obvious source of the melody. Packs of diabolic imps fly in the haze, circling the intruder upon the pillar in curiosity and malice. I do not know the message of the chords, but I know that the demon is showing her dominance above all. The imps know this, but are unable to approach her sphere of influence. She is either a being of God above, demonstrating His glory, or some outsider showing her own.
Huh, guessin’ some sort of chance audience or somethin’.
Or perhaps a purposeful one, thinking on it. All at once, she strikes powerful riffs upon her guitar that drives away the imps, and, from a mortal onlooker, inspires awe and wonder at the music. The chords ring out above all of Pandaemonium, from the shores of the lake of fire, to the gilded throne room of Satan’s destructive ego, and to the bridge leading to Eden. It is equal parts a dirge for all of Hell, of its doomed apostasy, and a proclamation of the Lord’s divinity. A divinity, I have in mind, is extended through this being of fire, this…Herald of divine grace.
“...at least that’s the impression I got until you suddenly stopped.” I finished. I opened my eyes to look at the performer before me. Wiktoria was no longer smiling smugly at my praise, and rather looked at me with almost bored, half-lidded eyes as she listened. “Yeah, I know. You’re bored from my flowery description.” She didn’t respond immediately, preferring to take a puff of a new cigarette as she just kept looking at me.
“...Now I definitely want you at the show.” She answered.
“Oh? I do something to catch your attention in that regard?”
“You’ve given me ideas.”
“Oh?” I raise a brow and sit back, prideful of the implication. “Like what exactly?”
She didn’t say. She only dragged me up by the collar and bid me a hasty “You’ll see.” as she pushed me out of the room. More unnervingly, she was quiet the rest of the day, and only came out from her practice room for dinner and bed. I could’ve sworn I had heard her chattering excitedly to someone over the phone about something. Of what, I couldn’t say.
Donica’s was a moderately sized rock and metal themed bar; owned by an ancient phantom that had taken after our world’s genres of music. It had its own little corner in a business plaza, roughly a suburban town over from where I lived, with now thoroughly cramped parking. On one hand I was thankful that me and Wiktoria had arrived early to prepare for the performance, her fellow bandmates either arriving just as early or later. On the other hand I dreaded the nightmare of trying to get out of the place once everything was said and done.
Inside was a similarly claustrophobic situation, made even worse by the darkened aesthetic of the place. The inside of the bar was dark and dingy, befitting the theme of the bar’s music and the desired ambience for the show. All of the seats at the bar were taken, every booth was filled to capacity, and the dance floor (or mosh pit, considering the nature of Wiktoria’s show) was as packed as legally allowed. Couples of all shapes and sizes, from the shortest and most concentrated of mass to the tall who’d fit in with the mootriarchy, violently swayed and bounced about in frenzied rhythm with leather jackets squeaking and metal clinking. Wiktoria’s shrieking notes from one of her other guitars and her musical growls into the microphone whipped them into a fervor; one I was only happy to escape from backstage.
Wiktoria had, in fact, been telling the truth when she said I would see what she meant. Donning a historical robe borrowed from a metal enthusiast baphomet and hefting Wera/Wioletta, I wait backstage for my que. I was to be a part of the show, though even after a brief rehearsal I was still confused as to what exactly was planned for me. My arms ached from holding up the weight of the twin guitars, Wiktoria made the things look light whenever she handled them. Probably that damn, cheating arm of hers taking up the slack again.
I hear Wiktoria’s band strike a final chord as she lets out one last, throaty shout, the crowd cheering in response to the finished piece. My moment was rapidly approaching. I unzip the hefty guitar’s gig bag and walk closer to the stage awaiting my que. Wiktoria took a step back from the microphone and took a swig of water resting on a nearby stool. She looked over in my general direction, her face betraying a split second of what could only be excitement before reforming into her confident stage presence. She turned back to the microphone to address the crowd, already quietening down to listen.
“Alright, alright!” She started, her voice scratchier than its normal husky tone. “You’ve all been a good audience this evening, guys and gals.” There was a universal cheer from the crowd as Wiktoria put a hand to her throat, still seemingly still aching for water. “Now, I have a special surprise for ya. A little piece me an’ the gals’ve been working on fer a bit now. An original piece and a performance that wouldn’t be possible without certain benefactors.” Yet another frenzied yell from the crowd excited for the prospect of an exclusive performance. Wiktoria discarded her guitar on a nearby guitar stand, my sign to step on stage.
“Now, this piece don’t have any lyrics to it…” she started, holding out an arm, not even looking in my direction. Rolling my feet and keeping my head down, I walk slowly across the stage with the offering in hand. When I eventually reach her, I pull off the bag slightly to reveal only one neck before dropping to a knee, offering the duo like a barely sheathed sword. Wiktoria turned and placed a foot against my thigh and, with a great flourish, drew Wera and Wioletta, energizing an already hyper crowd. I quickly take my leave. “...but I think you’ll figure out what it’s about.”
Back backstage and out of sight, I quickly pull the robe off and discard it on a nearby chair; back in the old denim jeans and leather jacket. Wiktoria was saying something or another about how she got that guitar from some large beast and it was imbued with the spirits of bards past, couldn’t really make it out over the din of the crowd and the scratchy mic. I pass Donica, the phantom owner on my way out. With an exchange of looks, I pass her without a word as I make my way out and past the minotaur bouncer that was guarding the door. It was odd that Donica was back here and not manning the bar, but I couldn’t ponder the thought for very long. All I knew was that Wiktoria specifically requested I be in the audience, rather than watching from backstage, and I doubted she’d keep the audience distracted for long.
I eventually managed to worm my way into the crowd and to a spot where I actually had a clear view of the stage and of Wiktoria, still delivering that dottering speech; one she clearly improvised on the spot. She looks over the crowd in a sweeping glance, and somehow comes to a stop around where I stood. We made eye contact with one another, and for the faintest moment, I could’ve sworn I saw her expression soften.
“...anyways,” she continued, after a slight pause, “enough about all that crap. This one goes out,” she raised a hand, a singular finger pointing forward and sweeped it over the crowd, starting opposite of where I stood. “To all,” she stopped her sweep precisely where I stood in the crowd, “of you.” Then, with a final sudden rise and drop of her pick wielding hand, the chords began to shriek.
It was pandemonium. The demon lord was dead. Not one daemon knew what was happening. It was nothing new, one lord would die, another would take his place for a new, long reign. If the title passed from the advent of mortals, there would be some chaos as every imp worth his salt would try to vie for the throne, which isn’t what happened on this occasion. Something was different. Not wrong, but…different.
Instead of contracting boils, sprouting new and gangly limbs and tentacles, or ascending to new levels of bloody rage against humanity, there was a new feeling; one totally unfamiliar to us. It was…an ache in the chest, one of loss and loneliness. A gaping hole that we knew could only be filled by Man.
Then, the music came.
Far above the palace, on one of the stone pillars that held up the citadel, stood a gaggle of musical messengers. Kitted with instruments not seen before in the abyss, let alone the hands of daemonkind, they struck with electrical music, immediately capturing the attention of me and the rest of the hellish crowd. Of shredded strings and intense, steel-rimmed rhythm they played, their ballad captivating us all in awe. Even from where we stood, we could make them out as messengers of lust and fire; shapely, humanoid bodies utilizing inhuman limbs to their fullest potential, beyond what any mere monster could attain.
But they were not our apex, nor did they claim sovereignty over any. They were merely Heralds of our new lord. Our lord, a pale succubus of a blinding visage who now slowly rose above them on pale, maroon webbed wings. It was then we all cheered, for we knew that this song was an extension of the lord, of a promise of a new age of apostasy.
And of a new future for all mamonokind.
The sudden, drastic slowing of music shook me out of the illusion. I was no longer some devil or diabolical fiend witnessing the ascension of a new demon lord. I was back in Donica’s, with the rest of the crowd quieting down in similar fashion from the confusion. Back on stage, Wiktoria and the others were still atop stone pillars as their music continued to slow to unlistenable speeds. It was where Wiktoria had stopped playing for me days before. Her guitar, even now, glowed with intense inner fire, her head was facing downwards, seemingly exhausted at the affair as sweat dripped off her forehead and onto the floor. Did she bite off more than she could chew with this?
Then, from the scylla mounted drumset, came a new rising beat, one that quickly grew in volume as I spotted Wiktoria raising her guitar pick once again. Her foot tapping to the beat, and a quick flick of the wrist, she played yet another few notes, ushering a whole new act of her show.
Suddenly, she was no longer atop a stone pillar at the demon lord’s ascension. Now she stood on the battlements of a castle that burned with pink and purple fire. From an electric keyboard played by a raiju came a church-like harpsichord as the band continued to play, a flag of some unknown order burning as it fluttered down into the inferno. It was no church hymn, but rather a corrupted dirge for the last moments of some civilization played by the very same harbingers of the new reign. Wiktoria continued her act, hand and wing working in tandem to play the massive guitar slung across her chest. Across her face I could see, as rarely as I did before, the familiar contours of stress and focus. Despite her confident, almost arrogant visage, I knew that she was struggling to keep up with the tempo, and not crash and burn.
Eventually, the struggle did end, as the band gave one final CRASH as the battlements dissolved entirely, and the crowd let out a near hysterical cheer as the band closed out their finale. Wiktoria ran a hand through her hair, sweeping her iconic bang over one of her horns and showing off her other eye. Ever the center of attention, she held up her fingers in the shape of devil horns high in the air as she looked over the cheering crowd. “ Thank you all! Good night!!” She shouted out. She looked over to me, sweat covering her face, and, for once in a while, I saw not her usual smug grin, or even an excited, toothy smile.
For once, I saw the edges of her lips pulled up in a soft smile. Her eyes, both of them, didn’t burn with excitement or satisfaction, but with a soft glow akin to coals.
She was content.
I gave her a thumbs up from where I was and began to make my way through the crowd to meet with her backstage. Flashing my backstage pass to the minotaur bouncer, I make my way backstage and wordlessly pass by Donica, now making her way back to the bar. Wiktoria was already backstage with her bandmates, putting away their instruments into their respective cases and chatting up friends and spouses. By the time I reached Wiktoria, she had finished putting away both of her guitars into their respective gig bags. Her ear, lit by her glowing piercings, twitched as I approached.
She turned to me from her hunched over position with that ever smug grin of hers. “There ya are.” She greeted, for once, without any sort of backhandedness.
“Hey. Nice show Wik.” I congratulated her. “I can see why you wanted me in the audience. Donica help you with that show?”
“Yup. Yer welcome fer bein’ a part of it.” She stood up, holding both of her gig bags in hand. Even in the darkness of backstage, I noticed a hint of twitchy nerves in both her expression and her arms. Probably just tired from the show. “Help me get this shit to the car, huh?” She offered the larger of the two bags. I take the offer and immediately feel the heft of Wera/Wioletta on my arm once again.
“We leaving already? Woulda figured you’d stick around to-” Wiktoria interrupted my question with a shoulder check and left me behind as she exited through a side door, bypassing the audience in the main room. “Hm.” I hum. Not seeing any other option, I followed her outside and worked to navigate the streams of traffic with her. She was waiting for me by the trunk of the gray, beat up SUV by the time I caught up with her.
Wiktoria popped the trunk and had shoved her guitar inside by the time I unlocked the car manually and walked back to her. “Wik, I was a band kid back in the day,” I started, shoving Wera/Wioletta inside the trunk, “Usually with these sorts of things, we’d leave instruments backstage or wherever since it was safer, assuming we’-” My advice in regards to my own experiences was interrupted by Wiktoria pulling me forcefully by the head into a kiss, one that almost overpowered me due to surprise. Almost. Even while being smothered by her luscious lips and stung by those burning piercings of hers, I wrestled on, pulling her close to solidify my position..
Eventually she pulled away from me, and I from her. “Sorry,” she gasped, “been wantin’ to do that. Keep the rush goin’, y’know?”
“I’ve some idea.”
“‘Sides that, wanted to thank you in private. Thanks for the inspiration babe. Beyond the robe thing, wouldn’t have had that idea if it weren’t fer yer way with words.”
“Well, that’s good to hear.” I respond. “Good to hear I’m as much a muse for you as you are for me. I take it you want to get going?”
“Hell no. Donica’s given’ drink vouchers for everyone involved with the show. That means you too. C’mon, let’s go get a glass or two. Kinda lookin’ forward to it fer my throat.”
“Don’t we need a driver to get us home Wik?” I ask with exasperation. “I don’t want to run that risk with cops.”
“Ah c’mon!” Wiktoria teased back, already pulling me back to the bar. “I’m sure you can handle a drink. Won’t force ya to get fucked. That is, less you want to back at home.”
“That’s going to depend on how much you want it, I think.” I respond, meeting her tease head on. “Depends on if you want to keep that rush of inspiration going for even longer.” She looks back, and that smug grin is back.
“Oh, you’re ON. First one ta tap bottoms.” She challenged me.
Well, not so much challenged as pledged, considering her alcohol tolerance, or lack thereof.