[ Sky – Master Post ]
Title: Grander Than the Sea
Characters: Betty, Baron, Arkady, Severen, Lir
Warnings: Expletives, beer, weird psych moments
Notes: I needed some more stuff between Severen joining the band and Severen slitting his wrist in the hotel room. Swan Song is all mine, circa 1998, shortly before I got stuck at a truck stop on the way to New Orleans…
"No, no, no!" Arkady warned, throwing a hand in front of his face, as he tried to balance the turntable, a roll of electrical tape, and himself, with one foot on the arm of Baron’s couch and the other on the edge of Betty’s keyboard stand. "Jesus, Sev, don’t move! You’ll fucking electrocute yourself!"
"Remind me why I’m holding my life in my hands, again?" Severen asked, dryly.
"Because I’m right. Just — just do. not. bend. that. wire." Arkady glanced down at the synthesizer he was awkwardly perched beside, and stuck the roll of tape between his teeth, so he could hold the turntable in both hands. "Tell me I’m holding this level."
Betty reached out and tipped it back a bit. "There you go, sweetie."
"I want you to know this is how much I love you," Arkady muttered around the tape. "Power!"
Lir crossed himself and closed his eyes as Baron hit the reset button on the power strip. They only needed about thirty seconds, but Baron’s apartment was all two-prong outlets and ancient, water-damaged wiring. There was a middling chance they’d blow a fuse, somewhere — especially with the jury-rigged power cord Severen was holding together.
But, Arkady was crazy, sometimes, and when Betty agreed with him, there was a pretty good chance that if it wasn’t fatal, it would sound great. They just needed a sample of the dead grooves on a record, and that was really the trick. The keyboard couldn’t be moved any closer, because it was on the only outlet that was anywhere near that side of the room, but wasn’t on the same circuit with any major appliances, and the turntable couldn’t be moved closer to the keyboard without putting them both on the same circuit — and if this fried like they expected it to, the keyboard needed to survive, or they still wouldn’t have the sample.
Arkady held his breath as the record turned — six seconds, seven, eight — Betty touched the button to stop the recording.
"Kill it!" Arkady shouted, but the lightbulb in the kitchen fixture burst, and he heard the fridge stop. "Sev? Tell me you’re still alive."
"I think I burned my finger," Severen complained. "Don’t fucking yell like that."
"Shit. Sorry." But, Arkady didn’t sound as contrite as he meant to. "Did we get it?"
Betty touched a few buttons, held down a key, and the hiss and pop came through, clear as day. "Oh, yeah."
Baron came out of the kitchen looking somewhat disgruntled. "Somebody give me a lighter. I can’t see a damn thing, and I sure as hell can’t read the labels on the damn box."
Arkady threw his Zippo across the room, but Lir caught it.
"Nope. Get a chair. We’re taking that light out before you turn anything back on." Lir flicked the Zippo and stepped into the kitchen. "And a broom."
"I don’t own a broom, Mike. What the fuck do I need with a broom?"
"Well, considering you’ve got an exploded lightbulb all over the floor, I think that’s a great reason to have a broom."
Back in the living room, Severen stared at his hand in nauseated horror as his finger blistered, and Betty and Arkady argued quietly about the finer points of implementing the hard-earned sample. It ended as it always did.
"Shut up, Evan. I think I know my own damn keyboard."
And he let it go, because she’d be right. It was how things worked. "The problem is still that we only have one unit for vocals, and if we set it for yours, there’s no way we’ll be able to re-set it fast enough for Sev."
"That’s not going to be a problem, live."
"No, but it is one, here."
"No, it isn’t," Severen said, suddenly. "We run mine through the box, like we always do. That’s already set. We run hers through the aux jack on Barry’s stereo. She’s supposed to sound flat, anyway, right? He’s going to hate us tomorrow, but I’m pretty sure we can make the equaliser do what we want."
"Hey, Baron, we’re gonna break some more of your shit. If we can’t put it back together, Liz’ll buy you a new one!" Arkady called across the apartment.
"As long as nothing catches fire, I think we’re solid," Baron replied. "Stop touching everything for just a sec. I’m turning the power back on, in here, and I’m not sure what else might be connected to it. This place is wired all kinds of stupid."
When they’d made it a full minute with no further damage, Baron and Lir returned from the kitchen, and Baron tossed the lighter back to Arkady. "Thanks, man."
"You wouldn’t have needed it, if it wasn’t for me, you know."
"It’s cool. This place is a total slum, anyway, and most of what I have, I dragged out of the dumpster." Baron shrugged. "If it blows up, it it blows up, you know?"
"I don’t know how you do it," Arkady said, shaking his head and putting the lighter back in his pocket.
"You don’t want to know. It’s disgusting. Next!"
"I think I’ve got this set right. One more time, Betty?" Severen looked up from where he was fiddling with the sliders on the stereo.
"Dreamer, when you dream, dream of me…" Betty sang, and Severen made a few more adjustments. "When you lay your head to rest, think of me first, think of me best…"
"Holy shit, that’s creepy." Arkady rubbed his arm and grimaced. "It’s perfect."
"I like it," Lir offered. "I think I can work with this…"
"Yeah." Baron nodded. "Let me lead in?" he asked Lir.
"I can follow for this. I think I can see where that goes." Lir nodded, eyes rolled up, as he considered what would come next. "Let’s do it, and see what happens."
Severen stood up and turned on the effects box. It turned itself off. "Can we please buy new equipment? I know I said I’d never do Georgia Tech again, but I’ll do Georgia Tech if it’ll pay for a new one of these."
"Denver pays better," Betty provided. "Let me see what I can get us, in the next few weeks. You don’t start class again until what, the sixteenth? Somewhere near it?"
"Yeah, it’s that week. If it’s Denver, though, we can probably do Saturday nights. I’d say Friday, but neither of us gets off early enough to make that a good idea."
"Give me a day or two, so I can call in? If I have to call in day of, I’m probably going to piss someone off." Baron plugged in his bass and checked the tuning.
"You don’t have any live coming up that I shouldn’t book on top of, right?" Betty asked.
"Nah, all the big stuff was in the spring. Track’s not as slow as it’ll get, but it’s not going to kill anyone to give me a Saturday off." Baron glanced at Lir. "Dude, that’s not an A."
"No, really?" Lir rolled his eyes. "Goddamn, I’m glad I don’t work weekends."
"No shit, right?" Arkady laughed. "Mmm, graveyards. Sunday through Thursday. My weekends are mine."
Severen finally punted the effects box, in annoyance, and then watched it warm up, like nothing happened. "Are we ready?"
Arkady pointed at Betty, who shrugged. "Let’s do it."
The hiss and pop of the record and the filtering on Betty’s voice combined in a way that sounded like an old WWII-era musical. Betty’s eyes lit up, excitedly, as she sang, and she gave Severen a thumbs up.
"Dreamer, when you dream, dream of me…
When you lay your head to rest,
think of me first, think of me best…
Dreamer, when you dream, dream of me…
And somewhere still, beyond the hill,
lies the old, sweet memory…"
As she trailed off, Baron started in, low and hard, and Lir followed him, spiralling upward into a physically-perceptible tension. Arkady joined them so smoothly that Severen couldn’t swear when the drums had actually started, but he knew Arkady well enough to read his invite, when it happened.
"The dream was gone
Out upon the lake
Swallowed by the swans
It was my mistake…"
The neighbours were going to hate them, but they were Baron’s neighbours, and Baron really didn’t care. And listening to Severen do that gut-wrenching thing with his voice that sounded about like a dying man, bleeding out the oily, black packing-peanuts of his soul into the gutter, he really didn’t think there was anything that could make him care what the neighbours thought. Times like these, he could almost believe they’d be drugs-and-tabloids famous, one day.
Lir watched Baron; Baron watched Lir. Once they got started, they were like chaotic clockwork — bizarre permutations of sound poured out, but always in perfect time.
Betty worked off of Arkady, Arkady worked off of Baron, and Severen just stood there with his eyes closed, gripping the mic stand until his knuckles turned white, wailing like the bitter ghost of winter.
"I guess I was wrong
I thought it was you
But, you had wings that I could see through."
Arkady reminded himself not to take his eyes off of Baron. He had to hear the bass and nothing else, which was really difficult, because this was even better than he’d thought it was going to be, but if he listened to Severen too long, he was going to have to drink himself into unconsciousness, to be sure he’d see tomorrow. The guy was their singer for a reason, and they were some sincerely lucky fucks to have him, but his grasp of melancholy was just painfully accurate and vividly contagious.
He knew that if he listened too long, he’d end up cold and empty, with that whistling dread-wind in his chest, and he knew what came next, and it wasn’t something he really felt like dealing with, today. It wasn’t something he ever wanted to deal with, but some days it was even less appropriate than others.
He’d grab a six on the way home, he decided, and everything would be fine, in the morning.
"The dream was gone.
It was my mistake.
Swallowed by the swans…
It was my mistake.
The dream was gone, it was gone
And I could see through you…"
The music faded out in a blaze of static, and for a few seconds, silence seized the room.
"Holy shit!" Betty shrilled, leaping over an assortment of cords, to throw her arms around Severen. "I love you guys! That was brilliant! That was awesome!"
"Betty — Betty, stop touching me," Severen mumbled, with all the physical conviction of a rag doll. "Betty, stop. I’m going to be sick."
She let go and stepped back, and he dropped, bonelessly, straight down, landing on his knees. "Oh, god! Sev, I’m so sorry! Are you okay?"
Arkady got up and walked over to them, moving Betty back about a foot. "No, he’s not okay. Give him a minute. You need a bucket, man?"
Severen waved a dismissive hand, and then went back to holding on to the floor. "I’m fine. I’ll be fine. Too much, too fast."
"And that’s why you always lock yourself in the bathroom after a show." Baron shook his head. "I think we just don’t think of it when we’re not out, you know? Like there’s nobody but us, and we’re not them, so it doesn’t matter. Except it does."
"Barry?" Lir clapped him on the shoulder. "Stop talking. She feels bad enough."
"I was trying to make her worry less, not more!"
"Girls, Barry. Everything’s an accusation, if they’re already upset. You should know that. You know everything else about talking to people."
"Yeah, I do know that. Sometimes I just forget she’s —" Baron stopped. "I’m going to stop, now. Coffee. Turn off the amp so I can put up some coffee, without blowing shit up. You want a cup, Mr. L?"
"No, I want you to stop calling me ‘Mr. L’. You haven’t been in my class in a little over two years. You’re making me even older than I am." Severen leaned to the side and rolled over, sprawling across the floor. "I’m not even thirty. Fucking lay off."
Arkady laughed. "Yeah, he’s fine."
"Can we run Morningstar, next? I need to screw my head back on, before we try that one again." Severen asked, tipping his head back, to look up at Arkady.
"Yeah, I’m in. I get it." Arkady reached down, to help Severen off the floor. "I’ll do it on stage, but I don’t want that vibe going on where I live."
"God, you’re superstitious, Evan," Betty teased.
"Yep. And I’ve survived everything that’s come at me, including me, so I think I’m hanging on to that." Arkady grinned at Betty and pulled Severen back to standing, catching him as he started to wobble. "Hey, Baron, grab me a beer?"
"You’re such a fucking drunk, Ebony," Baron shouted back, from the kitchen.
"Yeah, but I brought my own, so it’s nothing off you," Arkady called back.
"Beer me, too," Severen called, still holding on to Arkady for balance. "You don’t mind, do you?"
"Nah, good man knows when he needs a beer. It’s sitting down time. Beer and coffee all around." Arkady patted Severen on the back, ignoring the chill crawling up his spine. Severen didn’t drink beer, most of the time. Severen didn’t particularly like beer, but it was the only alcohol in Baron’s apartment.
But, he was right. If they were going to finish Swan Song, it would take a few beers. And then Severen would go home to Sin, and Arkady would go home to another six beers. It was one of those nights.