the corner of Ryan Astbury's bedroom stood a monument. But it wasn't
one of your average, or run-of the mill monuments. It didn't commemorate
dead soldiers of yesteryear, nor did it celebrate man's achievement
at fulfilling a certain desire. And it wasn't made of stone either.
Rather, this was a shrine to all of rock 'n' rolls' glorious dead.
before, Ryan had happened upon a personal ad in the local newspaper
which read, simply:
NEEDS NEW HOME
ONLY GENUINE PURIST
Out of sheer
curiosity alone, Ryan had responded to the ad. He listened intently
on the phone as a strange old man elusively described the nature
of the object. Even over the phone, Ryan could tell that the chap
was of local origin, though his accent might have suggested differently.
Or, it would have done, had he been better at pulling off the strained
and imperfect American- southern state drawl. Towards the end of
the phone call, Ryan's lips tightened into a smile, as he cottoned
onto what the man was saying. He felt as though he'd heard enough
to make the journey across town, via the bank to visit the man's
arrived at the old fellow's house, he was already waiting for Ryan,
standing in the driveway, with this thing standing besides
him. The man stood there with a knowing grin. He wore an old black
suit, complemented by large black sunglasses. His hair, cemented
in a teddy- boy coiffeur remained motionless as the summer breeze
toyed with his black pencil- tie.
man was reluctant to speak to Ryan for long and he was more eager
to wrestle the thing into the back of Ryan's battered old Ford.
As Ryan soon sped off in the direction of home, he peered in the
rear- view and saw the old man with jet- black lacquered hair. He
was standing just as motionless, with his hands in his pockets and
standing at the same slant as he'd been doing when Ryan'd arrived.
'Funny old chap', Ryan mused.
the object of desire back at Ryan's Thorntondale Avenue home, he
heaved and rocked the thing into position in the corner of the loft-
room, he then stepped back to admire his prized catch of the day.
With a startling
burst of inspiration, waking him from his awe induced- catatonia,
Ryan fell to his knees and crawled round to the back of the object,
he fumbled the plug into the socket and then tentatively, he flicked
a switch on the bottom left panel of the thing. He managed himself
back to his feet and stood back to watch his work come into fruition.
With a gentle,
but progressive humming sound, the thing whirred and buzzed into
life. Vibrant neon reds, blues and greens filled the front panel
with retro and cherished charm; Ryan began to ponder the old man's
haste in selling the object, but that was never going to distract
him too much at a time like this.
walked backwards across his bedroom, his eyes still fixed on the
monument before him. When his back eventually came into contact
with the chest of drawers on the other side of the room, he turned
and eagerly pulled a duster from the bottom draw. He rushed back
over to the thing and with an elongated, arced sweeping motion,
he fondly wiped away the excess dust from the protective yellow
casing at the top of the viewing window. This done to a satisfactory
standard, he shook away the dirt from the duster and in doing so,
he produced a veil of filthy, grayish brown gossamer at the side
of his head. Afterwards, having dispersed with the cloud of dust
with gratuitous flapping motions of his right arm, he folded the
yellow duster into a ball in his fist and knelt to his knees before
the shrine. Slowly and methodically, he began to wipe away the smeared
stains from the nameplate on the front panel that read: 'Wurlitzer'.
friend and housemate, Mark Wainwright was arriving home from work
just in time to hear the first notes of Buddy Holly's classic, 'Peggy
Sue' cascade down the stairwell. Mike knew Ryan loved his old music,
especially the stuff he owned on vinyl and he'd long since grown
used to arriving home to the sound of one long- since deceased singer
or another. But that day, it was different; there was something
different about the sounds that were filling the house, something
that felt warmer, cozier, more evocative even. Mark felt compelled
to go investigate.
ran up and down the 'duke' with an air of unbelieving dismay.
box… where on earth did you get that from?"
dog on the other side of town was unloading it dirt cheap"
was a little taken aback by his own unusually blasé tones,
but not for long. Mark's belched offering of appraisal disrupted
his train of thought.
must be as crazy as whomever you bought it from. It takes up most
of your room."
is a Wurlitzer…" Ryan offered weakly in idle defense of the
even bother to notice that Mark had left the room without entertaining
his last comment. Instead, he just shook the dirt from the duster
and gave the yellow dust guard another cursory once over.
had gone a week without seeing Ryan. Though he had heard plenty.
Ryan occupied the loft room, so it wasn't as though Mark could just
poke his head around the door so easily. He would have had to climb
the auxiliary stairwell that led to his room, but since that was
crowded gratuitously with old cardboard boxes containing LP sleeves,
he didn't bother burdening himself with the hassle of clambering
over another man's mess.
Ryan had confined himself to a life of chosen solitude. He preferred
now, to lock himself away in his room and listen, endlessly to the
music of Roy Orbison, Glen Miller, Marvin Gaye, et al, pumping out
of his beloved Altec Lansing speakers. He would sit for hours on
end in a darkness that was broken only by the neon vibrancy of the
Duke's front panel.
periods of time, he would sit motionless on the floor, amidst a
sea of vinyl, which he'd not been able to fit inside the towering
duke box before him. He would only occasionally move to methodically
key in more numbers.
As he sat
on the floor, he studied the surfaces of the vinyl that lay around
him. Patiently, he would wait for the illuminated liquids in the
coloured piping on the front panel to work and reflect off of the
large black disks.
incandescent waves of blues, greens and reds, slowly passed through
and across the grooves and the etchings on the vinyl.
as a shimmering sheet of colour had journeyed across the surface
of a disk, Ryan would lovingly and delicately retrace the course
the light had taken with his fingers. He would carefully finger
the indentations and markings, as if they were Braille, and imagine
the sounds that would spring to life and fill him with joy, when
the needle would eventually take the same route along them.
tranquility, Ryan would sit there, alone, and hold up individual
vinyl disks and rotate them before his eyes. He would experiment
by holding them at different angles, thus affording him with better
and richer reflections of the colours.
would hold the disks perpendicular to his face and close his eyes.
This way, he could achieve a short- sighted affect. He could throw
his eyes out of focus and in the background, he would see only large,
nebulous globules of light slowly dancing about the front of the
duke box. In front of his face, he could see the large black vinyl
in all its divine clarity and watch crisp lighting affects unfold
in the reflection.
On an increasingly
rare and brief visit out of his bedroom to make a paltry lunch for
himself, Ryan bumped into his housemate, Mark in the kitchen. Looking
forever pasty from lack of sunlight and ever so slightly gaunt,
Ryan appeared genuinely displeased to be face- to face with his
sympathetic and patient, tried to make pleasant conversation.
to anything good recently?" He piped optimistically.
usual crap" Ryan cynically responded, without gracing Mark with
a promising looking copy of 'Dark Side' in that charity shop, opposite
that pub, the Splendor, yesterday. I thought I might pick it up,
along with some beers and we could make a night of it…" Mark suggested
bother. I've got too much work on at the minute."
all too- well; Ryan had no work to do, he'd finished University
a good month before and he was comfortably getting by on the allowance
that his parents were still giving him each week.
by his friends' uncharacteristic ignorance, Mark felt compelled
to challenge his friend.
mate… you never used to be this secluded. What's happening to you
for god's sake? I never used to be able to speak to you before,
because you were out walking the banks of the river, or the canal
towpath. What happened to that passion for writing you had? And
remember when you used to live your 'carpe diem' motto…"
For a moment,
it looked as though Ryan was about to weaken to his friends' words.
He dipped his head and looked solemnly at his plate of sandwiches
(jam was oozing profusely out of the sides and through holes in
the top of the bread).
"… And ever
since you bought that piece of shit, you've started to lose your
the last couple of words badly. He looked immediately stunned and
pained by them.
off, man" He belched without conviction.
by Ryan's outburst, dolefully resigned himself to the fact that
he wasn't going to get anything better than that out of Ryan.
"… And Ryan,
you remember, old man Tony Harding, the handyman? Well, he's coming
round tomorrow to fix that faulty window lock of yours. Don’t worry
about having to be in, cos when I spoke to him on the phone, he
told me that Mrs. Elliot would be giving him a copy of the house
Mark received nothing but the thunderous sound of a door slamming,
and the chunky, but muffled sound of George Harrison's Gretsch guitar.
an elderly and experienced labourer, treaded cautiously and apprehensively
amongst the abundance of cardboard boxes, which, full of LP sleeves,
cluttered the stairs leading to Ryan's room. Given the cumbersome
toolbox which Harding carried, along with his youth but a fleeting
memory, he found negotiating and dodging the boxes hard work.
the top of the flight, Harding knocked on the door, but his knocks
were barely audible over the loud music coming from within.
overly polite and timid nature of Harding, he felt uneasy about
knocking over and over, and just as he was about to give in, the
bedroom door of Ryan Astbury burst open.
the gap between Harding and the tumultuous debris of black vinyl
was Astbury's slender frame filling the equally slender door opening.
young man" Harding said nervously.
Tony Harding, and I'm here to have a look at your faulty window."
He said with a forced smile. He offered Ryan his hand to shake,
but he didn't honor the old man. Instead, his hands remained deep-
rooted in the pockets of his dirty combats.
against his door- frame and allowed his head to fall back as far
as it would go on his shoulders. With a rambunctious sigh aimed
at the ceiling, Ryan turned to re- enter his room and with his trailing
left foot, he abruptly kicked the door wide open. Harding nervously
Orbison. I've still got most of my ol' LP's…" Harding said with
an air of astonishment whilst staring goggle- eyed at all the vinyl
strewn about on the floor.
so many records on the floor that barely any of the red carpet was
clumsily over heaps of disks. Miraculously he didn't stand on one
as he found his way over to an office chair with its casters buried
on all sides.
always my thaang" Harding reminisced with forced confidence.
Coltrane, Charlie Mingus; they were all my favourites." He added,
hoping to get a response out of the young man who was less than
half his age.
acknowledge anything Harding was saying. Instead, he sat in the
chair with his feet high up on the duke's golden halo. His eyes
were locked onto the changing colours of the machines' front panel.
looked nonplussed with Ryan's ignorance, but nonetheless, he dismissed
it in favour of getting with his work.
offending window over here?" Harding pointed with a chewed biro
to a small window above the head of the bed.
and turned in his chair to give Harding a look that couldn't have
been described as being any less than a glower.
the window was the only one in the room. Harding made his way over
part of the room, the vinyl was so deep that he bent over to move
some of it aside.
Ryan belched with stern clarity from the other side of the room.
He turned down the volume on the duke and turned in his chair, setting
his feet on the foot of the bed so he could give Harding his full
Harding was forced to climb onto the bed and crawl the last couple
of feet to the window. He opened the window and strained his head
to take a look at the mechanism.
keeps gone; just as I thought. It'll take me no time to fix this."
reached into his toolbox and produced a screwdriver. He was so uncomfortable
in the room with Ryan, that his hands were trembling enough to make
him unable to fit the screwdriver in the screws. His concentration
was shot and he dropped the tool a number of times.
with the screws and wrestling with the fittings, he managed to pull
out the locking block from the window.
that's your faulty piece, I just need to go back out to the car
and fetch the new set." his voice, far more tremulous than before.
down from the bed and wiped his sweating hands across the magnolian-
paint stains on the front of his weathered lumberjack shirt. His
face was contorted in an appearance, tantamount to panic. Sweat
ran freely from his forehead and stung his eyes, as he tried to
stare into the resolute and fierce eyes of Ryan Astbury.
an amiable and innocent fellow felt grotesquely afraid to be in
Ryan's presence a moment longer. He wanted to leave, but the job
needed finishing. Saucer- eyed and with his hands protectively held
flat to his chest. His mouth fell open and quivered. He was visibly
terrified, whilst Ryan Astbury mocked him with a cruel and resolute
be two seconds" Harding said without conviction and took a step
records you fucked up old dick" Ryan barked as he sprang from his
screwing up his face in terror and cowering behind his arms, winced
and leaped backwards. If it hadn't been for the sound of him smashing
his bare and unprotected skull against a low extremity of the loft
ceiling, they would have both heard the sickening crunch of vinyl
beneath his heavy work boots.
contorted into a wicked smile as he rubbed his hands and licked
his lips at the sight of Tony Harding crumpling and falling onto
the bed with his head tightly held between in his hands. A trickle
of crimson ran slowly, but pleasingly through his bony fingers.
forward to admire Harding's pain a little more closely, but as he
moved forward, he noticed the shards of vinyl where Harding's foot
had been. Ryan fell to his knees and picked up the pieces. He desperately
searched for splinters of vinyl that had a fragment of label to
find out which record had just been destroyed. He desperately fixed
pieces together in order to read the torn label. MCA Records…
Electric Ladyland… All the emotion drained from his face
as he looked to the ceiling and held the solid ebony tears to his
cheeks. He rubbed the pieces of vinyl hard and in a circular motion
against his skin in order to feel the indentations against his face.
He took a dagger shaped piece of the record and held it to his eyes,
trying to catch a reflection of light, but he couldn’t focus as
real tears welled in his eyes.
very moment, the cries of pain from Harding re- entered his conscious.
He soon forgot about the broken vinyl and walked over to where Harding
lay half on, and half off of the bed.
up onto the bed and sat cross- legged, aside the injured old man.
Though Harding still lay with his head cradled in his hands, he
parted his fingers as to be able to see Ryan. His eyes were weak
and sad, the incidents prior to now had been too much for him to
handle and he was suffering a most adolescent grief.
beside Harding and formed a sympathetic smile. He ran his fingers
through the old man's wispy white hair and across his bald scalp,
towards the gash. He quickly removed his hand to look at his crimson
adorned finger- tips.
his smile, he wiped the gore onto the pillow- case and began to
soothe the man's injured head once more. Harding naïve and
trusting; released the grip of his head.
bastard" Ryan said calmly.
old bastard, you." Ryan said reassuringly with a gentle laugh. Harding
looked puzzled and began to tremble.
think that I invited you into my room, and you've done that to one
of my precious albums." Ryan said, as his smile gave way to chagrin.
you're gonna pay for that" He told Harding, although he had difficulty
hearing himself as Roy Orbison's voice began to soar in the background.
ever frightened, Harding began to whimper. His eyes, full of the
blood that'd just run freely from a hole in his head, desperately
searched for a savior as Ryan leaned over the top of his stricken
body and grabbed the screwdriver.
the tool in his right hand and inspected the whole length of the
four- inch barrel, rotating and manipulating it before his eyes,
as he'd done with the vinyl.
finished inspecting the tool, Ryan calmly took Harding in a headlock
and as Roy Orbison reached the height of his Only the Lonely
vocal solo, he eased the length of the barrel into Harding's head,
via his eyeball. Harding's body tensed, but he didn't make a sound
until the very end. As his eye popped, a gentle hissing sound was
audible as the air escaped. The smell of that alone was ripe enough
to make Ryan cringe, but not that that would halt him in his lugubrious
deed. Ryan eased the screwdriver slowly but fluidly into Harding's
head. As it pierced the fabric of his brain, he let out a falsetto
scream that outdid even old Roy, in the background. As the thick
green, ribbed plastic of the handle plugged Harding's eye socket,
he ceased the ungodly sound and was soon, quiet.
inside of the duke box waved to Ryan through the viewing window
in an elongated sweeping motion as it removed a Mama's and Papa's
LP and replaced it with the Doors' penultimate studio album.
twenty- two… thirty three RPM. Once the LP reached its full
speed, Ryan, with his eyes maniacally wide open and his tongue protruding
the full length, keyed in a number and watched with delight as the
arm with the needle swung round and found its position on the vinyl.
It was a
week after the killing of Tony Harding and Mark Wainwright, oblivious
to the brutality was growing concerned about a pungent and wholly
unhealthy smell that was wafting down the stairwell from Ryan's
all too well that Ryan was home because he could hear the relentless
duke box. He disguised the fact that he intended to snoop on Ryan,
by taking him a plate of sandwiches up to his room.
the stairwell leading to Ryan's room, Mark yanked his fading Dr.
Pepper T- shirt up over his mouth and nose to try and hide from
the foul smell, but it had gotten so strong by now that the shirt
did little good.
the top, Mark rapped on the door, to no avail. He tried again, and
again. There were no sounds coming for Ryan's room other than those
coming from the Duke. With his foot, Mark eased the door open slowly.
Immediately, he was knocked back by the warm stench from within.
Sour milk and rotten cheese… Mark instantly thought, and with that,
he retched and leapt backwards. It took him a moment to compose
himself breathing deeply and rapidly into a tightly cupped hand.
He set the sandwiches down and spat the copious build up of sickly
spit out of the landing window.
he saw the door ajar. For a second he peered through the opening
and across the wash of black vinyl, he saw part of Ryan sitting
in his chair.
a hand fiercely tight in front of his mouth and nose, Mark kicked
the door open and stepped inside. Covering his mouth and nose so
tightly, Mark barely noticed the smell. Especially with the sight
of his, once best friend, Ryan, sitting in the chair. He sat tightly
grasping and caressing the rubber arms of the seat, leaving trails
of sweat. His head was tilted back and rolling against the seat
rest, and his bony shoulders protruded forwards.
was agape, but he only took shallow breaths. A gurgle was bubbling
away from deep with Ryan's throat.
were open only a fraction and the pupils had long- since disappeared
into his skull.
and glanced to his right. The bed of Ryan had a large brown stain
on the top left corner. It covered one of the pillows and had seeped
down and covered a third of the mattress.
bed, on the floor, was a knee jutting upwards, and clad in navy-
blue corduroy trousers. Mark leaned forwards and saw the greenish/
yellow and sunken face of Tony Harding with a green protrusion coming
from his left eye.
Mark looked back over to Ryan who was now, awoken from his come,
giving Mark his unbridled attention.
said calmly with a wicked smile.
on, words failed him, rather, he just stood there, eyes agog.
A song was
just coming to an end on the Duke.
you'll just excuse me for a moment Marky Mark."
fluidly from his chair and stepped gracefully over piles of records.
He tentatively and knowingly keyed in a number on the Duke's key-
inside the machine slowly arced and it's large black, circular hand
waved to Ryan. Shyly and effeminately, he waved back.
Cochran's Summertime Blue's stabbing guitar chord opening
came on, Ryan stepped back and took a massive breath of air. His
shoulders raised, as did his arms.
like large earth- worms in the backs of hands. He swung around on
the balls of his feet and coyly grinned at Mark, before nodding
down towards the corpse of Harding.
you know that he killed one of my albums? Electric Lady, I think
it was." Ryan didn't even care to see if Mark was listening or not.
Instead, he looked lustfully it the body lying beside the bed.
of course… with his life!!!" Ryan shrieked out the
last part and walked over to the dead man.
on in absolute awe as Ryan tugged the screwdriver from the head
of Harding and flicked the congealed gray matter off the silver
beyond belief, allowed his hand to fall away from his mouth, though
he didn't notice the smell anymore.
the screwdriver in hand and stepped towards Mark.
making sweet love when you interrupted, Mark" Ryan nodded back towards
a intrusive little shit aren't you?" Ryan said with the same gentle
laugh as before he killed Harding. He raised his arm with the tool
and lunged for Mark.
un- intoxicated by whatever evil possessed Ryan, he was for more
alert and he was able to catch Ryan's attacking hand. Surprised
at being halted, Ryan lost his surge of energy and was caught out
by a deft right- hook to the chin.
upright. His eyes went straight to the back of his head and he began
to loose his balance. His arms wind- milled and he stepped backwards.
One foot followed the other. Vinyl shattered beneath his feet, like
thin ice on shallow puddles. Ryan picked up speed and just before
the towering Duke, he fell.
took him straight through the front panel. A cascade of sparks spewed
from the stricken machine's protective golden casing. A lick of
flames spat from just above his head.
can't use the caaarrr beeacauusze yooo deedaantt woooaaaooockaagghhrrlllaaayytt'
up at the fatally wounded duke box and then at Mark. A look of sadness
filled his eyes and just before he, along with the duke box combusted
into a ball of orange flame, Mark saw the Ryan Astbury of old. For
that split second, he saw his old friend; an innocent and caring
boy. His body jolted as the flames took hold. Mark inched forwards,
protecting face, he wrestled with the idea of trying to save his
friend, but it appeared as though Ryan was disappearing further
inside the Duke. Through the vibrant flames, Mark watched, in vain
as Ryan's flesh bubbled, burst and peeled. Just as Mark was about
to concede and admit defeat, the Duke belched and puked a torrent
of black vomit, covering the burnt body of Ryan in molten vinyl.
And then, Mark knew that there was nothing left for him to do. He
retreated back down the stairwell and out of the house where he
watched on as the flames raped and ravished the loft of the house.
the next day, Mark Wainwright walked out of the charity shop, opposite
the Splendor with an LP copy of Dark Side of the Moon under
the short distance to the river and jogged along the embankment
to a secluded area where no onlookers could see what he did next.
the vinyl from its cardboard sheathing and buried it, along with
a note, deep in the earth beneath a towering willow.
'Sail away sweet child
You laughed and you beguiled,
You found and you lost your
Confounded dreams, but
Now you're free child'