7-inch: It’s the New Thing! by the Fall
2016 Superior Viaduct, SV108
Favorite Track: Various Times
“What do you do when you fall in love with a new band?”
Daryl looked worried. His round blue eyes seemed to be trying to spin around 360 degrees or to look through shadows. He wasn’t on drugs, but Karl knew that music could be just as addicting. When he first heard Marquee Moon…
“Who is your fancy this time?”
Daryl coughed. His breath stank of last night’s beer and old tuna. “This Manchester group. The Fall. I’ve-”
Daryl was never hesitant. Rarely did he change the subject like he did now.
“This book I’m reading, well, really it is a collection of short stories, but I meant they flow thematically or, perhaps, really they are just the same story…ghost story…told over and over again as if there is one true horror in the world…death can speak to you.”
Karl nodded his head, pausing to brush aside some strands of unwashed blond hair from his eyes. It had been a year or longer since he had read a book and he was almost envious of the way Daryl devoured them. Except when he began to speak of certain supernatural authors…as if what they wrote were more real to Daryl than Hemingway or Proust. Karl had only one favorite book: a book about caterpillars. And he told no one how much he loved it.
“Daryl, here you go again over-reacting to the fact that you found something that resonates with you. That you enjoy. I’m starting to imagine you are some kind of ascetic trying to live like Francis of Assisi-”
“There is this story with a secret staircase. Two men go down into the darkness and find what they are looking for: a loose stone. One carefully pulls it out while the other stands guard, expecting something but not being able to name what it is. And beyond the stone is a bundle of sorts, so the first man reaches in and that’s when the bundle moves. It’s alive you see. It is a ghost.”
Daryl smile faded from his face. Karl noticed his lower lip looked slightly chapped but chewed. The winter this year had been brutal with cold winds and negative temperatures. Class had been cancelled twice so far with tomorrow being a strong possibility for another closure. As if the howling winds outside their dorm room attested, a tree branch scratched the window with the intensity of a puppy wanting back inside.
“It always does that. I jumped myself a little. What story is this Daryl? And what does this have to do with the Fall? Were they the ones who sang Sonic Reducer?”
Daryl shook his head, eyes never leaving the tree branch. Karl was started to notice there was a small black bird perched on it even though it was still scratching against the window. It wasn’t there just a second ago…
“No, that’s the Dead Boys. The Fall had some singles like It’s the New Thing and Bingo Master’s Breakout. But I dug up Dragnet the other day and when I put it on, I was transformed…or possessed…or something supernatural like in the story…”
“Yes, what about that story? It sounds like I might have to give it a go-”
“No. It and Dragnet are like the bundle. They are ghosts. But alive. Don’t put your hands on things that leave stains or won’t let go. The shape of your mind after such an encounter. I…”
The bird was gone but just as Karl had turned his head from the window, he saw Daryl react, his mouth tensing in a thin line, and Karl checked over his shoulder and sure enough the bird was back on the branch but with a struggling purple worm in its mouth.
“Well, you can’t fault a bird for being hungry. And are you sure you aren’t taking these stories, this music a little too seriously?”
Daryl bowed his head for a moment. He seemed like he was welling up to spill a long overdue monologue. Instead, he asked a simple question: “But what if these stories are word for word true?”
So the dead can speak but we do not know the language. Or is the language of the dead so frightening, so offputting, that we could only react with screams, mental anguish, and moody depression?”
The worm went down the bird’s gullet in one fast disappearing trick.
“They need us. The dead. We keep their spirits alive by learning about them or listening for them or reading about them. And, at first, they were happy because they were not being forgotten, but now they are angry. We aren’t saving them. They miss life and want it back. And, maybe, they can come back if we…if we keep touching those secret bundles…”
The wind shook the oak again and the bird flew away. It darted in a curious zig zag pattern, its small furry body somehow untouched by the wind. Karl shook his own head and again brushed aside strands of hair.
“I think I am turning in for the night. The question reminds: should I listen to the Fall or not?”
Daryl did not bat an eye. “At your own risk. The other side has its consequences.”
The next day, Karl awoke and Daryl had already left for his sculpture class. On his desk was the seven-inch single titled It’s the New Thing. Karl shrugged. Daryl was a little batty in the head. They became friends in grade school because both of them knew about Dungeons and Dragons. Their friendship mostly consisted of them indulging on finding new esoteric entertainments whether it be comics, novels, music, art, or, although rarely, Irish folklore.
The vinyl was light and the needle ran over some small bits of dust setting the speakers into static-like thunder. Then the song came on and Karl tapped his finger along. Mark E. Smith yapped a string of words like a cultish prayer. The guitar and keyboard and drums suddenly smashed into each other as if a car accident happened in the recording studio. Mark E. Smith continued his chant. A rhythm was found then lost. More chaos.
Karl did not notice that the song was over and the record was spinning endlessly. He also did not notice the small black bird, back at the window. Karl looked into the other side and hear the almost inaudible breathing, the soft pads of feet inching closer, the implacable limbs reaching for this throat…