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[Fiction] Amped - After Hours


Jager

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Sometimes it was right to run. Not run away from anything, or toward something, but to just run. He could run along vacant state roads, down side streets, or even through busy traffic. It didn't matter. Now, because it was so late at night, he chose to run through a metropolitan area. Hell, he wasn't really sure which one it was.

Usually Amped ignored the noises that surrounded him. He was gone before his mind could process him, so he shut them out. Something registered on him as he spread through a particularly decrepit part of where ever. Someone was making total magic on a piano. It took a quarter mile for the music to register and several more minutes of backtracking for him to locate the closed and boarded up marque that housed the solo musician. Whomever it was banged out an exquisite Tchaikovsky's Trio.

Amped stopped, listened for a bit and waited for the piece to end. After it did, he tried

the door and found it opened easily.

"Come on in, boy," came a voice from inside. It was deep and gravelly with a rich, powerful

texture found mostly in Mississippi Jazz musicians. Amped shrugged and entered.

He had to wind his way through the old club's entry way to get to the main floor. On the

stage stood two grand pianos facing one another. The lighting was low, but not a real

hindrance to Amped's heightened senses. Behind the farthest pianos sat a rock that looked

like a man. The nova, and it had to be a nova, wore garish clothes. Purple satin jazz attire, a gold and sliver diamond-shaped vest and tiny, Lennonish yellow glasses. He even wore a purple satin hat and he was grinning at Amped as he approached.

"I don't know ya, boy, so why don't ya tell me why youse stopped by ma club?"

"I heard the music. It was good, so I decided I wanted to hear more."

The big man, and he was very big with a frame more square than human, laughed.

"Good enough, boy. I don't normally get much time for the classics."

"My name is Amped," Amped responded, "not boy."

"Okay Amped. They call me Stone. Ezekial Cassius Summers by birth, but they call me Stone

now days."

Amped's fingers tapped gingerly on the other piano's keys. They required a surprising amount

of pressure to move. Amped ran over a few rhythmic sets.

"I had these made special for me," Stone answered. "They aren't likely to break."

"Can I try a rift?"

"Sure thing."

In response, Amped sat down and worked over the keys to get a feel for them. Indeed, they

seemed made out of a metallic composite. He ripped off a few quick sets and liked what he

heard. After a few seconds Stone joined in. The two men banged out several sets before

Amped realized that they weren't alone. He looked over his shoulder and saw two new faces.

One was a picture out of some horror show. His face was elongated with a sickly yellow tinge and brown spots. He also had a few odd barbs sticking out. He was bald with long,

yellow teeth, mostly pointed, and he didn't look happy.

"Whose this duece-bag?" It asked.

"Now DemonSpeed," Stone cooed,"the kid's got some licks in him."

"I don't know him and I don't like him."

"You don't like anybody, Demons so let up. His name is Amped. I like him. He stays."

The last bit by Stone had just a hint of menace in it.

DemonSpeed cursed under his breath, but let the matter drop. He swung a saxophone as he approached the stage.

The other nova, the one who had held Amped's attention through DemonSpeed's outburst, had

deep, sad, soulful eyes. She was of medium height, a curvacious build, and raven-black hair

that reached past the small of her back. The eyes were what he kept coming back to. They

eyes seemed to hold too much sadness. Her whole demeanor was that of a tortured, beaten and

broken soul. Even as Amped looked at her, he could tell she expected nothing more than the

back of his hand and perhaps things far, far worse. It both mesmerized him and sickened him

at the same time.

"That there's Charade. She's got some problems. Don't talk much, but she's got a voice Angels would kill for."

Amped managed a nod.

"I hope he ain't expecting to replace Lester, Stone."

"Nah, he just heard me warming up and stopped by. Sorry to hear about Lester, by the way."

"He went out righteous, with his hands around the throat of some Utopian prick. I swear

when I ..."

"That's enough of that, DS. No politics in my club. Take it to the street if that's all

you came to do."

DemonSpeed shot Stone a hateful look, but kept assembling his saxophone. Charade come up on

the stage, gave Amped a brief smile and picked up the stage mic. After DemonSpeed got

warmed up, the three of them began to play. It took Amped a few beats to catch up, but he

found their imporvisations to be thoughtful and exciting. Even DemonSpeed had a real talent

for hitting soul-retching notes. Stone led, the others played right along. Charade's voice

was indeed angelic, but he discovered their was even more to her. As they all played, the

club began developing patrons,who listened, chatted and drank. Amped could smell the smoke,

even taste the alcohol that the waitress place upon his piano, and he even could make out

the faces of the individual patrons. They looked more like something from the late 1950's

or early 60's, but were otherwise so much alive.

The illusion of an audience was intoxicating. Amped felt himself sweating from the

exertion. His mind ached trying to remember the various notes of songs he barely knew, but

he loved it. He was having to push himself in a whole new venue.

Everything must end, or so the story goes. The last song had died down and Amped's head was

lowered in fatigue. They had just finished something new by DemonSpeed that had been

something only novas could have really grasped.

"Care to close for us, tonight?"

It was Stone and he was talking to Amped. Amped looked around. Charade's head was tilted

oddly and she was smiling so beautifully at him. DemonSpeed still looked angry, but there

was a measure of respect in how he regarded Amped.

Amped suddenly felt his mind go blank. Nothing they hadn't already played came to mind. He

looked around for something, anything that might spark his imagination. He spotted a couple

in the illusionary crowd. They reminded him of his parents before ... and that didn't help.

Then it did.

"Red Rain by Peter Gabriel," Amped muttered. It had been a song from his childhood. Not a

song he knew particularly well, but something his parents had liked. A song from their

youth that held happy memories for them.

Stone appeared to know the song well and he led off. There wasn't too much for DemonSpeed

to do, but he didn't seem to mind. Charade ... Charade took the song and Amped's pain and

made it all her own. She beat through the mere words of the song, rebirthing them once more in Amped's mind. Amped was stunned how well his own hands came to life and danced a brilliant counterpoint to her own rendition of the tune. Before long, it was just the two of them, the words and the music so intertwined that no human ear could have torn them apart. Tears streamed down both their faces and Amped was sobbing by the final note.

Charade came up and stroked Amped's cheek.

"It was real for you," was all she said then she turned around and headed out the door.

Wordlessly, DemonSpeed followed suit after he had packed his sax up.

At the door, he turned and addressed Stone,

"Same time?"

Stone nodded in the affirmative.

DemonSpeed looked over at the sobbing Amped, turned and left into the predawn.

Stone and Amped stood out on the sidewalk as Stone finished locking up the club. It really

was a filthy, broken-down part of town. The soul had long since left this place,leaving

only the skeletons of past lives behind. Maybe there was some kind of lesson in all that,

but Amped couldn't figure it out right now.

"You take care, Amped. For a man with no wallet you carry too much baggage."

He turned to leave.

"Stone ... Stone can we play again ... later. I mean if you don't ..."

"Sure thing Amped. If you come to play, next month, same time, you can play. Music helps

us get by. Its the only thing we have in common, but its enough. You can play with us

anytime."

Amped smiled and nodded. Stone ambled up the street and the sun was starting to rise.

Amped had people to meet as well, so he took off at a run. The breeze felt different somehow. Maybe he felt a little lighter, or maybe a little more complete. Maybe he would

think about it later.

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