Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Shut That Damned Door!

My parents died in a car crash when I was fourteen.

Don't feel bad for me or anything. I've made my peace with that years ago. Life with them was never great, but I do miss them. It's just that if they taught me one thing it's to not sit around wallowing in self-pity.

I just wish they hadn't sent me to live with my Aunt Louise.

Anyone have that one family member that's just a little strange, a little cut off from the rest of the family? Aunt Louise was ours. She was also our closest living relative. Dad's family lived on the other side of the continent. Mom's parents were both dead and she was an only child. Aunt Louise, her mother's sister, actually, so my great-aunt, lived just an hour from where we did.

When my folks were alive, we rarely visited Aunt Louise, and to be perfectly honest, I half expected her to refuse to take me in. I was fully prepared to become a ward of the state, or move across the country, as soon as I heard that Children and Family services had contacted her about taking me in.

But she accepted. I'm not sure how willingly, or graciously, because I wasn't privy to the phone conversation where she agreed to take me. I was surprised, though, at how nice she was to me the first three days I was there.

I want to make something clear; while Aunt Louise was cranky, odd, eccentric, uncouth, and several other less-than-flattering adjectives, she wasn't a complete bitch. She had a rather abrupt, even abrasive, way of speaking, but she wasn't cruel. I had never taken the time to really get to know her during my initial fourteen years, but I could tell that she mostly kept to herself and didn't particularly like people, so naturally I assumed that she was a reclusive, curmudgeonly bitch.

Really, what surprised me most when I first moved in, it was how normal everything seemed. At least at first. Aunt Louise cooked, cleaned, watched TV, talked to neighbors on the phone, etc. just like anyone else would, and she told me right away that she had little in the way of expectations from me, or at least, none that my parents wouldn't have; don't stay out too late, let her know if you're going to be late coming home, finish your homework before you watch TV, clean up after yourself, etc.

There was one rule, however, that was strange. And it stood out from the other rules in how strange it was. At first I tried not to worry about it; old people sometimes have peculiarities. I initially thought that was all this was. I was wrong.

She insisted that any time I entered or left a room, I was to shut the door behind me right away. It didn't matter if I was only going to be in that room for a few seconds. If I entered a room, I was expected to immediately shut the door, and the same was true if I left it.

I often forgot this rule in my first week or so there. She never failed to remind me of it. "Shut that damned door!" she would yell, any time I forgot. It never seemed to matter where she was in the house, she could always tell when I had not shut a door just after opening it.

Her house was old, and my understanding is that she was not its first owner. She had lived in it since Mom was a girl. I had no idea how old it was. It could easily have been over a hundred, judging by its design and layout. It had two floors, a basement and a sub-basement. That last floor threw me for a bit of a loop when I discovered it existed. I was washing a load of my clothes when I noticed a door, closed, naturally, in the far wall of the utility room. The basement was unfinished, with mostly dirt flooring and bits and bobs stacked or piled or shelved everywhere. The only room you could really walk through without fear of stepping on something or knocking over a stack or pile was this laundry room, which was also the only tiled floor down there

The door I found in the basement had a board laid across it, easily moveable. It was as if Aunt Louise wanted a border there but not one that she couldn't get past, if need be. My curiosity overtook me the second time I saw it, and I slid the board away from the door and tried it. It was locked.

This didn't strike me as all that strange right away. That is, until I realized that this was the only room in the house, other than the doors leading outside, that Aunt Louise kept locked.

I asked her about it one day. She was cooking.

"The door in the basement?" she answered. "That's the sub-basement. Not much down there. I mainly keep my preserves down there. It's cool enough for them to keep."

"Right," I answered. This didn't really explain why she kept it locked. "So if I ever wanted to take a look around down there..."

"For the love of Christ, boy, why would you want to do that?"

I noticed with that response that her face had changed. Aunt Louise mostly wore the same expression; a scowl like someone had just tracked mud onto her freshly-shampooed carpet. Again, she wasn't as nasty as her expression indicated, but it was the expression she was most used to making, apparently.

But when she responded to my desire to see what was behind that door, her eyebrows raised and her mouth quivered for just a second before answering. It was so slight, others might not have noticed it, but by that time, I knew enough about Aunt Louise to equate that with a scream of horror.

I knew then that I had to see what was behind that door.

I've always been a curious type, you see. I've never been able to stay away from something that aroused my curiosity, even if my good sense told me better. I wanted nothing more after that than to see what was in that sub-basement.

But how was I to get around the lock? That was going to be an issue. Aunt Louise kept all her keys on a single ring. There weren't that many of them, but I figured if the door to that sub-basement was anywhere, it was there.

I just had to find a way to take it from her.

This turned out not to be so simple. For one thing, it was not possible to get around the house without being heard. I couldn't sneak from my bedroom to hers in order to sneak the keys without opening and closing all doors in between us; mine, the door in the far part of the hallway, and hers. Believe me, even if I simply left all doors open, she somehow knew. I once had to go to the bathroom in the night, and I forgot to close the hallway door. I had just made it to the bathroom when I heard her yell, even while asleep, "Shut that damned door!" I hurriedly turned back and went to close the hallway door, forgetting to close the bathroom door, and I heard it again: "Shut that damned door!"

For that matter, Aunt Louise's room had a squeaky door that also had a catch to it, so when she opened it, it sounded like a choom-creeeeeeeeeeeeak. There was no opening of her door without her noticing.

So I forgot about the sub-basement door for a while. I placed my curiosity on the back burner and just tried to get along with the taciturn old woman for a while. Life got a bit easier. As long as I remembered to keep all doors shut at all times, the two of us got along famously. She didn't get in my face about things, and I didn't get in hers. It was a pretty silent house, but one that I got used to living in. I didn't even think it strange anymore that every part of the house that one accessed through a door always had its door shut. It would have struck me as more odd if any doorway was ever left open.

Which brings me to the day Aunt Louise fell asleep while watching The Price is Right. It was a summer day, and pretty hot. Louise was slightly less worried about windows being open than doors, but she still tended to only open one at a time, and today she had just one open, one that wasn't doing much at all to cool down a boxed-in house that had zero room for airflow thanks to Aunt Louise's chief eccentricity. So, naturally, she fell asleep. And I saw my chance.

Her purse was at her feet. I was sitting in the chair directly beside hers, reading an Avengers comic book and trying to ignore the repeated calls of "Come oooooooon doooooown!" from the TV. I looked over at her, and saw that she was in a deep doze. Her hearing wasn't the greatest even when she was awake, though she was far from deaf, but I figured in her snooze, there would be little chance she would hear the tiny noise of me rifling through her purse.

I found her keys almost immediately and headed for the stairwell. If she woke up when I opened the door, I would just claim I was doing a load of laundry. But she was unlikely to wake up unless I forgot to close the door, which by now I never did.

I headed down the stairs, for some reason tip-toeing even though I wasn't yet at the place I had been shut out from. I felt absurdly guilty, despite the fact that Aunt Louise had never expressly forbidden me from doing what I was now doing.

The door to the basement was closed, of course, but unlocked, as always. I ducked through and closed it, waiting a few minutes, listening for a shifting of Aunt Louise's frame in her chair, indicating she was getting up, or perhaps her voice calling to ask why I was in the basement.

Quietly, I crept for the laundry room, opened the door and closed it just as quick, slipping inside. I felt for the chain-pull for the light and pulled it. Low, eery light flickered through the room. I had never thought of the lighting in here as eery before, but I did now. There was something about this entire endeavor that felt wrong.

But my curiosity overrode my sense of caution. I crept toward the door and slid the board away from it. Aunt Louise had apparently put it back in place after the last time I had done this. The question of why she had done so played in my brain for a moment, but I ignored it and brought out the key ring.

I found the right key on the third try, and heard a loud chuck of the lock sliding away. I froze, heart beating in my chest, waiting to hear a cry from upstairs. Nothing.

The door opened silently as a ghost. There wasn't any light to illuminate the staircase beyond. I didn't even see a chain-pull for a light on the stairs. My brain was screaming at the rest of my body to turn around and forget this little adventure, but I paid it no heed and crept down the stairs, feeling along the wall for guidance.

It turned out there was a tiny amount of light, coming through vents in the ceiling. It wasn't much, but I could see that there was a pull-string light, just a few feet from the foot of the stairs. Stupid place to put it; it should be right at the landing. But I walked down what appeared to be a fairly compact hallway and pulled the string. If possible, the light that flickered on was lower than the light from the laundry room. I could barely tell I'd turned it on.

I looked around and saw that, indeed, Aunt Louise did have rows of preserves down here. I was somewhat disappointed at the mundane answer to the mystery. For a moment, it seemed that the secret sub-basement was exactly what it was supposed to be.

Except...I could feel a puff of a warmish breeze that should not be possible down in the hard-packed earthen walls and cooler, subterranean air. The sense of wrongness was still there, and still strong, and I realized that the long row of shelves holding jars ended in a doorway at the end. A doorway that didn't have a door.

I crept forward, arms in front of me, stepping carefully. The room beyond the door was dark and smelled musty. I couldn't feel a source of the slightly warm air that was brushing against my skin. But I was noticing that the closer I got to that room, the warmer the air became.

By the time I was at the mouth of the tunnel (somehow I had started thinking of this place as a tunnel by this time), the air wasn't just warm, it was humid. Fetid. The smell went from musty to moldy, to something even worse. I was assailed by that sense of wrongness stronger than ever. I had to get out of here. Why was I walking even closer?

There wasn't much light, but I could see the outline of another door on the other side of the room. It was ajar. Seeing a door ajar in Aunt Louise's house was like seeing a shattered window in anyone else's. It was wrong. It was not meant to be. But then...I wasn't precisely in Aunt Louise's house anymore, was I? This tunnel was not built for this house. I knew that in my soul. It was here before. Long before. This was a place that had only become attached to Aunt Louise's house by short-sighted builders, unaware of what they had unearthed. What they should have left buried.

It took me a moment to realize that the room beyond, the very room I was about to step into, was moving. The light was too dim to really see what was happening, but there was motion beyond it. Unceasing, slow, lazy motion. All along the walls, the floor. I could hear a slight squelching noise from its every corner. Things were crawling, expanding their pulpous flesh.

And looking at me. Daring me to cross that floor and shut the door on the far side, forever closing out what might be coming through it. I heard sucking sounds. Some formless, gelatinous presence stretched and flexed in the darkness.

In that moment, a sense of understanding came to me. I was not the first person to stand at this door. This door that could not be closed. Not the first person to see that other door, the one that was not meant to be, standing open on the other side, and knowing that it always would, until someone worked up the courage to cross the threshold and close it.

Aunt Louise had not had the courage, so she had fled, and kept every door in her house closed at all times, hoping against hope that keeping her doors closed at all times would alert her when whatever was beyond that damned door finally came for her.

I didn't have the courage, either. I turned and fled, and never looked back. When I was sixteen I moved out of Aunt Louise's and into a Halfway House. Once I was eighteen I got a job upstate, and moved there. I never went back to Aunt Louise's and never called her, tried hard to not even think about her.

But I haven't been successful. I still think back to the day I stood at that doorway, about the squelching, wriggling things that waited in the dark. And I wonder if Aunt Louise ever found the strength to cross the room and shut that damned door.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Disappearance of Joren Vanger

Ten years ago, Joren Vanger, known better by his stage name Necrothrål, disappeared into the aether.

You may not know his name, or even his stage name. His act was part of a niche market; the kind that refuses growth by its very nature.

The "black metal" genre, a dark offshoot of mainstream metal, has been sneeringly referred to as hipsterism for metalheads. This is because, if you've heard of them, then they probably aren't a black metal band. These are the guys that make Marilyn Manson or Alice Cooper look like posers.

The black metal scene has little to do with entertainment. The bands, fans, groupies, club managers, etc., all consider themselves part of something greater; a subculture that is about authenticity and not at all about spectacle. Many bands don't play live at all, though Desicræd did. Others refuse to appear in public unless it's to perform, and they treat their concerts like rituals. They pile their stages full with charming set pieces like severed animal heads, inverted crosses, pentagrams and other demonic symbols.

For the last twenty years, Desicræd, pronounced "DES-uh-Creed" has been one of the biggest names, if indeed the term "big name" can be used with this genre, in black metal, and it was owned and managed by Joren "Necrothrål" Vanger, who wrote their lyrics, arranged their songs, played lead guitar and was also their lead...bellower. For many, he was the band, and this was later proven by the fact that they completely fell apart after his disappearance.

Vanger, born in Askersund, Sweden in 1959, migrated to the US with his parents in 1972. After a bitter falling out with his family, he founded Skitpågud, his first band, in 1985. Skitpågud  stayed together for just over a year before dissolving, and at that point Vanger, who began calling himself
Necrothrål, and his bass player H'arr Bŷngr (real name Kyle Cormier), became the founding members of Desicræd, along with drummer Kurtis "Baphomeat" Stocker and backup guitarist Lynsey "Sacrifeast" Cohen.

Listening to a Desicræd album is quite the experience, let me tell you. Vanger's shrieks sound like rapacious demons bursting from Hell to drag a terrified soul to the netherworld.

Desicræd exploded in the mid-eighties at the SkriptürPhage Festival, where they were a regular performer. Their concerts were more like bloody orgies, wherein Necrothrål would appear to bleed black blood, animal guts and semen were thrown on audiences, and occasionally there were actual murders that took place. The band members were in and out of prison numerous times. Necrothrål would repeatedly dare God to stop his "ritual", and would claim that "God is a liar and Satan is a pussy." The main idea behind Desicræd was that a lying god enslaved a weak, pathetic Satan, and that the only true gospel was that of Desicræd. Necrothrål claimed to be the true ruler of Hell, and that he and his band were weakening the barriers between this "false" reality we lived in, created by the liar god, and the "true" reality of the Hell that Necrothrål ruled.

They were hardly the first, or only, band in their market who made satanic or demonic claims, but they probably were the most brazen. Several bands approached the subject differently; many denied that such concepts as "God" or "The Devil" even existed, and therefore good and evil were mere fallacies. Others denied God as ruler and called Satan their master. Desicræd's position as Hell's true ruler, and their idea that they were literally attempting to bring about Hell on Earth, was relatively a new approach when they first entered the scene, and later bands that took that approach seemed to mix their approaches.

Necrothrål had a personal "glyph" that didn't seem to match any known glyphs from old Norse, Celtic or any other older mythologies that were popular among the black metal scene. He wore the glyph on his clothing, carved into the band's intruments and stages, and he would often personally carve it into the skin of concert-goers, as well as his own skin.

It adorned the cover of the band's first album, Carnal Cathedral, but strangely enough, when it appeared on their second album, Pentalurgy, it was slightly modified. Necrothrål claimed he, and the band, had entered "second phase".

Second phase lasted into the nineties. There was a third phase that ended in 2003, whereupon Joren "Necrothrål" Vanger disappeared.

Now, understand that in the world of black metal, becoming an "unperson" isn't all that hard. For one thing, it's not uncommon for some bands to simply never release their real names or identities to the public. That way, if they chose to stop performing, or if they die, no one knows where they went because no one knew who they were outside of their metal personae.

Joren Vanger's real name was known mainly because he had used his name in the early days of Skitpågud, and because on occasion Lynsey Cohen or Kurtis Stocker would agree to interviews and would openly use their real names. Vanger himself, by the time Desicræd had become huge in the scene, would only answer to Necrothrål and would speak of Joren Vanger as if he was a deceased former self.

I say that to speak to the idea that for about five or so years after his disappearance, no one thought it was strange that he was gone. That is, until Desicræd tried to put on a concert/ritual without him that was mostly H'arr Bŷngr screaming to Hell to give Necrothrål back, saying "His work on this plane is unfinished."

They later acknowledged that there was a planned "fourth phase", but that Necrothrål had disappeared right as it was about to begin. This made him somewhat of an anomaly. For a band to acknowledge that their founder really was missing, and not just dead or retired, was far from the norm. For a while, people still treated it like normal, expecting that at some point Vanger would reappear, and claim to have seen and conquered Hell.

When he didn't appear on the anniversary of the band's forming, and didn't appear when the "fourth phase" had been meant to end, Lickz Magazine decided to send me on a journey to find him. I objected at first, as I have never covered the black metal beat before, but after learning how long he'd been missing, and that he had been officially classified as a "missing person", well, I could not resist. I love a mystery, you see.

The first place I went was the offices of the SkriptürPhage Festival, which are presently in Tampa, Florida, though it moves every few years. I spoke to Lugrë Legion, the organizer of the festival, who had been the man behind Desicræd's first public appearance.

Legion is a 67-year-old Norwegian who speaks English quite well, with a light accent. His real name is Gunnar, though he wouldn't tell me his last name. His look is a more casual biker-from-hell ensemble, including tattoos of demonic symbols, evil faces and phrases, etc., nearly everywhere; up and down his arms, his chest, his face. He wears mostly black leather, his hair is long and ragged and he's pierced through the ears, nose, lips, tongue and God knows where else. Unlike Vanger, Legion acknowledges that most of what happens at his shows is purely to excite the crowd and get them to buy albums.

"I used to be a believer," he tells me. "But I been in this industry a long time. I seen nothing to tell me there's a Hell below, a Heaven above. And I decided long time ago that I don't care. This scene, it becomes your life, you know? I know nothing else. I live and die metal, ya?"

He didn't have any clue what had become of Vanger. "He always a bragger, you know? He was angry, angry at the world, angry with anything beyond it. He decide a long time ago that no one was fit to rule him. He would be the ruler, ya?"

I asked him about the glyphs that Vanger had used, and what they meant as far as the corresponding "phases".

"Glyph looked made up, ya? He said it was for ritual, that the phases were the removal of reality. I dunno. Never saw one like that."

Further questions with Legion went nowhere, so I decided to stop in at the offices of Excrement Throne, the label that Desicræd was last with. I spoke with a woman there who would only identify herself as Succubus, and who told me in no uncertain terms that they did not talk to the press.

Needless to say, Kyle Cormier wouldn't talk to me either, and I couldn't get ahold of Stocker or Cohen.

Vanger hadn't spoken to anyone in his family since first started performing with Skitpågud, so none of them were any help. He didn't keep a publicist or an agent, and if you need to ask why, you haven't been listening to anything I've said about the world of black metal.

It appears the disappearance of Joren Vanger will remain a mystery.

--Steven Faraday, Lickz Magazine

I wrote that article a year ago, and honestly, was glad to be finished it. My leads all quickly went nowhere, and the lone attractive element to it, the mystery, seemed little more than a poor effort to disguise the suicide/overdose/accident/retirement/whichever that had stolen their lead singer from them, all in an effort to retain some of the cred they'd developed over the years.

Never would I have dreamed that I would get an actual response. Few in the black metal scene likely even read the article and outside the scene, few people would have cared about Joren Vanger. But three days ago I received an email from a blocked address telling me that if I truly wanted answers, I should come to a local bar where I was to meet at a specific booth. In order to not draw undue attention to this place, I will refrain from naming the establishment.

At first I believed the email to be spam, but I read it again, and realized that if it was spam, it was a terrible example of the form. I wasn't being asked to send any of my personal information back to them, wasn't even being asked to reply at all. Just show up if I wanted answers.

I deleted the email but I was curious enough that on my lunch break I headed over to the bar and looked for the booth. It was dark back there, but I could see two people seated in the gloom.

One of them was easily seven feet tall and dressed like a biker, in leather and chains with big rings on his fingers and patches on his jacket. I couldn't get a look at his face, for some reason. The skin tone on his hands seemed all over the place, a mix of every skin tone known to man, all in one color that was all colors, and no, I don't mean it was white. I mean it literally looked like one color and all colors at the same time. I don't know how else to describe it.

The second man was smaller and easier for me to get a look at. He wore a natty little pinstriped suit with a bow tie. His hair was golden blonde and his eyes were of a deep, pure blue. There couldn't have been more of a difference between he and the big one, yet here they sat, together.

I had the sense upon seeing these men that I should turn around and leave, and pretend I never saw them. Somehow I could just tell that meeting them wasn't supposed to happen. But as I was turning, the larger man called out to me.

"Steven Faraday?" he boomed. His voice sounded deep, like Ving Rhames, only louder and carrying further. "Come, sit. Have a drink with us. We're buying."

"He's buying," said the other man. His voice sounded like every used car salesman you've ever heard.

Slowly, hesitantly, I sat. Even sitting at the booth it was hard to get a look at the big guy's face. It was almost more like I couldn't look directly at it, like any attempt to get a closer look ended with me perusing the wall beside him instead.

"We understand," said the smaller man. "That you're interested in the whereabouts of Joren Vanger."

"Well," I said. I still wasn't sure I should even be here. "More of a professional curiosity, really. I didn't know the man, or anything."

"Yet you're the only person to ask directly about his whereabouts since his disappearance," said the big guy. His voice was so loud, but no one else in the bar seemed bothered by it.

"Well, ask the right way," said the little guy, "No ritual needed, no demands made of the afterlife. Just a question."

"And you two know the answer," I said, somewhat incredulously.

"We do," said the little guy. "And believe me, we don't usually divulge information like this. But good old Necrothrål was a special case." He spoke the name as if it amused him.

"Few people actively seek to bring the realm of the damned to this realm," said the big guy. "Joren Vanger did, and he got closer than even he ever realized he could. He understood that knowledge of that forbidden act would not be found on this realm, so he sought it in other realms."

"That glyph," said the little guy. "I'm still trying to find out how he got his hands on it, but he never should have had it. We'll just say that much."

"When you issue challenges to the Supreme Being," said the big guy. "Most of the time you're just beating your fists against a brick wall. How could any mortal truly challenge the Divine? Most of these challenges are not issued with any sincerity, whatever the challenger may say, but when they are, it can be rather amusing to see what happens when the challenge gets answered."

"But it wasn't enough for Necrothrål to challenge just Heaven," said the little guy. "He had to declare the Devil a mere pawn himself."

"And in that, he was more right than most," boomed the big guy. The little guy seemed to quiver a little, then regained his composure.

"Whatever the case, Vanger found this glyph and began modifying it, using it in his rituals, making sacrifices to it, and using it to peel back the layers of reality until he really did come close to reaching his goal; becoming the only human to see the Valley of the Lost without actually shuffling off this mortal coil, as they say."

"Wait, wait," I said. "Slow down. You're saying he managed to find the gateway to Hell?" I shook my head. These guys were clearly having one over on me.

"No, no, not at all," the little guy continued. "There's no gate. Not in the literal sense, at any rate. But Vanger was like the rest of you, and figured there had to be. And he thought he'd found the key."

"But it was more like a one-way ticket," said the big guy, with a soft chuckle. "The thing is, people don't get what they deserve. They get what they long for. That's another misconception about the afterlife. You don't go to Heaven for being good, and you don't get sent to Hell for being bad. You are sent to Heaven if you truly desire to go there, and the same is true of Hell."

"He wanted to rule it," said the little guy. "But he didn't understand, that's never part of the bargain. If you actually go to Hell, you're automatically a prisoner there. No one there gets to rule." He shot a dirty look at the big guy.

"But he did truly desire to go there," said the big guy. "And now, that's where he is."

I sat for a little while in quiet disbelief. Finally, I thanked them for the drink I hadn't touched, and left the bar.

I think back to that afternoon in the booth though, quite often. I think back to the amused voices of two drinking companions who seemed each other's exact opposite, and who didn't seem to like one another much, but both of whom spoke assuredly of a man who had done all he could to reach the pit of damnation.

I've listened to a few Desicræd songs since meeting these two men, and I think my estimation of Vanger's lead vocals was off. They don't sound like demons screaming anymore. They sound like the agonized howls of a man being tortured beyond the imagination of even the sickest soul.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What the Hell is that Song

Every now and then, I get a snatch of a song running through my head. When that happens, it can drive me nuts, and it's a devil of a time trying to get another song in there to replace it. It's gotta be another song, though. I can't ever just have a head full of peace and quiet. Sometimes the song I try to listen to and replace the persistent one will instead mix with it, creating this weird cacophonic mash-up in my skull that makes me want to stab somebody.

In the last several weeks, there's one song that's been pretty persistent, and the craziest part is that I have no idea who the artist is, what the song's name is, or even the words. All I can remember of it is a single refrain that repeats the same line three times. The first time is clearly the main melody, the second is a counterpoint, and the third is the continuation of the main melody. It's a strangely pleasant song, sounding like something Del Amitri would come up with, but I've listened to their entire repertoire, and nothing matches.

Whenever I have heard it in the past, it's always been in a crowded mall or restaurant, and I can barely make out even the tune over the noise of other people. The only part I recognize is the part that repeats in my head, and so my brain picks it up above the noise, only to tune out again once that part is over.

As best I can make out, the line is "When I turn it out". I have no idea what that means, but that's as close to what I hear as any lyrics.

When I tuuuuuurn it ouuuuuuut...
When I turn-it-ou--ou-ou-ouuut...
When I tuuuuuurn it OUUUUUT...

On that last line, the singer soars up into falsetto. He has a light tenor voice as it is. Like I said, not at all unpleasant to hear. I have just kept wishing of late that I knew more of the song, or even what those lyrics were saying.

Like a time a few weeks ago that I overheard it somewhere in the background at work.

I work in a cubicle farm. What I do there is not important. I don't mean I don't want to tell you; I mean it just isn't important. At all. If I were to come in to work and all my co-workers had been brutally murdered, I doubt anyone would notice.

We spend a majority of our day filling out pointless reports. Remember the movie Office Space? That's my life, in a nutshell. The worst part is, it takes up most of my life, is pure drudgery the entire time, and leaves me too exhausted to do much else when I get home. Doing boring, repetitive work is probably the most tiring kind of job one can do. Even a rigorous physical job still leaves one feeling like they've accomplished something. My job is a soul-sucking nightmare.

But, regardless, sometimes someone turns a radio on to break the monotony. It rarely works, but this one time, I swear I heard that song again. I was sitting at my desk, realizing how much overtime I was going to have to put in so I could actually finish all my reports for that day, when I heard that song again. But this time the words sounded different to my ears.

You're not geeeeeetting ouuuuuuut...
You're not get-ting-ou--ou-ou-ouuut...
You're not geeeeeetting OUUUUUT...

Heh. Fitting. I was likely going to spend the whole evening looking at this pallid office interior. Not getting out indeed.

I had a date that weekend. I don't date much anymore. In fact, my social life in general kinda sucks. But this girl was cute, even if she was abominably stupid. I kept listening to her natter away at me all evening, pretending to be interested, but only because this girl was sending me signals that if I paid enough attention to her, she might pay special attention to me at the end of the night, if you catch my drift. Some of you might be judging me for that, but you just don't get it. I get little to no excitement in my life. I have few friends and almost no time for romance. I gotta take what I can get. Most nights, if I want any action, I get it with RedTube and my only steady girlfriend, Palm-ela Hand-erson. Unless I was missing my signals, this girl was probably as hard-up as I was, and just as casual about who she used for service.

But about half-way through the date, that song came on over the PA system. It was quiet. Almost too quiet. But I heard it, and I thought the lyrics sounded different yet again.

She's not puuuuuutting ouuuuuuut...
She's not put-ting-ou--ou-ou-ouuut...
She's not puuuuuutting OUUUUUT...

I ignored the song, figuring my own subconscious was playing a trick on me. But it wasn't. The song was completely right. At the end of the date she didn't even want a ride home, and didn't even kiss me. That was a wasted $70. And what the hell was that song? I wondered more about that on the way home than anything else.

Two weeks ago my boss, Albert, took special care to come by my desk and make an example of me. Turns out form I submitted had some incorrect information on it. I doubt it was really the end of the world, but that's the kind of thing Albert is there for, to catch me in an error and humiliate me. He seems to be the only one there who loves his job.

There are certain types of bosses in the world, and the one I hate the worst is the one that's invisible unless you screw up. In fact, I once had a problem that I wanted to send up the ladder because I felt like it was beyond my pay grade. I couldn't find Albert anywhere. He was never at his desk, never wandering around my area. Always I was told he was "in a meeting" or "on a break". That same day, I was so preoccupied by the one problem that I ended up misplacing a decimal on a report I was working on. I heard from Albert in less than fifteen minutes. I later counted how long it was until the next time I saw him. It was nearly three days, and exactly twelve minutes after making another "mistake", this one on purpose just to see how quickly I could bring him out of hiding.

The explosion I got from Albert two weeks ago wasn't even my fault. It was his. The information that was "wrong" was information he had added, thinking he was correcting me, then sent on. Turns out that I had put the right information on the form. So he screamed at me for twenty minutes, making sure everyone knew how badly I had "screwed up". Covering his ass.

I walked past his car on my way out to get a smoke. I needed a smoke break like, yesterday.

I'm not sure where I heard it. There wasn't a radio in the parkade, nor was there any sort of PA system. Maybe it just ran through my head, but I heard that damned song again. And yes, again the words were different.

Why not buuuuuurn it dowwwwwwwn...
Why not burn-it-dow--ow-ow-owwwn...
Why not buuuuuurn it DOWWWWWWN...

And I stood there by his car, hearing that song in my head, and I had an evil thought. Why not burn it down? The bastard didn't deserve a car this nice. I did more work than he did, got paid less and drove an old beater.

I knew there wasn't a working security system in the parkade. The building was old, maintenance was behind, and I once had my car keyed, only to be told by our lone night security guard that I was up a creek because unless he catches the vandal in the act, he can't do anything.

I paused by his car for a moment, and then walked over and opened the gas tank. I took a long drag off my smoke, and dropped it in. I hurriedly replaced the cap and jogged for the door.

In movies, cars that have their gas tanks hit with a bullet or lit on fire explode immediately. In real life, it takes a bit more time. I heard the tank itself ignite, but the fire was contained within the vehicle for nearly six minutes after I hit the stairs. I heard the detonation from there.

My heart was hammering. I couldn't believe what I'd done. I went into self-preservation mode, high-tailing it up the stairs and hiding in a janitor's closet. I waited there for twenty minutes and then walked back in calmly, pretending I had gone up the block for lunch.

I sat at my cubicle and ignored everyone for the rest of the day. I tried not to hear Albert as he burst into the office in a panic. I ignored my own pounding pulse. As the fire department cleared the building, I walked calmly along, facing the ground. They had the fire contained within a half hour, and I moseyed back in, just as calmly.

I had never done anything like this in my life, but I couldn't ruin it by giving myself away. I sat back down, quietly, trying not to sweat, trying to keep my breath even, until the end of day. Then I went down, along with everyone else, to the parkade.

The fire from Albert's car had damanged three other vehicles. Two were undrivable. Mine wasn't one of them. I was able to retrieve it and I drove out of the parkade in complete silence, staring blankly ahead.

About three blocks later, I got the giggles. They started small, but eventually, I was laughing like a junkie pumped full of sugar. I had always been a law-abiding citizen, and I lived a life of misery. But now, I had committed a full-on criminal act and damn it, but it felt good! And Albert, well, how deserving was he, the bastard!

And there, maybe coming from another car, was the song.

Well we buuuuuurned him baaaaaaaaad...
Well we burned-him-ba--a-aaaad...
Well we buuuuuurned him BAAAAAAAAD...

We had, indeed, whoever "we" were. It was a wonderful feeling. A feeling of freedom! I felt on top of the world, like I could do anything.

And I felt that freedom until three days later, when Albert cornered me in the elevator. He was spitting mad.

"I know it was you," he sputtered. He could barely contain his fury in that flabby little five-foot-six frame. His bald head was glistening with anger-sweat.

I was cool. "What was me?"

"You blew up my car, you bastard," he said. He edged closer, like he was going to take care of me right there.

"That's crazy," I said. "I wasn't even in the building."

"You were. No one saw you leave. No one saw you come back. I asked around. There's only one place you could have been. The parkade. Everybody else was accounted for. Everybody but you."

Maybe it was the elevator playing it, or maybe it was my own imagination. But I heard the song again. With the lyrics changed. Again.

Gotta taaaaaake him ouuuuuuuuut...
Gotta take-him-ou-ou-ouuut...
Gotta taaaaaake him OUUUUUT...

I suppose it might have been saying "take him down", for that matter. It was so faint. I never have heard it clearly. But I knew the song was right. Albert had to go down. And I was the man to do it.

I didn't ever own up to torching his car, but I stopped denying it. I knew he couldn't prove it, so instead of denials I began taunting him. Gently, but enough to show him how aware I was of just how little he could do to me. I even began ignoring his constant finding of "mistakes" I had made, which weren't even mine.

And then four days ago, I met him in the elevator again. He had taken to turning his back to me, spurning me. That was his mistake. I lifted the straight-razor I had brought from home and sliced his carotid.

Blood was just everywhere. I mean, everywhere. The door opened on the parkade, and I just about fell on my ass from all the slickness. I dragged Albert to my car and put him in the trunk. The entire time, from somewhere, came that same song, the lyrics changed yet again.

Gotta buuuuuu-ry Aaaaaaal...
Gotta bur-y-A--a-aaaaal...
Gotta buuuuuu-ry AAAAAAAL...

I did bury him. In a shallow grave twenty feet from the highway in a field. I don't know if they found his body, but I know one thing. I forgot that the cameras in the elevator worked just fine.

I still don't know what song that is, though. I think about it sometimes. Wonder if I ever really have heard it right. Wonder, in fact, if I've ever actually heard it at all. I don't know the answer to that, and I'm not so sure it matters anymore.

But it does play inside my cell, sometimes. A familiar version of the words, playing softly, usually when I'm trying to sleep. Almost sounds like it's gloating.

You're not geeeeeetting ouuuuuuut...
You're not get-ting-ou--ou-ou-ouuut...
You're not geeeeeetting OUUUUUT...