READ THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS: Dead Rockstar by Lillah Lawson
Stormy Spooner is at her wits' end. Careening towards bitter after a nasty divorce, she sometimes wonders what her life is becoming.
After unearthing a cryptic set of lines from a dusty album cover, Stormy tries the impossible: to resurrect Phillip Deville, enigmatic former frontman of the Bloomer Demons. Stormy's love for her favorite dead rockstar knows no bounds...but it was all supposed to be a joke.
When she answers a knock on her door the next day and finds herself face to face with the dark-haired rock god of her every teenage fantasy, her entire world is turned upside down.
Turns out, she’s awakened more than just Philip, and Stormy will have to do battle against a cast of strange characters to keep herself and her new undead boyfriend safe.
Take a peek into Stormy and Phillip’s lives with this exclusive sneak peak into the first two chapters of Dead Rockstar, by Lillah Lawson. Come for the dreamy undead boyfriend, stay for the rock n roll. Dead rockstar is out TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3rd!
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OH, you think your life is complicated? Try falling in love with a dead rock star. One you've brought back—totally on accident—from the dead.
I mean, a good man is hard to find, right? Sometimes you've gotta get a little creative.
Let me start over.
My name is Stormy Spooner. I’m a lifelong atheist, a vegan, a librarian—and I’m a necromancer.
How did I get into this mess? I wear glasses, for fuck’s sake. I’d like to say that your guess is as good as mine, but it was my own fault.
You wouldn’t be the first to tell me that it’s impossible to be a necromancer and an atheist. As my best friend, Sloan, loves to tell me, “You don’t even, like, believe in anything. How can you practice magic if you don’t believe in it?”
And once I would have agreed. I didn't believe in magic, and I sure as hell didn't practice it. What I did was more of a pathetic, drunken fumbling that accidentally hit the mark. It was supposed to be a joke.
When I announced to Sloan, between sips of our dark-mint-and-mocha iced coffees, that sweltering, humid summer day, that I was going to become a necromancer and raise the dead—well, one dead, specifically—I was just kidding around. I have a dark, twisted sense of humor. It gets me into trouble a lot. But this time, it got me some dead guy with pretty green eyes and hair so black it absorbs the light.
Oh, come on. Haven’t you ever had a crush on a dead guy? You know you have. Jim Morrison, maybe? Jimi Hendrix? James Dean?
All the hot dead guys have names that start with J, seems like. Except for my dead guy. The guy whose green eyes stared down at me from the posters on my wall all throughout my lusty teenage years, the guy whose voice ignited a million fantasies, the guy whose death at the maddeningly-young age of 38 had haunted me for years. The guy who had faded into an enigma, just another dead rock star in a sea of dead rock stars. Pick your poison, they’re a dime a dozen. My dead guy was never really famous, not the kind of famous that John Lennon was (another “J”), or Madonna or Prince. He was a blip, a cult-favorite, a moment in time. More people these days haven't heard of him than have. My dead guy is what you call “obscure” (and why Sloan loves to joke that I'm a hipster). My dead guy, the enigmatic, dark and mildly terrifying Philip Deville, former lead singer and bassist (and sometime harmonica player) of the Bloomer Demons, is my favorite musician of all time and the orchestrator of my sexuality. I can’t put too fine a point on it, really. He was the guy. My dead guy.
Well, until he wasn’t. Dead, I mean.
You’re going to have to just trust me on this, and I’ll tell you the story, but let’s just get it out of the way right out of the gate. There's no hiding the dude; he did his best, it's just not in his essence to be hidden, and honestly? What's the point? My dead guy is no longer dead. He’s very much alive – or undead, which I think he’d prefer, because it has that gothic sort of feel to it, and that’s what gets him all hot and bothered, and that's how I like him.
Believe it or don’t, but I raised the dead. I’m a necromancer. And unfortunately, because of a certain hot, (un)dead rock star, I'm going to have to do it again.
I remember the moment when the thought first came to me. I was guzzling my mint-mocha whatever on my lunch break, enjoying the sweet iciness on my tongue, letting it flow down my throat until I felt the first pangs of brain-freeze in my temple.
“I’m going to become a necromancer,” I announced. Sloan, my best friend since childhood, was sitting across from me at the Jitter Bug, our favorite coffee shop and the place where we usually met on our breaks, which we always took together. It was the only place in town that made a reasonable knock-off of a Frappuccino that's vegan.
“Well, that’s fucking stupid,” she replied without missing a beat.
“Why?” I demanded.
“For starters, genius, you’re an atheist. A smug atheist. It’s all you talk about, Sagan and Hawking and shit and how religion is the opiate of the masses. Necromancy is magic. How many times have you told me you don't believe in anything remotely spiritual or paranormal?”
“It's all about intention,” I countered. She, as a relapsed Christian—her term—couldn’t be more knowledgeable on this subject than me. I’m a tad haughty about my intellect. It’s a librarian thing.
“But how can you have the intention if you don't believe in it?” she argued, and I sniffed. “Not to mention it’s utter hock-and-booey,”
“Hock and what?”
“Hock-and-booey.” She smirked at me from beneath her perfectly coied blonde bangs. Sloan is your usual nightmare—long blonde hair, blue eyes, her parents loved her enough to get her braces, blah blah blah. All of that and her ass is absolutely huge. She has the gall to complain about it, too. Meanwhile, I'm sitting on my pancake bottom, hating her.
“Ok, you were either going for cock-and-bull or boo-hockey and you didn’t land on either.”
“Fuck you,” she said, popping a chocolate covered espresso bean in her mouth. Caffeine junkies, the both of us. We lived at the Jitter Bug year-round. We'd decided back in college, while in the midst of the 90s Friends craze, that we needed our own Central Perk. While the shenanigans of Phoebe and Chandler had become dated and cheesy, Sloan and I had retained our love for coffee and snark at our favorite artsy table. People write song lyrics on it in sharpie and that's the kind of overly sincere kitsch that I can appreciate, especially since we’re right on the outskirts of bumfuck, aka Brunswick, Georgia, where creativity goes to die.
I decided to change tactics. “If you could bring one dead celebrity back to earth for one night,” I asked her, scooping a dollop of chocolate-tinted coconut cream on my spoon and plopping it on my tongue, “who would it be and why?”
She didn’t miss a beat. “Mister Rogers,” she said, taking a somehow prim sip of her drink. “He likes me just the way I am. And I bet he gives the best hugs.”
“I was thinking more along the line of dead rock stars, you girl scout.” I spooned up more cream. “Like one you'd want to fuck.”
“Oh. Hard pass, then,” she said, pulling out her chap-stick and running it over her lips. She did that about fifty times a day. Chap-stick addiction is a real thing and it’s weird.
“Come on, you're a slut. You must have one.”
She smirked. “Be that as it may, I have no desire for a night with some bloated, booze-soaked addict who croons in my ear off-key while he’s trying to get his flaccid dick up. I've dated enough live musicians to know I don't want a dead one.”
This was horribly unfair, but I let it slide. Sloan is a mean bitch at heart, and it does no good to point it out. She gets worse by the hour. I swear, she wakes up Suzy Sunshine and by the time she uses her withered claws to pull down her bedclothes she’s turned into a cackling old crone. Why she’d want to meet Mister Rogers I’d never know. She’d have him running, screaming for the hills. She eats gentlemen for breakfast and burps up their bones. She's the perfect muse for an angsty, boy-man songwriter, which is why it was so irritating that she wouldn't play along.
“I actually have someone in mind,” I began again. I don't like being derailed when I'm on a thought-bender.
“Of course you do,” Sloan said with a groan. “Philip Deville, aka the Turquoise Devil, aka the Robert Plant wannabe that you’ve been wanting to bone since you were fourteen years old. Who has been rotting in his grave for over twenty years, and newsflash, Stormy, wasn’t even that famous when he was alive” She said, smirking. “ God, if you’re gonna be one of those obsessive fan-girls about this shit, couldn’t you pick somebody everybody likes so that we can at least relate?”
“Like who?” I demanded. “John Lennon?”
She rolled her eyes. “Get with this decade, man. No, he's too sincere—too serious, just like you. You need somebody fun, somebody to dust the cobwebs from your ass. How about a live person? Hmm. What about Steven Tyler?”
I glared at her. “Steven was an androgynous fox back in the day, I'll give you that, but he's what, seventy? He's old enough to be my grandfather.”
“It's not like Phillip Deville was a millennial,” she pointed out. “If he was in his late thirties when he died, and it's 2019 now...”
“You are missing the point entirely,” I said, irritated. “It isn't what age he'd be now—he's been on ice, so to speak, for over twenty years. If I raised him—you know, from the dead—he'd still be thirt-eight. That's older than me, but not, like, Woody Allen level creepy.” I flashed her a look. “Some people I know don't mind a little May-December, but—”
“So you’re going to become the world’s first atheist vegan necromancer,” she interrupted me. I didn't like her tone. She made it sound crazy. “And you're trying to make it non-creepy?”
“Yes.” I smiled. “Precisely.” I sucked the dregs of the icy coffee from my cup and tossed it across the table towards the trash bin where it bounced off the lid and hit the floor, spraying mint-mocha everywhere. This kind of stuff happens to me a lot. I jumped up, muttering apologies to the bored-looking cashier, and grabbed a handful of napkins. “I’m going to raise the dead.”
“You're going to reanimate all 6'5” of Phillip Deville's mostly decomposed, festering corpse?”
“You understand rightly.” I grabbed another wad of napkins.
“You’re an idiot, Spooner.” She peered at me sideways. “Did you bring the flask to work today? Nipping a little Jim Beam in between shelving boring textbooks?”
“I resent that.” I did have my flask with me that day, but she didn’t need to know that. “Remember that vinyl I got? I just found these weird printed lyrics and I thought maybe—” I shrugged, mopping up puddled coffee. “It’d be fun. To try. You in?”
“If it means I have to listen to fucking Bloomer Demons one more time—on my night off—then no. I am decidedly not in.” She finished her own beverage and tossed it at the bin. As expected, it sailed right in. “Nah, I love you, Stormy, but I’m out. Anyway, I’ve got a date tonight. I plan to get laid. By, you know, a live dude.”
“Sorry. I’ve been trying to cinch this guy forever. He’s in med school. Studying to be a surgeon. He might actually be able to find the—”
“Dude,” I interrupted her, gesturing with my head towards the legging-clad soccer mom at the counter, holding up her gold Amex like a trophy. “You're kinda loud.”
“I think even Karen would agree that men should know basic female anatomy,” Sloan retorted, but she lowered her voice. After another moment watching me clean up my mess, she moved off her chair and started to help me. “Maybe I’ll come by in the morning. Bring you a celebratory bagel. One for you and your zombie. Think he’d want a schmear?”
“I think he’d rather have donuts.” I'd read once that in his tour rider he'd always asked for powdered-sugar donuts. There was a joke there, a whole is-that-cocaine-on-his- upper-lip-or-powdered-sugar thing that some tabloid had printed once, but I preferred to think he just really liked his sweets.
She looked at me and shook her head. There was mocha on my shoe. “I’ve got to get back to work.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“Try not to get too blitzed and attempt to summon a dementor in the card catalog.”
“That doesn’t even make sense. First of all, we haven’t had card catalogs, since, like, twenty years ago. Where have you been? And they weren’t a place you could go, like a room. It was literally just a cabinet with...oh, forget it. And if you'd actually read Harry Potter, you'd know that dementors aren’t summoned—”
But she was already halfway out the door of the coffee shop. She turned back to me with a grin. “Catch you later, necromancer. Hope he rises to the occasion.” I could still hear her cackling as the heavy glass door shut behind her.
Sometimes I hated Sloan. You're joking around, just trying to get a rise out of her, and she refuses to be rued. So you end up taking your whole shit seriously and you end up doing all sorts of failed-jokes out of spite, just to prove you can, even though you never meant to to begin with.
Which is how I got into all this trouble in the first place. Fucking Sloan.
Just as I was hopping into my truck, breathing a sigh of relief to be done for the day, my phone rang. It isn't like my job is hard or anything, not compared to some, but I was just...weary. Most days I'd come home from work bone tired and fall into bed. I wasn't exercising much anymore, something that I always used to enjoy. All I wanted to do was sleep, ever since my life had fallen spectacularly apart.
I glanced at my phone as I put the truck in reverse and sighed. Sloan. I didn't really feel like talking to anyone right now, even her, but I knew she'd call me back every two minutes until I finally picked up. She had a sixth sense when it came to my black moods. Without fail, any time the curtain was beginning to fall over my eyes, she'd call within a few minutes. She wouldn't let me dwell. It was both maddening and a lifeline.
“Yo,” I answered, easing out of the parking lot and extending a wave to Jean, the head librarian and my boss. She nodded her gray-curled head at me and resumed fishing for her keys.
“Hey, I'm in a rush, but I wanted to let you know...” I could hear the rattle of Sloan's makeup case in the background. She must be getting ready for her date. Sloan was a makeup junkie; I'd never seen her without perfectly applied, thick black, winged eyeliner. Not even when we were teenagers and she'd spend the night. “...Tess called me today.”
“Tess?” I parroted dumbly. “Called you? Today? Why?”
“It was after we had coffee, when I went back to work,” she said. “When I saw his name on the caller ID, I almost sent it to voicemail, but I was curious—”
“What did he want?” I demanded.
“You're not going to like it.”
“He wanted a freebie. What else?” Sloan is a hair-dresser. She pays booth rent at The Curling Dervish and half the people in town ask her for freebies, or for trades. I have no idea how she makes enough to pay rent.
“Why would he go to a women's salon to get a haircut? I didn't even know he was back in town.”
“Not for him, goober. For his...” She lowered her voice to a disgusted whisper. “For his girlfriend.”
I kept my eyes on the road and concentrated on driving carefully as I'd just noticed a cop pulling into the lane behind me. But my instincts were screaming at me to drive off the road and into the nearest dumpster. A girlfriend? Since when?
“That's all you've gotta say? Oh?” Sloan demanded. I could hear her slamming makeup down on the counter. “Your ex-husband pops up out of nowhere after months of radio silence, calls your best friend, and asks her to give his girlfriend a freebie? And she wants a cut and color, mind you. We're talking a hundred bucks, at least. The nerve—”
“It doesn't matter,” I said in a pained voice. My throat felt a little closed up. “Let him do whatever he wants.”
“It certainly does matter,” Sloan argued. “I told him, politely of course, because I was on the clock, to go fuck himself. I don't do freebies for anybody anymore. But especially not him and his skank of the month. After all he did to you. I wish he'd been here in person. I would have got right up in his face—”
I managed to smile. Sloan's protectiveness of me was one of her finer qualities. But I just wanted to get off the phone. I'd already been in a dark place and her call had only put fresh hurt on top of what was already a festering wound. “So is it a new girlfriend? Or is he back with her?” I didn't want to ask, but I had to.
“He's still seeing her,” she said, her voice full of pity. “Don't sweat it, Storm. If he wants to have a mid-life crisis and start dating a Jennifer Lopez wannabe, that's not your problem—”
“It's not a mid-life crisis,” I argued, clutching at my stomach. “He's only thirty-three.”
“It hit him early,” she said pertly. “Along with the male pattern baldness.”
I frowned. “Oh, his hair's fine. Hey, Sloan? I'm driving. Gotta go, okay? Talk later.”
“Okay, yeah. I've got to slip into my dress, anyway. Still trying to decide on shoes. This guy is major buttoned up. NO idea what he sees in me.” She was silent for a moment, and I could hear the rattle of mascaras in her bag. “Hey, you aren't still planning on doing that stupid spell, are you?”
For a moment I'd forgotten what she was talking about, then I remembered. The necromancy spell. I'd mainly just been winding her up. Right now, my plans consisted of climbing into bed in my rattiest pajamas and doing my best to forgot about Tess and his gorgeous Latina lover by upending a bottle of red wine. “I was just trying to be funny. I wasn't serious.” But even as I said the words, a tendril of excitement began to work its way up my back...it might be fun...
“Okay, good.” Her tone turned serious. “It's just...you're in a vulnerable place right now. And I know it's all just hock-and-booey,” there was that word again, “but sometimes our intentions, like you said—they get away from us. I don't want you playing around with any of that stuff, and getting hurt.”
“I don't believe in ‘that stuff’, Sloan,” I said irritably. “I was just kidding, anyway.” In my mind, I was already mentally stockpiling supplies. I had most of them in the cupboard already. Joke, my ass. I was such a liar. A liar and a fraud.
“Fine,” she said. “Good. Go home, get some sleep, and don't think about Tess, okay? He's not worth it, believe me. You'll find some cuter, hotter piece of ass soon, one that isn't a—”
“Okay, Sloan,” I said, “Love you, bye.” And I hung up.
Sloan would understand my shortness. Talking about Tess—even thinking about him—still caused too much pain. She was probably cursing herself for even telling me now. Of course, I would have found out eventually anyway.
If Tess had had a new girlfriend, it would have hurt less. I assumed he'd been seeing various women ever since our divorce. After all, he'd been seeing them before we'd split up, I'd discovered. But the fact that he was still with her, the one who had broken up our marriage, felt like a punch in the heart. Considering I was still stuck in the holding pattern, paying off both the monetary debt he'd left me with and the mental, emotional debt I couldn't seem to shake, it was unfair that he had been able to move on. I'd comforted myself by assuming they'd be broken up within a week. When I heard the rumor that she'd dumped him, I had giggled with glee. Served him right. But now, they were back on and back on my stomping grounds. It was bad enough that apparently they were a real item, but now I would have to dodge seeing them in town and hearing all about them trying to swindle my best friend. This was my turf and I'd explicitly told him to stay away. Did Tess seriously not think I'd find out if he came back?
I gripped the wheel, my mouth setting into a hard line. I knew Tess better than anyone, knew his little tricks.
It was bait. He knew I'd hear about it, that Sloan would dutifully let me know. This was on purpose, this little bit of intel. I wondered what he wanted from me.
Money, probably. Well, unfortunately for both of us, I didn't have any. And I had no plans to take his bait. But once Tess realized that going through Sloan wouldn't work, he'd be contacting me directly. I could count on it.
I'd deal with that when I came to it. I'd lock my doors and pretend I wasn't home if he came knocking. I couldn't deal with Tess tonight. Or any night. My days of dealing with him were over, even if I secretly wanted to see him so bad it made me ache.
I wanted to hate him, just like any good, newly- divorced young woman who had been made a fool of would. I wanted to bash his head with a frying pan, run him over with my car, set fire to his clothes on the lawn. I wanted to humiliate him, hurt him, make him suer for what he'd done – filling my house with drugs, losing his job, cheating on me – but simmering beneath the hatred and hurt was love. I hated myself for it, but there it was.
Never again would I wake in the middle of the night with Tess' fine brown hair tickling my face. Never again would we take snacks and wine to Driftwood Beach, getting blissfully drunk while feeding the seagulls. Never again would I feel the light touch of his hand on my leg as we went for a drive in his dusty old pickup. That part of my life was over, and I didn't want it to, but it hurt.
Fumbling with one hand, I managed to locate the auxiliary cable, plug it into my phone, and press the 'shuffle' button on Spotify without crashing the car. Phillip Deville's sultry, velvet voice came through the speakers and I turned it up loud, drowning out all thoughts of Tess Spooner and my replacement.
THE FIRST THING I did when I got home was kick o my weather-beaten burgundy chucks, followed by my equally weathered bra, and throw them in the corner. When Tess first moved out it was agony being alone all the time, but I soon assimilated to life on my own. I'd turned into a full-fledged slob. There was nobody around to judge me except Blinken, my cat, and he was thankfully silent. I looked at my purse, thrown haphazardly onto the chair, not bothering to take my phone out since I didn't feel like talking to anybody. Instead, I walked into the tiny kitchen, pulling my dishwater blonde hair into a messy ponytail as I went. I flipped on the dim overhead light and started rummaging for the makings of a cocktail.
Gin, rum, half a shot's worth of tequila. Ancient sour mix, a jar of maraschinos soaked in brandy. Things were looking dire. I'd been drinking far too much lately, and my measly salary wasn't enough to replenish the top shelf stu. My eye fell on the giant bottle of Merlot that Sloan had left the last time she'd been over for one of our slumber parties. Yes, we were grown women who still had slumber parties. One of the perks of being two single women in our early thirties, with no attachments and no real lives to speak of. Once a month or so we'd throw on our jammies, order takeout, and get shitfaced while watching romcoms and listening to 80s metal and new wave.
I'd hoped for one of our slumber parties tonight; being alone wasn't a good idea when I felt like this. But I didn't begrudge Sloan her date. Sloan was happy being perpetually single, but she started to get salty when she didn't have regular boning. She liked her boys, Sloan. Still, I was lonely and wished she was around. I grabbed the bottle of wine and popped out the cork, marveling at my own talent for doing so. I took a swig out of the bottle, deciding not to waste a glass on little old me, then sighed and grabbed one from the cabinet. Being lonely and sad was no excuse for trashy.
I ventured into the living room, which wasn't really much of a room, just a small square in the middle of the trailer. My bedroom, o to the left, was even smaller, and the bathroom was so tiny you had to turn sideways to use the toilet. One day I planned to move. The thought that I'd shared such a stifling, dusty place with Tess seemed unbelievable now. He was the one who had talked me into renting it. I'd scoed at the thought of living in a trailer, much less a miniscule singlewide that had been standing crooked since the early 90s. But he had won out in the end – as he had for most of our short-lived, pitiful marriage. “Don't be such a snob,” he had admonished me. “There's nothing wrong with living in a mobile home.” While that was true, now I was stuck living in this rusted tin can on my own, with nobody to fix the constantly broken faucet in the tub or reinforce the sagging beams in the kitchen floor. At least I had a wooded, private yard.
I was lucky, really, if I could stop the pity party long enough to admit it. Just a few miles down the road, over the bridge, was the ocean. I lived a hop and a skip from Jekyll Island, one of the most beautiful stretches of beach in Georgia. The weather was always mild, the sand soft and pale, the slate-blue sky calming and beautiful. Even when the sun bore down in the dead of summer, the beach held a dark aspect that never failed to calm me. The sand was always cool to the touch, the stark, stripped driftwood beckoning to me like kindly skeleton fingers. Even having grown up here, I wasn't immune to its charms, but it had been a long time since I'd ventured out to the water. I used to go running on Driftwood Beach every day. Now, I'd do anything to avoid thinking about the place.
I stayed on the mainland, went to work at the library, and came home to my cat and my solitary life in the little trailer, weather-beaten by the damp sea air more and more every day. Before long, it would crumble into the ground, hidden by pine trees as the earth reclaimed it, and I'd have to move to a shitty apartment.
Blinken was lounging on his cat bed, licking at a paw. He blinked his yellow-green eyes at me. “Hello, Mr. Blink,” I said to him, and he resumed his bath, unfussed. I sat the glass of wine down on the coee table and perched on the couch, feeling like a buoy, full of air, unable to relax. I had smelled the salty brine of sea-rain on my drive home; the pinging of an oncoming migraine and the ominous gray of the sky ocean-side had only confirmed my suspicion – a storm was coming, and it was going to be a doozy.
I was having trouble keeping Tess out of my mind. I wondered if I’d ever forget the shock of brown hair that fell over his blue eyes, the way he always slouched, tall and skinny, too skinny near the end. Of course, that had been because of drugs, but I'd stupidly fallen for his excuse that he was just working too hard. All that supposed overtime, all those late nights. The musty smell coming o his skin as he'd lay with his back to me, seemingly too tired for closeness. I'd just assumed that any unfamiliar smells were from the chemicals at the plant, that the extra cash in his wallet was overtime pay. I never guessed that the money was from selling drugs, the weight loss was from using, or that he'd lost his job months before and the musty smell was the perfume of another woman, a voluptuous, dark haired confection named Roberta who only lived a few miles down the road at St. Simons.
I wish I could say that I'd figured it all out, confronted him and kicked him to the curb, but I hadn't. Even after I knew the whole truth, I still loved him, believed his apologies and assurances that he wouldn't do it again. I hadn't even waited a respectable week before taking him back, letting him back into my house and my heart. I'd believed his lies, hook, line and sinker because I hadn't known what else to do. Where would I be without Tess? My relationship with both of my parents was strained and I hardly ever saw them. I had no siblings to speak of, only a toddler half-sister who I barely knew and didn’t much care about, and not many friends other than Sloan. Without Tess, I didn't know who I was, or worse, what I might become.
It took Sloan sitting me down and telling me point blank what everyone else had known for months: my husband was cheating on me (still), and worse, he and his side piece were running drugs. There had been a raid on Roberta's place, and the rumor was that the police would be coming for Tess soon. That's the thing about the “salt life” - living in a small coastal town, news travels fast, and it doesn't take long for your demons to come for you.
Still in shock, I’d taken no justifiable pleasure or humor in the situation as I sat in the corner of the room, on the same couch I sat drinking on now, and watched them cu my husband and take him away. I hadn't cried or yelled or done anything other than just watch. After he was gone, I carefully packed his things in boxes and sat them gingerly on the front stoop. I went down to the jail and used the last of our savings to pay his bail. This time there were no reassurances, no pleading, no “I'll change, I promise.” He only gave me a pained look, a small, brotherly pat on the shoulder, then used the pay phone to call Roberta's brother, who came and picked him up – or I assume he did, because I'd fled in tears soon after. That he could reject me at such a moment was a humiliation I could not get over.
I'd barely spoken to Tess since it'd happened, other than one ill-thought-out text where I'd commanded him to “Never come back, if you know what's good for you,” though I had no idea how I'd make good on that threat. He'd seemingly taken it to heart, though, because I hadn't seen or heard from him since. I'd had to file for divorce and get the lawyers to serve the papers. Tess was nowhere to be found. He'd just disappeared. Like he'd left me, which, I suppose, he had.
I took a sip of my red wine, settling back on the cushions, reaching over to grab my phone out of my bag. I was tempted to call him; I assumed the number would be the same. Tempted to tell him to leave my best friend alone, and if he knew what was good for him, to leave town. I'd heard through the grapevine that he was living in Savannah now, which gave me an ache in my chest – Savannah was no place for a drug addict with a sordid past. But that wasn't my business now, and he didn't deserve my worry.
I decided against calling. I knew once he picked up and I heard his voice, I'd lose my nerve. Not worth it. And why give him the satisfaction?
I grabbed the remote and turned on my ancient disc- changer stereo, which I'd had since I was a teenager in the late 90s. It was a wonder the old dinosaur still worked. Iggy Pop and the Stooges ran loud and rambunctious through the speakers. “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” It seemed appropriate. I settled back against the cushions and closed my eyes. I wished I had some pot – before, Tess and I had smoked most days, and after he'd left, I swore it o, determined not to be like him in any way. But hell, what was a little spli now and again? Sloan got the good shit, medical grade, but not the kind that makes your brain fall into a reverse spiral; rather the kind that takes away pain and fills you with fuzzy bliss. But it was expensive, and I was broke. I tipped the bottle up instead, toasting my poverty and broken heart.
Two thirds of the Merlot gone, and I was still lying against the couch cushions, but I was a lot less anxious. I felt muddy and numb. Blinken had taken his leave of me, o to the bedroom to steal my pillow. I was too grim, even for him, tonight. I'd gone through the entire Stooges record. The CD clicked as it changed, and then it was onto the Bloomer Demons album God is Dead. One of my favorites, and the one most likely to make Sloan groan and get up to leave. Dark and gritty and full of existential angst, it was an acquired taste. But, like I told her, “You can't fight true love.”
I'd had it on CD since I was a teen and had a digital copy on my iPhone. But it was the super-rare turquoise vinyl edition that I'd found scouring the flea market recently that was the real treasure. With my heart in my throat, I'd managed to haggle the pimply, leather jacket- clad guy into selling it to me for twenty-five bucks. It was such a rarity that only a few of them existed. The guy, admitting to me that he wasn't a fan - “I'm more of a Megadeth person” - had no idea what he had. The outer sleeve had been pockmarked with ancient grains of dirt, and the sea-air had slightly warped the record, but there were no real scratches, and I suspected it would still play. I would have bought it no matter the condition, though. My hands were shaking as I handed him the money.
I had called Sloan on my way home with it, screeching in excitement - “Oh my god, oh my GOD, I found it, I found it,” and she'd yawned and said, “Jesus Christ, you're a loser.” And hung up on me.
The album starts out with crickets chirping. Then the soft slush of waves lapping in a body of water. The croak of bullfrogs. Then, after what feels like an age, the gentle, melodious sound of a violin. By the time the fuzzy, nuclear sound of the bass kicks in, followed by the pounding drums, you're a minute and thirteen seconds into the track. When Phillip Deville's smooth-but-razor sharp baritone makes its introduction, it's been another two minutes and five seconds.
Part of Sloan's problem is that she hates songs that are in “parts.” Those long, epic, sweeping saga songs that tell a story, that have more than just two verses, a bridge and a chorus, are dead to her. She hates them. “I just want to listen to a good song, maybe dance a little. I don't need fucking Lord of the Rings on my Spotify playlist. Bands like Rush make me want to kill myself. It's musical diarrhea. When do we get o the toilet?” I love Sloan because I have to at this point, but sometimes I want to kick her in the face. The saga songs – musical novels - are the best.
Bring Me Back, the first song on the God is Dead album, was definitely a saga. As I drank the last drop of wine from my glass, the music was churning its way towards the third part, where Phillip almost sounds like a demented monk, reciting lines of poetry, monotone and devoid of vibrato. I wrenched myself awkwardly o the couch, feeling just how drunk I was as I stood up, and grabbed my phone.
Over in the corner, propped up against my bookshelf, was the album. Weathered a little around the edges, with a faded circle on the front where the record itself had started to wear through, it was pretty worse for wear, but I didn't care. I sat down on my old brown carpet and gingerly pulled the liner notes from the sleeve. They were delicate and had been ripped a little by some previous owner; I cursed them inwardly.
Bring Me Back was a weird song. I'd read in an interview with Philip that it was inspired by T.S. Eliot's “Prufrock” and was all about man's preoccupation with death – how we fear death more than anything else while simultaneously flirting with the thrill of it. And it made sense, since Phillip was thirty-six when the album was recorded and coming off some pretty serious drug addiction and a divorce (I knew a little something about that myself) and confronting middle age. But what puzzled fans was the single line he sang in Italian, his deep voice skipping over the words in a clipped, clinical baritone as though his voice itself was the record needle. It's just one line, but it's strange, a weird one-off in a sea of darkness. Translated, it meant something like, “Find the spell and bring me back (at least, that's what it said in his obit from Rolling Stone. I don't speak Italian)”. But there was no spell. The lyrics of the song were just reworkings of the Eliot poem, musing on death and middle age.
Bless and curse the glorious beast that is the internet; a buzz started on reddit or somewhere a few years back that proved helpful. Someone had snagged their mom's old vinyl copy of God is Dead, the rare one with the turquoise record, just like mine. They were practicing sketching by tracing the artwork on the liner notes, an elaborate Celtic pattern with dragons, snakes, flowers and a crescent moon, when they discovered that it was actually letters they were sketching. Olde English letters, hidden in the artwork. When written out on paper, they formed four lines of poetry. Since then, the rumor had spread like wildfire among Bloomer Demons fans and people had started snapping up the remaining God is Dead albums, desperate to get their hands on Phillip's last unknown lyric. And I had been lucky enough to find one at the flea market from some stoned guy who preferred Megadeth. Imagine my luck.
I traced my hands over the old letters, then opened my cyan-colored composition book, the closest I'd found to turquoise, where I'd written out the poem in my own script a few nights ago. Any good witch needed a grimoire, right? This would be mine. I read over the lines a few times, smiling. I was sure there were other fans who had figured it out by now, but I still felt smug. This wasn't a poem or a lyric.
Phillip Deville had left it right under our noses. Find the spell and bring me back.
And Sloan didn't think I'd really do it.
I'd told her it was a joke so many times, but I'd collected all the supplies and written out a spell, hadn't I? Now that I was certifiably sloshed, I allowed myself to sit back and brood a little on just how funny my best friend had found the whole thing. She'd always found my obsession with the Bloomer Demons hilarious, and I supposed it kind of was, the level of fandom that I rose to. God knows I'd taken it to some spectacular heights over the years. That's just who I was...I took to the things I loved – my music, my books, even Tess – to the extreme. I loved hard. Sloan could always be relied upon to bring me back down to earth – but shit, sometimes I didn't want to come back down. Didn’t I deserve to enjoy things?
I'd record myself performing the spell. Send it to her. After all, she pulled no punches, so why couldn't I troll her back a little while she was on her date?
So I set to making everything perfect. Conducting a spell, after all, was a serious business that involved ritual. I didn't have any candles, but I had a wax melt burner that Tess' mom had guilted me into buying on one of our “mother-daughter-dates” at TJ Maxx (Tess’ mother was sweet, and I missed those excursions with her. I wondered if she took Roberta out for lunch and home décor shopping trips now that I’d been cast aside) along with four or five packets of scented wax. I plugged it in near my makeshift altar and broke o a square of “Cinnamon and Clove” to put in. I cleared o my narrow glass side table and set the record, sleeve and paper on it, along with a picture of Phillip I'd ripped out of a music magazine, chest muscles rippling beneath his flowing black hair (“Blaze - the Goth Issue”).
Rummaging through my jewelry box, I found an old gemstone – sapphire – that was once part of a now- broken necklace and a pentagram on a string that an old boyfriend had given me in high school. I sat them in a row on the glass table along with a smooth, black stone I'd pulled from the creek behind my trailer and a piece of weather-bleached sea wood I'd found the last time I was on Driftwood Beach.
Now for the last preparation. I had recently bought a bundle of sage at the Brunswick farmers market. A woman there had called hello to me and I'd stopped at her booth to be polite. She sold sweet-smelling goat's milk soap and perfumed lotions, but it was her “pagan priorities” that caught my eye. Among them were sage, candles, what looked like jewelry made of twigs, dierent cloths and little jars that appeared to hold sand, dirt, shell, and maybe even bone. I didn't believe in that sort of crap, but I was intrigued. The red-haired lady had pressed a bundle in my hand, saying softly, “To clear the air, honey,” and on a whim, I decided to buy the little bundle of sage and try it. I might not believe in it, but there were plenty of things I had believed in, like my marriage, that had turned out to be horseshit, so what the hell. Plus, I'd seen a few acquaintances in a local Facebook group I belonged to making fun of the woman – they called her “Goat's Milk Soap Lady” and joked about how “woo” she was. That stuck in my craw, so it made me grin to throw a few bucks her way. Trust me to always go against the grain. I wondered when I'd ever stop letting it get me into trouble.
I sat down in front of the table and rummaged in my bag for a lighter just as Phillip began to sing his Italian verse. “Trova l'incantesimo e riportami indietro.” He could have said it over and over in his regular speaking voice and it would have sounded like music. A chill crept up my spine and I resisted the urge to melt into the carpet. His baritone seemed to slip over me like silk; both cool and warm at the same time. I lit the sage, turned on the wax burner, and poured another glass of wine, feeling both important and impossibly silly all at once.
I grabbed a box of tarot cards from my bag. In the “New Age” section at work we had a few things like that. Mainly books by Sylvia Browne, the psychic, a couple of ghost stories, a withered, donated copy of the Necronomicon with a giant coee ring on the cover, and a few assorted boxes of tarot cards that the stoner teenagers liked to check out. I'd start with the tarot and go from there.
I scanned the back of the box and decided to do a simple spread, just four cards; that seemed easy enough. I shued the deck, laid out the cards, and pondered. The box said to, “ask a question in your mind,” but nothing was coming to me. Instead, I thought This is stupid. I am drunk. Find the spell and bring me back. With a shrug, I turned over the first card.
Judgment. I smirked. Okay, that was fitting. I was definitely full of judgment when it came to shit like this. I thumbed through the crumbling book to find out more.
The Judgment card may indicate the beginning of a new phase. The Questioner should feel that they have accomplished all they can and leave old phases with a sense of purpose, moving forward with the freedom to begin a fresh and unfettered start. New beginnings. Reanimation of long-dead feelings. Autumn leaves may die, but new life emerges from the barren tree.
I gaped at the card, which depicted a trumpet-bearing "gure from the heavens playing for three barely-clad androgynous beings, who appeared to be dancing themselves out of shallow graves, then put it down in disgust. “These things are always like this,” I said aloud, ignoring the rising of my gorge. “They seem super specific but really you just read yourself into it.”
Reluctantly, I turned over the next card.
“Oh, fuck this.” I wasn't drunk enough for that. After what I'd read of the judgment card, I was in no mood for whatever the death card had to tell me. Nope. I glanced briefly at the illustration on the card - a grinning skeleton holding a skinny scythe, tipping forward as though holding an imaginary hat - and put it on top of the pile. I shued the cards back in the deck and shoved the lot in my purse, spilling wine on my skirt in the process.
A card slipped out of the deck as I was putting them back. I turned it over and groaned. The death card again. This time I all but crammed it into the box and shoved my purse, deck and all, under the couch. Fuck you very much, no thanks, I'm good.
I should have taken it for the sign it was and put the kibosh on the whole plan, but I was stupid, drunk, and I get myself in trouble a lot due to those two aforementioned conditions. I sucked down the rest of the wine and decided to start the spell before I lost my nerve, threw up, or both.
Once the phone was propped up and "lming, I held up the paper. “Sloan, you bitch. Look what you've made me do. You didn't believe. And now I'm here, sitting by myself, drunk on a Friday night, and what am I about to do? I'm going to raise the dead.” I winked at the phone and turned back to the paper. A giggle escaped my lips, but suddenly it didn't seem all that funny. My arms were erupting with goosebumps.
I realized, as I began to read, that this was the first time I'd said the words out loud. The spell seemed simplistic; it rhymed, and it seemed so basic somehow. Cheesy or not, though, I couldn't deny the chill creeping up my back. I stubbornly continued anyway, inserting Phillip's name in the last line as I suspected I was supposed to do.
With salt in air and water in veins
I call the pale rider to loosen his reins I call for death to loosen his chains
I call for air to return to the breast
I call for fire to ignite the rest
Let what was earthside return once more Restart the clock, and settle the score Reanimate the dead flesh of man Render Phillip Deville alive again.
As I uttered the last word, the song abruptly stopped, and the lights went out. I was pitched into darkness.