WITH THE BAND • by Alexander Burns

Ike Garrison staggered from his bunk to the small sink on the opposite wall of his cabin, awoken from a fitful sleep by an abrupt jerk of the ship. He grasped the sink to steady himself and felt the unmistakable tremor of a bass guitar through the hull. Was that a sound check?

Ike had not seen another human being in over a month, since leaving Jelier Point at the edge of civilized space. He was one of the few civilians, and the only journalist, who’d ever gone so far from Earth. So far, it had been incredibly dull. The first scheduled show wasn’t for another four days. Ike’s editor had tasked him with producing an article a week during this tour, but so far there had been nothing to write about. The members of the band weren’t talkative when sober, and weren’t coherent during their various states of not-soberness.

The ship lurched again. Something in the distance rattled; Ike suspected the airlock, which had been looking shaky since he came aboard. Outside his cabin viewport, powerful spotlights illuminated the colorful clouds of the Tarantula Nebula. They were playing, and he knew this wasn’t a scheduled stop. An impromptu show and they didn’t wake him. Assholes. Who were they even playing for? Who lived in the Tarantula Nebula?

Ike scooped up his blank computer pad and headed for the observation deck. The melodramatically titled Summoner was at least fifty years old, made before they thought safety belts and anti-proton brakes were a good idea. The captain’s chair was special because it was a bucket seat. The engines shook and rattled and the artificial gravity had a tendency to glitch. Ike would say the food smelled funny, but his nose had already adjusted to the general funk of everything around him, so he didn’t notice.

He heard the familiar opening chords of the performance long before he reached the observation deck. As obsolete and decrepit as the ship was, the sound system was state of the art, turning the entire cruiser into the biggest amp in the galaxy. Ike pounded on the observation deck door a moment before it finally responded and opened with a groan that implied it had been sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic for the past century.

The observation deck was a madhouse. A thousand screaming fans crammed into a space built to hold perhaps three hundred, they jostled shoulder to shoulder, heads tilted back, eyes cast upward in wonder. Most of the audience was Sanduleak, a species whose own planet had been destroyed by a nova almost two hundred thousand years ago. They were extremely thin by human standards, whole generations living aboard space-bourn cities without ever seeing a planet. One of their drifting communities must have floated across Summoner’s path in the last few hours.

Ike squeezed through and found a spot where he could observe and write. Beyond the transparent hull above the crowd, Virtuoso Of The Serious Combat (Ike was assured something was lost in the translation; he would argue that many things were lost in the translation when it came to Virtuoso Of The Serious Combat) rocked their fucking socks off. The band floated on a glowing platform, rooted in place with gravity boots. Their instruments flashed. An elaborate laser show, shimmering in the gravity beams that tethered the platform to the ship, lit up the darkness around them. The Iron Acrobat sent one of his drumsticks spinning into the void but replaced it without missing a beat. The errant drumstick bounced off the observation deck hull, eliciting a roar from the crowd.

The rest of the band was equally demonstrative. Lead singer Eighth Unspeakable Warden screamed into the mic as each of his four arms flailed, occasionally gesturing to one of his bandmates for a solo. The Secret Earl That Grasps fell to her knees and shredded on a fifteen-string guitar. Brilliance of the Canyon serenely plunked away on the bass. Brilliance of the Canyon’s vat brother, Billy, grinned from ear to nasal cavity as he pounded the keys of his keyboard.

The Secret Earl that Grasps’s solo abruptly ended and the band fell into a dramatic pause. Eighth Unspeakable Warden flipped off the Tarantula Nebula, and from the back of the platform a bright burst of energy spat toward the nearby clouds. A hush fell over the crowd.

The nebula ignited in horrific fiery glory. As the hydrogen and plasma of the nearby clouds exploded into brilliant shades that Ike wasn’t sure his human eyes were supposed to register, the band resumed their song.

The crowd stared in stunned silence at the burning nebula for a few seconds. Then they went insane with delight.

Ike felt the ship shift beneath him as the Summoner began its retreat from this doomed sector of space. He smiled and bent to his notepad. He had his story. Humanity had attained the stars, conquered inhospitable environments, settled worlds, and retrieved probes from black holes. But of all their accomplishments, rock had gone the farthest.

Alexander Burns lives in Fort Worth, TX. He writes because he doesn’t have a basement in which to build robots or time machines. His work has appeared at Every Day Fiction, A Thousand Faces, 10Flash, The Future Fire, and Big Pulp.

This story was sponsored by
Camilla d’Errico: A character designer and artist who dances on the tightrope between pop surrealist art and manga inspired graphics. Explore her paintings, characters and comics: Tanpopo, BURN and Helmetgirls.

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Every Day Fiction

  • I enjoyed this imaginatively written space story; besides I love rock music! 🙂

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Hi, Alexander. As a one-time rock musician and on-going space junkie I loved parts of this – I wanted to love all of it. I was hooked in by the idea and the atmosphere, but IMO an excess of enthusiasm over craftsmanship in this version lets it down. For example, does that third paragraph add anything? Who cares about the captain’s chair, and the safety belts etc?

    I feel certain that a good clear-headed edit will bring it from its present potential into a truly stunning piece.


    😉 scar

  • Thanks, Oscar. I felt the descriptions of the ship added to the atmosphere that our narrator finds himself in. I would say the lifestyle surrounding rock is just as important a part of the culture as the music itself.

  • Rock and Roll will never die.

    Funny story, Alex. 😉

  • Jen

    Like Oscar, I enjoyed parts of this. Specifically the end when the ship blew from all the sound. Good idea.

  • Elizabeth Perfect

    I really liked this one, the ending made me smile.
    5 stars.

  • I like the melding of rock music and speculative fiction presented here. It’s lighthearted and fun. The only thing I had trouble with was with the lack of spacing between some paragraphs.

    Stealing a little bit from Seinfeld, I believe, you have to figure that since we went to the moon and played golf and drove a car around, exporting rock music to other worlds makes sense.

  • Margie

    ROCK ON! 🙂

  • Great story, Alex. I really enjoyed it!

    This line made me laugh the most: “The captain’s chair was special because it was a bucket seat.” I had a total Captain Kirk moment. 🙂

  • gay

    Love it!! And I have no problem–being an avid “vivid-details” person–with the third paragraph. It builds the scenes and sets us up for the end paragraph about being in a beater in a “doomed sector of space.”

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  • Kate Thornton

    Fun, fun fun! Thanks for a great start to the morning, Alex!

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  • Joyinthewind

    This was pivotal, it brought back that tremendous rush you get at a concert: “The crowd stared in stunned silence at the burning nebula for a few seconds. Then they went insane with delight.”

    It seems to me your characters are always solid and independent. To me it comes off as sterile and minimalist on the amount of characters your willing to introduce to the reader, so I was trilled to read: “A thousand screaming fans crammed into a space built to hold perhaps three hundred, they jostled shoulder to shoulder, heads tilted back, eyes cast upward in wonder.”

  • Made about as much sense to me as anything else connected with rock music – that is to say, NONE! The attempts to make it read like science fiction seemed to be just thrown in sort of at random. Sorry, this just seemed to be a confused and confusing mess with no particular point.

  • Enjoyed the story and liked the idea but it did feel overly done, too much enthusiasm is probably right.

  • All right, everyone off Jim’s lawn.

  • Sandra D.

    You did a great job with the band characters–I felt like they really came alive for me in all their freaky alien glory! Lots of great imagery all around.

    Really enjoyed this one!

  • Sandra D.

    Also, Mr. Jim Hartley, how can you fairly rate a story if you’re already going to start off being biased? Your comment seems to be directed toward the part of society that likes a certain type of music, not the piece of fiction itself. Do you also go to the websites of bands and tell them they don’t make sense simply because that’s not your preferred type? I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that I feel the same about the type of music you listen to as you do toward rock music. Just note how I don’t bother to insult it.

  • Nice, grounded angle on SciFi for those of us who aren’t deep into the genre!

  • I enjoyed this one, Alex. Rock on! 🙂

  • I love the lo-fi, grungy Firefly take on space travel here, and anti-proton brakes sound great, and probably worth having! Just when I think I’ve finally grown old enough to call myself ‘mature’, something like this comes along to dispel the illusion.

    The band names are just staggeringly wonderful; I’m thinking of changing mine to Fourth Ribbon of Metal Fire or Dancing Porcupine Fingers. Thanks for the funnybone tickle.

  • Holly

    This just didn’t work for me. I like Sci-fi, I like music, but I spent most of my reading time waiting for explanations, like who were the other people on the ship if not humans?

    It was good, but not grabbing.

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