Blood Note

📅 Published on November 21, 2023

“Blood Note”

Written by Sylvester Barzey
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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“It was the biggest night of their lives, the grand finale of their first world tour taking place in Atlanta. The music blared, the crowd went wild, and they stood on the stage as rock gods,” he whispered.

Artificial flames flickered in the cool night air, casting an eerie glow. Soft pops and crackles created a sinister backdrop for a story that had been passed down through the years. I first heard it from my older sister, then at summer camp, but nobody could tell it quite like Jonathan. The kid had a knack for spinning tall tales.

Jonathan placed his hands near the fake fire, rubbing them together briskly as he continued, “Blood Note and their lead singer, Alex Ryder, had the world at their mercy…” Jonathan leaned back in his folding chair and snapped his fingers at me. “Hey! Pass me a s’more,” he commanded.

I chuckled and glanced at Maxwell, who had chocolate smeared across his chin. “This fool better be talking to you,” I said.

Max shook his head, waving his burnt marshmallow back and forth to cool it down. With a smile, he popped the white, gooey treat into his mouth. “Nope!” he replied.

“Come on!” Jonathan pleaded.

I rolled my eyes and handed him the last s’more that sat on my plate, waiting to be devoured. “Here, but no more interruptions. Finish the story,” I insisted.

He took a large bite, and the chocolate wonder crumbled around his lips. My gaze shifted to my empty plate, and I sighed as Jonathan licked his fingers and resumed his tale.

“Every song… no, every note seemed as if it were meticulously crafted by a higher power. In fact, they were the ‘Gods of Rock ‘n’ Roll.’ Their energy was otherworldly, their allure unmatched,” Jonathan said, devouring the last remnants of the s’more.

Blood Note was my favorite band; in fact, they were everyone’s favorite band. They were like The Beatles or Michael Jackson— something that only comes around once in a lifetime. Something you have to see before it’s gone.

“People say Alex made a pact with the devil for his fame. Nobody wants to believe it, but it fits perfectly. A young nobody fresh off a Georgia farm, shows up in L.A. and fills in for a sick singer, rewriting rock history with every word that leaves his lips. That kind of thing doesn’t happen; not to people like you and me. Within two years, Blood Note was everywhere; you couldn’t turn on a radio or TV without hearing them. They had hit after hit, and were in talks of making a movie after their tour. They were burning bright, but everything that burns bright also burns fast. Alex learned that the hard way, and he also learned that the Devil always collects.” Jonathan said.

“My mom said that Alex was living on borrowed time. She said he knew his days were numbered, which is why-” Jonathan interrupted Maxwell’s eager statement by flicking a pebble into Maxwell’s melted marshmallows.

“Did she mention that before or after she engaged in extracurricular activities with our gym teacher?” Jonathan interjected. “I’m the one telling the story here, fat boy,” he said.

We all exchanged glances for a moment, until Maxwell leaned forward and stuffed the marshmallow into his mouth, pebble and all. He swallowed it with a gulp, then thumped his chest and burped.

“Tasty,” Maxwell said, and we burst into laughter.

Jonathan wiped away tears from his eyes and continued, “Legend has it that after the show, Alex retreated to his private studio in his sprawling mansion in Atlanta. That’s where he recorded his first solo song, ‘The Old Man,’ a haunting tale of Alex selling his soul. The song possessed such power that the devil himself didn’t want it heard. So, he came for Alex that very night. The song remains lost to the world, and Alex Ryder perished with his blood-stained guitar in his hands, leaving behind a note that read, ‘The devil made me do it.'”

Jonathan had a way of captivating us with his storytelling. Something about his delivery kept us hanging on his every word, and both Maxwell and I were eagerly waiting for more. But none came. We stared at him for a moment, then I burst into laughter.

“Bullshit!” I said.

Jonathan laughed and placed his hand over his heart, “I swear! The devil killed him!” he insisted.

Maxwell and I stood up. “Alex died from a drug overdose. There was no bloody guitar or any of that shit,” Maxwell retorted as we began making our way back to the house.

Jonathan grabbed his flashlight and rolled his eyes. “Because you were there, right, lard ass?” Jonathan jibed.

Maxwell spun around to face Jonathan. He had been struggling with his weight all his life, but this year his father had been pressuring him to lose some pounds. He was being sent to a camp for healthy choices, which was just a nice way of saying fat camp.

“Screw you, Jonny! I’m not fat!” Max shouted, then turned and walked into the house. We stood there for a moment, then burst into laughter before following him inside.

“Take it easy, Max,” I said, slinging my arm around his shoulder. “Jonathan’s just mad that his story doesn’t make any sense,” I said with a grin.

Jonathan rolled his eyes as he retrieved the sodas from the fridge. He placed them on the counter one by one and looked at us.

“Alright, if I’m so full of it, what about the song?” he challenged.

“What song?” I replied.

I snatched the cold can and popped it open, turning it upside down. I chugged it like I had been searching for its sweet liquid for my entire life, which is kind of true.  Soda had been banned at my house this month; my mom was on some kind of diet, and unfortunately, the rest of us had to follow suit. I despised diets; it felt like they were designed to slowly kill people, which is probably why the word ‘die’ is in it.

“The song he was working on before he died. Where is it?” Jonathan asked.

I chuckled, “Maybe he didn’t get around to finishing or even starting the song because, well, he died?” I retorted.

Max started choking on his soda, spitting some of it out as he burst into laughter.

“What the hell, fat boy?” Jonathan said.

Max nodded, still laughing, “That’s true! He overdosed. I doubt there even is a song.”

Jonathan whipped out his phone and pulled up a video. “What’s this?” I asked.

He pushed play and Max and I leaned in, “Is it the song?” Max asked.

Jonathan nodded. “Yes, Max, I have the world’s most valuable song just sitting on my phone! It’s an interview with his girlfriend, Melody.” Jonathan explained.

On the screen, a dirty blonde with ice-blue eyes stared right at us. I felt trapped in her gaze. She didn’t utter a single word, but I knew I would follow her into hell if she asked.

“She’s got some tits on her, huh?” Max said. My head turned towards him, and I smacked his soda, causing it to splash into the sink. Jonathan laughed, and I redirected my attention to the screen.

Her voice had a husky, Southern twang to it. I smiled. “Is she a singer too?” I asked.

Max patted me on the back. “Uh-oh, Richie’s in love. Do you have her number? Maybe her address, a list of all her recent whereabouts in the last 24 hours? You know how Richie likes to know everything about his girls,” Max teased.

Jonathan stopped the video and laughed, “You’re a dick, Max. Richie likes to know everything about everything,” he said.

I closed my eyes, not fighting the truth. It was accurate. I had an insatiable need to know things—it was just a part of who I was. It creeped out girls and annoyed everyone else, but I couldn’t help it.

“But she was last seen with Alex Ryder. She’s buried right next to him,” Jonathan revealed.

“Wait! She’s dead?” I asked.

Max leaned on the counter. “That’s messed up. You were mentally banging a dead girl,” he said, sounding disgusted.

I turned my head towards him, a puzzled expression on my face. “Shut the hell up.” Then I redirected my gaze to Jonathan. “She’s dead?” I asked.

Jonathan nodded solemnly. “Yeah, she hanged herself the night after that interview. She said she wanted to hear Alex one last time,” Jonathan explained, and he pressed play on the video.

Silence engulfed the kitchen, broken only by the eerie static emanating from Jonathan’s cell phone. The video playing was ancient, dating back to 1992 when Alex took his own life and Melody followed suit. Resting my hands under my chin, I leaned in, captivated by Melody’s words.

“No, No,” she said softly. “He wasn’t anything like that. Alex was sweet and beautiful-” The reporter’s laughter cut Melody’s statement short.

“Sweet is a stretch, don’t you think? We’re talking about Alex Ryder!” the reporter interjected, leaning closer as the camera zoomed in on Melody’s face. Once again, his words filled the air, “Come on now, Melody. Are we supposed to believe that Alex Ryder, the bad boy of Rock ‘n’ Roll, was really the boyfriend of the year?” Melody’s gaze shifted downward, her hands twisting and folding a napkin throughout the entire ordeal. The reporter’s tone softened. “Melody…”

She raised her head, her blue eyes seemingly locking with the camera, and I felt as though she was staring directly at me. I knew it was just a video, but there was an eerie sensation that she could crawl out of the screen and claim my soul. Overwhelmed, she covered her face with her hands, tears streaming down. We were spectators to the unraveling of a broken heart.

I shook my head and walked over to the living room when I heard her sultry whisper, “He wasn’t perfect, but even the Devil had wings.”

I turned, and our eyes met briefly before the screen faded to black. I wasn’t sure if the warm feeling that was engulfing me was love or me pissing myself. I couldn’t deny her haunting beauty, even though she had been dead for the past three decades; making her more haunting than beautiful.

“So, his groupie gave an interview,” Maxwell spoke up, his mouth full of marshmallow. “What the hell does that have to do with his song?” he asked.

“Where the hell are you pulling those out from? Your ass?” Jonathan asked.

I chuckled softly, feeling uneasy, as I laid my blanket on the living room floor. Jonathan combed his fingers through his curly, brown hair, pocketing his phone before walking away.

“It’s not the interview, it’s what she did after it,” Jonathan explained.

“Kill herself?” Maxwell asked.

“No, fat boy!”Jonathan snapped.

Before we could react, the staircase lights flicked on, and Jonathan’s father shouted, “You little brats better get your butts in bed! It’s 2 am! I’ve got work in the morning.”

We exchanged glances and burst into laughter. Maxwell rolled out his sleeping bag, and I settled on the floor with a blanket and a pillow. Jonathan claimed the couch, showing no concern for hospitality or treating guests right. In his world, he was the alpha, and we were his pack.

“When Alex died, he left everything to Melody, and before she took her own life, she ordered that all his money be used to keep the mansion standing,” Jonathan whispered.

“Yeah, it’s near Piedmont Park. I pass by it when I go to Little League,” I chimed in.

“What’s it like?” Maxwell asked.

“Kind of creepy, but it’s still standing. It’s got a shit ton of vines on it and some broken windows,” I replied.

“Well, at least her last wishes were honored,” Maxwell commented.

“No one can enter. It’s meant to remain there forever, without a soul stepping inside,” Jonathan added.

“And I’ll ask again, what the hell does that have to do with the song?” Maxwell muttered.

Jonathan rolled over in the darkness, his face hidden from view. However, I knew he wore a million-dollar grin as he spoke, “If no one can go in, fat ass, that means-“

“It’s still in the house,” Maxwell and I chimed in simultaneously.

Jonathan chuckled and rolled over. “The geniuses have finally entered the chat,” he teased.

It was a random sleepover conversation among three naive kids. If I had known that our words that night would unleash the chaos that followed, I would never have set foot in Jonathan’s house. But if everyone could predict their mistakes in advance, life would be hella boring.

* * *

It was Wednesday night, and my coach always scheduled late practices on Wednesdays. My mom believed it was an excuse for him to come home at midnight, blaming the team when he was actually seeing the frozen yogurt girl down the street from the park. She had mentioned it more than once, just not to me. Usually, it was directed at some other player’s mom before the game started. Sorry, I’m getting off track here. It was late, and my mom asked Coach Mayfield to give me a ride home.

“Kid, why don’t you take a few laps around the block? Swing by the yogurt shop, say around ten?” Coach whispered.

I stared for a while, perhaps too long, as he snapped his fingers, questioning if I was paying attention. I wasn’t, as my focus had shifted to the sidewalk across the street. There, in his worn-out blue jeans and tattered Braves t-shirt, stood Jonathan.

“Hey! Are you going to give me any problems?” Coach shouted.

My head snapped toward Coach Mayfield, and I shook it vigorously. “No sir! I’ll be the best little alibi I can be, sir! You can count on me, sir!” I shouted, clicking my heels together in a mock salute.

Coach rolled his eyes and walked off towards his car, “Ten!” he hollered.

“Yeah, yeah,” I mumbled to myself, before turning my attention back to Jonathan or where he had been, because when I looked at the sidewalk again, he had vanished. I dashed across the street, extending my hand as if it could protect me from the road rage maniacs determined to turn me into a pancake. With some luck and a couple of prayers, I made it safely to the other side. Cupping my hands around my mouth, I called out, “Jonathan!” My hands dropped to my sides as the seconds ticked by without a response. Maybe it wasn’t him.

“Limp dick!” Jonathan’s voice echoed through the street, causing me to whirl around and hope that no one had overheard. There was no one on the street, just passing cars. I sprinted toward his voice, my backpack swinging wildly in the cool night air. Coming to an abrupt stop, my sneakers screeched against the pavement. I stood motionless, staring at the empty sidewalk before me. I caught a glimpse of the streetlights’ glow and slowly took a few steps backward. I wasn’t entirely sure, but out of the corner of my eye, I swore I saw him.

It was a fleeting white blur, and I would have missed it if not for his haunting smile. It stretched from ear to ear, a smile I had never seen on his face before. Jonathan smiled occasionally; he wasn’t some emo ‘death to happiness’ kind of guy. But this was different, so different that I fought an internal battle not to turn my head. Thoughts screamed at me, ‘Run. Run back to the park. Hell, run to the damn yogurt shop if you have to! Just don’t look.’

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost or something?” Jonathan asked, his voice swimming in curiosity.

I chuckled and shook my head. Dropping my gear to the ground, I disregarded the fear welling up inside me and turned to face Jonathan, who stood on the other side of a massive black gate. His arms were crossed, and he wore a puzzled expression.

“You alright, man?” he inquired, concern evident in his voice.

Nodding, I removed my ball cap, running my hand over my black waves. “Just tired,” I replied, taking a step back to examine the imposing gate that separated us. Despite its age and rust, it stood tall. My gaze focused on the faded gold letters above the chipped black paint, spelling out “A.R.” I whispered the letters to myself, extending my hand to touch the cursive inscription.

As my fingertips lightly grazed the cool metal, a chill coursed through my body. My hand quickly came back. Shuddering, I attempted to shake off the eerie sensation.

Jonathan burst into laughter, and I responded by defiantly flipping him the bird. He reached out, rattling the gate with his hands. The metallic clatter echoed through the night, causing me to place my hands on the gate to keep it steady.

“What the hell, Jonathan?” I hissed, my voice barely above a whisper.

“What?” he asked.

“You trying to let the entire city know you’re here?” I snapped back.

Jonathan rolled his eyes. “Whatever, you coming or not?” he asked.

“How did you get over there?” I asked.

Jonathan slid his hands into his pockets and grinned, “How do you think?” He teased.

Once again, my eyes surveyed the imposing gate, and I shook my head. “Nope,” I whispered.

Laughter erupted as Jonathan mocked me. “Don’t be a little chicken shit. It’s not that high,” he taunted.

Rubbing the back of my neck, I stared at the pointed metal bars of the gate. My gaze shifted back to Jonathan. “Black boy dies during B&E isn’t a headline my mom wants to see in the morning. Besides, my coach is waiting for me at-” I began, but he cut me off.

“I found it.” Jonathan whispered. He said it so softly that it took a moment for the message to process in my head.

“You found it?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said with a mischievous grin spreading across his face.

“You found it!” I exclaimed, my heart racing.

“Shut the hell up!” Jonathan shouted, “Get your ass in here. It’s stuck in the recorder and I need help to get it out.” he said.

He found it! He found it! The last song created by a rock god was just one high-ass climb away. Rolling my shoulders, I dashed forward, leaping into the air. My body collided with the metal gate, and again the rattle of the gate took over the night. I glanced down at Jonathan, who was waving his hands frantically hurrying me along. I strained and grunted, ascending like a determined squirrel chasing a nut. My hand gripped the spear-headed tips of the gate, only to be met with a searing pain. When I pulled back, I felt the quick tear of my skin.

“Son-of-a-bitch!” I shouted.

Glancing at my right hand, as a stream of dark red ran down my arm, quickly staining the white sleeves of my uniform. Attempting to close my hand, the searing pain prevented it, forcing my palm to remain open. I could see raw, crimson flesh protruding from my injured palm.

“Hurry the fuck up!” Jonathan shouted.

“I cut my hand, asshole!” I hollered back, looking down at Jonathan’s irritated face. I rolled my eyes and pushed through the climb with only one hand. This time I avoided the death arrows and maneuvered between them.

“Aim for the grass,” Jonathan advised. Following his instruction, I dropped onto the high grassy lawn of the rock god’s domain, lying there and staring up at the starry night sky. The pain in my hand intensified, and the blood caused the grass to stick to my arm. My uniform was ruined, and my coach would give me hell, but the wrath of my mom would far worse. But none of that mattered at that moment… Because he found it!

“You okay?” Jonathan asked, extending his hand to help me up.

I rolled my eyes and sat up, “I’m fine, you ass hat. You could have warned me those things were sharp.” Slowly, I turned my hand over, feeling my skin tighten as excruciating pain surged through me. Closing my eyes, I bit down on my lip.

“God damn! That thing got you good, man,” said Jonathan.

Peeking through my right eye, I could only make out a blurry image of red. I mustered the courage to fully open my eyes and saw the flap of bloody skin hanging from what remained of my palm.

“Oh, shit!” I cried.

My trembling finger pushed the flap of flesh back into my palm, causing Jonathan to avert his gaze to avoid the gushing river of blood.

“Wrap it up with something, that thing is nasty,” Jonathan suggested.

Using my left hand, I removed my jersey, slowly pulling it over my head. Tearing it apart, I gently wrapped the fabric around my injured hand, closing my eyes as I tightened the white cloth around the bloody wound. Finally, I rose to my feet.

“My mom is gonna kill me,” I muttered, examining the torn and bloodstained fabric of my uniform. It looked like I got mugged outside of Georgia Tech. Which I decided was going to be my story if someone asked me. “These things are expensive,” I added.

Jonathan waved dismissively at my words as he headed toward the steps of the house. “Once we get this song, you can buy that lousy little team,” he said, grinning.

We stood side by side, gazing at the cracked stone steps that led to a weathered door. The house exuded the essence of 90s rock, with its extravagant features and badass vibe. Two worn and chipped gargoyles stood tall beside the steps, while stained glass windows showcased faded, dark colors and intricate patterns. On the left side of the yard, a naked woman enveloped in rose vines stood proudly, her thorn-inflicted cuts oozing a now-faded shade of dark red.

Guarding the right side of the yard was a large depiction of a monstrous man, wielding two hammers above his head to form an X. At his feet lay another image of the same figure, pierced by railroad spikes and lying in a faded pool of blood. This window had a large hole in it by the right hammer, most likely done by a kid like me. Someone too scared to tell his friends he just wanted to go home and forced himself to do something stupid.

“You coming?” Jonathan asked.

His words ripped me from my internal thoughts and tossed me back into this reality of fear and pain. I clenched my hand, hoping to force the stinging from my flesh, even if it was just for a moment.

Glancing at Jonathan, who had already ascended the stairs to the front porch, I muttered, “Yeah, yeah, my fucking hand hurts.”

“You want to head back home?” Jonathan asked.

As I climbed the stone steps, I genuinely contemplated his question. I could turn back and get chewed out by my coach and my mom, or I could continue, risk blood poisoning, get chewed out anyway, and be rewarded with the final ballad of a legend. The choice was undeniably difficult.

“Hell no, I don’t want to go home!” I shouted.

Jonathan laughed, and as I joined him, he playfully bowed. “Well then, after you, good sir,” he said.

“Thank you, kind sir,” I chuckled, grabbing the doorknob with my good hand. The cool metal twisted, and I heard the satisfying click of the door. Giving it a push, I watched as the door moved slightly, revealing a narrow gap through which I could catch a glimpse of the mansion’s interior. “It’s stuck,” I remarked.

“What?” Jonathan said, and he ran his shoulder into the door. I heard a thump, but the only thing that moved was Jonathan, who tumbled back onto his ass. I burst into laughter, “Shut the hell up!” Jonathan shouted, dusting himself off and rising to his feet. “That’s weird,” he said.

“It’s an old house; the hinges are probably just stuck and need some oil or something,” I reasoned, leaning closer to the gap and pressing my face against the wood. Moonlight spilled onto the bottom steps of the staircase, but I couldn’t see anything else. I pushed against the door again, but it still wouldn’t budge.

“No,” Jonathan whispered, running his fingers through his unruly brown curls. After a pause, he continued, “That’s how I got in.” My head turned slowly towards him, and I noticed his confused expression and pale complexion, as if he was about to be sick.

“Are you alright?” I asked.

“Yeah man, it’s just freaky, that’s all. Come on, we can get in through the basement.” Jonathan took off down the steps, motioning for me to follow, “That’s where the studio is, anyway.” He said.

My attention turned back to the gap in the door, leaning in once again to catch a glimpse. The moonlight shined on the staircase and I leaned in closer to see if I could get a look at what was jamming the door.  A sudden breeze grazed my eyelashes, causing me to blink. Before I could reopen my eyes, the door forcefully slammed into my head.

“Son of a bitch,” I exclaimed, gripping the point of impact. I glanced at the closed door, then back at the path Jonathan had taken towards the back of the house. My hand was throbbing with pain, and now I had a nice knot on the side of my head. Tonight was becoming quite the adventure. I took off down the steps and dashed through the yard until I almost collided with Jonathan, just barely stopping myself from knocking him over.

Jonathan wore that infuriating shit-eating grin again. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” he asked.

“Damn door busted me in the head,” I grumbled. Jonathan rolled his eyes and turned toward the open basement door—or was it a cellar? I had no idea what rich people called their lower floors. Leaving me standing in the tall grass, Jonathan proceeded into the house.

“Stop messing around and get in here,” Jonathan called back. I watched as he disappeared into the darkness beyond the cellar door. Hesitation engulfed me; if I were to be honest, it had plagued me since I left the park. Lowering my hand from my throbbing head, I took a few hesitant steps toward the doorway.

“Jonathan?” I whispered, but there was no response. The air hung still, devoid of any sound except for the drum solo of my own heart. Taking another step closer to the dark abyss of the cellar, I called his name once more, “Jonathan!”

This time, the cellar door creaked open wider, as if preparing to consume me like a snake devouring its prey. Closing my eyes and shaking my head, I mustered the courage to step into the darkness, following Jonathan’s lead. My footsteps reverberated as I descended the stone steps. The moment my foot touched the floor, I felt the suffocating embrace of the darkness.

“Jonathan! What the fuck?” I exclaimed, slowly turning to catch one final glimpse of the light before proceeding. Yet, all I saw was Jonathan, standing there, staring at me with that shit-eating grin. I jumped back, and a faint, eerie cackle escaped Jonathan’s lips—a dry, unsettling laugh that made me uneasy. Not like, he might steal my wallet, uneasy. More like, I don’t want to be trapped in this confined space with him, uneasy. “What the hell are you laughing at?” I asked and as the words left my lips; I could swear I saw his eyes go completely black.

The lights flicked on, revealing Jonathan standing near the light switch across the room. Startled, I turned my head back to the door, only to find no one standing between me and the steps.

“You okay, man?” Jonathan asked.

“Am I okay?” I shouted before walking over to him. “What the fuck was that all about? I’m sick of you laughing at me all the time! My head hurts, my hand’s cut up. I look like shit, and all you do is fucking laugh!” I unleashed my pent-up anger.

Jonathan raised his hands in defense, his face devoid of any smile. “Calm down. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

I pointed towards the doorway. “Popping up and trying to scare the shit out of me, that’s what I’m talking about.” Jonathan’s eyes followed my finger, and then he looked back at me and I noticed his eyes widen slightly. “What?” I asked, confused.

“Your head is bleeding pretty badly,” Jonathan said.

I raised my hand and felt the warm, familiar sensation of blood. “Just great,” I muttered, bringing my hand down to examine the blood dripping from my fingers.

“Maybe we should go. You’re not looking too good,” Jonathan suggested.

My eyes rolled, and I hissed, “I could say the same about you.” I took a quick look around the fully finished basement, noting the dusty leather chairs, movie screen, and a large white dog statue that resembled something I’d find at my Grandma’s yard sale. Jonathan’s gaze remained fixed on me until my head snapped to face him. He began walking down a hallway. “It’s this way,” he said.

I felt kinda bad about snapping on him, but what was I to think? He had been acting weird the whole night.  I placed my hand on my head, wincing at the sting as my finger brushed the wound. Clearly, I had hit my head harder than I had initially thought.

“Sorry, man,” I apologized as I caught up with Jonathan. He turned around, forcing a weak smile.

“It’s cool, man. I’d be pissed too, but I’m not trying to fuck with you. I heard the song, and it was iconic!” Jonathan shouted.

The door swung open, revealing a room with a large glass window that offered a view into a booth equipped with a microphone and a guitar leaning in the corner. On our side of the glass, there was old-looking black equipment and large boxes that appeared to contain reels. The place was filled with an eerie stillness. I stepped into the room and ran my finger across the layer of dust.

“This is insane,” I muttered.

“You haven’t seen anything yet,” Jonathan replied, rushing over to one of the black seats and examining the large control board with its array of buttons and levers.

“Have you told Max?” I asked. He extended his hand, flicking a switch and turning a dial. The large reels began spinning, and a faint buzzing sound filled the air. I turned around, searching for the source of the noise, and noticed two large speakers mounted in the top corners of the room.

“No, there’s no service in this place,” Jonathan responded.

Panic swept over me as I spun around. No signal meant no calls or texts. I was in deep trouble if the coach tried to reach me. Worse yet, if my mom called the coach and he had to admit, ‘Well, I’m not entirely sure where he is.’

“I’m fucking-” I tried to voice my frustration, but the words got stuck in my throat. My muscles tensed, and I felt the hairs on my body stand on end as my eyes registered what was before me. Bloody handprints slapped against the glass. Something had destroyed the control board, leaving it in shambles. Jonathan stood there, grinning at me, but this time, there was no mistaking it. His eyes were pitch-black, and blood streamed from his mouth. He opened his lips, and a river of red cascaded down his shirt.

“You want to see some real crazy shit?” he said, but it didn’t sound like Jonathan. This voice was deep and twisted, unlike anyone I knew. It felt like a chorus of voices, an eerie symphony of whispers. Startled, I frantically moved backward and ended up tripping over my own two feet.

As I struggled to regain my balance, Jonathan approached me. My heart raced, and I screamed, “Get the fuck away from me!” My hands shot up, shielding myself from the macabre madness unfolding before my eyes.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Jonathan asked, sounding genuinely concerned.

I looked up, peering through my shaky fingers, and saw Jonathan standing there, his green eyes filled with worry. I glanced over at the glass window and found it pristine, devoid of any fingerprints. Jonathan loomed over me, wearing the same concerned expression my mother would have worn if I had lost my mind.

“You okay?” he asked once again.

I slapped my hands along the wall, using it as support to pull myself to my feet. Was I okay? Well, no, aside from being beaten up, I was now hallucinating. I gazed down at my bloodied hand and shook my head.

“Nah, I’m heading home.” I stated, turning towards the door, but Jonathan quickly cut me off, standing in my way with his arms outstretched.

“Hold up, hold up!” He shouted.

“What?” I said.

“You need to hear this song, man. It’s all set up, all I have to do is hit play.” he insisted.

I closed my eyes and let out a deep sigh before reluctantly saying, “Fine.”

As I reopened my eyes, Jonathan was back in the large black chair. I watched as his finger pressed a bright red button, and a smoky voice emanated from the speakers.

“Good or bad, whatever you may see, just remember it wasn’t me. The Devil made me do it,” the voice declared, sending a chilling shiver down my spine. I couldn’t swear that my heart stopped, but I know I held my breath as the voice continued. It was Alex Ryder, speaking to us from beyond the grave, and I loved every second of it. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the guitar kicked in, and the song began.

I saw the raven in the corner.

Crossed the road for the Devil’s daughter.

Far more lost than you’ll ever know.

‘Don’t look back, just let your soul go’

Whispered The Old Man…

Oh no.

But then, a chilling sound interrupted that epic moment. My heart truly stopped this time as I heard my phone ringing. Was it the coach, ready to tear me apart for not meeting him after his late-night snack? Or perhaps my mom, wondering if I died before she could get the chance to kill me for making her worry? My hand instinctively reached for my pocket, pulling out the sleek cell phone. The pain in my chest eased as I saw Maxwell’s name on the screen. I raised my index finger, feeling the sting in my hand as the tightened skin reminded me of the injury. I turned around and brought the phone to my ear.

“Max! You won’t believe this shit-” I started, brimming with excitement.

But Max’s tone and his peculiar question cut my excitement short. “You’ve seen Jonathan?” he asked, his voice laced with worry. Before I could respond, Max continued, “His mom said he hasn’t been home for two days. The cops think he ran away, but he wouldn’t do that without telling us, right?” My head slowly turned to look over my shoulder at Jonathan, who was staring at me with an unsettling gaze. The song had come to a halt, and all I could hear was Max’s voice on the line. “I don’t know, man. Maybe we should go out looking for him?”

“He’s, right here.” I managed to say.

“What? I can’t hear you, man. You’re breaking up.” Max replied.

I turned around, “He’s right-” but before I could utter the last word, Jonathan snatched the phone from my ear and flung it across the room. I watched in disbelief as my once sleek and fancy phone crashed into the wall, shattering into pieces a hoe’s dream of being a housewife.

“What the hell, Jonathan!” I shouted.

Jonathan glared at me, his eyes icy cold, piercing into the depths of my soul. He shook his head, and as if under his command, the cellar door slammed shut, plunging the room into darkness. My head spun around to the sound, but all I could see was a dark abyss. When I turned back to face Jonathan, I stumbled back and Jonathan laughed.

“I brought you here to listen to the voice of a god, and you answer your fucking phone!” Jonathan bellowed, his voice filled with rage.

I shook my head; I don’t know how wide my eyes got, but I felt I couldn’t open them any more if I pried them open with a crowbar.

“Jonathan,” I whispered, my hands trembling as they slowly rose in front of me. My heart pounded relentlessly, uncertainty coursing through my veins.

“What did that fat fuck say? He told you I ran away from home? That my mom’s worried? He’s a fucking liar,” Jonathan scoffed, shaking his head. “The fucker is just jealous that he isn’t here.”

“Jonathan,” I pleaded, my voice barely audible. Fear gripped me tightly, my senses on high alert, but I couldn’t decipher the truth from the terrifying illusions playing before me.

“I told that fat boy to come with me, and he was all, ‘Nah, I can’t. My dad would be pissed,'” Jonathan took a step closer, and I instinctively took a step back, retreating further into the darkness. “But not you, Rich. I knew you wouldn’t back down. You’re my bro ’til the end, right?”

“Jonathan!” I screamed!

“What?” he asked.

“Behind you,” I managed to breathe.

Jonathan turned around cautiously, his eyes searching for the cause of my distress. Yet, like me, he wasn’t prepared for what materialized before us. It stood there, shirtless and covered in blood, a gold inverted crucifix hanging from its neck. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the gory veins dangling from its slashed wrists, pulsating wounds that spewed blood, creating a pool at our feet.

It snapped its head back and black dreads cascaded down onto its body, “Good evening, Atlanta!” It screamed into the air.

“This can’t be happening,” I mumbled. Gradually, its head lowered, and a pair of hazel eyes locked with mine. In that chilling moment, I knew exactly who was turning my blood into a river of ice. It was Alex Ryder, not quite alive, but definitely in person. He wasn’t anything like I remembered, nothing like the poster that hung on my wall. His long iconic dreadlocks resembled filthy, lifeless serpents hanging from his skull. His once vibrant brown skin now bore a dark, weathered umber shade, as if someone had tightly stretched it, causing cracks to ooze with blood.

Alex’s lips parted, and my heart threatened to burst from my chest as I heard him say, “There’s always room for one more fan.”

The voice boomed with its characteristic stage presence, yet there was an eerie quality to it—a haunting essence that split my being into conflicting desires: to flee in terror or to follow him into the depths of hell. But when he spoke again, every fiber of my being screamed for run.

“Always room for one more fan!” he declared in that same demonic tone I had heard before.

“Oh, fuck!” We screamed in unison, and I witnessed Jonathan darting towards the recording studio. My gaze broke away from Ryder’s stare, and I sprinted after Jonathan. Whether it was fear or my baseball reflexes, I swiftly surpassed him, bursting through the open door and racing toward the one adjacent to the glass window. Without slowing down, I yanked the door open. I had no intention of ever looking back. Yet, just then, I heard it.

“Help me!” Jonathan’s scream pierced the air.

I spun around to see Jonathan sprawled face down on the floor, his bloody fingers desperately clawing towards the sound room door. “Help me!” he pleaded once more.

I sprinted back and grasped his hands, striving to lift him to his feet, both of us pushing through the pain of our blood-soaked palms. As I examined the cause of our struggle, I saw two thick, bloody veins wrapped around Jonathan’s ankles. My gaze followed the horrifying trail these veins created until, once again, my eyes locked with Ryder’s.

“Come on, boys! Let’s get a little crazy!” he bellowed.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” I shouted and broke my eyes away from whatever the hell Alex Ryder had become and I pulled Jonathan, but for every inch I cleared, Ryder yanked us back towards him. Before we knew it, we were back at the studio door.

I dropped Jonathan’s bloody hands, “What the fuck!” Jonathan cried. I jumped over Jonathan’s body and grabbed the door.

“Show’s over, you son of a bitch!” I yelled, slamming the door shut on the thick veins, severing them in half. “Get the fuck up!” I demanded, pulling Jonathan to his feet. Together, we rushed into the sound booth, slamming the door shut and locking it behind us.

“What the fuck is going on?” Jonathan shouted. I was too busy scanning the room and having my internal panic attack to give a shit about him.

“Alex Ryder is fucking trying to kill us! That’s what’s happening,” I declared, my eyes scanning the room frantically. There were no ventilation ducts or secret escape routes like in the movies. “We’re screwed,” I hissed

“Alex Ryder is dead!” Jonathan shouted.

I spun around, my finger pointing towards the glass window. “Tell that to—” My words trailed off as my gaze met Ryder’s grinning face on the other side. “Him,” I muttered. Jonathan and I backed up, knocking over a microphone and a bar stool in the process.

Ryder’s hands softly touched the clean glass window, leaving bloody prints as he took his finger and started drawing a circle along the glass. I couldn’t hear anything beyond the glass, but watching his silent laughter was enough to create a lifetime of therapy bills.

“What’s he doing?” I whispered.

“Go fucking ask him!” Jonathan replied. Alex proceeded to draw two more bloody circles within the first one before taking a small step back.

“It’s a bullseye,” I said. My eyes went from the drawing to Ryder, who had his index and thumb out like a gun, mockingly aiming it at us. Then, I heard a faint shattering sound. “No, no, no!” I shouted as the glass beneath the blood began to crack.

Ryder lunged towards the glass, his head aimed directly at the bullseye, his bloody dreadlocks trailing behind him. In panic, I dropped to the floor, covering my head with my hands. My heart raced, and the throbbing pain in my hand and head intensified as I braced myself for the worst. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder, causing me to jolt back, knocking over a white guitar that sat in the corner of the room.

“He’s gone,” Jonathan whispered softly, extending his hand towards me. I stared at his hand, noticing that something had completely torn off his fingernails, they was probably sticking up on the floor somewhere. I retreated until I could rely on the support of the wall to pull myself up.

“Where did he go?” I asked, my eyes fixated on the perfectly intact glass window.

“I don’t know,” Jonathan replied. I rushed towards the door, my trembling hands struggling to unlock it. “What are you doing?” Jonathan asked.

“Getting the hell out of here!” I bolted toward the studio door. My body came to a full stop, as I stood there staring at the door for a moment. I glanced back at Jonathan, who had slowly made his way towards the door of the sound room. Taking a deep breath, I pulled open the door only to be greeted by an empty, dusty basement—the same sight we had seen before. Without wasting any time, we both sprinted towards the cellar door. My hand grasped the doorknob, but no matter how much I turned or pulled, the door remained stubbornly in place.

“Open the damn door, Rich!” Jonathan shouted in frustration.

“I’m trying!” I yelled back.

“Who’s down there?” a voice echoed from the top of the steps that led to the main floor of the mansion. Jonathan and I froze, exchanging uncertain glances. “Hurry! Before he comes back!” the voice urged, its softness managing to offer a sliver of calm amidst the chaos. I darted towards the steps, but Jonathan’s cold, bloodied hand caught hold of me.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

I wriggled free from his grip. “I’m getting out of here, come on!” I shouted.

“We don’t know who the hell is up there,” Jonathan protested.

“Well, we know who’s down here.” I said, and with that, we raced up the stairs, slamming the door shut behind us. Leaning against the door, I took a moment to catch my breath before turning to face a woman with long, black braids standing at the end of the hallway. “Thank you,” I said with relief in my voice.

“We have to hurry!” She shouted. Her back was to us, but her voice seemed so familiar.

“How do we get out of this place?” Jonathan asked.

We ran down the hallway, but with each step we took it felt as if the journey was getting longer. I stopped in my tracks, watching in disbelief as the hallway seemed to stretch out endlessly. Then my gaze fell upon her. She donned cutoff jean shorts that clung tightly to her black fishnet stockings. She had spiked bracelets, a metal chain for a belt, and a dirty white crop top that revealed a tattoo on her lower back. As I read the dark curved letters I realized why her voice was so familiar; stamped on her back read, ‘Property of Alex’.

“Jonathan, it’s Melody!” I shouted.

Melody spun around with crazy speed, her head snapping to the side with a loud crack. That’s when I noticed the bed sheet noose she held in her hands.

“Out?” she hissed. The white noose slowly came up into Jonathan’s view and I watched as he froze in terror. “There’s only one way out!” She screamed, flinging the noose around her own neck. Her icy brown eyes locked onto me, and a sinister smile spread across her face. This was the third time I locked eyes with death. Melody tugged on the rope., “Going up?” she taunted.

We witnessed in horror as her neck snapped and the noose yanked her body into the air. Her legs thrashed, and her body convulsed until she disappeared from our sight.

“Oh, shit!” Jonathan shouted before darting down another hallway. This had to be a nightmare, I told myself. It was the only explanation for the horrors we were experiencing. My heart tightened within my chest, and I placed a trembling hand over it, gripping it tightly. If I were a few years older, I might have thought the sharp jolts of pain, meant I was having a heart attack. Maybe I was.

“Jonathan!” I called out as I turned the corner, realizing he hadn’t gotten too far. Jonathan stood completely motionless near the end of a staircase, not even his chest was moving, it was as if he had forgotten how to breathe. “Jonathan,” I whispered, slowly approaching him. When I reached his side, I understood what kept him frozen in place. There was a lifeless body lying in a pool of blood by the front door.

“That’s why the door wouldn’t open,” Jonathan whispered. I began walking towards the body, but Jonathan’s hand tightened on my shoulder. “Don’t! It could be them messing with us again,” he warned.

Nevertheless, I continued my approach, sensing that this body was different from Ryder or Melody. It appeared smaller and still. As I drew closer, my hand covered my nose, I gagged at the putrid stench of rotten decaying flesh.

“Call the police,” I whispered urgently.

“What?” Jonathan asked, confused.

I turned back and shouted, “Call the police!”

“I can’t,” he replied softly.

“You can still call 911 without service, Jonathan,” I hissed, frustration seeping into my voice.

I knelt down, the blood stained what was left of my white uniform. This body was new. This one didn’t belong here with whatever was chasing us through this mansion of hell. I placed my hand on its shoulder and gently turned it over. As the body tumbled, I fell backward, landing on my rear. The eyes were missing, brutally gouged out with something sharp and jagged. The mouth was frozen open in a scream. Despite the grotesque face, I recognized who it was. “Jonathan?” I said puzzled.

“I can’t let you leave, Rich,” a demonic voice echoed from behind me. Slowly, I turned my head to glance over my shoulder. A pale, black-eyed Jonathan grinned menacingly at me. “You’ve got to stay and party with us! Forever!” he shouted.

Jonathan was dead. He had been dead for days now, and this abomination had tricked me into entering this house of horrors. It played me like a God damn game boy. Leaping over Jonathan’s lifeless body, I reached for the door, desperate to escape.

“Where are you going, Rich?” the demonic voice bellowed. I refused to look back. I couldn’t look back. This was my chance to break free. Kicking Jonathan’s body aside, I yanked the door open.

“You ready to rock!” Ryder screamed.

I found myself face-to-face with pure evil. Staring into those abyss-like black eyes, I felt the presence of the Devil himself. Fear and panic coursed through my veins, but before I could run or scream, Ryder rammed the spiked neck of his guitar into my chest, hoisting my body into the air.

“There’s always room for one more!” He screeched.

* * *

The city didn’t go into much of a panic over our disappearance. Kids went missing every day,  most people believed Coach was involved. So, when they arrested him, everyone thought that was the end. Open and shut case, just how Atlanta likes them. No one paid attention to Max when he claimed to have spoken to me or that Jonathan had invited him to explore Ryder’s old mansion. Nobody listened, so Max, being the loyal friend he was, came looking for us.

“What are you doing here, Max?” I whispered from the mansion’s top window.

“How the fuck did his fat ass get over that gate?” Jonathan asked.

“He picked the lock.” Melody replied softly.

“Smart,” Jonathan and I said simultaneously.

“Well, let’s go greet him,” Jonathan declared, turning away from the window and venturing further into the darkness of the room. Melody slowly followed behind him. Meanwhile, I remained fixated on Max, who was slowly making his way up the stone steps.

“We don’t have to, we can just pretend we didn’t see him,” I whispered.

Suddenly, I felt a hand rest on my shoulder. “That would be rude,” Ryder said, leaning in close. Our eyes, black and intense, locked as he grinned. “Besides, there’s always room for one more fan!”

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Sylvester Barzey
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Sylvester Barzey

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Author's Notes: N/A

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