Fiction, Original Fiction

The Post-Mortem Players

Melinoë took Angela’s hand in hers and pulled her towards the source of the terrifying sound. It seemed to be coming from a corner room. Sure enough, when they entered the chamber, Angela saw an arresting sight. There was a drumkit in the middle of the room, or rather several drumkits, and in the very center was a creature that seemed to have a hundred arms, most of which were beating time in a kind of fractal rhythm that Angela felt in her face rather than heard with her ears.

 

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Standing nearby was a solid looking man with long dark hair and solemn features who seemed to be carved from darkness except for his eye-whites, which were more correctly eye-yellows. His mouth was open in an ‘o’ and the sound emerging was variously like the chittering of millions of bats, the crash of surf echoing in an rock tunnel, the screams of bereaved mothers and the sudden cracking of an Antarctic ice shelf. Next to him was a kind of blue cloud – a constantly shifting shape whose rhythmic movements seemed to create deep and deeply unpleasant bass notes that shook Angela’s bones.  Nearby, nodding his head up and down appreciatively, was a long-haired guy wearing what looked like white face-paint and a black cross on his face. And joining in now and then with a blood-curdling yodel was a skeletal looking boy whose bare torso was decorated with triangular red scratches.

As usual when confronted with anything weird, Angela pulled out her smartphone and started recording the spectacle. A kind of gas started seeping up through the floorboards and a group of demons started dancing to the rhythms—trying to murder each other, but in a jerky, stylized manner.

 

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This might have gone on for ten minutes or an hour, Angela wasn’t sure. When she looked at the recording time it said 5.22, which shocked her. The end of the song seemed to leave the air in tatters and everyone emerged as if from the fog of war.

“Praises, Lord Erebos!” Melinoë said cheerfully to the singer. “What a delightful tune. Is it new?”

“Yes, we wrote it today,” Erebos rumbled.

“I wanted to show you Angelia, Hera’s daughter, she’s just back from an exchange program with the Overworld.”

“Hi,” Angela smiled shyly.

“Praises,” said Erebos, “Let me introduce you to the band. Over there on the drums is Briareus—he’s a Hundred-Hands, as you can probably tell. Then this,” he motioned at the long-haired mortal. “Is Øystein Aarseth. He’s from a place called Norway. He’s sort of our musical guru.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Angela said politely.

 

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Aarseth glared not at her but at the wall, like a cat.

“After he died he went to Christian Hell first” Erebos explained, “But there was some trouble between him and a cellmate so they decided to send him here.”

“That place was a drag, man,” the depth of his emotion forced him out of his pose, “I’m so effing glad I’m out of there. I feel like my music has reached a whole new level down here.”

“Øystein was a musician in the Overworld, you know him?” Erebos asked eagerly.

“Oh, of course,” Angela said, though she hadn’t.

“Yeah, I told you, everybody’s heard of us man,” Øystein said. “We were sick–burning the churches, we, like, took it to the next level. Well Varg had to take it too far because of his complete lack of intelligence, but before that, we were making a name for ourselves.”

“Yes, yes,” said Erebos restlessly, as he’d heard it all before, “And this here, our bass player is Moros, my step-son. It’s sometimes difficult to see him. He’s shy and usually just appears as a sound cloud.”

“Oh, well, I thought that bass playing was great!” Angela enthused in the general direction Erebos was pointing, which seemed a bit hazier than elsewhere in the room. “I play the bass myself, so I appreciated it,” Angela said. The air wriggled a litte. 

“And this here is Alala,” Erebos waved at the boy with red-triangle tattoos. “He does the war cries. He’s exceptionally good at them.”

To demonstrate, he let out a holler that made Angela’s hair stand on end.

“Great,” Angela said. “Oh, hey, I just recorded you guys if you want to have a look.”

“Angelia has a magical advice from the Overworld,” Melinoë explained. “You can see anywhere in the Overworld with it. It’s amazing!”

Øystein, who’d never seen a smartphone, sneered and sulked in the background. Erebos, though, showed a keen interest. He watched the performance with an artiste’s eye and nodded with approval.

“It’s a kind of time-delayed mirror, is it not?”

“Er, yes. Sort of,” Angela said.

“You know,” he rumbled. “After all Øystein has been telling me, I would like our music to be better known. I have a feeling we would make quite an impression up there among the little people.”

“Yes, I think that’s…fair to say,” Angela nodded.

“I have a pipe dream that once the kids have grown up a bit that Nyx and I would go to Norway—see the fjords and things. Maybe we could even do a concert there.”

 

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“I’m not going back to that dump,” Øystein scowled.

“No, no, of course,” Erebos said soothingly. “You could stay here and manage the studio. But what do you think, Angelia, is it a good idea?”

“Oh, I think so. Yes,” she nodded. “But I think, you know, you might need a name for your band.” 

“Yes? I suppose you’re right. How about something along the lines of ‘Hell’s Fellows’. Would that work?”

“Uh…” 

“Or, I know! How’s this: ‘The Post-Mortem Players’.”

“Probably Øystein can help you better than I can,” Angelia took a couple of steps back.

“Skull Worms, Gangrene, Crucifixion Town,” Øystein offered. 

Erebos shook his head. 

“Not very subtle, is it? Do we call ourselves artists or don’t we? I mean to say, we might as well pick ‘Nose Plug’ and be done with it. Where’s the poetry in everyday things?”

“GANGRENE!” Øystein screamed.

Erebos ignored him.

“Listen, young girl, perhaps you could talk to your king and arrange something in relation to that Norwegian tour?”

“Well,” Melinoë interrupted, “Angelia is going to be a bit busy in the next few weeks, especially with Aunt Hera coming, but maybe we can talk about it later. Meanwhile, do you know where Achlys might be?”

“Sulking in his room, as usual. You know, I keep  trying to persuade him to join the band with his lyre—Øystein has a brilliant amplifying system all ready—but Achlys absolutely refuses.”

“Well, he is so gifted,” Melinoë gushed. “After all, Orpheus himself taught him, and the lyre sounds better acoustic, I think. So soulful. I can see why he’d want to go for a solo career…”

Erebos shrugged.

“Not my cup of nectar, but each to his own. Well, lads, should we take it from the top?”

The music started up again and Melinoë and Angela made a hasty exit.

 

 

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