Lex Turner picked lazily at his guitar. On the other side of the green room, Vince was pacing, glancing up every now and then at the clock on the wall as it ticked closer and closer to their cue. Bonnie B watched him from where she lay sprawled along a faded leather lounge; her eyes moved back and forth, framed by the crisscross of wrinkles lying laxed across her face. Blue tacked to the door hung a laminated sign, ‘SUPERNOVA’ typed in a black Calibri font on it.
The space was small, far smaller than many of the other places they had waited before being called on stage. You’d think the people in charge would have organised a larger venue considering the occasion. It was furnished modestly, with a few mirrors on one wall and two guitar stands in the corner. One of these had been neglected. Lex liked to feel his instruments weight in his hands, it grounded him.
The second held a shiny bass guitar with diamonds studded down its neck and the strings tinted with silver. None of the band’s other equipment was quite so embellished, or so uncared for. It’s decoration having been only a fleeting fancy for its owner.
The world was quiet here, quite possible the only space of silence left on the planet. Not even the din of the raging concert outside; the biggest party in history. The last party in history.
Lex pressed his palm against the head of his guitar, the strings leaving pink lines over his skin that was ragged with age. Nothing could be done about the seething ball of flame burgeoning in the sky above them, soon its flame-licked fingers, which had once caressed the planet so gently, would engulf them. But that was the way, wasn’t it, Lex watched the lines fade from his palm, everything had to have an endpoint. The world had just decided that it would much rather end with a crash and screech of guitars than slip away into silence.
The door opened and a girl with a face like a mouse poked her head into the room. “You’re on in twenty,” she said before ducking back out again.
Vince groaned, and his pacing intensified. “Where is she?”
Bonnie B shrugged, “Probably out partying with the rest of them. You know she’s never been able to resist a drink.”
“And a bottle, and a pill, and a whole bloody surgery.” Vince collapsed into a chair, his leg bouncing.
“Sammy wouldn’t miss this,” said Lex. “Supernova’s singing out humanity, it’s the biggest gig in history.”
Bonnie B spun her almost 40-year old drumsticks nimbly through her fingers. She had played with them ever since their first performance in a rundown pub’s open mike night, singing a messy version of the Beatles ‘Here Comes the Sun’. “This is the last gig in history.”
“Way to lighten the mood,” Lex shifted his guitar to rest against his leg.
Mouse-face returned, her head only peeking out for a moment from behind the door to say, “fifteen minutes.”
Vince leapt to his feet as the door closed once again, “That’s it! I’ll drag her here if I have to. This time she’s gone too far.”
He swung open the green room’s door with the most force that Lex had ever seen from the wiry keyboardist, dislodging the sign. Bonnie B twirled her drumsticks, slid them into jeans that were far too outdated and skin-tight for any other near 60-year old woman to pull off, and followed him out.
“You coming, Lex?” she asked. It was hard to hear her with the door now open. Music, laughter and the occasional scream of either glee or hysteria invaded the quiet, turning it to a distant memory.
Lex sighed and pushed himself off the wall he had been leaning against. “I don’t see why we have to go after her. We could just play without the bass for once.”
Vince stared at him in disbelief. “Mate, we’re gonna play ‘Man’s Salute’. That song’s all bass!”
Lex grumbled his agreement, rising from his seat he stepped over the fallen sign, out into the hallway after his bandmates. There was no point picking it up, he doubted his back could make the journey.
He knew they couldn’t go on without Sammy, they never had before. Unlike other bands, it had always been the four of them; never more, never less. It had all started off as a bit of fun, laughing and strumming away on guitars in the shade of Lex’s garage in the summer. But then his idea of the pub had come, and then a few one-off gigs. The band gained more and more momentum until it became impossible to go their separate ways, all the world adoring them as ageless stars.
The three middle-aged rock stars walked down the hallway, unhindered. Lex wasn’t used to the lack of buzz outside their dressing room, but he didn’t find unpleasant. Vince wrapped a bony hand around the handle of a door that didn’t look strong enough to hold out the rage outside and swung it open. Sound turned against them, pummelling their ears as they looked out on the swarming mosh pit of insanity pulsing below them.
“Can you see her?” said Bonnie B, straining her eyes. Her sight had dulled with age, but she had refused to wear her glasses.
The heat radiated from everywhere after the crisp coolness in the green room. Lex felt sweat steaming from his skin already. “She’d be with the other drunks.”
“Everyone’s drunk,” said Vince.
“Well, the druggies then.”
“Still everyone, end of the world and all that.”
Lex groaned and took off his leather jacket. He had no idea how they had convinced him to put it on one more time. On the back, written in a shining, daggy font designed to draw attention, was the name of the band; Supernova. Behind the word was an explosion of colour meant to depict their namesake.
He shuddered. Sometimes he wondered if they had only booked them as one last cruel joke.
“There!” shouted Vince, pointing into the crowd.
The three climbed down to the ground and began pushing through the stadium of sweat-slicked skin. The only smell in the air was a combination of beer and human bodies; suffocating.
Lex grit his teeth, sucking air through them in hopes of filtering out the drug of delirium that had taken hold of the world, choking the air while the sound thudded in his skull. Leading the way, Vince elbowed apart the crowd, his arms wide apart as he struggled to keep a path clear for the others to follow him. Feet kicked up, knocking into Lex’s legs and he saw Bonnie B stumble as the thriving mass around them jostled into her. It felt like a trek through hell with no end in sight when they finally found her. Jumping up and down out of time with the music and planting a kiss on anyone who came near with a bottle in both hands; Sammy Silver, once John Richner, had transformed from just a guy who liked to play the guitar into a gal who had sampled every illegal substance under the sun.
“Guys!” she cried. Stretching the word out until it became a meaningless drawl.
Bonnie B rushed over to support her swaying bandmate. “You could never hold couldn’t you, not even for one bloody day!”
Vince joined her, shaking his head in disgust, “Seriously Sam. Our most important gig in all of history and you go and kill off half your brain.”
“It was the bad half!” Sammy shouted back. “The bit with all the gooey gross stuff.”
Lex gazed at his friend or at least the shell that was left. The bleached blonde hair hanging in dreadlocks and the eyes sunken deep. “She can’t go on guys. Her blood’s probably pure alcohol by now.”
“Is it?” Sammy’s eyes widened, and she began to madly suck on her wrist.
While Vince and Bonnie B struggled to stop Sammy from drinking her own blood, Lex staggered as shoulder after shoulder bumped into him. His feet hurt, his knees ached, he needed to sit down. A pounding throbbed in his head, he had forgotten when he had first felt it.
Lex looked at his band through the mess of bodies; in clothes from a bygone era of glory, they looked washed out, Sammy hanging limp and deflated, weighing down Vince and Bonnie B as they struggle to keep her head up.
The last forty years had been so draining for all of them. Vince was more often stressed than relaxed these last few days. Bonnie B had once had enough sass to make a tree feel self-conscious, but now she could barely muster up a sarcastic comment. And Sammy, Sammy was a wreck.
Lex felt tired of it all.
A slight hand tapped on his shoulder and he turned to see mouse-face.
“It’s time,” she shouted through the flooding roar of sound.
Lex turned to look back at his broken band and nodded. He was the oldest of them all, the first to suggest the idea of ‘Supernova’, it made sense for it to die with him too.
He rose a hand and waved a final goodbye. He doubted they saw him, but he’d already been here too long.
Turning, he moved quickly back through the masses, to the green room and grabbed his guitar from where he had left it lying on a chair. The stage was large, already set up for Supernova’s last song. The drumkit and keyboard looked strange without someone tapping out a tune on them. The sun had the best seat of all, looming over him. The giant ball of flame searing the sky.
Lex ran his fingers down his guitar’s strings and began to play. He didn’t sing ‘Man’s Salute’ as they had planned;
“Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It's all right…”