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As soon as Ghost came into the bar, Steve handed him a can of Budweiser. Kinsey Hummingbird was serving at the bar, smiling his awkwardly amiable smile, already setting up a second beer for Steve. Steve finished his first one and started on the next.

Ghost faltered. He forgot the words of the next song. Steve was trying to give him the cue, but Ghost couldn't look at him, couldn't turn his head away from that perfect mouthful of teeth. What was he dealing with here? What the hell had decided to visit itself on Missing Mile?

Well, what the hell. So would he. Maybe.

Well, what the hell. So would he. Maybe.

Hands plucked at Ghost's clothes, at the streamers on his hat. He was greeted by a multitude of young voices. He felt the brush of their fingers and their minds; he breathed their cigarette smoke. Then they were stumbling onstage, Steve and Ghost, Lost Souls? come back again.

They played "Mandrake Sky," an odd chiming melody, the first song Ghost had more or less composed on his own, then an assortment of their older songs, rocking numbers. Ghost began to be drunk on the music. When he felt himself swaying, he clung harder to the microphone.

They were so very young. Ghost thought as he stood among them, feeling their pain and their exuberance, their stupidity and terror and beauty brush his mind. They were so young, and they wore their thrift-shop jewelry, their ragged jeans, their black clothes like badges of membership to some arcane club. Some club that required drunkenness-on cheap liquor, on rainy midnights, on poetry or sex. Some club that required love of obscure bands and learning to lie awake at 4:00 A.M., bursting with terrors and wide-awake dreams.

Steve was staring at him, half pissed off, half scared. He tapped his foot three times and gave Steve the nod. And when Ghost started singing again, the words poured from him like a river of gold.

He had forgotten all about Zillah's perfect new face.

Hands plucked at Ghost's clothes, at the streamers on his hat. He was greeted by a multitude of young voices. He felt the brush of their fingers and their minds; he breathed their cigarette smoke. Then they were stumbling onstage, Steve and Ghost, Lost Souls? come back again.

The right choice was not always clear. Nevertheless, Nothing had had to make one. Ghost had felt him do it, right there in the bedroom as he woke up, and he had felt the boy grow a little older. He felt his mind straining at something it could not quite grasp, and the feeling was odd; there wasn't much Ghost could not empathize with. He reminded himself that he had not really tried, had not wanted to try.

Then Ghost tore his gaze away from Zillah's shining smile and looked out over the sea of faces again, and the spell was broken. So Zillah had new teeth, new skin. So what? He and Steve had a show to do. The fragile faces could not be turned away; the burning hearts could not be quenched by disappointment. Ghost felt a righteous anger fill him. Hypnotized by a smile? Oldest trick in the book It couldn't trick him, though, not now. He had to sing.

Hands plucked at Ghost's clothes, at the streamers on his hat. He was greeted by a multitude of young voices. He felt the brush of their fingers and their minds; he breathed their cigarette smoke. Then they were stumbling onstage, Steve and Ghost, Lost Souls? come back again.

As soon as Ghost came into the bar, Steve handed him a can of Budweiser. Kinsey Hummingbird was serving at the bar, smiling his awkwardly amiable smile, already setting up a second beer for Steve. Steve finished his first one and started on the next.

Smiled with a complete mouthful of sharpened, shining teeth.

None of these kids was Nothing. Ghost looked for the long silk coat, the lank black hair, the three lurking figures that would surround the boy. But he was not here, though many of these kids looked like him-the same big, black-rimmed, blasted eyes, the same pale flickering hands. Ghost hoped Nothing wouldn't come. Not with those three. But he knew they would be there.

Between him and Steve the electricity crackled. Ghost clenched his hands in front of him, raised his face to the gilded tries of the ceiling. Steve shook his head madly. His hair stood out like a scribbled black cloud. Sparkling drops of sweat landed sizzling on his guitar, on the audience, on Ghost's upturned face. Ghost licked the sweat off his lips and tried to breathe. There was no breath left in him. The audience had taken it all. In him there was only song, endlessly swelling. If he did not let it out his heart would burst.

But after the music was over.

The audience swayed at the touch of his voice. He looked into those upturned young faces bathed in dim stagelight, the fresh faces, the pale hollow-boned faces with their darkly lined eyes.

Ghost faltered. He forgot the words of the next song. Steve was trying to give him the cue, but Ghost couldn't look at him, couldn't turn his head away from that perfect mouthful of teeth. What was he dealing with here? What the hell had decided to visit itself on Missing Mile?

Ghost knew every corner of the Yew, every one of the fancy antique-gold ceiling tiles Kinsey had put in, every graffiti in the restrooms. When you played at a club forty weeks out of a year, it got to be home.

He had forgotten all about Zillah's perfect new face.

None of these kids was Nothing. Ghost looked for the long silk coat, the lank black hair, the three lurking figures that would surround the boy. But he was not here, though many of these kids looked like him-the same big, black-rimmed, blasted eyes, the same pale flickering hands. Ghost hoped Nothing wouldn't come. Not with those three. But he knew they would be there.

Well, what the hell. So would he. Maybe.

Between him and Steve the electricity crackled. Ghost clenched his hands in front of him, raised his face to the gilded tries of the ceiling. Steve shook his head madly. His hair stood out like a scribbled black cloud. Sparkling drops of sweat landed sizzling on his guitar, on the audience, on Ghost's upturned face. Ghost licked the sweat off his lips and tried to breathe. There was no breath left in him. The audience had taken it all. In him there was only song, endlessly swelling. If he did not let it out his heart would burst.

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