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datatime: 2022-10-04 21:41:56 Author:IBzImxuv

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.

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.

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 clawed at his guitar, letting loose the night's first jangling scream. Ghost glanced at the set list taped to the floor, scrawled in Steve's illegible handwriting, and the words of the first song rose to his lips. He stepped up to the microphone and, gripping it with both hands, whispered those words: "Don't go on the beach . . . Realize the lions have come in . . ."

Zillah caught him staring and smiled.

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.

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.

Then, as the first song ended, Zillah looked up at the stage. Even from behind the lights, from fifteen feet away, Ghost could see that Zillah's face was perfect as a mask again. His nose was straight, his lips full and lustrous. There were no bruises. There was no swelling.

Smiled with a complete mouthful of sharpened, shining teeth.

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.

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?

Smiled with a complete mouthful of sharpened, shining teeth.

Smiled with a complete mouthful of sharpened, shining teeth.

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.

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.

Then Steve grabbed Ghost's arm and dragged him through the crowd toward the stage. It was time to play. Ghost felt the small shiver of something like stage fright and something like wild intoxication, when the room swims, when you can no longer stand up straight or trust your eyes.

Ghost sipped his beer-he didn't need it, not tonight; he would drink music-and watched the kids come in. Soon the club was full of them. College students from Raleigh, and dropouts like Steve and Ghost. High school students from Windy Hill, the hippie Quaker place, but hardly any from the county school; they were all metalheads over there. Younger kids too-junior high kids smoking Marlboros and Camels, kids trying to look jaded and managing only to look bored. Kids with wide-open innocent faces and easy smiles, kids with long dark hair and eyeliner, kids with razor scars on their wrists, kids already sick of life, kids happy to be alive and drunk and younger than they would ever feel again.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

But after the music was over.

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.

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

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