The days at the beach faded into each other. The first few days were filled with all manner of activities most of them not related to music. Kim and D.C. went exploring, soon joined by Cray who found their adventure stories in the evening to tempting to resist, after an episode involving a ravine, several thorn bushes and a rather lively but well hidden creek, his enthusiasm was dampened a bit. Things got better when Sam was considering if it wouldn’t be a good idea to go out to some of the more promising places out there to stake out ‘retreats’ as she called it so that anyone who was in need of some privacy or just need a bit of silence could go there for a while. Kim and D.C. would tell them about the most promising spots. Sam would follow their lead to inspect the area. On her return she would sit down with Cray and Darius to work out how to turn the spot into a proper retreat.
Turner would sometimes just watch the others or join one of the parties. While he enjoyed exploring, he soon found that helping to establish little islands of civilisation with the others somehow felt incredibly fulfilling. The started out as places that were cleared of vegetation, with a fireplace and out sight and smell a discreetly hidden toilet but after a while the ambitions grew. When the first two weeks had almost passed, the group only noticed it when the Road Monster, as they had started to call Jörmungandr, started complaining about the fuel reserves.
Cray and Darius had come up with some rather ambitious plans that would improve the general quality of life at the camp even further. They had also been working on ways of making the fuel last longer, surprising Adrian with with plans of how to implement their ideas. He was about to give them a reality check but then though better of it. This was a once in a life time chance. He was pretty sure that this was closer to once in a generation’s chance, so he might as well go crazy with it.
There was another reason to let them do as they wanted. Darius when he first met him appeared at first to be a jolly old man who had lived a full life now relaxing during his retirement. As he got to know him better he saw that beyond that positive shell a bitter old man was hiding. From Darius point of view life was almost over , looking back at his life he saw many achievements. These achievements though had failed to come together in any meaningful way, while the world around him had moved on.
Cray looked like a slightly eccentric loner. He may be a bit nervous around women he did not know yet, but apart from that he was that aloof visionary who stood above the concerns of mortals. Again as Turner came to know him better he recognised Cray for the person he actually was. Cray was actually a warm loving guy. It was this openness that had led him to much woe leaving him behind confused. His love for tinkering with his keyboards had always been a strong force in his life became his emotional hiding place as time passed.
Now these two men had bonded over their crazy plan. The insisted that their plan was visionary. Giving them both something that they were missing without knowing. For Darius it meant that he could bring together all his wild knowledge no only to build and expand on it but also to bring it together in a way that it actually helped people. People who appreciated his work. Everyone had started calling him ‘mother’ after a short time, a nickname that had stuck.
Cray on the other hand had found someone that shared his enthusiasm for coming up with wild new constructions. Someone that was as happy to have him around as he was. It was quite impressive how much that helped Cray getting back on his feet. One could watch him become more confident. It also showed in his music. In the first days when they played to each other the kinds of music they liked, Cray had always made some wordy introductions explaining why what he was about to play was worth listening too. It was so intricate that it felt somehow apologetic. By now he just gave a short intro, pointing out the bits he felt were the most impressive and went to town. The shift of attitude was to late though of saving him from his new nick name ‘King Cray’. Turner had been slightly worried about him then thinking that this might set him back. It didn’t. The next time he played he did it on top of Jörmungandr wearing a red towel as cape.
Instead of changing the scope of the plans of Darius and Cray to a more realistic level Adrian decided to let them go ahead. As he told them to just go get what ever they need the two men in front of him looked like two kids that just got away with murder of a cookie jar. They almost ran to the Road Monster uncoupling the middle section that housed the main tank, hastily driving away in case Adrian’S sanity returned form its lunch break.
The others were much less of a problem. Kim and D.C. had found each other balancing the other out nicely. Discovering that their relationship was purely platonic had surprised Adrian. In hindsight he thought that it was the most natural thing in the world. They were close to the platonic ideal of a brother and a sister. It took some getting used to that they seemed to be constantly quibbling but it was always in good humour. Turner also learnt to appreciate how a topic would be left deeply explored and throughly exhausted after Kim and D.C. were done with it. He also found a lot of creativity hidden in their constant arguments, veering off into the wildest tangents. This probably explained why their music was always such a joy to listen to. When ever Kim and D.C. jammed together it was like exploring an alien world using sound alone.
That pretty much left only Sam. The most relaxed, uncomplicated person in the group, but also the one that was the most difficult to really know. She was like a mirror image of Cray. She was sociable, easy going, always ready to take part in a conversation. Yet in the end she remained outside. She was more an ally than a friend. Very polite, very professional, very interested but never close.
The only time she seemed to be just herself was when she was making music. Even then she left the others behind letting her music do the talking. She and Turner had talked a lot so Turner understood her on a rational level. Sam did speak freely of herself and her life however she could do even that in a way that maintained a polite distance. As he was starting to worry he discovered that in the evening when they were playing music after dinner, Sam started getting caught up in the music of the others. After the introduction of everyones favourite style she was the one that was most requested to help along with a song because she brought the beat. One time when Adrian was feeling like a bit of noodling he had invited Sam to provide some rhythm. She stared, Turner followed and then suddenly for just one moment Adrian felt Sam. She was right there inside her music. That evening Turner stopped worrying. He knew that Sam was there with them, in time everyone else would get to know her through her music.
Kim was the one that had come closest to her. She still insisted in calling her ‘sister’ despite Sam’s regular protestations. Kim was once one knew what to look for a very caring person. It was just a gruff kind of affection. Cray once had called her a loving bulldozer. A comment that let to Kim chasing him all over the campsite to give him a a hail storm of smacks over the head leaving the others howling with laughter.
* * *
Still no band though.
While after their days of exploring, chilling, meditating or working with their instruments they often came together to show of their style, often with the help of others so far they never had played as one single group. There were some differences in taste. That much had to be expected. It did not explain why they never had tried to play as a band instead of a group of individuals.
During the first ten or so days Turner did not mind. He did not even notice truth be told. It took some time for him to notice that there was something slightly off. Only during the end of their third week, among the constructive chaos of Daruis’s and Cray’s big haul did he notice what was missing. They were doing everything apart from what they were supposed to be doing.
A couple of days later, he was wiping the sweat from his brow after an especially hard morning of dragging around large planks of wood to help lay the foundations of Escape Space One, a long cabin built as one of the most ambitious retreats, Turner realised that he wasn’t doing his job either. He was waiting for the others to come around. To let things sort themselves out. That wasn’t happening though and he was not doing anything to find out why or how to get the ball rolling again.
He was lost in thought returning to the beach. Darius was walking next to him in silence lost in his own thoughts. Adrian felt that what they had here was something beautiful, he wished that it could go on forever. He was surrounded by people he liked. Every day he had been here he had been wonderfully lazy, sleeping right past midday then walking down to the sea coffee in hand ocean breeze ruffling his hair. Every day he had been more constructive than any one month before his new deal with the devil. He had been playing guitar… No he had improved his guitar playing. Learnt new tricks. He had listened to the others music assimilating it. But there was more he was absorbing the technical knowledge of the others too. Building things. It was glorious.
However. This was not what he should be doing.
It did help with the quest. Yes.
They were now reaching a point though, were the goal was slowly drifting out of sight.
“Don’t you wish this could go on forever?” Turner asked Darius.
The old man made a deep rumbling noise that Turner had learnt meant that he was content. “That would be nice, wouldn’t it?”
“Yeah…” Adrian exhaled. “There is a ‘but’ coming, right?”
“But,” said Darius, “this can’t last forever it never does.”
“I’ve got enough money to keep us going for a long time.” said Turner, although he was not sure how long Lucifer would let him get away with this.
“That’ll make it last longer. It still won’t last forever. These perfect moments in life were all things seem to fit perfectly, they are precious. They are precious because they are so rare.”
“It could last for quite a while. We’ve got a good group together.”
Darius nodded. “Yes. But that will only make it worse.”
“How’s that worse?”
“Because with a group that gets along well, you are right, it could go on for a long time. But you know what effect it will have?”
“No.” said Turner, more because he did not want to keep on thinking in that direction and less because he had not thought of it during one of his moments of quiet doubt.
“Sooner or later we’ll get used to it. Without anyone noticing it one little step at a time we all will forget how lucky we are. THat is the moment when people open themselves up again for trouble and trouble will sniff us out then and it will find us. It will be to late before we notice it.” Darius had a far away look on his face. He was not talking about the things that would come, he was looking into the past, speaking out loud what he was seeing there. “The funny thing. The thing that will turn the knife in your heart will be the moment after all those great things lie behind you in ruin, is that you will only then realise that it never stopped being wonderful. It was you and your friends who forgot how great the things you had were.” Darius gaze returned into the present, looking at Darius, “It’s just human nature. I once read that in our brains we are all addicts. When we get the good stuff we get use to it. After the while the buzz isn’T good enough anymore. Once you take it away the withdrawal kicks in.” a smile slowly dawned on Darius’s face. “Don’t worry Adrian. We’re just enjoying the good times for a moment. We earned that. Just look at poor little Will. The day I met him he was more shadow than man and now look at him. King Cray.” Darius shook his head his smile now a beaming grin, “Crazy bastard. No. We all need this. We need a place were we can find the things that are important again. Some of us have to learn that it is OK to do what you love. That at least here there is no one to tell you that you are some little shit for chasing after your silly little dreams.” Darius eyes unfocused again but now they were peering into the future. He was still smiling while he did. For some reason Adrian was incredibly relieved to see that.
The walked for a little while both lost in thought again.
“Adrian. We will be fine. You have your plan, our quest. When the time comes you’ll be there to keep us going.”
“But what if…” Adrian did not get any further.
“I trust you. Don’t think for a moment than even one of us would be here if we did not have faith in you. We all trust you. It’s time that you started to trust you too.”
* * *
After the conversation with Darius Turner had become more quiet. He did not retreat he just took more time to observe things. Learning how the other people around him ticked on a basic level. He also had become more introspective following the advice the old roadie had given him he now was not looking for his faults, those he knew perfectly well, instead he was searching for his qualities. Looking at the things he did well and listening to the opinion of the others he was surprised to learn that he did have a few rather decent qualities. They had been there pretty much in plain sight all along while he was to distracted by his own failings to notice let alone cultivate them.
So he started to work on his strengths for a change.
It was at least six weeks since they had arrived at the beach. Turner sat next to the burnt out campfire tuning his guitar to the smell of burnt wood, coffee and bacon, seasons with a pinch of sea air when he noticed Kim walking around the beach, kicking up sand every once in a while. There was something strange about that.
Looking around he saw Cray carrying a pile of electronic boards out from the Road Monster to his out doors workshop, were he could do his soldering magic with ocean in his view.
D.C. was sitting inside of the bus looking out of the window, head resting against the glass, lost in thought. For a moment Adrian thought about taking a photo to make a large poster out of it. He felt that this was a picture that belonged into a gallery. He pushed that thought aside. It was distracting him.
Sam was lying on the beach looking up into the blue sky, mouth open, lips formed into an O, softly slapping her cheeks to make percussive noises.
The people around him were growing bored. Well everyone except Cray who had enough plans for new keyboards, retreat gadgets and instruments to keep him busy for the next two or three thousand years. When Darius had told him that he trusted him, Adrian had harboured some doubts. Now he knew that the old veteran had been right. Turner was now aware that this was the point where he got things going or everything would start to fall apart.
* * *
“You know what?” Adrian said between bites during dinner. “You’ve all been working on your music the past weeks and somehow I’ve not paid you enough attention. I was to busy noddling myself.”
“But you were listening to us playing the whole time.” Cray shrugged.
“Yeah. But when was the last time I played with anyone of you?”
“We did some cool stuff together like” D.C. paused for a moment slowly chewing his chicken curry, “a week ago? Was pretty good too. And after that you had that crazy improv with Cray. That was… different…” seeing that Cray looked slightly offended he hastened to add: “in a good way! Different in a good way.”
“Granted.” Tuner said, “but that’s not what I meant. I was playing more along side with you, or you were giving backup for my newest flash of what I tend to confuse with brilliance. What I mean is I’d like to play some music where we build our music together. You know what I mean?”
“Sure.” Sam said. “If you want I’ll join you tonight. I have some rather catchy beats in my head that need to get out and I think that they will suit your style.”
“OK you and me can have a go at it.” Turner said smiling inwardly because he had laid a trap, with a little help of Darius who now was finding his Curry very amusing judging from his expression. Sam had been so kind to walk right in acting as bait. The others did not know it yet but they already were caught in Turner’s diabolical net.
Sam started out slow, steady, precise. Right now she was playing like a metronome, Turner knew that this was what Sam usually did to provide a solid foundation for the others to ease into. He was not planning to get lost in his own music tonight so he followed Sam’s lead playing a strong rhythm on top of it. He had learnt a lot about the right groove from Kim, he also knew how Sam played when she was on her own following her own whims. So when he started pushing in variations there were all following the style that Sam liked to play for herself. Maybe he was subtle and clever, maybe Sam was happy to let her self go a bit. The important thing was that she did. It did not take long until they were squarely in Sam-beat territory. Now Turner could slip back into his own usual style as guided by the deep powerful percussion.
So far so good. The others were all paying close attention tapping fingers or feet or nodding their head or in case of Cray doing full body undulations. Cray called it ‘doing the anemone’ which he only did when he was joying himself so much that he stopped given a toss about what others may think, indulging his silly side. Darius did not miss a beat either. He had quietly retreated to Jörmungandr after the show had started. He had gone to his little control cabinet, from where he could manage the several open air stage functions of the bus. He had step by step changed the lighting so that now Sam and Adrian where brightly lit while the others were sitting in twilight. A cheap trick which still managed to divide the open space the others were sitting in into a stage and into a zone for the audience. It was a happy coincidence, carefully arranged by him, Adrian and an unwitting D.C. that tonight all the stacks had been built into a wall of amps and speakers on one side of the circle.
Adrian shifted more and more into playing a melody, leaving open a hole where his rhythm had been before. This was a critical point. If he over did it his plan might fall apart. Looking at Kim though he knew that his worries were unfounded. The bassist was looking restless now. She felt the lack of the low frequency soul of the music. It was clear that it was driving her nuts.
“Hey Kim!” Turner called out, “Would you mind joying us? I think we are missing some essential groove here.”
Kim jumped up walked straight to her six string monster bass, the others had started calling ‘the chopping board’, plugging it into the largest bass-stack behind them. She stared playing before turning around to walk back to Sam and Adrian. As she did, Darius slowly brightened the light that highlighted Kim’s part of the stage. If anyone noticed no one seemed to mind.
Kim’s bass and Sam’s percussion intertwined instantly. Adrian carefully shifted out of his style again back into something that was more like Kim’s preferred style. Had he had a free hand he would have patted himself on the back. The transition was seamless. Kim and Sam had always worked well together they were also the ones who were best with working in the others style. Now Turner had woven their styles together. The result was incredibly catchy, he almost forgot to play along as he was caught in the groove part of him just wanting to dance the other to open his mind to the sound to listen to it with his full attention.
He gritted his teeth. Kept on playing. Once he felt that this new thing was stable he slowly integrated his own sound back into the mix. The two women adapted to it before Adrian was even sure in which direction he wanted to go to. He was not the only one who had been analysing the style of the others. It did not take long that Adrian had to fight back. Kim’s six string went high enough to intrude into the melodic part’s that Turner intended to play. Now Kim was copying his style working her own style over it, while Sam reinforced what Kim was playing. They were pushing him out of the song.
It was a challenge that he took head on. While improvising he had to consider at the same time how Kim or Sam were going to counter what he was playing. He noticed that he had gotten lost into the music himself when he heard D.C. and Cray cheer when the music reached a climax in a moment were all the styles had blended into something greater. Turner was smiling with his face, his heart his soul.
“D.C.” Adrian called out, “I’m getting my ass kicked here. Come and help me!”
Were Kim had almost run, D.C. was slow. Very Slow. Standing up. Stretching. Getting rid from the sand of his clothes. Carefully selecting the right guitar. Checking the tuning. Fiddling with the settings of his favourite amp. Only then did he look Adrian in the eye making a ‘you and me both gesture’ with his index finger.
What followed was a deep aggressive growl of a chord. The music before had been a jungle of sounds, now the tiger was awake. What D.C. was playing was heavy and intense. Sam instantly switched to a much lower pace. Kim mouthed a ‘traitor’ in her direction, moving closer to Adrian indicating with her head that they were now allies. Instead of matching the slow powerful lead of Sam and D.C., she pushed in the distortion into her sound speeding up. Still in perfect sync with Sam’s beat, but where Sam played one thundering thump, Kim played twelve. Adrian followed her with his own melody, adding some percussive elements into it.
Now they had basically two songs. One slow and powerful, the other roaring fast and aggressive.
It worked well, but they were slowly reaching the end end of what could be done with it. Soon they would have to switch to something different. It would be hard to do it without breaking the flow of the music.
“Cray!” Adrian shouted.
“Cray!” called D.C.
“Cray!” Kim joined.
Soon the four playing were shouting Cray’s name over and over. The keyboarded got up, arms apart, graciously giving into their demand. Instead of walking into the stage of light, he left into the night. Leaving the others slightly bewildered. He returned moments later though, his red towel cape waving behind him. King Cray had arrived.
Despite the theatrics he was the most pragmatic in joining the music. He simply turned on his equipment and started playing. His left hand playing the low notes complimenting Sam and D.C. his right the higher notes corresponding to Kim and Adrian. Once he had them both he started moving into the middle opening new sonic ground for the others to explore. They did not even notice that now all the lights that were still burning were the ones illuminating their virtual stage. Surrounded by darkness the played the best music they played together getting lost in the magic of the moment.
None of them remembered when it ended. The first to wake up was Darius who said that he had fallen asleep when they were all still playing. He remembered that it was already getting light but that the sun had not yet risen. He had dreamt of a gigantic rock concert where they had played in a sea of people stretching into infinity into every direction. The next thing he remembered was waking up with the others sleeping on the spots they had been playing, with their instruments held close.
“It’s hard to believe,” said Turner, “but that was the first time we have all played together as a band.”
“No way.” said Cray. “We’ve been playing together since pretty much day one.”
“Really?” asked Turner “When was the last time when we all played together.”
“Now that you mention it…” Sam said. “I think you are right. We always had someone in the audience.”
“And,” added D.C. “it was the first time we all played what we wanted instead of following the lead of someone else.”
“I don’t know about you guys,” said Kim “but yesterday while playing I had the greatest motherfucking sonic orgasm ever.”
“er…” said Cray.
“What a strange way to put it.” said Sam.
“Oh come on. It was good for you too!” declared Kim.
“Granted. I’d said that it was deeply spiritual though.”
“Hippie…” said Kim
“I don’t care how you call it, but I would certainly not mind to do that again.” said Cray “Often.”
D.C. just grinned.
“We’re a band.” Adrian said, “We not only can do that again. We are actually supposed to do it again. All the time. Long and hard.”
“Now that is the fucking spirit!” said Kim.