“Oh for pity’s sake, Felicia, Andrew Culdrake is a crushing bore. He’s as easy to get rid of as a cum stain on silk. Please, don’t pair me up with that gargoyle with halitosis!” implored Lewis, his loose roll up cigarette fraying like pubes bursting out of the side of a pair of knickers.
“Lewis, dahling, the studio made an epic. A sprawling landscape of evil escapism for the superstitious dullards and their social media saprophytes. They want you to score the theme and Andrew to preen it with sound effects. Think of it as you are the mighty rhino and he is the fussy little Oxpecker foraging for ticks around your anus.”
Lewis cracked his first smile of sobriety and wiped the condensation from his window pane to stare, doe-eyed, at the swollen river past the parade of willows.
“Oh he’s a pecker alright. I had to sit through a whole evening of him extolling the virtues of the fucking Universal Audio plug-in world and how it’s making the big studios extinct along with that infernal Fractal Audio!”
“You’re a purist, dahling, we all get it but time marches on and, as your agent and manager, I insist that we get this as a gong is almost assured. We can finally take the elevator to a high-profile and tables at decent restaurants around town. Do this for your lovely Felicia, Lewis and I’ll let you perform cunnilingus on me and you know I’m a squirter which will satisfy your dirty little piss fetish. Go on, for me and a face full of cunnyhunny?”
“Oh Felicia, I never could resist snuffling for truffles in your bejewelled trough. If I’m to be sober for this ordeal, then we will do this on the lake in Alan Parson’s boat. He owes me for rescuing his last album. I want it stocked with diet Dr Pepper and Snyder’s honey mustard pretzels. Oh and anything Rupert Neve made! Thank You Felicia, sweetheart.”
“The screening is at 1pm today in the Belvedere Theatre and you and Andrew must arrive with a clear head and an open mind. The movie has allegedly killed eight people and a further two runners this morning. It is on its third director and this one, from France, is an unknown so he probably won’t be an arsehole. It’s reputed to be worse than Billy Friedkin’s flick, which must be a nerve shredder! You ace this meeting and I’ll get Parsons to hand me the keys to Shangri La. What do we always say, Lewis…?”
“Score one more for the bad guys. Bye Felicia.”
“Pissing you already!” quipped Felicia through a dirty, smoky exhale.
Lewis finished a hot shower and laid on the bed staring at the beautiful watery reflections from the river. They rippled and danced while low hanging willow tree branches swept across at random.
“Oh, Chanel, my beautiful muse. I think this one will be pure torture but your honey tones humming in my ears will take me to our pier at sunset. Just me and you dangling our feet into the orange waters, fingertips touching lightly.
The whole score is sung gently into the big red disc as it sinks into the boiling horizon and the stars remove the needle from the record. I miss you every day and each score is infused with you, with beautiful you.” Lewis dressed for the occasion in a suit from Saville Row, a howling wolf T-Shirt he won in a fight with a goth and his lucky tan leather Grensons shoes.
Cross town traffic wasn’t as cool as Jimi Hendrix made it in song. The slow crawl in the taxi, with the overpowering scent of jasmine, allowed Lewis to peer at the life on the streets. The flow of traffic and teeming streets filled with all manner of folk weighed down by their demons and lifted, on occasion, by their muse.
“Hey! I’m walking here. I’m a person with the right to walk and breathe so don’t hit me, okay?” A rasping voice bellowed from the tiny frame of a bag lady pounding on the bonnet of the cab as the driver drove his fist into the horn and shouted something awful.
Then she locked eyes with Lewis and fell silent. Her face dropped and her jaw began to tremble.
“Mercy. Have mercy on me. Don’t send them for me. Don’t let them…”
Her last word and sorrowful tear streaked ahead in traffic as a bus slammed into her body and burst it open like a ripe melon.
“Christ…what the…” Lewis yelped as the driver turned and smiled insidiously
“Cleanest thing on her was her… They’re waiting for you at the theatre. We must not disappoint him.”
Lewis paid the driver who was rubbing his star necklace and humming a strange, yet familiar tune. “All part of the design, sir.”
Then, like stirring powder into water, he blended into the traffic.
“Lewis. It’s good to see you again. I enjoyed our little to and fro at the last party. You should come to my studio and look at the new toys. Go on, it won’t kill you.”
Andrew Culdrake stepped from the shadow of the doorway, extending his hand to greet the still shaking Lewis.
“Andrew, how are you? This is a surprise. So, we’ll be working on an epic together. It’s jinxed apparently so we might last until the end of the screening.”
Lewis chuckled into the stone features of a rather less than amused Andrew.
“David Cholmondley and Daniel Sargutt died on the set, Lewis. They were hit by a lighting rig that fell, swung down and sliced them both in two. The studio nearly pulled the plug on this twice but both execs died before they could stop it. A new exec, a French guy stepped in and completed it. No one had seen this thing in its entirety yet. That’s our honour.” Andrew was trembling as he finished his sentence and Lewis recognised the fear that the bag lady showed right before she was smashed to pieces.
“I’m thinking less is more, Andrew. I’m thinking get it done and clear out before hysteria makes cadavers out of us. Hey, if you die, you could rig the coffin to have the sound of knocking and screaming coming from inside!”
Andrew grimaced then smiled a broad toothy grin.
“Great idea! Let’s get inside and view this thing.”
The theatre was a beautifully restored music hall with high, vaulted ceilings and a pit with a Wurlitzer below the stage. The screen lay behind giant red velvet curtains and, as they sat in the roomy, sprung seats, a deep voice with a French accent came over the address system.
“Bonjour, my friends and welcome to the Belvedere. The significance of this theatre is that before it was a picture house, it was a music hall and before that it was a house of ill repute. This place was built on a worshipping ground for Belial, a very powerful demon spirit. The movie you are about to see and you are required to score and provide sound effects for, is perhaps the closest to the truth of the devil and his works. Lights please and watch without a blink of an eye.”
As the silent movie rolled, Lewis and Andrew sunk into a stunned, chilled trance of shallow breaths and saucer- eyed terror. They were aware that as the movie descended into dark scenes, all of the seats were filled with black spectres and the whispers stabbed the silence with menace.
As the movie ended, the two men drew long breaths and wiped their soaking palms down their pants.
“So gentlemen, you see the task ahead. I will ask you to sleep on this viewing before you are issued with the disc to begin your work. I must ask you that no one else may view this work and that you do not discuss it in any form, verbal or digital. Say ‘yes’ if you agree to the terms?”
Both men shouted “Yes” loudly into the auditorium before leaving the theatre.
Outside, the taxi that brought Lewis there was waiting and both of the men were ushered inside.
“Monsieur, Shangri La is moored and waiting for you both at the lake. Miss Felicia asked me to give you the key and the instruction that you both must remain on the boat, that is anchored in the centre of the water, until completion. Merci, and now we must get there before sundown.”
The boat shone a deep orange atop rippling red flecks as the late evening drew the stars down.
“Here you are, gentlemen. I bid you adieu.” Whispered the driver, still playing with his star necklace.
The two men walked steadily across the gangplank and onto the broad deck with impressive cockpit and a single light above the door picking out a sign that read
‘If music be the food of love…pig out!’ Andrew chuckled at the cheeky sign as Lewis opened the door leading to down below where Felicia had worked her magic.
The dimmer switch slowly revealed a plush, spacious lounge area and studio complete with huge recording desk, midi keyboards and a giant fridge filled with Doctor Pepper.
“I asked for diet DP, Andrew. Dammit!” Lewis growled as Andrew set the desk and keys up.
“Lewis, how are we going to score this without a…?”
Lewis grabbed a long, black remote control from the desk and aimed it behind his shoulder. Instantly, a giant screen above the desk lowered and a digital projector flickered white light onto its blank expanse.
“Now that’s something else.” whispered Andrew to a dumbfounded Lewis.
“Right, we’ve got our bearings now we do as the French guy said and get some shut-eye. Tomorrow we start our odyssey.”
“And should we survive, it’s gong city and you can bury yourself in plug-ins and fake amps!” snarked Lewis through a sideways smile.
“May your testicles turn to cubes and pus at the corners” Andrew replied and both men laughed heartily before hitting the hay.
That night their dreams were a pastiche of grisly and mind bending horrors. That was until 3:45am when a huge thud on deck had them careering from their bunks and up the stairs. What greeted them on the pristine boards was a goats head, with silver coins for eyes and a plain package between its teeth.
“What manner of Satanist bullshit is this, Andrew?” Lewis croaked through a dry throat.
Andrew stood silent with a sickly grin and deep, sunken eyes peering from his furrowed brow.
“We shall begin our task right away. We must marry what we see with a sound scape from the darkest part of the psyche. Take the package and toss the head into the drink, Lewis.”
Ripping apart the paper, Lewis gasped at the ice-cold, deep red DVD case. Inside, a black disc had the word Lucifugus written in glossy black ink across it and it smelled just like the goat’s head.
It was a week of intense work as the men pored over the movie meticulously, soaking in the scenes and furiously composing and creating all manner of sounds from an extensive library. Animal and human merged with mechanical to generate all manner of bizarre and horrifying sounds. Andrew did not sleep. Not one single wink. He laboured day and night, his eyes sinking further back into his head and his body odour becoming so rancid that Lewis retreated to the starboard side of the top deck. Lewis couldn’t find his muse, Chanel but instead had the strange tune the taxi driver hummed bouncing round his skull. He coupled it with a bizarre time signature and detuned strings and his bone chilling theme slithered out of his head, down below and onto the midi keyboard.
On the Saturday evening Lewis noticed Andrew had gone. He was nowhere to be found, even after an extensive search of Shangri La.
He went back to the desk and noticed the red disc box was open. He looked inside and there, on top of the movie, was a second black disc with the words ‘Sonat est Diabolo’.
“Sounds for the devil…dear Lord, Andrew, you really bought into the hype but where the hell are you?”
Lewis sat at the keyboard and played one last time, calling for his muse and thinking about the bag lady, the goat’s head, Andrew gone and…
“That came from the deck. What the he…” Lewis had just completed bouncing his score down to a disc and placing it in the red case with the other two, when he heard the commotion.
Climbing the stairs and opening the door he faced a large moon and a curled up figure on the deck, naked and clutching a star necklace whilst humming an all too familiar tune.
It was the taxi driver and as he wept he pointed to the shoreline. There, standing in a row holding hands, were several naked and hooded people. Lewis looked back at the driver only to find that he was gone and instead the mangled body of the bag lady lay twitching and bleeding out, all the while whispering “Don’t send them, don’t send them…”
Lewis looked to shore again and to his horror the figures had their arms raised in the air and one of their number was flying through the air, over the water and straight for the boat. He stepped back and fell against the door, dropping to the floor like a sack of potatoes.
The hooded figure glided gently onto the deck and landed on the bag lady who burst into a dust cloud and scattered as bats to the night air.
“You have completed the task set by my envoy?” The voice was familiar yet deeper, causing a sense of dread to course through Lewis’ body.
“Y…yes…we completed our work. It is below in…”
The figure held his arm behind his back and returned it with the red disc box clutched by long slender fingers with curled nails.
“How…how did you do that?” Lewis choked, desperate to be finished and as far away from Shangri La and the score from hell as he could possibly get.
“Let me introduce myself…” The figure removed his hood and the sunken features of Andrew Culdrake stared at him intensely for several terrified, silent seconds.
“I don’t understand. Andrew, were you in on this all along. Are you part of the design?”
“Lewis. I am pleased with your work. You picked up on my servant’s tune in the taxi and made it come alive. I am Andrew but not Andrew. What you see is a glamour to hide my true form that would surely send you mad. I have a gift for your service. Look behind you.”
Lewis turned to see the slender figure of his beloved muse, Chanel alive and in the flesh. She glowed silver in the moon’s glare and, as he turned to thank Andrew, he realised that he was gone. Lewis threw his arms around Chanel and kissed her passionately.
“This was my only wish for so long, Chanel. You have returned to me whole.”
Chanel gazed up at Lewis and smiled a broad grin. Then, in a smoky voice, whispered in his ear
“It’s me, Lewis, Felicia. I got my wish too!”
Original horror fiction written by Richard Bell
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