August/September 2005

Steele Guitar
Gerard Brennan

Jessica Steele was a minister’s daughter. She was fourteen years old, painfully pretty and she played the organ at all of her father’s services. Her musical gift was startling. She could read sheet music but didn’t really need to. She could feel music as if it were something tangible. If she heard a piece, she could play it. It simply made its way from her ears to her fingertips, warming her soul on the way. The thought process was completely bypassed. However, never one to show off she always kept a song book open on the music stand and her eyes never strayed from it.

The entire congregation knew and admired her. She was the picture of piety as she sat straight backed at the wailing monstrosity that was the church organ. What they didn’t know was that the music she played in church was only one of her loves. The other was Heavy Metal. At night she would surf the net downloading songs by various Heavy Metal legends. She listened to them on headphones and played air guitar behind the closed door of her bedroom. Her father was the last person she could tell about this passion. He believed that Heavy Metal was the work of the devil. He wouldn’t even consider the new Christian Metal bands that were starting to emerge.

One night Jessica was looking at electric guitars on an online auction. Her heart skipped a beat when she came across the guitar of her dreams. It was a Jackson Flying V with a Floyd Rose tremolo system. The body of the guitar was black with a blue lightning effect spreading out from the twin double coil Humbucker pickups. The fret board was inlaid with ivory shark fins and the headstock was reversed. It was the most beautiful thing Jessica had ever seen. Immediately she tried to think about how to get her hands on her father’s credit card. The idea of stealing from her father shocked her but not enough to stop her thinking about it.

She had a look at the current bids section on the web site to see what it would cost her father. The page showed no entries and there was only ten minutes left. The minimum bid was set at 15 souls.

“What the…” said Jessica.

She quickly covered her mouth with her hand to prevent the rest of her sentence spilling out. Not sure what would happen she navigated her cursor to the “place bid” button and double clicked. A new window opened. It read:

“Thank you Jessica, your bid has been accepted. Bidding closes in eight minutes.”

The message alarmed Jessica; she had not entered any personal details onto the site. With sick curiosity she watched the time count down. Her breath was shallow and her heart was hammering in her chest. The eight minutes passed quite quickly and were disappointingly uneventful. She had expected a mystery bidder to take up the fight in the last two minutes of the countdown. Instead, when the last second ticked away, a new window opened on her screen. This one read:

“Jessica, congratulations on your purchase. This fine specimen will be available for collection at your local post office as soon as it opens. I.D. will not be required. You will be expected. Thank you for shopping with!”

The message faded to black as soon as Jessica had read it. Her emotions were mixed and battling for dominance. Eventually serenity won. She went to her bed and thought about her new guitar. She did not think about how she might pay the bill.

The next day was a Saturday. She was up very early as the post office in her little town only stayed open until noon. Cycling as fast as she could she made it to the door of the post office in time to see a hand flip the sign from “Sorry we’re closed” to “OPEN”. Jessica jumped from her bike and it freewheeled into the wall just after she opened the post office door and stumbled in.

The man behind the counter was unfamiliar to her. This was quite strange as the town was very small and Jessica thought she had met everybody. However, she was much too excited to bother with such trivial matters and so she walked straight up to the counter and looked at the stranger, waiting for him to address her.

“Hello Jessica,” he said.

She was beyond surprise now. A dreamlike quality had taken over since her successful bid the night before and she had decided to just roll with it. What could be more Rock and Roll than that?

“Hi mister,” she answered.

“I have a package for you today, but then you know that don’t you?”

The stranger smiled and Jessica could see that he had only one incisor in his upper row of teeth. It sat right in the middle of the row. All other visible teeth looked like canines only they were viciously pointed and spaced disturbingly. She thought that the man had a very honest smile. She immediately warmed to him.

“Yes mister, I know. I’m really quite excited about it,” she said. She returned his beautiful smile.

The stranger disappeared behind the counter and quickly rose to visibility with a large package wrapped in brown paper in his hands. The fact that it was a guitar was very obvious. The paper had been so carefully wrapped that it looked like a coat of paint. Jessica almost started to drool.

“Now my dear,” said the stranger, “Here is your new axe. I hope you make some beautiful music together.”

He started to hand it over and as Jessica raised her arms to accept it he suddenly pulled it back. Jessica almost jumped at him in order to tear it from his grasp. She now needed that guitar. The longer she spent without it the more it pained her.

“There is just the small matter of payment my dear girl,” he said.
Jessica’s heart sank and her anger rose. She was all too aware of the fact that she was in possession of only one soul and had no idea how to pass it on to this man. She certainly carried no spares in her purse. A growl started to form in her throat. She needed that guitar!

“I know that you do not have the fee on your person at present,” he said, “but that is not a problem at all. The bill will be settled in due course. In the mean time I would ask you to study this little book. It will help you to earn what you owe.”

The stranger slid a small glossy paperback over the counter and Jessica took it from him. It was called “Screaming Riffs for Talented Beginners”. She quickly thumbed through a few of the pages and saw that it was filled with short melodies. They were the type that you played loud and proud. She was very interested now.

She tucked the book into her backpack and waited impatiently for the guitar. The man handed it to her without ceremony.

“Thank you mister,” she said.

“Oh don’t thank me my dear,” he said, “I’m merely a messenger. Now off you go, it’s time for my coffee break.”

Jessica strode out of the post office and turned sharply right. She left her bike where she had ditched it, as the package she carried was not very well suited to that mode of transport. The bike was no longer all that significant to her anymore. Besides she was going somewhere much closer than her father’s house. She was going to her father’s church. There was a very nice Marshall amplifier there that she wanted to test out. Luckily, there was a church picnic in the nearby forest park starting at ten o’clock. Her father and the entire congregation would be in attendance. She would have the place all to herself for the whole day. She planned to make good use of that time.

Jessica was back home before her father that night. As she pretended to listen, the minister droned on about what a success his little day had been. When he eventually stopped for breath Jessica told him that she was going to have an early night and excused herself. This was not anything out of the ordinary as Jessica always went to bed early on a Saturday night. He kissed her forehead and wished her pleasant dreams. His daughter smiled her innocent smile and went to her room. It was all she could do not to skip all the way. Tomorrow couldn’t come quickly enough. She was dying to share her new music with the congregation. They were in for a real awakening. Even her father would enjoy it.

The next day, just like any other Sunday, Jessica sat at the organ while her father welcomed the congregation to the service. Unlike any other day, Jessica had to fight to keep herself from fidgeting. She was nearly sick with excitement. When her father was done with the pleasantries he nodded to his daughter as he did every Sunday and Jessica’s hands fell to the huge ivory keyboard. Her fingers formed the opening chord and pushed down. There was no sound. Jessica made a theatrical expression of confusion and pushed down on the keys again. Still there was no sound. After a third attempt the congregation began to shift in their seats.

“Please excuse me,” said Jessica as she got up from her stool and disappeared behind the giant instrument.

The minister calmly looked to his congregation and smiled. His patient expression settled them somewhat and the shuffling ceased. There was a low rumble as a small black box rolled out on castors form behind the organ. When it came to a stop in front of the minister’s feet all eyes were on it.

Feedback started to wail as Jessica strode out confidently still wearing her Sunday best but with one new accessory. Her new guitar was strapped to her shoulder. She stopped at the little Marshall amplifier in front of her father’s feet and looked up at him.

“Plan B daddy,” she said.

Her father looked into her eyes and took a step backwards. She had stars in her eyes. They were not the good kind. They were the ones that certain people called pentagrams.

Before turning to her captive audience Jessica pin wheeled her right arm and her hand crashed down on the strings. A heavily distorted power chord filled the small church. Somebody screamed in agony. Jessica smiled in ecstasy. She turned on her heel and played one of the pieces from “Screaming Riffs for Talented Beginners”. It was called “Pay the Man”.

Half way through the riff fifteen people seated in the front row bent forward violently. Smoke began to billow from their eyes. As Jessica’s music reached its crescendo the fifteen screamed in key. The effect was stunning. As the final power chord was struck thirty eyes popped from their sockets and hit the ground with a sickening patter. White flames erupted from the empty sockets. The flames met at the headstock of Jessica’s guitar. The entire guitar took on a powerful aura and Jessica laid it at her feet. She stepped back from it and as screams and feedback assaulted the ears of the terrified congregation the ground under the guitar began to open up. The possessed instrument floated above the crooked trench but the brilliant light was sucked down into it. Tinny screams of satisfaction echoed from the void.

The fifteen damned walked blindly around the church. Without souls to guide them they tore limbs from anyone within their reach. The minister sank to his knees in the manner of the theatrical Catholics and began to pray. One of the fifteen heard him and kicked him hard in the back. He fell head first into the trench before him. His attacker made a dreadful noise that may have been a celebratory exclamation.
As the guitar dulled back down to its original colour the trench began to close. Before it sealed flawlessly one small voice rang clear in the church.

“Thank you for shopping with”

Jessica smiled. She thought that she might like to learn the drums next.