Seven years passed. Seven years of clarity, sanity and real life for Caroline Hart and her daughter Keira Persephone. November 7th was approaching fast, and she stood looking at the calendar hanging in her kitchen for what seemed like hours. It seemed odd after all the time in the asylum, and still being able to remember how she felt for those endless years, but the anniversary of her father's death made her understandably sad, just not insane. It didn't tear into her soul the way it did, now that the actual vision that had made her so unstable was nothing but an indiscernible blur in the back of her mind now. She felt a deep regret that little Keira would never know her grandfather the way she did, and a small tear rolled down her cheek and onto her smiling lips as she remembered how much he wanted grandkids. He would've been so very proud of her little girl; top of her class with the possibility of skipping a grade next year, a talented poet, and very musically inclined, with the sweetest little voice any child had ever possessed. She could sing anything, anything she wanted, in perfect time and harmony. It bordered supernatural, said her piano teacher, and for some reason, that made Caroline a bit uneasy, but proud nonetheless. Perhaps it was a memory from Adams Institution she had suppressed, beaten down to keep it from interfering with her new life.
it sure as fuck isn't heredity, is it...? you couldn't carry a tune in a bucket and her father was either a murderer with fetishes that would disgust Ed Gein or a goat-fucking firebug...
The tattered remnants of insanity. These episodes were few and far, far between, but were disturbing nonetheless. Most of the time she forgot them by week's end, other times they clung for a little longer, but never really haunted her. Maybe another sip of coffee would wash it away.
It was around age 10 that the first problems arose. Keira began to have these strange feelings, and only isolation would alleviate them. She spent hours alone in her room, either writing or playing her keyboard. The times she would come out to eat, or Caroline brought food into her room, she would often start a conversation and all seemed normal. Counseling and a psychiatric evaluation determined that perhaps this was just a phase, no signs of depression or anxiety, just the need to be alone. She was otherwise very well-adjusted and could never be pegged as a recluse who spends most of her time out of school without any human contact. Caroline couldn't help but worry at times, but Keira's bright little smiles and the chats they had during her meals always brought her back around. This was her daughter's personality, and she was just going to have to adjust.
In the following five years, Keira's need for solitude evolved, becoming an all-consuming entity that made spending any real amount of time around other people insufferably agonizing. This is not what she wanted. She wanted to hang out, go places, party with her friends, and it was the party crowd that showed her the path to coping with her anxieties: drugs and alcohol. With the proper mixtures of pills, powder, weed, and various liquors, depending on the social situation, she could remain in the company of her friends and even strangers for extended periods of time. These bouts of superhuman inebriation also landed her in many sexual situations that would have never, ever been possible otherwise. One who wishes nothing more than to be left alone doesn't normally engage in threesomes, foursomes or full-blown orgies without some chemical help.
Of course, much experimentation was needed to find just the right high for any and all situations, and experiment she did, even to inhuman extents. Her friends would watch in awe as she consumed enough dope and liquor to put an elephant down, party all night, pass out, and awake the next morning as though she had taken vitamins with orange juice. This eldritch gift of hers kept her mother from ever finding out about Keira's newfound method of self-medication, but the constant intoxication was reason to avoid her mother even more than before, and Caroline became deeply concerned and just plain scared.
Music was still Keira's favorite way of expressing herself and easing the dire pain of existing, especially heavy, dark music, and especially when she was severely fucked up. In her warm, hazy cocoon of pill-induced euphoria, she felt as though her voice had never been stronger or more dynamic. She was so horribly mistaken. As her friends were more than happy to tell her, she was at her best cold sober. The drugs robbed her voice of that quality that made it so haunting, like a surgical implement that could cleave easily and deeply into the innermost chambers of one's heart. It was when she begrudgingly let up on the binges that some of her party friends made her a serious offer to join their band; Avery Harper on drums, Jamie Thomas and Marshall Stevens playing guitar, swapping lead and rhythm roles, and Randal Michaels on bass.
“No promises,” she said to Avery, “I flip out so easily, it's just...you have no idea what it's like to be inside my head.”
“I've read your poetry. I really don't wanna be in there, to be honest. All we're asking is that you don't get as wasted as you normally do when we have the karaoke parties and shit. Really wrecks your voice, man. I mean, shit, we like to get our smoke on before practice, maybe a few beers, you know that. So we're not gonna preach to ya or anything like that. Just sayin', man, take it easy when it's time to rehearse, or if we actually get to play somewhere.” Avery had a way of speaking that put people at ease, no matter what he was saying. He could tell someone to go fuck themselves and make them smile. That's all Keira could do right now, just smile and wish she could hug him as she agreed to the terms the band had laid down. Maybe singing with an actual band, pouring her soul out into the universe, would be intoxicating enough.
Three months into rehearsals with Shadow Sonnet, the name the group finally settled on, Keira had amassed an arsenal of lyrics, which quickly became a catalog of thirty-some-odd songs, impressive for a fledgling band just venturing out onto the scene. One of the many kids who hung around the loft where the band rehearsed had posted some clips on YouTube, and they had what Randal called “an almost ridiculously huge following” without having played a note in public. The stats showed thousands of likes, maybe a handful of dislikes, and the comments section was filled with adoration and accolades. The positive feedback was overwhelming, and drove them to work even harder to make sure their performances were as great as the music once they were ready to play live.
It's been said that luck comes when preparation meets opportunity, and that's exactly how it came to Shadow Sonnet. Never had a notification sound brought such ecstatic news as it did the day it heralded an e-mail from the manager of The Tower, a three-story nightclub and the club to play in their hometown. Marshall read the message aloud as the band put down their instruments and gathered around him.
Good afternoon! Hope you guys are doing as well as your YouTube videos seem to be. My name is Gerald McKay, and I manage The Tower, a nightclub uptown on Tiger Lily Ave. I have to say, it's been a long time since I was so impressed with a young act, and that's saying something, because I've seen the best and the worst that the scene has to offer since 1983. Right now, the Tower is an adult club, but we've been secretly creating a teen club in the basement. There's a separate rear entrance so the kids will never cross paths with the adults coming in and out of the other three floors as well as fenced-off parking. We should be ready to launch in about three weeks, and we want you to headline our opening night. Just contact me at this e-mail address if you're interested. Thanks for your time!
In minutes the gig was set, and they were on their way to their first public performance, and Keira couldn't have been more terrified. Her first thoughts were how messed up she could get without the band noticing and on what substance she might best accomplish this.
No...no...I'll use it...use the pain...but afterward...
Three weeks passed like three days, but Shadow Sonnet was more than ready, and it showed when they took the stage. The opening band was 0-to-150, a techno/metalcore powerhouse, followed by Cuntpunch, a distastefully named band of hacks attempting a true punk revival but falling tragically short of even grazing the true spirit of the genre. Jamie had left them late last year to play guitar with Shadow Sonnet back when they were known as Shards of Faith, proving he was much better than he seemed to be with his former band. Both groups were well supported by the fans they brought, and had been around at least three years longer than Shadow Sonnet, but those fans were soon swayed and won over, and the tenure of the other acts became suddenly insignificant.
All eyes were on Keira as she swayed to the rhythmic howl-and-grind of Marshall and Jamie's guitars riding the pulse of Avery and Randal's undertow, saturating the audience in the rich, flowing outpour of her sorrowful voice. Every heart in the place was filled fit to burst with emotions that their owners couldn't describe or explain, and it overwhelmed them to tears as they raised their fists and cried out for more, more, more and then some. At the final bow, after two encores, Shadow Sonnet had played almost everything they knew and were glistening with sweat and pride. They left their audience clamoring and fighting to charge the backstage area as they made their way to the dressing room. It wasn't much, but there were two very plush albeit well-worn couches, end tables, a refrigerator and microwave, three small vanities and a walk-in closet as well as a shower and a toilet in a decent sized bathroom. Posters of various bands old and new graced the walls, right next to various movie posters and some neon signs from whatever kind of bar the basement had housed during the 80s when it was last open.
“My GOD!” exclaimed Avery as he flopped down on a couch and laid his head back, “That was...so beyond insane! Thank God for the internet, right?”
Marshall pulled four sodas from the fridge and passed them out to the other guys, dragging his across his forehead to cool it down before replying, “Fuck yeah! That was the single coolest thing that's ever happened to me. Did you see those redheaded twins up front, Jamie? They never took their eyes off of us, dude!”
Jamie smiled and cracked his open his drink.
“Man, we had this whole place thrashin'! Even Randal looked like he was having a good time!”
Randal almost smiled and raised his can. He wasn't really as sour as he seemed, just really solemn and somber most of the time. Tonight, though, his post-show mood betrayed his trademark stoicism, and several times it very nearly showed. After a long drink that eliminated half his soda, he noticed someone was missing.
“Where's Keira?” he growled in his deep, serious voice, casting glances around the room.
Avery looked to the door, which never opened. He got up and walked over to the bathroom door and knocked. No response. He shrugged and looked dismissively at his bandmates.
“She'll be here. Probably got mauled by some of the...crowd...oh SHIT!”
He bolted out the dressing room door and back toward the stage. As he rounded the corner, he heard the muttering and gasping conversations of the people gathered in a circle around Mr. McKay as he tried to revive the fallen Keira. She had indeed been overtaken by the masses she had previously held captive with her words and voice, and so great was the agony, the euphoria, the outright panic that she slipped immediately into unconsciousness. It wasn't long before an ambulance arrived to transport her to the hospital and then the police arrived to pry everyone away from the scene. People were crying and reaching for her while she was being loaded, calling her name and chanting “Shadow Sonnet” as the ambulance pulled away, lights and sirens blaring. Gerald McKay stood in awe, wondering how this could be. Not even the national acts that played the three upper levels of The Tower got this kind of reaction from a crowd, and who were these kids? His ticket to early retirement, that's who.
Not once did it occur to Gerald that it was a bit unusual for a band to garner the kind of loyalty and the very cult-like following that was Shadow Sonnet was quickly building up. In the following months, people began showing up from out of state, even other countries, as he found out when two couples showed up at The Tower and said they had arrived yesterday from Finland. They had been planning to attend a metal festival in Atlanta, but decided not to go until they found out Shadow Sonnet was playing here, and that, for them, made the trip worthwhile. No, all Gerald really thought about was the mountain of money in his bank account, a mountain that continued to grow and thrive as his new discovery packed the basement club weekend after weekend. The crowd sang along with their favorites, and the band had new material at every single show, so when the record company scouts started showing up, nobody was at all surprised. The first one to come to a show saw a young girl in one of the first-ever Shadow Sonnet t-shirts, her eyes glassy with tears as she very, very anxiously awaited her turn at the ticket stand and decided to ask her about the band. She seemed a little distraught at first, but managed to collect herself after she had her ticket in hand.
“Oh, God, they're so...just...I love them so much! I love Keira so, so much! Her voice...oh my God, her voiiiicccce! Her lyrics touch people, they speak to people like me, the outcasts, the lone-*sniffle*- the lonely ones. She knows me, I just know it!”
She was having a full-blown breakdown by this time, so he thanked her and moved on to buy his own ticket. Before the front gate even opened, four more guys just like him from four other labels appeared in the long line at the ticket stand. After it was all said and done, the one to give the band a home was Nicole Hurst from Cherry City Records. Her deal allowed the two band members still in high school, Keira and Randal, to continue their education as well as make records, and offered international distribution at the highest pay level of any band to date. With trembling, disbelieving hands, each member signed the three-year, two-album contract. Gerald McKay almost wept, watching his cash cow trotting off to greener pastures. The parents of the band, including and especially Caroline Hart, watched with slowly breaking hearts as their babies signed the papers that would send them out into the Big Old World on their own, making a living doing what they loved the most. It was absolutely insane how fast things were happening, as if some supernatural force was at work behind the scenes. That would be ridiculous, though, wouldn't it?