"You know I ain't tried it like this before," Pryce
Gallison said. The fear in his voice
was obvious. Any other time he would
have possessed a hundred times the bravado his friends had. That evening was totally different.
"Come on, you pussy. Jerry and Ethan already did it, and they're fine." Blade Mercer gestured toward the two passed out boys in the corner. "Besides, you know we got to celebrate the deal," he coaxed.
At that point, Pryce's sixteen-year-old brother came into the room to watch. "Hey, if he ain't gonna, I will," the kid said bravely. He idolized his older brother and wanted to do everything he did.
"The hell you will, you're just a punk. Get out," Pryce demanded.
"Hey Prycie," the kid said. His brother never spoke in such a fashion. After a moment, he realized that Pryce was scared.
"Don't 'hey Prycie' me, Jordan. Go."
The kid thought about it for a moment, but remained rooted to his spot. The only time Pryce ever used his given name was when he was either pissed off or scared shitless. What was the freaking big deal anyway? The guys were only doing a little smack and blow. It was a nightly ritual between his brother and Blade [and with the other guys, too]. But that evening, Blade was trying to cajole Pryce into shooting speedballs, and Pryce was obviously not going for it. Pryce stuck to strict cocaine use with a shot of heroin here and there. However, Blade was the big smack freak, and every now and then, he came over and did speed balls with Ethan and Jerry. Pryce never mixed, it was one or the other or none.
"Pryce," the kid began again.
"I told you, asshole, get the hell out of here." Please, okay, his eyes seemed to beg.
The kid immediately understood. Pryce was afraid Blade would offer the stuff to him, and of course, he would take it. It would be pussy not to. "All right, all right, I'll go. I'll be your look-out for Mom," he said before leaving the room.
"You gonna or are you not," Blade asked for the zillionth time.
Pryce sighed. "Give me the fuckin' spike, you fuckwad," he said, hoping the joviality in his voice hid the real fear there.
Ah shit, the kid whispered to himself. His mother's car was pulling into the driveway. There was no time to warn the guys and get rid of the stuff. Serafina Gallison would have a bird when she saw the toys Ethan, Jerry, and Blade had brought with them. At almost the exact moment Serafina Gallison's ancient car pulled into the drive, somebody started screaming in Pryce's bedroom.
Jolted for a moment, the kid ran for his brother's room. He no longer cared if his mother saw what they'd been doing. He threw the door open and saw Ethan and Jerry stumbling around the bedroom like animated scarecrows. His eyes shot to Blade, who was running his hands through his hair. Blade's bugged-out eyes threatened to pop right out of his head. Finally, the kid's eyes moved to his brother. Pryce was sprawled out on the floor, convulsing. His face was turning a dark, ugly blue, and he was clawing at his throat, leaving torn, bloody groves. The kid couldn't move fast enough. His legs seemed to be stuck in cement. If someone didn't do something soon, Pryce would die. Blade started screaming, and the kid realized that it had been Blade who'd screamed the first time. Unable to cope with the sight of his best friend dying before his eyes, Blade ran out of the room, almost knocking Serafina Gallison down.
"What's going on," Serafina screamed.
"Ma, Ma, help me, Ma," the kid chanted over and over again.
Serafina ran toward her son's bedroom. The Ethan and Jerry scarecrows were still stumbling about, wondering aloud what was going on. By the time Serafina came to her son's aid, it was already too late. The spike responsible for all the trouble still dangled from Pryce's arm.
On the evening of Pryce Gallison's death, the young men
had been celebrating. Their band,
Mercenary [dubbed so by Blade because it sounded like his name], had been
signed to a record label after a few years of playing Los Angeles clubs. They were to begin recording their debut
release on a future date. The guys had
decided to celebrate, and their usual way of celebrating was drug use. However, on the eve of success, Blade Mercer
was already a heroin addict, as was Pryce with cocaine. Blade had only been experimenting with
speedballs a few weeks, and he was anxious to introduce someone else to the
rush, then the relaxing euphoria. But
he had no idea what would result from his recklessness.
Two days after Pryce's death, Blade was holed up in his seedy apartment. His only furniture was a broken down couch with springs sticking up through the worn fabric, and a wooden crate he used as a table. Blade was curled up on the couch, had been since Pryce freaked out. He had taken every penny he had [which wasn't much] and bought as much smack as he could. He was already in the throes of withdrawal, and couldn't even begin to care that Pryce was dead. All he cared about was getting another fix.
As he lay suffering, he heard a great pounding noise. It was horrific. It was as if a thousand woodpeckers pecked away at a metal wall. He covered his ears and screamed out at the invading noise. It did not go away, it only grew more insistent. He screamed out again and again, but to no avail. After a few short moments [which felt like hundreds of years to him], the pounding stopped. He had never been as grateful to hear silence as he was at that moment.
"I figured he'd be here," a voice, familiar to his aching ears said.
"What do we do," another familiar voice asked.
"Take him to his aunt and uncle."
His aunt and uncle? What were they talking about? He hadn't seen either of them in seven years. Why would he want to go to them? They lived in a nowhere southern Missouri town. A bunch of hicks was what they were. Feebly, he looked up. Ethan, Jerry, Serafina, and Jordan Gallison were standing in his shabby living room/dining room/kitchen/bedroom.
"Blade, get up," the kid demanded.
"I can't, I won't, my legs don't move," he moaned. "God," he cried out, "I didn't know it'd do that to him, I swear to GOD. He ain't mad at me, is he?"
"He can't get mad at anybody now, Blade, he's dead," Ethan said.
Moaning, he spat, "Dead? Oh fuck, I didn't mean to kill him, I swear to GOD," he cried out.
"You need to get help, my man. Ma already called your aunt and uncle. They're gonna take you. LA just ain't the place for you right now," the kid said.
"No," Blade spat out, "all I need is another fix, okay? After that, I'll be as good as new. Somebody just spot me the money until the record hits. Huh? Huh? How 'bout it?"
"There's not gonna be a record, Blade. That dream is all over now. We can't do it without Pryce, or with you all fucked up like this," Ethan said, then grabbed one arm while Jerry grabbed the other. "We're takin' you to the shower, then you're goin' on a little trip."