Before anyone tries to get on my case about my presentation of the protesters OR the preacher in that tale, go here, read, and weep.
Even stopped at the light down the block, Steve could see the small crowd outside the studio building; they were hard to miss, with all the signs they were waving. With his windows down, he could hear shouting and chanting, though not the actual words.
“Great,” he muttered. “What now?”
Sid peeped up, over the dashboard, cocked her head. “Trouble?”
Steve only sighed. “Who knows, anymore. Probably a bunch of assholes upset because Neal’s wearing leather.”
“Invisible,” Sid said, sounding resigned.
He had to smile at that. “Only until we’re inside,” he said. “I just don’t want them coming after me.”
Sid butted her head against his free hand; he scratched right behind her head, the “good spot”, his smile breaking into a full grin as she rrrr’d and turned belly-up in the patch of warm sun on the seat.
He ignored the sign-wavers as he turned into the studio parking lot, staring straight ahead with the practiced I-don’t-see-you gaze of an experienced city-dweller. It was only when he got out of the car and glanced casually at the protesters --
-- oh my god.
He stood there, staring in disbelief, even as Sid clambered up his arm and settled into her usual spot along his shoulders. But then he felt her jerk up, and her claws dug in, lightly, with the bare beginnings of a growl.
The signs were religious slogans and religious symbols, with Journey’s name plastered prominently on them, right along with words such as “Satan”, “666”, and “devil’s work”. He could hear the chanting clearly now, prayers, exhortations, preaching.
“Oh hell no,” Steve said.
“Not-food,” Sid growled, very softly, just as the protesters spotted Steve, and the shouting and exhortations and prayers increased in volume.
Steve startled, found himself staring into a police officer’s unamused face.
“Um...I’m recording here,” Steve said.
The man’s face remained stony, though the corner of his mouth quirked. “You’d better get inside.”
He wasn’t about to argue, not with the volume increasing by the moment. Steve turned, kept his gaze fixed away from the sight, walked calmly and un-rushed into the building, as if he didn’t care at all, as if the protesters weren’t worth his time.
“Scared,” Sid said quietly, in his ear.
“No,” Steve murmured back. “Just...just tired. It’s so fuckin’ stupid.”
“Not Glass,” Sid said, just as quietly. “Sid. Sid scared.”
That unsettled him. But he was in the reception area, and the receptionist was glaring at him as he passed, as if Steve, personally, were the cause of the idiocy out front. Steve bit back a sigh, glad that Sid was invisible; it looked as if the woman’s day had been bad enough. He pushed through the hall door without a word, and down the corridor and through the studio door, only to hear the talk cut off suddenly into silence as he stepped into the main room.
His bandmates were staring at him, or rather, at Sid perched on his shoulder.
“Tell me,” Jonathan said, “please tell me Sid was invisible when you got here.”
“Sid not stupid,” Sid said, before Steve could say anything. “Glass said, invisible until in. Sid learn. Sid understand.” She jumped from Steve’s shoulder to the floor, scampering up to head-butt each of the others and getting her usual head-scratches in return.
“Should I ask?” Steve said.
He saw the glance go around the group. Finally Smitty straightened from his crouch by the drums, scooped up a small book from the floor, and tossed it to Steve, who caught it one-handed. “Look at that.”
The cover was garish, red flames, black background, an burning guitar dripping blood: “The Devil’s Sacrifice: Sin and Satan Kill Our Youth Through Rock & Roll”. Steve sighed, thumbed it without much interest. It looked like the usual rants, no different from the hundred or so other tracts that the band had received in the past couple years. He and Neal had always used them to roll reefers. “Another one. Nice.”
“Check out the back,” Smitty said.
Steve flipped it over...and collapsed back against the wall. “No. Hell no.”
“Good choice of words,” Smitty said dryly.
The grim face of the author glared up at him -- a face that had recently accosted him in a cemetary and hunted him down to a McDonald’s. Steve stared at the cover, rubbing at his forehead again. He could feel the headache starting already, and it wasn’t even noon.
“Brother Jed Dobbs,” Ross drawled, “leader and preacher of the biggest movement in the city, not counting what the winos leave on the streets.”
“It’s not funny, Ross,” Jonathan said.
“Hell it is,” Ross said. “I fully plan to enjoy my role as corrupter of virgins and eater of goats.”
Neal snorted. “You would.”
“Page 154, Steve,” Smitty said quietly.
“You read this shit?” Steve said.
Smitty shrugged. “You have to know the enemy.”
Steve thumbed through the pages, hit 154, and froze, suddenly unable to breathe. A list of “rock stars most in need of saving”.
His name topped the list.
Neal had come over, eyed the page. “Woah. You been doing shit, and you didn’t invite me?”
“And he beat out Ozzy, Rob Zombie, and GWAR,” Ross said. “Perry, you rock.”
“Guys,” Jonathan said.
“Aw, come on, Jay,” Neal said, grinning. “No one takes these asses seriously.”
Smitty calmly snagged the book back, and began reading, in a quiet voice. “...and in that moment, I caught this man on holy ground, in the cemetary among the blessed dead lying in the bosom of Jesus, and he had a demon on his shoulder, hissing its demonic evil into his ear, urging him into profaning the sacred dead for its evil sacrifices, yet it ran when I confronted it with the power of the Holy Cross and the truth of the Holy Blood...”
“Fuck,” Steve said, just as quietly.
“He saw Sid,” Jonathan said, to Steve. It wasn’t a question.
“Last month,” Steve said. Keeping it as short as possible, he told them what had happened, the man following him to McDonalds, what he did, what Smitty had done.
“Paybacks are hell,” Ross said finally.
“Ross,” Steve said.
“You worry too much,” Ross said. “That’s you, man. You thrive on drama in your life, and you know it. So they rant for a bit, they buy a big stack of our albums, hold a record burning or two, and we get all the publicity and the profits. Big deal.”
“You did see that crowd out there, right?” Steve said.
“Yeah,” Ross said. “And I also saw that they were very carefully keeping to the sidewalk and out of the way of the nice policemen who are guarding our Satanic Majesties. They’re idiots, but they’re not stupid. They’re not going to get their lily-white asses in trouble.”
“Which means they’re smart idiots,” Smitty said quietly. “That scares me.”
Ross turned to Neal. “Are we the only ones being realistic here, or what?”