Actions

Work Header

The Shadow Over Tacoma

Chapter Text

tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB]
TT: Good morning.
EG: hi rose!
EB: today’s the big day.

TT: Yes, I suppose it is. Have you decided what you’ll do on the off chance you survive the concert?
EB: bluh...
EB: we talked about this, i’m going to be fine!

TT: I certainly hope so, though the ample precedent of past tours does raise doubts. Really, it’s what comes after that concerns me.
EB: well, it seems pretty dumb to come all this way and not cross the finish line.
EB: but i’m still thinking it over.

TT: That’s all I really am looking for, signs of serious consideration before you commit to a life-long course devoted to shadowy forces.
EB: god, look who’s talking!
TT: I intend to leave the coercion and dissuasion to Dave and Jade, but I do insist on forcing you to examine your options fully.
EB: gee thanks.
EB: seriously, everybody on my back all the time...
EB: i mean i’m so crazy buff now, my muscles have muscles.

TT: Swoon!
EB: but you guys are still pretty heavy to lug around complaining and getting on my case.
TT: Oh, pardon us! We hadn’t considered that showing care for a friend would be such a tiresome burden!
TT: Do forgive us, John. I would weep until the end of my days knowing you skipped happily into Death’s icy embrace while you were "cheesed off" with us.

EB: whatever!
EB: i keep telling you, if you just listened to the music, you might get where I’m coming from here.
EB: bluh bluh, huge pitch.

TT: And what makes you think I haven’t taken your incredibly timely and leading-edge recommendations? Or that I’m so ignorant, I hadn’t already come to appreciate Dethklok on my own?
EB: wait, what?
TT: Honestly, there are literally tribes of bushmen who heard death metal before you.
EB: rose, are you telling me you’re a...
EB: SECRET DETHKLOK FANGIRL??

TT: John. They summoned an extremely powerful Finnish Lake Troll with a single song. I had a professional obligation to investigate, as well as a personal interest.
TT: This is basically my entire wheelhouse.

EB: haha, i guess so.
EB: why didn’t you tell me though?
TT: Because I am not the “fangirl” you suppose, and it perhaps would have dulled my pleas for caution even further, causing them to ricochet ineffectively off your thick head.
EB: YEAH RIGHT!!
EB: you want me to get you backstage?
EB: i hear master explosion likes blondes.
EB: ;)

TT: Oh, I’m sorry John, did I miss something you said? I was dodging all this falling rubble.
TT: My hysterical guffaws brought this entire hotel down around my ears! I only barely escaped with my life! So many others weren’t as lucky, it was very “metal”.

EB: ha ha. hotel?
EB: where are you now?

TT: Scotland.
EB: what’s in scotland?
TT: Hollow hills and the timeless forces that reside therein.
EB: oh, cool.
EB: anyway, I should get going.

TT: Yes, I guess so.
TT: In all earnestness, John, please be careful, and think seriously about your future.
TT: Is the thrill you are so obviously enamored with equal to the price you’ll pay for serving your dear, deadly “Masters”?

EB: price?
TT: You’ll never have a normal life.
EB: pfft. would I have anyway?
EB: that doesn’t seem like a thing that was going to happen.

TT: Point taken.
EB: besides, normal is dumb!
TT: You say that now, but when the time comes to make such sacrifices, it will be too late to reconsider.
EB: come on rose.
EB: have i ever been scared of a little sacrifice?

TT: Certainly not, and it’s equally admirable and stupid. But this is different; you’ll be called on to do things, horrible things you maybe can’t accept.
EB: ...
TT: In this case, I sincerely wonder whether you are to act as the lamb or the knife.
EB: uh...both?
EB: at least, that’s the answer i think would get me an a in that philosophy class i took.

TT: Very astute. Maybe you have a promising career in the Academy before you after all.
EB: hahaha
EB: alright, i really gotta go!
EB: i’ll tell you all about this badass show later, ok?

TT: I look forward to it. Goodbye, John, and good luck.
EB: bye!
ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT]
TT: ...
TT: <3

Doesn’t take much to get ready to head for the transports, so John could cut it a little close; he was already in his uniform each morning when he answered Rose’s messages. In fact, since he got it he hardly took it off, the soft and cool cotton definitely more comfortable than he anticipated. The mask, especially, he thought would be rough and gross and a pain in the ass, but it felt like a combination of a well-worn t-shirt and expensive satin sheets, loose enough that his breath didn’t stir it—though he did have to switch to contacts all the time.

Most surprisingly, what he liked better than the silky feel or the breathability was the facelessness. It was a daunting idea at first, like losing a part of himself, but as days passed in the camp, his plain clothes were an unwanted mark of distinction, his face felt like a liability. On the day they passed out the black duds, it only briefly occurred to him that it might be weird to want it so badly, to see such an achievement in anonymity.

“It isn’t surprising at all, John,” Rose stated smugly the next morning (always that way: Jade at night, Rose in the morning, Dave randomly, whenever he reached critical mass). “Your deep desire to belong, to feel needed within a family structure, and your innate leadership ability that you feel most comfortable engaging from a position of equality makes it only natural you would seek this sort of oblivion. We knew you were going to join some kind of cult eventually.”

It sounded a lot less fucked up in his head, for sure. But when he thought about it in her terms, all he could say was “Oh,” as he fingered the soft edge of his brand new nonidentity.

John looked around his room, pretty bare and dingy. Everything important, all the movable things that mattered—pictures from the first and latest vacation on a volcanic jewel in the middle of the Pacific framed in bottle-green glass, a “Don’t Mess With Texas” mug, an “Ithica is Gorges” shirt, his diploma—was shoved loosely in a box. He left the gritty sheets on the bed, his general wardrobe in the closet. Only the essentials, the things he would carry forward to a possible new life in the belly of a dark castle. Of course, most new inductees wouldn’t even get transferred to Mordhaus, and he honestly hadn’t decided anything yet.

Still. Just in case.

XxXxX

Getting these fucking people in the boats was terrible. Excited and drunk, carrying new-bought merch and food, they swayed and tipped across the beach and fared worse on the water. It didn’t help that the knarrs were past capacity, due to a shortage of space from the tanker; it was supposed to get moved out, make room for another 2500 fans, but snagged on a rocky shoal the week before. The boats for that sector displaced and beached, people just had to cram into others and crawl over each other, jockeying for position. Some of these morons were trying to get closer, to figure out the rigging and steer, strung up stupidly in a mess of rope and cables.

By showtime, fans were loaded up, the more expensive seats leashed and staked to the beach, holding them closer to the stage. There were a handful of drowning deaths, a non-fatal assault or two, but it seemed well within acceptable limits for a hundred thousand tweaking thrashers. The dark and sludgy waves, red-tinged in daylight but looking now like oil all the way down, were small and rolling and dotted all over with white Styrofoam cups. It looked like the night sky itself (not this one, chunky-overcast and threatening rain, but a clear one with thousands of stars) spread out between the sands and lapped at the keels.

John was wired and jittery, snapping his fingers and swinging his arms like a little kid. A thick slap thumped the back of his head, coupled with a throaty chuckle from the tall figure that stepped up beside him. Another anonymous recruit, but the height and the lumpiness of the black-covered torso were familiar to him.

“Oh hey, Varla!”

“Boy, you are just wiggling around like a damned puppy. It’s unprofessional,” she scolded playfully.

True enough, it was probably pretty unmetal to be this amped up about the show, but standing between the surf and the stage, in the glow of light tests and the shadow of the speakers, he felt dwarfed and electric. This was huge!

Even so, he attempted to compose his shit. “Sorry. I’ve never seen them live before, you know. It’s exciting!”

The woman snorted and clapped him hard on the shoulder; her teasing had bruised him up before. “Poppin’ your cherry then? Don’t worry, precious, they won’t be gentle!” She moved off, testing the hold of one of the tether spikes with her body weight, then hoisting a twenty-pound sledge and driving it down another few inches, then on to another. Varla was pretty great: John wanted to make sure he found out her number when it was assigned, keep in touch maybe.

They’d been instructed to face out, to watch the waves and crowd for potential problems, woodworkers-turned-security. John scanned the impatient mass of bodies, trying to tamp down the giddiness, be stern and yeah, professional. But it started at his feet, the rumble as the amps go live, and he whipped about to face the stage, wind floating up his hood. The first chord is struck, held to test the sound and in the pregnant space between it and the next strum, John has thrown up an arm and whooped, no chance for better judgment to elbow in.

“Shut up, asshole,” grumbled someone to his left, jaded and menacing.

A big figure slid in between him and the growl. “Leave him alone, Cyrus. It’s his first time.” John grinned at Varla so hard he was sure she could see it even through the face covering and imagined her doing the same.

The stage was bright red and blinding, the huge footlights glowing like pyre-light; bright and burning, five figures stood not thirty feet from him, blurs of arms and hair and, just, holy fuck! Those drums!

They reached out and burst through him, a fist inside his throat clamped on his windpipe. His heart was going crazy trying to match the speed and his ribs were tuning forks catching and holding the deep vibration. Pebbles were hoping up and down the beach and then slipped in minor earth slides beneath the water. Everything was humming and John could not breathe.

Music washing through him, over him, bouncing off the remaining trees and even echoing off the high rises in Seattle, John rode the crest of growls and blast beats and guitar notes lifted like black birthday balloons; his body stopped fighting, pulse settled in to a frantic pace, and he felt like a bird that drops from the sky and flaps it’s wings barely avoiding a clunking collision. It felt right, normal, like he had never not been folded into a noise louder than he ever thought possible, and once he was riding it, skimming over the shockwaves rocketing from the giant towers like it was his new natural element, he remembered himself, his responsibility, and turned back to the Sound.

The water was churning and above, the boats rocked with a rippling corpus of fans, throwing horns and headbanging and shoving each other in a friendly manner. They were just rocking out, and he felt fierce kinship, an overwhelming fondness for these annoying fuckers that rose up and choked him again. Over their heads, the image of the stage projected on the silvery surface of every sail, quick cuts from cable-suspended cameras focusing on different faces and instruments mirrored back at all angles. Cool, he’d still get to see the show.

XxXxX

The Big Boss, the stern and business-like manager who waited in the wings, was probably grimly ecstatic: the show, a seventy minute set with no encore, had gone without a fucking hitch. Some casualties had stacked up —John saw a barely-dressed woman, on her way backstage and escorted by one of the Skank Patrol Gears, get huge swathes of exposed skin ripped off by a gang of jealous girls— but nothing had stopped the onslaught of music even an instant. The ultimate success.

John was spent, exhausted, wrung out like a grody gym towel, and though he never wanted this feeling, the grim elation of the sound and dark fellowship with the other Klokateers and metalheads to end, his body couldn’t take much more. He was pretty sure Q-tips would be dragging scarlet crusty clumps out of his ear canals for weeks.

The band launched into a particularly heavy rendition of “Go Forth and Die”, marked on the internally-circulated setlist as the final song, and when it ended, John waited for Explosion’s signature way of ending the show (“Thanks, now fuck off.”) and was puzzled when it didn’t come. Instead, sounding less like a gravel-voiced god, more like a person, albeit still a snarling hulk of a dude, the frontman addressed the crowd. Behind him, Pickles fidgeted his sticks on the cymbals and the brown-haired guitarist adjusted his hand on the frets. Watching over his shoulder, John nervously thought of all the things that might be wrong.

I know I said we would never fucking do this,” he grumped into the mic. “But it just feels, right you know. It’s been one of those shows.”

John looked straight into the singer’s eyes, covered by veil of hair but flashing emerald. He hadn’t noticed, but the rest were already playing, quietly building to a crescendo of ringing strings and thudding bass. He locked on to Explosion’s face (Oh god, he’s looking right at me, John squealed internally, coupled with an endless concatenation of ohshit ohfuck ohshit), and he knew what came next, could hardly believe it but knew it more surely than his own name. From behind his mask, he mouthed the words as they arced like a current across the fjord, and the guitars, full volume now, thrashed and wailed in solidarity.

We call out to the beasts of the sea to come forth and join us.”

And they did. John snapped his head back to the wet edge of the beach, and saw dorsal fins slice between hulls. Sea lions peeked out of the surf, black eyes shining. Metal for fish, John thought, and of course they loved it, had been waiting in the sanguine water for this moment, just like the land dwellers had. Unaware of the deep ones brushing their backs against the ships, ready to revolt against them, the crowd lost its shit.

Every head flipped forward and back to the beat, thousands of forked fingers thrust against the clouds. One man in a studded-leather kutte, curly tangles past his shoulders, put his face in his hands and wept for joy. In every set of eyes pointed passed his head and fixed on the five men rocking out behind him, John saw an awe he could only describe as rapturous. This was history in the making, this was fucking in a confessional during mass, a wicked religiosity; even the other Klokateers murmured, elated. John thought his heart had exploded, and clutched his chest, feeling the song through his body, double music from within and out.

To make up for the shortened intro —decided after accented bickering heard like a hiss through the backup mics— Skwisgaar hurtled like a brake-cut truck into an extended solo, shredding the high melody with flashfinger speed. John watched as a dude in one of the front boats lifted his burning Zippo over his head and grinned like an imbecile. Ugh, he felt like the dorkiest motherfucker here, and even he knew that was completely uncool. But he didn’t expect Explosion to notice this one act of douchebaggery.

Where do you think you are, asshole?” came the growl from the speakers, talking over the flying scales of the Swede’s Explorer. Nathan turned to look at his bandmate, the bassist, and shook his head sadly. “Put your fucking lighter down. Seriously who does that? Fuck that guy.” Murderface repeated the sentiment with squishy-mouthed vehemence, and the crowd roared agreement, receiving it as if it was carved in stone, the first commandment of a new creed.

The moron with the fire’s face crumpled in terror. He was being lifted up, higher and higher by scratching hands; his boatmates and fellow fans wrenching him above their heads and, in swift and merciless judgment, cast him over the side and down into the salty depths. His back smacked against the waves, followed by his head dunking under, arm still holding the tiny flame aloft. It fell, still burning, and the whole world erupted in fire.

In the time it took John to bellow a surprised “Fuuuuuuuck!”, Puget Sound combusted, crackling and alive, the tallest pillars of orange-red racing back toward the huge container ship, which, he realized in a flash, must have been leaking fuel for days. The remains of the tank exploded, flaming shrapnel cutting through the sky on a shockwave that capsized the half the knarrs and knocked him flat on his ass five feet from where he’d stood.

Hot and battered, John weighed the merits of not getting up. He felt like he’d landed head first on a boulder stranded in magma. The sea was almost too bright to look into, masts like trellises for the blaze dropped their sharp sails; a half-corpse landed near him, neatly sliced vertically like a side of beef and disgorging brains and entrails out on the sand. Screams formed an endless harmony, a new brutal new choir comprised entirely of pain.

Pyrotechnic flares vented towards the sky: an incendiary mix of oil and water spraying in a fine mist from the whale pod’s blowholes. An Orca, squeaking-sonar rage and burning alive, rose up and crashed into three boats, dumping people into the greasy flow beneath where they roasted and choked in the toxic liquid. Even on the still-sea worthy craft, no two people were not on fire.

No, I don’t think I want to, John decided and he willed himself unconscious. He squeezed his eyes shut, hoping for that jet-cool nothingness; when it didn’t come, he wrenched his head up and with stinging smoky vision, saw the cutest fucking thing.

The pinnipeds, some as bulky as two or three men, barked in torment and dragged their singed skins out of the firesea. They wiggled and flopped between the beached corpses and flotsam, and directly in front of John’s face a seal pup whined and shimmied toward him. It was no bigger than a terrier and its eyes were huge and pitiful.

John released his breath and it came out as “dawww.”

The poor little guy, orphaned and charred by forces his fuzzy little brain could never understand, lit up like a child shown an ice cream cone, face preternaturally articulate and humanlike. As it shuffled towards John, it opened its mouth—a grimace, a nasty grin belying vicious intelligence—shit!

Its teeth were marbled yellow and crimson plaque, bits of flesh wedged between spiky incisors. He lunged with a keening shriek for John’s face.

Rolling away, John tongued a mix grit and bile. Hankering for fresh mammal blood after weeks of acquiring the taste, the little seal flopped hungrily at him, slaw-jawed and snarling. His mind shat itself, only prayers demanding blackout filtering through the crackling static of dread, and his body moved stiffly and automatically to shove the ravenous beast-baby away. His hand connected with its ragged smile and earned him an arterial bleed across the flat of it, but it was effective. A little dazed and withdrawn from the push, it whined then wheeled back for another bite.

John scrambled to his feet, feet pumping and hands grappling for balance in a four-legged crawl. He hadn’t gotten far before he felt a nip at his shoe. Muttering terrified obscenities, he kicked wildly at fangs at his ankle, when his hand felt smooth wood. A handle. Varla’s heavy mallet.

He hoisted it weakly, barely two inches off the sand, and swung blindly behind him. A shiver of resistance creaked in his arm, the blow connecting with a wet thwap that reminded him of Gallagher’s melons. A wet spray of viscera soaked through his pants.

Struggling to stand, gripping the hammer like it was the only real thing in the world, John couldn’t believe he hadn’t passed out. Where was that comforting blankness he longed for? Not coming. He surveyed the horror of incarnadine coast—his coworkers overrun and being devoured by maddened sea creatures, bodies of fans burnt and bobbing in the scorching water—and sucked in an acrid breath of mostly oil-smoke. What now?

There was a path, narrow but navigable, leading to the trees, and he started up it at a trot, head swinging from side to side searching the grisly scene for unexpected obstacles. Burning carcasses and frying wood stank like rancid-charred pork chops melding to a filthy grill, with overtones of black toast like he was about to have a seizure, and John decided to get the fuck out before he joined the barbecue.

Halfway to the forest, he stopped cold: a shout emanated from the stage, picked up and broadcast through what speakers still worked. There was a mix of horrified mumbles and an adenoidal but understandable voice: “...seals attacking. Loose seals! We need the helicopter now!”

The manager was screaming into a microphone and walkie-talkie at the same time, standing with only three or four unarmed Gears between the band and a surge of pissed-off pinnipeds. With his free hand, the Big Boss fired a small pistol into the sickly-pink first-degree flesh of an enormous bull sea lion, chambers clicking empty before the beast even began to slow its wobbling climb up the low-set stage.

Fuck. The band, creeping backwards against the drum set, looked goddamned petrified. One of the black-hoods threw himself bodily at a roaring animal, rolling with it and punching until his throat erupted in a volcanic spray between the force of jaws. Fuck.

Dethklok devoured by Sea World rejects? That, thought John, is not fucking happening.

One last look up to the safety of the treeline, John pivoted and rushed towards the stage, swinging that fucking hammer and decimating a swath of bodies, feral-fierce animals and people alike. He could dimly feel goopy sludge splattering against him with each blow, but didn’t react to it. His eyes were fixed on the Masters’ faces, each step feeling lighter.

Up the short side-stair in a flash, John dove forward from the top step, landing heavily and sliding on wet shoes between Offdensen and the menacing bull. It was a hideous pulsing hulk, exposed gristle and muscle twitching where skin roasted away, and when he struck it sideways on the collar, the whole six-foot length of it jiggled.

Not enough. The animal fell halfway to its side and swept at his feet with a long flipper, raging noises still rolling from its gore-splattered chops. Adjusting his grip to the very end of the handle, maximizing torque with an intuitive motion learned long ago, John rose up on his tiptoes and let the hammerhead touch his heels before arching his body forward, every muscle in his core propelling the blow.

The sea lion’s head detonated spectacularly, raining blubber and blood and grape-sized dollops of brain-matter all over himself and the men behind him. He’d put a fist-big hole in the floorboard where the fleshy mammal skull had been reduced to jelly.

Scoping out the remaining animals, still marauding up the beach and onto the stage, John didn’t wait to see if the band was okay, and he couldn’t hear their hushed declarations of the extreme metalness of his movements over the double-thudding metronome of his pulse in his ears and the walloping strikes of his weapon.

Who the hell knows how long he strode through the throng of brutish forms? Everything slowed as he considered each step, each angular swipe of the sledge; it was the opposite of a fugue, John thought, it felt like a precise and artful dance, his arms and legs responding to decisions about direction and speed in the moment he made them. Smashing the hell out of these chubby murderous fishfuckers, he felt more in-his-body, more rooted and steady and aware than ever before. He’d been sleepwalking until he picked up this hammer, and now he swore he would never put it down.

So when a fellow masked-man reached for his arm, pulling him toward the ladder floating up towards a Dethcopter, he almost bashed his head in. It took a second to become sensible of the chop of the blades, to recognize the band already climbing to safety. John relaxed his sword-arm, dragging the business-end of the hammer behind him and clamored up last, gripping and rising above the rust-red beach, still singing with fire.

XxXxX

Hey hammer dude, that was pretty fucking brutal.”

John shook himself back to reality; he was zoned-out and crashing now that flight had push out all his fight.

The Big Boss was droning on: “And that’s why I tell you to never do encores.” But it was the dark-haired giant addressing him directly, seated in the center of his bandmates all wrapped in cozy-looking crimson blankets. Remembering his manners, John dipped his head humbly and answered “Thank you, my lord.”

Toki’s eyes were shining and fixed on him. “Yeah! Thats am the most kickings ass! Cans we keeps him, Charles? Canst we?”

The manager was rubbing his head, obviously shook up from the close call Dethklok seemed insensible to.

“Well, ah, of course, Toki. I don’t really know what you have in mind, we ‘keep’ all the Klokateers…”

“Yeah, but isn’t there something we do sometimes? A Purple Heart or something?” Pickles chimed in.

“We have a variety of hooded sweatshirts we use as motivational tools and rewards.”

Nathan snorted. “Always fucking hoodies with you. Give this guy a nickname.”

“Oh, yes. Right.” The manager looked John in the eye; he was covered head to toe and felt completely naked under his full attention. “We have a tradition of allowing some Klokateers a moniker in addition to their PIN. What’s your number, soldier?”

John felt embarrassed, heart racing again after just cooling down. “I don’t have one yet, sire.”

Offdensen nodded, never shifting his sight, and addressed a Gear beside him, one with a copper badge etched with “HR #23”, who reached into a canvas bag at his hip and drew out a sheet of paper, a PDA and a pen. Checking the device for available numbers, the man wrote “#1025” in a short blank at the top of... well, it looked like an Employee of the Month certificate he’d seen in the Microsoft Word template folder.

“So, this nickname...” the manager offered to the band, who looked back at him with blank stares.

Yeah?”

“Well, what do you want it to be?”

“Oh! Let’s call him Hammers Guy!” Toki shouted and clapped his hands.

“No, that’s fucking stupid,” the drummer slurred. He pulled a bottle of amber liquor out from under his seat cushion and took a long swill.

“Then you picks it, Pickle! Probably thinks of some dildos name. Like Dildo.”

The red-headed man, looking pretty sloppy already, cocked his head to the side and opened his mouth. A mashup of Upper Midwest vowels and drunken slobber that sounded like “aaaah-EEEEE-sssayt-aaaah-tttOOOO” poured out and the rest of the guys started shouting him down.

“Can’t gives him none-since names,” John heard Skwisgaar declare with bored conviction, voice carrying over the swarm of bickering.

“No, fine, that’s fine!” Offdensen rejoined testily. “Write that down.” HR #23 did as directed, handing the sheet to John when finished.

It had his new number on it, and a transliteration of whatever Pickles said on a line marked “(phonetic)” underneath. Across the top, a vaguely worded commendation directed him to bring this sheet to the Mordhaus Identification Office, where the nickname and number would be carved onto the bearer’s badge. Stapled to the lower left corner was a $5 off coupon for Hot Topic.

John studied the document’s inkjet script and, though he suppressed loopy giggles with every ounce of self-restraint he could muster, felt touched. Yeah, it was basically recognition for just do his job, but this wasn’t just any job and he did perform with some zazz; it wasn’t such a big deal to be needed, like on the stage where he stood between the musicians and a grisly death, but to be wanted? His heart swelled in a way he wasn’t ever sure it had before, maybe a long time ago in a universe that he could never regain, and he felt like he was floating again on blustery drafts of connection, like he had before the concert went catastrophically awry and he thought he would swell and burst trying to wrap his arms around the crowd.

Torn between gallows laughter and grateful tears, he tried his hardest and mustered a straight-faced “Thank you, sires,” before tucking the honor between his knee and the hammer’s handle resting on it for safekeeping. Two seats down, a battered fellow Gear, left leg jutting out at a very wrong angle, said quietly in a recognizable smoky rasp: “Nice job, cherry. Was it good for you too?”

John smiled and flashed a thumbs up at his friend, relieved she made it; leaning his head back against the seat, he shut his eyes and began to doze.

XxXxX

He had to wait until the next morning to return all the frantic offline messages from his three friends, each growing more and more irate as the news from Seattle filtered out, with the business office’s careful spin of course. The fire had reached the waterfront of the city, but burned itself out before any real damage was done; Puget Sound was a smoldering wreck, tales of freakish marine life pouring out onto the blogosphere. Fish markets were closed indefinitely.

Each of his chums watched the situation carefully and got more and more batshit worried as the night drew on. Dave alone wrote a thousand-line screed full of obscene and panicked metaphors between midnight and 6 am, non-stop it looked like. They were palpably relieved he logged on in his... well, it felt like a dorm, computer lab and recounted the tale of his first night as an honest to god Klokateer. He was especially proud that he didn’t have to embellish anything to make it sound more metal.

Between copying and pasting segments describing how completely badass he was, John searched phonetic dictionaries of a dozen different languages, trying to find some words or phrases, anything really, that sounded like Pickles’ drunken christening, trying to give any meaning to his new honorific. When he found it, he finally lost himself in laughter.

It was a crazy language, hardly any native speakers and completely isolated for every other language family around it; some said that meant the Basque people were descended from Neanderthals, not true Homo sapiens. That seemed like bullshit, but the pronunciation guide fit the basics of whatever the hell had come from the drummer’s mouth, and when he started to try to gloss the syllables, it was immediately recognizable as a cosmic joke.

“Haizehatu”, he printed on the sheet between fits of quaking belly laughs, an ungrammatical amalgamation of the words for “wind” and “grinder”, the later with an emphasis on punishment. It was too fucking much, and he howled at the irony ‘til tears streamed out his eyes.

Even Rose had to admit, it was hilarious, absolute proof that you could find something valuable in any bullshit thing at all.