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Sparks

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Chapter 1

George

Everyone knows about them.

Maybe that’s a bit of a statement.

Everyone being the small crowd of mostly nobody college kids whose only night life is going to a music night club every Saturday and the occasional Friday if they’re feeling festive. Them being George Notfund’s band, containing four members with the very creative name of The Feral Boys. 

Despite this everyone, this crowd knowing all about The Feral Boys, they could hardly be called famous. Not by a long shot. They were recognizable within the confines of the four brick walls bordering the music night club they preformed at every Saturday at 8 PM sharp. The Feral Boys were the club’s pride, the best of the other exceptionally terrible bands they harbored. 

George wished to be recognizable outside of this rather underground club. He had dreams to preform on stages wider than his car to a crowd that wasn’t entirely intoxicated. He had dreams to hear his own electric guitar bouncing off the speakers of his car radio.

George was a dreamer.

And George was also late.

Remember how his band preforms at 8 PM sharp?

“Dude!” Sapnap shouts out his van window, “get your British ass in here! These drums ain’t gonna play themselves!”

“I’m trying!” George shouts back. He really was. He was trying to get his guitar in his bag, over his shoulder, his shoes in his Vans, his ass out the door, and surely enough-

“Finally,” Karl whistles.

“Took you long enough,” Quackity quips from the back seat.

“Shut up,” George retorts.

“Let’s blast this bitch,” Sapnap says once George had hardly clicked his seat belt of the back seat, guitar strewn haphazardly across his lap and into Quackity’s “personal bubble” as he grumbled.

(This is where Sapnap would’ve revved the engine and blasted into the next dimension if he were driving a sports car instead of an old VW van.)

Usually, they were pretty good at leaving with plenty of time to run over their setlist, set up, and get a drink.

But usually, George didn’t sleep in until 7:30 PM and wake up to the beautiful sound of Quackity shouting in his face and shaking him awake.

“Why were you sleeping in so late, anyway?” Karl asks, head turned over his shoulder as he causally gripped tightly onto the handle above his head as the van rocked back and forth with the not-so-gentle movements of Sapnap’s rather dangerous driving.

“Practicing,” George replies as he looks down at his fingers that felt as if he had the permanent indents of strings into them. He went well past the earlier hours of the morning trying to get in some last-minute practice time, enough that his fingers ached with each press into the fretboard of his electric guitar. Eventually, he fell asleep in his seat with his guitar across his lap and his pick loose in his palm. 

“Fair enough, but now it’s five minutes past eight,” Karl says, facing ahead just in time to shout please, Sapnap, not the birds!

“These birds don’t stand a chance when I’m on the road,” Sapnap says over Karl’s shrieks of protest.

Yeah, they were quite the interesting group.

“This isn’t game, you dumb fuck!” Quackity shouts over the bickering. George made the expert decision to cup his hands over his ears. “Get us to the fucking club without hitting any fucking birds because we’re fucking late thanks to our genius- Jesus! Sapnap!”

“Out,” Sapnap says simply as the van appeared to be (supposedly) parked.

They scramble from the van. George slings his case over his shoulder, hops out of the sliding van door, and bounds from the parking lot to the back door of the club. As it was past 8 in an often bustling city, George wound between people, murmuring apologies and reaching the door after what felt like forever. The blinking, broken lights of the club, spelled SMP over the entrance to the otherwise inconspicuous metal door. The lighted letters illuminated the pavement of the dark sidewalk filled with the occasional pedestrian. “SMP” stood for “Super Music Place” run by Schlatt, who was a “drunk old git” according to George. But a club by the name of “Super Music Place” sounded pretty stupid to put it lightly, so most everyone just called it the SMP.

As soon as George nudges open the door with his hip, throwing it open enough for Karl, Sapnap and Quackity to scramble in behind him, he found himself running into a wall of chest that he found to be the bouncer.

“Hi,” George says breathlessly, now acutely aware of the sweat dripping down the side of his neck. “We’re performers, and we should be on stage right about now-”

“Sorry kid,” the bouncer says, blank stare adjusting into what seemed to be an apathetic glare, “you’re late. Your slot got filled.”

“What?” the group choruses. They’d been late once before because Quackity lost track of time and one thing lead to another and the band ended up on stage ten minutes late, which was actually worse than their current situation.

But still. The Feral Boys were supposed to be the group of the SMP. Not the late band who was replaced within a few minutes.

“Who’s replacing us, anyway?” George says with clear bitterness underlying his voice. He tried to peer over the tall bouncer’s muscular shoulder to the crack between the backstage curtains in an attempt to see who was standing on stage, plugging in their instruments. “The Guitar Heroes? The Singers?” For context, these were both horrible music groups that preformed on Fridays and Saturdays at the club during the early night. 

“No,” the bouncer says flatly. “Some other guys. Never seen ‘em before.”

“Can you get them off stage, then?” George insists. This was their slot. Their time. He wasn’t going to let someone swoop in and take this from them.

“No,” the bouncer says again. “The leader was… persuasive.” George’s eyes flicker to the bouncer’s hand, where he can see a folded twenty-dollar bill tucked between his thick fingers. George’s jaw nearly drops to the ground. What no-name asshole-

“George,” Karl says gently. George feels a hand on his shoulder and a gentle squeeze. He lets the fight leave him as he knew it was pointless. 

“Let me know if any other slots open up, alright?” George says to the bouncer. The bouncer grunts in recognition.

“We were only five minutes late this time,” Sapnap whines from behind George as they navigate from the backstage stretch to the mash pit of crowd at the foot of the tall stage. As soon as the backstage door opened, the previously muffled noise hit them all at once. George grimaces as he keeps a tight grip on his bag strap. It went without saying that leaving instruments unattended in the back room was basically a kiss of death as George had lost an acoustic guitar by leaving it for twenty minutes. This electric guitar was his pride and joy, a black Fender Stratocaster, the small tick marks on the knobs worn from its frequent and rapid use. In other words, George wouldn’t dream of letting it out of his sights for more than a few seconds.

With the rest of his band trailing behind him, George weaved his way through the mass gathered around the foot of the stage. It was the usual crowd by glance, people in sparse clothing with maximum hair dye and many piercings, the air thick with alcohol and loud, drunk laughter. The lighting was dark and feverish, lights switching from hues of dark blue to light green like the flickering between camera filters. It felt wrong looking up at the stage instead of being on it. George was so used to being three feet above the crowd, heart pumping with adrenaline, fluttering smile plastered on his face and hands clammy under the head of the spotlight. 

The stage was dark, yet the movement of whatever band had the audacity to pay off the bouncer was setting up their instruments. George turns to face Karl, who was pressed shoulder-to-shoulder between him and Quackity, and Sapnap who lingered behind him. “Do you have any idea who these guys are?” George shouts over the loud atmosphere. Between flashes of light, he can make out Karl’s unknowing expression.

“Uhh,” Karl shouts back. “I don’t think so?”

“Wait ’til you see the drummer!” some unknown individual shouts from somewhere beside George. They bump their shoulder against his. “He’s hot as shit. And so fuckin’ good.” George narrows his eyes,

“Has he preformed here before?”

The person shakes their head, their short hair falling over their wide eyes. “Nope! This band was real big at L’Manburg until they decided that crowd was too small for them and came down here.”

George tuts. “L’Manburg? Are you shitting me?” For brief context, L’Manburg and SMP were rival music clubs. Schlatt was very clear about that, so the fact that this group was able to preform here under Schlatt’s watch was a shock.

The person shrugs. “I’m telling you, man. They’re good.”

George opens his mouth to protest, to say he didn’t spend the entirety of the previous night rehearsing just for some big-dicked drummer to take his spot with a twenty dollar bill until all of a sudden, the warm, bright, yellow lights hit the stage to reveal the culprits of this situation.

Briefly shielding his eyes from the immediate illumination, George waited for his eyes to adjust to properly see who exactly these people were.

There’s a weak cheer from the crowd before the lead singer adjusts his microphone to his mouth before promptly saying “let’s blow off this fuckin’ roof with noise, yeah?” before the crowd roars in response. There couldn’t be more than seventy people in here total, including the people slumped over the bar stools in the far side of the club. George’s ears ring as he scans over the contents of the band. The singer, holding a hollow body electric guitar, had thick fluffy hair and a sort of stance that gave George an idea that he knew what he was doing. To his left was a lanky figure in a dark hoodie, holding an all black electric bass guitar, thumb hitched and fingers hovering over the strings. He couldn’t make out much of his face with the hood up, but he could tell the bassist was looking back at their drummer.

Ah, so this was the drummer. 

George couldn’t see much of him as he seemed to be wearing a black face mask with a bright-ass green (or yellow, who knows) hoodie pulled over his head, yet a few strands of blonde hair peeked out from under the hood.

Intrigued, George watched as the drummer gave the bassist a small nod, and within this small exchange, the audience was dead silent until the bassist started off the song. No drums, no vocals, but perfect tempo.

It was impressive, really, how the bassist was mostly pulling at the strings from the frets with his left hand as opposed to his lower right hand. 

Then, the vocalist leaned close to his microphone, took a small breath, and sang, 

Nothing here to see

Just a kid like me

Trying to cuss and see

Trying to figure it out.”

His voice was rich, hushed, but controlled. Truly impressive.

George watched as the bassist was holding down eighth notes with deadly precision as the singer sung a few more lines. They couldn’t be that impressive, right?

But then the drums came in.

The song was overall calm with a sense of build under the surface, and then the drummer came in, dead on the beat, right in the pocket without so much of a breath out of line.

Even without a musician’s perspective, it was impossible not to appreciate how in the groove this trio was, how the singer’s voice rung through the audience.

But as the chorus approached, George didn’t know whether he should look at the singer whose voice grew in volume, the bassist who was just shredding, or the drummer who was truly giving himself an upper-body workout with this beat.

“I'll let it go 'cause I won't see you later

And I'm not allowed to talk it out.”

It wasn’t until this chorus that George suddenly knew where to look.

The drummer.

His flawless and flashy performance screamed for recognition that George simply gave in to.

The crash and ride cymbals of the drum were ringing through the air, loud, almost uncontrolled and wild as the drummer attacked the bass drum and floor tom mercilessly, drum sticks flying across each section of the drum set until he let go and all of a sudden, the ringing cymbals silenced as if on his command. George’s jaw was unmistakably dropping. It was in this moment that he knew this drummer was really something special. He had a kind of control that was far from a dime in a dozen. 

In fact, George had never seen anyone drum like this, enough that George couldn’t stop staring at him even as the bright spotlight was on the singer alone.

Eventually, the vocals faded away as the singer resorted to guitar alone, but this was where the bass and the drums, the damned drums took the show.

At first, the bassist took a step forward where the spotlight slipped onto him, and his first and ring finger worked up and up the fretboard of his bass guitar in an expert, loud solo that had the crowd around George swaying and whooping and cheering while George stared with wide eyes, shell shocked.

Then the fucking drummer went off.

George watched as the drummer’s biceps flexed, drumsticks flying fast and growing in sound that George couldn’t hardly comprehend each slam against the surface. He watched as the drummer’s spread thighs jumped with effort to hit the bass drum, the chain dangling from his belt loop bouncing up and down with each beat. George couldn’t see this guy’s face with the mask and hood, but he knew the cocky bastard must be grinning.

He was good. No, he was perfect.

And god damn did he know it.

As the electric bass hummed and the drums rang with the last beat, both visibly panting, the crowd had a momentary silence, not a breath taken in the whole room.

And then, the entire room, even the bartender and the bouncer backstage exploded into applause and cheers and screams as slowly, the band picked themselves up and waved gratefully to the audience. The drummer rose from behind his set and walked to the front of the stage to where the microphone was. Giving the singer a congratulatory pat on the shoulder, the drummer brings the mic to where his mouth must be under his mask.

Now that the spotlight was on him, George could see the drummer semi-properly now. Aside from his green hoodie, he wore loose, black ripped jeans and a thick belt, boots clinking against the stage and pocket chain bouncing with each step. 

“Hey,” the drummer says simply, and the crowd cheers. His voice was low, a little breathless. From under his hood, George swore he saw a bright pair of eyes twinkling in the lights of the stage. He looked like the type of guy who was made to perform, the kind of person who was built for the spotlight. “Thanks for letting us play. This is Bad-” he jerks a thumb in the direction of the bassist, “this is Wilbur-” he points next to him to the vocalist, who gives a kind smile, “and I’m Dream.” He pokes a finger to his own chest. Dream, huh? George scoffs. What a name. “I know we’re not who you were expecting tonight, but hey, you snooze you lose, right?” George’s eyes snap back to the drummer at that, but as soon as he does, he finds that this guy, Dream, was already staring at him dead in the eyes.

So, his eyes were bright and green after all, then.

George feels like he can’t breathe as he tries, he really does, to look bitter and angry. But as they stare at each other, George can’t find it in himself to look pissed off anymore.

“Better luck next time,” Dream murmurs into the microphone, eyes still glued on George to the point where Karl and Quackity were staring at him too, saying why is he looking at you? but their voices were drowning in the crowd. George felt his face flare up, either because he was flustered or because he was flat-out pissed at the amount of malice in this guy’s voice.

The audacity was endless.

“Anyway,” Dream continues, as if he owns this club and can talk for all he wants. George hated how the crowd ate it up, how their cheers egged him on. “We’re The Dream Team, what you just heard was ‘Figure It Out’ by Royal Blood, thank you and good night!”

The audience screams their approval as the lights shut off, and the silhouettes of Bad, Dream, and Wilbur fade from the stage. George squints as from the side of the stage’s curtain, he can see the bouncer motioning to him in a signal that they were on next. George hears Sapnap whistle behind him.

“We have to follow that?” Sapnap exclaims as they weave their way back through the still-ecstatic crowd. George’s grip around his bag’s strap tightens.

“We’re bad ass, we’ll be fine,” Karl responds breezily, nudging open the door already with ease. 

George still can’t shake the stamina of the drummer, how he actually grew in ability as the song went on and the beat became more intense. He thought people like that were myths, unreachable. Invincible.

But here was this mysterious Dream, on Earth beside him. Not a myth, and not quite unreachable.

“Let’s do this, fuckers,” Quackity says.

George heaves a sigh. “Yeah,” he says back, smile growing. This drummer wanted to play dirty? George could play dirty, too. He’d show this guy what he was made of. “Let’s do this, fuckers.”