His foot tapped in rhythm to a silent beat. His fingers danced along the page notations in another language, mouth working words to a song unheard. A smile lit his face as he stopped.
“Finally, that's perfect.” He took up his guitar and the melody flew. Rising in harmony with his voice a worshipful song filled the air. Eyes closed, he raised his head, directing his song towards the heavens. As the room grew silent a knock sounded on the door. His mother peeked her head around the door.
“Hey rock star, are you ready for lunch? Come down and eat with us.”
“I've got to figure out the return on the chorus. It doesn't sound quite right.”
“It sounds great. Pastor Tom loved the last one. I was just telling him last Sunday that you are so blessed to have found your calling so young and he agreed with me. He was saying there is a festival up in Idaho that he thought you should go to. It's for young musicians and it sounded like fun.”
“I don't know Mom, is it for Christian artists or just young musicians? My music isn't really popular, it's different.”
“Your music is just as good as any rock artist out there. And it has a great message, they could learn something from you.”
“You're my mother, you are supposed to say those things.”
“Well it's true, you were blessed with a gift. But the festival is for young Christian musicians. He said that the church would be happy to help fund it if we needed some help. Everyone loves your music. The youth pastor was telling me that it brought in more kids. He said they could hear the rock music on Wednesdays and came in to check it out. Your music draws people to the faith. I am so proud of you.” Her arms reached around his broad shoulders, sandwiching the guitar between them for the quick hug.
“Thanks mom, that means a lot to me.” Jeff's face turned a bright red as he hugged his mom back.
“I'll leave you to your music for now. You have to eat lunch though, if you're not done soon I'll come back up for you.” Her blond ponytail bounced like a young girls as she left the room.
Pausing for a second as he regathered his thoughts Jeff's eyes wandered the room. Jimi Hendrix, Switchfoot, Third Day, and Sanctus Real posters decorated the room, along with photos of his family and friends. Above his bed hung a gold cross, a gift from his grandmother. A rag rug, recycled from old jean his mother made for him as a infant, lay on the wood floor between his bed and dresser. The furniture was mismatched and multi-colored but it fit Jeff. He was always trying to find ways to fit his faith, art and love of music together.
Sitting back down in front of his desk he picked up the guitar from it's stand in front of the window. Sunlight streamed in lighting the wood a burnished gold. The varnish had worn away in places from generations of hands. Settling down his fingers picked across the strings. The tune was bright and lively, the kind that made you want to get up and dance. Sparkling and vivacious the chords played along with his voice. A worshipful tune filled the air, his eyes closed in rapture.
Like motes dancing along the sunlight insidiously it slid in. Settling along the dark recess, in the hollow spaces it waited. Sighing along the harmony, dancing with the melody, he breathed it in. As much a part of him as the music now he didn't notice it's assault.
His fingers skittered, discordant notes screeching. Quickly he looked down shaking his hand out in front of him. The scorpion was flung across the room, hitting the wall behind his bed with a smack. The guitar fell to the floor as they poured out, a black stream of scrabbling bodies. Spreading across the floor they multiplied, a growing wave of venom. Tails raised they crawled under the door, from under the bed, in the window, out of the outlets, they filled the room.
He jumped onto his chair, keeping his feet from the floor as he screamed. They rained down from the ceiling. Piercing the skin on his skull, painful stings radiated down his neck. He shook his body as his pulled off his shirt, screaming louder and louder. Standing in stark relief against his smooth copper chest was a silver cross hung on a black strap. Silver dripped, melting as eight legs emerged, followed by a wicked tail already dripping venom. Lightening quick it struck, puncturing the skin again and again. Venom burned through his veins. His hand flew ripping off the necklace. His feet kicked out but in vain. Like thick black tar they clung to his feet and legs, his thin pants offering no protection from their stings.
Gasping he tried to draw in a breath. He swung out wildly, his actions disjointed as his eyes roved without aim. In his final moment of abject terror he cried not for his god but, like all children, his mother. The way towards the door blocked with swarming scorpions he looked towards the window. Without even opening the window he jumped. He had to escape. Glass shattered across the floor. Implailed upon the ragged shards he struggled to breath. Blood poured along the cedar siding, dripped down the window sill to puddle on the floor. His feet dangled, surrounded not by stinging arthropods but sheets of music. The room clear but for the paper ruffling in the breeze. Twitching, blood seeped a delta of red along the black notes. The sun streamed in shining rubies along the wood and paper. Heavy and peaceful the air hung pendulous tasting copper and sweet.
The school was lacking it's usual hectic hurried mood when we walked in. Everyone seemed so somber and quiet. I didn't know if it was lingering from Rachel or if this was tension from finals. My bones ached with heaviness as we rounded the corner headed towards the senior lockers. Huddled in the corner were a group of girls tears streaming their faces as their arms locked embraced. They are really dragging this out. Probably trying to get out of finals, they'll go crying to the counselor and get a pass. That actually sounds like a good idea. I wonder if I could work up a few fake tears.
Zane is running down the hall towards us. He stumbles nearer, his face pale, tears shimmering in his eyes.
“Did you hear about Jeff? I just can't believe it. He's such a great kid. Boy he could rock that guitar. I just can't believe it. It's like the school is cursed or something. First Rachel now Jeff, it's just such bad luck.”
“What the hell are you talking about? What happened to Jeff?” Although there are several Jeffs in the school only one of them was in the band with Zane. He's pretty cool, got this Christian Band going, even if I'm not into that kind of stuff. We weren't friends or anything but I knew him through Zane.
“I guess he killed himself. One of his neighbors said they saw him just try and jump out his window but it wasn't even open. Caitlyn is in the hospital, she lived across the street and was outside sunbathing when it happened. I guess she's all drugged up now, she couldn't stop screaming. Kevin lives down the street and came running when he heard her screaming. He told me all about it. It's just sick. I never would have thought he'd do that. He's so, like Christian, he talks all the time about his relationship with God and stuff. Isn't that like against their religion?”
Haven and I exchanged a look. Tears welled in my eyes as they trickled down her face. We both knew the truth which made it one hundred times worse than just another teen suicide. The three of us clung to each other as Haven sobbed. Tears dripped down Zane's face, dropping into my hair. Surrounded by sobbing students, the deja vu was disturbing. As the school year wore down I didn't want to think about how many times this scene would replay.