Inspiration was in the air that day.
She hovered between six and seven feet, high above the city, her view occasionally obscured by passing clouds. It was a clear day in April. Sunlight glinted off the windshields as I-5 flowed like a river. Lake Washington was a deep blue; the evergreens that ringed it, dark as mold. Springtime tugged restlessly at the ligaments of her arms and legs. She yawned and stretched as she floated. Even at this height, she could smell the damp earth. Fecund. Fertile. Pregnant and due. She felt a manifestation coming on. Fiat lux, said she, and dove.
As her elevation dropped the ground rushed ever more swiftly beneath her. Pavement, road signs, houses, lawns, trees and rhododendrons began to blur. She checked in on an unemployed poet. Nope; nothing going on there. She paused briefly outside the house of a teenager taking piano lessons, crabbing her way through Claire De Lune. No, not yet. She flew in circles briefly, looking this way and that, straining her ears, listening. What was she going to do with herself?
She shivered. The crisp breeze out of the northwest whipped at her wispy dress. Nothing made her feel more fairy-goddessy than something white and gauzy, but nonetheless at this point she wished she'd worn a jacket at least. She hadn't been up this way in a while. She'd forgotten how cold it could be. She glided in lazy circles above Lake Union, thinking maybe she'd head south to Portland, or even San Francisco or LA - she was that cold and disheartened - when something raucous and grinding caught her ears. It seemed to be coming from roughly the direction of Wallingford. She banked hard right and made a beeline - so to speak - straight for the noise, flying over Gasworks up fairview past Archie McPhees until she geolocated the source to the amplified noise. She alighted on the pavement out front. The house was a dirty dinner mint green. Cement stairs bisected a lawn badly in need of a haircut. A driveway ran down to a basement level garage door on the left. The music was coming from behind the garage door. It was loud alright. A beastly and primeval storm of sound, the dual leads a symphony of air sirens. Part blues, part pterodactyl mating call, swampy, and sexy - exuberant, unhinged but still soft around the edges, a shared joke, something of an invitation to intimacy, a vulnerable joy, a postcoital laugh.
She looked up. In the second story window was a yellow-stained American flag and a silkscreen poster of someone named Andre the Giant. Maybe this was Andre the Giant band in the basement? But then someone started singing. It was a woman's voice, not a man - Giant or otherwise. She had to take a look. She looked up and down the street to make sure no one observed her before turning herself into a baby possum and crawling in under the garage door. It was loud alright. At close quarters it was an air assault, a category 5 hurricane of sound.
Of course she hadn't always been a shape-shifter. It was a just a little something she had mastered over the last three-to-four human generations. The world was getting so crowded. It was harder and harder for your everyday, garden-variety Goddess of Inspiration to remain inconspicuous. She found that while she was prepared for the volume, she was not prepared for the stench. Ancient spills and assorted beerphernalia and cigarette butt-smell tangoed with something less identifiable - fast food, rotting slow; potatoes deep-fried in tallow and pig drippings and then simply left to rot.
Sometimes, it was good to be not-human.
At any rate, it was an environment more conducive to cockroaches or rats - something to consider when she came back. If she came back. But not today. This shifting of shapes took energy and she didn't want to to waste it all on herself. She was in a giving mood. The band was traditional rock foursome. A guitar player/singer, a lead guitar player, supported by bass and drums. A girl was playing guitar and singing - which was a little different - but not really so uncommon nowadays. Three young men accompanied her. She thought she recognized the bassplayer from a previous incarnation as a Tibetan Throat singer, but she couldn't be sure. At any rate, she was digging what was going on, and with a wriggle of her possum nose and a whip of her marsupial tail, she sent them her fleeting, delicate gift.
The energy ball - or whatever the hell it was, she had never quite figured that out - surged up her spine, through her arms and out her fingertips and split in four and hit each of the players simultaneously. With her fairy-Goddess vision she observed with satisfaction as their auras grew larger, melded and blended, throbbed as one. The whole band was connected, encased in a crystalline bubble of light. She sat back on her opossum ass to enjoy the show.
The whole band was tight, but she found herself most intrigued by the woman singer. She wasn't a great judge of human ages anymore - who would be after 162 generations - but she figured the singer to be in her 22nd or 23rd year. She wasn't just a front person either; she could sing and play. There was something very tomboyishly sexy about the young thing ... Kinda Diana-esque but not so lanky and with bigger chest ... if she could maybe be a kitten and nestle in her hair, give her a tongue bath ....
The Rhythm, relentless as river current, pushed forward. They moved as one instrument. It ceased being a rehearsal and became an exploration. They made mistakes, but the mistakes weren't even mistakes, but rather doors that when kicked open, gave forth to new vistas of beauty. Notes swelled to two and three times their natural size, divided and gave birth to more. Air molecules vibrated and danced while time stood still and just banged its head. Melodies grew into songs. Songs grew up, went away to college, and came home as symphonies. Each of them was completely in control of their instrument - and yet, not in control of themselves. It was the Soul, Amplified, the new National Anthem for the Land of Loud. It was epic, spellbinding and by definition, as music always is, simply beyond words. They felt power flow through them, stupendous, enormous, like something long dead risen; the sound itself was a dinosaur, awake and hungry after a long winter's nap. It was a regular one plus one equals three musical miracle. It was a damn good practice and of course, no one pressed record on the tape deck so it was lost forever. As the last harmonics rang out, the Goddess-possum found she'd been holding her breath. She exhaled. No one spoke for a long time, seemingly afraid to break the spell. "That fucking rocked," the guitar player said, and a laughed.
Aroma notwithstanding, she felt endeared to this little group of rockers. She decided to hang around through the break. There was a Salish banjo player in Nanaimo, B.C. that she wanted to check in on, but it could wait until next week.
She listened to their talk, and did a perfunctory mind read of each (another useful skill she'd picked up, semi-recently). The name of the band was The Kohlrabis and their names were Paul, Dwight, Troy and Sam. Paul, the drummer, was thinking of carrot juice and about the girl. He seemed to be the kind of guy that would take the time to put a glass over a spider and carry a spider outside rather than squash it. She liked him immediately. Dwight was the lead guitar players name. She could only hear guitar music inside his head. She had a feeling it was on all the time, loud enough to drown out the fears beneath. The bass player's name was Troy and he thought of the girl mostly, too. Uh-oh. Her name was Sam, and, as said before, she was worth thinking about. She found her to be as fresh and potent as Spring herself. But when she tried to get into Sam's head, she found herself blocked. This had hardly ever happened. Once with Ravi Shankar - and that was about it. Ravi was one of only a handful of people on earth that could tell when she was in the room, and moreover, had her at their beck and call. Sometimes he even winked at her, which was super annoying. But with this young woman, this was something new. But she wasn't put off, but rather, intrigued.
Before they played again, they smoked pot. She found this unfortunate. She respected the ritualization of the act, but there was something about it that bugged her, especially in this case. She didn't mind in Jamaica ... anyway. She'd have to think about it. She stuck around for three songs - they were actually rehearsing now - and she found herself getting bored. She had to stay out of their heads now or else she'd end up tired, paranoid and hungry. One minute people would be enveloped in her gift; the next, craving Captain Crunch and melted cheese. And how was she supposed to compete with melted cheese?
Later, with her feet up on her desk, eating pistachios she'd gathered in Persia, she realized why the drug thing bothered her so much. These cocky little humans were so arrogant, they thought that they could just ingest a little this or that, and she was obligated to come. She laughed out loud. From the next room, her sister asked "what are you laughing at?"
"Oh nothing. Just some kids I saw today."
The junkies gathered on the Ave in front of the Post Office. In their black leather jackets and furtive glances, they reminded her of crows gathered around roadkill. She knew a few of them. "Hey, it's Sam Kohlrabi, what's up?" Where did Joey's teeth go. She remembered him telling her at a party how he'd gone to Hawaii with an older man who bought him as much drugs as he wanted and would give him Playboys to look at while he sucked him off. Joey and all of his brothers had been beautiful and now he had tracks all over his body, scabs on his face and no teeth. "Hehyyyy, Sammy."
If it was anyone else, she wouldn't allowed anyone to call her "Sammy," but Joey was on such a different planet, it would be pretty petty to correct him on how things worked on this one. And besides, he was about to ask her for money. Here it comes. "Hey Sammy, I like your bike."
She'd just bought herself a retro cruiser complete with the basket on front. When she pedaled across campus, frat boys would sing the Wicked Witch song. She flipped them off. It was a little ritual they had. She wore black, played punk rock, frat boys comments. It was the way of the world.
"Do you think I could take your bike around the block?"
That's a laugh. Joey Bardo wants to go for a bike ride. Just feeling bright and joyful and energetic.
"I don't think so, Joey."
"Come one - I just want to ride around the block. Come on, come on ...."
That was the thing about Junkies - even though you knew all that they wanted to do was steal your stuff and use it for drugs, their need acted like a tractor beam. There was something relentless and very convincing about it. She almost gave in.
"Naw Joey, I gotta go to class."
"Oh, you go to school??
"Yeah, gotta go."
"I should go to school, get it together. I want to do something with computers maybe. You do anything with computers?"
"You got 20 bucks? Five bucks? You want to go in?"
See you later Joey.
As she rode away, a cop car rolled up and as the officer got out ... the junkies scattered.