Sup my Grue-ling’s, it’s your main man Ani here! This week I got to choose the Deadtime story and I decided to go with an old fav that few people know about and which inspired some great tunes from my all time fav band Guns and Roses.
‘Without You‘ by Del James from his anthology collection ‘The Language of Fear‘.
For the longest time, the damn book was hard to come by as it’s long been out of print. Luckily for you dudes and dudettes, a new edition has been rereleased and if you like this little ditty I HIGHLY recommend you pick it up, especially if you like some hard rock with your horror (Why wouldn’t you?)!
I’ll leave a link below the story where you can purchase it.
Of all the stories in Del’s collection, this is by far the most famous as it was a fav of Axel Roses who was good friends with Del who co-wrote some Guns’ tunes. He liked it so much he based the ‘November Rain‘ video on it! He also references it in my fav GnR song, ‘Estranged’. Speaking of that song, I recommend listening to it before reading the tale, it’ll really set the mood. Scroll down to listen.
Unfortunately, there’s no audio version of this tale so you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way and read it. It won’t kill ya!
By Del James
Although he wanted to share the dance, Mayne
could not bring himself to interrupt such beauty.
Her well-toned body swayed childlike, peacefully,
slowly moving to the rhythm. Her innocence was
enchanting, her beauty breathtaking. Mayne knew
she’d be angry at him for sneaking about,
watching without letting her know, but the
teenage voyeur inside his adult body encouraged
him and didn’t care about the consequences.
Besides, this was for his eyes only. Her eyes
sparkled, reminding him of the ocean, vast with
beauty and mystery. A slight breeze danced
through her lion’s mane. A full-length
see-through dress covered her shapely body and a
light glaze of sweat made her glisten. She seemed
too beautiful to be real. During this split
second of visual euphoria, Mayne conceded that
she was the only woman he ever truly loved. Her
eyes flickered. She must have heard me, he
thought as she turned toward him. He didn’t want
to ruin the beauty, only to enjoy it. Her thick
lips smiled sympathetically. Then the song
started growing in volume.
A sharp twinge of panic shot through him when he
realized which of his songs it was. Cold sweat
seeped out of his pores and dread consumed him.
His vision spiraled as reality distorted.
Breathing became difficult, complicated.
Desperation attacked and twisted every muscle in
his thin body. Much worse than the pain was his
fear. Unsuppressable anxiety swept through him as
he started toward the stereo. Everything lost its
natural texture; the walls, the floor, the air
became surreal. The louder the music, the more
difficult he found it to move. He had to remove
the compact disc but his feet felt like large
concrete blocks. He couldn’t move fast enough.
She already had the pistol’s barrel against her
Mayne awoke covered in sweat, a mute shriek still
lodged in his throat. The past six hours had been
spent in a drug-and-alcohol-induced coma that he
put over as sleep. Sleep was a rare commodity and
was impossible to achieve without some
assistance. It didn’t matter whether he slept six
hours or six minutes, the nightmare always
managed to creep in. No sleeping pill or
antidepressant could spare him. He had written
the song and was forever damned by it. With
unsteady hands, he wiped sweat from his brow and
rubbed his fingers against the satin sheets. His
silver and gold bracelets clinked together.
Rolling onto his side, he stared at the digital
alarm clock on top of the black night table that
had a built -in refrigerator as its base. On top
of the clock was a half-empty pack of Marlboros.
He stared at the green digital numbers but they
made no sense. It really didn’t matter what time
it was anyway, his time was other people’s money.
Next to the clock was something more important
than cash or time. Slowly he sat up. Tortured
eyes scanned the black marble tabletop, searching
for any leftover precious brown powder. There
were burned matches, bent cigarettes, and empty
bindles, but no dope. It didn’t matter. He could
always have more delivered. Sitting on the edge
of the bed, Mayne reached down and opened the
night table’s refrigerator door. Inside were
several Budweiser’s, baking soda, and a chilled
bottle of Dom Perignon. He grabbed a cold can,
killing half of it in one sip. He did this every
morning. Instantly, his aching head began to feel
better. Although he didn’t want to admit it, the
time had arrived to rejoin the living. He knew he
had to be at the studio soon but didn’t feel up
to it. Besides, the recording of his latest
album, Alone, had been finished over a month ago.
The album was now in the final mixing stages. If
Mayne liked what he heard, he’d approve it and
the record would be released on schedule. If not,
it would have to be remixed until he did approve.
So then, what the @!#$ did they need him for? He
procrastinated for as long as he possibly could
before finally standing up.
Much like his bedroom, the bathroom was a
disaster area. Discarded clothes, creams, trash,
cassettes, and towels dominated the view. Using
radar to locate the bowl, he found the porcelain,
fought off the urge to puke, and relieved
himself. He reentered the bedroom, not really
feeling human, more like a robot dressed in
rented flesh. There was a dull pain in his
abdomen that he’d grown accustomed to. It, like
many other flaws in his health, could be
attributed to his excessive life-style. Besides
hi jewelry, Mayne only wore Jockey briefs. He
stumbled over to his dresser, removed a pair of
custom-tailored black leather pants, and changed.
He found a dark purple silk kimono hanging in a
walk in closet and put it on. In a dresser drawer
was a gram vial of cocaine. Scooping with the
long fingernail on his right pinkie, the tattered
musician snorted eight blasts of rock ‘n’ roll
aspirin. The kimono felt cool against his warm
flesh. He wondered if he was feverish and
concluded he probably was. He was always run
down, as if with a perpetual fever. That is, of
course, until he got his chip. He finished his
beer, tossing the empty can in the general
direction of a wastebasket that was already
crammed with empties. Staring into a full-length
mirror, the run-down recluse didn’t recognize the
reflection. Sure, the long blond hair and tattoos
gave him away, but he looked so frail. Mayne
looked like someone who was ready for hospital
pajamas. His once attractive face was blue, taut,
and expressionless. A scraggly beard covered his
chin and his emerald eyes were no longer
authentic gems, but rather costume jewelry. He
needed a drink.
For the past fourteen of his twenty-eight years,
he’d spent the majority of his time inside a
bottle. Teenage beer and wine parties turned to
vodka and rum at nightclubs, which in turn
evolved into straight whiskey. Exiting the
bedroom, he said a silent prayer to his patron
saint, Jim Beam, asking that there be some in the
liquor cabinet. An illuminating golden glow
surrounded the thick blackout curtains. A small
war had gone down in the living room the previous
evening. Full ashtrays, assorted liquor bottles,
empty and half-empty packs of cigarettes, and
beer cans were strewn everywhere. Several CD
covers were caked in cocaine residue. Mayne tried
remembering who had been partying there and
couldn’t. An empty pack of Kool cigarettes meant
that one of his many dealers, Jamie Jazz had
delivered something. It didn’t take very long
before he made the connection between the empty
bindles in the bedroom and Jamie. Jamie
(pronounced Jay-mee) was typical Hollywood trash
who hand delivered coke, toke, crack, or smack to
troubled celebrities, exploiting their
vulnerabilities. Mayne searched for more clues as
to who else had been over partying but came up
blank. He slid behind the bar that was adjacent
to the kitchen and opened a cabinet. There were
several unopened bottles of assorted white
liquors. A nervous surge shot through his small
stomach. What if there was no whiskey? He
shuffled the bottles around until he found the
proper one. A sigh of relief escaped him as he
twisted the cap off and made a mental note that
he needed to restock. The whiskey’s aroma was his
equivalent of fresh brewed coffee. “Here’s
looking at you, love,” Mayne said aloud, raising
the bottle to his lips.
Like every day, one sip led to another. After
several sips, he started feeling right. He put
the bottle on the counter and made it to the
refrigerator. If he was lucky, he’d be drunk
before the day started. He removed another
Budweiser and went back into the messy living
room. There was a dull hum inside his cranium.
He couldn’t differentiate whether it was
cocaine-induced or the central air-conditioning.
If only he could remember what day today was,
then he’d know if a maid was scheduled to come
by. She could bring booze. The musician sat on
the couch, picked up the phone, and dialed 411.
“Operator. What city, please?”
“What day is it? Mayne asked sincerely, lighting
“What day is it?”
“Sir, I’m an operator.”
“Ma’am, you’re Information and I asked you a
question,” Mayne corrected her. A snide laugh
escaped him. After a silent moment, she answered
“It’s Wednesday, sir.”
“Thanks,” he said, and hung up. There would be no
maid service today. This was not the way he
wanted to start the day. He polished off the
beer, finished his cigarette, and snorted more
cocaine. After several confusing seconds, he
remembered where he kept the large green garbage
bags and began straightening up the mess. Moving
around the large one-bedroom condominium, he
picked up anything that wasn’t bolted down and
threw it out. Bottles and empty food containers
stretched the garbage bag to a point where it
threatened to rip open. After ten minutes of
straightening up, the apartment began taking
shape. Besides this condominium, he also owned
one in Manhattan and another in Houston. He
rarely frequented his Hollywood Hills mansion, or
for that matter, his house in Maui. Both brought
back too many memories of her. It was in the
Hollywood Hills house where he and Elizabeth
Aston had spent most of their quality time. As
his thoughts began betraying him, thinking more
about her, Mayne instinctively went to the bar
and retrieved the whiskey bottle. He could think
of her as long as he had a safety net. With all
the money, fame, and success he had attained, it
was the simple things like friendship and love
that were the hardest to keep. He never meant to
hurt anyone, especially those closest to him, but
for some reason that’s who he usually hurt the
worst. He never set out to be malicious, but by
living under a microscope with the world
scrutinizing him, any wrongdoing, public or
private, tended to blow up in his face and often
wound up as Nightly News. Personal flaws and
@!#$-ups are not allowed of the elite. He often
suffered silently, trapped by his own fame, until
he needed out of his cage. But the cage was as
wide as his eyes could perceive. All Mayne had
ever tried to be, right or wrong, was himself.
With all the doctors, specialists, therapists,
fans, and everyone in his organization trying to
help him, he just sank further into his cocoon,
alienating himself even more. He often wondered
who he really was. Was he another regenerated
social security number automatically inherited at
birth or a genuine reflection of society? Was he
a phenomenon or just a facade? Was he a product
of his own imagination or just another brick?
Would he ever understand his own destiny?
Inside his mind, he analyzed why his relationship
with Elizabeth had failed more times than were
countable. Like the scholar he wasn’t, he
dissected situations, pondered things he
should’ve said and shouldn’t have been caught
doing. When it came to sex, why couldn’t
Elizabeth understand that just because he
occasionally strayed from their bedroom didn’t
mean he didn’t love her? Sex was like
role-playing. He never forced her to be
monogamous but deep down he knew that if he found
out she was fucking someone else it would have
hurt. A lot! Even with that knowledge, he
couldn’t confine himself to only one woman. He
wanted to have his cake and eat it too. He tried
being open with her but concluded that certain
things should’ve remained secret. Sex was an ego
addiction similar to the one felt onstage.
Different audiences, like different partners,
were more challenging and made him work harder
for the applause. Like drugs, he was addicted to
the rush. Even with an empire at his disposal,
money couldn’t buy him love, nor happiness, nor
peace of mind. Nor Elizabeth. Looking around the
large living room, a very disenchanted artist
absorbed the modern decor. None of these
possessions except a few token items had ever
meant anything to Mayne. None of this @!#$ was
real. He was surrounded by trophies of a game
that had no meaning. And he was tired of playing
A sharp pain in his left ear sent him back to the
dark corridor that led from stage to dressing
room. Inside his ringing head, speakers feeding
back ignited and exploded. He was experiencing
another rock ‘n’ roll side effect, ear damage.
The dull hum lasted only seconds but the memories
of his final show with his former band, Suicide
Shift, would never fade. For reasons he couldn’t
remember, Elizabeth had been unable to attend the
tour’s final show. The band had been on the road
for the better part of fourteen months, over 285
concerts. Every few weeks Mayne had flown her to
whatever city he was performing in and she’d stay
for a few nights. The final concert of any tour
is an important night. It was Suicide Shift’s
first headlining tour and Mayne wanted to share
the experience with her. It was the culmination
of many miles traveled, many hours worked, and
the celebration that went on afterward was well
deserved. He called her several times to offer
her plane tickets, trying to persuade her, but
she couldn’t make it.
The gig was well over two hours of electric
ferocity. Of course Mayne consumed plenty of
drugs and alcohol before and during the show (he
did every gig), but it was the Florida crowd’s
enthusiasm and knowing that he’d be able to sleep
for a month that gave him extra spark. Every time
he took a solo, he tried to best any previous
soloing effort. Every time he approached his
microphone to sing backups, his voice surged with
whiskey vigor. For him, this was rock ‘n’ roll at
its best. The 4,000-plus crowd acknowledged this
with deafening applause.
After the final encore, it was time to celebrate.
Mayne wound up with two eager females in his
hotel room. In the privacy of his bathroom he
injected a little heroin. Not enough to make him
nod out but enough to get him good and high. The
two nubile females would only make him feel
better. After struggling to get his wet brown
suede pants off, he joined the nude women, and
thus the revelry began. The dope clouded his
not-so-good memory but Mayne remembered a very
drunk Peter Terrance walking into the room. The
band’s drummer had mistaken Mayne’s room for his
own. In the spirit of celebration, Mayne offered
him a girl. Terrance declined saying he’d find
his own and left. The menage-a-trois continued.
Shortly afterward there was a knock on the door.
Thinking it was Terrance taking up the offer,
Mayne called out, telling whoever was at the door
to enter. Standing at the door with an overnight
bag was Elizabeth. On the spur of the moment
she’d flown from L.A. to Miami to be with him. A
very bad scene played itself out. Elizabeth left
broken and hysterical. That was the beginning of
the end for their relationship.
Mayne snapped out of the past. His left knee
popped loudly as he straightened his legs and
headed for the phone. He pushed a button.
Elizabeth’s number was still programmed and every
now and then he pushed it just to hear her phone
ring. Also in the phone’s memory was his record
label, his manager, the three members of his
current band, the Mayne Mann Group, and several
drug dealers. After receiving no answer at
Elizabeth’s, he pushed another button. His many
bracelets clinked together and a few seconds
later there was a reply.
“Yeah?” spat an unenthusiastic voice from a car
“It’s me,” Mayne said, swallowing, cocaine
dripping down his throat.
"My main man,” Jamie’s voice declared like a cash
register ringing. “What can I do ya for?”
“Uptown and downtown.” Cocaine and heroin.
“No problem. You remember what I did for ya last
“Yeah.” He didn’t.
“You owe me three bills from that @!#$, brother
man,” the dealer explained just in case memory
failed. I’m sure I got some change floatin’
around. If I can’t find some I’ll five ya my
Versateller card and you can get what I owe.”
“Bet. I’ll be right up,” Jamie said as if he was
doing Mayne a favor and hung up.
“@!#$’ prick,” Mayne mumbled to himself.
He lit up a cigarette and got himself another
beer. The lid popped loudly and foam rose to the
mouth hole. He watched, amused, then walked over
to the black-out curtains and pulled the lever,
letting bright sunlight invade his living room.
“@!#$ you very much,” he loudly announced,
squinting, and raising his middle finger to the
sky. The view from his balcony was vast,
displaying the City of Angels below, yet more
often than not Mayne kept the curtains shut,
preferring not to be a part of the world outside.
It was safe inside his apartment. Against a far
wall, tucked in the corner so that the ivory keys
faced out toward the living room, was a vintage
Steinway. He spent many pleasure-filled hours on
the instrument, and even when he wasn’t playing,
the piano gave him visual stimulation. It was an
instrument of precision and grace. Next to the
piano, resting comfortably on stands were half a
dozen vintage guitars: Les Pauls, Stratocasters,
and Telecasters. The guitars he kept in the
apartment were the ones that meant the most to
The buzzer sounded, waking Mayne from his
drifting thoughts. He went to the intercom and
pressed the button that unlocked the front door.
A few minutes later, Jamie Jazz was inside his
apartment. Dozens of platinum and gold records
adorned the walls. Hours upon years of planning,
writing, recording, and struggling had reaped
these round rewards. His songwriting stemmed from
inner pains and his slower, more blues-influenced
songs often dealt with personal hardships. Those
were the songs he was most proud of and believed
might stand the test of time. The faster, more
hard-rock-oriented songs often had little
significance or wore their meanings on their
sleeve. Unfortunately, the awards were no longer
awards without Elizabeth. Mayne excused himself
and went into the bedroom. Hidden behind yet
another platinum disc was a safe. He removed the
disc from the wall, twisted the combination, and
opened the safe. Inside were jewelry, documents,
over four thousand dollars cash, a freebase pipe,
and a loaded .357 Magnum. He grabbed a few
C-notes and went back into the living room,
leaving the safe shut but unlocked. Jamie was
seated on the black leather couch, feet up on the
marble coffee table, looking casual in Suicide
Shift sweatpants (that he’d gotten from Mayne)
and a matching sweatshirt. He’d helped himself to
“What’s the total?”
“Including last night? Six,” Jamie replied,
fidgeting with the beeper on his waist.
Mayne handed him six bills and put the rest in
his pants pocket. Judging by the look on his
face, the dealer understood he wanted to be alone
and took the hint.
“Call me if you need anything else,” Jamie
offered, exiting the apartment.
The moment the front door clicked shut, Mayne’s
mind rushed into overdrive but his body refused
to move. He had drugs in hand, but instead of
finding a syringe, he went back into the bedroom.
Something in the wall safe more powerful than his
addiction had caught his eye. He walked to the
safe and pulled the door open. Inside was a photo
album containing precious Kodachrome memories.
Placing the drugs on top of the messy night
table, he fell on the bed, and began flipping
through the leather-bound book. Captured in
photos were images and feelings so intense that
it made him warm as well as suicidal. Elizabeth
had challenged him intellectually while
stimulating him sexually. She’d mothered him when
he was sick, which was quite often. She’d set
free inner feelings that he’d often tried
avoiding. Her beauty, both inner and physical,
was something he wanted; yet when she was his, he
did everything conceivable to lose her.
He turned to the second page. He had no idea how
many times he’d masturbated to this photo. Every
other day perhaps. It was just a snapshot he’d
taken of her while on vacation in Las Vegas. In
photo form, the wind blew her long hair away from
her face and she was smiling. Behind her was the
Caesar’s Palace hotel where they’d spent the
better part of two weeks in the penthouse suite.
It was a typical tourist photo but it was her
smile that turned him on. It was so free from
pain. Mayne would do anything to have her smile
for him like she had in the photograph. He’d do
anything to have her lips, her body again.
He unbuttoned his leather pants. Before beginning
his self-stimulation, he pulled himself over to
the night-table refrigerator and removed an
unopened bottle of Dom Perignon champagne. The
bottle opened with a loud pop and smoke billowed
from the top, but no liquid spilled.
Sipping deeply from the bottle, he flipped
through the photo album that was all too short,
carefully avoiding the final page. He rarely
looked at the last page. As always, he wound up
back on page two. With the bottle two-thirds
empty, he pulled his pants and briefs down to his
knees and poured the remaining champagne onto his
palms. This was part of the ritual. Fine
champagne was something he and Elizabeth enjoyed
sharing. He could still share it with her. As he
took hold of his wet erection, his thoughts began
to slip. It was during one of their final dinner
dates that she had said something that inspired
him to write the most beautiful song of his
career. “I can’t live with you and I can’t live
without you,” he could hear her saying as if it
were just yesterday. Words flowed from pen to
paper faster than he could write. Mayne concluded
that this was his private way of explaining all
that had happened between them. The song “Without
You,” was not an apology, it was his side of the
story. It was rock ‘n’ roll sincerity that sold
over three million copies in the U.S., topping
the record sales charts and putting the Mayne
Mann Group on top of the rock world. He offered
Elizabeth half of the royalties from the song
because without her there would be no song. She
politely declined. A sold-out Mayne Mann Group
tour ensued. When the tour arrived in Los
Angeles, Mayne desperately wanted to see her. No
matter how many women he had, no matter how over
her he told everyone he was, he’d do anything for
her except let her permanently slip out of his
He’d called her a dozen times over the course of
two days, leaving message after message on her
answering machine. Even though she never
responded, he’d left her ten All-Access passes at
Will Call. She never showed.
After the show, Mayne vowed he wouldn’t make the
same mistake twice. He quickly showered, changed
into dry clothing, and left, avoiding all the
backstage hoopla. He and his driver headed for
Elizabeth’s apartment. Using the phone in the
limousine, he dialed her from the street below
her apartment. Again he was greeted by a recorded
“Elizabeth, I know–I hope you’re there. I’m
downstairs and even if I have to break down the
door to see you, I’m willing. If you’re gonna
call the cops, well, call ‘em now. . . I don’t
expect anything from you. I don’t deserve
anything . . . @!#$, I don’t even know what I’m
trying to say other than I still care about you.
Words can’t heal what I’ve done but, @!#$, the
past is done . . . I really need to see your face
again,” Mayne softly explained after the beep.
The words still echoed in his mind as he wondered
if he could’ve possibly phrased things
differently. It was too late now, he thought,
already inside the building. This was one of the
rare occasions after a gig that Mayne was sober.
As he arrived by way of elevator at her floor, he
heard familiar music. The closer he got to her
door the louder the volume grew. Then his world
began to spin uncontrollably as a loud gunshot
echoed through the hallway. He ran toward her
apartment, lowered his shoulder, and with
reckless abandon crashed through the wooden door.
He’d found Elizabeth on the couch, bleeding
profusely, most of her head splattered on the
wall behind her. On the blood-sprayed coffee
table in front of her was the answering
machine, a ballpoint pen, and several crumpled
balls of writing paper. He stood destroyed
before her corpse. How could this have happened?
All he had ever done was lover her. Devastated,
he slowly walked over to the blaring stereo. A CD
single of “Without You” was programmed to repeat.
He wondered how many times she’d listened to the
same song and shut the power off. Then he noticed
that next to the answering machine was a note.
Number one with a bullet, the red-speckled note
Shaking and convulsing, his tears falling freely,
Mayne began screaming at the top of his lungs. It
sounded like someone had unleashed a wild animal.
His shrieks threatened to break the windows. A
migraine pierced his throbbing temples and his
entire head was overloaded with pressure. Did she
kill herself because they had failed or because
he wouldn’t leave her be? Was it the song, one of
the few things he’d ever done autonomously, that
had driven her to this? Was this really
happening? Then another thought came out mind. He
removed the pistol from her hand and put it
against his temple.
He was going to join her.
It was empty. Elizabeth had known she would only
need one bullet.
Mayne snapped out of that nightmare and was
thrust into another memory. He recognized the
familiar room as the honeymoon suite in Las Vegas
and almost felt at ease. The bed was in disarray
and Elizabeth was smiling mischievously.
“What do you want to do?”
“Wha’?” Mayne responded, confused.
They’d already drunk several bottles of champagne
and made love twice.
“What do you want to do?” she replied softly,
daring Mayne to answer.
Mayne caught wind of her game and decided to play
along. If she was giving him an option as to what
they’d do next, he was definitely going to take
advantage of her generosity.
“You can either come up here and tell me that you
love me or go down on me.”
Elizabeth’s face registered joy. Words like love
were the hardest to get out of Mayne’s mouth.
Once again she smiled as she began her descent
toward his waistline. It didn’t take her very
long to bring him back to life. Several minutes
later, when she sensed that he was as excited as
he was going to get, Elizabeth looked up at her
man and with the sexiest expression she would
conjure, softy said, “I love you.”
Mayne came with a slight grunt. The powerful
surge had given him something to work at but
there was no pleasure in the orgasm. There never
was anymore. He tossed the photo album aside and
lay on the bed feeling dead, staring at the
ceiling. For a split second, he thought he heard
musical strands of “Without You” but it was only
his imagination. His tired body lay there for
what felt like a year before he sat up. At least
the drugs on the night table were real.
Everything he needed was on the table. Hidden
beneath the clock radio was a syringe and a
blackened spoon. There was a half-empty glass of
water and a lighter next to it. In the spoon he
mixed the proper amounts of heroin and water, and
then, using the lighter, heated the bottom of the
spoon until the mixture cleared up before placing
a tiny piece of cotton into the spoon. With
unsteady hands, he added some cocaine and his
speedball was complete. Being a high-profile
celebrity, he couldn’t afford to have his
withered arms tracked up too badly. He usually
shot into the back of his forearms or his feet.
He also injected into his neck but the way he
felt right now, he had no time to dillydally.
Like an expert acupuncturist, he fixed into a
bulging vein in his forearm.
“Cool,” he mumbled, carefully examining his arm,
as he felt the speedball coming on.
He fell back down on the bed. Between the drugs
and his emotions, he was exhausted. It was a good
thing drugs numbed away most of the pressures. He
was rushing out as the drug hit him in powerful
waves. It took several moments before he realized
his left arm was touching something. He slowly
rolled over. The photo album was opened to the
last page. The last page contained Elizabeth’s
obituary and a sympathy card. Tears he’d held in
since that day began to flow down his cheeks. His
pale face flushed as he felt his strength
evaporating. He was drowning in sorrow but didn’t
believe in self-pity and that made him feel even
worse. He sat up hyperventilating with a
question echoing inside his head. Why did she
have to die? He had no answer and stood up too
quickly. Why was everything so fucked? He went
back into the living room. He needed whiskey.
He loved her so much.
He’d offered her half the royalties. Half. That
was a financial empire, but she’d refused.
He’d tried to make amends. He’d tried being good
according to society’s standards. He wanted to
understand everything that had happened to them.
He wanted her to love him but no matter how hard
he tried, he fucked it up.
He wanted to be normal again but that wasn’t
He wanted to feel closer to Elizabeth but she was
dead. That tormented his fragile soul but for a
split second of insane logic, Mayne concluded
that his body should not be spared either.
“Arrrrrrggghh!” he growled, attacking his living
room like a pissed-off brawler. Fists and feet
attacked defenseless walls and furniture. He
cocked his right fist back and a large hole went
through plaster. He snatched an Oriental lamp off
an end table and hurled it across the room. He
violently threw a marble ashtray into a plaque,
ruining both. Breathing heavily and drenched in
alcoholic sweat, he grabbed a platinum record and
smashed it, spraying glass shards everywhere. The
shattered glass on the floor twinkled like
sun-reflected sand. No matter how many hotel
rooms he trashed during his career, Mayne had
never harmed a guitar. That was strictly taboo
until today. He walked over to the row of
guitars, grabbed a ‘68 Stratocaster by its
stringed neck and swung, smashing the mahogany
body until it was little more than firewood.
With each self-destructive act, he felt slightly
better. He walked over to another platinum disc,
readied himself and put his right fist through
the glass. Blood spurted from the hand that was
heavily insured by Lloyds of London.
For the first time that day he smiled.
Mayne grabbed the Jim Beam bottle off the bar and
guzzled. The liquid painkiller warmed his heaving
chest and eased his bleeding hand, which looked
like it needed stitches. He walked over to his
Fischer stereo, and, using his good hand, turned
on the receiver. The digital readout was locked
on a classic rock station. It was the only safe
station on the dial, since it never played any of
his songs. Mayne Mann was too new, too current.
The station only played material from the 60s and
70s. He instantly recognized the song playing; it
was Humble Pie’s “I Don’t Need No Doctor.” It was
raw rock like this that had inspired him to
become a musician. Following the Pie were the
Allman Brothers. Mayne could relate to what it
felt like being tied to a whipping post.
During the commercials, he went into the kitchen
to grab another beer. Out of his stereo speakers
a record store chain announced its prices as the
lowest in Los Angeles. The background music
accompanying the record store commercial was
His eyes stung but no tears fell as he realized
that no matter where he was, he couldn’t hide
from himself. Like a man on a mission, he walked
over to the stereo, grabbed the receiver, and
yanked with both hands. It took several strong
tugs before the digital lights went off. With
the receiver in hand, he stumbled backward,
ripping wires and knocking over one of the large
Bose speakers. Distraught and panting, he mad his
way to the giant sliding safety glass door that
led to the balcony. He casually dropped the
high-tech receiver and undid the latch that kept
the heavy door locked. Fresh air attacked his
senses. The cool breeze felt invigorating as he
stepped out onto the balcony and looked over the
edge. His jet-black Bentley sat gleaming in the
parking lot directly below. He picked the
receiver up, held it over the balcony, and aimed
it at the car. After several seconds of wondering
if his aim was accurate, he let go. Glass
spidered wildly when the receiver hit the car’s
windshield and broke through. He went to fetch
the beer he’d been distracted from and ripped the
refrigerator door open as hard as he could. It
crashed open, spilling several items onto the
floor. The door dangled by a hinge. Mayne grabbed
a beer, chugged half, and like a strong-armed
baseball pitcher threw it at his guitar
collection, barely missing his favorite: a
vintage ‘57 Sunburst Les Paul. He grabbed another
can from the crippled refrigerator as his eyes
returned to the guitars.
The guitars were like adopted children and he
loved each one in a different manner.
Certain guitars held certain memories but each
guitar had the ability to create magic. It was
that potential he respected and admired most
about these guitars until this afternoon. Now, no
matter how much he loved a certain guitar, or how
valuable it might be, all he wanted to do was
feel pain. Pain brought him closer to reality.
It brought him closer to Elizabeth. He gave the
world music, very good music, and asked for
little in return. A little space to create, some
kicks thrown in, and how about peace of mind?
Instead, he had more material goods than he could
ever use, more money than he could count, and
nothing worth fighting for. There was a time not
too long ago when he’d fought like hell for all
of this. Now that he owned a piece of the rock he
wished he could give it back. The view from the
top wasn’t as picturesque as he’d imagined. What
he did as his artistic expression, the record
company sold for capital. He’d quickly grown
disillusioned with the system but what else could
he do? Without the industry he couldn’t share his
music. No matter how hard anyone tried explaining
it to him, musical notes would never equal dollar
signs. He made music because since his early
childhood, he truly loved rock ‘n’ roll. It was
the people, his people, he wrote music for after
he finished writing for himself. So then, why
couldn’t he sleep at night?
He stared at the answer.
He was going to kill his guitars. If it wasn’t
for these guitars, he wouldn’t have the problems
he did. And he’s save the goddamn ‘57 Sunburst
for last. He guzzled the beer, raising it away
from his greedy mouth. Budweiser rained down the
side of his face. When the can was almost empty,
he crushed and spiked it like a football.
Enraged, he grabbed a Les Paul Black Beauty and
dealt it a quick but savage death against a wall.
He raised a rare Telecaster over his head and
clubbed the coffee table, breaking both. Then he
picked up another Les Paul and, swinging it like
a baseball bat, clobbered a lamp and several
other objects before the guitar’s neck snapped
“@!#$’ cheap @!#$,” he grumbled.
He heard something that had a bit of rhythm to
it. Was there a drummer playing in his head? It
took several seconds for him to realize that one
of the neighbors was pounding on the wall.
“WHAT, A LITTLE TOO LOUD FOR YA?” Mayne shouted
at the direction the noise was coming from. It
“YER PISSING ME OFF, @!#$!”
"@!#$, I'm giving ya fair fucking
warning," he said.
Mayne walked into the bedroom and over to the
night table. He grabbed his cocaine and poured a
decent-sized mound on the back of his hand that
wasn’t bleeding and snorted. Afterward he licked
residue off his fist, numbing his teeth and gums.
There was a pack of Marlboros on the table. He
grabbed one and lit it. He took a deep drag and
listened to his surroundings. The neighbor was
still pounding. The ashtray was an overflowing
mountain of dead butts so Mayne placed the
cigarette on the edge of the night table. He had
tried to avoid a confrontation, but the shithead
next door wouldn’t let it lie. He went to his
wall safe, grabbed the Smith & Wesson .357
Magnum, and charged out of the bedroom. “OKAY,
HOMEFUCK, WANNA PLAY GAMES?”
KABAMMM, KABAMMM, KABAMMM.
He unloaded three shots toward the already
hole-ridden wall. The pounding stopped instantly.
Again he smiled. He aimed the pistol at one of
his platinum discs on another wall and blasted
the shiny sphere. He aimed at his TV and blew it
to kingdom come. One bullet left. He held the
silver-plated pistol in awe. He could easily join
Elizabeth; all it would take was one quick
squeeze of the trigger. The idea appealed to him.
Maybe he’d get it right in his next life. Slowly,
eyes closed, he raised the pistol. The trigger
teased his scarlet index finger. The barrel felt
good against his temple. Readying himself, he
reopened his eyes. In front of him, mocking him,
were two more Les Paul guitars. There once was a
point in his life when these musical embodiments
were holy. The dedication and years of practicing
were a labor of love. Guitars were his passion,
his expression, and his ticket out of obscurity.
But all of that changed with one song. Now these
guitars were reminders that Mayne could never
regain his innocence.
“Can’t I @!#$’ die with some dignity?” he
wondered as rage consumed him.
He couldn’t even commit suicide without music
somehow interfering. His shaking arm lowered and
took aim at one of the guitars. There was heavy
recoil as wooden fragments flew everywhere. He
put a massive hole in the guitar, and then walked
over to examine his accuracy. It was definitely
dead, but that wasn’t enough. He picked up the
remains and threw them against the safety-glass
door. He walked over to the balcony’s edge.
Below, a small crowd had gathered around his
ruined luxury car.
“Anybody want an autograph?” he asked, tossing
out the fragmented guitar.
“Wait a minute, wait a minute. I got another
present!” he yelled, and ran into the bedroom.
His heavy footsteps jarred the cigarette he’d
forgotten off the night table. It smoldered on
the thick rug. Mayne dug inside the wall safe,
grabbed a handful of hundred-dollar bills, and
ran back to the balcony before his audience could
“Don’t say I never gave you anything,” he
announced, letting the money fly.
Several wary spectators stepped backward but as
soon as it was obvious that the confetti was
currency, they rushed forward. Mayne waved to the
small crowd and went back inside.
One guitar remained.
He stared at the ‘57, marveling at the beautiful
colors. It was appropriately called a Sunburst.
Reds, oranges, and yellows swirled in the wooden
body. This one had gold trim as well as golden
pickups. The Sunburst was his preference of all
guitars. He had another two dozen in storage but
this guitar was the first thing he bought after
Suicide Shift was signed to a recording contract.
It was how he’d rewarded himself for having “made
it.” This was also the guitar he’d written the
music to “Without You” on. He approached it with
caution and respect and gently picked it up. He
sat down on the floor Indian style. Deep down, he
was glad he hadn’t destroyed this ax. His
picking hand hurt badly, but he wanted to play.
Blood dripped off his hand and dripped down the
guitar’s body. Enthralled, Mayne watched it run.
No matter how intoxicated he was, his fingers
never betrayed him, and this particular guitar
always responded to his call. He began picking
something that sounded like Hendrix. He paused
abruptly. Something about that last guitar run
shook him up and he couldn’t continue. In a vague
way, it reminded him of a part in “Without You.”
After taking a deep breath, Mayne partially
regained his composure. Multimillionaires like
Mayne Mann aren’t supposed to cry. They’re beyond
tears or at least that’s what society wants to
believe. Mayne Mann was just Stephen Maynard
Mandraich, a talented kid who could run his
nimble fingers along a piece of stringed wood. He
began to strum one of his favorite riffs, Thin
Lizzy’s “Don’t Believe a Word.” Even though the
guitar wasn’t amplified, he could hear it as if
it was. He let the last note ring out as he
stopped and reflected. He used to love the feel
of this instrument in his hands. He used to love
making the strings come to life. He used to love
just holding this guitar. Then his mind viciously
reminded him that he’d also loved the way
Elizabeth felt. He quickly rose off the floor and
tossed the guitar aside. It landed with a loud
He stared blankly at the guitar and thought of
her. Both had given him so much pleasure, but
he’d never been able to properly express his
gratitude. He never told her the truth about how
she made him feel, about how much he loved her,
and when he did, the song reaffirmed that he
should’ve kept his mouth shut. At least she’d
still be alive. But the song was pure and he
wanted to play it for her. Even if her physical
body wasn’t present, he could still sing to her
in heaven. He wanted to jam but was afraid to
touch the guitar.
Then Mayne saw an alternative. He scooped up the
almost-dead whiskey bottle and finished what
little was left. It slipped silently from his
hand. Very drunk, very drugged out, he staggered
over to the piano. The smoldering cigarette on
the bedroom rug had burned its way over to the
goose-down comforter. The cover caught and flames
quickly spread throughout the bedroom. Discarded
clothing acted as kindling and soon the bedroom
was on fire.
Until several hazy hours ago, Mayne’s life, no
matter how miserable, had been something most
people could only dream about. It was all an
illusion, and he was one of rock ‘n’ roll’s
elite, a hero. Now, he’d been reduced to his
basic self and nothing really mattered. He felt
the thorns wrapped around his heart and for the
first time in far too long, felt human again.
He’d smothered his spirituality in drug abuse.
He’d stunted his health and personal growth with
vice. He’d blinded himself because he was afraid
to see that his purpose, his gift in life, was to
be true to himself. And the only time he was able
to find that inner truth was when he played his
music. He softly tapped the ivory keys, making
melodies come to life through his fingers. No
matter how badly his hand hurt, he persisted in
making music. He was determined to play for
Elizabeth and all the other angels. With every
fluid run, every harmony, every musical accent,
his inner pain subsided a little. With each
passing musical note, he became one with the
Sweating profusely, Mayne felt something stirring
behind him. He tried ignoring it for as long as
possible. Finally, he turned and saw large flames
billowing out of his bedroom. At first he thought
it was a hallucination but the fire was
scorchingly real and heading his way. His
favorite guitar was already engulfed and dying.
He wanted to save it but couldn’t. He refused to
let his jamming be interrupted. Elizabeth was
listening. Every time his fingers pressed the
Steinway’s keys, crimson stained the ivory and
smeared. He ignored the small red spots, sliding
his long fingers through them. Scarred-up veins
bulged from his forearms a sweat ran down his
face. All he’d ever wanted to do with his life
was play his music and now he was. For the
moment, he felt free from his demons. He built up
the courage and began singing “Without You” in
his natural gruff voice. The thick carpeting
quickly became a wall-to-wall inferno as a giant
wave of fire rose up and spread around the piano.
He couldn’t have cared less. As flames swallowed
the apartment, Mayne never screamed and never
missed a note.
Click pic to go to Amazon to nab a copy