THE SPIRIT OF
this the... yeah, is this for the superhero team
tryouts? Sorry, yeah, I guess I should have
guessed from your outfits.
No... no, I don't have a costume. I figured if
you really thought it was important I could get
one after I got the job. Oh. Okay, I'll bear that
I'll just sit on this chair, then? Cool.
name? Er... I'd rather not say, there are several
international law agencies currently looking for
me. Just call me... Jimmy.
superpower? Okay, this is going to sound really
weird, I'm going to sound like a complete loony
tune and I know you probably get a lot of
timewasters and homeless people that make
similarly ridiculous claims, but stick with me,
because this is totally true, and I'm totally
sane, and it sounds so weird that you know I
wouldn't ask you to believe something so
obviously ridiculous unless it was true.
have the power of Rock.
No, I don't mean earth elementalism, I mean the
power of the Rock Out. Rock music. Hendrix, the
Stones, electric guitar, that kind of thing. Yes,
I'll explain it better.
ten years ago, when there was that weird meteor
shower and people started getting superpowers -
sorry, yeah, I guess you knew about that - I was
one of those affected. I wonder, though, if it
was really intended for me. I never even liked
rock much. My brother did, though. He was always
playing his classic rock and his hard rock on the
stereo system in his bedroom, so you could hear
it anywhere in the house. He even saved up and
bought an electric guitar, and kept trying to
learn how to play it, but he was always pretty
it was the night after the meteor storm. I was 14
years old, and I was lying on my bed reading when
my brother started playing his music. And before
this I could always shut the sound out and
concentrate on my book, but not this time. It was
like... someone was talking to me. You know how
you look at those 3D magic eye pictures and an
image leaps out at you? It was like that, with
sound. I think he was listening to Jeff Beck, Hi
Ho Silver Lining, and you know that guitar solo
near the end that goes 'widdly widdly widdly
widdly wa-wow'? It was like all the notes were
just merging into a voice. Deep, and booming...
but kind, you know? The kind of voice you imagine
God having. And it was saying my name, over and
tried to shut it out, but it was impossible. From
then on, every song he played, the guitar notes
would form that voice, speaking my name. Yes, I
realise it sounds insane. No, they didn't command
me to kill women, I'd ask you to take this
took a few weeks before I gave in. My brother was
out at work, and I snuck into his bedroom. He
wasn't going through one of his phases of
self-improvement at the time so his guitar was
propped up against the wardrobe, gathering dust.
Somehow, I could sense how the guitar was
feeling. It felt neglected and miserable. I
wanted to comfort it. I reached out a hand to pet
it like you would a dog...
the next thing I knew I was holding it in both
hands, and I was playing. I'd never even touched
a guitar but there I was. My fingers were dancing
over the strings like charmed snakes. My other
hand was going up and down the neck like... what
are those things called, you get them in ocean
liners, they go up and down? Pistons? Yes, like
the sound coming out of that instrument... it
seemed to transcend the boundaries of notes and
pitch and rhythm. It was something pure,
something... glorious. It was like a bottle of
golden champagne pouring over the auditory centre
of the brain.
off the what? What's a 'simile'? Oh. Sorry.
I came out of the trance I was... dazed, I guess.
You know how you're always kind of giddy and
woozy right after an orgasm. I put down the
guitar. I could almost hear it sigh, just on the
edge of hearing, a sigh of relief or pleasure or
something. And then this horrible smell reached
my nostrils, and I recoiled. It was coming from
my brother's music collection.
CD, every LP, every cassette... all of them had
melted in their cases. His MP3 player was just a
puddle on the desktop. I knew then that the power
was dangerous, but at the same time, I wanted to
feel it flowing through me again.
resisted. I started hearing on the news about
people getting superpowers after the night of the
meteors, and put two and two together. Some kid
burnt down his entire apartment building. Another
one flew off into the sky. I swore I wouldn't end
up like that. From then on, as a precaution I
wore earplugs whenever my brother was playing his
music. I knew that it wouldn't try to call again,
though. I was already infected.
couple of years passed, and it grew inside me. I
kept it bottled up, but it bided its time,
growing in strength. Sometimes it would manifest
in weird ways. One time I caught myself humming
along to Purple Rain as it played on the PA
system in a department store, and when I got
home, all my teeth had been perfectly whitened.
My mum persisted in buying me trousers two sizes
too big, but they shrank and became incredibly
tight within hours of me putting them on. And
then there was the time there was a music
festival three streets away and I woke up the
following morning to find that my hair had grown
down to my shoulders.
it was harmless. I thought I had kept it
repressed. I should have known. It was just
waiting for its chance.
years ago. I was 16. I was appearing in the
school play as a member of the background crowd.
The play was just some Shakespeare crap so my
mind wandered off, and I found myself staring at
the audience below us. There were so many faces,
and they all looked so... bored. I remember
wondering if there was a way to make them all
less bored, and that's when it happened.
Something trembled in the pit of my stomach, and
it quickly became a rumbling. My fingers were
twitching, playing at strings that weren't there.
My heart was pounding a bass rhythm in my ears.
I found myself walking up to centre stage. People
were complaining, but the sound was muffled, as
if coming from miles away. I could feel the
power, trailing out of me invisibly and linking
up with everything in the room. That's when I
knew... that's when I knew that the power, the
rock, it wasn't in me; it was in everything. I
was just the conduit. I stood there and I felt
the music in everything - the people, the chairs,
the nails in the floorboards, the bricks in the
wall, the very stars in the sky - all watching
me, breath bated. They wanted me to let it out.
And by God I wanted to oblige.
when the earthquake started. There was no chaos,
though. There was a rhythm to it. I could feel
rocks in caverns far beneath my feet dancing and
clashing in perfect time. I heard concrete
buckling, then wood smashing, then a great pillar
of stone rose from beneath my feet, elevating me
high above the crowd. No-one panicked or screamed
or ran for the door. They could feel it too, now.
They could feel it coming.
held my hand aloft, and lightning struck me. No,
I don't know how it happened indoors, that's just
what it felt like. And then there was something
in my hands. A curved, silvery blue guitar that
shone and sparkled with brilliance. It was like I
was holding, not a guitar, but the idea of a
guitar. At the same time, it was one guitar, and
it was all guitars, all the guitars that had ever
lived, that had ever been smashed up on stage by
realised that rock, true rock, didn't need
instruments. Oh sure, nylon-stringed guitars and
piano keys and drumsticks could make something
resembling rock, but the true rock, the spirit of
rock, when it wants to be played, can play itself
through the universe, through the very particles
of the air around us. The clashing stones of the
Earth were my drum solo. The rumble of a
gathering storm was my bass. Between them, they
introduced the song, the song of true Rock. My
eyes were closed as I plunged my hand down upon
the quivering milk-white strings.
first chord tore the shirt from my body. The
second shattered every window in the building.
music swept through me, through us all. The
movements of my hands, guided by the spirit of
Rock, were shaping tidal waves of sound. Everyone
was on their feet, dancing and moshing like it
was the end of the world. The entire school was
shaking, partly from the earthquakes, partly from
all the stamping feet. Possessed, I played. The
guitar and I fused together like lovers. After
opening the chorus with a particularly harsh
riff, the entire school disintegrated. The walls
and ceiling broke off and flew away into a
gigantic swirling vortex formed by the clouds
directly above me. All that remained was me, my
stone perch, and the crowd. The moon and stars
lit me up like a spotlight. I was Rocking Out.
don't fully remember all the events of that
night. Later, I was told that the people in the
nearby houses showed up to complain and ended up
joining the crowd. The police came in, then the
army, and all of them were hypnotised by the
power of Rock. They tried using snipers from a
safe distance but the bullets were just
vapourised as soon as they got too close.
one point I rocked myself out of my body. I was
floating about a hundred feet above the ground,
looking down at myself as I continued to assault
the guitar strings. I rose higher and higher to
the very peak of the vortex, and there I met the
Spirit of Rock.
Well, what would you expect the Spirit of Rock to
look like? Oh, well it's funny you should say
that because he did look like Elvis part of the
time. It was weird. Like, I'd never see him
actually change, but one minute I'd be talking to
Elvis and then Elvis would start talking in John
Lennon's voice and then I'd realise he'd always
been John Lennon, and then he'd start sounding
like Jimi Hendrix. Also, he smelled like a
combination of sweat and marijuana. He was a
pretty cool guy. We watched the concert together
from far above and had a conversation.
told me that, when Buddy Holly's plane crashed
and took with it him, Richie Valens and the Big
Bopper, that the three merged and chose not to
pass onto the next world. Instead, they would
walk the Earth as a sort of Holy Trinity of Rock.
The Father, the Son and the fat guy holding a
telephone. Since then they had touched many
aspiring musicians, and taken in those who had
died, growing in strength with every drug
overdose and autoerotic asphyxiation mishap. And
with me, they said, they had finally found a
vessel to truly spread the message of Rock to
he went into all the 'rules' of having the Spirit
of Rock in me. Yeah, I guess this is kind of
important to my application. He said that firstly
the power was virtually limitless but that I
shouldn't get a big head, that I was not the
commander of Rock, merely a conduit. The Spirit
plays by its own rules. They said the power will
probably do as I ask if I do so humbly, but it's
not a guarantee.
he said that even though it can be destructive
and people may die in the process, the power of
the Rock Out should never be unleashed as an act
of aggression, except in dire emergencies or when
the audience are really evil guys. Anyone who
dies does so humanely while knowing perfect joy,
so I shouldn't dwell on it. What? Er... I think
around twenty people were killed in the first
Rock Out. My geography teacher, Mr. Havers, he
was sixty-five, he was headbanging so hard that
his neck snapped. His body didn't actually stop
moving for another three hours.
they said the Rock Out can only be performed in
front of an audience of at least 10 people, but
more people makes for a more powerful
conflagration. Also it helps if it takes place
during hours of darkness, and that I should never
be in a position of inferiority to the audience -
that I would have to be elevated higher. They
said I would know when conditions were ideal,
just like I had done that night.
yeah, afterwards. Well, I don't know when I
stopped playing, it was a few hours before
sunrise. I woke up early the next morning in the
middle of a circle of scorched and blackened
ground about twenty feet across, and most of the
crowd were still there, lying around unconscious.
Things were never the same after that first
manifestation. It feels great at the time, but
afterwards things always get worse fast. It's
like fucking a fat chick. Sorry, that was
insensitive. Sorry, Amazing Spherical Woman.
was kidnapped by the military after that, once
I'd settled down. I don't think my family minded,
they were terrified of me after the first Rock
Out, the whole town was. The army scientists
wanted to see if they could weaponise the Rock
Out. I knew it was hopeless, the Spirit of Rock
would never go for it, but the devastation at the
school was too good a possibility to pass up. I
spent a few years there being experimented on.
The Spirit of Rock teased them, gave them just
enough to keep them interested, like having me
play chords that made things across the room
spontaneously catch fire.
time wore on and the funding was running out.
Eventually the head scientist actually begged me.
Begged me to show him something he could impress
his superiors with. I felt sorry for him, so I
consulted with the Spirit of Rock, and he agreed
to a demonstration on a nearby military base.
Yeah, actually, it was Orange Leaf Military Base.
Yeah, the one they said was wiped out by a
yeah, I've pretty much been drifting since then
but I saw your ad and I think the Spirit of Rock
is into the idea. It's like, you know, how in the
eyes of many people rockstars and superheroes are
grouped together, that was how he worded it. No,
I don't have any references from other superhero
teams. No, I don't have any experience in crime
fighting. How could I, for Lennon's sake? They'd
have locked me up if I wasn't one of you people.
Just tell me if I'm in with a chance. Well, why
can't you let me know now? It'd save us all a lot
see. No, I... no, I understand, I guess it isn't
a very predictable superpower, I just thought
this would be a chance to get my life in order.
No, to be honest I don't have a lot of options. I
can't really do anything else. I tried joining a
band once and six people died. No, I know you
don't enjoy rejecting people. I can see how
unhappy you all look.
I'll just... how many of you are there, by the
way? One, two... twelve? That's perfect. Yes,
I'll leave in a minute, but first I just want to
stand on my chair.
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