The world was now interested in Vincent Stain. He found himself overwhelmed by instant celebrity, as the media began to dive deep into his backstory, only to find he didn’t really have one. Much of the reporting focused on his suicide—an act immediately condemned by the Pope as being “extremely short-sighted and blasphemous.
Catholics were convinced Vincent was definitive proof hell did exist, and he was most likely a demon sent back from the grave to show humanity what happens to those who take their own lives. Conversion rates for Catholicism would spike over the next two years.
People began to draw spacious conclusions, connecting the powers of Eddie Inferno and Vincent Stain, believing the key to gaining these abilities involved self-inflicted death. Assumptions had been made that Eddie Inferno had overdosed and temporarily died in the hours leading up to his first explosive episode. This prompted a rash of suicides by logic-averse people, and those prone to wild conspiracies, and was considered to be inevitable but not all surprising.
The White House was forced to release a number of public-service announcements, addressing the suicide epidemic. They launched a wildly successful campaign: “Suicide doesn’t give you superpowers, it just makes you super dead.”
Vincent proudly basked in the constant attention he received. Unlike his predecessor, he vowed to be a voice for good in the world and welcomed any opportunity to share his thoughts with the media. However, the ensuing deluge was more taxing than he considered. His social skills were limited, and his attempts at framing complicated social issues resulted in a number of widely publicized gaffes, including his claims the Salvation Army was responsible for the First World War, and the Khmer Rouge “got a really bad rap.”
It was clear Vincent’s struggles with basic human interactions had not ended with his suicide. He decided, in order to properly convey his messages, he would need a medium that allowed his inner soul to speak in a way that would be understood by all: He would need to start a band. That day Human Ashtray was conceived.
Putting a band together was a dream Vincent clutched to tightly during his brief life. Fear of failure and a lack of any musical talent had stopped him from realizing his rock ‘n’ roll fantasy. He never reached farther than posting a poorly written flyer on the bulletin board of a local guitar shop. Now, he had the public’s attention, and finding willing musicians was remarkably easy. Within a matter of days, Vincent had assembled four willing souls to take a musical journey into the unknown.
While the world was still processing Vincent’s resurrection, he was busy finding the sound for the Human Ashtray in the husk of an abandoned home somewhere in the meth-producing rural communities of Western Kansas. It was in this flat, uninspiring cultural abyss where he would craft his heavy metal manifesto to the world.
In spite of heavy media demand for more information about the world’s second super-powered individual, record companies were sheepish about acquiring the worldwide distribution rights to Human Ashtray’s first album “Blacker Than the Devil’s Taint.” The 12 track, 18-minute long album was a blunt, unrefined assault on “the ills of civilized society” that called for an end to the “elitist regime steering humanity toward a sticky, black abyss”—and it lacked a catchy, radio friendly single.
Vincent lacked refinement and inaccessibility of his predecessor. There were those clamoring for Eddie Inferno to become their diamond-studded deity. He wasn’t enthralled with the idea of celebrity or godhood, whereas Vincent Stain openly courted both. Eddie spoke against the establishment but was still open to indulging in the vices they provided. Saying “fuck you” to the waking world felt more like a catchphrase than a personal ideology.
While the majority of people were fascinated by Vincent, they also were turned off by his message of change and equality. The media and their corporate ownership began to question how much coverage to spend on Vincent Stain and the Human Ashtray. Their debut album had charted poorly, selling a decent number of copies but failing to get much radio airplay. Much like Eddie Inferno, they believed, by turning away the cameras, they could end Vincent’s influence. Unfortunately, the fuse already had been lit.
Vincent’s message resonated with the disenfranchised, ostracized and the hygienically challenged, all of whom felt unincorporated into the muddy fabric of our society. Their numbers in no way rivaled those of the Absent-Minded Gentlemen, but folks felt far more connected to the meaning of the music and the burning man behind their conception. A generation of frustrated outcasts had found something worth following. His suicide note became an ideological roadmap for disenfranchised and shiftless layabouts, who had nothing better to do. If the world no longer wanted them, they would come together and form their own.
Anghus is encore’s 2020 fact or fiction writer, featuring the serialized piece, “Burning Sensation.” Read the prologue and previous chapters here.