Eddie’s ascension from rock ‘n’ roll idol to rock ‘n’ roll god transformed fans into would-be acolytes—they wanted more than new music. Concert venues became a breeding ground for a new wave of cult-like followers who referred to themselves as “Cinders.” Their fanatical devotion to Eddie soon eclipsed his artistic endeavors. Crowds of devotees began to follow the Absent-Minded Gentlemen on tour, creating a caravan 200,000 strong. Cinders overwhelmed towns as they worked their way from venue to venue and left a path of surly agitation in their wake. Small towns were incapable of handling the food supply for the anarchist acolytes. Sewers designed for small-town populations couldn’t bear the load. It wasn’t only the pipes that were beginning to buckle.
The world’s most popular band had started to fracture. Lead guitarist Lance Woodley was the first to express his frustration. He was Eddie’s oldest friend and suffered the most as Eddie’s unparalleled popularity had isolated him from the rest of the Gentlemen. The press was no longer interested in their music, most of which was written by Woodley and drummer Gordon “Sticks” Patterson. Cinders were outnumbering traditional music fans, and took over concerts with mass demands for Eddie to speak on a variety of topics, to turning their concert dates into makeshift revivals. No matter how hard he tried, Eddie was becoming increasingly intoxicated by God-like persona his fans had thrust upon him.
By the time the band reached the halfway point on the American leg of their tour, Eddie was starting to believe the hype of the chanting crowds. “Maybe I am God,” he said famously to a reporter from Cream, just before leveling a condemned Sloppy Joe stand in east St. Louis.
With practice, Eddie learned to blow up nonliving things and control the size of the explosion. In addition, he could generate flames, creating pyrotechnics for the band’s live shows that couldn’t be rivaled. Eddie’s legion of followers believed he would lead humanity to a better place—and they became impatient as Eddie continued to tour. The music was no longer enough for the Cinders or the rest of the band who decided Eddie was a liability to their music.
In 1982 Lance Woodley held a poorly staged press conference in the lobby of the Ambassador Hotel to announce Eddie Inferno would no longer lead the Absent-Minded Gentleman. This declaration felt like a death sentence for Lance and the other band members, both metaphorically and literally. Could the band survive without Eddie in the band? Would they still be able to release successful albums and draw crowds without Eddie Inferno? Would Eddie end up inadvertently or intentionally blowing them up with his exploding thoughts? No, he wouldn’t.
Though the media heavily speculated about Eddie’s involvement in bass player Terrance Bowman’s death, forensic scientists determined the fatal explosion was caused by an improperly pressurized propane tank used to power a faux-stone fire pit. The Absent-Minded Gentlemen would release only one more album: 1987’s universally panned “Asbestos Haberdashery.” While the songs had the familiar flavor of the band, the fire of Eddie Inferno was no longer present.
He spent the last five years being revered as a living god. In spite of his goals to remain “a man of the people,” the impact of being deified and vilified by society had pushed his psyche into a difficult state. It was March of 1988, while being interviewed by the BBC, that he uttered one of the most famous quotes of the 20th century, after being asked if he suffered from a “god complex.”
“Can you have a god-complex if you are, in fact, God?” he responded.
The media widely discussed the question. It was the first time Eddie referred to himself as a supreme being. It was the first drop of poison that would turn the tumultuous Eddie Inferno’s public persona toxic. After weeks of media analysis and public outcry, it was determined the lack of the article “a” being stated before the word “god” was what turned so many people. Society seemed comfortable with god-like comparisons, but not with references to being the one and only God. Eddie became a pariah to people of faith. Within hours he was denounced by every organized religion on Earth.
The moderate centrists, who traditionally dictate the outcome of any debate, began to side with more puritanical conservatives, claiming Eddie had gone too far. Others were just fed up with Eddie’s antics and began to fear what a charismatic drug addict with superpowers could do to the fabric of society. Members of organized religions began to clash with Eddie’s Cinders, who protected their would-be savior from an onslaught of public anger. Simple protests turned into violent bloodbaths. Eventually, the National Guard was brought in to help maintain fragile peace.
Eddie’s ego prevented him from issuing an apology and the incident further ostracized him from humanity. He became uncharacteristically isolated and avoided social interactions, taking up residence on the top eight floors of the Rosemont Hotel in Reno, Nevada. Other than having dedicated, trusted members of his entourage and a harem of a few dozen sex partners, Eddie refused contact with the outside world. For the first time since 1978, the world didn’t know what Eddie Inferno was doing. In the absence of any credible information, rampant speculation became the order of the day.
Sensing blood in the water, politicians began to demand Eddie be brought in to account for his actions. Resolutions were debated regarding public statements that he was not God, while other factions of the government wanted to have him submit to a battery of tests to discover the origins of his ability and whether or not it could be duplicated.
The world would eventually discover others with remarkable abilities; however, very few were the product of science and technology. It was, in fact, only five more months before another superhuman would be discovered. In the meantime, Eddie Inferno’s public persona declined. Media, music fans and the general public had become exhausted by his antics.
In spite of 100 million-plus albums sold, renowned popularity and his intense global force, Eddie Inferno was no longer a person of interest. Even the most dedicated fans turned their backs. His cult of Cinders disbanded and abandoned the heretic life to rejoin civilized society. Their lack of critical thought and disenchantment with the world made them ideal employees for the food-service industry.
The Rosemont Hotel became an empty tower where Eddie could spend his days knee-deep in white heroin and black women. Every so often the public would get a glimpse of Eddie during short excursions into the real world, where he would be looked upon like an escaped animal from the zoo, or a circus sideshow freak exposed by the cold, hard, unforgiving light of day.
Eventually, Eddie would find the will to crawl out of the rancid squalor of his downward spiral. It was motivated by another event no one saw coming.
Anghus is encore’s 2020 fact or fiction writer, featuring the serialized piece, “Burning Sensation.” Read the prologue and previous chapters at encorepub.com.