At first, no one considered Vincent Stain and his army of shiftless dropouts a threat. They were a fascinating punchline; a literal musical movement that could be mocked by a world always looking for the next big thing to look down upon. They continued to advance across the American Southwest, picking up mass at every small town they moved through. By the time they reached Vinita, Oklahoma, they were half a million strong.
News of Vincent Stain’s cross-country tour had spread and become a word-of-mouth sensation as young people were abandoning their lives to show their independence by joining a massive movement featuring a fairly nebulous ideology. Throngs of surly teenagers clogged the highways and byways, creating human chains that stretched from Joplin to Tipton Ford, Missouri.
Those who felt ostracized by society for their appearance, choices in clothing or the annoying way they spoke came from cities and towns across America, but mostly the suburbs. The poor souls felt sidelined by a world whose beauty standard had no room for the fat, slovenly and socially apathetic. They did not adhere to norms adopting the identities of outsiders because it gave them a purpose. The rules had become too restrictive, and they would no longer idly sit by and watch as beautiful people of the world continued to get their way.
Now, they had an organized school of thought, thanks to Vincent Stain’s extremely lengthy suicide note. It began to circulate from town to town with the kind of grassroots commitment normally employed by religious devotees or multi-level marketing schemes. Copies were mailed like chain letters to random individuals, who were asked to pass it along. Quotes from his ridiculously oversimplified worldview were painted on walls, highway overpasses and the bathrooms of rest stops along the highways of the American Southwest.
Vincent became intoxicated by the adulation of his growing army of unwashed teens. He would watch them each day from the high peak of his scrap-metal tower, erected from road signs and vacant strip malls, pulled from town to town with massive lengths of rope and chain. Each day his followers would wake, congregate and seek out resources for survival. Like a plague of locusts, they devoured everything in their path, completely decimating small towns and emptying out convenience stores. A steady diet of snack food and cheap beer had made them increasingly surly, while lack of hygienic supplies created an odor, which could be detected by olfactory sensors a full day before Vincent Stain’s motorcade of malcontents rolled through.
At night Vincent would descend from his perch to perform for an eager audience, flanked by his obsidian-cloaked backing band—a mélange of mind-numbing music that would mesmerize devotees. It was like a nightly religious service, except his parishioners were not gathering in the hope of saving their eternal soul but pledging their allegiance to a new messiah of maleficence. On Thursdays he would forego musical accompaniment in favor of stream-of-consciousness spoken word sessions that even his most dedicated fans would admit were self-indulgent.
At the conclusion of his performances, Vincent would gather six to eight of his female fans to congregate at the zenith of his makeshift citadel. A precious chosen few would get the kind of access his growing legion would gladly murder another living being to experience. His inner sanctum was a sight to behold, adorned with furniture acquired from low-end chain retail outlets: the finest futon and rod-iron shelving units his acolytes could acquire, carpet made from a patchwork of black and gray supermarket floor mats.
His most passionate female fans were willing to indulge any fantasy Vincent could imagine—carnal delights that frequently occurred behind close doors in the fast fornication frenzy of furious rock ‘n’ roll fusion. Surprisingly, Vincent’s most intimate fantasies involved long discussions about his music. Rather than animalistic ravaging, Vincent sought more cerebral pleasure, engaging in long, meandering conversations about the meaning of his music, aggressively fishing for compliments and asking for feedback on his new songs. The collective consensus in these makeshift focus groups ranged from “confused” to “disappointed.”
On the 28th day of his emergence, something changed. For nearly a month, his mobile music festival had gained momentum, nearly one million worshipers in his crazed congregation. Vincent announced he would be taking his music in a new direction, debuting a new collaboration. His lascivious legion eagerly waited the premiere of the new track. Within moments of beginning to play, there was something different about Vincent. The heavy beat shook the earth beneath their feet, and the sound-raging guitars tore through the air molecules around them, creating a palpable heat. His followers began to undulate in unison, their body movements awkward and unmotivated. He watched from his perch as his personal army of sycophants fell under his spell.
Vincent licked is lips and gently wrapped his fingers around the microphone to sing the first words to this new track: “If only they had listened,” he whispered softly. “If only they had cared.” The crowd of ardent followers began to move like a rising tide, swaying and rocking back and forth to the sound of Vincent’s raspy, unfiltered voice. “If only there was a place for us / where all our souls are spared.” The crowd began to stomp their feet in unison as the song began to build toward the chorus.
“The only state we’ll ever know,” continued Vincent, as he engaged his diaphragm to declare, “DESPAIR!”
The orange lava-like veins throughout his body glowed and pulsated while black and red tentacles emerged from the depths of his gullet, like radioactive projectile vomit that weaved through the crowd and connected all of them: One mind, one body, one purpose. Then, with the power of Vincent Stain flowing through them, they began to mosh. One million arms swung. One million legs stomped. One million heads banged. Vincent’s army was no longer a parasitic organism feeding on society. They were an angry, raucous human catastrophe with the power to level a city with their unfocused rage.
Power channeled by their dark savior was ready to be unleashed onto an unsuspecting world. The good people of Jefferson City were unprepared for the epic donkey punch they were about to receive. City leaders gathered and drafted a strongly worded resolution, expressing their complete lack of interest in hosting Vincent Stain and his followers while making a second declaration of their hopes that the human maelstrom would redirect to the Hallsville Fairgrounds.
There were few living witnesses to the razing of Jefferson City—a handful of paparazzi and rock reporters assigned to cover the tour. The most apt description came from renowned photographer Early Moses, who readily admitted traditional camera technology could not capture the largess of pure insanity he witnessed.
“A tidal wave of flesh and leather,” he explained, “a hurricane of humans working together to tear down everything and anything that stood in its way. Buildings fell. Some people were absorbed into the moving mound of mayhem, while the less fortunate were sucked underneath and crushed, leaving a blood-red smear in its wake.”
Vincent Stain had changed the game. His groundswell of fan support transformed into a human horde, tearing through terrain like an angry child with a napkin, rapidly gaining speed as it headed towards its final destination: Detroit.
Anghus is encore’s 2020 fact or fiction writer, featuring the serialized piece, “Burning Sensation.” Read the prologue and previous chapters here.