“We need to get the band back together,” Ivy said, still staring at the back of the immobile Eddie Inferno.
“You know how long it’s been since I’ve picked up a guitar?” Eddie said. His eyes moved to a row of pristine musical instruments, covered in a layer of dust and soot. “Besides, we were never really a band now were we?”
“It’s a metaphor,” Ivy said while walking toward Eddie, who still cowered in the shadows. “And if I remember correctly, you were shit on the guitar. Half the time they didn’t even plug you in.”
“Don’t come any closer,” he implored, holding up a hand. “I don’t … I don’t want to see you.”
“Do you think I wanted to be here?” Ivy replied, inching closer. “If there was any other option, I would have taken it—believe me.”
“Well, look…” He shifted nervously in his chair. “Give me a few minutes; I need to make myself presentable.”
Ivy’s audible sigh filled the room. The idea of Eddie Inferno invoking modesty was laughable. This was a man who had seen her in every known emotional state and sexual position. They had explored each other’s bodies with the precision of a lapidary. Instead of Eddie, she turned her attention to the light switch in the room, and with one flick flooded the suite with the illumination of a dozen soft-white bulbs.
“Now, why don’t you get out of that chair and…” She ended her sentence abruptly. She seemed so shocked she couldn’t even complete her sentence.
“Eddie … you’re …”
The word she was looking for: fat.
Although “fat” might not have done justice to just how enormous Eddie had become. Had she not been able to recognize the eyes that once gazed so deeply into every fiber of her soul, she might not have believed this morbidly corpulent person sitting across from her was, in fact, the Eddie Inferno.
“Hello, Ivy,” he said, trying to suppress his shame. “Been awhile, hasn’t it?”
“What happened to you, Eddie?” Ivy asked, still in a state of shock that wouldn’t recede.
Her eyes widened, not only from the sheer amazement of the reveal, but literally to increase her visibility enough to take in all of his elephantine frame.
“The ravages of time can be unkind,” replied Eddie. A sentence smothered in sadness. “But it looks like you already knew that.”
“Me?” said Ivy, her stunned surprise shifting to sardonic slander.
“You got old, Ivy. I can see the lines on your face. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
“The only reason I can’t see the lines on your face, Eddie, is because it looks like your face has eaten them.”
“Yeah, I put on some weight,” he replied, trying to find the energy to pull himself up from his chair.
“Some weight?” she scoffed. “You went from fit to Falstaff.”
“I don’t understand that reference.”
“Eddie, I’m not here to fight—not with you, anyway.”
“Right. This ‘Vincent Stain’ character.”
“He’s done it, impossible, Eddie. He’s amassed an army.”
“That’s not impossible. Lots of people have raised armies. Hitler, Napoleon …”
“You don’t understand,” she pleaded, taking a more serious tone. “They don’t know what they’re doing. It’s like he’s hypnotized him. They’re just innocent, stupid kids under his spell.”
“Obsessive fans. They’ll snap out of it.” Eddie scanned the room for any uneaten food that might be within reaching distance. “Mine sure as hell did.”
“They’re moving across the country, and they haven’t been able to stop them.”
Eddie could tell Ivy was serious and uninterested in the snappy banter that had always been a fixture of their relationship.
“People are dying,” she continued, trying to tune up his heart strings.
“People are always dying; that’s what people do. They’re born, they live boring, uneventful lives, and they die.”
“Who’s this act for, Eddie? It’s just me. If you really believe that, then sit here in your carpeted castle and watch people die.”
Ivy stared at Eddie with the intensity of a thousand daggers made of molten-hot, emerald lava.
“Or you can get off your ass and help me stop the fucking apocalypse.”
Ivy could still play Eddie like a 1967 Fender Stratocaster—she knew which strings to pluck, which chords to play, which keys to turn. By the look in his eyes, she knew she had stoked the right embers. She could see a small fire beginning to burn within the bloated body of the world’s most powerful performer. Whether he was capable of finding the raging blaze of yesteryear was yet to be determined, but she could clearly see a flicker of the man who once owned her heart, genitals and the world stage.
“Alright, love,” he said, with the hint of a smile and curl of his lip. “What’s the plan?”
Anghus is encore’s 2020 fact or fiction writer, featuring the serialized piece, “Burning Sensation.” Read the prologue and previous chapters at encorepub.com.