- Issue #85 – The Ballad of Bad Lass
- Issue #86 – Those Not Forgotten
- Issue #87 – Descendants… In Space
- Issue #88 – Tome of Battle
- Issue #89 – All That Glitters
- Issue #90 – Just Us Sidekicks
- Issue #91 – Rock and Roll Lifestyle
- Descendants Special #8 – The Heart of Rock ‘N Roll
- Issue #92 – Homage
- Issue #93 – Day of Recovery
- Issue #94 – The Knight, The Witch and the Gadgeteer (FaerieQuest Part 1)
- Issue #95 – Into The Woods (FaerieQuest Part 2)
One day to destiny.
Jessica Kowalski was sure she should be completely giddy about the concert, but that excitement was laced and bundled up in tension and frustration and a little bit of nausea.
She’d known all along that Juniper’s boyfriend Malcolm was going to be along on the trip. But for all that she’d told herself she was over her crush and need to move on, it still hurt seeing them together as often as she had in the past few days.
It had been a huge mistake to kiss her in Richmond without talking to her first. Juniper’s silence on the issue was all she needed to see to understand that. Right after it happened, it occurred to her that Juniper was too nice to do anything directly, but kicking her out of the group was a real possibility. Technically, it had been assault after all.
That hadn’t happened. In fact, now she was going to be part of the line-up of a band the entire country was going to see. It felt like more than she deserved. It made it worse that she knew she wasn’t the best guitarist and was a malfunctioning autotune away from eternal embarrassment. She was classically trained and had only ever tried playing rock at home on an acoustic.
A combination of all this, drove her to leave the suite and take a walk to clear her head.
She wasn’t paying attention to where she was going, and after a few blocks, the hotels disappeared, replaced by the commercial district. The upscale commercial district. Window after window passed by, showing her purses and dresses and shoes she could by no stretch of the imagination afford.
Maybe if Kay’s assurances of fame and fortune came true, but Jessica was too cautious to spend money she didn’t have, even if she only spent it in her mind.
The clothes and shoes and accessories gave way to bakeries and antique shops that were equally out of her price range. At least window shopping was getting her mind of things.
Until right then when she thought about how it was taking her mind off things.
That was about the time she decided to give up and return to the suite, probably to end up watching Juniper snog Malcolm while wishing she was in his place.
And she would have gone back too if she hadn’t found herself in front of a pawn shop, her eyes resting on the most amazing thing she’s ever seen in her life.
There in the window, hanging between two housecleaning robots that were older than she was and above a pair of new-looking speakers, was a white Explorer guitar. All sleek lines with signs of breakage and repair going back decades, she would have recognized it even without seeing its most iconic feature: someone had written on the body in crude block letters: ‘EET FUK’.
A little squeak left her throat. Of all the things she’d seen in store windows that day, none of them compared to that white Explorer. It was the guitar. It was his guitar. However much her parents had pushed her to learn to play classical music—mostly piano and violin—her first love was rock.
She remembered finding her grandmother’s old MP3 player while they were cleaning her house after she died. It took hours to convert the thousands of songs to a format her palmtop would even recognize, but it was worth it when that first song came up on shuffle: Master of Puppets.
From that moment, she was hooked and luckily for her, her grandmother had the group’s entire discography on her player. That led to surfing the web for concert videos, interviews—anything that had to do with them.
That’s where she recognized the EET FUK guitar from. And why she found herself staring aghast and in shock at the other thing that caught her eye about the legendary guitar: the hundred dollar price tag.
Some things in life are a choice. Jessica didn’t think this was one. Without another thought, she headed for the pawn shop’s door and pushed it open.
In a lot of ways, it was like every other pawn shop: cluttered, barely organized, smelling slightly musty. Past a glass case holding pieces of assorted jewelry, more guitars hung on the wall, none of them showing any sighs of having belonged to a rock legend, all of them prices at three hundred and above.
At the rear of the shop, a register sat on top of a glass case containing the inevitable disturbing amount of cheap guns. There was an open door frame leading to a back room and beside that, a brass bird cage hanging from a coat rack.
Inside the cage, a black bird—Jessica had no idea what kind—snapped its head around the moment she entered the room and began making a racket of squawks and flapping. It was a mangy creature, its wings were almost bereft of flight feathers. They looked like it had been tearing them out with its own beak.
“Arucard!” The voice coming from the back was harsh, scratchy and obnoxious. “Quiet down!” A man came through the door. He was in his forties with shaggy, dark blonde hair brushed into a bizarre style that make him look like he had wings on either side of his head. Combined with his very prominent nose and long neck, he looked more like a bird than the one in the cage did.
He caught a glimpse of her as he came out and the grimace on his face melted into a fake pleasantness all salesmen were capable of conjuring. “Oh, a customer. Sorry about Arucard, the old boy is barely tame.” He shot the bird a dirty look before turning his attention back to her. “Can I help you with something my dear?”
The words sounded as honeyed as they could for coming out of a throat that sounded like it had been stuffed with exploding pine cones.
Jessica quickly reconsidered her decision to come inside. Part of her desperately wanted to just turn around and just walk away. Her parents had been right: people in LA were weird. Still, her mind came back to the guitar and that motivated her just enough to speak.
“Um, yes. I wanted to talk to you… about the guitar?”
The man looked toward the row of guitars hanging on the wall. “You’re going to have to be much, much more specific.”
“The guitar in the window.” She wondered if she was getting quieter or if he was just that loud. “The Explorer?”
“Ah yes,” said the shopkeeper, “Did you want to buy it? No lookie-loos and no trying anything out by playing Smoke on the Water.”
Jessica shrank back, eyes dropping to the floor. “Well I might, but I can’t…” she thought about it: she did have enough money from the last few shows Snackrifice did to easily afford it. But… “That is, I shouldn’t be able to afford it. I don’t think you know what you have there.”
“Oh?” His widening eyes made him look even more birdlike.
“That’s James Hetfield’s guitar. His famous guitar.”
All that got was a blank look.
“Oh, that Metallica,” he said, finally nodding. “Yes. Well. What are the chances something like that would end up in some pawn shop? It’s probably a reproduction. Are you going to buy it or not?”
Jessica looked at him with a mix of confusion and horror. “But what if it is the real thing? You’re really going to sell it to me for a hundred dollars? The real think would be worth millions! It belongs in a museum! A-and even a reproduction is worth more than a hundred dollars.”
He raised an eyebrow, then started talking loudly and slowly, the way people did when they were talking to exceptionally slow people. “So you are trying to convince me that I should raise my price so that you can’t buy this guitar that you’re so obviously excited about?”
“…” said Jessica, but she said it emphatically. Then, in an outburst of frustration, she shouted, “Yes! No one should be able to just buy the EET FUK guitar for less than the cost of a new palmtop! I-it’s history! T-this isn’t right.”
“Hmm.” He didn’t seem moved by her passion, more like he wanted to hurry things along. “If you’re so concerned with this guitar being sold for millions, why don’t you just but it from me for the hundred dollars, then you go through all the trouble of getting it authenticated and sell it for millions yourself?”
Jessica frowned so hard her face started to hurt, then she really thought about it and came to a realization. “…because if I bought it, I wouldn’t sell it. I-I’d play it. A guitar like that… it deserves to be played.”
“Oh, well anyone can play a guitar.” the shopkeeper said, rolling his wrist dismissively. “Now do you want the thing or not? I’m sure at that price and with the Music Festival going on, some punk kid will buy it by the end off the week. Maybe he’ll smash it dramatically to look ‘hardcore’ by the end of the month…”
That made Jessica cringe. “Wait. No. I’ll take it.” She dug in her purse and came up with her cash card. “Here.”
“A pleasure doing business with you, my dear.”
A few minute later, Jessica Kowalski left the pawn shop with a brand new hundred year-old guitar.
When she did, the other patron of the shop, one she’d never noticed the whole time she’d been there, turned to the shopkeeper and fixed him with a stare. He was a tall, African man with very dark skin, dressed in an old, black suit with his feet left bare. Bandages wrapped his hands and feet as well as the ends of the wooden staff he leaned on.
“That wasn’t what I think it was, was it, Hermes? Because I think that instrument wasn’t even in the light of day during the time Metallica existed.”
The shopkeeper smirked and leaned back on one of the tables lining the wall behind the counter. “Neither Apollo nor Orpheus really ever used it to its true potential. Maybe this girl will. She has all the right influences.”
“You’re putting her at unnecessary risk.”
Hermes made a face at him. “You have your kind of fun, Anansi, and I’ll have mine. Speaking of, I hear we have components of three different superhero teams in town.”
“Technically, one is just part of a duo.”
Once again, Hermes rolled his wrist. “Whatever. What I’m saying here is, I’ve always been closer to the Story than you—and I see lots of crossover potential.”
He grinned broadly and reached through the bars of the bird cage to rub Arucard’s head with a finger. “And I intend to make it very special.”
End Descendants Special #8