Rudie’s Song

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It was a hooch-swilling, drug-shooting, blood-spilling type of town. It was a back room-swearing, whore-fucking, bar-brawling sort of town. It was a town where you could gamble for a drink or pay for a game. It was a town where you could forget the past and the present and the future as you fell into a stunned stupor. It was a town where you could find yourself as easily as lose yourself.

But most of all, it was a town of sound; a punk town with soul, a town that could rock and pop and roll. It was his town—and it was Hayven.

The bar was sticky at this time of night, the wood drenched by spilled drinks, candlelight flickering across its warped sheen. Someone snored softly in one corner of the room, hat pulled over his face, a broken bottle in one hand. A few others gathered near the door, conversation filtering across the room in low tones. Their murmurs bounced off the cracked walls, the crooked bar stools, the floor stained with alcohol and blood and dirt.

It was time to get the show on the road.

Rudie leaned against the side of the bar, his fingers plucking at the strings of his guitar as he twisted and turned the tuning pegs. Blue hair fell into his eyes as he coaxed it into submission, seducing it with his hands. Nails and fingers slid over its well-known curves and cracks and strings. Notes sang from the instrument, individual chords plucked as they wound through the room.

He glanced up at his audience, his eyes noting the smiling faces, the drunk stares, the rapt attention. They were murderers and drunks and hobos—but they were also his flock. Fuck me. How’d that happen?

He ran his fingers over the strings of his guitar, crooning out the beginnings of a song. His voice floated through the bar, capturing ears and hearts and souls. He watched as they gathered closer—moths drawn to a flame. All that mattered at that one moment were the melody and the words–the way they blended together and wove emotion and feeling and meaning into one being. All that mattered was the way the song felt—the way it could bring together teachers and doctors and mercenaries and politicians. It’s a far cry from home, ain’t it?

A table was filled with food and conversation and people. Fresh tears streamed down his cheeks as he sniffled and wailed.

A fingernail suddenly snagged on one of the strings, ripping free as rotted skin gave way. Rudie winced as blood smeared his hand, red droplets pattering to the ground. He grimaced, feeling his teeth stretch back the peeling skin on his face. Shit. On with the show. He continued to play.

His audience had grown. The people streamed in from the other room with their weapons and armor and drinks. He spotted a woman in a white dress, pearls strung around her neck. He saw a man in bright clothes and scarves, accompanied by a woman with even brighter hair. He saw another in the shadows, fedora struck low over his face as he nodded in time to the music. The sound swelled and moved. Fingers tapped and bodies swayed. Hands beat out a rhythm as his voice rose and fell and then rose again before the end.

These were his people, this was his song, this was his night. He was Rudie and he couldn’t fail—at least not this time.

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