Friday Flash Fiction – The Last, Greatest Gig of the Shrieking Alpacas

The Shrieking Alpacas played their last, greatest gig at the Wisdom Street Hotel on the night of the twenty-ninth of February. They had nothing left to prove after the five song setlist brought the house down.

Song One was “Ignorance” (3:47)

The rhythm section of guitarist Grendel Watson, bassist Charley Tancred and drummer Xaravash the Unremitting launched the set with a hammering riff that shook the floorboards and sent both patrons and bar staff leaping for their shaking glasses.

Lead guitarist and self-styled rock goddess Melinda Soo-Park strode from the smoky shadows to delivering a blistering wave of high-pitched oscillations resembling a security alert in the illegal biotech lab of an international soda manufacturer.

Lead singer and part-time sorcerer Deacon LaPage pushed himself away from a stand of empty beer bottles at the front bar and staggered elbows-first through the packed crowd toward the stage, growling the song’s opening lines. “Nothing’s as bad as it first appears/I wish I had your certainty/Most of us will still be smiling/Just before we’re hit by lightning.”

By the time he got to the first repetition of the chorus – “The truth is still irrelevant/Your ignorance is your defence/Again, again” – four small fires had started in various parts of the hotel.

Song Two was “Super Glue and Battle Scars” (4:22)

The only song in the Shrieking Alpacas’ playlist written by Charlemagne “Charley” Tancred was also by far their most musically accomplished piece and not incidentally the only one they released commercially. Featuring a wickedly complicated contrapuntal duel between the bass and rhythm guitars, and lyrics like “I loved you best when my intestines were still behind my skin”, its online crowdfunding campaign raised more than eight thousand dollars for Tancred’s preferred charity, the Bandersnatch Hill orphanage in which she had been raised and taught music theory.

If any song in the Shrieking Alpacas oeuvre could be described as “singable by human voices”, it was the crowd-pleasing “Super Glue”. It was by no means an easy melody, though. By the end of the number, LaPage had both a nosebleed and a light concussion from drumming on his own head with a discarded wine bottle.

Song Three was “Sentimentality Will Get Us All Killed and Eaten” (6:01)

Written as a more or less straightforward account of her previous career as a monster-hunting mercenary, “Sentimentality” remains Soo-Park’s signature piece. The song is famously reputed to incorporate certain infrasonic signals to which supernatural entities are particularly drawn, including attracting Xaravash the Unremitting to the band’s first rehearsal (during which it ate and replaced the Alpacas’ first drummer, whom they knew only as Sven).

On the night of the Shrieking Alpacas last gig, during the ululating warble at the height of the guitar solo, a group of six fully-transformed werewolves crashed through the doors and side windows of the Wisdom Street Hotel, injuring three patrons and causing an unknown number to flee. Subsequent inquiries were unable to verify whether the lycanthropes had succumbed to the song’s siren qualities or were merely relatives of Watson’s, there to show support for his musical career.

“Sentimentality” has since been reprised, in a heavily-altered arrangement, as the theme song of “Dusk Stalker”, Soo-Park’s well-regarded semi-autobiographical television series.

Song Four was “Revising My Statement” (12:59)

An almost-instrumental piece, lyrically punctuated only by unscripted caterwauling from LaPage which may or may not have been authentically anguished cries for medical attention at that point. By all accounts, the band’s performance of “Revising My Statement” on the night in question was both technically superb and fascinatingly awkward to watch.

The difficulties began a few minutes into the rambling jazz-metal section of the song, led by Watson to the howling approval of the werewolves, when Melinda Soo-Park received a phone call from her business manager. Accounts differ as to whether it was by accident or design that her headphone mic picked up and broadcast her side of the conversation.

What is known is that during the course of the call, she was notified that executives from the Static Network had ordered a ten-episode series of “Dusk Stalker” and offered Soo-Park a seven-figure contract as a consulting producer.

She quit the band as soon as her solo was complete.

A riot broke out immediately after. Opinions differ as to the primary cause of the affray, though Soo-Park’s departure, the increasingly smoky bar atmosphere and the sudden spike in werewolf bites were all likely contributors.

Song Five was “Your Fate is Sealed, Mortal Prey of Xaravash the Unremitting” (5:18)

Adapted from Xaravash’s first words in the Ephemeral Plane of Quivering Mortality (as it continues to refers to our world in interviews), this song is a high-energy blur of pompous gloating and thundering instruments. As performed on the night of the twenty-ninth, it also included the spectacular incursion into this spatial instance of the seething mass of tentacles, pincers and inhuman croaking known as Hetchag the Ravener.

Deacon LaPage was quick to claim credit for the sudden appearance of the many-mouthed, ancient horror, declaring that he had summoned Hetchag to petition for ultimate power, and uncharitably offering as unwilling sacrifices the hotel staff, his screaming fans and his fellow band members. He was consumed by Hetchag’s bloodthirsty floating maws before sealing the demonic compact, however.

Hetchag was quickly forced to return to its seat of authority in the Dark Crevasse, partly driven off by the outraged boos of a Shrieking Alpacas audience understandably dismayed by this shameless and ham-fisted attempt to offer up their souls, but mostly by a reversion incantation cast by Xaravash.

The damage was, unfortunately, done. Hetchag’s bulk and matter-decaying touch undermined the Wisdom Street Hotel’s roof, walls and foundations. The building collapsed shortly after the last punch-drunk, lightly-bitten patron had been dragged outside.

On the advice of their solicitor, the surviving band members mutually agreed to immediately dissolve the group and relocate to other countries.

In the opinions of many, the final performance of the Shrieking Alpacas will never be topped.

In my defense…
I started writing something much more witty and sensible than this. I was forced to abandon that project when I came up with this week’s title and realised I had no option to but to run with it.
I shan’t keep harping on about it, but I would just like to note that Mnemo’s Memory and Other Fantastic Tales is now live at all good ebook vendors (with the now-standard exception of Google Play).
Yesterday I also received my proof print copy, shipped from a print-on-demand factory in the US. I have a small bit of tinkering to deal with, and then the book should be available in print for anyone who wants a quality bit of mildly sinister baroque design for their bookshelf. Why would you not, eh?
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