Excerpt (chapters 3&4)
I spent that summer in transition. I devoured that Die Every Death CD and investigated other bands, getting into Bloodvomit and Goreceps next. I didn’t hide my purchases from my parents, and they tried to be good natured about it. When I brought home the Goreceps album Excrement from Birth, my dad even tried to have a laugh about it.
“Goreceps? That’s like ‘forceps,’ right? That’s sort of clever,” he said. My mother said nothing. I knew she was disgusted. But to me, it was funny. It didn’t speak to them on any level other than how scary and inappropriate it was. But to me, it was power. It was anger. It was creative. And it was tongue- in-cheek in some ways. I mean, you can’t name your band Goreceps without acknowledging it’s kind of a funny name.
I started really focusing on the lyrics of the songs, which thankfully were included in the CD jackets. I was grateful that you could rarely make out what the vocalists sang; my parents deﬁnitely didn’t need to know.
One of the DED songs really stood out to me. “I Ignore Your Screams” painted a picture of where I wanted to be.
Standing on your face
Crushing all your dreams
Put you in your place
I ignore your screams
Who’s the big shot now
On the winning team?
You fucking little cow
I ignore your screams
Beg, beg, beg
I show no mercy for the wicked
I am the cruellest of them all
Is it bad that I’d listen to that song and imagine another confrontation with Brandi? Of course, I would never carry out anything violent. And neither would the vocalist from DED, Balthazar Seizure. He understood what it was: a fantasy. It wasn’t madness and blood lust and something for parents to worry about. It was empowering. It was going to make me stronger. And it sure made me feel very pleased to picture myself standing on Brandi’s stupid face.
Most of DED’s lyrics were about vengeance against some oppressive force or person, and the joy that could be taken from tormenting and eventually erasing bullshit people from your life. Another song I liked the lyrics to was “Moon” from the band Bloodvomit.
We will ride through a sky
That is black with your pain
We will howl at the moon
Red with bloodstains
Together we pull you apart
Piece by fucking piece
Your suffering death
Is my only release
I liked the directness to the lyrics. They weren’t trying to be fancy or poetic, they just conveyed their message. They weren’t great artists who would be held up for public acclaim or approval. They just knew how full of bullshit most people are, like I did, and they were creating music based on pure emotion. I admired it.
I started buying metal magazines, which talked not only about other bands I wanted to check out, but also about the members of the ones I already liked. DED was my favourite; they had been my initiation into this secret world, and I wanted to know who they were as people. But aside from accumulating photos of them, it was hard to learn much about them from these magazines other than their names: Balthazar, the singer; Ed and Sid, the guitarists; Victor on bass; and the drummer, Chaos.
Because I could ﬁnd little information about them, I could make up my own story for them. I imagined them to be very much like myself, isolated and angry.They’d been lonely, until they found each other and formed their alliance. In a way it was better to be able to fantasize about who they were, and that they would like and accept me, rather than learning potentially disappointing facts about them. I was free to write in my journal and speculate to my heart’s content.
“Rachel, I know you’re listening to more than one band in there,” Dad said to me one night that summer as we ate dinner together. “But I can’t tell them apart. It all sounds the same to me.”
“Oh, there are differences,” I said cheerfully. “You just have to listen closely. None of them sound exactly the same.”
“I think I’ll leave that to you,” he said.
“I can’t even tell the songs apart,” my mother said.“It really does all sound the same.”
“It sounds like Dracula,” my sister mumbled into her casserole.
I was very happy that summer and I think that’s why Mom and Dad didn’t complain or try to wrestle the CDs away from me. It was totally expected that they wouldn’t understand the ﬁner nuances of the music.They weren’t supposed to. But I was able to. And I knew there were other people out there who would understand it as well. I just had to ﬁnd them.
There were two things I was preparing myself for that summer. One of them was Brandi and another year of shit from her that I worried would be more violent. I never wanted to be as weak as I had been after that exam.The other thing was to express how I felt on the outside. I didn’t ﬁt in with Brandi and her pals, and I wanted to show that as strongly as I could, for them to know just by looking at me that I rejected them and everything they stood for.And, if I was able to express how I felt by looking a certain way, maybe I would ﬁnally attract another soul like myself and start meeting more people who felt like I did.
I hoarded black clothes and started brushing my hair, which only fell to my shoulders, so that it covered half my face. I bought some black eyeliner, which Mom very reluctantly agreed I could wear in small amounts. I dug up a pair of black winter boots that had buckles on them and could pass as kind of cool. I needed to change how I looked, but I knew my parents would freak out if I demanded a new wardrobe. So I adapted what I had. I wanted to be ready for when school started. I wanted Brandi to know she wasn’t going to be able to get me.
That fall I went back to school steeled. Ready.
When I saw Brandi in the hallway, she gave me a once over and laughed, walking past me with her little group of friends. It was so anticlimactic. I actually felt disappointed. And then I got pissed off with myself for being disappointed. I sat through my ﬁrst class that day, my head pounding with rage. The teacher was outlining what the year would bring for us, ancient civilizations–wise, but I barely heard a word. I was too consumed with trying to ﬁgure out why I was so irritated by Brandi’s nonchalant reaction to me. I hadn’t changed myself for her, had I? To make an impression on her? Her laughter was a given. Had I wanted her to attack me? What had I been expecting?
My second class was art, which is a subject I always did well in, but when I walked into the classroom I was faced with my usual dilemma of where exactly I was going to sit. See, when you’re a loner, it’s easy to ﬁnd a seat in a normal class with individual desks.You just plunk yourself down as far away from the “cool kid desks” as possible. But in an art classroom, there aren’t any desks. It’s all tables where four kids can sit and you end up sharing your space with them. Last year hadn’t been bad; I had shared with three girls who were friends with each other, but who weren’t shitty people either.They had ignored me all year and talked amongst themselves, and I had half- heartedly eavesdropped on their conversations and worked on my stuff.The teacher liked me, and I did well in the class, even though it was boring to me. It was the same stuff I had done with my mother: paint an apple. Draw a leaf. I was doing that shit when I was ﬁve. This year, art was an elective, so I was hopeful there would be fewer assholes. I chose an empty table in the far corner at the back next to the window.
The class ﬁlled up, and no one sat at my table. Fewer kids this year, I happily noted, even though there was a table with a bunch of guys I could have done without. Some of the Brandi bunch, who greeted each other with stupid handshakes and high-ﬁves, as though they were some exclusive society.Which I guess they sort of were. It’s always been a mystery to me how people who are so horrible end up ﬁnding each other and don’t seem to mind being cruel to everyone else.
The teacher, same as last year, Mr. Lee, saw me sitting by myself. I guess he felt bad for me, because he made a point of saying,“Rachel, I love the new look.”
I knew that he was trying to make me feel special, because he probably thought I felt upset at having to sit by myself, you know, make the poor girl feel good about herself, but I fucking hated that because all it did was draw attention to me, and I was trying to be unnoticed and left alone.
Of course, Mr. Lee’s comment drew a few guffaws from Brandi’s buddies. Fine by me. Nothing new. At least this year, I would have a whole table to myself and I could look out the window.
Just before class began, a light-haired girl came into the room, looking ﬂustered. She scanned the room, presumably for a seat, and then hurried to my table, sitting in the chair kitty- corner from me. She didn’t look like one of the assholes, or like she knew anyone in the class. I hadn’t seen her last year, and she was just wearing a boring old smock dress. Sure, I’d share a table.
Mr. Lee began to talk about what the year would cover. Colour theory and different mediums that we would use for our projects. This year would be more technical, apparently, which was ﬁne by me. I already knew most of this stuff.At least this class would go well.
When the bell rang, I started gathering up my notes. Next up was math. I wondered who’d be in that class. See, this is what really sucks about the ﬁrst day of school. It’s a whole new year, with new classes, and you get to see who you’re going to have to deal with for the rest of it, who’s going to make fun of you when you walk in and out, who’s going to snicker every time you’re called on to answer a question. And who you’re likely to end up with at the dreaded moment when the teacher says, inevitably, “Partner up!” I was always one of the people who would have to raise their hand when the teacher asked who didn’t have a partner. I would end up working with some nerd, but I never minded that part of it. Nerds are smart, and I’m pretty smart too, and we’d get a good mark on whatever the assignment was, and there was no chit-chat bullshit. What bothered me was that moment of having to raise your hand and declare to the class that you are a loser with no friends. I don’t understand why teachers do that. It’s so damn segregating. They may as well just say, “Raise your hand if you have no friends and no one here likes you.”
I was mulling this over when I noticed that the girl I’d been sitting with was staring at me expectantly. I realized she must’ve said something, but I’d been so lost in thought I hadn’t heard it. I cleared my throat like some nervous public speaker. “Uh, pardon?”
“Oh, I just said, ‘See you tomorrow,’” she repeated, and smiled. I sat there as she gathered her things and walked out of the classroom.
As I left the room a few moments later, I kicked myself for not having smiled back or replied in some pleasant way.
The rest of the classes were the usual. The only class I shared with Brandi was math, a blessing because math is not a “social” class. It’s dead quiet with a serious teacher, usually. And she didn’t even bother making fun of me when she saw me, because she was trying to leech on to some guy she thought was hot.
Leaving school at the end of that ﬁrst day, I noticed a guy in the hallway. I hadn’t seen him last year. He looked a couple of grades older and was by himself. His hair was long, light brown, almost to his waist. And he was wearing a Bloodvomit shirt. I hadn’t seen a scowl like his other than on Balthazar Seizure’s face. I’d have to ﬁnd out his name somehow.
I got to know the girl who’d talked to me that ﬁrst day as the school year got underway.When we were left to work for the rest of the period on our colour wheels, she struck up a conversation.
“So my name’s Josephine,” she said casually, after Mr. Lee had handed out the paintbrushes.
“I’m Rachel.” I hoped I sounded as casual as she did. It’s so stupid: I am not an awkward person. I can communicate. I’m not stunted. But in school, I was just so damn uncertain and at that point, I was so used to being by myself, and I guess part of me really did want a friend.
“I just transferred here from Our Lady of Heaven. My family moved and it was too far to go there. Do you know anyone from there?”
I certainly didn’t know anyone from the Catholic high school. I mean, I didn’t even know anyone from this school. “Nope.”
“I still have a bunch of friends there, but I’m glad I’m not there anymore. All the religious stuff, it was just stupid.” I nodded, dipping my brush into the red paint.
“My family isn’t that religious or anything,” Josephine continued.“We don’t go to church. It’s just that Our Lady was in our district.You wouldn’t believe how much they talk about God and stuff at that school. Every morning you pray ﬁrst thing. And you have to take religion, it’s not an elective. They treat it like it’s as important as science and English.You have to go to Mass. I sure won’t miss that. And it’s also nice not having to wear that stupid uniform.”
“Yeah,” I mumbled, staring at my work. I had no idea what to say.
But Josephine carried on, apparently oblivious to my awkwardness. “It’s going to suck only seeing my friends on the weekends, but whatever. I don’t really know anyone at this school at all. Are people nice here?”
Josephine laughed, to my surprise. “Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard about this place. Glen Park’s full of assholes. John Hespeler is the stoner school, Queen Liz has all the rich kids, and Glen Park’s got the assholes.”
“My dad’s a teacher at John Hespeler,” I offered helpfully. “Oh yeah? Does he smoke a lot of pot?”
We laughed. I started feeling more comfortable. “Fuck no. What are the kids at Our Lady like?”
“Really cool. It’s probably because most of them grew up with religion and stuff and their families are real strict. So they get pretty crazy. But there’s assholes there too.”
For the rest of that period we talked. And we ended up having lunch together too. And every day after that.
Wow. What a strong book. And there is no possible way to spoil it, no matter how much I reveal here, as it starts with an actual confession. Confession that seems cold and matter-of-factly stated… Because I read the point of the book as being not about “whodunit” but why and how was that possible…
Yeah. How was that possible that a girl, coming from loving family, with very supportive and understanding(?) parents, can plan the revenge so bloody, so drastic and tragic at the same time…
So how did it happen? Well, a reader has a chance to really thoroughly examine it…
Here is what my thoughts are.
Rachel is a very special, talented girl. Literaturally inclined if I may, with a gift towards poetry. As such – as it usually happens in life – she is very sensitive, and her priorities in life seem not to be the ones that kids in her school have. She becomes alienated from others (whose fault is it? is there a “fault” at all?), struggles to find even one friend that’d be different from the mass… As such she becomes an easy target for the school “popular” girls – common bullies. And there comes that pivotal moment: last day of school, ugly conversation with the bully – it so happens that a car passes by. With the stereo full blast – playing some angry, strong music, that becomes to her as it seems to mirror her emotions… And that’s how Rachel gets to know heavy metal…
Now I’d like to pause for a moment. Because I can’t help but ask – why didn’t she tell anyone? Why did not she tell her parents, who seemed to just wait, as they could sense something wasn’t right, that Rachel has no friends, that she isn’t very happy… Seems like they were waiting…?
Why did not she say anything to the teachers? Anyone? Would that have made the difference? Would that change anything? Instead of trying to reach to someone – she locked all that feelings inside of herself, venting through the music… Which – in my opinion – started her fascination with death, murder, blood, and more…
She is able to find that one girl later, one that was an outsider too, having moved from another school… Although Josephine does not seem to get everything Rachel feels and lives with, they spend lots of time together. But that is also the time when Rachel realizes that the world is full of people who do not get what is the point of life – more and more she sees the lies, the hypocrisy of this world… How much worth are real feelings against the shallow looks? How much the stereotypes are worth? Her parents always worry about drugs and alcohol in the heavy metal world – and as the irony wants it that’s what’s happening in “normal” school…
As Rachel meets Fern – heavy metal fan – the whole world changes. For better it seems. They spend lots of time together, they start a band… Start to meet another heavy metal musicians… And the “problem” now becomes that they are girls, and this is heavy metal. They don’t (!?) match… Rachel and Fern want to prove the world wrong!
And here is the thing that they may not have realized – there are good and bad people in all the groups… The fact that someone listens to the same music, does not automatically make him a friend and ally. Rachel seems to see that in other, smaller heavy metal bands she meets on the way, but still idolizes one group, and one singer… until the tragedy happens – they get raped by their own idols… In shock, anger, you name it, they swear vengeance…
They commit two murders somewhat “on the way”. Meaningful for Fern more than Rachel… I sense here that Rachel’s eyes are opening a bit as to the whole “death subject” – she feels (and kills that within herself) sort of a remorse, seems like she does not really want to go through with the plan… But she is with her friend in it…
Wrote too much perhaps. But this book makes you really wonder, makes you ask the questions – how to deal with your own emotions? Do you talk about it? Bottle it in? Try to vent? And if you vent – how? Do you have the right to hurt others?
I mean how would the situation be solved in the ideal world? Rachel gets bullied, tells her parents, there is a meeting at school, with Rachel, her parents, Principle, the bully and her parents. The Bully is punished, teachers on the watch for the “incidents”. No need to be “venting”? Well, the alienation problem is not solved here. So psychologist maybe?
And the tragedy of rape – what if they told someone? The police, parents, or even the boys from their band? What if they tried to look for help? Wait, but Rachel saw so many times, in different situations, that nobody is rushing for help, especially when you’re the girl in the “man’s world”…
Those are just a few of many of my thoughts after reading the book.
…And why the title? Well. You’ll just have to read it yourself to find out 🙂
One thing is sure – this is definitely a book that will evoke strong emotions. And hopefully – will start some interesting and important discussions.