Eleven Pipers Piping

by

Clive Martyn

The caravan was dark, the black velvet curtains kept out all the meagre light that came into the Piazza, which itself had been draped in shadows for most of the day. A few candles in small urns hung around the edges of the room casting a flickering light over the piles of ancient books that spilled over the table and chairs and the occasional naked, sleeping body. The caravan’s warm air was thick with a heady scent of pot, herbs and incense and Matthew took a deep breath outside before stepping in.

“Jimmy?” he whispered as he moved through the main living space towards the bedrooms. Before he put down each foot he checked for needles, although Jimmy had been clean for a couple of years now, he never took chances, having heard enough horror stories on the road.

“Jimmy, mate, where are you?” He said a bit louder, his British accent unchanged from years living in America.

All of Jimmy’s fans, both men and women, seemed to have the same long hair style and slightly wasted look, which made spotting him amongst the still and snoring bodies always difficult.

As he paused over a likely candidate, Jimmy called out from the main bedroom; his deep, raspy voice breaking the silence and making Matthew jump and swear quietly under his breath.

Opening the bedroom door, Matthew was surprised to see Jimmy sat cross-legged on the bed, looking not only sober but for the first time in a decade, excited and a bit nervous. There was a slight shimmer of sweat across his chest and tattoos. A black leather bound book, blending in with the trousers he wore, was on his knees and Jimmy closed it with a wide grin.

“Are they here?” he asked.

Matthew nodded, “Just arrived from the airport.”

“All eleven? All of them Scottish?”

“Of course. Just as you requested.”

“Sometimes you remind me why you are my manager, Matthew. This is one of those times.” A slightly maniacal look came into Jimmy’s eyes, a look that Matthew had always associated with his long and public battle with heroin but now it was always in his eyes after reading his strange books.

Jimmy pushed his long, greasy hair behind his ears and leant forward, staring unwaveringly at Matthew, in a way which made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

“Is everything else, done? Just like we discussed?”

“Jimmy, mate – everything. We had a bit of trouble with the Italian’s but I sorted it, alright? We drew the star like you said…”

“To the exact dimensions?”

“To the millimetre, mate – alright? Right in front of that creepy monument.”

Jimmy’s smile slipped slightly.

“It is not creepy, Matt, it is fucking beautiful and… fucking unique.”

“Alright, Jimmy!” Matthew said holding up his hands, knowing it was an argument he was not going to win – the weird fountain topped by a winged angel seeming to have captured jimmy’s imagination. 

Quietly and without looking Matthew in the face, he asked, “Did you find the girl too?”

Blushing even though he had had stranger requests over the years, Matthew nodded. He had never had to act as a pimp before.

“Is she?” he asked, not looking up, suddenly fascinated by the cover of the book on his knees.

“She is a virgin, yes.”

“Are you sure?” Jimmy asked, his head whipping up to stare again into Matthew’s eyes. Matthew nodded, finding his throat was suddenly dry.

“I need to meet them.” Jimmy said, picking up a crumpled black silk shirt. He pulled it on but left it unbuttoned, liking to display his full pentagram chest tattoo to the world and particularly the press.

“Who?” Matthew said, confused by the change in conversation topic.

“The pipers!”

“Jimmy, honestly mate, tell me why you need them? What is all this about, why choose Turin for your last gig? Eh? We’ve never been big in bloody Italy – I can’t remember the last time you had a hit over here.”

“1996,” Jimmy muttered with a smile. He sighed happily, “Matt – my old friend, all will come clear later alright? It is going to be the most amazing concert ever – in fact it is going to go down in history.” He laughed, again with a slightly maniacal edge, like in a moment he was going to hyperventilate.

“But Italy, mate?”

Jimmy started walking through the caravan, “It had to be here, Matt. Had to be.”

Jimmy walked out into the cooling December night air of Piazza Statuto. It had taken Matthew two years and a considerable amount of Jimmy’s money to get the Italians to agree to allow the concert in the centre of Turin, sealing off the ancient streets and allowing the Piazza to be used as an amphitheatre with the moment and fountain in the centre stage. Turin would have probably opened its doors wide if Jimmy had been anything other than a heavy metal rocker. The Piazza would have given on a plate, if he had been singing Opera or anything other than the pained and violent lyrics that were his trademark. It had taken so long and so much money that countless times, Matthew had questioned Jimmy’s sanity, just like the press had since his last stay in Rehab.

Matthew found however that the Piazza request was just the start of a long line of demands which took bizarre and stranger turns. Once Jimmy had only insisted on some vodka and wine back stage but now it was more likely to be the complete works of Aleister Crowley or some translations of strange Latin texts.

Bruno, Jimmy’s bodyguard was stood by the caravan talking to one of the crew and Jimmy called him over and whispered in his ear. As Jimmy walked off towards the tall, rock like monument around which the stage was being sound checked, Bruno walked into the caravan and started shouting, “Time to leave, boys and girls.”

Jimmy stood in front of the tumble of rocks that made up most of the monument, staring up at the angel at the top. He did not seem to notice the cold air. For the first time Matthew noticed the pentagram star on top of the angel’s head, a mirror of Jimmy’s tattoo – a bizarre addition to what was a beautifully craved angel.

After a moment of silence, Jimmy nodded and looked around to Matthew, meeting his stare.

“Where are they, then?”

Matthew led the way to a small caravan parked amongst the rest of the band and crew, strange noises like a cat being strangled were emitting from it.

Matthew grimaced and muttered “Should have brought some ear plugs!” before opening the door.

The eleven pipers were crowded into the small caravan. They all stood up as Jimmy poked his head through the door. All of them were dressed identically in purple and green tartan, with traditional white sporrans.

A couple looked really star-struck, their mouths hanging open.

“Evening gents,” Jimmy said, “You probably all know who I am, so no introductions. Very quickly I have a couple of questions for you each – if I may?”

The eleven pipers nodded or said “of course”.

“Are you all Scottish?”

“Aye,” came the reply from all of them.

Jimmy’s smile returned. “Excellent.”

“Did my manager send you the music?” Again they all nodded. “Play it for me,” he said, his voice deeper, lower – almost with desire.

They all stood up and arranged their instruments, blowing into the tubes to inflate the bags, and squeezing them under their arms. Matthew almost started to giggle but a look from Jimmy silenced him.

Together the pipers played a strange tune, almost hypnotic in rhythm, quite catchy but slow, like a lament.

Jimmy clapped his hands, “Excellent, excellent.” His excitement, and obvious pleasure, made the pipers all smile, and clap each other on the back.

Without another word Jimmy walked off back towards his caravan, which Bruno by now would have emptied.

“Relax gentlemen – we have an hour or so before you’ll be called to the back stage area.” Matthew said, smiling again at the excitement of the pipers who probably never thought in a million years that they would be supporting such a star act as Jimmy.

Matthew’s phone beeped and a simple text from Jimmy said, “Send the girl.”

He looked around but Jimmy had already disappeared into his caravan.

“What’s fucking happened to you, man” He muttered before wandering off to find the girl.

The next two hours flew by as they always did before a gig, with last minute crisis popping up, egos to massage and requests from Jimmy.

The crowds were impressive, even though they were far from home and in a country that had never really gotten Jimmy’s music or his persona.

The back stage area was really crowded especially with the pipers who stood practising or tuning their instruments, if that was the right word for the cacophony they were making.

When Jimmy walked in with the other members of the band, the crew clapped and cheered.

The audience who had been patiently waiting in their thousands, seemed to sense that the gig was about to start as they were stamping their feet shouting for Jimmy to come out.

As Jimmy walked past, Mathew noticed he was dressed a little differently than normal, in a full length black cloak, covering a white T shirt with a large red pentagram drawn on it. The red looked wet, reflecting the light slightly, and as if it had been drawn on with a hand.

“Matt – you have been a good friend,” Jimmy said clapping Matthew on the back as he headed onstage.

“Thanks,” he said embarrassed but flattered by this sudden confession.

Jimmy and the band walked out onto the stage and were greeted by a wall of sound – screams, shouts and whistles.

Jimmy walked up to the microphone which stood in front of the large star drawn around the statue.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you! You may have heard the rumours that this is my last concert…”

Shouts of “No!” and “Jimmy!” filled the air.

“… well unfortunately it is.”

A stunned silence greeted these words. Silence before again cries of “No!” filled the air, and a general wailing of his legion of fans.

“Time has come to try new things, my friends, new exciting things.” He smiled again.

“I have written a new song which I would like to sing it for you this evening. I say new but it has actually been in development for centuries – this will be the first time it has been played all the way though, properly. You’ll pick up the chorus very quickly – just join in.”

He strummed a couple of chords on his guitar, a slightly different and faster version of the tune the pipers played earlier.

The stage manager waved frantically for the pipers to go on, and carrying their instruments they followed the crew’s instructions, standing around the statue on points of the star.

Jimmy started singing but it was not his usual angry lyrics and it was not English – at first Matthew thought it might be Italian but it sounded different.

The pipers began to add to the noise – it was so different to Jimmy’s normal songs that the audience looked shocked, then this turned into some angry boos and shouts but these slowly diminished as the song picked up and everyone started nodding their heads to the noise.

Slowly the music started resonating, the bass from the massive sound system, throbbed and pulsed. Together it was strangely beautiful and familiar – even though the words and sounds that Jimmy was singing were alien and undecipherable. In amongst the words there was a series of sounds that Jimmy kept repeating and the audience picked this up, adding their voices to the song.

After a while whilst the audience sung, the band and pipers played, Jimmy passed his guitar to a sound technician and walked into the pentangle surrounded by the pipers and looking up at the dark stone angel that topped the fountain.

He sunk to his knees and dropped his cloak to the floor and peeled off his t-shirt to reveal his tattooed body. The camera crew which were showing live images on the big screens focused on his chest pentagram which was dripping blood, it looked like he had cut himself quite deeply.

Matthew looked around at the crew but no one looked concerned or worried, and he realised it must be fake blood or trickery of some kind.

Overhead there was a loud clap of thunder, even though the sky was clear.  Matthew looked up, as did large portions of the audience.

            From his pocket Jimmy pulled a vial of something which he poured over his hands. The cameras focused on him as he rubbed the dark liquid over them and then made a series of signs.

Again a clap of thunder cut through the air but this time it was barely audible over the sound system.

A flicker of movement on the monument caught Matthew’s eye. At first he did not know what it was – perhaps a bird disturbed by the music had fluttered past the angel statue, but he focused on the left wing, trying to work out what was different, what had moved, when it happened again. The angel’s wing looked momentarily as if it was being ruffled by the wind.

“How’s he doing that?” Matthew said to one of the crew, pointing up at the statue, “Is it a projection or something?”

The stage hand followed Matthew’s pointing and looked at the angel as well, with a similar look of perplexity. Together they watched as the wing moved, slowly in time with the chorus chant.

“What the fuck!” Matthew said, watching as the entire statue moved.

The angel had looked beautiful moments before, but now its stone face had twisted into a look of complete cruelty surveying the crowds.

The audience must have seen it too, the singing was quieter and screams of surprise were loud enough to make it over the sound system.

Again the wings beat, this time faster. The woosh of air made a couple of the pipers look up and stop playing.

“LUCIFER!” Jimmy screamed cutting through the singing, the few pipers still piping and the rest of the band.

“Lucifer has been released! Bow down and worship him!”

In shocked silence, the thousands of fans, the crew and everyone watched as the statue shook itself free from the monument and stretched its wings widely, a look of victory and pure evil on its face.

“He will reign for a thousand years!” Jimmy shouted, full of pride at his accomplishment.

Everyone on stage apart from Jimmy backed away, edging quickly towards the back. Many of the audience started to run starting a stampede. Screams of fear, pain and panic cut through the silence as people fell over and were trampled upon, and small riots started at the exits as thousands of terrified people tried to escape.

With several powerful beats of its wings, the statue lifted off from the rocks it had been attached to and drifted up into the air.

A deep, impossibly loud laugh – full of cruelty, evil and smugness – rolled out of its mouth as it floated down to the stage.

With a heavy crunch, it landed in front of Jimmy.

“Master!” Jimmy shouted, “I…”

Matthew watched as both the statue and Jimmy stopped and stared, distracted, at its stone feet. The laughter which had been close to making Matthew’s ears bleed had stopped, and the statue’s evil face was now twisted into a look of confusion.

A large crack had appeared in the statue when it had landed on the stage and as Matthew watched more appeared, feathering up its legs and criss-crossing over its lower body. The dark stone the angel had been carved from was breaking up.

A bellow of rage erupted from the angel’s mouth and it grabbed Jimmy by the throat lifting him high into the air.

The cracks from its legs, carried on multiplying and suddenly, slowly the statue crumbled into itself, sinking lower and lower as the stone broke into pieces and fragments, and its legs dissolved.

Jimmy’s feet were suddenly back on the ground as the statue got shorter and shorter. Rather than run away, Jimmy tried to hold onto the statue’s arm to keep it out of the pile of stone chunks on the floor but within seconds it was just dust he was holding.

Jimmy collapsed crying into the remains of the statue as another louder clap of thunder broke across the night sky, rolling out across the whole of Italy.

Several shocking and life changing truths emerged over the following weeks, months and years of speculation, press and religious frenzy as they delved into Jimmy’s madness and eventual trial – but there was one small interesting fact that came out in the countless interviews of the people that were there, that Matthew thought strangely might have saved the world from unspeakable terror:

Adam Adair, one of the pipers, although he liked to think he was truly Scottish, born and bred, was in fact French, born a thousand miles away in the South of France whilst his parents were on holiday.

The spell to raise the devil is apparently quite specific about the eleven pipers piping all being Scottish.

BIO:  A writer of dark fiction and poetry – in particular fantasy, sci-fi and horror, Clive has had short stories and flash fiction published in various magazines and is the editor of the Elements of Horror anthology of short stories due to be published in 2010. He has recently finished drafting his third novel about a haunted hospital, ‘The Hospital of Lost and Stolen Souls’, whilst his second, a vampire horror, is making the rounds around agents and publishers.

9 Comments »

  1. 1

    Great descriptions and flow throughout the story. I really enjoyed it and was in suspense as the concert began.

    Well Done fellow piper writer.

  2. 2

    Clive, I am not a sci-fi, or horror fan. That being said, I absolutely loved your writing. Your voice is so perfect for this type of writing and every description brought the story to life. Very scary, at times. So not a fan of the devil :-) But by all accounts in your story, that is exactly what I would expect Lucifer to look like.

    Very impressive writing.

    Merry Christmas, Clive!

  3. 3

    Marvelous! I love how you cranked the tension up to the breaking point, no pun intended. The world is saved, all thanks to a wanna-be-Scotsman.

    Great work!

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Clive Martyn, Jim Wisneski. Jim Wisneski said: Are they really 11 Pipers Piping? Read @CliveM story on #12days to find out! http://ow.ly/Pg7k […]

  5. 5

    Thanks for the comments – merry christmas everyone :)

  6. 6
    Laura Eno Says:

    Pick on the Scottish, will you? :) Great story, Clive. Masterfully done in building the tension.

  7. 7
    jimcast Says:

    Clive,

    Pure rock n’ roll in your face take that world badass conquer the world story! Too bad for that one wannabe that ruined it!

    Seriously though, thanks for writing this!

    Jim

  8. 9

    Perfectly Diabolical! I loved the suspense you held throughout and as always your writing voice is just purely entertaining. Every time I read you I wonder why I don’t swing by your blog more. You have a real gift.

    Fantastic story. Thank goodness for that one screwball. With the apostles it was Judas, for these evil pipers – it was the french man. World domination is harder than it appears for the good or evil. ;)

    Great write, Clive.


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