It wasn’t the October moon. Not quite. It wasn’t even the petty clouds masking it in a swarthy expression. Not really, but it sure did feel that way. He felt the atmosphere shift in his lungs as he breathed—in and out, in and out, in—he held his breath, wading in the slight fragment of faith still clinging to him. The lamppost ahead flickered between a foggy yellow and the grave black of the night which half-heartedly consumed him. It spat his heart back to the street for the morning’s buzzards’ breakfast, and he walked on.
Ian Hafler dragged his feet through the dark without a single destination to reach. All he wanted to do was escape. From what, not even he could answer. Maybe he was fleeing himself, leaving behind the boy smiling along his mother’s mantle, or the lackluster high school student his father failed to be prideful of. In any case, Ian sighed, kicking a small rock about eleven days away from a house he knew was not his home. Every so often he glances over his shoulder, because maybe, just maybe someone would be close enough for him to hear his name being called out into the air. Nothing.
The clouds above cried for him. Tiny, slight droplets of water softly ticked the brim of his baseball cap. Without thunder, lightning, or even the wind to warn him, the storm erupted through the sky. All the stars blurred into one another as the trees did. Streaks of white light were cut off by the silhouetted branches reaching out to cradle them. Ian headed for the woods in hopes of finding some place to stay somewhat dry for the night. In the crook of a sycamore he stretched out his legs. Bending over to untie the laces of his shoes, a quiet shuffling caught his attention. Slowly, he leaned back against the tree, straining his ears to hear. The leaves crunched into the dirt and he identified the sound as footsteps. Thoughts of a dimly lit cabin, floral printed curtains and timber walls filled his mind. He couldn’t help but think of how nice it would be to sleep indoors tonight.
He stood up and peaked through the tree branches. His eyes caught the hem of a lady’s dress. It paused as she did, her raven hair spilling off her shoulders. Her great emerald eyes bore into his for a moment, and in a second she slipped out of sight.
"I don’t think you understand, officer," Mrs. Hafler said between sobs, "my boy is somewhere out there and you and your team are doing absolutely nothing about it."
"Ma’am, we are trying our best to find your son. I told you a million times, that we are doing all that we can.”
"That explains why he’s here at home, sound asleep upstairs." The police officer sighed. This is the part of his job that he hated. There was no consoling a worried mother.
"Where is your husband, ma’am? May I please speak to him?”
"I don’t see what difference it would make, but if you wish to, he’s in the kitchen."
"Thank you, ma’am," he turned and pushed through the kitchen doors. Mr. Hafler sat at the table with his head balanced in his left hand and a mug of coffee in his right. His skin was leathery in a way that showed how stern he could be.
"Mr. Hafler?" The man looked up at him for a moment before bringing the mug to his lips. "I’m Officer Adams," he said, extending his hand. Mr. Hafler hesitated before taking it. "I don’t know if you want to speak, Mr. Ha—"
"Just call me Edward. You can sit down.”
"Thank you, sir."
"Sorry. Thank you, Edward.” Edward huffed into his coffee mug. He was trying his best to be polite, but this officer seemed to have enough fake politeness for the both of them. "You know why I’m here, right?
"To upset my wife," he answered caustically.
"Mr. Haf—Edward, I would appreciate your and your wife’s cooperation. We are doing our best to find your son. We have sent out search teams and rescue dogs. Indeed, we have found traces of Ian. The dogs picked up his scent off of i46.”
"He’s dead, isn’t he, Adams? It’s been almost two weeks.”
"What? No, he’s not dead. We will find your son, sir. We will find him,” Adams replied, and it was the truth. He had no doubt in his mind that they would find him.
Suddenly, Adams heard a sound, a hardly distinguishable whine and a quick heave of breath. Edward was crying, trying so desperately to conceal it with his hands. It embarrassed him to be seen in such a vulnerable state. For so long, Edward has been perceived as the austere, insensitive father of a boy who worked so unbelievably hard to win his approval. Edward finds himself struggling with the fact that it took son’s absence to get him to see clearly. He loves him dearly, he always has, but in getting caught up in his attempt at creating someone invincible out of his son, he failed to show Ian how proud he was of him.
Adams puts his hand on Edward’s shoulder, hoping to provide some sense of comfort to the man. He puts his hat on and walks out of the kitchen.
"Good night, Mrs. Hafler," he says, opening the front door.
"Good night, officer," she replies, standing up to lock the bolt behind him. After he pulls out of the driveway she goes into the kitchen. She doesn’t say anything to Edward, and he doesn’t say anything to her. There isn’t anything to say. She pours herself a cup of coffee and doesn’t even bother adding cream or sugar like she usually does. The bitterness of the coffee bites her tongue, causing her eyes to wince slightly, but it’s not too bad. The bitterness is bearable considering the intensity of the pain shooting from her heart. There is no pattern or order to them. They are but tangles of chaos rupturing sporadically throughout her body. She sits on Edwards lap and wraps her arms around his shoulders, hoping for some sort of sturdiness. His voice breaks the silence.
"Norah," he whispers in the crook of her neck.
"Shhh, Eddie," she closes her eyes and he kisses her forehead.
"It’s going to be alright."
"It has to be," she says, holding back her tears as she wipes his from his cheek.
Gradually, Ian awoke. It was still storming, he could see from the streaked windows in front of him. He looked around the room, studying his surroundings. It smelled of cedar and smoke and a hint of women’s perfume. The walls were made of timber. Looking down he saw he was lying on a vintage floral comforter.
The antiqued pink roses crept up and around his arms like vines, allowing their thorns to sink beneath his flesh. He jerked away, mumbling something profane, only to realize the roses hadn’t moved at all. He pressed his fingers into his eyes, in hopes of rubbing away whatever sleep still pervaded in his mind. Somewhere a song was playing, though he couldn’t quite make out what it was. There were voices singing incoherently and fingers clambering along the keys as if the notes depended on it to be heard. The music meshed with him, or he meshed with the music, but for a split second the universe expanded and gathered its endless arms around his body. Every end of his nerves was electrified and he cried tears that remained only on the inside. Tears for an unrequited love he never knew, for the parents he left behind days ago, for himself and how he has let himself down in ways he couldn’t begin to explain. He looked at the wooden floors and they sighed breathlessly into his chest. The music played on louder, and finally he could hear Roger Daltrey’s voice reverberating around his head.
Love, reign o’er me
Love, reign o’er me
Rain on me, rain on me
The ridges in the wood lit up an electric blue where he stepped. Every meaning of every doubt he ever gave in to rang aloud. He felt a distant girl’s fingers traveling up his spine and he knew that this was meant to be since time and existence first bloomed. All the Gods moaned as the angels danced ‘round and ‘round, encircling him. They emptied their pockets full of posies and fell down upon his shoulders.
Stand up. Stand up! A voice from somewhere groaned. He did. Ian stood and looked up to the ceiling. The cedar blackened and the sky encompassed the room. Stars flickered and bowed between dances. The song continued. It came from everywhere, pulling music from the airwaves to throw back at him—through him. It went on and on, playing to the turning of the earth and the passing of time.
Only love can bring the rain
That makes you yearn to the sky
Only love can bring the rain
That falls like tears from on high
Love, reign o’er me
Rain on me, rain on me
Love, reign o’er me
Rain on me, rain on me
Over the rumble of his mind he could hear the rain again, like a thousand beating hearts. He then felt a hand on his forearm and he turned to see her standing there. She was wearing the dress of which he followed. Suddenly the music stopped and all was still. He began to remember. He remembers the woman. He remembers her viridian eyes, and how they engrossed him whole-heartedly; how his feet led him along her footpaths to the cabin ahead. He can taste the sweet cinnamon taste of the air on his tongue from when he first walked through the door. And then he remembers everything going dark and waking up in a daze. He looks at her now, questioningly.
"Who are you?" he asked.
She glances away for a brief moment before answering. "Natalie," she whispers. He watched her pink tinged lips as she said her name. She turned to walk away; her dark hair contrasted the fairness of her skin as it slipped in front of her face.
"I’m Ian," he blurted out. "I don’t really know what happened or why I’m here. I—” Natalie flung her body around. Her face was distorted and gray. She hissed at him through long, white fangs that sent Ian’s stomach to his knees in fear. He backed away slowly and she retreated into the doorway with her hands over her face.
"What the hell was that?" Ian didn’t know whether he should run past her and hope she wouldn’t do it again, or to stay and figure out what was going on. The doorway was narrow, there was no way he could make it past without bumping into her, so he stayed. She stood there with her hands covering her face for a minute or so.
"Are you okay?" he asked. He could hear muffled breaths. It sounded like tears. "Why are you crying?" Just then she looked up. She was laughing; a horrific, witch-like laugh that sent chills through his skin.
"You stupid, stupid boy," she retorted, "you were hallucinating."
"What? You thought all that was real? The sky, the music, the angels and the Gods swirling and twirling above your precious little head? That was not real, sweetheart.”
"Oh. Well, what happened?”
"You followed me through the woods. I figured I’d lead you here instead of having to cut you down from one of the webs later on.”
"Dinner? Webs? What are you talking about?” He was getting frustrated now. The hallucinations seemed more real to him at this point.
"God, all you humans are the same. 'Where am I?' 'What's going on?' 'Please, no, please don't eat me'! “This last one amused her and she slid her tongue across her teeth.
"If you’re not human, then what are you? Why was I hallucinating?”
"Did you not notice before?" She lifted up her dress, exposing an orange colored hourglass shape on her stomach. "I’m a black widow. You were hallucinating because one of the other spiders around here got to you before I did. What you experienced was the effects of his bite. Look at your arm.” He did and noticed two parallel punctures along his veins. He looked back at Natalie, unsure of what to say. She turned again, to leave.
"Well, what am I supposed to do now?" he asked, hearing his own voice trembling.
"Why, stay for dinner, of course," she replied, bearing her fangs as she grinned.
The doorbell rang, breaking Norah’s inattentive gaze at the television screen. Edward hit the power button on the remote and stood up to answer the door. Through the front window he saw Officer Adams standing on the front porch.
"Morning," he said weakly.
"Mr. Hafler, err, Edward, I’ve got your boy in the back of my cruiser. He’s a bit out of it, keeps mumbling about black widows and a girl named Natalie. Anyway, I could use a hand, he’s—” Edward didn’t allow him to finish before pushing past him to the police cruiser. He ripped the door open and sure enough, there was his son. He grabbed Ian from under the arms and lifted him up and out of the back seat. Adams came over to help get his stumbling legs up the stairs and into bed.
"Where did you find him?" Norah asked. Her hand had not left her chest this whole time, as if she were keeping her heart from tumbling out.
"I was patrolling up on i46 northbound and caught a glimpse of a young man staggering in the mouth of the woods. I pulled up and whaddya know it was your boy. I tried asking him what he was doing all the way out there in the middle of nowhere, giving you folks such a scare, but he didn’t say anything to me about none of that.”
"Well, we appreciate all your help, Officer. We’re just happy that he’s back home. We’ll see he comes around. Would you like a cup of coffee or anything?”
"No, ma’am. I best get going now. Have a good day, now,” he said, tipping his hat as he left the house. Norah looked at Edward, and he gathered her in his arms.
"He’s home, dear. He’s home,” he whispered into her hair.
Edward checked on Ian periodically, and not once had he awoken since they laid him down in his bed. He figured he’d talk to him about all this whenever he was rested.
The walls are rotting. The decaying scent of a house built by calloused hands hurts his aching head. He opens his eyes to discover he’s bound to a wooden chair in the middle of the darkness. His clothes are but shreds of fabric, hardly hanging on. The floor creaks at his struggle to get free. That’s when he hears it. The hoarse laugh of the woman with the emerald eyes. Her lips bear that ominous grin as she traipses about the room, throwing profane glances in his direction.
“I thought you were staying for dinner, darling.” He turns his head to face his knees, trying to wake himself up.
Her body shifts. Long, jagged legs sprout from her torso, her face contorts to her widow-like features, and suddenly she’s beside him. His breath fails to stay with him, struggling beneath her presence. Her eyes caper that wicked smile as her fangs scrape his naked skin. He feels her breath on his shoulder, her lips on his neck. He winces at her words of baleful perversion. Her voice, noxious venom seeping into his ear in whispers—sends his body into frenzy of chills. He pulls away at her touch, but he soon loses this battle. She has taken control.
Untied from the chair now, his back is to the floor. His mind refuses to wake him from this nightmare. Voice is but a memory now, he cannot cry out for help. She bites his neck, hissing beneath his flesh. He screams a shrill, soundless scream. From his mouth, agape, spiders flood out. Hundreds of thousands of eight-legged demons spill from silent cries for someone to get this fiend away. They crawl around on his skin, vandalizing his body with their fangs, sinking into his tormented flesh. She begins to laugh, pushing off of him in satisfaction. His lungs heave with the pressure of a cough, hoarse and choked by spiders, still streaming off his tongue. His eyes well up and he can’t make it stop. They bite and scavenge his writhing body, tearing through his skin, through muscle tissue and veins soaked through with venom. They march inside, spinning webs from the marrow, settling deep into his agonized bones.
Suddenly Ian awakens. Tears streak his face; his hands are clenched into fists. He allows himself to relax for a moment. He rests his head back on the pillow, beside a spider glaring at him, his face reflecting back in its eight mirror eyes.
And I plan to give to you for this my most favorite month of the year
31 gruesome and ghastly ghoulish tales.
Many of us here in the tumblrverse have been using the tag octoberhorror for a couple of years now. I hope more of you will join us and tag any and all dark and disturbing works with the tag octoberhorror so we can all share a few good chills and thrills this Halloween season.
Some of the new and/or (at the time :P) under-read writers I tagged from the beginning of this month:
Others untagged too probably.
Happy reading :-)
[Updated 02/12/14] Here is an amazing list of other Tumblr writing community pages/projects/tags that work hard to expose readers to great writing. Find new writers to read, discover talented people to interact with, find new readers to share your work with. Please contact us if you are affiliated with a TWC focused blog, and would like to be added to this list, (or if you need something updated). You can always find this list by checking the links bar on the Burning Muse page.
TWC Writer’s Databases
- TWC Writer Bios: Directory of Tumblr Writer bio pages.
- Breaking Down The Wall: Tumblr writer interviews.
- Tumblr Writer’s List: SO MANY WRITERS!
- Tumblr Writers Directory: Directory of Tumblr writing blogs. (Also reblogs and Blog reviews)
Reblog Blogs (special focus/features will be notated)
- TWC Welcome Center: Community. Answers questions.
- For The Voiceless: Lesser known TWC writers. Fresh Talent.
- Exhaling Catalysts
- Seduced By Ink: We reblog lesser known or newer writers who are struggling to find an audience.
- The Writer’s Bloc: Advice. Prompts.
- Tumblr Fiction: Fiction. Prompts. Interviews.
- The Stay Golden Poets: Feedback on Fridays.
- The Reject’s Corner
- For The Tagless: Takes submissions.
- The Adept Writer: Takes submissions.
- The Poetry Revolution: Prompts. Forms.
- Tumblr Writers Directory: Directory of Tumblr writing blogs.
- Alterlife Press: Leans towards Alt Lit.
- Poetry Sluts United: Sensual and erotic prose/poetry.
- Monday Muse: Contests.
- We Write We Speak: Discussion topics.
- You In Second Person
- For The Love Of Literature
- Beyond The Barricades: Socially aware writing. Revolutionary words.
- Home For Writers: Critiques. (May be inactive or on leave.)
- Stephen Kennedy: Takes requests for critiques.
- Critical Inking
- The Stay Golden Poets: Feedback on Fridays (not sure if they’re still doing feedback).
- Tumblr Writers Directory: Blog Reviews
- Home For Writers: (May be inactive or on leave.)
- Tag: #The Feedback Project: [Keep in mind, giving makes receiving more likely.]
- Tag: #Poetryintheraw: [Keep in mind, giving makes receiving more likely.]
TWC Groups and Projects, other than reblog blogs
- Liminal Words and Temporary Worlds: Suffering from Tumblr burnout? Thinking about deactivating? Try here first!
- Leave You A Pen: Accepts poetry submissions, but please check his submission guidelines. Submissions are not always open.
Stories And Struggles: Our blog is dedicated to the human condition, we accept all forms of original writing/art/music and the purpose of our page is to connect people through similar interests and experiences.
- Polkadodge Oragnization
- Fuck Yeah Slam Poems!: Slam Poetry. Spoken Word.
- The New Library: “The New Library is a collection of works that attempt to explore the art of writing, youth, the human condition, and the absurdity of existence with an earnest voice; with our tongues removed from our cheeks.”
- Writers Confessions: Your Writer Confessions.
- Fiveminutestory: Five minuets to tell a story. Challenge yourself!
- #twcp: If you have a project that you would like to share with the community, please include this tag. (Note: This is for project descriptions. Not personal writing.)
- #twcplagiarism: If someone re-posts your work without credit (please give the person a few days to fix their “mistake” before posting a link to their blog).
- #twctips: If you have a platform/formatting tip that might be helpful to the community, please include this tag. (Note: this is not meant for opinion pieces.)
- #twccsurvivetumblr: If you would like to write a post with tips on how new writers can “Survive Tumblr” please title it: How to Survive the Tumblr Writing Community. It can be positive, negative, or neutral… and include this tag. Please see the posts already up as examples.
- #Tumblr Birthday: If you want to share that it’s your blog’s birthday.
- #Spilled Ink: LEGACY: No longer “active”, but still monitored by most reblog blogs.
- #SpilledinkProse: LEGACY: No longer “active”, but still monitored by most reblog blogs.
- #Writing About Writing: Writing about… writing.
- #Writing About Tumblr: Writing about… Tumblr.
- #TWCcollab [For collaboration pieces]
Tumblr Book Collections
- TWC Bookshelf: Books written by writers in the TWC. We welcome you to submit your books.
- Books by Writers on Tumblr owned by NoelleLit Mag/Book Associated Blogs [current or future]:
- Yeahwriters: Prompts. Lit Mags list. Critiques.
- Velvetblory: Publication. Accepts submission. Quarterly book.
- The London Mag: Prompts and inspirations. Associated with The London Magazine [Not Verified].
- A Literation: Lit Mag run by Tumblr writers, publishing Tumblr writers.
- YARN: The Young Adult Review Network
- Noisemaker Magazine
- Literari Magazine: Tumblr blog for literatimag.com
- Episodic Literary Magazine
- The Altar Collective: The Altar Collective is a literary collective publishing a monthly book of flash fiction and poetry from contributors internationally; it main objective is to act as a stepping stone for young and aspiring writers.
Tumblr Platform Tips
This lesson is both the least and most important I shall teach. It is the most important because it could save a life. It is the least important because it is so very shallow and I wish it didn’t need to be taught. But as is often the case in life, your parents have failed you miserably.
You’re beautiful. Each and every single one of you. You are beautiful.
Do you know who makes fashion magazines? Ya know, those magazines you agonize over, dreading the walk to the mirror after noticing the perfect teeth or the blemish free skin or the perfectly round and perky breasts on the cover model.
Women make them. Women and gay men.
I am a heterosexual man with years of experience in the dating field.
I can assure you that the perfect truth is that for every single woman there is in this world, there are a thousand men who would lie cheat and steal for a chance to be with her.
The vast majority of men are attracted to women of all types. There is no perfect body. Big, small, short, tall, black, white, red and brown. We love you all.
The upper crust of society has decided that a certain image will help sell certain products. This is not your concern. You are not a product. You are a human being.
You are a heart and a soul and a brain and a body filled with hopes and dreams and interesting personality quirks.
I could go on and on and on about this but I can really sum up everything I am trying to say with one small statement.
If there was a man(and there are many) who would judge you based solely on your looks, a part of you which is easily near the bottom of the list in overall importance, is that really the sort of man you are worried about impressing?
Who do you want? The guy in the Tap Out T-shirt with the big biceps covered in tribal tattoos who stares at your tits and wants to bang you after the nickelback concert so he can tell his bros about it
or the quiet guy who sits next to you in math class and notices you have several Explosions in the Sky T-Shirts and asks which album is your favorite, not because he is trying to fuck you but because he is interested in knowing you.
When you find the guy (or girl) who wants to know you, who ends up loving you. It won’t be due to your waist size or your cup size. It will be all of you.
I tend to sometimes think of people as numbers or as potential customers instead of how I should, as interesting and unique individuals with histories and back stories completely unknown to anyone but them. I think perhaps my bitterness pushes me to ignore this aspect. My belief in the human race has faltered. Long ago I gave up hope. I now see it as a miracle when I meet a like minded person, a kindred spirit, a friendly soul. I have come to expect evil and greed from everyone I meet and this is why it is hard for me to care about anyone.
Life has a way of bashing you over the head again and again until the day comes when you realize it is a struggle just to get out of bed. You lay on the ground wondering what reasons you have for facing another day. To work another eight hours at a job you can’t stand, producing or selling goods that no one actually needs, suffering a boss who treats you as an ignorant animal there only to bare his load. Shuffling and meandering your way through the work day not because you love what you do but because you are forced to do it in order to live.
Soul crushing, creativity killing, depression inducing, mindless, bullshit labor.
Every news show filled with stories of rape, murder, robbery, child abductions, the extinction of magnificent animals, the destruction of the very planet we depend upon to exist. Everyone going a hundred miles an hour racing towards a profit, racing towards extinction.
After awhile it just all builds up around you. All the pain, the loss, the rejection. Everything you dream of up in flames. Everyone you love eventually breaks your heart.
I’ve just reached a point where it has become so hard to find the good in people that I have stopped trying.
It just makes it hard for me to care about other people.
I know there are exceptions to every rule.
I know I should give everyone an equal chance to prove themselves
but I now find myself at the age of twenty six, disillusioned, discontent, bitter, angry and close to hopeless.
The scales tipped for me long ago.
So now I just do my best to find joy in the little things I have left. To find happiness in the company of friends. To live life without worrying about the future.
And to do my best to maybe create something that others can find some tiny bit of hope or happiness in.
Because I need something.
Anything to get me out of bed every morning.
When I was a little boy, just learning to talk and still figuring out the intricacies of the English language, I would caution others to “be carefully”. Little kids say the funniest things, and they say these things with the sincerity and urgency of those whose possess an extremely limited vocabulary. I don’t remember ever saying “be carefully”, but my 92 year old grandmother loves to tell me about it.
“I would be getting in the car to go to the grocery store, and you would look at me and say ‘Be carefully, Grandma!’ You were such a funny child.” she laughs.
I love my Grandma. She was the first person I saw at the airport when I was released from prison, in the front of a crowd, up past midnight and her bedtime, a tiny 92 year old country woman standing on her own two feet, waiting to see one of her family walking free in his home country. I hugged her, told her I loved her, and scolded her for being up so late. And I go see her now as often as I can. I get to hug her, kiss her cheek, tell her I love her, smell her hair, and listen to her wisdom. It fills me with a happiness I cannot describe when I look at her hands, the hands that cooked me so many meals for as long as I can remember. She is beautiful to me. I am lucky she is in my life, and she is so happy I am in hers, not in a prison in a foreign land. We get to be together, as family is supposed to be, and my life is full.
I am a very lucky man.
If you are reading this, more than likely you were directed here by a link on some heavy metal news site. That means that more than likely you know who I am, what I do for a living, and why I went to prison and then to trial for manslaughter in the Czech Republic earlier this year and last. This also probably means that you are part of my extended music family, and in all likelihood have seen either my band or at least one other band of the metal/punk/hardcore/hard rock genre perform in concert before. You have witnessed the kind of activity that occurs at these shows, and maybe even have participated yourself at some point. Moshing, slam dancing, crowd surfing, and stage diving- these things are a unique part of our scene; the ways some of us express ourselves, shed our cares for an hour or two, and enjoy this music that makes us feel so alive. I grew up in the punk/hardcore scene doing all of the above mentioned things, and I have the lumps, aches, and scars to prove it. I am just like you, just probably a little older and uglier.
When I returned to Prague for trial, answering the charge of killing a young man named Daniel Nosek who was a fan of my band, one of the biggest hurdles I and my legal team faced was attempting to explain the atmosphere of a heavy metal show, trying to get across to three Czech judges how smashing into other people and flying through the air over a crowd in the hopes of being caught was a normal thing. From the perspective of folks who are not a part of our scene, these seem to be the actions of insane people.
“Why would anyone do such a thing? You could be severely injured.”
Over and over throughout my trial, the witnesses and myself were asked if we knew what “stage diving” and “moshing” were, then asked to explain these things. Slowly, through a translator and with the help of videos we put together, we tried our best to show that the aggressive nature of our music and other bands like mine was not an expression of malice. My character was questioned again and again, several witnesses saying ludicrous things like how my quick onstage movements, my deep voice, my profuse sweating, and how I dumped water over my head (astoundingly, I do it because I’m sweaty and hot) was clearly evidence of the fact that I was drunk, on some sort of drugs, and yes, even evil. I was sober as a judge that night, thank God, and I know I never intended anyone harm, otherwise I would not have been able to fight for my freedom. I would have had to tell the judges “I do not know what happened. Maybe I did try to hurt this man. I just do not know. I cannot remember- I was drunk.” As a sober, responsible adult, my conscious would not have allowed otherwise.
Sober or not, convincing these judges that our show and others like it aren’t some sort violently nihilistic orgy of hate and self-destruction took a little doing. Explaining via a state supplied translator what you and I take for granted as people having fun at a show was one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. It was like trying to tell a person who has been blind from birth what the color purple looks like. People outside of our scene cannot be expected to understand the way we act at shows without a lengthy explanation, and even then they may just think you are crazy. But in the end I was exonerated, and I am a free man as of this moment.
The family of Daniel Nosek never attacked me in the press. They never wished me ill, either publicly or privately. They did not smear my name in front of any judge, prosecutor, or police officer, did not stare at me malevolently in the court room. For this I am eternally grateful to them. I certainly would understand if they had, and would have made no attempt to dissuade them from holding a low opinion of me, for all they knew about me was what the Czech press had initially published- a picture of me as a barbaric murderous American with evil intent. I know what it feels like to hold my dead child in my arms. The emotions one goes through are absolutely indescribable. If I had had a finger to point at someone for taking my daughter from me, I probably would have, especially if there had been the sort of media circus that surrounded my arrest.
Daniel’s family did not point any fingers at me. They just wanted to know the truth of what had happened to their son, so they came to court and listened as I did my best to provide them with what I knew. Before the verdict was delivered, the uncle of Daniel (who was the family’s representative in court) told the judge that no amount of money was going to bring their boy back, and after hearing the evidence, withdrew the family’s motion against me for damages. He also wanted me to know that Daniel had died on his father’s birthday, and that Daniel’s mother had been unable to function at her job since Daniel’s death.
That was it. They didn’t want anything from me in that courtroom except for me to understand how this had affected them. There was no malice, just the real, honest, pain that I was already regrettably so familiar with. It was one of the most amazing displays of strength and dignity I have ever witnessed.
When the verdict was read, that I had been exonerated, I tried my best to act with dignity, to show no emotion. Perhaps one day I will be able to express what I felt when I finally learned I was to remain free, but right now I am still trying to understand it. Relief, certainly, but there was a greater part welling up in me, something like disbelief saturated with a deep sadness. A fan of my band was dead, and a family had been shattered. I did not feel like celebrating. I did not feel like going home. I did not feel like staying. I did not know what to do or where to go. It was all very overwhelming. Thankfully, Daniel’s family had provided me with one last task before I left Prague. His uncle had asked me earlier that day if we could meet privately after the trial. This was a request I was more than willing to honor. Arrangements were made, and I left court to prepare to meet with him and Daniel’s mother.
I cannot tell you what it is like to look into the eyes of a mother whose son is dead as result of attending a concert by your group, his favorite band. I cannot tell you what it is like to hold her tiny hands as she weeps for her dead boy; to hold those hands in your large hands, the same hands accused of killing her son. I cannot tell you in any words what it’s like to feel that grief for her lost only child pouring off of her small frame in a massive dark wave of sorrow, to see that pain again in another, so visceral that your body shakes with the awful power and totality of it. These are things that mere words will never be able to convey.
Certain details of the conversation I had with Daniel’s uncle and mother I will never write about, because I do not feel it would be proper or respectful. Suffice it say, they were very kind to me, and let me know they didn’t have any sort of vendetta against me, or wish to see me to suffer further because of Daniel’s death. But there are two things they said that I will write about here, because I think that it is in accordance with the only two things his family ever asked of me.
As we sat on a couch crying, the first tears I had allowed myself since my arrest, Daniel’s mother asked me if one day I would play a song for him somewhere. I was astounded by the grace with which she asked me this. Her small request was an immense gift to me, a man who was trying to figure out how he would continue to do the only thing he knew how to do after so many years.
I will sing many songs for him.
Then, as Daniel’s uncle and mother began to leave my rented apartment, his uncle reiterated something he and the mother had brought up earlier.
“Remember- you can be a spokesperson for safer shows. You have that power. Good luck, man. Go live your life.”
I promised I would.
And so they left me, to return to their town to try and rebuild their lives the best they could. I walked into the apartment and continued to fall apart. I don’t remember how long I cried, or what happened over the next two or three hours. But I remembered their words.
In a day, I will leave for the first tour lamb of god has done since my trial finished. This is part of my attempt to make good on a promise I made to the family of a dead fan of my band.
If you are in a band, remember what has happened to me, to Daniel, and to his family. If you are playing a show, make sure that security is adequate and that barricades are properly placed. A dead fan of my band would still be alive today if those two things had been in place in Prague that night in 2010. I never saw that stage before I set foot on it, and I wish I could go back in time, inspect that nightmare set up, let the people in charge know that they did not fulfill a vital part of the contract we sent out, tell my crew to pull our gear out of there, and leave that town. But I cannot go back in time, I never had the chance to see that stage, Daniel is dead, and I can only warn you band guys and girls to make sure the venue and promoter are holding up their end of the contract. Do not settle for less. This is a matter of life and death, as I can sadly attest.
If you are a promoter or club manager/owner, make sure your security and barricades are sufficient for the event you will be having on any given night. Security is there to protect the band, the fans, and your business. If you cannot provide a safe environment for a show that requires security and barricades, do not have it. You have no business playing around with people’s lives for a few extra dollars. No amount of money is worth the risk of someone dying in your establishment. Your club will probably shut down anyway, because no one will want to play there. All of us in bands talk amongst each other, and if you’re shady, we will all eventually know.
If you are a fan coming to a Lamb of God show and are planning on stage diving, know that in no uncertain terms you are not welcome on our stage. Some bands encourage fans on stage- I know a few, and that is their prerogative. As a band we have never allowed or encouraged fans to come onstage- it’s impossible to play and dangerous for us and the fans if someone is running all over the place knocking into us and the equipment. Now, with all that has happened, this policy is in place more than ever. Absolutely no one is welcome on the stage if we have not invited you up there, and unless you are a small child or in a wheel chair, that is not likely to happen. Please respect this. If you do take the stage, we will immediately stop playing, you will be removed from the stage with great swiftness ,and thrown out of the show with no refund, no questions asked. I do not care one bit if anyone thinks I’m being a jerk for writing this or feels I am being harsh. I have been through hell over the last year, I did my best to do the right thing, I am still trying my best to do the right thing, and anyone who cannot understand why we as a band feel this way is a complete and utter idiot who probably shouldn’t be allowed to leave their house anyway. So try not to ruin everybody else’s good time, ok? People pay their hard earned money to see a show, not you interrupt a band’s set while you make jackass out of yourself. You buying a ticket does not entitle you to get on stage.
If you are a fan and are going to a lamb of god show or ANY SHOW where there will be moshing, crowd surfing, etc.- know that what you are doing carries a risk. Use your brain- if it is too rough for you, get out before you get hurt. If you are wasted on whatever, please realize that you are not a stuntman, sit your ass down at the bar, and relax. Being obliterated is not conducive to injury free concert activities. Also, for Pete’s sake, if you are moshing and someone falls down, PICK THEM UP. We have stopped shows before because people have been getting hurt, and we will do it again. This is our community, and we should take care of each other. A show is a place we are supposed to be together, having a good time, supporting one another. The real world will beat you down enough- we don’t need to get stomped on at a show. Give each other a hand.
If you want to crowd surf, know this- if someone drops you, you could die. Instantly. That’s just the truth. I don’t know any other way to say it.
Please don’t drive home if you are drunk. Assuming you don’t die, you could kill someone else and wind up in prison. Prison is not a fun place to be. Just take my word on it, ok?
I am not writing all of this to tell people to not have fun, to not get out aggression in a healthy way, or to be a joy kill. I’m not telling you what to do (except to stay off our stage), because that does no good. Plus, I have more scars and badly healed aching bones from shows than I can count. I am just like you, a fan of this music who loves to have a good time at a show. I’m just begging you please to use your head and to be respectful of others. I love the energy of a good show, I love providing the fans with the same cathartic release I’ve gotten from watching bands so many times, I love leaving it all on the floor for the people. It’s what I do, and I love it.
I do not love the fact that a fan of my band will never watch the sunset again like I did today. I do not love the fact that he will never get to spend time with his family again, like I have been doing over the last two months. I do not love the fact that he will never get the chance to marry a good woman one day, like I have done. I do not love the fact that his branch of the family name will die with him, as he was an only child. I do not love the fact that his family hurts more than anyone who hasn’t lost a child can ever imagine.
I do not love the fact that he will never listen to music again.
I did not know Daniel, but I have been told he was a good kid. Now he is dead. Gone. In a split second, he headed for his grave.
I hate these things. This young man’s family does not want this to happen to someone else. Neither do I. Please, please, please- I am begging you on my knees…
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She came into my life roaring like a lion and beating her chest like a silverback. All me me me and mine mine mine. She represented herself as something more than a normal girl, a fantastic journey which I’d be lucky to be invited to. She spoke of such grand adventures and wicked deeds that I found in hard to not get swept up in the excitement. And eventually, that is just what I did. I let myself get carried away on a wave of fanatical nonsense which seemed so chaotic that I ignored the fragile foundation and climbed aboard.
We hustled the city for drinks and dollars, playing in bars and sleeping in cars. Seducing innocent souls for a chance to sleep a night in comfort. Giving ourselves over to pleasure and pain, I was never actually able to tell the difference. Things had grown so blurry and jumbled. I felt as if I were living my life at a distance, a spectator only along to witness and document great travestys and nightly salvations.
We sang our hearts out on street corners and dimly lit stages but we never really had a goal or a message and in the end I think what did us in was a lack of love.
I loved the music and she loved the fame but we never really cared for each other our commitment was just a game. A gimmick we played to sucker in the crowds, of the love spurred romantics bleeding their pain into guitars.
And there was a certain kind of pain that I could feel when I held her but it only came out in the still of the night and only when we were all alone. She had a way of masking who she really was when strangers crowded around and I do believe in the end what did us in was a lack of honesty.
I was honest with her but she was never honest with me.
And ya might think it silly but music has a way of exposing lies.
So it came to be that she left me alone on the side of a lonely highway with nothing but a five dollar bill and my old guitar.
But I could never be mad at her for what she did.
I had planned on ditching her in the morning.
At first you think you’ve woken up in the middle of the night. You open the curtains to find a black substance coating the windows. You open one, and gallons of viscous black liquid begin pouring in. This is not a coating on your windows, this is a flood.
The water is fine and you fill any receptacle you can find. The cell phone is dead. The TV is telling you to wait for further information. The internet is slow, but alive. So far, no one on earth has seen the sun today.