There is a lot of standing around and waiting. I and about two dozen other teens are in the middle of an abandoned walnut tree orchard. The flinty Northern California peat dirt kicks up clouds of hazy dust in the rising, late autumn, moonlight. The dark forms of the dead trees contrast eerily with the wild gyrations of the makeshift mosh pit that spins around a large bonfire. Long haired boys and girls in black heavy metal t-shirts, faded 501 Levi’s, and white Reeboks or Nikes dance and shove along to the hyper-fast music that blares out of a huge black boom box.
Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning” is the orchestra for this violent waltz tonight. On the perimeter of the mosh pit, a few cigarettes and a weak joint glow red in the darkness. And almost everyone is holding a bottle or can of Budweiser. Two bottles of Jack Daniel’s also circulate. Not far from the dead walnut trees and lively mosh pit. a four-story mound of sandstone rises out of the old orchard. It is about twice the size of the standard two-storey house in these parts and completely void of any vegetation. It has several names, “Warlock Rock”, “Witch’s Mound, “Stoner Cave,” but the leader of the coven and the supposed real reason we are all out here tonight, says that the Native Americans called it “Blood Drinker’s Place”.
Lyla, the leader of the coven dressed in all black ceremonial robes and the other members of the inner coven are all inside the cave tending to a smaller bonfire of their own that is in the shape of a pentagram. Three of the inner coven members, all dressed in red robes, chant something as the circle the pentagram fire in a clockwise, then counterclockwise fashion.
Lyla is a stunning seventeen-year old slightly marred by a gibbon-shaped nose that many of the boys and young men at this party in an abandoned walnut orchard would happily overlook. Her voice takes on both a mystical wispy and commanding tone when she talks about Wicca. She wears her Danish blonde hair straight and long sometimes adorns it with a wreath of herbal flowers based on the seasons and the powers they supposedly impart according to the Wicca and alchemical sources she has studied. She claims an unbroken Wicca lineage going back before Christianity was brought to Northern Europe. And there are rumors that she has a fifteenth-century spell book written in Welsh that her grandmother taught her to read and speak.
But I think like me, the reason most of the guys are here is because the word in our high school has gotten out that on the full moon she comes to the small cave out here in the middle of this dead orchard with her fellow Wiccas, does a bunch of ceremonial shit, strips naked, and sacrifices an animal (usually a lamb), to a moon Goddess she worships. The drugs, beer, heavy metal music, and rumors of an after sacrifice orgy are enticing as well.
Her rival in the Wicca/Satanists/Heavy Metal teen community is another seventeen-year-old who calls himself Evil Alex. Evil Alex, unlike most of the kids here tonight, attends an alternative high school not far from the main one in town for kids that can’t get it together enough to pull the usually six hours of classes in a regular school.
Two months earlier he was expelled from the regular high school. He’s a short skinny, nearly spastically fast speaker who missed out on the Ritalin drug wave by a few years. Like Lyla, he wears his black curly hair long and dresses in all black, black 501’s, heavy metal t-shirts, and black riding boots.
He has dark intense eyes that he focuses on people intently with. His long thin face ends in a slowly developing goatee. His credentials as a warlock are a lot less traditional than Lyla’s and much more pop culture. But he can quote Aleister Crowley and he has his own small group of followers. Lyla claims he is a poser and that the term “warlock” is a Christian word and that there are only witches, male and female. This schism has caused Evil Alex to cast a death curse or spell on Lyla. He has an Ouija Board that was, according to him, carved from the coffin of a witch burned in Salem, Massachusetts. Using it to call up evil spirits is his specialty, and many stories at our high school and junior high abound about late night parties at the tiny condo he and his mother live in, where he freaked the shit out of his friends with the Ouija Board.
So far Evil Alex hasn’t arrived tonight. Lyla says that he has been seduced by the dark powers and therefore is far weaker than she is since she honors both the light and the dark, though focuses her worship on the light and white magic. Because of this, she says if they meet face to face Evil Alex will drop dead on the spot. Many people question this, myself included, since they sat next to each other in pre-algebra class for months before Evil Alex was kicked out of school.
“Yeah, but did you notice that he would never look at me in class?” Lyla says when asked about it.
Evil Alex is a lot less cordial usually saying something like, “That bitch is gonna burn like Bridget Bishop.”
When told of this Lyla responds, “See, he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about. Bridget Bishop was falsely accused of witchcraft and hung not burned. Just a fucking poser.”
So far the lamb and kegs of beer have not shown. It is going on eleven-thirty and I wonder if we will miss the midnight window for the ritual to take place. Bobby Darrett, Lyla’s boyfriend is responsible for stealing a lamb from one of the farms that dot the Northern California Delta region. He’s got a 1968 Dodge Charger with a trunk large enough to hold just about any barnyard animals. Someone’s twenty-one-year-old cousin is supposed to bring the kegs, but he hasn’t shown either. Lyla is pissed that there isn’t any mead, the only intoxicants besides mushrooms and cannabis that true Wiccans are allowed to ingest, another black mark against the heavy drinking and acid dropping Evil Alex, in her book.
Being out here I’ve somewhat violated the high school social hierarchy code. These are not my people and they certainly don’t consider me one of theirs. I know Lyla third hand through a friend and have spoken to her six or seven times, usually briefly, but once at length about Celtic history. She is close friends with the older sister of the guy I came here with tonight. The older sister is also a coven member. Charlie is her kid brother and considering the age difference between us, he’s fourteen and a freshman, and I’m seventeen and a junior, I’ve once again broken another hierarchy rule. And I’m pretty sure he likes my Trans Am almost as much or more than he actually likes me.
In his eyes, it promises kind of cool mobility. For me, he is an in for me out here in the dead orchard. Charlie “Could give a fuck!”, to quote him, about the ceremony. He is here for the drugs, booze, and girls. And he fits in way better than I do. Being the kid brother of a coven member gives him some status even if he doesn’t care about it. And his long hair, jean jacket with the giant Iron Maiden patch on the back, gives the right look. I have a Judas Priest t-shirt on, but my hair is short and despite what I feel is an impressive knowledge of Led Zeppelin, most of the speed metal, black metal, and death metal these kids are into, is way too heavy for my delicate ears to handle. A few of Metallica’s slower ballads are about all I can stand. Charlie likes Rush and AC/DC so that’s what we listen to when we are in my car, but beyond that, I don’t have much reason to be out here.
Even the token beer I’m holding is sipped in extreme slowness as opposed to Charlie’s loud cry of “Time to get fucked up!” seconds after he exits my car and grabs a beer to guzzle. I’ve maintained a half made story about being allergic to marijuana since Junior High that I think my parents told me when I was a kid to keep away from my older brother and sisters stash. Whatever the truth is it has kept me from trying and any other drug so far other than alcohol.
Once out of the car and into the beer Charlie disappears quickly into the mosh pit and I’m left standing on the outer edge of the circle of teens surrounding the bonfire. It is fairly warm out, but occasionally the breeze picks up and there is a bite to the October evening. I look at my watch a lot and search desperately for someone, anyone, to talk to. I see a guy I sort of know from art class, a skinny long haired intellectual type that likes Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, whom I know a lot about as well. I walk up to him and another guy wearing a leather jacket and say hello. He is one of Evil Dave’s followers and I realize too late that both of them have been following Evil Dave’s belief and instructions to use psychedelics to “Break on through to the other side,” a line I know he lifted from Jim Morrison of course. They are high beyond the carrying on a conversation point and they both keep staring into the bonfire when I try and talk to them.
I move away and leave them to it. Headlights at the cul-de-sac that marks the end of the road before the walnut orchard beam towards the party. I recognize the low rumble of Bobby Darret’s Charger. The door slams, but only one person heads, nearly at a run, towards the cave. I walk that way trying to look like I’m not. Closer to the cave I can here Lyla’s voice cursing away loudly from the cave entrance. I don’t go over and find out what’s going on. If I’m out of place in the general population I am definitely unwanted and unknown within the coven. But I can see the guy that pulled up in Bobby’s Charger is a dude named Neil, an older guy who got kicked out of high school a few years back and now is a low-level drug dealer to a lot of the rockers at my school. The yelling goes on for a little longer and then Lyla and her coven leave the cave.
She marches up to the boom box and hits the pause button. The mosh pit slows and then stops. Many of the wild drunk sweaty male faces don’t seem to recognize Lyla’s authority to abruptly cut the music out like that. But she plows forward in her, “I’m the grand high commander and chief of Wicca” voice and explains that Bobby got caught trying to steal a goat and is presently in jail. She starts to go into a speech about the dark forces temporarily triumphing, but someone yells “Fuck Off!” and turns the music back on. The midnight ceremony and presumably the after ceremony orgy are called off as the coven exits the walnut orchard to mount a rescue or at least try and scare up bail money for Bobby.
A little while later Evil Dave shows up. Possibly because he sensed Lyla’s energy had weakened, but probably it is just a coincidence. Charlie had staggered over to me twice, the last time so drunk he could hardly speak. Evil Dave stands by himself like me. I’ve talked to him about as much as I’ve talked to Lyla. This is mostly Lyla’s crowd and only the two acid heads are his people. I walk over and talk to him since he seems almost as out of place as I do.
“No ceremony tonight huh?” I say.
“My curse is working.” Evil Dave says.
“You believe that?”
“Notice I’m not going in the cave. The residual energies are still there. I’m just out here on the edge sucking up the chaos energy instead. Satan’s dance. The dark, not the light magic like Lyla’s.”
I’m quiet for a long time not knowing what to say. I think it is mostly bullshit, but I don’t say anything.
“Can you give me a ride later?” he asks suddenly. “My mom dropped me off, but I don’t think Bill or Aaron can drive now,” he says pointing to the two acid heads.
I say “sure” all the while hoping that Bill and Aaron don’t decide to try and drive anyway. I tell Evil Dave we can take off anytime as long as we can get Charlie to come along. We wait another thirty minutes not saying much until Charlie comes back again. He keeps telling us to smell the middle and ring finger on his right hand. He claims he fingered some chick. Evil Dave takes a sniff and in fact, confirms that Charlie has inserted his fingers in some girl’s vagina.
I stare long and hard at the little heavy metal Muppet and wonder how the fuck did I reach such depths of loserdom. He’s about as fucked up as the last time I saw him and when I ask him if he is ready to leave the happy friendly drunk Charlie morphs into belligerent semi-violent drunk Charlie.
“Fucking pussies can’t party all night long. Fuck you! I’m getting laid tonight,” he yells.
I don’t say anything since Charlie has near mascot royalty status here amongst some of these rockers because of his older sister. Surprisingly to me, Evil Dave steps in and talks to Charlie for a little while. I only catch a little bit of the conversation over the King Diamond that is now blasting out of the boom box, but I hear him say something about tons of easy chicks and scoring a few hits of acid. This promise of better adventures elsewhere makes it through Charlie’s anger and inebriation and he agrees to go the car with us and leave. But on the way, he has to stop and puke a few times. I and Evil Dave wait patiently. There is no way I’m going to let him puke in my car and tell Evil Dave if he isn’t straight in another ten minutes we’ll leave his ass here. Evil Dave nods and says, “Yeah, fuck him.”
A few more retches and a bad tumble at the end of walnut orchard and Charlie is finally in the back of my Trans Am laid out and sleeping.
Evil Dave says, “Fuck it, just take him home and then you can drop me off on the way back to your house. That way you don’t have to go out of your way.”
This seems pretty kind coming from a guy named Evil Dave who claims the core of his personal ideology, is to take advantage of, exploit, and demand any and all personal freedoms at all times in the same way that nature is an uncompromising and unforgiven force. He says that the wildness of nature is semi-organized into a sometimes tangible goal is the actual source of Satan’s power. He goes on about this for a long time explaining in length why this makes him more powerful than Lyla or anyone else, I assume from the high confident tone he uses as he waxes poetic about it.
Five minutes from Charlie’s house he comes to in the back seat, looks out the window, and realizes we aren’t heading to Evil Dave’s promised party destination. His shrieked protests come out pretty garbled, but the gist of it is that if I don’t take him and Evil Dave to the 7–11 fifteen miles back the way we came where they supposedly can score acid then he is going to “kick the fucking shit out of us”.
Charlie’s threat is ridiculous, he is maybe one hundred pounds, about thirty pounds lighter than either of us, 5’2", five inches shorter, and from what I remember the one fight I saw him in, a spastic ineffective rage frailer rather than a real fighter.
I’m no Sugar Ray Leonard, but I have studied Martial Arts since I was twelve and I have been in at least ten honest fist fights, so I’m not worried about Charlie. But his older sister’s potential wrath and her rocker crank freak friends have fucked people up for crossing Charlie before and I don’t want that. Evil Dave knows the score as well and says nothing when I pacify Charlie and turn the car around. Ten minutes later we are at the gas station. I tell Charlie and Evil Dave they are on their own from here because I have to get home. Charlie says nothing and Evil Dave shakes my hand weakly and says “Thanks dude,” before I leave.
I don’t know about all the residual energies, Satan’s dance or light magic that Evil Dave was talking about earlier in the walnut orchard, but I feel like he was right about the fucking “chaos” part. I lay a long line of rubber out of the gas station to express my anger and then begin the hour-long late-night drive home.
About the Creator
Steve Howard's self-published collection of short stories Satori in the Slip Stream, Something Gaijin This Way Comes, and others were released in 2018. His poetry collection Diet of a Piss Poor Poet was released in 2019.