Eighteen-year-old Weston Peese had few joys in life. School wasn’t one of them. Girls weren’t one them, but that was a recent development. Not that he didn’t like girls, but there was a bitterness to affairs of the heart now.
Weston’s only joy was ROCK. He’d dream about being a rock star. He’d be on a stage, with the likes of Alice Cooper or Gene Simmons. Maybe it was both together as they formed an unholy trinity of pure rock. Lights would shine on them like the suns of a million galaxies – the crowd’s roar throbbing, pulsing, feeding them energy.
He’d be holding his dream-guitar: a cherry red Fender Stratocaster. He’d strut up to the microphone. He didn’t know what he would yell, but it would be something really cool. The crowd, already deafening, would swell louder until they threatened to burst the very air itself. And Alice would nod his approval. Then Weston would hold up his pick and strike the first chord. Everything would grow still. The magic note of his guitar would fill the universe and all would weep for its beauty.
Of course in the real world he was still pitifully trying to pluck out the intro to “Iron Man.” Why was everything so damn hard? Why wasn’t the will to rock the same thing as the ability to rock? Weston bemoaned his fate to be trapped a crummy apartment in Oakbrook Illinois with no musical talent and a mom who listened to Anne Murray.
So he left home.
He hitchhiked to Indianapolis. There he sold his extensive baseball card collection for enough money to buy his first ticket to a rock concert. Black Sabbath’s ‘Never Say Die!’ tour was playing that night. After some wiener-newbie band called ‘Van Halen’ got off the stage he watched Dave Walker scream ‘Johnny Blade’ to the mad crowd. He felt his senses blasted into oblivion as he became part of a glorious and enlightened whole… or something like that. As he put it, “fuckin’ cool!” (Weston was a rotten lyricist too).
That was the beginning and end of it. He became one of the gypsies of the great rock age known as ‘metal-heads.’ He found a friendly looking group with their own van and offered them cigarettes. After only a few hours, they’d offered to let him ride along as they followed ‘Never Say Die’ across the country. He stayed in hostels, shelters or slept outside. Whatever money they earned on the road went towards food, gas and concert tickets. It was a good life for Weston, who never dreamed of anything more ambitious than hotdogs.
He found other tours – other vans. He was been beaten up, stabbed, punched, robbed and worse, but he had also been loved, cried over, praised and celebrated, which had never happened before. He made friends, but none of them were like Hector. Hector was a loner, but he decided that Weston was a good kid and not too dangerous. They got to talking, and Hector offered him a ride to go follow KISS.
Weston’s luck only improved from there. For some reason money, accommodations, and food were no longer a problem. Anything Weston needed, Hector could provide. Granted Hector was a little short tempered, but at least he didn’t beat him up or try anything funny. Weston thought he’d stumbled on one decent guy in a million. Then came the concert in Detroit. Hector had disappeared for hours, but popped up again later.
“WES!” he shouted, trying to be heard over ‘Rock and Roll All Nite.’ “I found a guy who can get us backstage!”
“SERIOUSLY?” cried Weston. “Cool!”
“C’mon!” beckoned Hector, and Weston followed.
Hector led him through dark halls and alleys. Wes was hardly aware of where they were going. He was only trying to rehearse what he was going to say to Ace Frehley without sounding like a total goober and making sure his ‘KISS ARMY’ patch was prominent on his jacket… which was why he was completely taken unawares when Hector slammed him against a brick wall.
“The HELL? What are you doing?” Weston spat, and was cut off as Hector grabbed him by the collar.
“I’m sorry about this, but trust me. This is going to be cool,” he said.
“What? HEY!” screamed Weston as Hector grasped his denim jacket and tore it in two. “It took me years to get all those patches!” he protested.
Hector only shook his head as he ripped the neck of Wes’s shirt like it had been tissue paper.
“That was my last shirt, jackass!” screamed Wes.
“Would you shut up about your damn clothes?” snapped Hector rolling his eyes.
He pressed his body against Weston, pinning him to the wall. Weston, who suddenly had the sense to be terrified, struggled and squirmed, his back scraping against the bricks behind him. He felt his skin break, and the sand burned in his scrapes, but Hector couldn't be budged and his arm closed like a tourniquet around Weston’s arm.
Wes suddenly realized that he wasn’t going to meet KISS.
“Let go o’ me,” he pleaded, as cold perspiration beaded on his pale skin.
“Just calm down, Wes,” said Hector in strange voice. He was shaking, as if trying to control himself. “Don’t get excited, okay? That’s the last thing I need.”
Weston’s heart froze. He closed his eyes and tried to disconnect from everything that was happening. He waited for Hector to finish with him and throw him away, which is why he barely flinched when he felt Hector’s trembling lips close on his bare neck.
Hector sinking his teeth into the soft skin on his shoulder was a surprise, though. Weston cried out in pain, but it died quickly as he felt the aching pull of the blood leaving his body. He stared into the black alley, which began to swirl and dance in his advancing stupor. His arms fell limply to his sides and he felt his heart slow and stutter to sluggish crawl. Lightheaded wasn't the word for it – it was like the darkness of the alley was swallowing him up in a personal hell Hector had devised for him. As the life left his body, and before his heart gave a last judder and stopped, a single thought went through his damaged and deafened brain…
“Hell isn’t nearly as cool as they make it sound in the songs."
Weston's story isn't over! Want to know more about Weston Peese? Read his story in the acclaimed webcomic Skeleton Crew