Maelstrom Extra: Djinn Dreams

Saturday, February 27, 2010 reviews (Comments): 5
Kalila struggled out of Ricky’s embrace. “It's important that I become famous.”

“I know.” He pushed the sheets aside and tried to pull her back to him, but she wedged a pillow between them.

“You don’t really believe it.”

“Of course I do.” He tried to move the pillow, but she had done something magical to it and he couldn't make it budge. “I wouldn’t be managing you if I didn’t think you have what it takes.”

“Liar. You manage my band because I manufactured a contract with your blood on it, not because you have any faith in my dreams.”

Ricky sighed in frustration and flopped onto his back. What was it about immortals and their lousy sense of timing? “I don’t know why you want to talk about this now.”

“It's never a bad time to talk about things that are important.”

He rolled over and looked her in the eye. “You got me on board at the beginning by forcing me to be your manager, but I believe in you now. You’re going to make it.”

Kalila gazed at him with suspicion. “You don’t mean that. Or do you?”

“You’re beautiful and talented. Your band puts on a great show. You can make it to the top. I have every confidence in you.”

“Then why is it taking so long?”

“This isn't something you can conjure like you did that bottle of scotch earlier tonight, which I appreciated, by the way.”

“I know you like single malt.”

“Unless you want to take a shortcut and win fans by magic, you'll just have to keep working hard. It'll happen, though. Really.”

Ricky tried again to move the pillow and found the spell had been removed. He tossed it aside and pulled Kalila close, forgetting as he lost himself in the heat of her body that she was a djinn and he a mere mortal. He, of all people, understood that sometimes the biggest and most improbable dreams came true.

Maelstrom Extra: Amperage

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 reviews (Comments): 7
He heard it before the elevator reached the basement. As he walked toward the studio, the trembling of the walls and floor made Ricky wonder if he should turn back. His ears didn't deserve this kind of assault. Neither did anyone else's, though, and there were noise ordinances to consider.

He pushed open the door and the sound hit him like a body blow. Even his skin seemed to vibrate, and his heart felt like it was about to go into fibrillation. He waved his arms for the band’s attention, and mercifully, they stopped playing. “I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but you need to turn it down.”

“Would you rather go in the other room and make a different kind of noise?” Bo teased. He made an obscene gesture with hips and guitar. "Rock bands are loud. If you can't handle it, maybe you're in the wrong line of work."

“That wasn't music, and you know it.” Ricky looked at Kalila. “So what’s this all about? Even the elevator was shaking.”

Kalila grinned in satisfaction. “The guy at the store said these were good amps, but we wanted to be sure.”

Vic nodded agreement. “If they couldn't generate the kind of volume he promised, we were going to take them back.”

“And eat his brain,” Lazaro added, with a thump of his bass pedal.

“I see.” Ricky glanced around the room. “I don't think you have to worry that you were sold a bill of goods. You’ll be lucky not to get a citation."

Nevin clapped his hands. "You mean like a prize?"

"No, like a ticket from a police officer."

"Oh. Human laws." Kalila shrugged and hit a few chords on her Stratocaster. "We got cited once before, I think. What was it for?"

"So-called indecency," Bo reminded her.

"No, it was public intoxication," Vic said. "As if it was my fault the girl's blood alcohol level was that high. She didn't look drunk when I bit her."

Lazaro grunted in disapproval and leaned over to adjust a cymbal. "They haven't caught me. I guess that's because I'm smart."

"I'd call it skill rather than smarts," Kalila said in frosty tones. She turned to Ricky. "As you can see, getting ticketed for noise is the least of our worries."

Ricky admitted to himself that she had a point. Besides, what could he accomplish with his meager words of human wisdom? "So we won't worry about the noise ordinances, then," he said. "But as a favor to my ears, and to everyone else who uses this building, would you turn down your amps anyway?"

Kalila moved to adjust her amp, and Bo followed suit.

"You can't deny it," Vic said, "these babies really do the job."

"If you mean make humans go deaf, I suppose they do." Ricky turned to go, but Kalila called him back.

"Did you come here for a reason, Ricky?"

He stopped, hand on the door. Why had he come to the studio? It wasn't the noise. Something about a gig? Advertising? He didn't even remember any more.

"Poor pathetic human," Vic said. "A little bit of noise makes your brain go all to pieces."

Kalila flashed a conspiratorial grin. "These amps just might've been our best buy ever."

Maelstrom Extra: When Pigs Fly

Saturday, February 20, 2010 reviews (Comments): 5
“You idiot. They need to be bigger.”

Ricky pressed his ear against the door. What were the demons up to this time?

“Shut up, fang-face,” Kalila said. “When you can conjure, you can tell us how to do it.”

“I’m friends with bats,” Vic said. “If that’s not a credential, I don’t know what is.”

“It’s the feathers, Kalila,” Nevin said. “They’re lovely, but I'm afraid something doesn't look right.”

Curiosity got the better of him and Ricky opened the door. In the middle of the studio, near Vic’s microphone stand, stood a black and white spotted pig with a pair of tiny gray wings sprouting out of his back.

“What the hell?”

Kalila brushed her long red hair out of her face. “Oh, hi, Ricky. Maybe you can settle this.”

Ricky looked again at the pig. “Whatever it is, I have a feeling I don’t want to know.”

“It’s really quite simple,” Nevin said. “The man at the music store today said Hot Night, Cold Heart would hit platinum when pigs fly, so….”

“…it’s just a simple matter of conjuring,” Kalila finished for him. “But some people in this room,” she darted a hostile glance at Vic, “think we don’t know what we’re doing.”

“Those are pigeon wings,” Vic said. “Pigs aren’t aerodynamic. If you want to get that ridiculous creature off the ground, you need goose wings, or eagle wings – something powerful.”

“Uh, guys?” Ricky waved a hand for their attention. “'When pigs fly' is just a figure of speech. Airborne pigs aren’t going to get you a platinum record. I’m sorry.”

Nevin sighed in frustration and Kalila looked at Ricky through narrowed eyes. “Are you sure?”


“But…” she pondered. “What about publicity? If we used this flying pig to get into the news, wouldn't that be like a promo gimmick?”

Ricky had to admit he hadn’t considered such a possibility. Then again, there were a lot of things he never considered with this band. “I suppose it’s possible.”

Vic shook his head in disgust. “I’m telling you, those wings are too small. That swine will never get off the ground.”

The pig grunted in answer, and Ricky seized the moment. “Maybe instead of putting wings on a pig, you should rehearse.”

Kalila scowled and vanished the wings with a wave of her hand. “Fine, Ricky. Take all the fun out of it.”

“You’re the one who told me you wanted to become famous by following human rules.

“I’ve told you too many things.” She went to her guitar stand and picked up her Stratocaster. “At the rate we’re going, we really won’t get famous until pigs fly.”

Maelstrom Extra: Demon Ethics

Sunday, February 14, 2010 reviews (Comments): 5
Ricky glanced around the room. It had been hell rounding up the band – demons weren’t inclined to come when called. “I think it’s time we talked about something that’s very important to humans.”

Bo quit pouting and looked up with a grin. “Sex?”

Vic smacked him on the shoulder. “No, you idiot. Blood. Their kind can’t live without it.”

“Actually,” Ricky said, “I thought we’d have a little discussion about ethics.”

Nevin nodded and adopted a thoughtful expression. Kalila conjured a dictionary and began flipping through the pages. Lazaro yawned, and the others gave him blank looks.

“I realize this may be a new concept for you,” Ricky went on. “But what I’m talking about is standards. Morality. Human expectations of behavior.”

“According to the twins I was with half an hour ago, I met all their expectations,” Bo said. “I don’t understand why you think there’s a problem.” He glanced over his shoulder at the drummer, who was dozing off. “Unless you’re referring to Lazaro.”

“Well, that’s part of it. Will someone wake him up, please?”

Vic yanked on Lazaro’s chair and sent him tumbling to the floor. “Pay attention, stupid. The human is lecturing us about morality.”

Lazaro sat up and rubbed his head. “Oh. Was that her name? I guess I should’ve hidden the body better.”

Ricky took a step toward him. “I thought the only one you had tonight was that bar back.”

“His brain was no good. The girl was much better. Ph.D. candidate.”

“Dammit, Lazaro! This is exactly the sort of thing I’m trying to explain to you. This is wrong, it’s immoral, it’s certainly illegal, and—”

By now Kalila had found the dictionary entry she was looking for. “Ethics: the study of standards of conduct and moral judgment; moral philosophy. The system or code of morals of a particular person, religion, group, or profession.”

“Yes,” Ricky said. “That’s exactly it.”

Vic flashed him a dark look from underneath his brows. “We’re a rock band. If we cared about moral codes, we’d have joined a symphony.”

“And I still don’t see what any of this has to do with me,” Bo added. “Can I go? I promised the bar manager and his cousin that we’d act out some of my favorite scenes from Hot and Horny in Halifax.”

Kalila nodded wisely. “The dictionary is very clear, Ricky. Ethics can be relative to a person, group, or profession. Just because you think it’s wrong that some of us eat brains, drink blood and have indiscriminate sex, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong for us.” She vanished the dictionary with a wave of her hand, stretched out her long legs and sighed. “Is this discussion over now? We’re exhausted.”

“Not all ethics are relative. There are some things that are absolute, every time, everywhere.” Ricky tried to give them each a stern look, but Lazaro had dozed off again, Vic was yawning, and Bo was getting agitated.

Kalila gazed up at him with sleepy, sultry eyes. “And what’s your point?”

Ricky hesitated. He wanted to go on, to explain all the ways in which the band was failing to meet basic standards of behavior, but he had a feeling the moment had passed. “Fine. We’ll take this up again some other time.”

Some battles just couldn’t be won in a day.