Flash Fiction: The Brains for Fame

It’s over three months since I last participated in one of Chuck Wendig’s weekly flash fiction challenges. To be honest, I was a little worried I’d lost the groove. But then I saw his challenge for the week and I was immediately inspired.

That’s My New Band Name: Write a story about a band.The name of that band? Well, click here to choose one. There you’ll get a buncha random band  names. Choose one. That’s the band. You’ve got up to 1000 words.

So, here goes. Hit me up in the comments and let me know what you think!

The Brains for Fame

“We’re Nerve Complaint, and that was Ain’t Gonna Drag Us Down.”

The lights in the studio snapped on and Jimmy and the rest of the band squinted. “Jimmy! Baby!” a booming  voice exclaimed. “You’re good, you know that. You’re outta this world.”

“Thanks, Charles,” Jimmy said, focusing on the newcomer. “We’ve been practicing, and—”

“And nothing!” Charles waddled across the studio and stood in front of Jimmy. “You’re good, but you’re not listening,” he said, emphasising the last word by tapping a meaty finger against Jimmy’s ear.

Charles looked at the rest of the band – Mick on lead guitar, Jenny on bass, and Chaz on drums – and Jimmy followed his gaze. “You have a great sound, Kids. But you just don’t have… It.”

“It,” repeated Mick.

“Yeah, It,” said Charles. “A thing. Something we can sell. A gimmick.”

“We don’t need a gimmick,” said Mick. “We’re the real deal.”

“Ha!” said Charles. “You know how many “real deal” musicians starve to death? Alone and unknown? A lot. If you—”

He was interrupted by blaring sirens and flashing red and white lights.

“What the fuck is that?” Jenny demanded.

Charles waved a hand. “Zombie alarm. They attack this time every day. Something about sound waves and vibrations and… Whatever.”

Chaz ran a hand through his long hair and peered around the room nervously. “Shouldn’t we, like, get out of here, man? Zombies are, like, bad news.”

“Nah, we’re on the third floor.”

Chaz looked blank. Jenny had unslung her guitar and was digging through her bag. A moment later she stood up, a blood-stained baseball bat in her hand and a grin on her face. Mick and Jimmy exchanged looks.

“You have a back way out?” Mick asked. Dragging Jenny away from a fight wasn’t easy, but they’d had plenty of practice over the last few months.

“Don’t worry,” Charles said. “Zombies don’t do stairs. Trust me, Kids, we’re perfectly safe. Security turns off the escalators when they attack. They just wander around the ground floor for a while and then leave.” He paused to smile. “Now, let’s talk about you.”

#####

Three hours and two minor skirmishes with zombie packs later, Nerve Complaint sat around the shabby lounge room of their even shabbier apartment, eating take-away Chinese. The rest of the meeting with Charles Ledder, VP of BrainMush Records, had gone as expected. He was insistent they needed a marketing edge before he’d sign them.

“I know we always said we’d do it our way,” said Jimmy, “but maybe he’s got a point. I mean, look at Blood Night. They’ve got that whole vampire thing going on, and—”

“—and that’s all they’ve got,” interrupted Mick. “Without their fake fangs and capes, they’d be nothing.”

“Have you heard them play?” Jenny asked, pausing to light a cigarette and take a drag. “They’re fucking awful.”

“I know, but—” Jimmy began.

“But nothing,” said Mick firmly. “We don’t need a gimmick.”

“Hey,” said Chaz. “Could you turn zombie meat into curry? Would it taste like chicken?” He broke into giggles, staring down at the curried whatever in his take-out box.

Everyone lost interest in food after that.

One by one, they went to bed. All except Jimmy. He sat on the floor thinking about Charles and Mick and the desperate clawing need in his belly. The need for money and success and, above all else, fame.

After a while he turned on the dodgy TV in the corner of the room. They’d picked it up at a garage sale a few months earlier, thinking it would come in handy. They only got one channel, but it was better than nothing.

“…would have guessed they would be useful?” a reporter was saying, the scene behind him a familiar one—zombies assembling cars on a production line. “But as long as they’re kept well fed, many zombies can keep doing the same work they did when they were alive. Scientists can’t explain why some people react better to zombification than others, but one thing’s for sure: Undeath isn’t the death sentence it used to be.”

The picture cut to the pretty, smiling anchorwoman. “Thank you, Ken. Well, after their whirlwind success and world tour, local band Blood Night is back in town. And tonight, they’re performing live in the studio. Let’s hear it for Blood Night!”

Jimmy hit the off switch as the familiar riff of Mine for the Night began to play. Jenny was right: Blood Night were terrible. But they were rich. And they were famous.

And suddenly Jimmy knew what to do.

#####

It took some convincing. Mick, especially, wasn’t keen to go back to BrainMush Records. But Jimmy promised this would be the last time, and Jenny cursed and said they had nothing to lose, and Chaz said he’d forgotten his drumsticks yesterday, so Mick was out-voted.

They arrived just before dark. The receptionist gave Jimmy a wink and said, “Mr Ledder says he’ll meet you in Studio 1.”

“Huh,” said Mick. “We’re usually in Studio 3.”

Jimmy shrugged. “Guess it’s busy.” He led the way across the foyer to the ground floor studio, and pushed open the door. Inside, it looked much like any other studio. Except for the four, seven-foot tall cages arrayed around the room. Three were closed, the heavy metal doors bolted shut. One stood open.

“What the fuck?” Jenny said. “Aren’t they zombie cages?”

Jimmy didn’t answer. He just walked into the open cage, and pulled the door closed behind him.

“Hey, man, what’s happening?”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Sellout.”

Jimmy wasn’t listening.

He didn’t hear the zombie alarm as it started to wail.

He didn’t hear the cries of panic from his friends.

He didn’t hear the sounds of combat.

All Jimmy could hear was the sounds in his head: the cheering of his fans, the acclaim of his peers, and a pretty anchorwoman saying, “Let’s hear it for Jimmy Lister and his all-zombie band, Nerve Complaint!”

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11 Comments

Filed under Flash Fiction

11 responses to “Flash Fiction: The Brains for Fame

  1. I imagine boy-bands are made in pretty much the same way. 🙂

    I love zombie stories where the zombies are just the sub-story (à la Zombieland)

    Great.

  2. Yay! I was actually going to write the last prompt and dedicate it to your return to blogging. Though the path to hell is paved with good intentions, you know. The next one, hopefully.

  3. That’s the problem with the music industry. Everybody has to have a gimmick. Oh, yeah–and zombies. This is pretty good. It struck a chord with me. (Bad puns are free.)

  4. As I read about BLOOD NIGHT, all I could think was “Wouldn’t it be really hard to sing with plastic fangs? No wonder they’re terrible.”

    I really liked this story. I was taken off guard by that twist ending. Great job.

    • Ha! Clearly you haven’t spent enough time wearing plastic fangs. Although really, BLODD NIGHT are rich and famous now. You can bet your bottom dollar they’ve had dental prosthetics permanently attached. 🙂

      Glad you liked it!

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