By Demons Be Driven

“Okay, I’m ready for bass.” The sound guy’s voice rang out through the stage right monitor.

Jason tentatively rode the B-string of his B.C. Rich Vortex 5-string, occasional hammering  directly on a fret and producing a sour note. He felt Daniel’s subtle glare as he stumbled through the check. It was obvious Jason wasn’t the best bass player, and he was quite aware of the fact, thus it was only natural that he hated sound checking. Misanthropy was his way of connecting with the kind of music and themes that piqued his interest, not his way of gaining anyone’s attention.

“Alright… Center guitar?”

Daniel broke into the intro of Slayer’s “Raining Blood”, much to the approval of the 30 or so metal-heads who had assembled around the small stage of The Liar’s Club. The crowd was way more modest than what Daniel had hoped for. As he wrapped up his check, the thought of it being the final turnout almost made his blood boil.

With a less subtle glare than before, Daniel turned to Jason. “I thought you got rid of all those fliers? Where the hell is everybody?”

“I did get rid of them.” Jason shrugged. “At least there’s some people here.”

“Right…” Daniel sneered and spat on the stage floor. He checked his mic once more then sat his guitar aside.

After their lead guitarist Derek checked his ESP 7-string, the sound guy’s voice rang out once more. “Okay, that’s good… Whenever you’re ready.”

It was time.

The lights dimmed in front of the stage and a curious half-moaning, half-screeching sound interposed with a tribal rhythm began to creep out of the front-of-house speakers. Their intro track was just long enough for them to all assemble on stage and don their instruments, where Daniel then rang out a low B-chord from his old, beat-up Jackson King V.

“We are Misanthropy from Tampa, Florida!” Daniel growled in the lowest, most sinister tone he could summon. “This first song is called ‘Laid To Waste’”.

Their opener was fast-paced and got to the point immediately. While Misanthropy did their best to thrash around and whip the small crowd into a frenzy, their efforts went for the most part unrewarded. A few of their fellow school mates halfheartedly bumped into each other in an effort to share in their friends’ enthusiasm, though most simply stood back from the stage and periodically bobbed their heads. As the band’s thirty-minute set wore on, their enthusiasm waned and the crowd, in turn, sat like statues with folded arms.

After their sixth song, the sound guy’s voice came through the monitor wedges. “You got one more song.”

Daniel wiped the sweat-soaked hair from his face and grabbed the mic stand. “Alright this is our last song. This one is called ‘By Demons Be Driven’… Thank you Liar’s Club!”

After a four-bar guitar intro, the band unleashed a barrage of blast-beat, drop-tune fueled mayhem. Daniel whipped his long hair around in a circle, headbanging viciously, while Jason and Derek swayed about and stared intently at their fingers moving like frantic spider legs up and down the frets. As the opening transitioned to the verse, Daniel strode forward and hunched in front of the mic.

“Stoke the flames of demonation… The vilest beast in all creation… Wrought in sin and born of fire… Do the deeds which I desire…” He roared in a guttural onslaught, as the song dropped into a stomping, half-time pre-chorus.

The words of his mother suddenly echoed in Daniel’s head. Promise him you won’t speak any of this nonsense, he thought.

The burden weighed on him more than he expected it to; it disrupted his focus and caused him to hit a cringe-worthy note that was nowhere near the key of the song. Daniel spat in disgust as he recovered from the gaffe. He belted out the chorus, forsaking any second thoughts.

“You are the Crown Prince of Inequity… Master of Wickedness I evoke thee… Vos dico vestri nomen vocare… Dicam nomini tuo Beliiiiiiiiaaaaaaaaaaal!!!!! ”

As Derek launched into the guitar solo, Daniel retreated to his cabinet where he had a small fan plugged in. The lights on stage were practically baking the young foursome, and it was beginning to take its toll. He trudged through the instrumental section, taking the much needed opportunity away from the mic to cool off. When the second verse approached, Daniel turned around to head back to the mic. He wouldn’t make it in time, however; he stood, instead, frozen in a mixed state of shock and awe.

The crowd had erupted into a hurricane of utter chaos. Bodies flew across the floor with no regard for life and limb, slamming into whatever they could and stomping on whatever they knocked down. One unfortunate boy jumped onto another’s back in an attempt to crowd-surf, but when a human wrecking-ball crashed into his would-be launcher, the boy plummeted ear-first onto the concrete. Daniel looked on while the boy blanched in shock at the sight of blood dripping from the side of his head.

Daniel stood there nearly motionless – fumbling through his parts without even screaming the second verse. The band broke into one last half-time riff, turning the pit into a violent sea of fists and elbows, before ringing out the final note. Daniel had planned a parting line in his head but was too lost in the anarchy in front of him. A serious brawl had broken out, and the door man was rushing over to break it up.

The band tore their gear down without incident, looking disheveled and out of sorts. After the gear was unloaded and set to the side, Daniel approached the bar to get some water. It didn’t take long for Jason to find him there, nearly shaking from the experience.

“Dude, we killed!” Jason said.

“That was incredible.” The words flew out of Daniel, soft and hurried. “It was like, man, they just flipped shit all at once. They felt… something; they felt -”

“… your energy,” a voice said to their right.

The man at the end of the bar was older and slightly out of place amidst the heavy metal patrons. He got up from his stool and approached the two boys. “They felt your energy, and it moved them. Things got kinda…” the corner of his mouth twitched, “… crazy, but that’s how kids are nowadays, right?”

Jason glanced at his vocalist, unsure of what to say. “Yeah, I guess.”

“Forgive me,” the man said, pulling a business card from his pocket. “My name’s Bill Isle. I’m with Six-Eight Management. I’m sorry Eirik couldn’t make it out.”

The look Daniel shot Jason said one thing and one thing only to him: Oh my God. This is Rites of Evocation’s manager.

“Oh it’s okay, we understand.” Daniel took the card and stared at it in mild disbelief before pocketing it. He kept his hand in the pocket, fingering the sharp edge of the card.

“I’ll be frank with you – you’re band is a little… green, shall we say. But you have potential, and you can clearly stir a crowd.” Mr. Isle flashed a demure grin.

Jason tentatively nodded, letting his silence do the speaking. He felt a strong tugging inside that told him to speak his mind but kept it subdued. Daniel, however, was less inclined.

“Yeah, I mean, we’re kinda new on the scene right now. We play a lot of shows though and people always go nuts like that.” Daniel tossed his black hair back. “It’s all about aggression, dominance; if someone gets hurt, that’s their problem. You gotta kill or be killed.”

Jason eyed his vocalist while Mr. Isle chuckled, noting Daniel’s unusually aggressive behavior. He felt a sickly tingle wash over his body. “I’m going to load my bass rig,” he said.

“Hold on,” Mr. Isle said, reaching out for him. His touch was warm and clammy. “I’d like to discuss the future of Misanthropy; to discuss your goals and whether I can be of service.”

“Absolutely,” Daniel replied. “We’ll go get the other guys and -”

“Hey,” Jason interrupted. “Excuse us for a moment.” He pulled Daniel aside. “I don’t know about this guy. I think we should research his agency before we talk to him.”

“How can talking hurt? Besides he knows Eirik – he’s obviously legit. You go be a pussy and do your research, I’m gonna be getting us signed.”

Jason felt that sickly tingle hasten into a wave of nausea. The urge to get out, and quick, was overwhelming. Loading the bass rig would have to wait. His house wasn’t far, and if he was getting ill anywhere, it would be there.

He flew home where he then retched without mercy. There hadn’t been much food in his gut; the soupy bile that lined his stomach was foul and acidic coming up. Jason heaved till there was nothing left, tore off his shirt, and staggered down the hall to his room, wondering what could have made his innards erupt that unexpectedly. His only wish was to dive head-first into bed, but there were more pressing matters.

Jason booted his laptop and fired up Google. He typed in “68 Management” and hit enter. Nothing of interest appeared. Jason cleared the text box, typed “Bill Isle”, and hit enter. No dice.

“This guy’s nobody.” He spoke aloud to himself.

Something came over Jason and prodded him to keep digging. Maybe it was the tingling feeling that had surfaced before and was now slowly creeping up his extremities. He highlighted the name and stared at it intently. His head was throbbing from the dry-heaves, but somehow he figured that combining the two terms would maybe yield a result. Jason searched once more, typing in “Bill Isle 68”. He hit the enter key.

The first line under the text box – right above the results – seemed to snatch the breath right out of his lungs.

Did you mean: Belial 68th?

Jason didn’t need to read any of the articles. He knew that Belial, one of four crown princes of Hell, was the 68th demon of the Lesser Key of Soloman and a wicked deceiver of men. Jason also knew the story of…

Oh God, no… I don’t want to die.

… the mage of Goetia that was tempted by Belial…

“Nobody, you say?” Daniel said from the shadows of the hallway. “You are wrong, my friend. Very wrong.” He slid under the doorway, cradling a long kitchen knife against his inner arm.

…The mage was told he could be risen to the pinnacle of wizardry in exchange for both his allegiance to Belial and the blood of… of…

… of a sacrifice.

Daniel lunged forward, flashing the knife in a sweeping, reverse-grip arc. He was a mere three inches away from slicing Jason’s throat open and would have done just that if not for catching the side of a practice amp. His sheer momentum sent the two of them to the floor in a tangled mess, with Daniel’s forehead butting Jason’s left eye as they hit the ground. Jason’s vision suffered an explosion of tiny lights, buzzing and dancing around like fire-flies.

Almost immediately after, he felt the cool, sharp steel of Daniel’s blade slice through the flesh of his stomach. The knife slowly twisted, cutting upward into Jason’s entrails and causing his body to spasm wildly. The sting of the initial puncture was nothing in comparison to the sensation of razor-sharp steel exploring his intestines. He would’ve wailed and pleaded in agony had he any manner of voice to do so.

“Accipe sacrificium Princeps Inferni. Accipe sacrificium consummat et voluntatem meam.” The words poured from Daniel’s mouth with a seductive rhythm. They strangely eased Jason’s struggle, and  almost allowed him to fade away completely. Almost, until he saw the familiar card that had slipped out of Daniel’s pocket.

A passage from his very first occult text leaped into his mind: The influence of the evoked can be banished when the medium of that influence is breached by a soul who is immune to the sway of the evoked.

Daniel withdrew the knife, and blood oozed freely from Jason’s carved-up belly. The blade painted a dark red sweep across his body; his tormentor stopping the blade tip as it reached Jason’s heaving chest. Jason plucked the business card from the floor next to him. He ripped it in half as Daniel poised to plunge the knife downward.

All at once, the dark lifelessness in Daniel’s eyes began to brighten. His hand trembled and eventually dropped the knife, as consciousness crashed down upon him. Jason’s bleeding, and soon-to-be lifeless body laid before him.

“Ohhhh, oh God… oh God…”

“God? … God isn’t here, boy.” Belial’s voice whispered behind him.

Daniel felt the demon’s hot breath on his neck. He dared not turned around. He didn’t have to; his eye caught the creature’s reflection in Jason’s dresser mirror. The once groomed visage of Bill Isle now sat perched behind him –  a vile, grizzly abomination with bulging bug-eyes and scaly flesh.

Please let me die here – while I have the strength… Daniel prayed to himself.

Belial smirked at him in the mirror.

“It’s not your time,” the demon whispered. He drew Daniel in close with a coarsely scaled hand. “There are more lessons in misanthropy for you yet.”

By Nicholas Cooke

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