Monday, June 3, 2013

Day 6 of 10 Days of Excerpts -- Youth in a Bottle

Okay, I know I said something last week about 10 excerpts in 10 days, but you and I both know I meant 10 excerpts in 12 days, right? I mean, that is what I meant to say...really...

And today's excerpt is from my short story, Youth in a Bottle, which for those of us with a few years on us is an intriguing idea. It was for the main character of this story, aging burned-out rock star Grace Smith, until she found out what it was the bottle contained.

You can still get Youth in a Bottle (the story, not the youth), and the rest of my collection THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES, for just 99 cents, for download to your Kindle here or for download to your Nook here.

And now, for today's excerpt:


...Tonight none of that mattered. Grace felt more alive, more like a singer, more like a rock star than she had in nearly a decade. The announcer quieted the crowd, called her name and Grace sprinted onto the stage.

She dove in to her opening set, deep voice bellowing the lyrics at a fevered pitch. Diehard Grace Smith fans made up the audience. They had come despite the vitriolic reviews of recent shows, and soon were screaming for more, their fists pumping in time with the music. After ninety minutes, the appointed time for the concert to end, Grace was nowhere near finished. She turned to her band.

“All right boys, that's enough of a warm-up, now let's rock the house,” she called into the mic. The band members glanced at one another, surprise on their faces. So far the daily script for the tour had been play hard for ninety minutes, sometimes less, then get off the stage and the rest of the night belonged to them.

“I said, let’s ROCK THE HOUSE,” Grace screamed. The audience joined in, their cries for more echoing off the walls, the roof. The band members kicked in on their respective instruments. For another ninety minutes they played, the audience cheered, and Grace was in heaven. She forgot about being old, about being tired, about the small but now-rabid audience. For those ninety minutes it was just her and the music, melding together. Finally Grace’s agent, who doubled as her road manager, got her attention from the wings. He was pointing at his watch – if the band and crew didn’t clear the building by midnight he’d have to cough up another day’s rent.

She sang two more songs, then exited the stage.

“Damn, that felt incredible,” she screamed as her bandmates followed into the wings. Grace hugged each one of them – another surprise, since she had barely acknowledged their existence during the tour. “Great show guys.” She jogged to her dressing room, shut the door behind her and leaned against the wall, eyes closed, listening to cheers filtering from the concert hall.

“Quite a show.”

Her eyes snapped open.

“How did you ... you weren’t here a second ago,” she said.

“I was, I chose not to be seen. I must compliment you, Ms. Smith, on a stirring performance.” He bowed slightly. “I see you tried the elixir.”

“Yeah, I tried it, so what?” She walked across the room, brushing roughly against the man.

“Come, come, Ms. Smith, I would think you’d be ecstatic with the results.”

“Results? I drank it, nothing happened. I suppose you’ll get a good laugh out of that, making me believe I could find youth again in that damn little bottle.”

“That’s exactly what you found, Ms. Smith. Youth. At least a few hours of that most precious commodity.”

“Like hell. That stuff is about as worthless as—”

“You sang tonight like you were thirty. You even look younger."

Despite her cynicism Grace twirled to the mirror. She leaned close. Sweat glistened on her skin, but even through the perspiration she could see the lines on her face where a tad shallower, the circles under her eyes a bit faded. She faced the stranger.

“What did you give me?”

“Oh, I’m not sure you really want to know just yet. Later, once you begin to truly understand what it means to grow young.”

“What did you give me?”

The man smiled, but remained silent.

Grace maintained a hard stare. As a young rock singer she had been naturally defiant whenever a manger or bar owner tried to bully her. She felt the same emotion tonight, another feeling she had not known in years.

“I said tell me.”

More silence.

“I got all night,” Grace said.

“As you wish. The vial was filled with blood. Human blood.”

The defiance left her body like helium escaping a popped balloon. Grace grabbed her belly, turned to the dressing table and leaned against it for support. Her stomach heaved. Vomit filled her mouth before spilling onto the tabletop. ...

Read the rest of Youth in a Bottle (the story, not the youth), and my collection THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES, for just 99 cents, for download to your Kindle here or for download to your Nook here.

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