I Don't Belong Here

character fiction for Bedrock of The Sultans campaign

16 April 11:00PM
“When you were here before
Couldn’t look you in the eye
You’re just like an angel,
Your skin makes me cry”

Judah Schiff and his band mate Trey Foxx sat in the Liar’s Club in Twentynine Palms and istened to the girl sing this song. They had driven up here in hopes of finding a new lead singer for their band. This girl was perfect. She had the look and a voice filled with desire; richer than mere wanting and more powerful than longing.

They had played this place not three months ago – back when they still had a band. And had rocked it. But, with her – they could be so much more. Judah shut out their music and placed her voice over their songs. The mix in his head sounded the way he had dreamed they could sound. With her, they could be special.

“I told you – she’s amazing.” Trey said between songs.

“She’s electric.” Judah replied, “There’s something about her. Think she’ll ditch those loses for us?” He asked with a smile.

“They can’t really play at all, the drummer can hardly hold a beat and the guitar player only knows those three chords.” Trey said despairingly.

Judah took a long pull on his beer and smiled the singer. She returned it with a note of recognition. But, he had no idea where he knew her from. She gave the hand signal for the chorus and the band fell back into together. Judah rode the emotions of her voice and found himself lost in it.

“You float like a feather
In a beautiful world
I wish I was special
You’re so f**kin’ special”

At the end of the set, he looked over to see that Trey had left to chase a girl at the bar. She seemed his type: a little drunk and a lot impressed.

“I’m Alex.” Said a woman’s voice from behind him.

He turned to see it was the singer. She wasn’t really beautiful in the classic sense. She had overly-mascaraed eyes, dyed-blonde, wavy hair that was long enough that it hung in her face; her smile was crooked and it gave her a vaguely sinister appearance. She was wearing black leather shorts, black tights and a loose-fitting, white “Let’s Active” t-shirt that looked very old and worn. She had extended her hand.

“I’m Judah.” He said as he stood and shook her hand. “Please have a seat.”

“God – I know who you are.” She said, gushing a little. “I’ve seen you guys seven or eight times; all over.” She held up her right hand and was wearing one a red, leather glove that he knew Trey liked to wear. He often threw them out into the crowd after an especially good show. “So, how’d you like the show?” She asked.

“You’re fantastic.” Judah said. “I got lost in your voice.” He smiled, and felt a little like a school boy with a crush; surprised that her voice had that effect on him.

“Thanks.” Alex said, blushing and putting a Clippers baseball hat on, and pulling it down low. She was shorter than she looked on stange. “Thank you.” She said when one of the waitresses placed a glass of orange juice in front of her.

They exchanged small talk for a bit. Judah wondering if Trey was ever going to come back over; Alex wondering where the rest of her band was.

“Are you doing another set?” Judah asked after a bit.

“Yeah – our third set starts at,” she checked her watch, “one. I’ll need to go and change and get ready in a few.”

“But I’m a creep
I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doin’ here?
I don’t belong here”

Judah smiled, “Mind if I stick around and listen?”

“Oh no! Not at all. Please do.” Alex said. “I’d like that; you wanna go and get something to eat after?” The words just seemed to spill out of her mouth, then an embarrassed blush.

“Yeah – sure. That would be nice.” Judah said, somewhat relieved that she had blurted that out before he did.

Trey waved goodnight to him before the start of the third set. He had a pretty girl on his arm and hotel keys in his hand. Judah nodded with a smile.

The third set was always the most rowdy. Bar patrons who had been sober fans during the second set were now drunken idiots. Alex seemed to play to them – a little more flirt, a little more skin. Sill, her voice haunted Judah. He let it wash over him. The band seem a bit more impaired as well – missing more often than they had in the second set. But they played with more energy. The bass player practically kept the rhythm in his bounce.

As the set wound down, they started into Creep again ...

“I don’t care if it hurts
I wanna have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul”

The lyrics came out as a whispered cry and it felt like she was crying out to him. In his mind, he played guitar under her voice. He heard Trey’s drumming in the back. He could hear how her melodic voice would mix with his. As she sang one of her band’s compositions, he noted how dark and lonely the lyrics ran. It reminded him of the songs he wrote when they first came to Salton: the way his brother had seemed to just fade away – even as their mother had gotten lost in a bottle. He could almost feel the black eye his father had given him. He opened his eyes wide; surprised to find her standing in front of him – the set over.

“You fall asleep on me, Judah?” She asked.

“No – I was just lost in my head.” He answered, “The last set was even better than that second. You guys really rocked it.”

“Thanks.” She smiled at him, “I’m hungry – take me to get something to eat.”

Judah nodded and stood; took her arm and walked her out to his car. It was an black 1969 Pontiac GTO with a white top. The lights from the parking lot reflected in its glossy finish – giving it a dark, milky look.

“Nice ride.” Alex said, admiring the vintage muscle car.

“Well, the inside is still trashed.” He apologized opening the door for her. The seats were ripped in several places and the interior door panel was missing on the passenger’s side. “But, the motor and the exterior are in good shape.”

He turned the engine over and it roared to life, windows rolled down they drove over to an all-night diner where they had pancakes with syrup and juice.

“You interested in leaving your band?” Judah asked. “Trey and I are looking for a singer and a bass player. We love for you to front us.”

Alex flashed a genuine smile. “Really? Me? I’d love to. I think those guys have taken me as far as I can go.” She reached over the table and took his hand, “But, I don’t like to date people I’m in a band with. It’s not good.”

“Are you dating Trey?” He asked.

“I kinda hope that I’m dating you.” She replied to him, a wide smile growing on her face.

“Yeah?” Judah said, surprised. “Will you go out with me later today? Maybe dinner? I can always find another singer.”

She nodded, “My dad’s a member of the North Shore Yacht Club – do you know it?” Judah nodded. “You bought this, we can go there and have steak – my dad will cover it.”

“I like to pay my own way.” Judah said, a little defensively; he hadn’t been able to afford a real steak since before his mom had gotten sick.

“Don’t worry, baby. You’ll forget that you’re not paying by the time you figure out how high-maintenance I am.” She laughed.

Judah smiled and nodded. “OK – I can be there at 6 or so.”

“That works.” She grabbed the keys to his car and said, “Let’s go someplace.”

Judah nodded, knowing that if it had been anyone else who had taken the keys to his car he would have freaked. “You want to drive?”

“Can I?” She asked.

“Yeah – drive wherever you want to go – just try and not wreck her. It’s taken most of the money I have made this year to get her looking this good.” Judah replied.

It’s weird getting in the passenger’s door of you usually drive and Judah really couldn’t believe that he was allowing this girl he had just met to drive his girl. The big engine roared and she burned the tires as she pulled out of the diner. He wished that he had already made this a convertible as he imagined Alex’ hair pushed back by the wind. She turned past the entrance to the Joshua Tree National Park.

Judah started to protest, he had not been comfortable here since his change. It was like the earth was speaking to him, and it wasn’t really very friendly. He felt the change when they got to the base of the Queen Mountain; something in him felt a coldness – like the earth itself was rejecting him. It always reminded him of the day he found his mother’s dead body in their house.

He was somewhat startled when he felt Alex take his hand. It was comforting, if somewhat colder than he expected. She smiled at him and he realized that they hadn’t said a word since entering the park.

“I want you to notice
When I’m not around
You’re so fuckin’ special
I wish I was special”

She pulled off the road and out of sight. The silence wrapped them like a blanket. They got out and lay on the hood of the car and looked into the endless sky. Judah remembered how Alex’ voice had sounded: lonely, alive, melancholy and a little scared – exactly the way this place made him feel.

Judah rolled over on the hood and kissed her. Her lips tasted like oranges, but she smelled like a bar. For many people, this would be a turn off; but most of Judah’s best memories were in bars and clubs. She smelled like happiness to him. They made love under the stars and Judah slipped into sleep with Alex in his arms.

It was a cactus that woke him. “You are not of this place, little one.” It said. The cactus stood ten feet tall. “We don’t want you here; you don’t belong here.” The cactus sang in a voice that sounded very much like Alex’:

But I’m a creep
I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doin’ here?
I don’t belong here, ohhhh”

“GO!” The cactus shouted at him.

He was shivering and Alex was no where to be found. Confused and frightened, he looked around the area and called her name. But she was no-where to be found; but there was a note in the driver’s seat of the car. It read: “North Shore Yacht Club, 6PM”. It was written in Alex’ shade of lipstick.

He drove out of Joshua Tree as fast as his car would carry him. It didn’t seem odd to him that Alex would not be there with him. She had given him an odd feeling of peace. He would see her for dinner tonight.

That day seemed to drag on; and nothing seemed to work right for him. He kept seeing her face and hearing her voice. When his day was over, he ran home to wash the grit and grease of the mechanic’s shop off of him.

He pulled on a pair of worn-but-not-faded jeans and a black shirt and drove over to meet her. He didn’t see her.

“Excuse me,” he said to the hostess, “I’m looking for Alex Walsh; have you seen her?”

A black look passed the older woman’s face. “That’s not funny, sir.”

She’s running out again
She’s running out
She run run run run ...

Judah couldn’t believe that she had played him *after* sex. Confused, he asked again, “I’m not trying to be funny.” He replied, “She asked me to meet her here – tonight.”

She waved her manager over and – after a hushed conversation – he left and walked into the dining room and after a couple of minutes, he returned and waved Judah over. Judah’s feeling of confusion only mounted; he looked over his shoulder for the police.

“That man would like to speak with you.” He pointed to a older man sitting with two women, one of which was (he hoped) his daughter. Judah nodded and walked over.

“Walk with me young man.” The older man said as he stood and walked outside to the pier. This close to the water the air smelled of salt, dead fish and decay. “Alex Walsh is my daughter.” The older man began.

Judah nodded knowing where this was going. She was old enough; and it had been consensual. “Look, sir; I did ...” he began before he was cut off.

“You don’t understand, son.” He began. “Alex died 20 years ago today. She was murdered in Joshua Tree.” His eyes glassed over with tears. “We hoped that she was just lost or had run-away ... she had always been that kind of girl. She was a singer.” Mr. Walsh rambled on about how they had hoped she was in LA with a better band; until they found her body. Half eaten by coyotes in the desert. She had been killed by her guitar player – he was jealous that she was going to leave for another band. He claimed that he loved her.

Judah showed him the note that he had folded in his pocket. The older man let out a sob when he saw it. “That’s her handwriting.” He said. “I don’t understand.” He said, clearing his throat and wiping back tears. “I don’t understand.”

Judah stood with him as they looked over the vile, stinking water. “I am very sorry for your loss. I have no desire to bring this kind of pain back on you or your family.” Judah said sadly. “I’ll go now.”

“No. Please. Stay. Have dinner with us, the strip here is very good. Just don’t talk about Alex with my wife. My name is Thomas Walsh; call me Tom.” They walked back to the table and Judah ordered steak.

Whatever makes you happy
Whatever you want
You’re fuckin’ special
I wish I was special

The conversation was light. The Walsh’s were fine people; he was even their mechanic – though he had never met them. They were talking of moving back to San Jose; but they stayed here to stay close to ... something that they wouldn’t talk about. But Judah knew to be Alex. He was certain that she would want them to move on; but how do you say that. It was the most uncomfortable, delicious meal he had ever had.

I don’t belong here.

- Creep lyrics by Radiohead