These feelings save him. Is he dead from our cause, or is he from another?
— The Red Code
Jump in the Fire
Burning droplets of liquid life descend unto the artificially crafted slabs of solidified paste, creating a series of impacts so intensely connected they sound as if they were one sizzling sound of melting flesh.
“Fucking fucking fuck!”
A man of flesh and blood enters into the lightning storm of holy bullets.
“Dude, what the fuck man?”
Each blade of restoration lands with fatal force, many succumb to the transformation that would render them with the air that supports our consumption in every waking moment.
“Fucking asshole floorboard FUCK MAN!”
The gaseous state of life seeks companionship, so they release many like their previous lives from the skin of our protagonist.
“Dude, fucking chill, you fucking dealt with those fuckers in the fucking arena you can fucking stub your toe.”
His skin melts.
“Fucking fuck Lars! FUUUUUUCK.”
This conversation continues repeatedly in the mind of the man who was one of two who engaged in the argument. He can’t stop perseverating on it. Though he struggles within not to admit so, he finds this conversation perfectly personifies the problems that the Metallica family faces. It is in the moment when we discover his existence in this narrative that he must recognize he is the greatest agitator of the situation.
“We just put out our second album,” Cliff Burton says to himself. “Only two records. And we can’t stick together like a couple of years ago. I wouldn’t exactly call us financial successes. It’s not time to break up. Y’know, I’m thankful for everything but…I mean…something’s not right.”
Cliff looks at the drops of hot water drip across the inside of the shower curtain. They’re an army of depleting youths that search for a purpose which they only question when their mind fades into blackness.
“No, no, I know exactly what’s not right. That album still has some of Dave’s stuff. Publishing another guy’s material…especially since I think he has a new band…I don’t really care how that asshole feels about it, but I just…I need to be able to tell people ‘Yeah, we wrote that.’ I think everybody else does too. Otherwise-”
What the fuck?
Large drops of cold water start to fall from the ceiling. In search of answers, Cliff figures he was messing around with the detachable shower head and got the ceiling wet. He puts the shower head back in place and expects the drops to stop.
They don’t. The drops of cold water keep going minutes after. Cliff steps to the back edge of the shower so that the cold water hits him not. This would also mean his hot water is harder to come by.
“What was I thinking about…?....Oh yeah, the next album. I gotta talk to James about doing another instrumental thing. Like the last track on-”
More drops of water.
“WHAT THE FUCKING HELL IS GOING ON? FUCK ME!!!”
Cliff looks all over the ceiling for any leaks or anti-gravity puddles. As would seem likely, nothing appears. He looks thoroughly for a source. He’s completely frustrated. But he can’t do anything about it. Instead of relieving himself of frustration and move into content, he simply settles on building frustration until he is so pissed off he is unable to think. Cliff looks down and pinches his forehead. He closes his eyes. Attempting to relax. He opens them. He grabs some shampoo. He puts some in his hand. He throws it in his hair. He lathers. He takes his hands out. They’re red.
It’s not supposed to look red. Is it? Maybe it’s that fancy ass shampoo. Cliff grabs the bottle. Pours some out. It’s green. Says some stupid crap about leaves and kangaroos. The green turns red.
He attempts to ignore it. He closes his eyes. He lathers. He rinses. He gets paranoid. He opens his eyes preemptively. When the shampoo comes roaring down his long flowing hair, it is not a pink bath of soaps and suds…it is a burning river of thick redness. His hair feels matted and smells like shit.
Cliff stands up. He looks at his chest. There are half a dozen red blots on his chest. Another one falls on his chest.
Blood is falling from the ceiling.
Cliff attempts to jump and escape the shower, but simply slips and falls, hitting his nose against the edge in the process. He feels a boulder inject into the space between his nostrils, shattering and splintering the cartilage. Blood seeps out in deceivingly small amounts. The blood flow feels as if the Atlantic Ocean filled up with dead algae and fish skeletons, to be dumped into Cliff’s sinuses at once. Yet there’s only a steady stream of blood escaping his nose.
The shower head gushes thick, salty blood before Cliff falls into unconsciousness.
Seven Dates of Hell
A square blast of sunlight echoes into existence, chopped to pieces by artificial manipulators. The mildly blinding whiteness instantly penetrates Cliff’s eyes, yet they slowly and gradually come to be realized by his conscious mind. Waking into this golden morning from the crisp night before feels, Cliff feels as if he has overcome a night of no sleep at all. He can hear the Ecstasy of Gold stuck in the back of his head.
He is randomly emotional. This isn’t a mild symptom either; his mind is undergoing a virtually epileptic panic, even if his body remains tired and steady. This is likely a result of the anxiety that the entire group suffers from, yet has not been dealt with clinically. Instead they have chosen to battle one of their demons with another one:
“Hey Cliff, you want a beer?”
Cliff forces his eyes to shatter the sandman’s hardened grain of nightfall.
“What time is it?” Cliff means to ask in a calm tone. His exhaustion caused his voice to give the impression that he was agitated.
“Fuck if I know,” says Kirk, “sun just rose up a little while ago, if that gives you an idea.”
“So then…I guess…umm…why the fuck are you giving me a beer at three in the morning?”
“I never said it was three in the morning.”
“and there’s never a bad time for a fucking beer. Right Lars?”
“Fucking right asshole!” Lars says humorously.
“Okay…I guess my real question is why are you two sitting right next to my bunk in lawn chairs?”
“We wanted to make sure you were safe,” James says, standing behind Kirk and Lars who are sitting in front of Cliff’s lower bunk in lawn chairs.
“You slipped in the shower and broke your nose.”
Memory’s coming back………………
That’s not what happened.
“So did you guys find a hospital?”
“Not yet,” Lars says. “Really getting fucking tired.”
“Not yet? How long has it been?”
“Not long,” Kirk says. “There isn’t a fucking hospital in all of France.”
“You sound okay though,” James says. “You ain’t just forcing the pain down are you?”
“Fucking great!” Lars exclaims. “We don’t have to cancel the fucking show!” He says as he gets out of the chair and starts clapping.
“I don’t know if…” Cliff starts.
“…Nah, never mind. Show’s on. I’ll be okay. Dunno if I can do backing vocals tonight though.”
“That’ll be alright,” James says. “I gotchya covered.”
Says the guy who’ll never get over his stage fright.
“Get over that fucking nose quickly,” Lars says smiling and patting him on the shoulder.
“You tell me when you find the fountain of miracles,” Cliff replies sarcastically.
“I thought it was the fountain of youth,” Kirk says quietly.
That conversation happened on the third night of the “Bang That Head That Doesn’t Bang” tour in 1984. There were seven dates in a row that took place in France, not to mention the kickoff in Rouen. The first in a string of seven French dates was in Paris on the 18th of November. They would move onto Lyon, Marseilles, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Montpellier and a city called Nice.
The first one in Paris was built up as built as “TRAPPED IN FRANCE.” Obviously playing around with song titles from the new album. Cliff was so focused on playing that he never really paid too much attention to the fans. Though he was relieved of doing backing vocals tonight, he wouldn’t be less stressed. The pain was getting worse. It’s obvious he didn’t break his nose. He fell on his back, then the blood came from the ceiling and the shower head and the…
He continues to push that thought out of his mind.
The other thing that caught his mind was the conversation he had when he woke up this morning. He didn’t say fuck once then. And of all people in the band, he usually said fuck the most. He wanted this to be a good thing, he had been aiming at this for a long time…but something was missing there. Like he was supposed to say fuck. Like without him saying fuck his position wasn’t being filled and the band was out of order.
This was always something Cliff worried about. Paranoid about how, if he couldn’t do something, it wouldn’t be done, and the world would fall out of order.
Later shows in the tour saw him not thinking so much about those things and having more concentration on the bass playing.
So would have been in an ideal world’s version of the French dates.
By the time they got into Toulouse, it had fully registered that Cliff was getting fucking annoyed of some of these fans. They were doing stupid shit and yelling stupid stuff, being stupid people. That’s really all that went through his head while all the energy and chaos was everywhere. Fat pricks getting on stage, drunk assholes hitting people…of the opposite gender…It got bad when he was accidentally tackled by a fan outside the Montpellier show. He was a fat dude too, like at least 250 pounds. You didn’t see much of that in France either. Sure everyone’s fat but not HUGE. What great luck.
At its worst, Cliff referring to them as “frogs” subconsciously. He would push the slurs away before he could register them in his conscious mind or say them out loud.
His head feels as if a million creatures, dwarfed to viruses, successfully sought to become molten lava and are scattered in a fiery frenzy across his scalp. His cheek feels a sickening, bubbling purple, his eyes crust with green fatigue, his entire body heats to a broil and smoothly itches. His preoccupied mind has only registered all this as a minor inconvenience, and it is this misconception that has affected his mood all sleepless night. But after some calmness and room for thought, he comprehends the true nature of this sickness, and bursts out the door.
Well there goes my streak of two weeks.
“Your fucking nose bleeding again?”
“No, it ain’t that, Lars. Fucking hair is itchy as all Hell!”
“That fuckin’ shower’s there for a reason you know.”
“Hey man,” Kirk says “you figure he might not want to after he broke his fucking nose in there.”
“No, Kirk. I’ve been fucking showering.”
“Your pillow!” James yells from the bedroom.
“No wonder you weren’t focusing as hard as you usually do,” James says as he comes out of the bedroom.
“Yeah, that was pretty fucking weird,” Lars says.
“What are you guys talking about?” Cliff asks.
“Dude,” Kirk says, “whenever we fuck up you look at us like we just ruined your life. When was the last time you couldn’t focus?”
“OH MY FUCKING GOD GUYS NO!!!” Cliff yells. “WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH MY MOTHERFUCKING PILLOW?!!?” as he nearly punches a hole in the wall.
Silence for a little bit.
“Ummm…” Lars. “I ugh…”
“Ah, fucking forget it. I’m going to bed.”
“Not a good idea,” James says.
“WHY FUCKING NOT?!?!”
“FUCKING FINALLY SOMEBODY TELL---wait…what?”
“With your mop?” James says.
“With our mops more like,” Lars says.
“This is like the worst fucking day in the history of the world,” Cliff says.
“How do you get rid of that shit?” Kirk asks as he pretends to laugh.
“I’d ask a doctor but I can’t find one in this godforsaken country,” James says.
“Aren’t we gonna be in Italy in like five minutes?” Lars asks.
“Oh yeah, like that makes it better,” Kirk says.
“I had an Italian friend when I was a little kid,” Lars says. “I know a little bit of-”
“You were a little kid?” Cliff asks.
James and Kirk laugh awkwardly.
“Dude, not fucking cool,” Lars says.
“Dude, fucking chill, it was a fucking joke,” Cliff says back.
“I’m not gonna fucking chill, man, that was fucking insulting.”
“Don’t get fucking prickish, dude.”
“Both of you fucking chill,” James says.
“I have nothing to chill the fuck over, Lars is the only one who needs to fucking chill!” Cliff says.
“You were the one who was just exploding over a motherfucking pillow!” Lars yells.
“That was then, this is now!” Cliff says.
“If then was five seconds ago then is now ten years in the future?” Lars finishes.
Silence for a little bit.
“What the fuck did he just say?” Cliff said.
“No, I’m fucking serious; did he just start talking in Dutch or something?”
“Dude, no…” Kirk says “we have better fucking things to be doing.”
Too late. Lars just hit Cliff over the head with a beer bottle. And it didn’t break.
“Maybe that’ll fucking kill your lice you fucking cunt.”
“DUDE, WHAT THE FUCK?!” James yells. He tackles Lars and brings him to the floor.
Cliff’s neck experiences the force of a biblical sandstorm. His head swerves to the left. His body jumps into the fire. His mind adjusts ten years later to realize he was falling into the wall. His head takes even more damage. He’s about ready to pass out. James puts his feet against the wall of the tour bus to keep from falling. Kirk clings onto the edges of a window.
“Dude…guys…the tour bus nearly toppled over,” Kirk says.
“No more of this shit,” James says. “I agree,” Cliff says barely escaping unconsciousness. “Now get me to a doctor.” He then washes into the blackness of sleep.
Die, Die My Darling
Metallica just finished their show in London yesterday. It was an absolute blast. Cliff was at his best last night. James was giving it his all, his voice has been sounding more and more solid. Lars was showing promise he’d never shown before, with no mistakes and drum solos. Kirk was pitch-perfect to the songs. The fans were deafeningly loud and the band equally sent the energy back.
Now they’re heading home. Good ol’ California. Enough of the cold weather and fat food, they need some hot air in the home of thrash. They’re driving to the airport in the tour bus. You would figure they’d like to just stay in the bus, but there’s an ocean in between France and The Bay.
Anyways, we have a little more time with the bandmates in the tour bus. Let’s see if anything big happens.
Well, Lars just fell flat on his face.
“Remind me how this shit happens again?” Lars says.
“We drove by a goddamn horse farm,” James says as he pushes a tissue box into the window.
“Is that what they call it? Just horse farms? Not ‘The Fucking Apocalypse Ranch?’” Kirk asks.
“No but I could totally fucking dig that,” James says.
“We should call our next album The Fucking Apocalypse Ranch,” Lars says.
“Hey guys,” Cliff says, “Do I try to smash it or not risk breaking my nose again?”
“Aw no,” James says.
“Don’t tell me he’s got a fly on his nose,” Lars says as he gets up.
Cliff has been in better situations.
“Here goes nothing.”
The sound of Cliff smashing the fly on his nose occurs simultaneously to an unknown sound the same but amplified a dozen fold. Cliff stands slightly petrified, but mostly enraged.
“YOU DICK WHAT WAS THAT FOR?!” He yells at James, who stands right in front of him with his hands clasped above Cliff’s head.
“You were about to get bitten by a black widow,” James says with sandals in those hands.
“How’d fucking spiders get in here?” Lars asks.
“Spiders eat flies…” Kirk says quietly.
“Oh good fucking brains asshole.” Lars.
“Lars, shut the fuck up. You never heard of an open door?” Cliff says.
“What the fuck did you say to me?”
“Hey, James,” Cliff says as he redirects his attention, “do you want to take the legendary triforce of armpit away from my face?”
The car comes to a sudden stop. Kirk hangs onto a wooden plank that is part of the window frame. James keeps his balance by lifting his arms upwards and evening his weight. He plans to use the sandals to protect his face in case this doesn’t work. Lars falls backwards and slides to the front, feet first. Cliff trips and nearly goes through the window, but summersaults into the wall.
“Woah…” Kirk says as he stabilizes. “Cliff, you alright man?”
“Yeah, yeah…I’ll be okay,” Cliff says as he stands up.
Really, it felt like a jolt of speed just got pumped into his heart and his brain has been robbed of all ability to process thoughts. Like all the thoughts were inside of a flowing tube, but some idiots broke the tube open, now all the thoughts are flying everywhere in his headspace.
“Hey, what just happened?” James asks.
Cliff looks out the window.
“Umm…Lions, Tigers and Bears, oh my.”
“What?” Lars asks.
“It’s just farm animals, Lars,” James says. “Some horses, some cows…is that a camel?”
“See, James knows there are wild animals up in here.” Cliff.
“We gonna miss the plane?” Kirk asks.
“If we do it’ll crash,” James says. Cliff shudders. “That’s always what happens, right?”
“Weren’t you going to sell that movie idea to Hollywood?” Lars asks.
“Yeah, maybe. I need a good title though. The best thing I could think of was The Last Journey. Not very…you know...sharp.”
“Final Destination.” Kirk says while laughing.
“…You onto something motherfucker,” James says.
“Seriously, are we gonna miss the goddamn plane!!?” Cliff asks.
“Calm down, Cliff,” Lars says. “We’ll be fucking fine.”
“He’s right, Cliff. We’ll be okay,” James.
Cliff calms down. Something he’s not used to doing.
“Jim…do you want huge food?” Cliff says.
They’re off tour. James Hetfield and Jim “Fatso” Martin are at Cliff’s house in the middle of the night.
“…Fuck yeah, Cliff, I’m in, count me in.”
Cliff grabbed a can of Dennison’s Chili from the upper cabinet. He got it to the can opener, started opening it. For some reason he was always paranoid about the sharp edges – he was told it was a sensory thing by his friends who fancied themselves “esteemed.” (blech) Scientists were making new discoveries about that. Anyways, Cliff takes the open can of chili and puts it on the heated stove.
Cliff grabs a green onion. Places it on the cutting board and slices it. But…no sir. He does not merely slice green onions. Clifford Lee Burton makes certain that every single one of those little motherfuckers is sliced so precisely equally that the aborted son of Ying-Yan and Karma would be foaming at the mouths. This is no mere mental tick, it’s a complete and total obsession.
Cliff leans in on the slice to inspect the size as close as he possibly could with his resources. If it’s merely an atom larger than any of the slices he had finished cutting before, he’s cutting off the parts that inflate the size. If the new slice is too small, then he would go back and cut the previous slices to make sure everything was perfectly equal. On rare occasions – though not as rare as his friends would like - this resulted in construction projects. He would take all the extra chunks that had been cut off the other slices and paste them together into a whole new slice…which of course would be the exact same size as every other piece he had cut previously.
Cliff does some other stuff and serves the chili with chips.
Jim Martin stares a little awkwardly. He’s hungry and he’ll definitely eat it but…
“Man, you couldn’t get any huger, could you?”
"It's huge food, man," Cliff says.
“Fucking love huge food, can’t get any huger,” James says.
After they’re finished, Cliff throws the dishes in the sink. He’d normally go back to the table and they’d start drinking their asses off before they fell asleep at 3 in the morning with dead bodies surrounding them or something. But that didn’t happen.
Because Cliff looked out the window.
“…Hey uugh…James…Jim…you guys might wanna come here.”
“Why’s that?” Jim replies.
“I think somebody is fucking with me.”
James comes over first, Jim follows.
“Dude…fuck…is that what I think it is?” James asks.
“I think so,” Jim says.
“Oh and FUCKING SHIT!” Cliff yells.
Jim leans out the left half of the window.
“That’s a fucking nail,” Jim asks.
“It fucking is,” Cliff says.
“Is it just a fucking ghost dog or is it levitating?” James asks.
“I don’t wanna be the one to find out.” Jim says with a rushing tone.
Frog on a tire.
A dead, bleeding dog is hanging on Cliff’s house, halfway up the window frame, the head pokes out to be plastered against the window.
“…I’m gonna find out,” Cliff says. “This is my fucking house. No dead dog carcass is on my fucking wall and I’m leaving it there. Fuck no.”
“I’m coming,” James says.
“Okay…I’ll come too,” Jim says reluctantly.
They walk outside. The air smells like newly wet sand. The grass is dry as the Colorado air but looks wet as springtime Florida. The sky is blue but black but red.
Cliff walks over to the wall.
The dead dog is nailed in several places. The blood dripping from it is old and dry. It’s red, Cliff says to himself, because it’s blood, but it looks so brown it almost blends in with the dog’s thin fur. The dog’s eyes tell Cliff that the dog died depressed and afraid. No, not sad by fear…or sad by misery…but more sad by sympathy. Like it was aware that some great loss was about to happen, but he couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was, and all he could do is mope in the evil that he had suffered but does not understand.
“Umm…” Jim says. “Should we…I dunno, try to take it off?”
Cliff upchucks onto the dog carcass immediately and with high velocity. He trips a couple of paces and barely avoids running into the carcass. He does get a nice whiff of puke, dead dog carcass and rotting steel. The smell is every horrifying aspect of life and the things that live comprised into one disgusting river of odor. As Cliff falls, he feels his fingers rip apart by the stale and chewed up wood that made his house.
Enter a dreamscape where every nation is lathered in the sufferings of God; with three great primary visions: bloody red, blackened death, and a subtle hint of life depriving blue. From the thick secretion of creation emerges a flowing yet fuzzy portrait where the suffering God stands upon his painted grasses. Cliff stands there, from a distance, observing, a man nailing something to his house.
Cliff walks across ten thousand streets, melted to act as portals to the underworld. He makes minimal progress. Suddenly, his mind captures control over his own creation for only so many moments that he would not become conscious of his Godhood and would fly so far to interact with the man at Cliff’s home.
The man stands several meager inches smaller than our Cliff. He wears a bright red robe tied with golden strings. In many places of the robe stroke a singular canvas that tells an entire story in the simplest form that nature could allow. His eyes stand minimalized and young, for the rest of his face carves an image of endless age, wisdom, experience and trauma. This man’s jaw knows what it is to speak to all children of the holy lands, his beard knows what it is to wait immortally for salvation from the father, his lips know what it is to understand that there is a power higher than he, and his stature knows what is it to perform the most amazing of tasks that has ever been known.
“I…” Cliff starts. He is silent for another twelve minutes that passes as seconds in his mind. “I…am humbled before your presence,” Cliff says with knowledge that we have not yet attained. “Please, I-”
“Spare it, Clifford.”
“You were as involved as the rest of them.”
“I don’t grasp your meaning.”
“Never mind,” The man says. He has finished pounding the last nail. He steps away from the wall to meet Cliff closer. “Despite some distortions and morphing that your mind is projecting onto this dream, what you see this night should be what you saw last night.”
Cliff’s attention is drawn to the endless sky of origin above him. The blue lightning fills the blood red sky…wholly…suddenly…and dryly.
Cliff understands doom now.
“What?” The man asks.
“I’d hope you knew how I reacted the last time a false idol was mentioned to me.”
“You successfully attempted to calm God,” Cliff says as he lowers his head to meet the man’s again. “Then went back to your tribe and were so infuriated that you murdered multiple peoples, including in part your own.”
The man stares stiffly at Cliff.
“Look at the dog, Clifford.”
Cliff takes a few paces back. The dog presented to him earlier is hanging as he had seen it hang previously.
The dog is not how he saw it before.
The dog’s eyes are a burning and aged yellow. His emotion is that of fury and vengeance. He has sickened spots blotting all over his skin. They come in these colors: red, green, white, black with pattern, brown, purple, blue…a color that cannot be distinguished…solid black and a very light gray.
The dog moves its eyes and breathes heavily. Its tongue slips out of its mouth. You could see the maggots digging into the pink flesh. The dog rips away from the wall. The nails that used to hold it taking its gelatinous brain and wet portions of its skin and nervous system. The dog opens its mouth so that Cliff can see the blood soaked teeth rotting with corruption. The dog begins to speak. He does so without moving his mouth.
“You are the eldest son.”
The top jaw of the dog cranes backwards so that it nearly touches the dog’s spine. As it does so, flesh seeps out in floods from the mouth of the creature. Skin crawls off of the head of the dog in a speed proportionate to the speed of which the head cranes backwards. Once it has finally touched the spine, the top jaw snaps back, and the skull bursts into little shards from the neck forward. The dust of the skull falls upon the grass while the skin, eyes, blood, flesh, tongue, maggots, they all fall and become one fleshy mass which should soon be devoured by a vulture.
Cliff looks around. No man to be found.
“WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED?!?! WHAT ABOUT SCOTT?!?! WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU JUST DO TO THAT DOG?!!? WHAT ARE YOU TELILNG ME?!! IS SCOTT DEAD?!? DID YOU FUCKING KILL SCOTT?!?!! FUCKING MURDERER!!!”
Cliff yells and nobody answers. In his rage, he pounds his fist on the ground, before ripping a portion of mother Earth and crushing her in his hands.
“ANSWER YOU ME YOU FUCKER!!! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!?!? DID YOU KILL MY SISTER TO?!!?! FUCK YOUR SHIT!!!!”
Cliff intends to yell at the sky…but all he can see is an epic view of Hell in Heaven.
Until it Sleeps
Cliff Burton storms out of his room.
“James, I know exactly what we need on the next album! It needs to be just like that last song on Ride the Light-”
“Yeah, everybody’s been getting them.” James.
“They don’t look too bad,” Lars says.
“Yeah, doesn’t mean they’re any fucking good either.”
Back to the fucking I see.
“Hey, what the fuck are you guys talking about?” Cliff says.
“James’s got boils,” Kirk says.
“One boil. One fucking boil,” James says.
“This is not good,” Cliff says.
“No, it ain’t,” Lars says.
“…Hey, how’d you guys get into my house?”
“We all have extra keys, Cliff, you remember that?” Kirk says.
“He went to throw up his ‘big food,’” Lars says. “We took that dog down for you. You better be fuckin’ thankful. That was a really fucking creepy thing to do.”
“Umm…what are you talking about?”
“Pretty hard not to notice a dead dog on somebody’s wall.”
“No, I mean, I thought we already took it down.”
“You fainted in your own puke, remember?” James says.
“How do you cure these things, man?” Kirk.
“I don’t fucking know, do I look like an encyclopedia?” Lars asks.
“I think it’s like an itch,” James says. “You just leave it the fuck alone and the little fucker goes away.”
“You cut ‘em off,” Cliff says. “Let the puss drain out and wash your face real good. I don’t know if that kitchen sink is really going to be the best-”
“And how the fuck do you know that?” Asks Lars.
“Connie used to get them a lot when she was a little kid. She got SO fucking embarrassed at them. Mom would always constantly be telling Connie to ‘cut off the head and clean out the body.’ I don’t know if it was just because she was six or what, but she would always forget that and be practically begging to pick at them when she got home. God I feel bad for her.”
“And…you remember all this?” Kirk asks.
“Random ass fixation,” Cliff says.
Lars goes to grab some scissors. He comes up to James, ready to cut off the boil, when Cliff interjects.
“You want to wash the boil after you cut it, remember?”
“Right. You going to bring a fucking bucket or something?”
“Lars, James, let’s go in the kitchen.”
“Why don’t you get a bathroom installed here?” Kirk asks.
“Are any of us rich enough to get a bathroom installed in a house we only use for half the year?”
“If that,” James intersects.
In the kitchen, Cliff fills the sink with water.
“…Why is Lars cutting it for me?” James asks.
“…Yeah that’s a good fucking question,” Cliff says.
“Maybe I’d get angry after I cut it off and left the skin bleeding-”
“Oh, and you’re so sure that I’m as brave as you are?” Lars asks.
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
“Just get it over with,” Cliff says.
James snatches the scissors out of Lars’s hands. Lars gets pissed and runs out.
James opens the scissors to be clamped on the boil. In his mind, he feels himself crunching the scissor handles quicker than God would allow. In reality, beyond perception, he was slow. The pain from the boil being squished before being cut open…it felt as if a flaming skull expanded inside of a new cut. The flaming skull rooted into the nerve endings closest to his normal skull. And the skull was expanding so quickly that it would crack his jaw in half.
The pus from the boil unveils itself. Cliff stands in disbelief as he watches the pus ooze. He expected it to come out as some fuzzy yellow crap, like if puke was put in a shrink machine. But no. It’s blood. It’s blood, probably mixed with water. It has a consistency much thinner than the blood we are familiar with. Red like blood, it’s a lighter shade of red…that which is close enough to blood to represent life and greatness, but far away enough from blood to not cause fear of its loss. It is the happiest color of red. And it’s emerging from this disgusting, annoying abomination. But that isn’t the last of the fear. The fear climaxes when the truth is recognized that this purest blood, the two forms of liquid life coming to mating, is dried, murdered, extinguished, by the ending of this parasitic evil.
“…James…do you need anything?”
“No, I think I’ll be good,” He says as a tear rolls down his cheek.
“Okay, because I got to sit down.”
“Okay, what we got on the agenda today?” Lars asks.
“I think we’re playing in Glenn Falls?” Kirk says as he leans against the back of the driver’s seat.
“And where is that?” Lars asks as he sits down crisscross in front of Kirk.
“It’s like if you took Buffalo, and then you took NYC, and they were two ends of a triangle, and Glenn Falls is the third point,” James says. He stops at the stoplight and takes a left.
Cliff, as he slouches sitting against the wall of the bus underneath the window, begins to come to a realization that has him the most excited he’s been since Ride the Lightning. He’s attempting to hold back some of the excitement, and he does, but not as much as he’d think with this mental effort.
“…Dude, we’re opening up for fucking Ozzy today.”
“And for a few more dates, I think,” James says.
“I’m so fucking nervous,” Kirk says.
“Why?” Lars asks in a tenser tone than he intended.
“Umm…ah fuck…well, Mr. Interviewer, all the rock kids these days are into that kind of accessible ‘heavy metal’ that people are doing today. Like, they’re all listening to Van Halen and Def Leppard and shit.”
“You don’t like Van Halen,” Lars says.
“No, they’re good,” Cliff says, “It’s like, our fans like Van Halen, but do Van Halen fans like us?”
“…Right,” Lars says. “I guess I know what you mean.”
In Cliff’s mind, butterfly cocoons fall from the sky and pile up on their tour bust.
“Ah fuck, hail,” James.
“Hail?” Cliff asks.
“Yeah, you know, that shit that falls on your head.” Lars.
“Very descriptive,” James says.
“Specific too,” Lars retorts.
Cliff climbs up by the window and looks outside.
Honestly, it doesn’t look too different from rain. I mean, they look longer, but they only really look like ice when they land on the ground, and then melt into rain in like half a second.
Sure, Cilff. That’s what you see. But I see millions of souls trapped in little frozen rods. These hollow prisons for beauty spread within themselves and infect the unborn, aborted life with cold nothingness. They land and break with such quickness because of the velocity they attained as the miniscule angels fell from heaven. When they break, they come to be liquid life, murky and poisoned by the interference of mortal demons.
Cliff slouches back down.
“All those fucking Christian idiots portray Heaven like only fucking people get in.” Cliff says. “What about all the beetles and the rhinos and the plants?”
“Only those three,” James jokes.
“No, but, seriously. If you need a soul to be alive, don’t animals go to heaven too? Or something?”
“Aren’t they making that movie?” Lars asks.
“I read about that in a magazine,” Kirk says.
“And you read magazines about fucking cartoon movies?” Lars says.
“I don’t know where I saw it. You know about it, you must’ve read that somewhere too.”
“Nuh-uh, fucker, you told me about it yourself!”
“Shut the fuck up!”
“Kirk fucking loves kids movies now. Has a real passion for it,” Lars stands up. “You got the long hair too, why don’t you just start wearing makeup now, Kirk?”
“Shut the FUCK up!”
“Holy FUCK!” James yells. “We gotta find the next place to get this bus parked under a canopy. These fucking hail balls are getting fucking huge.”
“Oh, what, and get our fucking heads bashed in by fucking falling ice?” Cliff asks.
“Not right now Cliff.”
“Fuck y’all are dipshits.”
“I said not right now Cliff!”
Cliff can feel his feet picked up from under him as God relieves the Earth of gravity. He knows that the sensations of at thousand speeding rivers flow through his soul. He falls shoulder first into the wall of the bus. He holds onto the rims of the window in an intense adrenaline rush.
“Get down guys! This is getting fucking bad!”
Cliff lies down flat on the bus floor.
“At least it’s not fucking turning to blood.”
“DUDE, THAT WAS FUCKING INCREDIBLE!” Cliff yells.
“Duuuh, if they like Van Halen will they like our stuff?” Lars says mocking him.
“THEY FUCKING LOVE US!” Cliff yells.
“I am buying so many fucking rounds for this one!” James yells.
“Encore! Encore! Encore! Encore!” Kirk recites.
“Am I fucking evilll?” Lars sings to the tune of an apocalyptic rubber band.
“Don’t do that again," James says.
“THEY FUCKING LOVED US! IN FRONT OF FUCKING OZZY!” Cliff yells as he shakes James’s shoulders.
“DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS FUCKING MEANS?” James yells as he shakes Cliff’s shoulders back and forth.
“Haha, are we going to be making music videos now?” Kirk says.
“Careful, Kirk, you say that in public and they’re gonna start crucifying us,” James says.
“Yeah but they won’t crucify fucking Mustaine,” Lars says.
“You’re still mad about that?” Kirk asks.
“You weren’t fucking there,” Lars says.
“DUUUUDE I’M NOT GONNA BE ABLE TO STOP FREAKING OUT ABOUT THIS!!!” Cliff yells as he jumps up and down like a small child with his hands shaking in front of his face.
“You better not,” James says. “Because it might just be the same thing tomorrow.”
Cliff is about ready to do a fucking backflip in the middle of the street.
“It’s still pretty damn cold outside,” Kirks says.
“We’re in New York,” Lars says.
“Not the city, though.”
“We’re still pretty close to the ocean.”
“HOOOOLY FUUUUCK!!” Cliff.
“Is he going to be okay?” James asks.
“PROBABLY NOT!!!!” Cliff responds.
“I didn’t know you fucking admired Ozzy Osbourne,” James says.
“Well at least he’s not admiring animated dogs like Kirk,” Lars says.
“I’m gonna hit you over the head with one of your drums,” Kirk says.
“At least you’re not in The Nile anymore,” Lars says.
“What?” Cliff asks.
“At least you’re not in denial anymore.”
“Like how I’m in denial that you actually said denial?”
“What did you thing I said?”
“…Yeah, I said denial.”
“Da Nile is a river in Egypt,” James says.
“I’ll be here all month,” Cliff says.
“No we fucking won’t,” Lars says. “We’ll be in Uniondale by tomorrow.”
“FUCKING EXCITED AS SHIT!” Cliff says as he nearly slips down the stairs to the tour bus.
Kirk is the last one to get on the bus when a fan comes up. He happens to look just like he could fit right in the band.
“Sir, sir, guys, I’m so sorry, but like, dude, ho-ho-holy fuck, you guys were fucking incredible, like, dude, dude, where’s, no, you were playing guitar…there’s no chance I could see the bassist?”
“I play guitar too!!!” James yells from a distance.
“Oh, oh shit, sorry, sorry dude, it’s just, it’s just, y’know, I’m a bassist, and I’m trying hard but DUDE…that guy…he was just…so fucking…”
“See, the thing is man, the bassist is kind of like you right now.”
“REALLY?!? Dude, he was fucking awesome.”
“I am going to give him my fucking signature if it’s the last thing I do!” Cliff says as he emerges from the bus. “Move yo’ skinny ass out of mah way.”
“You’re skinnier and drunker than I am!” Kirk says.
The fan scrambles through his backpack to find something to be signed. He finds a tape of Ride the Lightning. He hands Cliff a green pen.
“Alright…let’s see…” Cliff clicks open the pen. “I think I’ll go simple and sweet. From Cliff Burton, to my biggest fan…”
“…You have a last name?”
“Do you want my last name?”
“Yeah, there’s like ten million Jasons out there and what if you lose it in some freak tsunami-nado?”
“Ugh, okay…Newsted. Jason Newsted.”
“Huh. And do you spell that with an A?”
“From Cliff Burton…to my biggest fan…the legend, Jason Newsted.”
Jason is about to fall over.
Cliff grins. “Anything else?”
“…No, I mean, oh my God, I mean, do you want-”
“It’s cool dude,” Cliff gives the tape to Jason. “Are you from here?”
“No, I’m from Michigan. I just, you know, absolutely fucking loved Ride the Lightning so hard and my cousin lives here, so like, I wanted to show him both you and Ozzy and…”
Cliff extends his arm to Jason. “It’s was good to meet you, Jason. You said you played bass?”
“Yeah.” Jason shakes Cliff’s hand. He can’t believe it right now.
“You have a band we can promote next date?” Cliff asks.
“Umm, I ugh, oh my God, I ugh, it’s a really weird name I don’t know if you guys-”
“The guys who stuck an extra UGH at the end of a word know about weird names.”
“Flotsam and Jetsam.”
“I guess you know a thing about weird names too. I think we’ll give you a shout out.”
Jason can’t take it for much longer. His heart’s about to explode.
“I’ll see you next time we’re in Michigan,” Cliff says as he leaves to go inside the tour bus, with Kirk following.
With the door closed and the bus driven about fifteen minutes, Cliff starts jumping up and down, nearly causing the bus to tip over.
“DUDE! THAT WAS LIKE THE BEST FUCKING NIGHT EVER!”
“You got yourself a number one fan,” Lars says.
“Cliff?” Asks Kirk.
“That guy…I don’t know if you saw the little white stuff on Jake’s hair?”
“Who? You mean Jason? His dandruff?”
“That wasn’t dandruff, dude.”
Lars yells different variations of the word “fuck” until they’re pretty much out of the county.
For the rest of the month, Cliff’s scalp feels like it’s being torn apart and melted simultaneously by an empty one-thousand degree volcano from the end of the universe.
Fade to Black
Night sky’s good tonight. So many stars. Oh, holy fucking shit. A shooting star. Somewhere somebody’s house just got totally ended. Got fucking smashed….man, look at those fucking stars. I fucking love the blue ones. They’re like little diamonds in the sky. Except that might be more like the ones over there in the left…that one in the middle, the one in the lower one, that’s like…dude, is that Neptune? No way, Neptune looks different than that. I…I…
“Hey Lars, what does Neptune look like?”
“Umm…I don’t know Cliff. Like, a planet.”
“My fucking God, I mean from Earth. Like, not in a telescope.”
“I don’t know dude. James, you know?”
“Nah, man. Kirk?”
“I wish I knew. Why, do you think you see it?”
“Ummm…” Cliff begins.
Today is September the twenty-sixth of nineteen eighty-six. Clifford Lee Burton is twenty-four years, seven months and sixteen days old. He stands, leaning against the window pane, wandering towards the stars. He was on a great roll giving colorful life to the stars through his thoughts and perceptions. Now he has been stopped in his tracks by the wiseasses that he has always known as his band mates. They’ve almost always been like this, and he always would be.
Eh, I take that back. Kirk was doing his best. Just, poor fucking guy, more socially awkward than I am. When I was a kid I never thought to be fucking possible. I feel like a fucking pimp now….ugh, fuck, I just wish I could, you know, keep talking about the stars in my head.
Here, let me help you Cliff. I ought to. You see those green stars? They’re like huge whirlpools of slime. Except in that weird universe far, far away, there are people in the whirlpools, and they love swimming in the slime. It’s pure somehow. It’s been touched by God. And it’s huge. It’s the size of a star. All the aliens that love the slime, they love it so much they made a colossus of a hot tub. But the whirlpool stopped moving a long time ago. The chaos ended billions of years in that solar system. Now all of those people live in peace…and forever in peace. All of their emotions and anxieties settled, their thoughts completely balanced.
I also love those pink ones, Cliff. I love them the best, actually. I don’t know much, but I think they’re newborn. They have a really faded shade of pink, but it’s dark, it’s so dark it’s edging on a light purple. They represent a vast array of fast moving emotions. Love, lust, excitement, purity, innocence, enchantment, wisdom…there aren’t many places where all of those emotions gather in perfect unity aside from youth. But those stars tend to be quite self-destructive. One of the saddest things I have ever thought about. Those stars meet each other in a land of confusion, their anxieties at their peak, their tension completely strained. Those who survive should prove themselves to become the greatest thinkers in their elder years of stardom.
“…You know what, dude, Orion was a good fucking track.”
“You said it Cliff!” Said Kirk.
“…I mean it wasn’t my favorite track on the record, we could’ve done some things differently.” Said Lars.
“Like what, Lars?”
“I don’t fucking know, I think the middle needed some extra work. It just sounds out of place.”
“Really? This coming from the guy who said we should do an epic half-symphonic opening to the least sophisticated track on the record?”
“What in the blue fuck do you mean by least sophisticated track?”
“Hey, how’s the new driver doing?” James asked.
“Ah, he’s doing fine,” Kirk said.
“Why the fuck did you want to get a driver anyways?” Lars said.
“Oh, I only wanted to drive around a couple of continents on my own,” James said. “Besides, we made that decision like a month ago! I-”
“Two months ago,” Kirk says.
“Whatever,” James says. “The point is that I wanted a break and we’re getting the money to do it.”
“Oookay…” Says Cliff.
“Hey, you and me Cliff, we gotta figure out who gets pick of the bunks,” Kirk says.
“Oh yeah. You got any cards?”
“I certainly do,” Kirk says with the most confidence Cliff has seen from him all tour. He takes out a deck from his jean pocket. “You get to draw first.”
“I…you draw first.”
“You heard me. I got me a strategy.”
Kirk sets the deck of cards on the table. James shuffles the deck. Lars interjects and makes certain that none of the cards are fixed. James shuffles again.
The first pair of cards hit the desk, and two galaxies collide. One was previously purple, the other a faint white. Now they merge and unify into something of an elixir before finally collapsing into the never –ending reaches of space.
The second pair of cards hit the desk. A dual-solar system sees its reddest sun collapse and form a wave so hot that the empty vacuum surrounding the objects melts into a liquid of absolute nothingness, engulfing her brother and all of their children.
The third pair of cards hit the desk. The fourth pair. The fifth pair. The sixth pair. All through the tenth. We see the clouds of galaxies dissipate. What was once fully inflated protects of millions upon millions of civilizations of life has now peacefully erupted into a disappointing mass of nothingness. Hope is lost as the suns of these galaxies meet to collide with each other.
Another five pairs of cards hit the desk. With each of these a black hole enters the space of a star much larger than itself. The boiling lava of the sun spreads across the black hole. Heat engulfs darkness. But darkness is eternal, darkness is never ending, and eternity must eventually trounce emotional fulfillment. The armor of so many layers of life producing scorching death eventually fades from the mother’s skin by the rapist, and her heart beats so fast that a collapse occurs. But nothing of this collapse reaches allies, only the demon who has dared to find himself in a world that he has never been permitted to enter.
Another ten pairs of cards hit the desk. An even more formidable deviation of these existence-ending behemoths lies in the center of each milky-way. They finally release the restraint of their pull and collect the winnings they had created for this very reason. Life similar to Earth’s, plant, animal, lush with the never ending benevolence of liquid life, all succumb to an empty, hollow, dry demise, a hunger that can never be truly satisfied.
The final pair of cards hits the desk. The sky is empty. Complete, indescribable blackness absorbs the souls of these four men. Their candle will not last eternity. It drips upon their fingers, burning them with artificiality. The final pair of cards hits this mere wooden desk, and with it Cliff Burton’s fate is sealed.
Kirk draws. A king of hearts.
Cliff draws. An ace of spades.
Cliff jumps, with excitement only held by the ignorance of his coming end, that “I WANT YOUR BUNK!”
Kirk draws red anger that he could only conjure from the pure frustration that he has come under such a meaningless loss, and the ignorance of his bandmate’s coming judgment. “FINE. TAKE MY BUNK! I’LL SLEEP UP FRONT. IT’S PROBABLY BETTER UP THERE ANYWAYS!!”
And so, the curtains close.
Do not ask for whom the bell tolls…it tolls for me.
Clifford, it is now time that you have awakened. But do not take my words so literally in your modernized speech and release yourself from the world of imagination and hallucination. Rather, find your mind captivated by lands from far away and long ago. As your eyes quickly open and your sight slowly generate, witness the sands softer than the clouds, golden more so than the words of the gospels, blazing as the dances of hellfire and brimstone that my brother Lucifer channels in the event of new residence.
See the skies painted sharp and blue, flat to emotionally stand below you in all organic forms, impressive enough to reduce you when intimidation is needed. Beyond the bright blue of the sky, today with no clouds, today forever changing with the heat, lies a vaguely visible land of never ending turmoil and beauty that should frighten any being and drive thee to insanity if one does not push the thoughts of its eternity to the back of your mind.
Here is your most recent visitor. She is our parallel to what you know as the stallion. Her fur is blackened, wet and musty, as if she carries a corrupt swamp atop her innocent body. What us humans have perverted to be our saddle is truly her way of coping with the torture true landscape that she thrives in. Liquid life comes in excess in her “hump,” as does the bread and meat that fuels our earthly, sinful survival. She appears to be trapped by the grasp of burning rope, but with no owner within miles of sight. Her legs are an old bark, tearing apart at the seams. Imagine your own flesh torn off in dry, insect-infested chunks, and you should understand her stance. So perfectly, her legs remind you of a tree you once interacted with as a child. This white tree, short and suffering, stood in great isolated defiance at the center of many homes. You had a sympathy for the suffering, and so you should and did comfort this tree in her last moments of life.
The camel looks at you…she is conflicted. She does not know whether to feel sympathy, pity, or joy in the discovery of you as you are and always have been. But certainly she is in understanding that benevolence has flowed through her body.
Now, allow me to eliminate the record she has set. As she disappears into the mirages of the desert, allow me to be your most recent visitor.
Our stare lasts for long, slippery days.
“You…you were in my dreams before.”
“I visited you once. You were partially uninformed, partially ignorant to what stood before you. Thankfully, it was more intensely the former.”
“What is your purpose?”
“You lack patience. You find it invigorating to practice your craft, which should give onlookers the illusion of patience. But when any deviation is desired to be made by your friends, when the set course you have already set in your mind is not put in motion, when an aspect of reality is in conflict with your mental vision…that is when your true impatience shows. As it does now, where we see it shown through your wish for a quick explanation.”
“…This is my dream, right?”
“We share minds and are in mutual universal control of this dream that we share. It would be quite the spectacle to see the two of us duel with our immense power of this imaginary reality. But you’ll soon see why that won’t be actuality.”
I step a few degrees to the right, to give you a full vision of the horizon.
“Witness these great spectacles of mankind’s imbalance. My brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, and greatest companions helped build these massive golden triangles for the sake of seeing a single corrupt leader buried.”
“Am I not as you envisioned me?”
“No…no, you look exactly like the Moses in the movie…but…I just never thought…”
“I was a fictional character in your mind.”
“So…what’s going to happen?”
I step many paces closer to you, so that we are one pace from embracing.
“You think that I am here to grant you some noble holy quest, but fear dominates your mind. You figure that a man of God is not here to cause pain or suffering, but fear dominates your mind. You want to have faith in a God you didn’t believe in until you witnessed the last remaining wonder of the ancient world, but fear dominates your mind. Clifford Lee Burton, son of Janet and Raymond, brother of Cornelia and Prescott, you are the eldest son.”
Rage fills your mind and blood fills your face.
“No! I’m not! Scott is older than I am!”
“But though your fullest name lists the Burtons as your family, you know as well as me that is not your real family.”
“Then who the fuck is?”
“You are adopted son of Jonathon, and adopted brother of Lars, Kirk and Jamison. Your family name is Metallica.”
And with this, silence envelops your mind.
“Can I…I…Can I just write one thing? It’s a-”
“It’s a song lyric and bass line that you have had dwelling in your mind for a few months. Yes, Cliff. I should assist with my heavenly powers to cause this message to be delivered to your true family.”
My world dissipates. His should as well. Me and Cliff disconnect as a unit. Cliff’s consciousness fades. His body falls through the manmade perversion of the golden soft sands of Egypt and onto the wet, soft and welcoming blades of solidified life. His bones crack under the pressure of mankind’s poor, disgusting, polluting vision of a caravan. His skull finds flatness and his mind finds final peace in liquefaction. And with this, a great crusade is set in motion. Burton should feel proud. For he is the first in an army of many corrupted beings that shall come to find the peace I set for them within the next twenty-six years, nine months and sixteen days.
Epilogue: To Live is to Die
The wind is still and cold, freezing but devoid of the color of beautiful ocean blue. The world around him is a mix of filling, disgusting browns and blacks that impossibly extend into the never-realms beyond imagination. A bass guitar is slowly melting at the irritated skin above his right knee, and has been successfully chopping away at the skin of his fingertips. His breath is condescended and poisoned by the recycling of air in the room. The sofa that he sits in is probably the most comforting aspect of this environment, nevertheless this takes little to nothing away from the irritation that he feels from the slimy sweat that drips down his face.
Robert Trujillo has been practicing Metal Militia way too many times. His mind is so strained that he is about ready to collapse forever, even in a situation as dire as has been presented to him as this. But the beautiful thing about being awoken at two in the morning is that, typically, your mind has been elevated to another plane where the supernatural becomes acceptable and nature takes precedence over order.
The vision of Cliff Burton flashes in front of Robert’s face. At first Robert is certain that Cliff’s soul has appeared in full-on organic and familiar form to bring him the most urgent message that any creature or living being has ever received in all of eternity. Excitement and intimidation suddenly form a world war inside of his mind and overwhelm any rational thoughts that Trujillo could have at this moment.
Robert begins sobbing uncontrollably. His mind is temporarily aligned with the love and the souls he shares it with. Robert gains control of his mind. He attempts many times, eventually successfully, to form the most important sentence he has ever said in his life.
The silence echoes for hours.
“I promise…I will do the…if I…if I get this gig…I’m going to…I will do the best fucking job possible for you, man.” Robert says full on bawling now.
The soul of Burton, represented by a firelight only visible in the metaphysical mind, embraces Trujillo. Never to be witnessed again on this Earth.
With this, Robert Agustín Miguel Santiago Samuel Trujillo Veracruz, has only one song left to finish practicing. The words echo throughout the universe.
“When a man lies, he murders some part of the world.
These are the pale deaths which men miscall their lives.
All this I cannot bear to witness any longer.
Cannot the Kingdom of Salvation take me home?”
Written by I, Da Cashman