All stories

The Wolf River Kings

by Jenny

Derek grimaced against the scream of feedback in his ears and ran his fingers down the taut, quivering strings of his Fender Telecaster. It screamed, the sound echoing around the empty stadium. It was good to be back.

He pictured it. In a few hours this place would be a sea of faces all shouting his name. Ok, so he wasn’t twenty-seven any more and he couldn’t quite manage all that writhing about on the floor anymore, but fans of the Wolf River Kings didn’t come for all that - they were here for the music. And he, Derek Electric-Fingers Rivers, could still give them that.

He was picking out the familiar riff for Danger Girl when a deafening thud thud forced its way inside the melody and drowned everything out. That bastard Eric Fucking Wolf was back on his bass drum. Derek didn’t see why drums even needed soundchecking, it wasn’t like they were a real instrument. Eric smirked

It was all Eric’s fault they’d broken up in the first place. Derek couldn’t remember exactly why - those days had been a blur of booze and bonking, of drinking till dawn and never thinking of tomorrow - but if there was one thing he knew, it was that he hated Eric Wolf.

Derek escaped the insistence of the bass drum in the dressing room, where it was quieter. He took a slug of Bourbon from their rider and collapsed with it onto the sofa. In the old days he’d have had half of it inside him already, along with God knew what else.

Derek didn’t remember closing his eyes, but he came to as someone was shaking his shoulder. It must be time to go on. Shit. He tried to haul himself to his feet, but the woman wouldn’t let him stand. She was mouthing words to him, but he could barely hear her over the ringing of feedback in his ears.

He looked down. Where were his snakeskin boots and leather trousers? Why was he wearing pyjama bottoms? Didn’t these people understand that he had to be on stage? He looked back at the woman and tried to make out what she was saying. She was pointing to her ears.

“Derek - your batteries are gone - we need to get them changed.”

Batteries? What was she on about? If only that dreadful ringing would stop.

Then, over her shoulder, Derek caught sight of Eric’s smirking face. He was wearing the same striped pyjama bottoms as he was. Was this some kind of new look for the Wolf River Kings?

In confusion he reached for the Bourbon, but his hands reached only a mug of tepid tea on a saucer with biscuits.The woman’s hands nipped in, did something quickly and expertly and the ringing stopped. He could hear again at last.

“There Mr Rivers, isn’t that better?” She smiled and walked away. Derek lost her in the sea of armchaired, blanketed figures filling the overheated little room. To his left a large television blared Jeremy Kyle at killer volume.

Derek blinked in confusion, but before he could ask any questions, Eric looked him dead in the eye, reached over and stole the bourbon biscuits from Derek’s saucer with a smug little wink.


by Russ

Sid sat staring into the void of the dressing room, a column of ash rested between his fingers where a cigarette used to be. Thin, mole-pocked skin stretched taut over his bones and veins; an effigy of a dying man fabricated from fallen leaves and broken twigs. He broke the silence with a rattling cough, but nobody was there to hear.

It had been thirteen years since Sid had last sung, before the unpleasantness. Back then, the dressing room was never empty: groupies, dealers, hangers-on, most importantly, the band always shared. The actual performance was just punctuation in an ongoing party. Things were very different now. The new band were practically infants and Sid couldn’t bear sitting in the middle of them while they tapped away at phones. He’d told them he needed privacy to ‘find his mojo’, which one of them had immediately Googled to explain to another. Really, it was just that he felt less lonely on his own.

He’d reached out to the guys, of course, but he knew their excuses before he got them. It didn’t matter that Sid had been innocent, nobody wanted to step back into that shadow. So instead he’d collected fresh bodies to reanimate the life he’d once had.

Sid sucked in a breath until it felt like a stone in his chest.

A knock at the door was followed by a voice.

‘Mr Wolf,’ it said without recognition. ‘It’s time. The band are waiting for you onstage.’

Sid let out his breath and rose with a creak.

‘Mr Wolf?’

He opened the door and looked expressionlessly at the stage manager.

The low rumble of the drums and bass rolling through the entrance riff drowned any sound from the crowd. Bridlington Spa was a far cry from Wembley Arena. Nobody was chanting for the Wolf King. Nobody was chanting anything.

Sid sucked himself together and strode onto the stage, arms raised, trying to find a bounce in his step. The band lifted the volume to cover the lack of roar. Sid looked out. It was full, mostly, but felt like a photocopy of what it had been before. He crouched and the beat stopped. A pair of single claps echoed off the roof before the bass drum started again. Sid spread his arms and bobbed in rhythm, rising a little more with each bar as the tempo and volume built towards a crescendo. The big opening. The moment which declared the show was well and truly on. The giant fibreglass wolf which leapt from behind the drums to hang over the front of the stage, stopping just short of diving into the belly of the crowd. Sid hit his full height, every band member struck a single final beat, sparks shot up at either side of the stage, Sid leapt into the air, and…. nothing.

As the emptiness contracted around Sid’s skull, a voice from the back of the stage rang out.

‘Which fucking idiot let the hydraulics battery run flat?’ drifted with perfect clarity into the auditorium. Followed by a limp, ‘Sorry, Sid!’

Sid closed his eyes and waited an eternity for the children behind him to start the first song.