Three Little Pigs
Tusker felt the sweat running down his face under the coarse, bristly hair. His snout was glistening under the hot, bright spotlights, and his tusks gleamed. He gripped the drumsticks tightly between his stubby hoof pads to keep them from slipping as he pounded frantically on the drums. He could feel the shuddering, jarring shock run up his arms and pound through his body as he set the rhythm. He loved the sound of the drums. He knew that most drummers were using new synthetic skins, but he loved the classic human skin. It just sounded right.
He had never felt more alive. The drug was coursing through his veins like liquid fire. Even past the glare of the spotlights he could see the crowd surging like a storm-tossed sea. And out in that vast, heaving ocean, he could see the glint of thousands of pairs of eyes riveted on him as he pounded the heartbeat of life into the music. Thousands of eyes belonging to sweet little porkers who were burning with desire for him. Oh, he was going to sow town after the show tonight.
He wished he could get the guys to try this drug just once. But they were on a new clean-trip after years on the road, struggling to make a name for the band, to break into the big time. All those nights of playing little dive bars in little crap towns. Tusker knew if he could just have discovered this drug back in the day, then they would have made the big time a whole lot sooner. He never wanted this night to end.
But end the night did, as nights will, and after the last encore the band stumbled backstage, followed by the screaming adoration of the crowd. As soon as they got into the dressing room, Tusker’s two band mates turned on him.
“What the hell is up with you, Tusker?” The Snout growled at him. “You were burning through the songs. You just kept playing faster and faster. You’re supposed to keep the beat, not see how fast you can push it.”
“We sounded like a recording played at the wrong speed,” added Porseus.
Tusker was genuinely surprised by this attack. “What are you talking about? We sounded great. We never sounded better than we did tonight.”
“We aren’t a speedthrash band. We don’t do walls of noise. We are known for our subtlety and complexity. We do real music.” The Snout was trying hard to be reasonable.
But Tusker wasn’t in the mood to reasonable. He was feeling like they were ganging up on him unfairly. And he was feeling his anger rising up inside him, the flames licking at the dry tinder of his raging soul.
“Real music?” he sneered. “Is that what you call it? Is that why I never get to help write any of the songs? You think I am just some farm boy from the sticks?”
His two friends could feel the argument slipping into dangerous territory. The Snout hastened to reassure his friend. “Nobody said that, Tusker. You never showed any interest in writing songs. That isn’t our fault.”
“You never asked me,” Tusker responded coldly.
“We are getting way off topic here,” commented Porseus calmly.
“So now I can’t talk as good as you, is that it?” demanded Tusker. “You got some nerve, putting on airs with me. I have known both of you since we were in grade school together.” He pointed a cloven hoof at The Snout. “Do you remember those days, Mr. big shot? Because I sure do. I remember you before you were ‘The Snout’. I remember you when you were just Grismold Terris, a piglet from a crap town in the middle of nowhere. Before you could play the guitar. Before anyone ever heard you sing. And you,” he began, turning on Porseus with eyes blazing, “before you became the bass player for the biggest band in history, you weren’t so hot. Porseus Gowl, who couldn’t even get onto the hoofball team because you were too fat.”
“Look, Franzis, just calm down,” said Porseus evenly.
“Don’t call me that,” yelled Tusker. “I am Tusker Barns now. Drummer for The Three Little Pigs. The band that sells out more stadiums than any band in history. The band we all put together to get out of that little crap town.”
“Okay, Tusker, we don’t want to fight with you. You just seemed to be a little out of control tonight.” The Snout sounded vaguely disappointed.
“Maybe we just need to pick up the pace of some of those dirges you two write.” Tusker was almost screaming now.
Porseus lowered his eyes and bit back a reply. He knew it would only make matters worse. He didn’t know what his friend was on, but whatever it was, it wasn’t good. They had all experimented with drugs when they were younger. And those first years on the road playing small dive bars was mostly a hazy memory. But he did remember their lives together when they were growing up in Stockyard. Franzis had lived on a human farm outside of town. Grismold’s dad was the town’s only dentist. His own father was the janitor at the high school they had all attended, a constant source of embarrassment to him. It was partly the way that Franzis had always remained proud of his own dirt-poor father despite the fact that he raised filthy human livestock on a rundown little ranch that had made his own situation seem bearable. He hated to see his friend like this.
But Tusker had had enough. He made a sloppy waving motion with his arms and turned away, hurrying out of the dressing room and off down the corridor leading out from under the Rocket Stadium.
Porseus started to go after him, but The Snout put out a hoof and stopped him. “Let him cool off. We can talk to him tomorrow when he has come down off whatever he is on.”
Tusker jumped into his brand new Roadhog parked in the private underground parking lot and started the engine. The ferocious roar filled the cavern around him in a most satisfying manner. He tore out of there going much too fast and before long was ripping through the Honeywood hills. The lights of Angel City spread below him like a field of stars reflected in a huge lake. But the sight did not calm him, did not slow his racing heart or bank the fires inside of him.
He pulled up in front of his mansion, and the sight of the sprawling building did go a little way towards making him feel better. This ostentatious display of his own success did make him feel powerful and in control. That was all he wanted. A little control.
The mansion was made of bound bundles of rushes imported from Eegiptt. The roof was fake thatch made from some kind of plastic. His highly overpaid architect had convinced him that he would be the first to own such a home in the United Confederacy. He had also assured Tusker that this style of building was all the rage amongst the fabulously wealthy in The Old Countries, and that soon all the glittering, beautiful swine would be clamoring to copy the new trend. The rushes were just for show anyway. They were bundled around hardened steel cores, but Tusker did think the place had a certain elegant charm, like a cottage from some old fairytale. A really big cottage.
He turned on the giant screen telemonitor and watched some hoofball. The Wild Warthogs were playing the Badass Boars, and he tried to pay attention to the game, but his mind kept wandering. At about three in the morning he tried to get some sleep. He lay tossing and turning in the huge, canopied bed. His heart was still thudding away in his chest like one of his own drum solos, and he was sweating like a human. In the darkest hour of the morning he finally fell asleep.
And then he saw the face. A hairy, ferocious face, with a long, tooth-filled muzzle and two pointy ears. He woke up yelling, but the nightmare didn’t end. In the corners of the room he saw wispy shadow shapes and heard claws scraping at the tile floor. He leaped from the bed and ran to the closet, grabbing the blastgun he kept handy. He turned without aiming and fired a spray of pebbleshot into the window where he thought he saw something moving. He felt hot breath on the back of his head and heard ragged breathing. He screamed and spun around, letting go with another blast right into the closet, right into the clothes hanging there. The clothing began to smolder but he didn’t notice. He was too busy being frightened out of his wits by the terrifying howling coming from all around the outside of his house.
He raced from the bedroom and bounded down the curved stairway to the bottom floor. The howling grew in volume. And the bloodthirsty and mournful baying was taken up by more of the shadow creatures. He stood in the middle of the living room, shaking and trying to aim the gun in all directions at once. He heard scratching and pounding at his front door and at all the large windows surrounding the huge room. The creatures were coming in.
He let out one last scream and raced to the door leading to his garage. He jumped into the car and grabbed the spare key he hid in the little compartment in the dashboard. He didn’t have his regular set of keys. He didn’t even have any clothes on. He couldn’t take the time to open the garage door. He drove straight through it. As he peeled away, if he had bothered to look, he would have seen the upper floor of his fine new house engulfed in flames.
Porseus threw a robe on and stumbled down the stairs to find out who was pounding on his door at this unseemly hour of the night. He was too mad to be worried that it might be someone more dangerous than himself. He was a very large pig. That was part of what made the name of their band such a funny, tusk-in-cheek joke. He threw the door open and was shocked to see his friend Tusker standing there stark naked and holding a gun. As soon as the door opened, Tusker charged in and slammed it shut once again.
“They are after me. They are trying to kill me.” Tusker was ranting as he bolted around the room, peering out windows and aiming the gun in all directions.
“Who is trying to kill you?” Porseus kept asking, but all he got in return were the ravings of a mad pig.
Suddenly Tusker screamed something about the howling and sent a blast of pellets through one of the windows.
“Hey, what are you doing?” yelled Porseus. “This place isn’t even paid for yet.”
Tusker answered by shooting a hole through the front door.
“This place is made from rare hardwoods imported from all over the planet. Do you have any idea what that door cost?” Porseus was more than a little angry by this point. He was also more than a little frightened. Something had obviously scared his friend badly.
Tusker went into a long, rambling speech about the creatures that had surrounded his house and his desperate flight for his life. Porseus was almost convinced that his friend was just having a bad trip, when he heard the sirens in the distance. He went to the front door, opened it, and peered toward Tuskers house only a few blocks away. He was startled to see a somber red glow in the sky and a pillar of dark smoke obscuring the setting moon.
Tusker joined him on the porch. He was wild-eyed and rambling, but Porseus couldn’t deny that something bad had happened at his friend’s house. And then it came to him. Tusker must owe some bad pigs money. Bad pigs who sold bad drugs. These would be dangerous individuals. He grabbed Tusker by the arm and led him to his own car, a classic Hock Roadster parked in the driveway. Together they took off, headed for The Snout’s place.
Five minutes later they pulled up in front of the imposing stone estate owned by their friend.
THE ANGEL CITY CHRONICLE
Police this morning found the bodies of The Snout, Porseus Gowl, and Tusker Barns, members of the famed hard-steel band ‘The Three Little Pigs’, at the residence owned by the Snout in the Honeywood Hills. All three of the famous musicians were killed by gunfire. Preliminary investigation has led the police to believe that the gun belonged to Tusker Barns. Evidence points to the fact that Tusker shot his two band mates before turning the gun on himself.
The medical examiner says it is too early to do anything but speculate, but that he was willing to bet that Tusker was under the influence of the new street drug called Big Bad Wolf.