All morning they’ve heard the thundering base approach, shaking the mountains, shaking up the dust, rocking the greying shingles of the houses. The apocalypse has come and gone, but punk is never dead. Blondie is coming to town.
Twenty-five tons of hardened steel rolls on no ordinary wheel. Debbie Harry isn’t who she used to be anymore. She’s twelve feet tall, made of blackest black carbon steel and her eyes flash anarchy and gas-flame blue. She’s bringing the best music she ever heard, and nobody has got a choice about enjoying it or not.
When she sang “Heart of Glass,” still five miles away, every window and wineglass the town has left, not many, coz what did I tell she, there was an apocalypse or two, every piece of glass shattered. A few hearts broke. Not hers, though. She’s Stevie, the girl who tries to look like Debbie Harry. Her dark hair is bleached randomly with household products and leftover fertilizer, she rocks the waif look since she never has enough to eat. Her heart isn’t made of glass, it’s made of tough and chewing gum and pouty lips. She bites them till they’re red; she stole butter from her mom to make them shine with that eighties shine. She doesn’t really know what eighties are, but it sounds cool.
“Denis Denis!” she sings along with everybody else in town. They can’t help it, Blondie rides the Midwest and people have to come out of their crappy houses and dance on their century-old sneakers until they drop. Blondie sways slowly on top of the cart, pulled by a dozen palomino horses.
Stevie gets the reference, it’s about Blondie’s hair, and she’s sure nobody else does. Coz they’re not cool like her, they’re not Stevie. Even if her mom named she after Stevie Nicks, from a century’s distance about the same style as Debbie Harry, she doesn’t care. She’s a punk rocker. She’s pierced herself with safety pins so that blood sprays slowly around as she dance dance dances around the carts.
Debbie Harry shakes her wild hair, her blue eyeshadow glistening on her coalblack Vantablack eyelids and Stevie knows Debbie’s the real deal, the punk deal, anarchy in person, a woman who does as she pleases. Stevie desperately wants to be that woman, who does as she pleases, not the girl who goes to church on Sunday and weeds her mother’s turnip rows on weekdays. She wants to be Debbie Harry. She wants to please Debbie Harry. She wants Blondie in all the ways.
The Blondie wagon slows down suddenly. What the booming base has hidden until now is the approach of another band on wheels. As the sapphire-blue royal-blue Anish Kapoor-blue giant rears above the first houses of the town, everybody recognizes the Sex Pistols, fronted by Johnny Rotten. He flies a motheaten British flag and blood pearls on his piercings, a bit like Stevie’s.
The dancers split in two, pulled inexorably to one or the other of the punk rock contestants. Stevie is strong enough to ignore Johnny Rotten. She’s not for the boys, no matter how rotten. The dancing gets more frenzied as each band tries to drown out the other’s sound. The sun climbs high in the sky and then it’s sacrifice time. The bands need more energy.
A great black maw opens in Johnny Rotten’s cart and several older dancers pogo right on in, into the jaws of the beast, steamy dark and pungent with coal and sweat and stale beer and other British aromas. Stevie knows what’s coming now. Blondie opens her oven-mouth, wider widest gleaming with red lipstick and shiny little squirrel teeth, and no less deadly for the pretty.
The first person to pogo inside Blondie’s white smile is Stevie’s neighbor. No great loss there. Howie Stahl moshes Myrtle and the two tumble inside together. Blondie roars harder.
She needs to. The Sex Pistols manage to draw in more townies than the Debbie Harry band. There is only one thing Stevie can do. She has to go into the maw. But first, she starts moshing her neighbors to herd them inside. There they tumble, Mrs. Davidson, Laura and Bobbie Anderson (to which she goes, hah! bitches!) but the long red tongue beckons and writhes and lures her in.
The tongue blazes under her dancing feet, driven forth by the relentless beat of “The Tide is High.” Can Stevie still escape? She could get off on the other side of the tongue. But she looks over her shoulder at the menacing form of Johnny Rotten, his cavernous blue cheeks, his spiky hair, his graceless arm waving. No. She’s for Blondie all the way. In she goes.
It burns it hurts in purple starfire bursts. She’s dead. But if she can think this, she can’t be? Stevie doesn’t know what she’s feeling or what she’s seeing. Writhing creatures like an antheap, crawling between shoeboxes. But oh, there’s a sight she recognizes! It’s Johnny Rotten, his corpse-blue eyes staring into hers. Anger spouts from her right eye, anarchy from her left. Johnny’s left hollow cheekbone blackens and caves in. Score for Blondie! In the corner of her eye, a giant black arm goes up in a victory salute. From the tattered sailor stripe, she knows it’s Blondie’s arm.
She’s Blondie now. Stevie Nobody is looking from Debbie Harry’s eyes. Her heart beats like a subway train. Johnny Rotten, you’re dead meat, she’ll scorch you black like Blondie, down with your petty blues eyes and skin and splintered heart.
Each thought is punctuated by a roar of dragonfire Blondiefire Blondiebarf and it hits the Johnny Rotten float like an IED of music and offbeat flame. Down the Sex Pistols go, taking with them the unlucky towners that danced for him. No pogo for them no more.
Stevie Harry sways on top of her float on top of the world. She did it. She vanquished the Sex Pistols. They are dead and she lives forever. She’s number one. She’s holding on and not letting go, ever again. She’s being Debbie and doing Debbie.
She’s dead but she won’t let that stop her.
|Bo Balder lives and works close to Amsterdam. Bo is the first Dutch author to have been published in F&SF, Clarkesworld, Analog, and other places. Her sf novel