Aktualisiert: 17. Dez. 2020
Feeling unusually nervous, Xie Lian swallowed hard as he stood in front of the run-down record store, the only one in town that still sold old LPs and cassettes.
Even though the clock was just approaching 5 pm, the sky was already darkening and a bitingly cold wind blew over the streets, making Xie Lian wrap his arms around his slender torso.
He literally had to hunt this store down; it wasn‘t even registered on Google Maps. Asking around in more upscale and modern music stores, his trail had finally lead him here. To his distraught, none of the music stores he had visited on his search had any actual information on CALAMITY, although every employee had heard rumors about the band.
Some said CALAMITY was an underground satanic cult, practicing actual blood sacrifices and awaiting prosecution; others said they were just kids trying to be shocking enough to gain attention. Some spoke with spite, some with condescension, some with fright. In any case, they apparently weren‘t worthy enough of having their music be taken seriously.
But everything Xie Lian heard just made him more curious, made him more determined. He felt like he was on a treasure hunt, anxious to find out what lay behind this elusive name, CALAMITY. And hopefully, find out who this voice that had shaken him to his deepest core belonged to.
Escaping the cold breeze, he opened the door to the shop and let it fall close behind him. As he had thought, the shop was dim, dusty and smelled of old tapestries. There was no customer other than him.
Rows of rectangular boxes took up the space of the small establishment, filled with multicolored LPs, all sorted by genre. On Xie Lian‘s left, shelves stacked with cassettes covered the wall from floor to ceiling. On the little floor space that remained, boxes filled with CDs, booklets, more cassettes, all wantonly thrown in littered the room and seemed to leave little possibility for a customer to actually look around and explore the store. Xie Lian felt a wave of exhaustion at this sight, but this place was his last hope.
At the jingle of the door, a surprisingly young man came out from a narrow back door. He too looked surprised at the sight of Xie Lian, obviously neither of the two expected to see somebody like the other in a place like this.
The young man had a well-built figure, a chiseled jaw and intense, thick eyebrows. At first, he seemed a little intimidating, but his sparkling eyes told Xie Lian that he was a friendly character. Xie Lian breathed in deeply, settled his nerves and put on a polite smile.
Xie Lian: „Hello, please excuse my intrusion... I am looking for a certain band, can you help me?“
The young man quickly overcame his surprise and returned his smile with a grin.
„Certainly, I‘ll do my best! What are you looking for?“
Xie Lian relaxed as he sensed the good spirit of this young man. He approached him and pulled the red cassette out of his bag.
Xie Lian: „The name of the band is „CALAMITY“. I‘ve asked around in every single other music store in town, but they had nothing, so you are literally my last hope haha. So... do you know anything about them?“
The young man took the crimson cassette out of his hand and scrutinized it with a slight frown. Then, without a word, he put it down on his clustered counter and walked towards the tall wall of cassettes. Xie Lian watched his actions with growing anticipation. It seemed like his luck had finally come around!
While rummaging through the shelves, the young man spoke again, but he had an exhasperated tone in his voice.
„Eccentric bunch, that „CALAMITY“! I really don‘t understand them. They‘re a young band, trying to make a name for themselves, but why do it in such an exhausting manner?? It‘s like they want to make it as hard as possible to get people into them. They‘re not even releasing music online!“
While talking, the young man kept flipping though his collection, grumbling under his breath, but Xie Lian listened with unblinking eyes and great attention.
„Really, who even releases cassettes these days, exclusively? Their career will crash and burn before it‘ll even take off. Trying so hard to be unorthodox, defy the modern music industry... it‘s doomed to fail. I‘m sure of it. They don‘t have a record company, they don‘t have a distributer, producer— nothing. They don‘t even perform!! They‘re a complete no-face-“
„Still-“, Xie Lian suddenly interrupted, his eyes gleaming.
„Still, everybody knows them. Everybody‘s heard of them. This- this mystery around them, it’s what makes them so intriguing, so captivating!! There is a charm around them, a charisma that sucks people in. People will go all the way trying to find out more about them... it‘s like a treasure hunt, something that thrills people! Don‘t you agree?“
Xie Lian heard the words coming out of his mouth and had to stop himself from bubbling over with excitement. This side of himself was completely novel and he didn‘t understand it yet. How strange... how quickly things can change, he thought.
The young man looked at Xie Lian with surprise from atop his ladder, then scoffed slightly as he descended backwards with two cassettes in his hands.
„I guess if there are enough people like you, you might be right. But who the hell has the time—- well, anyways. They only released two other cassettes, we happen to have them. They‘re unlabeled too. Is that all I can do for you?“
The young man returned to his counter and laid the plain cassettes before Xie Lian.
His only customer looked at these cassettes with unwavering fixation, as if there was a ghost within them only he could see. The young man inwardly scoffed again, but had to appreciate his dedication.
He cleared his throat to try to get Xie Lian‘s attention back. As if awakened from sleep, Xie Lian‘s head snapped upwards to face him, then he blinked a few times and looked embarrassed. „Ah y-yes, that‘ll be all. Thank you so much for the trouble.“
The young man half-chuckled and waved his hand. „It‘s no problem.“ Then he added: „Hey, listen...“
Xie Lian looked at him with big eyes of curiosity. „Yes?“
The young man: „I happen to know another pretty hard-core fan of the band (although he doesn‘t like to admit it...), and he‘s been following them for a while... if anybody knows more about them, it‘s him. I could give you his number, if you‘d like...“
He could barely finish his sentence, before Xie Lian leaned over the counter and almost blinded him with his sparkling eyes and gleaming smile. „REALLY?? Yes, please!!!!“
The young man flinched back, then relaxed and laughed out loud.
„Okay, okay. I see you‘re totally hard-core as well. By the way, what‘s your name?“
Xie Lian backed off, feeling embarrassed. „I‘m Xie Lian, pleased to make your aquaintance.“
The young man grinned.
„Feng Xin. The pleasure is mine.“
Walking back to his apartment, Xie Lian had a playful spring in his step. In spite of himself, he couldn‘t stop smiling, anytime he relaxed the corners of his mouth they would just go right up again. Finally, he couldn‘t hold it in and on a public street, he giggled with glee and jumped into the air.
He didn‘t notice the stares of the people, didn‘t feel the freezing November air; the gray and dusty streets seemed to explode into colors, the lampposts seemed to uproot themselves and start dancing along with him, the cold stare of empty windows bent into a grin and cheered him on.
How wonderful the world was!!
How come he was never able to see any of this?! What a waste of time!
Face still flushed with excitement and joy, he unlocked the door to his apartment building and danced up three flights of stairs. As he jumped up the last step with a vocalized sound effect and a following giggle, he was about to head to his entrance, when he noticed somebody standing before it. Immediately, he went silent. The person turned around... it was Shi Qingxuan.
Shi Qingxuan looked at him with a serious expression, although there were traces of surprise inbetween. Xie Lian could guess what this was about, and inwardly groaned. He didn‘t have time for this, not now! But inside he knew that what he had done wasn‘t right. He should have messaged her.
As he had thought, Shi Qingxuan huffed in anger, then crossed her arms and started to speak.
„So now you decide to show up, at six thirty pm?? Do you have ANY idea how fucking worried I was? A no-show at Uni, not a call, not a single text message!! I stormed here right after classes, and you weren‘t even home! I freaked the fuck out, Xie Lian!!! Where in the fuck were you??“
Xie Lian could only avert his eyes and wait for her anger to blow over. If there was a prize for the world‘s worst arguer, he would without doubt be world champion.
He couldn‘t say anything back because he knew her anger was justified. After that time... he shouldn’t be worrying his best friend needlessly.
When there was a long enough break inbetween her scolding, he looked up, trying to gauge the situation. She was still huffing and grumbling, but seemed to have calmed down a bit. Xie Lian grasped this chance to open the door and usher her inside with apologies and requests for forgiveness. He also told her that he had to show her something.
During this exchange, Shi Qingxuan noticed that something was different about her friend. Xie Lian seemed more... energetic than usual. Even the way he had come up the staircase... what was going on? Curious enough to stop complaining, she sat down at his table and waited for what he had to show her.
With a cheeky grin on his face, Xie Lian plugged in his cassette player once more and put in the wound-up red cassette. Then he pressed play and watched his friend‘s face in anticipation.
The song started suddenly and aggressively, and Shi Qingxuan visibly flinched. Her eyes wide with shock, she listened to the tape, eyebrows furrowing increasingly with distaste and confusion. After a while, she looked up at Xie Lian and seemed to demand an explanation from him, but before she could speak, he raised his hand and shouted over the music: „Give it a little time!“
Seeing his bright smile, Shi Qingxuan hesistantly closed her mouth and continued to listen obediently.
As Xie Lian had anticipated, after the initial confusion faded, Shi Qinxuan‘s expression became pensive and absent. Quietly, Xie Lian left the table and went to the kitchen counter to make tea.
Losing himself in the music he already has listened to dozens of times, Xie Lian suddenly thought back to his encounters today and how he now had two new numbers in his otherwise very meager contact list.
Honestly, he had surprised himself today. To think that he had managed to talk so openly, so confidently to strangers and possibly even made new friends... if it were the him from just yesterday, it would have been unthinkable. He would have muttered every word under his breath, gotten tired of conversation quickly and hated himself afterwards. He would have given up after the first two stores, gotten home and probably thrown the tape into the trash.
But now, something like that was unthinkable.
After half an hour, the first side of the tape was finished, and silence filled the apartment once again. In the abrupt stillness, Shi Qingxuan was torn out of her dream-like state and took a deep breath, before staring at Xie Lian.
„This music... what is it?“, she demanded, her eyes still a bit cloudy and entranced.
Xie Lian sat down opposite of her. „I don‘t really know. It’s by a band called CALAMITY, but little is known about them. They‘re very mysterious. So what do you think?“
Xie Lian leaned closer with gleaming eyes and added: „Isn‘t the lead singer amazing??“
Shi Qingxuan glanced at his happy expression, then scoffed. „Lead singer? I don‘t know about that, all I really heard was demonic screeching, I couldn‘t understand a single word! However...“
Xie Lian was already pouting at her words, when his ears perked up again.
Suddenly, a gleam similar to Xie Lian‘s entered Shi Qingxuan’s eyes as she leaned closer to the cassette player.
„...that lead guitarist totally kicks ass, holy shit!! Really, sickest playing I‘ve heard in years!“
Xie Lian blinked in surprise.
Huh, was the guitar player really that amazing?
Shi Qingxuan‘s face whipped back towards his, making him flinch. To his surprise, her cheeks were flushed and her eyes wide and sparkling.
„CALAMITY, huh? That guitarist is fucking amazing, I need to know more about them!! Come on Xie Lian, tell me everything!“
Xie Lian stared at her dumbfounded, then pffffed and broke out into unrestrained laughter. This in turn totally flabbergasted Shi Qingxuan, but deep in her heart something seemed to warm up, like a tight knot finally unravelling after a long, long time. Inexplicably, at the sight of her laughing friend, tears welled up in her eyes, but before she started crying she as well broke out into laughter, feeling only limitless joy and relief.
Together, they listened to all three cassettes deep into the night, fantasizing, laughing, finally being able to talk honestly and unrestrained with each other.
One and a half bottles of red wine later and with every chair in the apartment flipped upside down, the two of them finally passed out in the early morning hours.
Safe to say, both of them missed all of their classes that day.
——TO BE CONTINUED—-