CALAMITY Chapter 8 - Notoriety
And so, Xie Lian’s birthday and CALAMITY’s debut live performance ended in the most shocking and tragic way possible. Ambulance lights tinting the church’s stone wall red and blue, people were standing around the entrance disoriented and confused. They weren’t sure if they should leave or stay, although the crowd eventually thinned out as the minutes progressed.
The show was over.
Some were grumbling with dissatisfaction, some were scratching their heads, disenchanted; the performance hadn’t progressed nor ended the way they had expected or hoped for. First the singer had fallen off the stage, later he suddenly leapt into the audience by himself during the last song, digging through the crowd like a madman and then without a word, disappeared through the church’s gate. On the way out, he had shamelessly grabbed several coats from the guest’s wardrobe and raced out into the night. The audience was confused and outraged when they noticed that he wouldn’t come back. The band did their best to finish the show with flair, but without the lead singer, everything they did fell flat.
Now, blue and red flashes lighting up the cold night and sirens howling, the enchantment and magic of the evening in the snowy countryside was completely foiled. Even reporters had come to the scene, interviewing disgruntled guests and taking photos. During the chaos, Bai Wuxian stood out of the light, communicating with paramedics with an unreadable expression on his face. He was the man responsible for the event, now he had the mess to clean up. Police officers scrutinized him in secret, judging this dubious leader of an even more dubious alternative band. But his stone-cold face gave away nothing, not anger, disappointment, nor remorse… nothing.
Near the church entrance, another paramedic and two police officers were talking to a completely hysterical Shi Qingxuan, who could only give answers through crying shrieks. The officers were trying to calm her down, but Shi Qingxuan only screamed more with their attempts and kept trying to get past them in order to get to the ambulance.
In the middle of the field in front of the church, an ambulance stood with its backside doors wide open, the light illuminating the many footsteps in the snow around it. Hua Cheng was quietly, palely standing outside the door, not taking his big red eye off of the unmoving figure on the stretcher for even a single heartbeat. His expression was still one of restless worry as he looked at the tubes and ventilators enclosing Xie Lian. Xie Lian’s eyes were closed; he was unconscious.
Medics kept rushing in and out of the vehicle, bringing water, blankets and food and medical equipment. When Hua Cheng saw a medic arrive with a defibrillator, he almost attacked her, losing his mind in fear that Xie Lian’s heart might have stopped. They frantically calmed him down and explained that it was just precaution; right now they needed to assess and stabilize his condition, but were also getting ready to drive to the hospital as soon as possible. Xie Lian’s heart had stopped; he needed professional medical attention immediately.
There was just a small problem. Only one person could accompany him to the hospital.
Just following protocol, the paramedic in charge asked loudly over the field: “Does this patient have any family here or anybody we could call?”
Through snot and sniffles, Shi Qingxuan was just about to answer, when a sneering and shrewish cackle sounded over the field, making everybody fall silent in surprise.
When Qi Rong had spotted Hua Cheng trudging back out of the forest, he had thrown down his drumsticks in rage and sputtered a continuous stream of curses at him, rushing over to slap an explanation out of him, when he suddenly got rooted in the ground as he spotted the limp, deathly white body clutched in Hua Cheng’s arms. With an expression of utter shock and dismay, he had stared at its face, but didn’t say anything. It was only now that he opened his sly lips and started spewing poisonous words left and right.
“KHAHAHA, Xie Lian, family??? Thassa good one, mr. doctor!! REAL GOOD! The answer is: He ain’t got no fucking family, because they’re fucking dead!!! They’re all fucking dead!!!!”
Qi Rong’s voice and words made everybody listening feel a disgusted sensation crawl up their backs. Repulsed, they looked down at the hunched over, green-haired creature, who was still seething in schadenfreude. Having first listened with an unchanging expression, at Qi Rong’s last outburst, a cold glow seemed to flash across Bai Wuxian’s eyes. His face darkened.
Shi Qingxuan was speechless with shock and rage. Slowly turning her head towards the man who had uttered such sickening words, her arms were shaking with sheer fury. She took a threatening step towards Qi Rong, not noticing He Xuan’s worried eyes on her from the shadow of the doorway. Through trembling lips, she finally managed to press out words that were dripping with venom.
“Qi Rong… is that you, you fucking bastard? You motherfucker… you demon, how can you say that to your own fucking cousin?? Do you not consider him your family anymore?!!”
At this, surprised sounds emerged from the crowd. Sensing a drama starting, all the curious ears perked up and started listening with interest.
The lead medic retained his professional composure and turned towards Qi Rong. “Sir, are you the patient’s family?”
Qi Rong spat on the ground and thinned his lips with spite. “Who in their right mind would wanna be that… that PSYCHOPATH’s family??!? Huh??? I’d have to live my life in the constant fear of having my throat slit one quiet night!!! From behind, not hearing a sound!! SLLLIT, I’m GONE!!”, he enunciated with a demonstrative hand-gesture. He hunched over and chuckled some more.
“Lemme tell you, mr. doctor… this bitch— I mean, Xie Lian, his parents didn’t just up and died, oh NO!! Kuhahaha, oh pleeease, maybe this time he’ll actually land in the nuthouse for good, wouldn’t that be a joy!!! Haaah, wouldn’t that be a FUCKING JOY!!!! Because doc, his parents didn’t just die, HE FUCKING MURDERED TH—“
In a single instant, Qi Rong’s head was smashed into the ground between where his feet had been standing just a moment ago, dispersing snow around the area of impact. Shocked gasps emerged from the crowd, and Shi Qingxuan, who was just about to do the same, stopped her raised fist in confusion.
But by that time, Hua Cheng’s foot was already raised and ready to stomp down on the tangly head of hair, without doubt trying to make it cease breathing forever. Only because of Bai Wuxian’s quick reaction speed and his good knowledge on Hua Cheng’s behavior was such a tragedy avoided by a hair’s width; he leapt forward and pushed Hua Cheng back from Qi Rong’s limp body, into the arms of several startled police officers and medics.
Hua Cheng was like a wild, raging beast, lucid with anger, boiling with fury; he was out of control, fighting against the restraining limbs as if his life depended on it, growling and thrashing. Only with the combined effort of officers, medics, Bai Wuxian and handcuffs was another near-death injury averted. After a few minutes of pushing and shoving, the now flushed lead medic stroked back his disheveled hair, slowly starting to lose his calm composure.
“Gentlemen, we don’t have time for this! The patient is still in critical condition and needs go to the hospital immediately! Please show some restraint!!”
Looking like it was against his will, he turned towards the miserable Qi Rong who was screeching through his fingers. Blood flowed out of his nose in a constant stream, dripping down to the snow and melting it where it landed. The snow had, unfortunately, cushioned his fall enough for him not to fall unconscious. Now, the medic still had the same problem on his hands.
“Sir… Qi Rong, if I gathered… since family has priority, are you willing to accompany the patient to the hospital?”
He almost hoped he would refuse.
Suddenly, a low, booming voice sounded over the field. Against all his intentions and professionalism, the lead medic flinched when he heard being addressed by this entrancing voice. He turned around again.
His eyes fell on Hua Cheng, who just a moment ago had been fighting against his restraints so violently, now being completely still, dangerously still. His wide eye was clear as a lake and bright as the snow, face open, without a trace of deceit or lying. Completely calm, he started to speak.
“Sir, with all due respect. If Qi Rong gets even a single centimeter closer to Xie Lian from where he is right now, I will walk over there, take his head and twist it around until it snaps right off from his sorry shoulders.
I will rip his tongue out and shove it up his ass, then I will push his eyes back in his skull until they mush together with his pathetic excuse for a brain, and then I will rip his body into little pieces and flush them down the toilet one by one so he finds his rightful place with all the other shit in the world. The point is, sir, if Qi Rong gets to accompany Xie Lian, somebody will have to die, because you’ll have to kill me to keep me from killing him. And anybody trying to stop me will die too. That is all, sir. Please pardon my interruption.”
The crowd on the lawn was dead silent.
In unison it thought: What the fuck is wrong with this fucking band?? They’re all crazy!!!
The lead medic looked at Hua Cheng, baffled speechless. One could think that this person was completely out of his mind, spewing such ridiculous nonsense when he was clearly restrained with handcuffs and held back by several people, whose grip only tightened after his very descriptive warning. But looking deep into that red, bottomless eye, cold sweat started trickling down the lead medic’s back. To his great dismay, a primal instinct seemed to overcome him as he subconsciously took a step back. He realized that this man was completely, entirely serious. He would kill Qi Rong and him, the medic, if he would let him near the patient.
He finally released his breath and composed himself. “Alright, I understand. I understand. But YOU can’t possibly expect to be the one accompanying him, can you? Young man, you’re being taken in by police for questioning. I hear there have been other cases of assault this evening, so you understand that I can’t let you into the vicinity of the patient.”
Hua Cheng’s expression didn’t change. “I don’t mind. As long as it’s not Qi Rong.” Then he fell still; he had said all that he needed to.
The medic sighed. This was beyond his payroll. “Alright, thank you. This leaves…” His sight finally fell onto a wide-eyed Shi Qingxuan, her face crusted in with dried tears and snot. At the medic’s look, she raised and let her arms fall in exasperation.
“Yeah, me. I don’t get how this was ever a question??! I arrived with him, I stayed with him, I’m his best fucking friend!! I’m gonna accompany him even if you cut my fucking legs off, sir!! Xie Lian… oh god, Xie Liaaan!!!” Immediately, she burst into tears again and stumbled over to the open doors of the ambulance. This time, nobody tried to stop her.
Sensing a wave of exhaustion, the medic sighed again, rubbed his temples and finally spoke out to the other staff.
“Alright, everything’s settled, let’s go!! Somebody take Mister… Qi Rong to the other ambulance so he can get his nose looked at. There’s no time to lose, let’s move!!!” With that, the medics dispersed into their vehicles and with sirens howling, rumbled over the uneven lawn and drove out into the night. Police also meaning to follow, Hua Cheng got pushed into the back of a squad car, now tame and unresisting. Only briefly did he glance over his shoulder at Bai Wuxian, glowing eye seeming to convey a message. Bai Wuxian looked at him, closed his eyes and disappeared into the dark shadow of the towering church.
And with that, the long night finally came to a close.
But the incident was far from over and forgotten. Headlines in the morning newspaper and tabloids all spoke about the outlandish debut performance of Death Metal band CALAMITY which ended in horror and was now sparking outrage among the music scene.
“Would you attend this Death Metal band’s performance?? Exclusive interview with the guests that almost died!”
“Death Metal gone too far: a nightmarish performance ending in catastrophe”
“Snowstorm and a band out of control! Think twice about letting your children listen to this satanic band”
“CALAMITY UNLEASHED!!! Meet the band who has the music world in a deadlock!!”
“Death, Metal and CALAMITY: Three words to describe an night ending in tragedy…”
And the list went on. The incident was on everybody’s tongues, the hottest gossip, offering fertile land for rumors to plant their seed in. Tales of the several incidents intertwined, inflated each other until the performance seemed to be a perfect picture of armageddon.
People whispered to one another that the band cut open their wrists, offered their bodies to satan and let goat blood rain onto the guests. They said that the lead singer looked like he was the incarnation of the devil, sweating peals of crimson and flying off the stage, crashing into the crowd and trying to devour a concert-goer. During halftime break, the singer got possessed and tried to murder several guests, beating them within an inch of their lives.
Apparently the show was so traumatizing that one person lost his mind, ran out into the forest and nearly froze to death.
“When the show was over and the police arrived, the singer still acted completely crazy and apparently swore to kill every single person who attended the performance, eat their newborn children and murder their families in their sleep. The police eventually had to taze and knock him out in order to even lock him in their car.”… so the rumors went.
There were lawsuits from several guests, saying they didn’t get the experience that they had come for and got irreversibly damaged instead. There were also complaints from parties that didn’t have anything to do with the performance like one christian organization, who said that the band “defiled the face of god in His holy church and soiled it with satanism and the blood of heretics”.
It was a complete and utter scandal.
However… after that night, everybody knew CALAMITY. It didn’t matter if after uttering their name visions of hell and bloodbath flooded people’s minds, the mark had been made. CALAMITY was the new juggernaut of the music scene… and although people acted repulsed and said they’d stay away from them, in secret they researched, asked, and wanted to know more. The prices for resold cassettes reached exorbitant levels as demand kept rising.
CALAMITY’s notoriety reached the heavens, but after several investigations and inquiries, none of the rumors could be proven and none of the assault charges confirmed. Even the group of men who had allegedly been attacked and carried actual injuries suddenly retracted their lawsuit, saying they tripped in the pit and got stomped on by other people during the performance. So in actuality, nothing had happened, and CALAMITY was a clean group. The music industry could do nothing as it watched CALAMITY rise to fame over night purely on sensationalism… but there was also something else.
Although cameras and cell phones were banned within the church, there were always people who managed to sneak something past security. And so, not even hours after the performance had ended, certain pictures started circulating on the internet. Most were blurred and out of focus, but there were some… that clearly captured a muscular, glistening crimson body under the heat of red stage light, canine teeth fletched as sharp lips growled into a microphone… dark hair framing the sculpted face like a wild thunderstorm. It was the epitome of sinful passion and hotness. Blogs were created to write shameless y/n scenarios around the man, getting people who were originally put off by the nauseating rumors thirsting over this lead singer and leaving the hearsays behind them in just seconds. The red eye pulled them in and made them forget everything else… such was the power of CALAMITY.
It almost seemed as if everything had been planned… the rise to fame and the creation of a loyal following almost overnight… it seemed too perfect. In the end, only one tragic character remained in this story, one that couldn’t be wiped out from the records.
The hospital hallways were quiet and desolate, the hour was late. The linoleum floors reflected the milky light of the lights above, making it seem like the corridors were endless. Shi Qingxuan softly shut the bathroom door, hair and face still dripping wet. In the hallway, she dragged her feet to one of the many empty seats along the walls and let herself fall into it, head slumped forward. She was drained to her last ounce of energy, dark circles providing contrast to her otherwise pale and faded face.
Head buried in her hands, she tried to forget the last few days, days that seemed longer and lonelier than any other days in her life. Since the evening of the performance, Xie Lian was in a continuous state of unconsciousness. Four days ago, he had been on the brink of stage four hypothermia, apparent death. The doctors said that if Hua Cheng had arrived even seconds later, chances of him being alive now were slim. But he wasn’t out of the woods yet: His heart had taken a considerable amount of damage, and the next few days determined if he needed bypass surgery or not.
To Shi Qingxuan, it felt like the ground under her feet had slipped away. When she wasn’t in the hospital, she kept flinching at every message alert from her phone, frantic and desperate to hear news from the doctors. Besides Xie Lian’s critical condition, she had the incessant flood of news reporters and photographers to deal with, who wouldn’t stop harassing her and Xie Lian day and night. It was the worst situation she could’ve dreamed of, and after several days of this with barely a wink of sleep, she was at the end of her wits. It took all she had to not fall apart into a crying mess. She couldn’t allow herself to crumble… who did Xie Lian have to depend on except for her? There was nobody. Nobody at all.
Suddenly, Shi Qingxuan heard light footsteps coming down the hallway. Normally, Shi Qingxuan would have cared enough about her appearance to straighten herself up and pretend she was fine, but she was past that point. She had no energy to spare on something like that and kept her head hung low.
To her dismay, the person stopped right in front of her, and she felt their stare on the top of her head. She finally couldn’t ignore the presence anymore when she felt them sit down right next to her. Feeling angry that somebody would interrupt her in her misery, she looked up with furrowed brows, prepared to give somebody a rude rejection, when the words got stuck in her throat.
Sitting next to her was a tall-raven-haired lady, face cool as ice, but eyes warm as fire, looking at her with a soft expression of worry. Shi Qingxuan’s eyes widened. Her dry lips opened with a tremble as she whispered: “He Xuan…” He Xuan nodded and gently smiled at her. Staring at this angel-like face, Shi Qingxuan’s eyes finally filled with tears. Knowing that this was a person who had helped her before, wanted nothing of her and looked at her with such kind, understanding eyes, Shi Qingxuan’s limit was finally breached. Not able to stop herself, she broke out into tears, sobbing and weeping, covering her distorted face with her hands. Choking on her sobs, she let herself be enveloped by the long, black-clad arms of He Xuan, completely helpless and in desperate need of support. Letting herself go in the gentle arms, they stayed like this for many minutes.
After Shi Qingxuan had completely cried herself out and the tears stopped running, slowly, a burning sense of embarrassment overcame her. What was she doing, crying in a complete stranger’s arms?? What would she think of her?? Shi Qingxuan sat back up in her seat, avoiding He Xuan’s eyes and rubbing her red nose. “Sorry, that was…..” Not being able to find the words, she sighed and let the sentence trail out. Shyly glancing back at the tall woman, she whispered: “Thank you.”
He Xuan still wore an expression of complete composure, but shook her head lightly and smiled just as fleetingly. “Don’t worry about it”, she answered softly. After a moment of awkward silence, Shi Qingxuan seemed to snap out of it and turned back to the other woman. “Ah, by the way, what brings you here?? I doubt you came here just to comfort crying and sensitive ol’ me, hahaha…”
He Xuan: “. . . .”
Shi Qingxuan: “. . . . .”
He Xuan: “Ah well, actually there was something… a message from my band member… to Xie Lian. But I’m assuming that he hasn’t yet…”
At this, Shi Qingxuan’s smile faltered again. With a somber voice, she answered: “…he hasn’t. This band member… is it the singer? The one that found Xie Lian in the forest?… I haven’t gotten a chance to thank him yet. If he hadn’t found him… Xie Lian… he would’ve….” her voice faded out as her breath got thinner. He Xuan gently placed her hand over Shi Qingxuan’s arm, sending a comforting warmth over where their skin touched. “I’ll be sure to convey the message, don’t worry. What he wants to tell Xie Lian is… that he’s sorry. For what happened. For scaring him, for alienating him, for exploiting his vulnerability and the heat of the moment. The last thing he wanted was to hurt him. He’s so sorry for falling on him and squishing him. He’s also sorry for—“
“Wait”, Shi Qingxuan suddenly interrupted her, a confused look on her face “wait, wait, what?? What happened? What did I miss?!” He Xuan’s eyes in turn widened as well. “You mean you don’t know?! During the first half of the performance, Xie Lian pulled Hua Ch— our singer off the stage, they fell to the floor together, and then he… ah, well, ummm… he kinda…”He Xuan averted her eyes, a slight blush blooming on her cheeks. “…he… kissed him quite…passionately… on the floor. Xie Lian didn’t seem to be completely aware of his actions; his hands got pretty busy feeling up our singer’s body, and when he got to…. dangerous area, his friend dragged him out from the crowd and outside the church.”
Shi Qingxuan looked like a cold bucket of water got poured on her. Mouth open with utter shock and disbelief, she looked in the direction of Xie Lian’s hospital room. “So… you mean to tell me… the reason Xie Lian ran out into the forest like that was because…?”
He Xuan scratched her head, feeling a bit embarrassed. “…probably he suddenly remembered what he had done, and got so shocked that he had to escape the reality of the situation. People do irrational things in times like that, haha…”
He Xuan tried to sound reassuring, but Shi Qingxuan suddenly rose to her feet in one swift movement, hands clenched into shaking fists. After a moment of silence, she finally exploded.
“XIE LIAN, THAT FUCKING IDIOT!!! I KNEW HE WAS AN IDIOT, BUT JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!!! GOD DAMN IT, HERE I AM WORRIED DAY AND NIGHT, HE MIGHT NEED SURGERY, HE ALMOST FUCKING FROZE TO DEATH, BECAUSE OF WHAT???? A FUCKING KISS??!!! ONE FUCKING KISS????!!!! YOU’RE TELLING ME THE FUCKER ALMOST GAY PANICKED TO DEATH??!!?!! HE BETTER FUCKING WAKE UP SOON SO I CAN KILL HIM MYSELF!!!!!”
Shouting unrestrained into the silence of the hallways, He Xuan was startled into standing, and she urgently tried to calm Shi Qingxuan down. But to her dismay, she had to learn the hard way that once Shi Qingxuan was angry, trying to calm her down only resulted in the opposite. Now having drawn attention to herself, He Xuan had to face Shi Qingxuan’s glare next.
“AND THIS SINGER OF YOURS, WHAT’S HIS NAME??” He Xuan didn’t have the composure to watch her mouth, only desperately trying to get Shi Qingxuan to lower her voice. “His name is Hua Cheng!! Shi Qingxuan, please, won’t you be a little more quiet—-“
“HUA CHENG!!! WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH HIM, NOT HAVING THE BALLS TO COME HERE AND TELL XIE LIAN ALL OF THIS HIMELF??? HE KISSED HIM, SAVED HIS LIFE, AND NOW IT’S ALL OVER AND DONE WITH??? NOT ON MY FUCKING WATCH!!!!”
Since the ruckus on the hallway kept getting louder and louder, a few nurses on night shift turned the corner and stomped towards the two standing women, ready to kick them out of the building with glaring eyes. Seeing them rush towards them, He Xuan increased her efforts of calming Shi Qingxuan down, going as far as trying to cover her mouth with her own hand. But Shi Qingxuan managed to squeeze out a few more bone-chilling words.
“WHEN XIE LIAN WAKES UP, I SWEAR TO GOD!!! HUA CHENG BETTER BE PREPARED TO GET HERE WITH A MILLION FUCKING FLOWERS, TAKE HIM OUT TO EAT IN THE NICEST FUCKING SUIT HIS SORRY ASS CAN BUY AND TELL HIM EVERYTHING HE NEEDS TO HIMSELF!!! WHY DON’T YOU GO TELL HIM THAT HE XUAMmMFHH—!!!!
With great effort, He Xuan finally succeeded in shutting Shi Qingxuan up by clasping both her hands around her face as tightly as she could and clamping her head under her armpit. Like this, she frantically escaped from the enraged nurses, dragging a thrashing and protesting Shi Qingxuan with her out into the night.
Unnoticed by them, in a dim, quiet hospital room, a lone figure quietly, slowly opened its eyes.
—-TO BE CONTINUED —-