The Dissonant Ballad of Eric Noble: conclusion

Vince cursed Shannon's name, and his cushy upbringing as he noticed the van passing. He started to chase after it, but realized he had no chance of catching up. Christine just kept walking, making her way up an off-ramp to what she hoped lead to sanity, or at least a truck stop where she could wait for a ride. Eric was stone-faced, unmoved by being abandoned in the middle of nowhere. He felt nothing as he made his way up the off-ramp. His only thought was finding a new home, and starting over again.

Vince got on his phone, and tried calling Shannon, but Shannon had no intention of answering. He drove for several miles until he realized Kevin's corpse was still in the back, and started looking for signs that led to a hospital. He was planning to go back home, and beg his parents to help him move away. It was approaching 3am when Shannon's eyes started getting heavy. He knew that if he could just make it to a hospital, he could dump the body, and head home, but the road began hypnotizing him.

The only thing that added variety to the scenery were the green signs on the highway, but at this point, even the words started looking the same. Shannon turned up the stereo to block out his thoughts, and revive his energy. All the guilty feelings in the world weren't going to make him turn around, and deal with this nightmarish tour any longer. This was his vehicle, and he wanted to go home, so he cut his losses. He was doing his best to rationalize abandoning the others, telling himself they didn't like him anyway; of this much, he was correct.

He saw a blue “H” attached to the bottom of a green sign, and felt relief. There was a hospital coming up where he could rid himself of his macabre cargo. He smiled, and started to relax, feeling certain that the end of all this madness was approaching. He focused on the reflectors in the center of the road, and let his mind go blank. He checked his rear-view mirror, and thought he saw Kevin move, but ignored it; sure he was just imagining things. It was at this point he noticed the sky was a bit lighter than before, and there were many more cars on the road.

He approached a pink van that looked like it was from the 60s. As he rode beside it, a window opened, and flowers came pouring out, followed by a swarm of butterflies. He could see several people inside, laughing, and strumming acoustic guitars. He thought the guy on hand drums seemed oddly familiar, but couldn't get a clear look at his face. He kept watching this mysterious drummer as the two vans made their way down the highway, side by side. He said to himself “Julius?” as the drummer in the other van looked up, and waved, it was indeed Julius.

Shannon felt a wave of confusion wash over him as he turned to see the highway covered in blood, and broken glass. He looked down at his hands on the steering wheel, noticing the blur that replaced the vehicle's instrument panel. A moment of lucidity came, followed by immense fear upon the realization he was asleep at the wheel; then, everything went black. Shannon careened over the highway barrier in a turn, plowing the massive, old church van squarely into a tree. It would be another hour before anyone noticed the accident.

Christine, and Vince approached a beacon of hope on this most horrid of nights. There was an all-night diner within sight, and even though they were hundreds of miles from home, Christine felt a small sense of relief. At least they could get some food, and possibly sneak a nap in a booth before getting kicked out. At the very least, it was an easily recognizable landmark for whichever kind soul back home they could convince to come rescue them. She had done a lot for the music scene back home, and knew it was time to cash in a favor or two.

Eric trailed them by about 50 yards, and went unnoticed as he made his way towards the diner. Vince, and Christine entered, and ordered coffee, toast, and eggs. They tried to stay calm as they ranted to each other about what they were going to do to Shannon when they saw him again. Eric walked in, and sat across from them, but neither Vince, nor Christine were having any part of it. Voices were raised enough to draw the attention of the staff, as well as the police officer sipping coffee in the far corner, hidden from view. His ears became focused upon the words “didn't have to kill him”, and he stood up with gun drawn. The staff hit the floor, and Vince's jaw did the same.

The officer called for backup as he told the trio to put their hands up. All complied except Eric, who was still in a numbed state of shock. Vince, and Christine were instructed to step out of the booth, and lie face down on the floor. They pleaded with the officer to remain calm, but this young cop was quickly growing agitated with Eric's perceived defiance. Eric wasn't trying to start any trouble, just like always, he just made some mistakes. He was starting to realize the magnitude of his mistakes when another police car pulled into the parking lot.

A single tear rolled down Eric's cheek as he pondered his current position. He felt comfort in the fact that he got to perform live with his favorite band, but all the pain in his life came crashing down on him at once. He felt like an orphan again, and he couldn't stand it. He grabbed the butter knife from the napkin in front of him as two more cops came through the front door. Eric jumped out of his seat, and turned to show the dull blade to the officers. They happily gave him what he wanted in that moment.

Bullets riddled Eric's body as he began to fall on top of Vince, and Christine. The officers kept firing until their clips were empty. Eric was full of holes, and Christine caught two in the spine as well as another in her left leg. Vince didn't suffer much as the officer who aimed for Eric's knees missed, landing one in the top of his head. The diner floor was a pool of crimson as the officers proudly exclaimed, “It's safe now, you can come out.” to the staff of the diner. The story made national news, and completely overshadowed the horrific van accident less than 20 miles away.

Word made it back home to western North Carolina, and the music scene was devastated. This was a band of well-liked people who didn't deserve the end they received. Many tears were shed, and a rally against excessive police force was organized, but ultimately did nothing. The media made Eric, Vince, and Christine out to be homeless, drug-addled, violent criminals. Shannon's parents made a statement blaming them for their son's death even though it was officially ruled an accident.

With no families to speak up for them, Vince, Eric, Julius, Kevin, and Christine's stories, went ignored. Friends demanded fair coverage from the media, and the chance to redeem the reputations of their brethren, but got nothing. Hastily organized memorial shows were put together, and many disagreements were had within the remaining people in that scene. Some people used these deaths for personal gain, and it caused a great divide among everyone involved. Nothing was the same again, and eventually that scene died along with it's favorite offspring. Hope was dried up like the bloodstains in the corner of that all-night diner in Georgia.

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