I continued driving towards what Lemmy had called Angel City, the road was smooth, there was no traffic, the sun was shining brightly, there was barely a breath of wind and the sky was cloudless, it was a perfect day. I couldn;t help but wonder if he had a hideout.
As I drove on down the road Lemmy tapped the packet of Marlboros on his hand, he already had one lit in his left hand but he was tapping out a second. Two smokes at once I thought was a bit extreme even for a man who’d been dead six months but just as I thought that he reached over to my side of the car with his open packet in his hand and offered me one. I noticed the packet was full, the cigarette he was offering me would be the first one removed from the packet
“Nah I gave up a few years ago, but thanks for offering.” I said looking over to him.
“They wont kill you here!” he said in his gravelly British accent keeping the packet within reach. I must have had a confused look on my face or something because before I had chance to say anything he added. “Nothing that happens here has an effect in the real world.”
I wanted to ask him how he knew, I wanted to ask him what he based his theory on. But the truth was I still didn’t know where ‘here’ was. I still wasn’t overly sure I was believing what my eyes were seeing but the fact was that I was somewhere and I was with a guy who I knew had died six months earlier therefore I also knew that something different was happening.
So I took the smoke that was offered to me and before I had it in my mouth there was a lit cigarette lighter in front of my face.
“Thanks.” I said puffing out the first small drag of smoke.
The second drag of the cigarette had me right back to where I hadn’t been for years, drawing smoke into my lungs and enjoying every bit of it. The third drag had me back in my teenage years, I hadn’t smoke Marlboros since I was a teenager unable to buy them for myself and pinching them from my next door neighbour’s truck. Back then I’d nick the cigarettes then sneak around the back of the water tank and quickly smoke them so I wasn’t caught, barely tasting it and definitely not savouring it. As I drove the car down the quiet country road in the middle of ‘somewhere else’ I savoured every drag, tasted the smoke as it entered my lungs, then tasted it again as I exhaled it. Smoking had never felt so good and I was already believing Lemmy’s words that they wouldn’t kill me.
“Just don’t take them back with you when you go.” Lemmy said as he butted out his own smoke in my washing powder laced ashtray.
“Why?” I asked.
“Can’t explain it. All I know is anyone who’s left here has reported that things taken from here to there are different when they get there. Kind of works the other way too. This packet of smokes that I bought at Betty’s,” he was referring to the General Store, “was half empty when we left, now it’s full.”
I looked at the packet knowing full well the smoke I was nearly finished was the first one out of the packet. Sure enough the packet Lemmy was holding was again full, with no space for the cigarette I was smoking if I tried.
“So have others like me, you know from back there, been here too?” I asked.
“Yeah we’ve had a few visitors lately. I seem to get noticed in town when I go there for my smokes.”
I didn’t ask him why needed smokes given the packet in his hand seemed to remain full, instead we drove on, smoking and chatting.
“Had anyone interesting through here?” I asked still trying to figure things out.
“Had one guy come through last week, visited about a dozen times,” that didn’t make sense but I didn’t interrupt him. “He was an A&R rep for some record company that name themselves after a bit of fungus. As soon as the guy heard about us he figured he could record us and make millions from us.”
I started thinking about all those ‘lost tapes’ and recordings of dead artists that take years to turn up only to be sold and make mega bucks for the inheritors of the estate and wondered if there was other places in the world like Angel City. I also started thinking about the Lemmy’s use of the word ‘us’ indicating that there was more than just him and I wondered who he was talking about when he continued.
“I swear this guy was a fucking idiot. Thought he could get us,” there was the word again, “to record so his fucking shitty company could make money. Man I’ve done some weird shit in my time but those guys have been eating way too many of their own magic mushrooms for their own good.”
Having been in the music industry for nearly twenty years I’d met a lot of A&R reps and I actually thought I knew the guy Lemmy was talking about but I didn’t ask for any names. Instead I asked what happened to the rep given that pissing him off and leaving him in the real world didn’t sound like a viable option to me but Lemmy didn’t answer fully all he said was that the guy have been dealt with.
As we lit up another smoke Lemmy asked me what I did and how I managed to find myself in the same town he was. I told him I was a journalist for a music magazine and I was on holidays just touring the country and trying to stay away from the rat race as much as I could.
“Know the feeling, for years I thought L.A. was where it was at. Lucky I never found out about this place until after I died or I might have gone a long time ago!”
For someone who spent at least part of every day, when at home, drinking Jack and Coke and playing his favourite poker machine down at the Rainbow, a guy who rarely had to worry about being busted for the drugs he took, never worry about where his next meal was coming from saying he liked the idea of Angel City enough to give that up earlier than he did was saying something, even if it wasn’t entirely true.
“So how much further have we got to go?” I asked hoping my pushing for information was not too forward and more than Lemmy expected of his visitors. Pretty much every report I’d ever read about Lemmy said he was an honest and generous person to everyone and I hoped that generosity extended to getting more information out of him.
“Not long,” he replied obviously not worried by my questions, “It’s just up the road.”
I didn’t actually want to ask what “IT” was, I wanted to be surprised. Of course I assumed it was Angel City but exactly what the place looked like, how big it was, what it was made up of, and everything else, I wanted to be a surprise so I said nothing.
In less than three minutes instead of coming up to a town, a suburb, or even a city we came up to a huge concrete wall and a set of gates. Had they been painted white I might have actually considered they were the pearly gates and that maybe I was actually dead caught in some weird afterlife but they were black, jet black. If both heaven and hell really do exist all reports would suggest a nice guy like Lemmy wouldn’t be going down into the fiery pit, therefore I wasn’t looking at the gates to hell either.
I stopped the car in front of the gates, I couldn’t see anything but a bitumen road and grass through the gates and I was just about to ask Lemmy what was expected of me when a figure stepped out from behind the gate. I looked at the man behind the gate, he wasn’t overly tall, he had shoulder length blonde hair, a black hat, black sleeveless T-shirt and black denim jeans.
I looked to my left and straight at Lemmy. “Is that…”
Previous episodes here.