Arts Lab Writing            The Arts Lab: Writing            Arts Lab Photography


A portion of a story based upon my interpretation of
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
by David Bowie

Written by Myriada

David Jones sat alone in the small, backstage dressing room bathed in the starkest of white light. Exchanging a hallow stare with the image in the mirror before him, he set to work wiping away the elaborate stage makeup from his pallid face with a trembling hand. The preparation table before him had been carelessly strewn with hairbrushes and sprays, half empty makeup cases in a myriad of hues, and a vast assortment of pill bottles intended to combat any ill or fulfil any desire. Seeking to quell the tremors, David reached blindly for the nearest container of curatives. He did not care about the specifics of its contents, so long as there were some left. He was not disappointed.

Measuring out a liberal handful, he tossed his head back to down them, but his efforts proved to be insufficient. Memories of the evening's performance began flooding back into his not yet dulled thoughts, and David's head fell into his hands in despair. With their captive audience ensured, the haunting images played themselves out once again in every vivid and horrific detail.

The gig had gone as it always had of late. The music, in all its psychedelic splendor, ebbed and flowed through the undulating masses, who drank it in with an all-consuming desire. Unabashed awe and decadent indulgence shown on every face the brilliantly colored stage lights touched. The crowd's tension had grown palpable, and shouts would begin to erupt at the closing notes of every song, as the spellbound throngs voiced their displeasure in no uncertain terms. Absorbing each verse like some airborne drug, they were not about to give it up willingly. Only the strumming of the next number's opening notes seemed to calm the persistent din, if but for a time.

Uplifted eyes would gaze transfixed at Ziggy Stardust, caring about nothing but him, as their anxious forms began writhing to the beat once more. Ziggy gazed back, flashing them a trademark grin between guitar riffs, a move which never failed to elicit squeals from the multitudes at his feet. Yet lately, though it did not show, the much adored smile had become increasingly half-hearted, more habit than emotion. A distant crash made him start slightly, as he backed away warily from the nearly rabid fans now chanting his stage name over and over. "Ziggy! Ziggy! Ziggy! Ziggy!" they cried in unison.

Glancing back to the all but forgotten positions of his band mates, Weird and Gilly, also known as The Spiders from Mars, he could clearly discern the expressions of seething contempt they wore, though neither of his former friends would so much as look at him. While their presence was required to perform the backing instrumentals, the fans seemed oblivious to them, and it was no secret that the Spiders themselves often questioned why they bothered to show up at all. Still, they continued to do so night after night, unwilling to forfeit their places on the hottest ticket going in the business. However, being there and being happy about it were too very different things, as Ziggy had been made increasingly aware of in recent days.

In the past, he had written off their bitterness as mere jealousy. They were jealous of the allegiance that he - and he alone - commanded from their followers. They were jealous of his fame, which had spread far and wide, dramatically eclipsing theirs. Perhaps most of all, they were jealous of his unequalled talent, which had been the catalyst that had brought the band together in the first place. Utterly convinced of his own superiority, he had brushed aside their concerns about the direction the group was taking, and even considered them ungrateful for voicing their opinions in the first place. It had not always been so, but the passage of time and a steady stream of "mood enhancers" had been cruel, leaving his recollections of simpler days faded and oddly surreal.

He continued to watch them play for a moment longer, until, at last, Gilly inclined his head slightly and noticed Ziggy's ruminative gaze upon him. Suspicious of the scrutiny, he shifted his stance in obvious discomfort, turning his face away again. Ziggy sighed. Moving to appease the half-crazed crowd that continued to scream wildly for his attention, Ziggy marvelled at their near fury over having been neglected for a few seconds. How long had it been like this, he wondered? The fog in his brain refused to yield any clue. Maybe, he considered, the Spiders had been right about things all along. As hard as it had been for him to admit, things had gotten dangerously out of hand.

He first noticed the young man soon after launching into the evening's final song, a thoughtful number tinged with both sadness and hope. Ziggy was quite sure that he had not seen the youth before. Perhaps the boy had simply risked the ire of the overworked security team by abandoning his seat in a less costly section. Clad in plain, white garments, he stood alone in the aisle, quietly observing Ziggy's every move from the relative anonymity of the shadows. Upon realizing that his idol's attention had fallen upon him, he smiled warmly in return, a look of profound respect gleaming in his eyes. As he shyly summoned the courage to take another step forward, the pale gold hair that loosely framed his face caught the light, glowing resplendently like some divine vision. Pausing diffidently, his bright blue eyes raised, returning reverently to Ziggy, and the corners of his lips curled upwards once more. This time, Ziggy beamed back. The crowd roared.

Scarcely aware of the lyrics issuing from his mouth, nor the chords his fingers deftly coaxed from his instrument as they had done a thousand times before, Ziggy's rapt fascination with the young man in the aisle gradually supplanted all else. In a hall overrun by the openly obsessed, it was he, the self-proclaimed king of the egotistical rock stars, who now found himself enthralled by this embodiment of innocence before him. Had he been all that unlike this boy once, he thought? Memories tinged with the golden glow of happier times welled up inside him, but accompanying each were the unwelcome recurrences of every misspent moment that followed. As his silent tally of unspoken regrets lengthened, his spirit grew increasingly leaden, until he could no longer escape the one simple fact that underscored everything he had achieved. He despised who he had become in the process. The road ahead, which had once been so clear to him, now seemed irrevocably lost, and perhaps for the first time, Ziggy felt truly and utterly alone. Yet he was not alone, for there before him the fair-haired youth continued to stand, still displaying that kind, respectful smile that cut through Ziggy's mounting shame like a laser.

The fans, aware only that the concert's intended end was drawing alarming near, cried out all the louder. Many leapt from their seats to press forward, spurred by an insatiable appetite for more, and soon entire rows were being deserted en mass. Ziggy did not notice them. Approaching the stage edge, as the final song's last notes echoed throughout the room, he instinctively outstretched his hands to the youth in white. The boy's bright, blue eyes widened in astonishment as they locked on Ziggy's curiously mismatched ones, but his shock quickly gave way to exultation. Beaming excitedly, the young man hastened to advance in response to the apparent invitation, his own hands lifted in absolute euphoria. Once the teen had reached the stage barriers, Ziggy bent low, firmly grasping his upraised hands. In this single gesture of communion, the world-weary rock star felt more sincerity than in anything fame had brought him. Opening his mouth uncertainly, Ziggy found himself in an unfamiliar struggle for the right words to articulate the moment, only vaguely aware of the human torrent that was rapidly closing in on them both. It was not until the roar filling his ears had grown so intense that it seemed to shake the very foundation of the concert hall itself that he was, at last, jolted back to reality. Woven within the fabric of the deafening refrain were shrieks of excitement accompanied by the usual, shrill exclamations of mindless adoration. In the end, however, it was the screams of pain that would linger in his mind the longest.

Perhaps it was a blessing that Ziggy's momentary confusion left his memories of that which followed in a blur. The mesmerized masses, having seen the object of their frenzied worship so near, had surged forward, intent on seizing those god-like hands for themselves. It did not take long for the maddening stampede to take on a life of its own. Those who were first to arrive at the stage barrier soon found themselves trapped in a crushing onslaught of bodies, their elation quickly turning to panic as they struggled to free themselves. Those who lost their balance in the ensuing melee merely disappeared amongst the jostling multitudes and did not reemerge.

Amidst the unfolding chaos, Ziggy felt the hands of the young man in white being ripped from his own, and his stomach lurched sickeningly at the sensation. Falling hard upon his hands and knees from the sheer force behind the abrupt separation, Ziggy found himself staring directly into the horror stricken faces that were now mere inches from his own, their desperate cries and gasps for breath besieging him. Within seconds, however, the scenes of torment and misery were sliding away into the distance. Two pairs of strong arms belonging to members of the security detail had latched onto him and were dragging him backwards, safely away from the deadly fray. Still unable to tear his eyes from the tragic scene, Ziggy frantically searched the brutal fracas for the fair haired youth, hoping beyond all reason that the boy had somehow been swept clear of the danger - that by some means he had been spared. By the time Ziggy was being forcibly manoeuvred offstage, however, his scans had all proven to be in vain. The boy was no where to be seen.

David's dressing room door creaked open slowly. He hardly needed to look up, for such intrusions had become common of late. Nevertheless, he turned stoically to meet the concerned gaze of his girlfriend Randy, for in the state he now found himself, he would be numb to even the most relentless rebuke.

"Well, I've just talked to the medic," she began heavily. "He counts five dead, including that boy." At this, she watched him intently, trying to discern any emotion he might have upon hearing this news. David gave a single, solemn nod to indicate he understood, but spoke not a word.

Releasing a somewhat anxious sigh, Randy intoned more firmly, "There will be an investigation, you know." Still, there was no reaction. Shaking her head softly in disbelief, she set her gaze upon the cold, hard tile flooring at her feet. "What the hell were you thinking?" she murmured quietly, not really expecting to be answered. When David merely closed his eyes and turned away, she exhaled deeply, head still bowed. "When is it ever going to be enough?" Randy whispered, as she moved to retreat from the small, harshly lit room. Once the door had closed behind her with a barely audible click, a silence more befitting a tomb was allowed to descend once more.

David ran his jaded fingertips past the corners of his much lauded, disparate eyes and into his spiked, sunset-red hair. "It has been enough," he conceded in a low, melancholy voice. As he spoke, it seemed that an icy, black emptiness opened itself within him, weighing so heavily upon his already disconsolate spirit that he sank wearily in his chair. The illusory chasm spread wider and wider, and all the while a cool, persistent breeze filtered up from its inky depths, beckoning him to draw just a bit nearer. David had come to know this rift in his soul all too well. He had spent many nights of late curled up in anguish by its eager lips. As tempting as it had been to simply surrender to its malevolent, eternal embrace, he had always been far too terrified to do so. Instead, he would huddle there in despair, tears streaming over his hollow cheeks, waiting for the darkness to dissipate, for only then could he find the strength to leave the phantasmal breach's side.

Despite David's every effort to dispel this virulent image from his thoughts permanently, it continued to reappear, opening its gaping maw to him with increasing frequency. Each time the frigid, aphotic void had been revealed to him anew, the swirling winds that reached out for him had grown more insistent and seductive. Day by day, David had sensed his fear of the malign visitation slowly slipping away. Tonight, as he stared long and hard into the somber abyss, buffeted by its alluring, gale-force breath, he felt absolutely nothing. Surveying its every ghastly detail with a morbidly detached sort of amusement, he stood upon the terminus of his very being, alone, and no longer afraid.

Reaching purposefully with one pale, trembling hand, he located another often utilized bottle, and quickly downed its contents. He knew from experience that this should be enough to banish the evening's terrible events from his thoughts. Indeed, it would banish all thought, but only for a time. On this wretched, fateful eve, that simply wasn't good enough. Fumbling slightly, he slid out a small, unobtrusive drawer beside him, and calmly removed from it a needle and a length of rubber tubing.

Randy shuffled blearily through the concert hall's barren, impersonal corridors. Having just returned from receiving a status update on the injured, she was busy assimilating this new information, albeit with a divided attention. Part of her felt compelled to engage in a desperate search for some trace of meaning in the aftermath of an event that she knew, ultimately, had none. Still, she could not help but wonder how it had come to this - how had they attained everything they had ever dreamed of, but lost it all at the same time?

"Why?" she thought, turning the question over and over in her mind, "Why did this have to happen?" If God had an answer to her query, he did not offer it. Her petite form slumped. She was tired, but in a way that had nothing to do with the lateness of the hour. Her gait slowed further still as she approached the entry way to David's dressing area for the second time. Sucking in her breath uneasily, Randy creaked open the door with great trepidation. Peering inside, she saw that the chair he had been occupying was now empty. Scanning the full extent of the meagre room in bewilderment, she caught sight of David's limp body lying crumpled upon the cold, unyielding floor, and the blood drained from her face. Panic threatened to overwhelm her, as she rushed to his side, brushing past the tell-tale paraphernalia strewn about him in order to cradle his head in her arms.

"David?" she said, addressing him in a clear, emphatic voice. "David?!" she demanded again, even more loudly, her words beginning to crack in fright. Her heart raced wildly, and her respiration came fast and heavy, although she could detect no indication of either life sign in the slender frame she now held. "Help!" she screamed frantically, praying that some passerby in the desolate hall would hear her pleas. "Somebody, help me!" On the verge of complete hysteria, Randy's sanity was spared by two passing roadies who rushed in upon hearing her cries to offer their assistance. Stepping back, she watched as the men turned their attentions to David, affording her a few, precious seconds to compose herself as best she could. Grabbing the nearest house phone mounted upon the wall beside the door, she spoke urgently to the voice on the other end. "Yes, hello!" she began, "We have a medical emergency in David's dressing room..." Giving his unconscious form another quick, sidelong glance as the stage assistants worked feverishly to perform CPR, she added direly, "Please, hurry!"

Written by
November 2003.

Arts Lab Writing Top Arts Lab Photography
Created: November 2003 © Paul Kinder Last Updated: 15/11/03