Rob Vilar’s Story Time – A Place to Bury Strangers

A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS - Exploding Head (Mute Records)
A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS - Exploding Head (Mute Records)

By Rob Vilar

“The Gravitron is one of the best thrill rides on the midway.  With the use of centrifugal force, the super spinning motion lifts riders off the floor for a feeling of weightlessness.” –

A carnal love story set in a carnival, present day.

With my water pistol at my side, I wait for the siren’s call to commence the contest. I stare at the clown target. With the shrill ring of the siren to initiate the bout, I immediately draw my pistol and discharge fully onto the target with all the poise and rigour I can muster in this defining moment of carnival games. At the end, when it is all done, I stand there, drenched in the autumn night’s air. The carnie leans over his counter and says to me, “Sorry son, looks like you’ve come in last.” I then hear a familiar voice.

“Nice try sport. Maybe you should give it another go?”

I turn around and there she is—black jacket, black pants, white shoes, and dark shades, smacking her bubble gum. Baby’s in black.

“Sorry I didn’t win you a fucking bear,” I reply, pulling myself together.

“No matter. I’m getting a little anxious here. What you say we go for a ride?” She points to the midway.

I take a few steps towards her, seize her hand, and say, “Let’s go.”

We enter the midway grounds and we’re immediately hit by an onslaught of glitter and din of noise.

“Makes you blind,” she whispers.

We slog through the throngs of nervous parents and idling thrill addicts. We make our way past the mirrored halls, horror houses, and roller coasters to… the starship. Silver and loaded with jewels, it’s lit above with a sign that reads “GRAVITRON.” We watch as it decelerates to a gradual stop and opens its door, emancipating a fog of holiness into the night. She then breaks from me, fires her cigarette, and asks, “Blast off?”

“Space is the place, babe,” I answer and we enter the starship.

Once inside the intergalactic spindle, we notice a DJ sitting at the black hole centre of the ship. Heavily bearded with a dark pair of sunglasses, he leans into his microphone.

“Fellow travellers, take your positions… for tonight’s voyage you will be taken to the stars. There will are no refunds. There will be no looking back. The controls are set to the centre of your soul and the new A Place to Bury Strangers joint Exploding Head is set to spin.”

As we take to our individual seats, the opening psychocandy guitar riff of “Deadbeat” initiates the starship’s revolution. With a burning surge of distortion ripping into the cabin, we begin to feel gravity’s pull. As the drone intensifies, a feeling of weightlessness subverts itself under our feet and we begin to rise. We lift higher and higher with each passing spin, until when we hit the top; then the DJ eases the throttle and mixes into the next track, “Lost Feeling.”  The interior lights twinkle on, and it’s heaven. The DJ looks at us and knows he’s got us exactly where he wants us. I notice her singing along. “The feeling is gone, the feeling is gone.”

“I take it you’ve heard this before?” I ask.

“I have, and on vinyl, no less. I don’t go for cheap.”

The DJ goes into a new track, “In Your Heart,” and the ship’s lighting goes from soft to strobe, the perfect prescription. I close my eyes and take in the moment. The song revolves and blurs as images of her smear the foreground of my mind. My rib cage tenses up as I feel my heartbeat rubbing up against the bone. I break into a slow sweat, open my eyes, and then turn to face her. She looks at me and says, “It’s a real shame. I want to touch you, but I can’t.”

“I know what you mean,” I respond. “It’s like when I DJ for the kids, sometimes. They want to touch each other, but somehow, they can’t.”

“How does a situation like this get amended?” she asks.

“DJ’s got to drop it,” I reply.

The starship’s DJ drops “Ego Death,” which kills the BPMs, slows the starship down, and loosens our joints up as we peel ourselves out of our seats and tumble to the floor. We lie there, bruised and sweaty, until she rolls me over onto my backside. She crawls on top of me, readjusts her shades, goes into her purse, and pulls out a pair of plastic fangs. With guitars heated for re-entry and fangs in place, she lunges for my shoulder. A spurt of blood shoots to the moon.

We rest there in a state of bliss, the starship’s deckplates covered in an ever-expanding pool of my blood. It’s only then that I realize that rock ’n’ roll isn’t dead—it just goes round and round…