This is the eleventh part of a serialized giant monster story published in weekly installments on this site.
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11. Beauty and the Beach
~ July, 1966 — Noon, the Following Day ~
Rin Murakami’s early morning drive from Okayama to Tottori took longer than she would have liked, but the budding rock-and-roll star made it in two hours and twenty minutes—near record time. It was a good thing her mom couldn’t see how hard she had run the new Toyota during the trip. Rin liked to drive fast and live hard; she knew her mother (and her uptight twin sister) wouldn’t approve.
If Mom was really psychic, she’d never loan me the car, Rin thought, grinning.
She’d blasted the radio for the first part of the ride, turning the volume up so loud that the Corolla’s windows shook. Then all the channels started blathering about more of that meteor-disaster crap, and some ship sinking, and something about that base her sister Emiko was all twisted up about, so Rin turned it off. The last thing she needed before a gig was to hear a load of downbeat news.
The radio probably wasn’t helping her headache, either.
So for the rest of the drive, she ran through the songs her group would be playing at the beach party, warming up her voice—though Surfer Go Go was mostly an instrumental band—and mentally fingering the chords and solos on her guitar.
Speeding through the mountains over the spine of Japan had been worth it to arrive early at the Tottori Beach Festival. Pulling into the seaside town before noon gave Rin some time to walk the immense sand dunes and get to know the place a bit before her crew had to take the stage.
Surfer Go Go wasn’t headlining, of course, or even kicking off the bash, but their performance time had been set close enough to the opening ceremonies that the audience should still be riding a wave of excitement. A strong performance at the festival could generate much-needed publicity and boost the up-and-coming band’s reputation. Just thinking about the cheers to come sent a thrill through Rin. This was what she lived for: playing great sets to an adoring crowd.
And if she and her friends kept working hard, soon they’d be on top of the charts—like The Ventures—and she’d never have to worry about her crazy mother or her terminally square sister again.
Thoughts of future fame swirling through her head, Rin quickly located the rest of her bandmates—Jotaro, Ichiro, and Mai—walking the strand near the seaside stage. Though none would admit it, Rin could tell that each of them felt a bit awed by the sprawling setup.
Thousands of people thronged the beach, waiting for the show to start. To the north, the Sea of Japan stretched away into the endless blue, the summer haze blurring the point where ocean met sky; to their south lay the great dunes, an undulating ocean of sand flanked by green mountains. The whole landscape dwarfed the figures of the concertgoers—and the band.
The stage itself was also huge, with stacks of speakers towering on each side. A series of awnings stretched over the top of the stage and the surrounding set-up areas, providing cover from the summer sun, but the back of the platform lay open to the sea—a perfect vista punctuated by distant lonely islands.
“I’ve seen better,” Ichi boasted, though they all knew he was lying.
Soon, the four of them would be up on that stage, playing to all those people. Rin’s entire body tingled just thinking about it—though the excitement seemed to be making her headache worse, too.
“Anybody got any aspirin?” she asked.
“Butterflies?” Jo ventured.
“No. Just a splitting headache. Probably all that driving.” The others had come down a few days ago and looked well rested, but, of course, they didn’t have to borrow their mothers’ cars—or wait on their stupid sister’s errands—to get here.
Mai fished some aspirin out of her purse, and Rin downed a couple without water.
Then they all promised to rendezvous in an hour for a quick rehearsal and sound check before their set. The others hurried off to ogle the beach bunnies or grab some food.
Since her headache was making her a bit queasy (despite what she’d told Mai), Rin decided to skip the grub and check out some of the other performers.
The lineup was a mix of local celebrities, comedians, and bands, along with a handful of national acts. The organizers had even brought in a movie star, just to ensure big press coverage. Yuriko Hoshi, a popular film actress, had appeared in Campus A-Go-Go the previous year, and seemed a fitting choice to kick off a beach party. She would be doing the welcoming speech at the start of the show.
Mai—a huge fan of the movies—had been champing at the bit to catch a glimpse of Yuriko, but Rin didn’t see the actress in the setup area. Oddly, most of the buzz backstage was not about the actual movie star in their midst; it was about Rika Tadaka.
Rika, famous for her good looks, seemed to think she was an actress—but she hadn’t appeared in any actual speaking roles yet. (Though she did have a walk-on in Campus A-Go-Go.) She also thought she could sing, which was probably why she would be taking the stage a bit later.
Rin had heard the girl, though, and wasn’t buying it. She doubted that Rika would have gotten anywhere in either the movies or the music business without her millionaire father. It seemed money could buy you love, to judge by the buzz and the swath of fans on the beach sporting Rika T-shirts.
Shortly after noon, Yuriko Hoshi took the stage, gave the traditional greetings, and introduced the first act—some band from Tokyo that Rin had never heard of. Yuriko looked every bit the movie star: dignified and totally gorgeous. Rin hoped that Mai had found a really good vantage point to see her idol; probably she had.
Rin herself remained in the backstage prep area—under a smaller awning and away from the hot summer sun—circulating among the performers. It didn’t give her the best view of the stage, but being amid other musicians helped tamp down her pre-show nerves. Her headache was still pounding, despite the aspirin, and she hoped that the rest of the band would return soon. Maybe running through a few tunes would make her head stop throbbing.
She was just thinking about bumming a couple more aspirin from someone when a pleasant voice behind her asked:
“Excuse me, aren’t you with Surfer Go Go?”
“Yeah,” Rin said, annoyed at the distraction. She turned and found herself face to face with Rika Tadaka—or, more accurately, face to ample bosom. The aspiring actress was tall and slender as a young willow tree. Trees never had boobs like these, though. Rin immediately hated her.
“I think surf music is the greatest,” Rika said pleasantly, shaking out her long, perfect mane of hair. “You’re Mai, aren’t you?”
“Nope. I’m Rin. Mai’s the drummer. I’m lead guitar.”
Rika beamed at her. “I’m so glad you’ll be warming up the crowd for me.”
“We’re just playing before you,” Rin countered. “We’re not your warm-up act.”
Rika ignored the rebuke. “I’m sure we’ll work fine together,” she said, flashing a smile that made Rin want to punch her.
“Groovy,” Rin replied, giving what she hoped was a suitably insincere grin right back. “You got any aspirin?”
Rika did, and after the starlet had left, Rin found some beer to wash the pills down.
By the time Surfer Go Go’s turn came, though, Rin’s headache had grown even worse. Knowing that Rika would be following them onto the stage wasn’t helping.
“Ready?” Ichi asked as they stood in the wings, waiting for their introduction.
“Sure,” Rin lied.
Mai and Jotaro didn’t look like they believed her. Ichi wasn’t paying attention; he’d only asked as a courtesy. Already, the band’s rhythm guitarist and singer was focused on the performance to come; he imagined himself the leader of this band.
One day soon, Rin would show him otherwise.
“…Surfer Go Go!” the Emcee boomed from out front.
“Let’s bust this joint wide open,” Mai told the rest, and the four of them stormed the stage.
A sea of flashbulbs burst before Rin’s eyes, though she couldn’t tell how many were real and how many part of her headache.
She gritted her teeth and banged out the lead as the band ripped into a lightning fast cover version of “Walk Don’t Run.”
The crowd roared their approval, but the band didn’t stop, rifling right into “Pipeline.” They followed that with “Surfin’ Safari,” and even Rin had to admit that the time they’d spent learning the English lyrics had paid off.
“Not bad,” she said to Ichi off mic.
“You sound pretty great yourself,” he replied with a wink.
Was he flirting with her? With the headache still needling her eyeballs, Rin couldn’t even begin to figure it out.
Just play, she told herself.
And play they did, the summer heat adding passion to the fury of their performance.
By the time they hit “Perfidia,” Rin’s head was throbbing only dully, and as they neared the end of the set, she almost felt human again.
Only two more songs.
The crowd danced wildly as the band belted out “Okayama Girls”, their trademark reworking of the Beach Boys’ “California Girls.”
Despite having felt like hell all day, Rin couldn’t help but smile.
They’d done it! They’d put aside their petty squabbles and their nerves; they’d taken the audience in hand and swept all of Tottori into the sea of Rock and Roll.
Let’s see Rika follow this!
Then lightning flashed out of the clear blue sky and split Rin’s skull in two.
Blood and fire screamed in her mind, and everything spun as she found herself yanked into the worst headache she’d ever experienced.
The ocean surged up and swallowed the stage, but no one else seemed to notice.
The concert slowed to a crawl, all sound stopped, and everyone’s attention seemed fixated on her. Rin felt hyper-aware of everything, yet she couldn’t differentiate reality from the images flashing through her head.
Part of her saw her bandmates staring at her, speaking to her, looking concerned—but she couldn’t hear them.
Another part saw the sea rolling over the beach, swallowing the dunes, drowning the concertgoers.
She blinked and realized that she’d fallen to her knees, though she still held her guitar, and somehow, her fingers were still racing across the notes of the band’s final song: “Wipe Out.”
Rin struggled to her feet, but a hideous reptilian face burst out of the waves behind the stage and loomed over her, leering. Salt spray and sea foam dripped from the beast’s scaly countenance. It opened its serpent-like mouth, showing rows of dagger-sharp fangs, and prepared to swallow her.
It’s not real! Rin told herself, praying to all the gods that she was right.
She gritted her teeth against the pain and pounded out the next chord.
Somehow, the music broke the spell.
Suddenly, she could hear again, the stage swam back into focus, and the world returned to its normal speed. All her bandmates were staring at her, but the crowd seemed to think Rin’s seizure had just been part of the act.
“Are you all right?” Jo mouthed.
Rin nodded and kept playing, somehow managing to stay upright—and on key—until the end of the song.
When they finished, the crowd erupted into thunderous applause.
“Weren’t they great?” the Emcee crowed as the four of them raced off stage. “The fabulous Surfer Go Go!”
“Let’s do an encore!” Ichi urged the rest.
“No encores in the show, man,” Jotaro reminded him. “They gotta set up for the next act.”
“Besides, Rin can barely stand, you idiot,” Mai added, letting Rin lean heavily on her. “This must be one killer headache, maybe a migraine or something.”
“What do you know about migraines?” Ichiro scoffed.
Mai sneered at him. “I can read, can’t I? Unlike you.”
Once they were backstage, Rin immediately sat down, perching herself atop a warm-up amp belonging to one of the next acts. She stared at her red sneakers and took deep breaths, willing the pain to go away.
“So, Rin, come clean,” Ichi said. “Is this really a headache, or did you take something more than just aspirin before our set?” He said it as though he were joking, but Rin wasn’t in any mood for his crap.
She looked up, a sarcastic retort forming on her lips.
But behind her bandmates, she spotted something that made fear shoot through her.
Just a few hundred yards offshore, the sea bubbled and frothed, as if it were boiling. The water surged up in a fountain of spray and steam.
The whole scene looked just like her hallucination.
Rin tried to scream, but the words froze in her throat, and all she could manage was a hoarse gasp:
Thanks to Vicki, David, Rob, Lester, Edward, and Kiff for beta-reading.
All contents, copyright 2013 Stephen D. Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.