Calling all YA writers, especially fantasy writers. I’ve started my Rock and Roll Life story (see below), but how do you think it should end? I’d like to challenge you to finish it.
There are some basic rules:
- No profanity or explicit sex. Hinted at is fine, but no details please. Remember this is God-honoring fiction. I will delete any comments that break this rule.
- It must keep in line and make sense with the first 3 parts of the story and the title, in that Zane’s life is affected by/lived out through well known classic rock and roll songs from the 70’s and 80’s.
- It must be under 1500 words.
- You may post your ending to the story in the comments or email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Extra points 💯 for incorporating a Christian theme or twist into the ending.
- Readers will vote on their favorite ending.
Rock and Roll Life
Letting the rain drip from his nose, Zane Driggers leaned against the backstage door of the sold-out stadium in L.A, still bummed he couldn’t get a ticket. He tugged his hood further over his eyes, and buried his hands in his pockets. The bass drum pounded against his back, resonating deep inside him.
An electric guitar screamed, sending chills down his spine. The crowd roared. He pictured himself up on stage, sweat dripping off him instead of rain, his fans singing along, jumping and clapping, then surging forward, arms outstretched to him, the star.
On his way home, he spotted a well-used guitar in a pawn shop’s window spotlight a few miles out on Route 66 in Newberry Springs, and knew he had to have it. It thrummed to the beat of a hopeful heart filled with big dreams.
The next day, Zane exited the school bus early and purchased the old six-string. This guitar was going to be his one-way ticket to a rock and roll future. He could feel it in his bones. He slung it over his free shoulder, inserted his earpieces, and smiled at Foreigner’s Jukebox Hero thumping in his ears. He had stars in his eyes alright.
Filled with a renewed energy, he headed to the Traveler’s Oasis, ready to endure another tedious afternoon bussing tables, washing dishes, and listening to Mr. Peterson drone on about his younger days as a navy cook on the USS Midway. Daydreaming about rocking out on his guitar, imitating the 70’s and 80’s rock legends he admired, made the evening fly by.
Before he left, Zane slipped the gun Mr Peterson had tucked under the counter at the cafe ‘in case of an emergency’ into his backpack.
The screen door squealed its usual protest as Zane entered the sweltering interior of the trailer house. Mama busied herself in the kitchen, dish towel slung over her shoulder.
“Hey, Mama.” The plastic covering on the kitchen chair squeaked as Zane slumped into it and slid his backpack off his shoulder, leaning it against one of the metal legs.
“Hey yourself,” she said, eyeing the guitar he’d propped against the wall. Smiling, she singled out a white envelope from the stack of mail on the end of the counter. “Look what came today.”
She thrust it in his direction. Her eyes sparkled for the first time in as long as he could remember. The bruise and swelling under her left eye was barely noticeable now but he could tell she still favored her right arm a little whenever she moved.
Zane’s high school graduation ceremony wasn’t until next week, but when he accepted the crisp business envelope, Mama beamed at him as if he’d just been awarded his doctorate. He walked his fingers around the edge of the envelope, past the UCLA return address, finally breaking the seal. He flattened the letter out on the formica-topped table where they could both see it. He’d only read as far as “Congratulations!” when Mama gripped his bicep.
“I’m so proud of you!” she said, her eyes glistening. “This is your chance to get out of here and make something of yourself!”
Without thinking, Zane pulled Mama into a bear hug but quickly released her when she winced from the pressure around her ribs. Hate for that boyfriend of hers boiled up inside him again.
“Mama, let’s both get outta here,” Zane said.
“You know I can’t…” she said, kicking at a corner of curled up linoleum.
They both jumped when Cal jerked the metal screen door open with such force that it slammed against the weathered exterior paneling. Muttering a string of curse words, the brute strode across the uneven floor in his heavy work boots, snatched up the letter and tore it into several pieces. Cal backhanded Zane, whiplashing his head to the side, then shoved him down into the corner. The guitar slid to the floor. His head sounded like a ripe watermelon as it thudded against the wall. Mama screamed.
“Woman, how dare you—!” Cal grabbed Mama by the hair, flung her onto the stained couch, straddled her and slapped her several times. Mama cried out in pain.
The hatred clawing at Zane’s insides cleared away the fuzzy-headedness. His hands balled into fists and his jaw clenched so tight his teeth hurt. He inched his backpack closer, trying not to draw Cal’s attention, and slid the gun out.
This was just such an emergency.
“Get up!” All of Zane’s pent-up loathing raged within him as he pointed the gun at Cal’s head. “I said, get up!”
Cal scowled at Zane. “You think I’m afraid of you, boy?” His face still red from his tantrum, Cal pulled himself to his full height, and puffed out his chest. He towered over Zane by several inches and outweighed him by fifty pounds.
“Move out of the way, Mama.”
“No, Zane! Please don’t do this! Don’t throw away your future! Please…” As she spoke, Mama scrambled off the couch and backed away.
“I can’t go on with my life and leave you here with this scum!” Zane thrust the gun’s muzzle hard against Cal’s temple, making his head tilt. He knew this was the only way, even as Mama sobbed.
The shot boomed in the confined space. Cal’s body crumpled to the floor like a puppet whose strings had been cut. Mama screamed again.
Zane dropped the gun onto the dingy carpet next to the body. Relief and fear roiled inside him, each one fighting for dominance.
Even without any close neighbors, Zane knew he couldn’t stay. He gathered up his backpack, strode down the hall to his bedroom, and stuffed some clothes in it. He headed back to the living room and grabbed his guitar.
Dishtowel in one hand and gun in the other, Mama stared teary-eyed at the body lying face down on the mud-brown carpet with a dark pool of blood for a pillow.
“I love you, Mama.”
“Oh, Zane!” Her words came out as a moan. She finished wiping off the gun and positioned Cal’s hand around it.
In a daze, Zane headed back toward the diner, guitar slung over one shoulder, backpack over the other, earbuds in place. His boots kicked up a spray of ochre dust that glowed in the blinding evening sun. He lowered his dollar-store sunglasses and let the words of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody sink in as they belted out the story of his life.
He sang along. “Mama, I just killed a man 🎶.”
Oh God, what have I done? I saved Mama, that’s what. There was no turning back now.
He was in luck. Two cars were parked on the gravel-spattered dirt outside the Traveler’s Oasis Cafe. One he recognized as the owner’s jeep, the other must belong to an unsuspecting customer, whom Zane hoped would be entertained by Mr. Peterson’s idle chitchat for at least another hour while he enjoyed a leisurely home-cooked meal.
Zane fiddled with the wires under the dash and the Corvette roared to life. His mouth curled at the irony of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell playing on the radio. He probably hadn’t paid Satan’s dues yet, and wished he was headed to some party, but he figured hell was exactly where he’d end up. His fingers tapped on the steering wheel in time to the pulsing beat as the convertible sped toward the state line.
Maybe I’ll join the other lost souls haunting the ghost town of Nothing, Arizona. That sounds like a good place for a nobody like me to go.
The wind whistled past his ears, ruffling his thick hair, as he pushed the car past 90 mph on Hwy 40. In the rearview mirror, the sun nestled down for the night in a fluffy bed of lilac and tangerine clouds. The classic Eagles’ song, Hotel California, came on the radio. His head bobbed in time to the music as he hummed along.
He pulled a hand-rolled joint from his shirt pocket. Holding the steering wheel with his knee, he cupped his hand around the lighter and flicked it to life. He took a long drag, holding each smoky inhalation as long as he could. Zane sunk deeper in the leather bucket seat and relaxed against the headrest. He smiled. Maybe life’s not so bad after all.
Time stood still as the world zipped by heavy-lidded eyes. He yawned. Mile after mile of desolate scenery passed by until the car hiccuped and sputtered to a stop.
Zane cursed under his breath at the empty gas gauge and slammed the heel of his hand on the steering wheel. Khaki grit and stunted shrubs stretched as far as he could see in all directions.
And here I am, stranded in the middle of God knows where.
Since going back wasn’t an option, Zane threw his guitar over his shoulder and continued along the deserted highway. Occasionally, a distant object seemed to reflect the last vestiges of diminishing sunlight. He headed toward it for what seemed like hours. It was cool enough he didn’t break a sweat, but he soon felt covered with the same earthen film that caked his boots and the sparse foliage.
Zane flinched when a raindrop slapped him on the cheek. A showy flash of lightning snaked in the distance, followed by a growing rumble. Within minutes, a heavy downpour plastered his hair to his head. Since none of the scraggly bushes would provide any cover, he ducked his head and trudged on. He pulled his collar tight around his neck but not before the rain found its way in and ran down his back, spreading a wave of goosebumps in its wake. He pushed on toward the dim glow in the distance.
As crimson and turquoise splashed over the horizon, Zane noticed the shimmering light he’d sought all night was not just one light, but several. A stone wall dotted with lit windows towered three stories high and stretched the length of a football field to either side. Surrounded by landscaped gardens, lush grass, and solar lights, the building looked out of place in the barren landscape.
Feeling like a drowned rat in a maze with only one direction open, Zane traipsed up steps framed on either side by concrete pillars studded with shiny pebbles. He raised his fist to knock, but jerked back when the dark double doors swung open before he touched them.
Inside, reflections of a multitude of lively yellow flames danced on large black and white tiles arranged like a life-size chess board. He paused, not wanting to mar the shiny floor with his muddy boots. The spacious foyer sported a glass elevator straight ahead with mahogany reception desks either side, all cradled between twin curving staircases leading to a row of closed doors on the second floor. A lion stood guard at the base of each staircase and hallways extended in each direction.
Squelching as he tiptoed across the polished marble, Zane headed to the old-fashioned bell perched on the desk to the right of the elevator and jiggled it. Before the chime finished sounding, a young woman in a floor-length black gown appeared in a doorway behind the elevator. Radiant raven hair flowed over each breast. Luminescent blue eyes bore into his soul.
“Welcome to The Hotel, Zane!” Her voice sounded like the words had been played on a harp. Her bronze skin seemed to make her straight white teeth gleam even brighter between full, dark lips. Mesmerized, his eyes scanned her slender form for several long moments before he noticed her smiling at him. He looked down as warmth flooded his cheeks.
Then it hit him. He frowned.
“How…how do you know my name?”
“Oh, we know everyone who’s expected here.”
“But I didn’t plan on stopping here…I ran out of gas. I don’t even know where ‘here’ is!”
“You’re in California, of course.” She winked at him. “And don’t worry—you don’t need a reservation.” She lit a candle cradled in an old-fashioned candlestick and curled her bony finger through the loop of metal at the base. “I’m sorry, but the storm knocked out our power. Not to worry, though, I can still show you to your room.”
She swayed up the stairs ahead of him, the open back of her silky gown accentuating her curves. She turned right at the top of the stairs and pushed open the second door. She lit the three candles in the room with hers—one on the bedside table, one on the desk, and one on top of the dresser. He stood in the doorway, admiring her graceful movements in the ceiling mirrors as she moved from candle to candle. She seemed almost translucent.
She brushed by him as she left, close enough for him to feel the contours of her warm body against his cold wet clothes.
“Don’t miss dinner at six in the master’s chamber,” she said, smiling, and winked at him again. As if on cue, his stomach rumbled. Wonder if they serve breakfast here, too. Her lithe form merged with the dimly lit hallway and she floated back down the stairs. Her fragrance lingered. He breathed in deeply.
He turned back and studied the room. It was an upscale and larger replica of his bedroom at home, except for the mirrors. The bed was made and the room was spotless. In the open closet, several shirts, a couple pairs of jeans, and a suit hung in orderly fashion. On the floor, three pairs of shoes in his size sat neatly lined up next to each other. The chest of drawers contained clothes that reminded him of his own, although they all appeared to be new and there were way more here than he’d ever owned. His few articles of old and well-worn clothing still sat in his backpack, no doubt soaked by the heavy rain, since he’d forgotten to get it out of the stolen convertible. He sighed. All that seemed like a lifetime away now.
He leaned his guitar against the desk, where a bottle of champagne chilled in a metal ice bucket. Tiny rivulets of condensation trickled down the sides making the metal look like it was undulating. Pools of iridescent water beaded up on the glass desktop.
Muted singing drew Zane back to the door. The empty corridors echoed with the chorus from one of his favorite Eagles songs. It was the same song he last remembered playing on the car radio.
“Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face…”