It had been the worst show Axl could remember, not that he could remember any of the early shows. If it hand`t been for the fact that he had once again hurt himself on stage, it would still have ranked in his top-ten worst concerts. He stared dejectedly out of the window of his guitarist`s trailer, where he was trying to allow Slash to cheer him up. It wasn`t working. The rain was lashing at the window panes and he could feel the trailer rocking with the wind. "Great weather huh? it isn`t even November yet!" joked Slash, setting a drink beside his silent singer and fetching his own. Axl made a small, reply-like noise that could have meant anything and stared on. "Come on Ax, it could definatly have been worse. You can`t control the bad weather, and it isn`t your fault that the tendons in your knee went again" Secretly Slash knew it was his own fault, but decided not to risk a tantrum. Sighing despondently and sipping at the drink, Axl muttered; "How could it have been worse? Couldn`t you hear how out of tune I was tonight? Bob Guccione will have a ball with this one! Incidentally, did you see Duff afterwards? he disappeared off straight away?" "Probably in a bar somewhere, I don`t think he was too happy about tonight either, and you know Duff when he isn`t happy, straight to a bar" "Never mind, why don`t we go check up on the roadies, make sure they got everything covered in time to stop the amps exploding!" breathed Axl, before limping over to the door. Slash followed, with a certain strange sense of trepidation. He couldn`t remember when he had last felt so irrationally scared, and he didn`t even know what he was scared about, "wait for me!" he yelled to Axl, who didn`t stop, but continued limping resolutely back to the arena. Rain spilled in through the open roof of the arena with a pounding that was cut out only by the thick heavy notes of a lone bass guitar. At first it was impossible to discern where it was coming from, it seemed to resonate from nowhere, and Axl, having removed his lenses hours ago, squinted myopically into the gloom to see who was playing around with the equipment. "What the hell! the roadies left the stuff out here, covered, but on the stage!" exclaimed Slash, "I thought we told them to pack up!" "You did. I told them to leave the stuff here" announced a voice from the gloom which by its drawling Seattle intonations and semi-slurred gait was immediately identifiable as belonging to Duff. The bassist was perched on the drum riser, fine-tuning his instrument in almost pitch blackness, and looking very dissatisfied with the result. "I wasn`t happy with the sound, no idea what`s wrong with it though, short of taking the thing apart I`ve been trying to work out what`s up with my bass" he explained, seeing Axl`s questioning glance from under a brow which already had the storm-clouds of another tantrum brewing on it. Slash saw the signs, and licked his lips nervously, "Uh..we were about to go for a drink, on me, we, well, Axl, wondered if you wanted to come" he asked, seeing the glint in Duff`s eyes that always appeared when he knew he wasn`t buying. "Sure, I`ve hardly had anything today, I`ll come" He put down his bass and was about to walk off when he remembered "Oops! better turn off the amp, I don`t need a bill for the power!" and reached over to flick the switch. The amp was uncovered, rain dripped down the front, and more worryingly, into the back panels. As Duff touched the switch, there was a crack of electricity which was visible as a blue flash through the rain in his hair, he didn`t have time to scream, before Slash was calling an ambulance even, his bassist was lying on the floor, not breathing, no pulse, cooling by the second into the cold climate of Death. "Clear!" the pads were applied again and another jolt brought Duff`s long, lithe body into a sharp arc, still the heart monitor carried on in its monotonal voice, "Clear!" fighting fire with fire, the medics continued trying to treat a shock victim with electricity. "Clear!" on and on, ten times in all they tried, but still he was flatlining. "Okay, stop, are we all satisfied that we`ve done all we can?" the team operator murmered, to nods of subdued agreement. "Then who is a man enough to go out there and tell Axl Rose himself the news?" Before anyone could volunteer, a small beep broke the silence, then another, and another, settling down into the steady rhythm of a heartbeat. The monitor gave the same evidence. and before anyone questioned this, the dead body laying on the floor began to breathe. Hours later, Duff began to swim back to the surface of consciousness, he could hear voices around him, two concerned medics quietly fretting over him, and one guitarist going quietly insane with worry. The voices were dim, but he could pick out Slash`s from them, and as the axeman brushed back one unruly blonde strand from his face, he could smell blood, Slash`s blood. His eyes flicked open, and immediately Slash fell on him with joy, "Thank god! you`re okay aren`t you? how are you feeling? do you want me to get you anything?" he flung his arms around his friend and hugged the air out of him, before allowing him to reply. That was the first thing he noticed about him after the accident. His voice had changed. Maybe it was because he no longer slurred, maybe it was the cold quality, but his voice was different as he stated "You`ve hurt your hand Slash, your left hand, I can smell the blood" dispassionately, staring straight ahead out of bloodshot eyes that held no emotion. Shocked, Slash drew back his hands and examined the left one. In his panic he had resumed his old habit of nailbiting, and the nail of his index finger was nibbled down so far it had bled. "So I have. Never mind that Duff, how are you feeling now?" "Could we have a little time alone please, just Slash and I" he whispered, closing his eyes in a languorous blink and sitting up on the couch. Obligingly the medics left, and Duff opened his eyes, gazing so intently at Slash that he felt that his friend was looking more through him than at him. "Have you ever wondered what it`s like to be dead Slash? it`s not so bad really, I quite liked it" he said, his voice sliding over the words as silk would. Slash drew back, and ran one hand nervously through his mangrove tangle of ebony curls, "You weren`t dead Duff, just unconscious, and you`re acting a little weird now by the way!" he replied. Ignoring him, his brotherly friend took his hand with a grip that had increased tenfold in strength and was Arctic cold to the touch, sending shivers down the handsome guitarist`s spine, "You don`t understand how liberating death can be Slash, try it" he whispered, but Slash had had enough, he was thoroughly frightened and didn`t know what was going on, "I dunno what they gave you back then Duff, but I`m gonna leave you to sleep it off, you need to get some rest right this minute!" he backed away from his friend in fear, feeling the cold, vacant eyes bore into him. As he left, he knew that Duff was still staring at the back of his head, and he heard him breathe harshly; Watch your step Slash................... 2 Two days later. The short spate of nightly concerts over and having ended on a good note, Axl had decided to celebrate surviving the shows, and was already much the worse for nearly two entire bottles of vintage champagne. Slash however had been unable to forget the cold look that Duff kept giving him, watching his every move, but keeping his distance at all times. He`d refused to join them that night, and said he wanted to stay in and brush up his technique, which he had become more and more dissatisfied with of late. "Wha` din`t Duff want`ta come wiz us tonight anyhow?" slurred Axl, giving his guitarist an unsteady look from behind his glass. Slash toyed awkwardly with his facial expression, debating whether to answer with simple fact, or give the real reason that he didn`t think their lanky compadre had been particularly sociable of late. "I guess he just didn`t feel like it, he`s been sober for the last few days you know, I`m pretty proud of him, but you know, he`s worrying me a little" he explained, watching Axl drain yet another glass of champagne, "An` why`zat?" he replied, grinning a little, "`cause he ain`t drinkin`?" "No, he keeps saying these weird things, keeps talking about death all the time and.... His voice tailed off as he realised that Axl had laid his head on the table and was dead to the world. Grateful for once for Axl`s obsession with keeping his weight down, Slash scooped the limp form into his arms and dropped him off at his hotel room before climbing the stairs to his own. The voice came out of nowhere, but just as if he had too, Duff stepped out from behind his lead guitarist smoothly and silently, "Missed me? I see Axl`s been out on the town again, is he okay? I`ve heard that people can die if they`re left when they`re that drunk" having recovered from the shock of the sudden appearance, Slash glanced over at the figure he had come to regard with such fear. He seemed to have grown taller by quite a few inches, and with it grown leaner than ever. His skin was almost grey in the lamplight, and his scraggy crop of bleached hair hung in lank strands over his gaunt face. "Looking pretty bad there Duff, I`d invite you in but I`m really tired, see you tomorrow" Slash replied quickly, his heart pounding in his throat. Duff dipped one hand into the pocket of his long leather coat, "I know you love snakes, Slash, and I found this little fella today. Wondered if you want to take care of him" he said, producing a long black snake, which curled round his arm tightly and hissed in a vicious manner. Immediately Slash drew back, but Duff followed, holding the snake out to him "That`s an Australian Blacksnake, Duff!, if that thing bites you, you`re dead!" "Hold him Slash, he`s quite tame, go on" "Leave me alone! you`ve gone crazy you know, just leave me alone and go get drunk or something!" "Why don`t we go together, Slash, I`ve heard they serve a great cocktail at the hotel bar, with cyanide in" "YOU'RE F***IN` CRAZY DUFF!!!! are you trying to kill me?!" "Death isn`t so bad, Slash" Almost weeping with fear, Slash slammed the door, and sank back against it, trembling. He couldn`t sleep that night, and paced his room until the early hours, chain-smoking for comfort, but still feeling the cold presence there. He didn`t know what was happening, but he knew that he was the only one who was aware of it, Axl saw nothing strange, and Matt and Gilby were as wise to the situation as their singer, but Slash saw everything. He saw the calculating look as the bassist held out a deadly snake to him, he saw the menace with which a cyanide-spiked cocktail was suggested, and he felt the fear. His heart was still pounding, he thought once or twice about calling for something to eat to try and help calm his nerves, but felt too sick with fear to eat or drink anything. By the time morning came he was rabid with exhaustion and terror. His swarthy skin had paled over and his hands shook so badly that he doubted he could even play guitar in his condition. "That`s it, this has gone far enough. I`m gonna finish this" he breathed, grabbing his jacket and storming out to sort the situation with his morbid amigo. "You and I are having this out right now Duff! what the f**k is all this s**t about death huh?" he demanded, jabbing the dumb blonde in the shoulder forcefully as he walked in. "What?! What are you on Slash?" he protested, the innocent look having returned. "I`m talking hanging out outside my door and waving poisonous snakes at me!" "I didn`t know he was poisonous! I don`t know anything about snakes, that`s why I took it to you!" "Cyanide in my drinks?" "Only the tiniest bit, they say it`s real nice" "You have totally lost the plot, and I`m sick of you trying to scare me to death, I don`t care about this brotherhood s**t, if you wanna kill me, then come on, I`ll take you right here!" Without a word, Duff grabbed Slash in a vicious headlock and dragged him to a quieter corner, drawing his gun and pressing it against the terrified guitarists temples. "Any last words Slash, before you become like me?" "That isn`t you Duff, I don`t know what`s inside that head, but you aren`t all there! HELP! SOMEBODY COME HERE!" he screamed, kicking and fighting himself free, then knocking the gun out of Duff`s hands and pinning him to the floor. Just as he did, Axl skidded round the corner, "What the hell is going on here!" he screamed, "Shut up Axl, go and get that priest guy we`ve got for the video!" "WHAT?!!! get a PRIEST?" "GET HIM NOW!!!" Within minutes, Axl had returned with the priest who was helping them re-film their video to 'November Rain' and was confronted with Slash still fighting to hold Duff down, the bassist`s eyes seemed to be glowing with evil, and his screams were now more like the howls of a demon. "You know how to exorcise someone Jean? well DO IT! HIM, NOW!!!" shouted Slash, grabbing on tighter to Duff`s shoulders as Jean Antonio gripped the writhing head and began to recite; Libera me domine, de morte eternam, on dies it la tremenda, on dies ira, Duff screamed ever louder, the light from his eyes intensified and burned where it touched, he howled in agony and fought to escape the priest`s words, quando ce li moven, de cent quando ce li moven de cent, et terra dom veneris....... Finally, as Jean finished his blessing, Duff stopped screaming and whimpered softly, judica, fasiat culom per ignem.. Amen. The whimpering died away, and Duff slumped limp against the floor, breathing in shallow gasps. "He`s cured, I think you were right to call me, Slash, he was possessed" "Thanks. Well Axl, that little experience sure taught me never to touch wet amps again" he concluded, still shaking, but now with relief. Slash swung over to where his Les Paul and Marshals were ready for him to exercise his legendary prowess. As he reached to flick the stack on, the blue sparks flew, and he hadn`t time to scream before he hit the floor................................
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