Before you embark into the depths of darkness where avocado toast goes to rot, you’re required to put on the MILLENNIAL UNDERGROUND SPOTIFY PLAYLIST.
Start this chapter on “TILL WE GET THERE.”
Jedi parked in Amoeba’s underground lot, which was completely empty. Our footsteps echoed as Jedi lead us to the door.
“Are we allowed to be here?” I asked. It’s not that I didn’t trust Jedi — well, that wasn’t true. I definitely didn’t trust him.
“Relax, Misty,” he said. “This is your best bet for tracking down Keke.”
We ascended the sticker-lined staircase up to a dark and seemingly empty Amoeba Records, the sacred store for vinyl record enthusiasts.
As we made our way into the maze of a store, the smell of vinyl and vintage cardboard covers soothed my soul.
Then, a spotlight illuminated the DJ booth with a single turntable that stood like an alter at the back of the store.
A woman with giant retro headphones and blue hair stood at the alter. She thumbed reverently through a case of records behind her before she found the one she was looking for.
“Jedi…?” I started to ask, but he shook his head and continued to lead us toward the alter. I glanced at Trigger, but he was going along with this whole thing.
The woman stopped on a record, and then gently withdrew it from the stack. She held it up high — kinda like she was showing off Baby Simba to all the land — and then unsheathed it, gently laying the record on the turntable.
With surgical precision, she picked up the needle, and gently laid it on the turntable. With a CRACKLE it came to life, and suddenly bass started vibrating through the store. The woman at the alter started swaying and gyrating as if the sound was moving through her.
It was almost as if the shadows around us started dancing to the music in tandem, as if the vinyl had resurrected the spirits of dead artists that inhabited the stacks of records around us.
But then a shadow actually moved, and I yelped in surprise.
All around us, figures in black robes holding a single vinyl record each descended upon us, forming a circle.
“The Order of Amoeba,” Jedi whispered to me with a grin.
“If this is some sort of fucking Scientology bullshit — ” I started, but then the music abruptly cut off.
The woman at the alter bowed her head as one of the hooded figures holding a Pearl Jam album stepped forward.
In a booming voice, he said: “what brings you to approach the Order of Amoeba?”
“What the fuck –” I said, over this vinyl occult nonsense.
“We’re looking for our friend,” Trigger cut in. I shot him a glance, but he looked still shaken from our near-miss earlier as well as the situation we’d found ourselves in now.
“Who is your friend?”
“Keke Dewitt,” I said. “She’s a singer/songwriter and she’s gone missing. She invited us to a show at the Green Door that didn’t actually exist, and now we’re being followed — “
Suddenly, the hooded figures broke out into low murmurs of alarm all around us.
“What?” I asked, looking around. The hooded figures, once ominous, almost seemed to shrink back.
Then, a figure holding an old edition of The Killers’ Shadowplay tossed off her hood, revealing a woman sporting a short pink pixie cut and sunken eyes. “Your friend Keke is in grave danger,” she said. “This is the third songwriter to have disappeared at that venue this week. We fear the worst.”
“The worst?” I asked, suddenly feeling dizzy. Jedi tried to put his arm reassuringly around me but I pushed him off.
The Pearl Jam figure stepped forward. “It’s best for you to run. Far away. Give up the hunt for your friend — she’s long gone.”
I looked around. “Are you kidding?”
The hooded figures looked back at me in a heavy silence that communicated they were decidedly not kidding.
“Listen, I don’t know what your jurisdiction is as keepers of a dead music format, but here in the land of the living we don’t abandon our friends.”
The Pearl Jam figure cut in — “It’s not technically a dead market, the resale value on some of these albums make the collector items –“
“Well go back to collecting your pieces of plastic! Let’s go, guys.”
I pushed past the ring of hooded figures, stomping toward the stairwell that lead to the parking garage.
Fuming, I ran to the car. I knew there was a reason I didn’t like that hipster store —
I turned back, and saw the girl with pink hair running after me, her black robes swishing in the wind.
“What? Are you here to tell me turntables are a more textured sound than Spotify?”
“Say what you will about the Order of Amoeba, but we’ve been tracking every lost soul and rising singer/songwriter from the moment they step off the bus from Nowhere, Idaho and become a bonafide Angeleno. Every starving artist thinks they starve alone, but that’s not true. We know where every ukelele-playing coffeeshop barista is at any given moment, and we’ve been tracking Keke. Here is her last location.” She pressed a crumpled piece of paper in my hand. “I’m giving this to you because I can tell you’re brave. If anyone can stop what’s happening, it’s you.”
I looked down at the crumpled ball. “But how — “
But when I looked up, she was gone. Frowning, I uncrumpled the piece of paper, smoothing it out on the hood of the car.
When I saw what was written, I gasped.
Nowhere was so hated, so dangerous, so perilous as —
The Lowes on Pico.
Eaten Alive by the Millennial Underground is a multimedia fiction series written daily by writer Amy Suto for National Novel Writing Month. Check out the rest of her blog here for more about her nocturnal excursions and writerly pursuits. Read the full Millennial Underground series as it’s coming out in the month of November at: AmySuto.com/underground, and be sure to subscribe via email so you don’t get #cancelled.