Pink Droid, a short story by Dominic Rivron at Spillwords.com
Luana Azevedo

Pink Droid

Pink Droid

written by: Dominic Rivron

 

It was Jeff who discovered them – he was forever on the lookout for a good pub band. Whenever he came across one he liked the sound of, he’d announce his discovery to the world and ask us all to go with him to their next gig. None of us were ever that keen, to be honest. His girlfriend, Sam, always used to feel obliged to go and, afraid of being bored,would ask Jules. Jules and I were an item by then and, since we always did stuff like that together, Jules would ask me. Safety in numbers. Eighty percent of Jeff’s finds were duds but at least we got a passable night out drinking in a pub, the downside being the music would always be so loud we couldn’t hear ourselves speak.
Pink Droid turned out to be one of the twenty percent. They played every week in the Red Lion, a pub that was only a couple of tube stops from the shared house where we all lived. It was not unknown to us: we’d been in there for a drink now and again, usually on the way to somewhere else. They’d pull you a pint of Guinness with a shamrock on the top and played cassettes of Irish music.
The Red Lion had an upstairs room. It was set out with chairs and tables like a dining room, all dark varnish, covered in scratches and worn at the edges. There was the inevitable smell of beer and cigarettes that seemed to penetrate everything. The walls were covered in red flock wallpaper. The only light came from rows of wall-lights, each covered with a red, tasselled shade. At one end of the room was a low stage, just big enough for a five-piece, with a small, rectangular dance floor set into the carpet in front of it. You could imagine the place being hired out for weddings. This is where Pink Droid played every Thursday night.
A word about the music: if – based on the name – you were imagining some sort of progressive rock, or even something along the lines of Kraftwerk, you’d be wrong. The Droids, as their fans came to call them, played an amalgam of punk and reggae that was very fashionable at the time. However, although the style of their music was anything but mechanical, the way they moved as they played did have a slightly mechanical look about it which possibly found its way into the sound itself. The lyrics were a different matter: their songs were meditations on the imaginary everyday lives of androids. As with most bands, it was often difficult to make out the words, although I particularly remember:

Doing the same thing
Every morning
Doing the same thing
Never gets boring

And:

There’s something you ought to know
My power-cells are running low

There were six of them. They went to a great deal of trouble for a band that was just doing a regular weekly pub gig. Not only were they tight and well-rehearsed: they also paid careful attention to their appearance. They all wore identical pink jumpsuits and white make-up that covered all their visible skin. They all had the same, slightly eccentric, pudding-bowl haircuts, too.
Needless to say, ‘Droid Night’ became a regular weekly date. Our group weren’t the only regulars either: you’d see the same familiar nameless faces in the audience every week and every week there were a few more to add to the list. The band were attracting a cult following, in the way only a band that hasn’t hit the big-time can. At first, not many people got up on the dance-floor but, as the weeks went by, more and more people did. Me, I hate dancing, but Jules finally managed to drag me off my chair: it’d reached a point where so many people were up on the dance floor I felt more self-conscious sitting down than standing up. Over the weeks, a style of dancing evolved – droiding, as it became known – in which the dancer mimicked the subtly robotic movements of the band-members. As I said, most of the words to the songs were unintelligible, but something was going in under the skin. You might call it an android sensibility.
One week, one of the familiar faces turned up in a pink jumpsuit. The following week several did. Next came the make up, then the haircut (that was the cheapest part, as all you needed was a pair of scissors and a pudding-bowl). The craze spread and our group succumbed. There was this shop on the main road. It was no bigger than your average corner shop but it was crammed with cool clothes, ammo bags, Doc Martin boots and the like. The owner, who, in a rare lapse of judgement, had shelled out for a batch of highly unfashionable pink jump-suits, must’ve thought it was his lucky day. Looking back, it’s probably where the band’s outfits came from in the first place.
I can’t remember how it all came to an end. Memory is funny like that. You find something good. You want it to go on forever and see no reason why it shouldn’t. Then, some time in the future, you realise it’s not there anymore but you can’t for the life of you remember how or why it came to an end. With a whimper, presumably, rather than a bang. I’m not even sure what happened to our pink jump-suits.

***

Recently, I saw online that Pink Droid were getting back together. Not only that, but the Red Lion still existed and they were down to play a series of gigs there. It promised to be just like old times. It was a major talking-point among my friends, all of whom were keen to go and see them again.
The upstairs room had had a revamp. The whole place had been brightened up: the dingy wall-lights had been replaced with art-deco chandeliers, the flock wallpaper with something beige. The stage and the dance-floor, however, remained. The familiar faces trickled in. Some looked much the same, others were barely recognisable, worn down over the thirty-five intervening years by various combinations of cigarettes, drink, drugs, each other and worry. One or two brave souls had turned up in their pink jump-suits but no-one had dared go for the make-up. There was a smattering of new faces, too: young people, all about the same age as we were when we first discovered the Droids. The band came on to rapturous applause, cheers and whistles. Impassive as ever, they struck up immediately with their most famous number:

Doing the same thing
Every morning…

It was weird. None of them were bursting out of their jumpsuits. None of them had had to pile on the make-up extra thick to cover up their wrinkles. Their hairdos looked exactly the same as I remembered them. Everything about them, in fact, looked the same.
It made no sense. I looked round the room at my friends and the familiar faces. There was no getting away from it: everyone looked the same but subtly – and in some cases, less than subtly – different. The men were going bald. More of us wore glasses. Most of us had filled out a bit, and when we got up to go to the bar or the toilet we moved more slowly. Our hair, whatever colour it had been, was turning grey. I turned my attention back to the stage. There was no escaping it: I’d been right. The guys in the band showed no signs of ageing whatsoever. It crossed my mind that they might’ve been replaced by a group of younger musicians but no: the keyboard player’s eyebrows still met in the middle and the sax player still had a dimple in the middle of his chin. It made me wonder, were they really people pretending to be androids, or were they simply androids? It had to be the latter. I could think of no other rational explanation.

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