Contemporary Fiction Friendship

He is African rock royalty.

Even after the long absence, his presence lingers in the hearts and minds of his fans.

No, not just fans. They are his subjects.

His enemies go so far as to call them his minions.

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

All he wanted was to live and work and play without the suffocating mask of royalty, to enjoy the priceless peace that he had travelled so far to get.

But one of his enemies found him.

"What is this place? What are you doing, hiding here in the back of nowhere?"

He offered the visitor a mango picked from the mango tree in his garden. "I'm not hiding. I'm finally living. No more schedules, no more commitments, no more being the conscience of an entire nation. How's your wife and kid?"

The visitor sprinkled powdered chili on a piece of mango. "Fine. And it's kids now. Didn't you get the 324 baby pics?"

"I haven't been online for...a while. 324? Really?"

"I may be a bit smitten with my newborn daughter. You don’t miss it?"

"You get used to it after a while. After all, there was life on planet earth before the Internet and -."

"I'm talking about the music. Don't you miss the music?"

"I carry the music with me wherever I go. It's all the other stuff that I don't want."

"That other stuff is what gave you fame and fortune and fans."

"I never wanted all that. I just wanted to make music. I get to do that here. In peace."

"The fans want you back."


"You owe it to them."

"Like The Beatles, I have given the fans my nervous system. I have nothing left to give."

" What about your band?"

"They have a new lead singer."

"She is not you."

"Wasn’t that the point? New blood and gender diversity and all that?"

"She is not you."

"And I am not the band. I'm not going back to being joined to the hip with that institution."

"It's just a band."

"It's a Multinational Corporation! I never signed up to be the leader of that monstrosity. When did that band turn from being a beauty into a beast?"

His question remained suspended in the space between them, like the sword of Damocles.

The visitor evaded the question by busying himself with the messy business of eating a juicy mango. When he was done, he wiped his hands on the serviette then pulled out the “small guns”.

"I can make you disappear. For good."

"I am well aware of your powers. But even you cannot compete with my reputation."

" I know people who can erase your reputation."

"At a cost, of course."

"Of course. You know how it is. Nothing is for free."

"So how much will my freedom cost?"

"One final tour."

Only three words but they hit him with an avalanche of images and memories and deafening applause and pedestals and shouting matches laced with barbed-wired words. He busied himself with clearing the table then wiping it as he breathed through the onset of a panic attack.

"That's a hefty price."

"Freedom is expensive."

He took a moment to weigh the pros and cons. His decision did not surprise either one of them.

"Your offer is tempting. But peace is priceless. So unless you can bottle up what I have found here and bring it with me, my answer remains no."

Glaring contest.

The visitor blinked first then switched to the big guns. He took out his phone, opened the app that managed all the band's social media pages and typed.

"Either you agree or...with this one post, I will reveal your exact location."

"You're bluffing."

"Last chance."

"You wouldn’t dare."


"Why are you doing this?"


"I just want to be left alone!"



"Is that a yes?"



"You...Why...I don’t feel so..." He doubled over and vomited.

Within an hour, #prodigalrockstar was trending.

Exactly one year later, #prodigalrockstarback was trending. The tour was a resounding success, despite him fighting nerves then vomiting his victory over nerves (or was it defeat?) every single time before going on stage.

The preparations had been taxing. He was out of practice and out of shape and out of sorts. He was older too, so he had to learn to pace himself. He had to work to reconnect with the other band members after shutting them out for so long. He had to learn how to share the limelight with the new lead singer. He had to fight his demons and a variety of monsters, sometimes during his waking hours, mostly in his nightmares.

In one fight, the masked monster was ruthless, throwing him against a wall, over and over again. He finally had enough of being thrown around and fought back, fought dirty, until he managed to remove the monster’s mask. He woke up in a cold sweat because behind that monster’s mask was his own familiar face.

He confided in the band’s therapist that he had missed some aspects of the royal life. Making music, arguing music, soaking in music with his comrades in arms. The rapport with his minions. The magic of being on stage, sharing his gift with the world. The satisfaction of a job well done. A lot of it was like before. The energy, the enthusiasm, the controlled chaos, being treated like royalty. Yet, it was also different. Because he was different. Being away had irrevocably changed him.

He was going to miss them when he left it all behind.

“How did you know?” He asked the visitor a few days before he was to say goodbye to his royal life. It was mango season again. He was going through 324 baby pics.

“Know what?”

“That I needed this final tour?”

“It was just a hunch. Also…”


“My wife is one of your minions.”

They laughed, they cried, they said goodbye, knowing that their friendship would stand the test of time and an abdication.

April 10, 2021 00:36

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Love Kassim
14:11 Apr 12, 2021

Its hard to quit the adrenaline that comes with being on stage 🤘


Mildred Achoch
14:57 Apr 12, 2021

Must be like a drug! But also, too much of anything... :-)


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