Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Barrich the Soulflayer

"Unfortunately, we're just not looking for your particular brand of, what'd you call it, skull-clunking cacophonic metal?"

"Just cacophonic metal," Barrich the Soulflayer said. He was taking a meeting with Ben, CEO of The Winter Hour, an indie label based out of New York. He glanced at his band, the Flies part of their title: Barrich the Soulflayer & His Gang of Flies. Veinripper the guitarist glared over the lukewarm chai latte that he pushed around the table. Pain, their drummer, clenched all three of his jaws and stared out the window. It'd been Barrich's idea that they all quit their jobs as Junior Tormenters in Hell to pursue a career as Major Musicians on Earth.

"I mean, why did you approach us? We're an indie label that trades on guys in tight sweaters talking about how mediocre they are at life and love, like 'Tight Tweed Tunics' or 'Sergeant Marjorie,'" Ben said. "We really don't do aggressive, loud music, like 'Barrich the Soulflayer and His Gang of Flies.' Even the name doesn't fit."

"Because you are an independent label," Barrich said. The skulls around his belt clunked together as he shifted awkwardly in his chair. "Can't you have a heart and give us a chance? We're desperate."

"Sorry, you'd ruin our label," Ben said.

"I could ruin your bones!" yelled Alastair, their bassist, leaping from his seat. Unlike Barrich the Soulflayer, Veinripper or Pain, Alastair wasn't a demon and hadn't quit his job as a Junior Tormenter in Hell. He'd quit his job as a pizza delivery boy.

"Alastair, please," Barrich said, holding up one spiny hand.

"No! This fuckface, this self-important dickhead, can't reject us! My bank account is running on fumes! And I'm not going back to running triple cheese sausage pies to baked college students! I can't! I won't!"

"I told you before this meeting to sit down and shut your mouth," Barrich said, summoning his skills as a Junior Tormenter. Flames licked from his mouth and a choir of death rattles harmonized with his words in a dissonant shudder.

"No, hang on now," Ben said, holding up his hand to Barrich. "I like this kid's fire. What's your name?"

"Alastair Bunderson," Alastair replied, crossing his arms and pouting.

"Alastair, I like it. It's got a great ring to it - pseudo-continental and obscure, but friendly all the same. British. Authentic. Alright. I'll sign your band," Ben said.

Barrich grinned at Veinripper and Pain.

"...with a few conditions," Ben said.

Barrich turned back to Ben, slowly, deliberately.

"Like what? We're pretty committed to our sound," Barrich replied.

"Don't worry, we won't be changing any of that. Except that Alastair is going to have to be the frontman. Definitely the frontman. You have too many boils - and I'm sorry to say that, but it's the truth. And too much blood running down your chin. And we're gonna change the name from 'Barrich the Soulflayer and His Gang of Flies' to, uh, hang on."

Ben whipped out his phone and flicked his finger at it for a moment like he was casting a spell.

"You'll be named 'Alastair and the...Terpsichorean Aesthetes," Ben said. He looked up and grinned. "Billiam down in marketing has wanted to use that one for a while, but you really need the right name. 'Dan and the Terpsichorean Aesthetes' sounds like a wet plopper. You've made a poor marketing drone very happy!"

"But I'm the front man," Barrich said.

"It'll be okay," Pain said, leaning forward. "I've actually had some thoughts for new musical directions. Like, for instance, I'd like to stop using bones as drumsticks."

Veinripper brightened. He threw his chai tea latte into the trash, picked up his guitar case, unzipped it, and pulled out a guitar made mostly out of ribcage and gut strings. "And this sounds like ass. I'd like to look at a proper guitar."

"Guys, guys, hang on," Barrich said, "we're going to change our sound!"

"So what?" said Alastair, Veinripper and Pain in unison.

Ben grinned. He opened up a manila envelope in front of him and shoved a piece of paper across the table. The guitarist, drummer and bassist all signed. Pain pushed the sheet and pain at Barrich the Soulflayer.

"So, do you want to go back to flaying souls, or would you like to sell out Madison Square Garden?"

Barrich looked from Alastair, to Pain, to Veinripper, and finally to Ben.

"I am going to do what I do best," Barrich said, and flayed Ben's soul.

Alastair, Pain and Veinripper went on to start Alastair and the Terpsichorean Aesthetes at the Winter Hour's rival label Unrequited Mumbling, and made millions of dollars. Barrich held auditions to fill in the Gang of Flies, but rejected all comers. Eventually, he quit the music industry and went to work as a music critic, constantly dragging down the average review score of Alastair and the Terpsichorean Aesthetes, a service to the public because they really did suck.

The Moral: always follow your dreams, because no matter where they lead you, it'll be away from hell.

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