Fans scream and dance as the pop-punk/emo-punk/emo-pop band, Pluto’s No More, plays up on stage in front of them. Consisting of five members, theirs is a group of moderate success, as they fill out smaller venues but struggle to pack bigger ones.
They’re currently playing their biggest song, “Nerve (I Lost Mine / Now You Have It).” All five members flick their wrists on their various instruments. Mark Catskills grips the microphone, one foot on the crowd-facing speaker. On lead guitar is Michael Moreland, his long, black hair dripping with sweat. To the singer’s right is bassist Scott Farnmore, whose bald head glistens from the stage lights. On rhythm guitar is the faux-hawked Skazz Skids, and behind them is the bearding, balding Percy Richalds on drums.
Mark leans forward, resting his left elbow on his knee, his right hand grasping the microphone. The climax of the song fast approaches.
Mark shuts his eyes and screams the lyric he’s belted out thousands of times before: “You’ve ripped the nerve out of me and used it as your own!”
Mark’s eyes remain closed; he expects to hear cheers, celebrating his glorious execution of the song’s mildly-famous line. What he hears instead are gasps. And some bleats.
Mark opens his eyes.
Between Scott, the bassist, and Mark, the singer — where Skazz Skids once stood — is a goat.
Mark turns his face to the crowd, which is stunned to a whisper, at least for a second. Suddenly, however, the concert-goers erupt into a volcanic roar never before heard by the four remaining human members of Pluto’s No More.
The green room door bangs open, and Percy darts in from the hallway.
“What? What was–?” he mumbles to himself.
Mark walks in next, holding his head in his hands, muttering, “What the fuuuuuck, dude?”
Scott is just beyond the door frame — yelling at someone down the hallway — as Michael silently walks through the green room door.
“So if it’s not a prank,” Scott shouts, entering the room. “Then tell me, why the fuck Skazz turned into….”
Scott slams the door behind him..
“…a fucking goat!” Scott finishes.
Michael puts his hands on Scott’s chest.
“Let’s just try to relax, Scott,” he says.
“Relax, Michael? Skazz is a goat.”
Michael keeps his hands on Scott’s chest. Both are silent.
“He’s a goat,” Scott finally finishes. Mark gently shrugs as Scott turns away.
“Well, we don’t know that for sure,” Mark contends.
“What do you mean?” Scott questions, taking a step toward Mark.
“What I mean is, what if that goat isn’t Skazz?”
Scott steps into Mark’s face.
“You were right there too, Mark. One second, Skazz is there. The next? Goat!”
Percy now sits on the couch in the midst of the argument and pokes his head up.
“Well, what if the goat isn’t him?”
Scott holds his hands out pleadingly.
“That’s what he just said!”
“Yeah, I just said that,” Mark nods.
There’s a knock on the door. Two knocks. The door swings open to reveal Johnny H. Wood – Pluto’s No More’s agent.
“There’re my guys!” he says with excitement. Johnny closes the door behind him.
He halts in place, then extends his arms out as if he can sense and absorb the negative vibrations in the room.
“Fellas! Why the long faces?”
The band remains scattered around the room in various states of disbelief.
Mark speaks up calmly, arms crossed.
“Did you see the show, Johnny?”
Johnny’s horribly white teeth beam from his crooked mouth as he answers.
“Did I see the show? Mark, buddy, I couldn’t escape it if I tried!”
“What do you mean?” Michael asks.
“Number one trend worldwide is what I mean! Band member turns into a goat? That’s buzz, baby. And we’re busy, buzzy little bees!” Johnny answers.
Scott puts a hand on his head.
“I don’t really care, Johnny,” Scott says, responding to Johnny’s fire with icy reserve. “Skazz is a goat now. Maybe forever.”
Johnny points a finger at Scott.
“That… is to be determined! But what is already determined is that your next five shows are sold out. Everyone wants to see the goat band!”
Silence blankets the room. Percy breaks it, raising his brow.
“I mean, he was only rhythm guitar….”
Mark drops his head, lightly responding, “Percy, come on.”
Percy shrugs harshly.
“What? If you had to pick an instrument, I mean… come on. Right?”
Johnny smiles while biting his lip. Then he reaches for the door behind him.
“And one more surprise for my fellas,” he announces before opening the door, and the goat’s head pokes through the doorway.
“It’s Skazz!” Johnny says. Scott turns away, and Mark puts a hand to his face.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Scott mutters.
Mark speaks through his hand, saying, “Johnny, now’s really… we’re not ready for this.”
Johnny smiles in the doorway as the goat fully enters the room.
“Gotcha, Mark! I don’t wanna interrupt the creative process or anything: band meetings and all that. I’ll leave you five to it. And we’ll see you tomorrow for the show!”
Johnny quickly backs through the open door, leaving the four human band members and one goat band member in the green room. The four humans stare at the goat—the goat bleats.
The next night, there is a line around the block. Everyone is going wild.
For the goat.
Percy on drums and Michael on guitar look at each other with worried looks on their faces as the band once again nears the climax of their biggest song.
Mark sings the line noticeably less enthusiastically than the night before.
“You’ve ripped the nerve out of me and used it as your own!”
Mark immediately looks to his right and sees Skazz Goat and Scott, who are looking past him at the other side of the stage. Mark looks to his left.
As soon as the song ends, the three humans flee to the venue’s green room in horror. No one speaks until an unnamed crew member delivers the two goats and closes the door. Scott stares at the former humans as he speaks.
“It’s the song, right? It has to be.”
Mark nods solemnly. “Yeah, probably.”
Johnny walks in, tapping away on his phone with one hand and closing the door with the other as Scott responds.
“So we just stop playing it. Problem solved.”
Johnny’s head jolts up.
“Except problem not solved. Our buzz is higher than ever. We gotta milk this baby for all it’s worth!” Johnny eyes the goats. “These guys make milk, right? Here, let me demonstrate….”
Scott puts a hand up. “Don’t milk them.”
Johnny backs off the goats and runs his fingers through his hair.
“Point is, we gotta keep this train rollin’! Besides, what are the chances this happens a third time?”
After the next night’s show, Scott and Mark sit slumped on the couch while Johnny gently brushes one of three goats in the room.
“Three goats isn’t too bad when you think about it!” Johnny presents to the two remaining band members. “This one’s Percy, right? Well, he’s got more hair than before.”
Johnny looks at Scott and Mark to see if they’re laughing. They’re not. Johnny continues to smile.
“So that’s a bonus!”
Silence in the room. Mark crosses his arms. Scott stares at the floor. Johnny straightens up and adjusts his tie.
“I know what you’re thinking. Why continue? Well, think about this….”
“We don’t have drums,” Scott calmly begins. “We don’t have guitars. We’re not even a band anymore.”
Johnny puts one hand in his pocket and gesticulates with the other.
“You’re the hottest band in the world. The world. The entire world!”
“Just get out, Johnny,” Scott almost whispers.
Johnny raises his hands and turns towards the door.
“I’m going! I’m going! Like I was never here.” He starts humming the song as he closes the door behind him.
Scott and Mark remain still. The three goats remain eerily silent. Scott chuckles after a few beats and turns to Mark.
“Well. What’s that famous saying about fading away? Or burning out?”
Mark considers this briefly. He shakes his head.
“I don’t know.”
Scott’s expression drains. He looks at Mark once more and extends his hand.
“Fun playing with you, dude.”
The next night, Mark sits alone in the green room in a different venue. Well, not alone. Four goats join him. They have name tags now.
He can hear the chanting in the distance.
“GOATS! GOATS! GOATS!”
Eventually, Mark makes his way to the stage. Stagehands lead the goats to join him. Mark looks out and sees the biggest crowd he’s ever experienced.
Mark makes it through the majority of the set by himself, singing the songs a capella. He then sings their most famous song. He reaches the line. A tear slides down his face as he finishes it.