Caput Metallum • Ben Fitts

There was something very wrong with Violet when she was born. She was a healthy weight, she had all her toes and fingers and a ruddy complexion; it was nothing like that. It was that she came out of her mother already wearing a weathered, black denim vest and a spike bracelet.

The vest was adorned with studs and spikes and covered in patches. There was a big one on its back that looked like it had been cut from the front of a t-shirt. It said the word Venom in viciously curled letters. Underneath the logo was a picture of the devil’s smirking face.

Violet’s mother shrieked as one of the nurses held up her child. “Doctor, what’s wrong with my baby?” she demanded.

“Oh my,” muttered the doctor and she pushed her glasses further up her forehead and examined the infant. “I’m afraid your daughter has a condition known as caput metallum. To put it colloquially, she’s a metalhead.”

“Oh no!” screamed her mother.

Violet’s mother and father met with the doctor later that week, in her office. Violet was in a stroller off to side of the doctor’s desk, still wrapped in her battle jacket, which they had been unable to wrestle away from her. Neither of her parents were quite comfortable looking directly at their child yet.

“The first thing you need to know about caput metallum is that it is entirely treatable. The most common and effective treatment is gradual societal pressure, but there are several accelerated treatment programs. Specifically, Christian youth camp and military service,” the doctor was saying.

“I’m afraid that Christian youth camp is not really an option for us. We’re Jewish,” said Violet’s mother.

“And she’s far too young to join the army,” said her father.

“Yes, she is rather young. Her’s is the earliest case of caput metallum I’ve ever seen, to be honest. Usually symptoms don’t begin setting in until around age fourteen, generally after exposure to Metallica or Black Sabbath on FM rock radio, and Violet’s case is already significantly progressed.”

“How so?” asked her mother.

“As caput metallum progresses, in can manifest itself in numerous ways. There is a death metal variety of the disease, a black metal variety, a doom metal variety, a thrash metal variety and far too many others to name. The different varieties are easiest to distinguish between by examining the patient’s battle jacket.”

The doctor walked over to the stroller and lifted violet out of it. Both her parents involuntarily cringed.

“Violet’s variety of caput metallum appears to be somewhat old school in nature, with a special affinity for early extreme bands and first wave black metal,” said the doctor.

“I can spot that right off the bat by noting her Venom back patch,” she said, turning the baby over. “But other symptoms include patches from Mercyful Fate, Bathory, Possessed, Celtic Frost and Sodom. Oh, look at these patches here: Bonehunter, Druid Lord. They’re both current, much more underground bands. Her case may be even worse than I had imagined.”

“But what does this mean for our daughter?” asked Violet’s father.

“Well, if she successfully succumbs to gradual societal pressure she may live a nice, happy life full of fruitful employment, respectable contributions to society and floral dresses.

“But, if treatment fails, I am afraid Violet may not have much quality of life to speak of. Her life will consist of mosh pits, black nail polish and lipstick, dirty basement shows, aggressive music and…  please forgive me for saying this last part aloud, attempting to lead the life of a creative professional.”

Both of her parents gasped.

“I know, I know, but sadly it’s true. If her caput metallum is not cured, she will most likely  try to find success as a creative type or as an artist. This may include attempted careers in music, writing, painting or even grassroots entrepreneurship.”

“That’s horrible! Surely, there must be something we can do to stop this from happening,” exclaimed her mother.

“If you insist on refraining from Christian youth camps and military service, then I’m afraid you’re only option is to wait and hope that gradual societal pressure cures her. Care for her the way you would for a normal, non-weirdo child. Feed her and love her and hope for the best.”

And Violet’s parents tried just that. They set her up on little playdates with other babies from the neighborhood. The playdates always ended when Violet decided it was time to open up  the motherfucking pit, and rhythmically slammed into her playmate to the beat from a riff in her imagination.

They tried playing her nursery rhymes and other music appropriate for children. Violet would always scream in disgust and rip the CD out from the tray and insert a roughly produced demo from some local blackened thrash band and begin bobbing her tiny, almost hairless head.

Her parents knew that raising a metalhead child would be difficult, and they were very nearly defeated by the task as the end of Violet’s first year grew near. However they still tried and hoped.

“Mama,” said Violet’s mother in her baby voice, wagging her head above Violet as she lay in her crib.

“Dadda,” said her father in the same manner.

Violet was almost a year old now, and her first word should be coming up soon. Her parents figured that if they could control her first word and have it be something decent and wholesome, it may be a big step towards curing her of her affliction. So, the two of them routinely stuck their heads over her crib and said their names to her in hopes that she would one day repeat one of them back.

“Mama,” said her mother.

“Dadda,” said her father.

“Satan!” cried Violet.

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