Sunday, 12 December 2010

Touching the Stars

This piece of flash fiction is a reworked segment from the start of a short story I've been working on. It's my first attempt at sci-fi and is a little bit odd, but I hope you like it anyway.
“Good evening London.” His voice boomed as the bass slowly faded and the clapping subsided. All that remained was the melody, rising now and complemented by a more natural, drum-like beat. The melody waved and rose as the crowd screamed.
The tall man stood on the small stage at the front of the club, with his hands stretched out either side of him. Smothered in fog that swirled and shifted around him in time with the music and changed colour with every second beat, he stood statuesquely still and watched the crowd through mirror-like sunglasses. The shades were a single rectangular strip of mirror-coated glass in a thick metallic frame.
No instruments stood on the stage. It was just the man and the fog. He needed no instrument, or mixing deck, to make his music. The notes that pounded out of the speakers were created not by the vibrations of strings or drums or by the whims of electrical pulses, but rather by the conscious will of the man in stage. He thought it and it happened. The limits of genre and instrument had been stripped from him. All he needed was his mind and a few computer chips to make sound; beautiful, enchanting, thunderous sound.
“I hope you’re listening carefully.” He paused and scanned the audience, waiting for the cheers to subside. Silence, but for the sound of his consciousness, fell on the crowd, awaiting his every word and every note. “Because I’m going to tell you a story.”
The bass boomed back and the crowd was jumping in unison, screaming in delight. The man encouraged them; fingers outstretched, he pumped his arms above his head to the beat. Eventually the pulse began to break down, slowing, sometimes missing a beat altogether. It seemed to crackle out and die. The man on stage only smiled as the beat was replaced by pulsating balls of high pitched beeps and squeals. Strange, indescribable, almost unintelligible noises came from the speakers. The crowd fell into awed silence.
“This story is about a man. His name is not important to you, nor his is age or his situation.” he began, now completely still and looking off towards the back of the club with an almost dreamlike expression painted on his fog invaded face. The music continued to whimsically, intangible drift in absurdity.  
“What is important is that he is a man just like all of you; average, ordinary, normal. Like many of you he had experimented in experience enhancing substances. Experts call them hallucinogens, but you more likely refer to them as psychedelic drugs. Today he gathers with a group of close friends to take LSD and enjoy the collective psychedelia. They put on The Dark Side of the Moon and take a tablet each.” As he mentioned the still classic album of over 100 years ago, the recognisable notes of Money rose above the sounds along with the simultaneous ringing of alarm clocks.
“Slowly, as the album begins to progress, he regresses into a state of delight and ecstasy.” The Music rose and flourished and arched as he spoke, becoming ever more random and incoherent. “He sees strange, indescribable things, experiences wonders beyond what we can imagine. He and his friends sit and stare at the world through new eyes. They wander the alien room and marvel things we all take for granted. They are like children, experiencing the world for the first time.
“Our hero, if we can call him that” The music took a tragic tone of an almost unnoticeable instant before returning to the playful meaninglessness of joy. “Plays with the light switch and watches as the bulb flickers on and off in an instant. It makes him dizzy and he sits on the sofa, staring at the stars out of the window. They’re brighter than ever before and there seem to be so many more of them. He marvels and ponders them. ‘So many tiny little suns, each one flying unmoved through space. Circled by so many more swarming planets, burning or freezing at the whims of those tiny specs of light so bright. How lucky we are that we’re here to observe them from the future.’ He thinks, but doesn’t say out loud. His friends are too busy in their own little trips to care about his existentialism.
“Two of them share their trips, mixing their tongues together in love that they did not even realise existed. Another laughs at them, but it is not the laugh of scorn, but that of joy and happiness. Our hero is happy for them also, but finds their mixing of saliva vulgar. ‘You don’t need sex on LSD’ he thinks, but does not say. He doesn’t want to ruin their fun.
“His friends are making him uncomfortable. He just wants to sit and stare at the stars. Walking dreamily towards the door, his friends cast puzzled looks at him, but he just smiles and they smile back. He’s tired of his friends. He wishes to be up in the stars so bright, not down on earth with saliva exchanging friends.” The music took on a strange, exasperated tone, a fleeting boredom that smacked of arrogance.
“He takes the stairs to his bedroom and stands by the window, throwing it open and gazing up at the night sky. He smiles at the moon and it smiles back, but the smile is on its side. He tilts his head so that his smile is on its side too. The stars stare at him. So many stars. There are so many stars. ‘There used to be more’, he thinks, but does not say; there was no-one there to listen anyway. ‘but we blotted them out. One by one.’ He reaches out to touch them but finds only cold air.
“Wishing he could touch them and feel their warmth in the cold air, he instead stares back at them, unblinking, just as they refuse to blink.” The music soared and shimmered and sounded like the kind of music that filled the empty spaced between stars. A roaring, elegantly powerful symphony.
“Our hero thinks of all the things on earth that used to excite him; the exchange of saliva, the joys of money and of power, the previously irresistible pull of friendship and of love. He ponders the lying politicians of Westminster and the slimy bureaucrats of Whitehall, the dead-behind-the-eyes celebrities and all the suffering of the world.” The music returned to earth and took on a sinister tone. Pain and anguish filtered through the gravelly, guttural noise.
“‘How trivial it all is compared to you,’ he talks to the stars, ‘how little your care about our silly little problems. Long after we have killed ourselves, you will still be shining bright and untouchable; oblivious to the petty, insignificant squabbles of man. How lucky we are to be able to see you and see how meaningless it all is. If you did not give us such perspective, how would we live with ourselves?’
“Our hero stands and marvels at the stars, letting the cold air wash over him and cleanse him of his sins. He pours his troubles and his worries into the uncaring starlight. He forgets all about his friends. He forgets all about the politicians and bureaucrats and celebrities and suffering. ‘I want to join with you.’ He calls out to the stars. ‘I want to look down upon this world with the aloof distain of your immortality.’” The music rose and swelled into an incredible, indescribable climax of beautiful noise. Just as the climax began to fade, a tragic string emerged from the mass of sounds and rose to dominance as the rest of the music fell away.
“He jumps, touches the stars and falls back to reality with a broken neck.”
The music faded away and the crowd exploded in cheers and screams and applause.

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