Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Sound

All I remember about the creation of "The Sound" is that it was written some time during my freshman year of college, probably in late 2003.


The Sound

David was alone again. He’d thought the neighbors would never leave. He waited five minutes to make sure they weren’t coming back for any reason, then he went to the window and waited for another five minutes. He wasn’t expecting anyone, but he wanted to be certain no one was coming uninvited. Having someone drop in would be bad; having his door locked when he was supposed to be open to visitors would be bad. Being caught would be unbearable.

David left the curtains open– no need to encourage a curious neighbor to come find out why he was being inhospitable– but he locked and barred the door. His bachelor-house was small– he had only the parlor, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a bedroom. And it was designed exactly the same as the thousands of other bachelor-houses in the city. Finding a place to hide his possessions had been virtually impossible.

The curtains in his bedroom were still open, for the same reason he left the parlor curtains open. He peered into his room, looking out the window to make sure no one was in the street to see what he was about to do. Satisfied but still wary, he slinked along the wall and into the closet. The closet was barely big enough for David’s eight sets of clothes (a luxury, especially for a bachelor) but David wasn’t worried about how cramped it was inside. He pushed the clothes out of the way and ducked behind them. He kicked his heel into the corner of the wall, and square-inch panel slid aside next to his hand. He pulled a thin strip of metal from his pocket and slipped it into the panel. He heard a click and the entire wall slid aside. Leaning back to take another quick glance out the window, he went through the opening and down the stairs into the ground below.

As far as David knew, his was the only bachelor-house with a basement, and that was because he had dug it out and built the room, stairs, and secret panel in the closet himself. If anyone– co-workers, friends, neighbors, or the authorities (especially the authorities)– knew about this, it would undoubtedly be the end of his life. He couldn’t imagine living without the items he had hidden down there.

The stairs ended in a small tunnel, which stretched about ten feet before ending at a door. David unlocked it with a key he kept around his neck. The room itself was tiny; David had had to build it in a hurry so he could hide his things. He closed the door behind him and smiled broadly. In the corner of the room were two musical instruments. One was gold (or had been some years ago) and was very long and curved. David didn’t know exactly what it was called– such things weren’t spoken of in this day and age– but he called it a ‘bone. He thought it had once been called something like that, but he dared not try to find out. The other instrument was silver, all curves and had four pistons sticking out from the top. He called it a yoof. He was sure there had been more to the name, but once again, he didn’t dare to research it.

He had found the instruments tucked away in the back of a closet when he lived with his parents as a boy. He had been intrigued then; but his parents knew nothing of them. David wasn’t sure exactly when instruments had been outlawed, but it had been sometime in his early childhood. His parents had managed to keep them hidden during the raids, but the last few had been too close for comfort. David had taken the instruments with him as soon as he moved out. Working furiously, he had dug and built the basement in two weeks.

The most important thing about this basement was that no one could hear him down here. Most of what he had learned had taken years of experimenting. David had no idea what a legendary piece of sheet music looked like, or what a piece of music was supposed to sound like. He made it up as he went along, creating a sort of code so he could remember and play the “piece” again if he was ever free to play above ground. He tried to play both the ‘bone and the yoof equally, mostly because he was not entirely sure which he liked better. Today he picked up the yoof. Putting his lips to the mouthpiece– he knew that term for sure, since the intercom systems everywhere had similar devices– and out poured a full, silken sound David never tired of. His first attempts at playing had yielded only squawks and burbles. He could only imagine how music must have sounded back in the days when it was common to play. He wished he had been alive in those days. It must have been wonderful.

David heard a loud ruckus from upstairs. He had been found out! He gently set the yoof on the floor but was barely to the door when two black-clad authorities burst in. One quickly pinned David’s arms behind his back while the other seized the ‘bone and yoof, holding them both at arm’s length as if they were poisonous vipers. Without a word, both authorities left. David fell to his knees and wept.

Two days that seemed to take months passed. Everywhere he went, David felt eyes on him. His co-workers and friends commented that the usual proud glint in his eye had gone, the spring in his step had vanished, and he never looked anyone in the eye anymore. It was all true. David was lost without his instruments. He finally returned to his empty-feeling bachelor-house one evening with the intent to take his life. He tied a sheet to a sturdy pipe on his kitchen ceiling and had all but put his head through the loop when there was a knock at his front door. Purely out of habit, David answered.

His usual evening guests, the men from the next few houses in both directions, were crowded on the tiny porch. “Come with us,” one man said.

They herded David out of his house, and David let them lead wherever they wanted. He didn’t care anymore. The yoof was gone, almost certainly destroyed by now. The ‘bone, too. David hated to think what would be made of their melted remains. The next gun he saw could very well have a barrel made of the ‘bone. The sound of the gunshot would do such injustice to the sound the instrument had once made. The thought made David want to throw up.

He managed to hold the queasy feeling in check as his neighbors ushered him into one of the children’s schools. Through hallways, up stairs, through hallways, down stairs, and through secret panels hidden in closets and classrooms they led him, finally stopping before an unmarked door. David’s next door neighbor Mike– David didn’t know why he thought of the name now– knocked. Three quick raps on the door. A boy cracked the door open. “What?

“I find it beautiful,” Mike said clearly.

The boy opened the door fully, showing a large room. Instruments lined the walls: all sorts of instruments David could never have imagined. Two dozen people were standing in a group, each holding sheets of paper or instruments. Among them were the two authorities that had taken David’s yoof and ‘bone.

“We had to make sure you weren’t found out,” one of the authorities said. He was holding a silver rod with lots of interesting holes and buttons. “Sorry to torture you like that, but we had to save the instruments first. We didn’t have either of these types until now. The authorities,” he chuckled, “the real authorities suspected you.”

David was awestruck.

Mike had gone to the wall and returned with the ‘bone and a tarnished metal instrument that was fairly small with three pistons at the top. He held the ‘bone out to David. “Will you play for us?”

1 comment:

  1. God. His world SUCKS. I would die without my Holst. And my drums.

    But I guess there will always be some who save the art. Some secret group for anything that has been outlawed...