The Curse of a Serene Pathway: brief story

Some while prior to the present state of things:

‘Have I not seen this one yet?’ Franc’s been looking at the photograph before him with a flinch, a glaring distrust, which is an expression almost indistinguishable from curiosity. Not meant to be a line of attack towards the person on that photograph, because Hanna was nothing but a nice person. The man, employed daily as nothing but a receptionist these days, couldn’t quite put his finger on that feeling.

‘In my life I have seen so many things, but sure this is quite striking.’, he said, almost unaware of the presence of another person in the room, waging a monologue, but he in fact expected a response, if only it would remain unspoken:

When Franc was deep in thought, so much so that he dropped saliva onto the table, then looked at his reflection in it, all the while supporting his head with his fist, like a drunkard. He expected everyone around him to nod quietly in agreement.

‘How so, it’s the same photograph of my birthday party from two years ago. ‘I am just asking whether you think they’ve printed you singing there in good contrast.’

Franc spoke his sentences in a manner with demanded continuation, some way to concretise his opinion on the matter, because what he managed to say was only ever finished in his head. He now expressed a sentiment that colour wasn’t the only thing that has changed from what he could remember: His disgust towards that shady reincarnation of former glory changed as well.

Now he was no longer hating himself for thinking he could sing again. Now he was sure, in those few minutes of the ticking clock, blinded curtains on an icy April afternoon, daydreaming, that he wanted to do it again. Fast.

Rising from the chair suddenly, Frantic reached for his coat, grabbed it even as he had to go across Hanna’s face, and left a mule. He has been quite beside himself several times per evening only when he thought that he has got a tune that is going to change the way people look at birthday parties. And then he never sang it anyway, for fear of copyright infringement.

He seemed just as much out of control now, only he said quite often that there were bits and pieces which could stand on their own, only not a one consistent album to be made of them. Not even mentioning the fact that the band was gone.

Yes, the band was gone. Only Frantic has decided, as he did before, to get it back. Why did they even end?! There sure was a story to be told about that, but Franc wasn’t good at telling personal stories. He preferred to be detached. Make stuff up, but never, never insult anyone he knew by name.

As he had grabbed the photograph between his fingers, the dry skin began to sweat. There was rush now in Franc’s ears, an intense humming as he escaped into the hot summer smoke of the city, bouncing on one leg and short of breath as if he was being chased, but in reality he had just taken an idea in his head a little too seriously, eagerly, as he planned to be aligned with historic figures of his youth by the end of the day. Just as it was stated: A little too eager for a guy to ACTUALLY know what he was doing.

Frantic was about to enter the old recording studio, which he remembered had a massive wooden door of Victorian style, but two missing pants as a consequence of vandalism in the modern era.

The building was neither part of a larger complex, nor did it stand on its own, as it was never actually built for this purpose, or indeed never distinctly built at all: Resting in an abandoned paper factory, it had wooden planks as a rooftop, under which a bird could be seen flying from time-to-time, due to the lack of any central heating, it was impossible to keep it open during the winter months.

Despite its reluctance to become a truly hospitable place, the building drew crowds in not just because of the music, but also because it was a reminder of a somewhat more romantic era at its ninety-eight years of age.

It did not occur to Franc at first that unlike him, other members of the trio may have changed their appearance quite a bit, if only to avoid being spotted in a crowd by some old acquaintance.

The disco club, as it was, would not boom in the middle of the day, but the few heads who were there decided to abandon the incoherent melody of metal and sorrowful emo, and instead screamed their throats out in small groups, each creating their own part of a lyric that someone in the crowd must have started out, and others continued, which had thematically revolved around the always relevant issues of bad habits, featuring an overwhelming lack of the self-reflective pronoun ‘I’.

Clawing his way to the back, he has at once appeared before the bearded guitarist, who, despite his tattooed arms and haunting looks, was playing a slow, acoustic melody. He did not seem to recognise Franc at once, but since he stopped playing, which signalled to Franc that he is at least willing to listen, Franc has decided to play dumb for a moment (and it IS art to pretend that) and ask whether Matt Mourn still visits the place.

‘Heh…? I am Matt, everyone calls me that, as I’ve always been.’ He had a slightly defensive grin on his face now, with his teeth bruising his tongue.

‘But you…friend… I’ve no idea why would you care to visit.’

Relived that Matt has dropped the mask down pretty much right away, Frantic has decided to pretend like nothing has ever been broken between the two:

‘This photo’, he pulled Hanna’s birthday cake photograph from his pants without any introductions, and waved it in front of Matt’s face like a madman, until the other had fixed his gaze upon the photograph.

‘So?!’, Mathew started, as if open to any possible suggestions.

‘That there is the last night we played together Matt. With my texts.’, announced Franc pleadingly.

‘I thought you just wanted to say hello to a long expired friendship, not go straight down that egoistic ally of yours?’, Matt has managed to laugh at his own witty remark. But Frank reminded dead serious:

‘That photo, Matt, it has reminded me there’s still a bunch of stuff in my drawer we have never released.’

‘There is no B-side to be released, Franc, our last stuff was pretty B-grade in its own right, to be honest.’

‘Certainly a matter of opinion, but…’

‘A matter of fact’, Matt shouted and dropped his guitar to the ground as he faced Franc with close proximity, ‘it remains to be a matter of fact, the sales showed that, or fans have spoken! Besides, the two of us with Gear have moved on with our lives, we have got different priorities now than we had decades ago!’

‘But…I’ve met you here, despite such a tiny chance and if you know where Gear is, this IS the perfect time to release new material! If only once again.’

‘Do it…yourself.’, started Matt at him, almost in whisper.

So of course late that evening Frantic was sitting at the simple working desk in his one-bedroom flat, searching through the drawer, fishing for that breath of new energy he himself had produced since the band’s break-up. There were scraps, pieces of paper as torn as if digested between a pair of strong teeth of inhumane origin, periods of rage where one catchy line refused to be followed by anything else, such periods when he sat down, turned the light on, but his head embraced emptiness. He took those into his pocket.

Longer pieces, around sixty of them were written over a longer period of time, most of them rather neatly in a digital form, but they all lacked notes, and he himself thought that at least half are variations of the other half.

He expected to rewrite a lot of this. But not alone and not today, when he knows that Matt surely told Gear about his visit, and now they were both packing bags. So he had to get some voice-overs done tonight, his commitment would surely then sway Matt in the right direction.

Once cherished by Franc as the greatest invention in human history since electricity — a hand held microphone, the silicon wrapped piece of aluminium now lay under the chair on which he sat, recording nothing but dust. A sense of resentment went over the man when he picked it up again, almost levelled to the ground not realising how heavy, if miniature, it actually was.

Getting back up and reaching for the first hand sweat marked sheet of paper, remembering what Matt told him today about his own future and Gear’s, their newly found inclination towards the real world, where naive dreams of earlier lyrics composed by Franc seemed like different lives, lacking structure:

‘I am back in college now, studying archaeology.’, the guitarist had confessed, ‘Gives you a feel of the concrete for a change.’ And there it was: Matt didn’t see his future in music, and the Gear, as Matt explained did neither -

There was a shop downtown where the bald-headed bassist squashed under a pile of wood planks

formed art with his bare hands. Small, smooth as cream violins, pale as stone. The sweet smell of wood aided talent across the county, but the shop owner didn’t keep one piece for himself and his ears didn’t hear a melody for some time now. His only taste was the smell of wood, and the smell of sound would only confuse his senses, Gear believed.

As Frank cleared his throat that late evening, and found himself estranged to the sound of his own voice on their very last CD that played in the background. He took the scraps of paper with notes from the drawer into his hands again, and struggling to recognise his own handwriting in the dim glow of the too white lamplight, which, like a spark of fire threatened to render years of his hard work in the mental realm of imagination meaningless.

Not a single piece had an ending, they all looked like the writer had just as soon stopped writing as he thought about beginning. So in the end Franc found it difficult to assemble a song topically coherent.

But unlike his complete lyrical burnout that while back, he was now, as were those pages, flourishing with ideas. It was developing them further that he found not only impossible, but also unnecessary. They satisfied him the way they were just then: one liners, little germs, thirty second songs, at most.

Trying to combine them as he was recording his voice only caused the melody to jump up and down in pitches uncontrollably, so before he went to bed, he would narrate the lyrics dryly as anyone without his musical talents could have done. He would then scrap the hand written notes into the bin for all eternity.

There was no going back now: His last message to the world, his last attempt to finally be crowned a creative genius of his generation had now only one form left. It was not the original form, the written form… it was a very formal recording and it lacked soul. Even that would be gone from his hands by the morning. But who knows?

Maybe that morning will light a new spark for the career of his dreams. Maybe Matt didn’t think about it ever before for real and it took Franc to start that youthful energy in him too, the in adulthood repressed urge to just play.

Leaving the tapes at the exact same outdoor space as yesterday, hidden just under the chair that Matt sat on, visibly enough if a late-night drunkard looses his foot over it, and walking away was the easy part that late morning. But leaving his muse to be stolen and forgotten, all the while hoping to encounter Matt and getting no wish fulfilled, the hard part was believing his genius will survive, that his bold message to the mates of the past will as boldly get embraced.

The present day:

As Frantic approached the store’s shelf, feeling the energy he wished Matt would feel too a year ago, as he recognised the names, he couldn’t help, but wonder: Is the mission of an artist to get fame and money, or is it about the message, the voice?

A man past his productive years hopes that he won’t be forgotten easily once gone. But truth be told, in the end it was not an unruly teenager who spit on Franc’s creative persona. It was a man who put him at the very back of the brochure as contributor on the new desk’s cover, which shone like the purest silver against the heat. Then turn the album around, and the plastic, melting in the shaking grip of Franc’s slippery fists, showed the old band’s guitarist, and the familiar drummer, both of them now sharing what was once unquestionably his own role, to hold the microphone.

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