Freddy’s puffy bitten right hand was closed around a dirty cup of water. In his other he grasped an unscrewed rizla, pills in its centre. His television, black and white, reflected across the hall in the bathroom mirror, seemed to depict a still image — until a hand moved, and a gong was sounded. White masked faces stared out from the screen and howled. Freddy remained in his reverie.
Grandpa’s hands mirrored those of Freddy’s, exactly. Freddy sat with his back to an internal supporting wall, upstairs, while Grandpa sat with his back to the same wall, on the ground floor. Grandpa was left-handed; with his right, he threw the pills to his mouth as Freddy, upstairs, threw with his left.
Freddy paused, the pill jagged, and gulped the water nervously. Janice and Beany had already taken it lots of times, he recalled, feeling grim. They’d laughed a bit when he tried to say he had too — jeered a bit, and then of course somehow he was taking some home, they’d given it him for free, and they expected to meet him in 40 minutes on Ashley Hill, right on the edge of the street carnival. They’d know if he hadn’t taken it. They were always smirking with each other. Resignedly, grimacing, he downed the gritty liquid and went to the bathroom for a piss. Spectre was playing, fuck it, he wanted to see him. Another night of trying to ignore those two. Putting up with the put down.
Grandpa didn’t need all the water. A little something to help him sleep, the family thought, but boy, it was better than sleeping. Woo-hoo. He turned the record over, a smile on his face. He always looked forward to Friday nights.
Freddy, on the bus, watched the street lamps stretch out as they streamed past, ribbons of light, taut in wind. The flashing made him feel as though a small golden sun swiftly orbited the bus, rolling a warm light around it’s interior. The light in his eyes flashed in the opposite direction. Against all odds, he felt chilled: relaxed and groovy. And yet also containing a lethal excitement with which he wanted to shriek, or at least, softly giggle. The bus felt smoother than ever, purring contentedly. The glistening bashment and breakcore rumble of the carnival drew ever near. The bus was Amazon humid as Freddy’s jaw clenched like a cat’s paw.His palms itched and skin tingled, ball sack tightening, as he stepped off — road’s blocked, the driver said. End of the line for tonight. Freddy felt sweaty but his skin was dry. Smoke and BBQ smells filled his mouth and eyes. The carnival, its centre several streets away, thrummed and clattered, the wind throwing a world of junglist mash-ups in his direction, a radio re-tuned unhinged. Shattered glass at his feet reflected is face in one thousand aspects. He felt calm but full of potential. The glass winked in response and he drew a shaky breath, rushing. He felt like a spiky, darting creature slowed by thick water. He wanted to embrace. His grin would not leave his face — not a rictus, it shone at his surroundings as he turned his head. His eyeballs jittered at the visual feast. Strange lights seemed to run like liquid in the air, arching like lovers. The night became strangers — what seemed empty was full, bustling with hooded carnival-goers, striking out down the hill towards the grimy heart of the carnival, wreathed in smoke, dreads, wrap-around shades: hackers and punks. A cat — black on black — weaved fast through the feet and paused at a the foot of a garden wall — turned to look straight into Freddy’s eyes — two luminous knowing orbs. I’ve punched dragons, it hissed, and leapt, disappearing. Freddy’s gaze went where it thought the cat would be, and saw only three and a half stars in the night sky.
Somebody grabbed his bicep. The distant gabba shifted into resonant breaks like engines changing gear. Somewhere someone playfully roared.
Freddy! It was Janice. You made it? Her eyes twinkled with a perverse joy — a twisted undertone played around her lips — for once, Freddy could see it. He felt clear-headed. Beany’s just over there — there he was, shiftily filling Nos balloons for expressionless students in bright but tattered clothing – you fucked? how you feeling? She looked into his eyes.He wanted her hand, on his arm, to squeeze tighter. He tried to speak — and surprising himself, managed — Yeah I feel dead lush. His tongue thickened. He heard his voice shatter and echo. Janice frowned and licked her lips. Well the night is young, she said. And so am I, so maybe we should dance, somebody said. It was Freddy. Before she could respond Beany was at his shoulder, arm draped pushily. Freddie, fredage, how you feeling? What’s the colour of my trainers? Jan’s top? Waving his fingers in front of Freddy’s face, Beany sneered ingratiatingly, and spat, falsely friendly like a salesman, a slimy smile. Dirty, Freddy said — it was busy now on the street, knots of people like muscle enclosing around them. Freddy felt safe but wild. The sounds of many feet tramped in syncopated new time signatures, splattered surround sound, intermingling with the now muffled, now sharp electro snares; with the distant shouts and whoops, now so very near. Dirty? Beany’s face, too, played a twisted undertone. Yes mate, Freddy continued, voice lilting, hands wiping his forehead, his jeans. Dirty, once trendy, holy but not Christian. You’re no mate of mine, a voice spoke in his head. What colour are mine? He said out loud. Beany glanced at Janice, off balance. Gold like lightning, said a dark, smiling face, passing, Doppler effecting. Freddy turned with the voice, his back to the two of them now, watching the panorama before him, excited by the possibilities.
The carnival, at the bottom of the hill, brooded and pulsed, a labyrinth, teeming crowds like water streaming into it. Let’s get into it, and swim, murmured Freddy, taking a convulsively deep breath, pupils like caverns. He recognised a Shitmat tune. Not waiting for an answer, darting like a minnow, he bumped into a girl. Wide-eyed and smiling, she turned to him, holding out a spliff. Running somewhere? She seemed to sing. He smiled. He wanted to kiss her face. He took the smoke and together they flowed down the hill.
Grandpa’s skin felt like it was slowly crawling towards his head. He jumped, suddenly realising that the record’s stylus was statically spiralling, gently knocking against the axle, leaping back to somewhere within the last groove; a pulse of the record’s final cathartic reverb tail, and around again; and again; and again — drawing his eye — for how long?! He sat forward abruptly, scared of losing track. Had the lights just got dimmer? His hand was claw-like in the lamp’s glow. He stared, his skin tingling again, as his veins grew — or maybe he saw through his crinkled skin, to the blue, thickly pumping blood — gaskets and all, fiercely syncopating, veins like vomiting slugs. Next thing, there was a new record on — had he put it on?
Something creaked in the corner by the window. He looked without moving. A whisper. Cab Calloway III began to sing, somehow emptier, hollower than ever before.Spiders ran across his shoulder blades. He snapped out of it — somehow he was stood in the dark hallway, at the top of the stairs, the light from the bathroom seeming to breath slowly, no longer flickering — strange, he managed to think. His eyes felt sightless, though he could see. The gloom was a patchwork of cloudy, shifting, gleeful faces, all the colours of the dark. He trembled but could not move. His muscles were knots. The record, distantly, skipped and knocked — orchestral ghosts, repeating — at least, that’s what it sounded like right now. A moment ago it had sounded like breathing — like the breathing in his ear, that he could hear again, right now — it had sounded like a growing cacophony of squeals — now he remembers — the room had begun to shake, the record played impossible, distorted and violent messages, he had managed to get out of there. Now he stood in the dark, pulse racing, eyes pulsing, straining and dry. Spiders on his back.
The hallway lurched in a series of still frames, a shapeless tunnel, as he made it into the bathroom. A haggard, twisted and pale face loomed towards him and his heart filled his mouth so he couldn’t scream. The taps echoicly dripped. He could hear his own blinking in the suddenly reflective environment. The mirror seemed streaked with rust, or blood — doubled over, gnarled fists gripping the basin, he felt as though something had snapped, broken, within him.He closed his eyes as a shudder ran from his toes to his scalp. The bathtaps suddenly burst forth, spewing foaming water — his eyes flew open, just as the small window slammed shut with the sound of a reversed cymbal. Three and a half stars shone through the pane like eyes.
He heard a scream from the hallway behind him.
His eyes settled on a filthy glass and an unscrewed rizla on the sink. His mind’s eye flashed back. Cracks appeared upon the mirror. Fucking hell, Freddy, he thought as the darkness, like fingers, crowded out his vision. What the fuck are you on.
On the record deck, an unscrewed rizla orbited like a tiny nova.
What I’ve tried to do is include my reflections and responses to the music at every level of a story. The music is always in the story; the landscape is one suggested to me by the music; the reactions of the character are effected by how the music might affect him. I’m interested in the repercussions of music, and hope to provide the reader with information that they might feel, as opposed to consider, in relation to the writings’ purpose as a review. Word?