~ a short story
Stepping into the chaotic circle of sound and fury to try and find her, Rafael looked to the heavens and prayed for their protection.
He remembered there in the dire moment alone, Rosa’s counters to his protestations. So sure of her righteousness, like there could be no debate upon the issue. She’d won, of course, and that is why he was here, in this godforsaken field, with sonic assaults crippling his faculties and threatening to blast him off his feet to be trampled by the benumbing hordes of dead-headed multitudes…
“How can someone not like music!? It’s actually insane to me. You are insane to me!”
Rafael’s body shook under the exposure of her indignation. This is exactly why he’d never wanted to outright admit such a thing. Rosa sat across from him at their booth. Her brown eyes boring into him, wrist jewelry jangling with every point and every flip of her luscious brunette hair.
“You see… This kind of reaction is exactly why I don’t like talking… about it,” Rafael said with considerable hesitation.
“You were afraid people’d think you were a freak? Well maybe…” her voice trailed away. She crossed her legs the other away and looked away from their table, down to the floor of the restaurant. She rested her head against her palm and rolled her eyes, sighed.
Rafael lowered his voice. There weren’t enough conversations here on a Wednesday evening to keep this argument, if that’s what it was turning into, totally private.
“I think I may have been close to the mark in that assumption. Look, I just don’t … like it. It’s loud. It’s annoying. Sometimes I like lyrics, but mostly all the sound drowns any meaning away. I can’t focus when I listen to music!”
“That’s the point,” she snapped back, hands up in dismay. “You lose yourself in it. You don’t have to focus. Just let it wash over you. Jesus!… “
She waved both hands as she talked now, pointing this way and that with all four of her fingers, reaching across the table to point a finger at his face or slap a palm against her own forehead. Rosa talked with her hands, that was for sure. He’d thought of it as cute. But now, he was beginning to reevaluate.
“I don’t know what to say. Or how to tell you that it’s just not for me!” Rafael took a sip of his water and wondered where the waiter was.
“Ah, you know what it is. You just haven’t found the right music yet. That’s it,” she clapped a little too loudly. “You are an inexperienced — ignorant — awaiting fan of music. Not a hater of it. There’s no such thing!” A look of triumph crossed her face, as though she’d cracked it wide open.
Rafael shook his head.
“What kind of music have you even listened to?” she asked.
He shrugged. He didn’t have the words to enumerate them.
“Way too loud.”
“Too fast. Too much.”
“Pop? Pretty singers and easy hooks, c’mon.”
“It’s repetitive. And squeaky.”
“Squeaky? What does that even mean? Ok, what about punk? Angsty vocals, slick rhythms.”
“I don’t know what that is!” Rafael said incredulously.
“Good god…” Rosa said with a sigh. “Not gonna lie, Raf, tough look on a second date.”
Rafael exhaled and shrugged, at a loss. But his heartbeat in his chest with realization. He liked her. And this was a serious problem, apparently.
Rosa side-eyed him as she sucked on her straw, “I bet you are going to be one of those guys that loves classical music. Ick!”
“What is that?” Rafael asked, thoroughly exhausted with the conversation and his own ineptitude at keeping up.
“Pianos and orchestras and stuff. Like Beethoven.”
“Ah,” Rafael exclaimed, remembering his experiences with it. He instantly shook his head with delight at the coming win. “No! No way. I hate classical. My parents used to listen to that in the den all the time and I would go to my room, shut the door, put my head in a pillow. Or even go into my closet and shut that door. Just so I could get some quiet to read or play my Gameboy or something. Nope. Hate classical. Probably most of all.”
Rosa chuckled. Then her expression flickered again with another idea. “What about games? They have music, like in the background and stuff. You tellin’ me you hate that too!?”
Rafael thought about it for a second, his face blanked. Then he frowned, “Honestly, don’t remember any music from any game I’ve ever played. Never noticed it.”
Rosa groaned and let her head down against the table. Her long hair splayed out over it, into the napkins and the silverware. The waiter arrived.
“Hi, can I take your order?”
Rosa’s head shot up along with a pointing index and a glare at Rafael.
“We are going to that festival,” she commanded, “And I am going … to beat a liking of music into you if I have to!” She laughed and gripped his right-hand palm down on the table, pinching him.
So maybe she still likes me, then.
Rafael put his back against the cushion in surprise. The waiter, a lanky dude with a ponytail, paid him a glance of silent commiseration. Rafael just shrugged, and let out all of his breath to speak for the sake of satiating his hunger, which had only grown in the exercise of defending his ostensible freakishness…
The romping bodies blocked his path and then opened again before him. Those peers of his smiled up toward the light show shooting out from the stage, but he crouched in the shadows below their overhead clapping and voracious calls for more and just tried to find cover. Booming blasts from the drums on stage shook him into a stumbling stupor, rocking and jostling against bodies that took no notice of him.
He’d lost Rosa in the chaos… Truly, the more he looked at these creatures peopling that chaos, the more he came realize that they were all lost. And he was soon to be devoured.
Below his sneakers, the sludge from the jumping mass of audience that had spent all day here screaming at different singers and players at the source threatened to slip him under their trampling hooves. Somehow, he maintained his balance and kept moving. To where? He wasn’t sure. Away. The guitars were relentless. One cascading strum after another, every one electrifying the crowd into elevated stages of screaming, kept on coming. Rafael could not correlate the contents of the matrix of sound and rhythm that released from the stage and codify into any kind of cogent collective beyond this disenchantment of regress and confusion and pain that he was currently under the spell of.
Where was Rosa? Where am I? What have I gotten myself into?
Hour number seven of Rock-o-fest 2020. The day’s light faded into dusk, and the heat with it. But it hardly made a difference for Raf, for he was in the center of the crowd, led onward by Rosa by a whimsical squeal of “I love this band!”, before she was lost in the oceanic tide of unselfconsciously entranced teens corrupted by the cruel reverberations of the stage. Rock. Rap. Punk. He’d heard it all now. And he hated it all. Raf could not decide which was the worst of them…
“Are you ready to get crazy, you fuckin’ Rockers!” a woman screamed from on stage. Raf did not look up to her, fearing he might become transfixed by her outfit, nauseous from the belching beats from her drummer or the man behind a laptop and then sink and drown into the collective while his guard was lowered. Perhaps I should just leave, Rafael thought. It seems like we are just not for each other. She loves music. I don’t. Maybe I am destined to be alone with this strangely inhumane trait…
He continued to wade through disturbing endless celebration of this most dissonant art, grasped by these thoughts of escape mentally but physically still in search of the woman he came in with. The songs played on. At the end of every one, the thousand watchers and listeners barked for more. Always more. Children stood by their mother’s sides, or sat upon their father’s shoulders to see those starlets and rockstars, shaping their young minds as to such impossible destiny. Couples intertwined their hands or bodies during the inevitable solos, kissing and loving and singing badly alongside. People clapped each other’s backs and belted the lyrics with joy at one another, found friends within the cumulative, never to be seen or heard from again. Everywhere there was smoke, like a contagion it sifted through secondhand, thrusting its latent psychoactivity upon the unknowing. Including him. Never before had he been so tired, so utterly depleted of energy and hope, without having done anything except stumble and wander and try to shield his mind from all of the sound.
Exhausted yet so aware. Rafael saw everyone, he heard everything. Despite his best intentions to retreat within and away, he bore witness to the spectacle of it all. Solitary and in fear and dread at the show’s spellcrafting soul-stealing corruptions, he listened and wandered, head on a swivel, breathing painfully with the beats. He was immune to nothing. Every step no closer to a destination increased his desperation.
A sudden silence captured the crowd as the stage went dark. Rafael finally looked above the reaching heads to sight it. In the distance, as he’d moved so far from it now, not even the instrument’s stations or the stand for the mic could be seen. Abyss. No one there. A surge of hope struck him. Might the show be over? But no one was moving away. He checked the time on his wrist. The show was nearly ended but not over yet. This must be the final act upcoming… He kept moving, quickened his pace amongst the stillness of the listeners. Need to find Rosa. Still no service, no text function. Do I lie to her? Say I enjoyed it. Later on I try to figure out how to like this shit… Or do I tell her the truth? He scanned the horizons of the roiling peoples, few speaking, most still glued to the abyss, awaiting the appearance of their next spellbinding persecutor. Or do I just leave? The idea fast became more attractive to him than any of the others. Leave. Just leave. Run away.
A short distance from his current position amongst the horde, he found a gap within the audience. A way out. Beyond the limits of the mass, a pathway back to the cars and the road. Home free. With that hopefulness in mind and nearly nothing else, Rafael waded to get to the clearing where there was at least green grass instead of mud. He shoved past people who glowered at him or pushed right back without a look. Raf ignored them and urged his steps on, picking up in speed the further he moved from the mass. Please. Please, let me go. Please, god. Where the mud turned to grass, he slipped on something slick, on portions of the blades that were thick with a burgundy brown liquid of some kind. Raf picked himself up and kept on running.
Right as Raf made it to the center of the greenery, halfway to the threshold away from the people, the festival, gone from the music once and for all, a wave of sound suddenly struck out over the collective. Instantly, it was followed by knowing screams and cheers, and movement and fists pumping, the multitude jumping to the slow beat of an ancient drum. The final band had begun to play. Immobilized then by the echoing ensemble of instrumentation coming from some distant plane, Raf watched before him as a shirtless man holding up a young woman in a sleeveless pink shirt jolted back and struck a pole behind them. The steel rod, held in place by a base-box generator below, began to wobble to and fro. At its peak, a searchlight behind a grate cycled through the colors of the rainbow, basking the crowd below in syncing otherworldly auras. Raf gasped with breathless terror as the light became untethered from its base, utterly unbalanced and soon fell toward him. He jumped back but tripped and the light landed at his feet within the clearing, the perimeter of people backing away as it struck with enough force to crush a person only a few feet from his muddy shoe bottoms. On his ass and with his heart pounding, Raf hardly noticed the sparks or the fire that began to grow within the dry grass, or how it spread to encircle him and rose up to shield him from any sights of the mass or the shocked individuals caught in their own altered states assuming the conflagration was a hallucination of their own raging mind. The red and orange tide engulfed Rafael. The onlooking spectres at the perimeter of the clearing watched the flames as they halted their spread where the grass became a sludgy mess of wet dirt.
Raf could not acknowledge the flames, or even their heat, for he was embroiled in the sound. He sat with his hands grasping into the dirt and grass at his back. For the first time, the hated soundfulness of the field, unpeopled and unselfconscious amidst the inferno beckoning him, Rafael felt nothingness. A vigorous set of unstoppable rhythms accosted his psyche as the music continued from the stage. A trio of players, guitars and drums, resonated their tools with simultaneous agility and vitality, individually chaotic, but together harmonious. Cascading cadences looped and built up, forging ahead in the marching of time toward something worth hearing. Blaring blasts became silent riffs that grew back into formers and latters, and then, on counts not quite predictable, collapsed into each other and built new paths within the layering possible. A singer soon came into the fold with whispers of mysticism and then bellows of hopeful frenzy, of venom and mania, of spirit and flesh, of bastards and serenity.
The band played on, hard and fast, driving their instruments to their limits. Drumbeats blared with perforce expediency. A voice bayed out apocalyptic musings, Solos strung out the masses to collective climaxing.
When Rafael arose again before the onlookers concerned with the man they’d seen fallen in the flames, he was dancing. The long songs played on, and Rafael struck himself into lively motions pairing his body freely to their runs. Nude, his clothes burned away, he took in an awareness of nothing but the band and its performance and his instincts. The ring of spirit-gathering fire ebbed and flowed alongside the narrative of the sonance that he could no longer avert his consciousness from. Raf flicked his body in primal and unconstrained drives to absolute aliveness, no longer concerned with the imperfections or with the volume, of the players and their music, or of his own form and the screaming restlessness he carried and had carried for longer than he could remember. He sweated blood and smiled.
There was only the sound; only the rhythms and tones. Rafael shook and rattled with mystical uproar, parts of his form only emerging from the top of the licks of flame as the quartet of artistry upon the lit stage kept their dreams alive. Backdropped by red and gold and black and yellow and azuring solos and trouping orchestrations of spiritually purifying rage-filled hope and dread-destroying nature now unlimited, the band played on. And Raf danced on. At the peak of a singular note, Rafael leapt with his chest into the air with instinctual promise; at the same moment, a bolt of red lightning shattered through the dusky cloudform in the sky above, coming down and colliding with his heart and soul in a surprisingly silent clash.
The song ended, a silence fell over the watchers at the perimeter of the audience, where the flames began to burn away. The body of Rafael was nowhere to be found. Instead, the flames reddened even further into a deep crimson, and rose inexplicably to cover any eyes from a sight within their hold. A figure then stepped out of the flames. Not Rafael, but someone else, something more. A being, birthed from the performance and spectacle of it all in culmination, walked with unbridled presence. Six eyes blinked in unison upon a red, blue and yellow body of shifting apparative constitution, where vessels and sinew forged into place before its audience. A single eye, the seventh, placed above them all upon a placid face and stared through the muddled mess of people and to the source of the sound. A multiplicity of antenna splayed from its skull, their variable attention drawn to the encore now being started on that distant stage. Its body changed from an utter smoothness to a course timbre with every step, its color and impression shifting as well upon those thousands of observers. It said nothing, for no words were needed. It turned from its congregation and with its conflagration in tow, and to the stage and the sound. The flames began to rise in its wake, red and vibrant and no longer burning to the body but only unto the soul. In a perfect circle about its form, the red flames followed.
And so did the people.
Everywhere the fire touched, the people became enamored with the being that would become known as The Mitote. They followed with the implicit, cosmic promise of unfettered dance. The playing rose with a beat anticipating a bridge and the followership danced. Rosa stepped with the others in the wake of the flames, enchanted by the creature, the being, the elevated, unthinking, superfeeling Man. The quatro on stage saw the strange being and played only louder. It approached their creative realm of live performance, not as an invader but as an amplification of everything they and theirs stood for. As a being of purely ordered chaos, of pitch, tone and rhythm incarnated into steps of cohabitative dance-bringing aura, The Mitote was lost for so many thousands and now returned to restore something nameless and equally unfounded within the Man it was borne from. The moshing euphoria that surrounded its path up to now, in these few short minutes, was only the beginning. On an unselfconscious quest toward an eternal hymn building without end or rational bounding, The Mitote brought with it byproducing Forces for chaos and change, potential creation and inevitable destruction.
The world would never be the same again. These flames do not incinerate, but instead, enliven and enlighten, to any and all ends, faces, futures. True to nature, its way would be just, predestined, unalterable, pure. Pure and glad, Rafael was there too, inside, along for the strange tempest’s ride, convulsing with naked, libidinous joy at the sounds of the long, integral song of which he was now a part. ~