Music To Fiction #1. Inner Pieces: ‘One’
For as long as Quinn could remember, the window had been there. The world around it was chaotic, turbulent, constantly changing; but through it all, the window remained.
Quinn hated that window. Beyond it lay an endless array of glittering, beautiful and alluring things that he knew, with an unquestionable certainty, that he would never possess. And the simple act of knowing made him crave them all the more intensely.
His obsession had been started through no choice of his own – he had simply been placed on a stiff old sofa, and allowed to stare into the window’s depths as a treat. Wonderful things could be found behind that glass; exotic visions and delights from across the known universe. He witnessed awe-inspiring natural spectacles, mind-boggling physical feats, the loftiest peaks of humanity’s cultural achievements. But over time he became bored with them all, and his focus shifted. The same sights that had once inspired him found themselves ignored in favour of objects.
The first time he had fallen in love, the focus of his desire had lain upon a pedestal while a trio of people who looked just like him competed for the chance to claim it as their own. They stood behind matching boxes, all in a row, ringing bells and shouting the answers to questions posed by an orange-skinned man with shining white teeth. Behind the orange man was a girl. Quinn remembered nothing more about her, except that she stood next to the pedestal. Guarding the money.
Nobody won. Nobody ever did. But Quinn knew he would. He sat and stared through the window, in a state of complete hyperfocus, until he could beat every new contestant from the comfort of his worn, battered seat. Over time the window evolved, became a black mirror. The wealth of things to stare at increased exponentially. He became distracted, lost in an infinite ocean of unquenchable desire; always something new, something he had to have but never would. His resolve returned, set in stone now. The competition was still on. Nobody ever won.
He adjusted his posture, sitting up straight, eyes unblinking, absorbing everything beyond the black mirror. Dates, names, facts, opinions, technical details, bits of trivia. Hour after hour, day after day, week after week. He made his own sets of questions, testing himself incessantly until, finally, he was ready. A handful of clicks and he was in. For the second time in his life, he had been accepted.
The day Quinn won was blissful. The host’s skin paled under his tan as he announced Quinn’s victory to the world. Millions watched his moment in the sun. He was famous, although the word meant nothing to him. He had what he had always wanted. He was rich.
He sat in a bank vault as the guards piled his fortune on a long, solid steel table. Then came the real payoff – a constant cascade of beautiful things. His house dominated the surrounding landscape while servants filled it. Quinn toyed with arcane inventions, paused to admire gilded portraits, ran his hands over the metallic skin of a custom-built supercar. He stuffed his belly with sumptuous meals and mouth-watering desserts, guzzled drink after drink, then screamed for more. He got more, every time, but it was never enough.
That black mirror now consumed all four walls of a vast, high-ceilinged room. Gradually Quinn’s things piled up, forgotten, disappearing under thick cobwebs and layers of dust while he sat and stared into the abyss. The floor was cluttered, only a small bare patch remaining around an overpriced and oversized armchair. Food containers and beer cans collected in the corners as Quinn’s resentment grew.
A gnawing irritation in the back of the mind developed into a full-body ache, atrophied muscles and overstrained neural cells crying out for something his most heroic efforts had failed to deliver. The black mirror, the window that surrounded him now, was finally seen as nothing more than a transparent barrier between soul and satisfaction.
Everything broke. Tears filled his eyes, hot salty streams down both cheeks as the pitch black armchair passed through a plastic wall covered in pixelated garden ornaments. His fists shattered the screens that remained, the knuckles of both hands torn and bloody. He woke up face down in the carpet outside, broken picture elements flickering on the back of a door kicked off its hinges. Rolling over, staring into the unlit bulb at the centre of an elaborate chandelier. Light spilled from the mirror-room and passed through the chandelier’s crystals to be refracted onto the wall, patterns circling gently, a soothing calm against the destruction beyond the soles of his feet.
Quinn’s hands caressed the thick carpet, his designer t-shirt, his forehead, wet and itching eyes. His chest shook with each outbreath as he watched the light dance on the walls. The patterns were pretty, hypnotic, mesmerising. He felt strangely grateful for the chance to be in their company. An unfamiliar, alien feeling. Gratitude. His breathing slowed, his chest rising and falling smoothly without effort or resistance.
And the music began.
It rose through the floorboards, beginning as bass vibrations, his exhausted muscles trembling in sync with each sound wave. Bodily sensations slowly ceased, a soothing numbness replacing aches and pains and tension. He closed his eyes as the first chord formed, a rich cluster of harmonics, note upon note upon note. All that remained was his thinking mind, sinking under sound, waves of thought receding cautiously, disappearing past the horizon of conscious cognition.
He awoke in a room he had never seen before. Cardboard boxes covered the floor, some taped shut, others overflowing with stuff, some stacked in haphazard piles that looked dangerously close to collapsing. He stood, groggy, staring at the walls. There were no corners – just an unbroken glass surface. The window formed a perfect circle. Beyond the barrier was nothing: just an empty grey expanse. He stared intently, needing to see, the muscles around his eyes scrunching up as he squinted through the glass. Fog. Nothing shone out there. He sighed, perhaps out of relief, perhaps out of frustration. A black shape moved, deep in the bleak mass, as if in response, and was gone. He squinted harder. Nothing.
He pushed the nearest box over, scattering thick books with thin pages across bare wooden floorboards. Picked one up, skimmed through it. A catalogue. More fell from an imploding stack of boxes when he threw it aside. Disgust, a pure indignation shaking his limbs, bitter puke taste in his mouth. The music rose through the floorboards again, sweet consonance disturbing stress hormones and clenched fists. Corrugated boxes collided. He kicked and punched the containers until he collapsed. On the floor the bass swept his body away again, sensory inputs shutting off. Only a sense of downward movement now. With little choice in the matter, he accepted it.
Eyes open. Concrete floor in a polished silver shaft, dropping as if it had all the time in the world. Inches passed over what felt like hours. Cold. He lifted his head. Naked and alone. He shivered. The walls reflected his body back at him, a harsh fluorescent light leaving nothing in shadow. No secrets here – but not much to write home about either. Blank ground and an uncomfortable reflection. The concrete shuddered, began to crumble. Flesh impacting dust, visual field tumbling into sunlight.
His forearms burned against the sand. Sitting up again, scanning surroundings again. Coppery dunes stretching into the distance. Scalding sun in a deep crimson sky. He patted his legs. Jeans. A carefully carved brand name deep in pre-worn denim. Clothed again. He chuckled, wondered where that came from. His mouth was spread wide in some kind of goofy grin. He felt guilty, his shoulders dropping at the sight of dark clouds beginning to obscure the sun. Self-loathing returned. He stood up, the soles of his feet on fire, jumping, yelling obscenities at a ball of gas and opaque armies of water droplets, the futility of it all driving him into incoherence. Exhausted again, the cycle complete. On his back, bass pulse again, sinking again.
The clouds vanished as the sand embraced him. He sank as he would in a playground ball pit. He breathed again, deliberately this time, deciding to savour it, drink it in as if his life depended on it. He realised then that it did. The sand caressed his skin like a lover, another foreign feeling accepted, gratitude chosen this time. He anticipated an increase in intensity. It came. Golden light poured through the pores of his skin as he came too, anxiety and embarrassment washed aside by waves of pure, exquisite pleasure. The limits of mind and body were erased, the sand suddenly retreating, becoming the soft-grained walls of an underground cave. There was light here; it radiated from his skin. Simplicity. Happiness. Relief.
He stood perfectly still, arms outstretched, drinking the air, exhaling light, the shadows of worry and tension chased away effortlessly. His mind returned to the things he had loved before: money, the house, picture frames, machines. He shrugged inwardly. Those things had failed to bring him what he really wanted; but the music, the patient embrace of the bass, the towering chordal structures, the playful birdlike melody filtering through the porous wall of his new home, had done it.
Inspired by the fantastic Andrew Ford of Inner Pieces, and his new album, ‘One’:
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