The sounds of low, angry and heavily distorted bass not only overruled Hugh’s lead guitar work, but completely consumed it. He was getting increasingly angry with David’s new bassist.
He had been introduced to the new boy, one Martin Richardson, at the practice session not half an hour previously. Martin was older than the rest of them by a couple of years, and supposedly he was looking for a band that would play his music. David had vetoed that idea completely, but had allowed Martin to incorporate some of his bass lines into existing songs. The result, of course, was a practice session of noise which left the two guitarists cringing and the drummer confused as to quite where in the song they were. Still, Martin was certainly an improvement on the previous musician.
“Alright man, can we turn this down a bit? You’re blocking us out,
” David called, trying to shout over the wall of noise that was being presented.
There was no reaction, and Martin seemed to be intensely consumed by the effort of playing the part, so Hugh strode confidently over to the colossal bass amplifier and turned the volume down to zero. There was a sound of annoyance from Martin at actually being able to hear himself think, but it might also have been the sound of David and Heather laughing at him.
“What’s going on guys?” he asked desperately. “You said I could write my own stuff into your mix. I know it’s hard to make stuff that sounds good while I’m doing my bit, so I was hoping you’d pick it up a bit instead of being jealous bastards about it.”
This earned him more laughter, specifically from Hugh, as this was Hugh’s way of showing absolute apathy at a person. “If your stuff fit what we’re trying to do, I’d be jealous,” he stated succinctly. “Thing is, it doesn’t. You haven’t even listened to what we’re doing, so your notes don’t work well with ours at all. You came in talking about harmonisation and counterpoint, but you haven’t shown any theoretical skill at all.”
“You needs theoretical skill when you’ve got technical?” Martin responded. “My fingers can move faster than your little stubs can, kid. You’re just worried that I’m outclassing you, and you should be because you suck compared. I can play chords on bass. I bet you couldn’t do that. Look, I can put this E together with this A sharp and I bet it’ll sound amazing.”
Hugh knew what would happen next, but out of the hope that David would quickly learn too, he decided not to dissuade Martin from his choices. Thankfully, David already knew what would happen.
“You want to use a diminished fifth on a bass chord while we’re playing major chords and pentatonics?” asked David incredulously. Heather, a little behind him and sitting on her usual table, had joined in the laughter at this. “That’s going to sound terrible. I get that you want people to hear your bass lines, but a trained ear can hear them even if they’re matching the guitars completely. Just relax a little bit, turn yourself down and listen to what we’re doing for a few runs, alright?”
“You’re stifling my creativity, man,” Martin responded. As soon as he had finished that sentence, he began to play something fast and completely devoid of technique on his bass, likely trying to make it impossible for him to hear what might be said afterwards.
David made no attempt to speak loudly, or even to ensure that his words would carry well. “I suppose I’ll have to start looking for somebody else then. If you don’t fit in with the band at current then I’m going to have to say goodbye.”
The reaction was fairly instant. Martin went into a little and quite pitiful tirade against people over exaggerating and kicking him out for no reason. It made Hugh laugh quite loudly. Moments later, once he had ran out of words, he went back to his amplifier and pointedly turned the volume knob back up, now limiting himself to a decent and respectable level. This made Hugh laugh even more.
The rest of the session passed without anything major happening, or even slightly occurring. Hugh packed up his gear, carefully repaired guitar and all, and set off home. Today, he was expected to visit somebody that he had met online. Her name was Jane Moon. Typically, he would engage somebody in conversation in a chat room, on a forum or over an instant messenger, but she didn’t have a computer readily available in the hospital. Curiously enough, he had been to that very hospital not long before, but he had not run into her or her partner.
Another friend, the one that he had actually met her through, had died. Henry had had a very bad run of late and, leaving Hugh with one final message, he had ended his own life. It had been three days between his death and the day that he was found, and this was only because Hugh, experiencing trouble in contacting Henry himself, had e-mailed Jane. Jane’s e-mail, constantly being read by her older sister, had found it’s way to her mother and then to her, and then on to the police. Supposedly, Jane had already tried to get them down to Henry’s home, but they had reported that nobody was home and left it at that until Hugh’s message had come through.
He knew how the hospital system worked. He walked in and marched straight up to the desk at the far side of the waiting room. Hugh wasn’t one to linger somewhere without a reason, and having so many sick of injured people around him was hardly his idea of a good night out. The receptionist directed him almost effortlessly to Jane’s room and he set off down the maze of pristine white, sanitised and sterilised corridors.
Recognising her would be easy enough, as he had recalled briefly discovering her when last he was downtown. Unfortunately, this meant that he also remembered what he had said about her, and, after hearing about why she was in the hospital in the first place, he hoped to god that she would not know about it. Hugh could end up in a lot of trouble from this.
She spotted him before he spotted her. The door to her room was open, and she was alone in it with an empty bed across from her. “Are you Hugh?” Jane asked as he passed the doorway. It was enough to call him back to her.
Close up, he could see more than a few nearly healed bruises on her face and her arms, but she didn’t seem to be aware of them herself. There was a neat little smile on her face, but everything about her face told him that she had not long stopped crying. Her eyes were still red from rubbing them or dabbing at them, but her cheeks told the real story. Despite the amount of balled up and used tissues on her bedside table, next to a vase of some beautifully colourful flowers, skin was still damp on her face. The flowers would wither and die soon, and even Hugh found it a great shame.
“You wanted to see me about Henry, right?” questioned Hugh as he walked into the room. The lights overhead were blinding, but only those over the empty bed. Those above Jane were thankfully dimmed.
“Yeah,” Jane answered, pulling a fresh tissue from the pack on her bedside table. “I just don’t know you, that’s all. And you helped find him. He must have known you somehow, but I never met you and he never talked about you. I was hoping maybe you knew his family or something because my mum’s been having a lot of trouble getting hold of them. It’s like nobody even knew he existed except me, and then there’s you.”
“Well, you’re giving me a bit too much credit there,” Hugh told her, frowning to himself. “I barely knew him at all really, and I’d never seen him in real life. I only knew him over a guitar website. He knew a couple of people on there, talked about you every now and then too. It’s how I knew your e-mail address. He put some contact info down and when that didn’t work I looked for your account.”
“Ultimate-Guitar, right?” requested Jane in response. “I met him on there in the first place if I think about it. Didn’t know you were on there, but I don’t exactly wander out of my comfort zone. I use the tabs and Musician Talk and Electric Guitar and places like that. He never mentioned you to me.”
“Well, I’m not his girlfriend am I?” Hugh said with a nervous laugh. Almost as soon as he’d said it, he regretted it, but it was hard to find something to say that wasn’t likely to make her think of Henry. He had never been around somebody who’s partner had recently died. He decided to stick to being as reassuring as possible. “He had a few people he talked to just about life. He told us about you, and about losing his job, and his other job-”
“He got fired?” asked Jane quickly. Again, it sounded as though Hugh had put his foot in his mouth. “When did that happen? I thought he was fine for work and well off for cash. He was acting a bit weird about it but I thought he was just in a tight situation. I didn’t know they’d fired him.”
“I probably shouldn’t have mentioned it,” said Hugh carefully. By the look on her face, she wasn’t exactly capable of handling any more bad news. She also seemed to be coming down with an attack of the sniffles; a typical prelude to more tears. “There’s not much else I can tell you,” he continued, trying to push proceedings forwards so that he didn’t have to bear witness to her crying. “I really didn’t know him that well. We just talked every now and then. I even took the piss out of his a few times for how bad his life was. He didn’t have a very good run.”
Something Hugh had said was obviously not what Jane had wanted to hear, because he was forced to bear witness to her tears in the end. She didn’t try to hide even one, or hold her face behind her hands. She didn’t even let her body consume her with the loud and haughty sobs that Hugh had learned to associate with heavy crying. Jane simply sat there stoically, with tears coursing quickly down her face. It was not something that Hugh wanted to see, and, as her grief became more violent, he became completely lost for what to do. She didn’t say a word to him, or try to direct his help or attention in any way. She was just sitting there, alone, and Hugh had no choice but to hug her.
The walk home was a walk with no enjoyment or enthusiasm. His t-shirt was still a little damp from having Jane pouring her heart out in front of him. With such a spectacle before him, Hugh felt almost ashamed of himself for not feeling more affected. Not enough people knew Henry to justify as much as a funeral. His work could not be contacted since he wasn’t working, and he had left no information on previous jobs. Even a thread on UG would earn no reward.
Hugh had agreed to go with Jane when she had to go by Henry’s house and decide what to keep and what to get rid of. Henry had left no will, or even any evidence that he had existed. What Jane would do now she didn’t know. Her one reliable and trustworthy boyfriend was now gone, and she had confessed to finding little reason to continue. Hugh’s agreement had come after this announcement, as he didn’t feel that she should be alone at this point.
When he arrived home, the first thing that he did was to turn on his computer and look at the posts that Henry had made; the last proof that he had been part of the world. For the first time, Hugh really looked at them. He was desperate to learn about this man’s life, but Henry had offered no help, no insight and no chance. It was almost as if his death had wiped him from existence entirely. It was horrifying. Only two people in the world even seemed to realise that somebody had left it. Eventually he gave up and turned the computer off. He was in no mood for the internet today.
Try as he might, over the next couple of days, he simply could not get Henry Jones out of his head. It was like a recurring face, but, since he had never met Henry, that wasn’t even possible, which depressed him even further. No impact had been left, no lines crossed, and only Jane Moon even remotely affected by his life. He would be forgotten quickly and easily, with nobody to tell stories about him and no stories to tell about him anyway.
He didn’t realise until three days later than Henry Jones had had an impact on one other person. He received a message on his phone from Martin which read:
Hey bro Dav said abt Sammy grl U pln on snding pics out?
Looking over the mass of barely understandable attempts at language, Hugh was reminded of the pictures that he had taken of Sammy’s little sister. He had planned to use them for revenge, but, looking the images over, he just couldn’t find the same spirit in his chest anymore. This little girl might have been as cruel, vicious and vindictive as Sammy herself. She might even have the same manipulative soul, but she was not Sammy. She didn’t deserve it.
He deleted every picture, then send Martin back his casual refusal. Hugh wanted to be remembered, but not for that. It was not too late to find his own way. Maybe the guitar would help him.
In the modern world, the internet is king. Whether it is being used to look at exotic fetish imagery, or just to look up the latest snooker results, the internet has it all. Developing at such a rate that development itself must eventually grind to a halt, the internet has exploded into such a wide existence that it could be said to be consuming pieces of the world. What began as a colossal machine in order to create remote, three-dimensional imagery, quickly became just small enough to sit on top of your lap. Some things grew in size though. Servers became a common household appliance, followed by modems, routers, graphics tablets, speakers, audio-digital interface systems, external hard drives and so on. Accessories are the word of the day, but, when it comes to computers and the internet, accessories quickly become essential items.
If we take it as read that the internet started as a communication device, then we can see how even that has grown beyond expectations. In truth, evolution works exactly the same for technological and mechanical devices as it does for the flesh-based animals that inhabit the Earth. The only difference is that with animals, evolution gives what is needed over a time span of millions of years. Technology gives what people want over a time span of millions of seconds. Desires overtake the necessities of life.
Thankfully, at the very core of all of the chat rooms, wikipedia articles, downloadable media and pornography, which takes up a good ninety percent of the information super highway, there is still the ability to communicate.
Over the course of several weeks, five people from one town had come together due entirely to the nature of Internet Anonymity. Using the medium of Ultimate-Guitar.com, Hugh Gee, Henry Jones, David Morris, Jane Moon and Martin Richardson communicated, met each other and either liked or did not like each other. Most importantly though, they affected the lives of each other, sometimes directly and sometimes using a knock on affect. An influence from each of them, in one way or another, crept into the lives of the next. If not for the internet, this would never have happened.
It could also be a bad thing that this had happened, but, since it was far too late, it is likely best not to explore that possibility.
There are times when life is neither safe nor pleasant. Some people are cruel and some situations are nothing short of conventionally evil. With little available that can combat the chance of fate, dire circumstance or intentional cock-up, it is important to have certain close friends to carry you through your darkest times. Unfortunately, it is far too rarely an accepted fact that even complete strangers have the power to change your mood with something as small as an upwards pointing lip edge.
Some people don’t have anybody, strangers or not. Some people don’t see what they do have, while some think it safer overall to just push people away. There’s no right way to do it. Often those with the most friends have the least people there when times turn bad. It’s very important to look after your friends, but, if you’re not happy yourself, can you make anybody smile? Then, there’s love. You might not have it, or you might. It might be the apex on which your life turns, or it might not. It’s not the world, but it makes it sweeter. Loneliness is most often caused by jealousy and desire. You want love so badly that you can’t even appreciate it.
Right now, somewhere in the world, somebody is chasing love. This might be by crashing a wedding, running in front of a car, or trying to convince an unhappy partner to cheat. However brief and underhanded, however cold or undecided, there’s always that tiny chance that they’ll make it - they’ll be happy. You have to appreciate that it’s happening somewhere, even if it’s not happening to you. It could be wrong, but that will never change the fact that it’s so deliciously right.
So talk to strangers. Be honest about things you don’t like. Don’t hide your appreciation, even of people whom you have never talked to in your life. Walk up to somebody you’ve never talked to and tell them they’re attractive, because they are. Appreciate silence, and appreciate the people who are always there, even if you don’t appreciate them at the time. If you don’t think there’s anybody there, just relax because you’re wrong. Check the numbers on your phone. Talk to somebody on msn with a smile and an inquiry as to how they’re doing.
Appreciate life, and maybe, just maybe, life will appreciate you back.