ONE YEAR AGO
Jay stared at the music box, letting it radiate through his mind, now epileptically lost in its own majesty. The room was meaningless, much like his own physical form. The little ting tong bang' of the music box was fueling his inner workings. The cogs were turning. In his hands, his drumsticks moved almost entirely on their own. In the unconscious clock of his brain, the little electrical impulses suddenly grew active in the certain part of his cerebrum that ran his musical competence. It was something all the Zipplers shared, and cursed. He was unaware at this time. When it ended, he would have nothing more than the motor function memory of the flow of his drumming. Everything else would disappear, as if he did not exist in that span of 3 and a half minutes.
What tiny strand of DNA had started this existence? It was hard to think that one cell had developed a human being of such caliber as Jason Zippler, with his unconscious genius and unknowing mind. The Zipplers had never conceived the thought that a boy raised on church property could grow to be truly alive. Now, a living thing, the result of their love, was sitting upstairs, suffering a mild autistic seizure.
Jay suddenly stirred, and his eyes became clear again. The blackout arrived, and suddenly, he knew nothing about the last five minutes. These were becoming more frequent now, but he couldn't remember them. He simply figured they were little bouts of narcolepsy, brought on by worrying too much at night. But all that seemed to remain in his conscious mind was the motor function he had mastered while away. The little drumming routines were now implanted permanently in his brain. They couldn't go away now.
And neither could he.
I'd like to think this is just a weekend trip. Ron said as he packed the small sedan full of his college materials. Eric stood nearby, watching his foster brother slowly toss his possessions in the car. Eric sighed. He had always thought this day would never come, but here he was, standing helplessly on the face of a slow-rotating planet hurtling slowly towards its own demise.
Me too. Eric replied sadly, looking at the ground. Ron coughed as he threw the last of his photography equipment in the trunk.
Wish mom and dad could be here to watch me leave. Ron muttered just under his breath, but Eric still heard it. They were never around. Its not like Eric really required any parental attention, but his foster parents were still not aware their only biological son was gay. Ron had told Eric the year earlier, and they had shared the secret, never revealing it to anyone else.
Yeah, but hey lucky me, I get the honor. Eric smirked smugly.
Ron tousled his hair and laughed sadly. His eyes darkened, and he looked to the ground, just as Eric was. A long pause followed, with the foster brothers locked in a contest of wits. Who would bother to look up first? Who could say goodbye first?
Listen Eric finally mustered up the guts to say. I never really had a family. I guess you're the closest I've ever had.
Aww, well you're the only brother I've ever had. All these things we've lived through. I mean, I can't imagine what you must have gone through with the fire and everything
I told you, Eric sighed. I don't remember much about that.
I know, I know. You told me a million times. Ron grumbled, patting Eric on the shoulder.
Another long, awkward pause followed.
Is this really goodbye? Eric asked, looking up into Ron's eyes.
Just until I graduate. Florida's a long ways away
The world seemed to pause. In the long awaited runaway, Ron could flee from the town of Harmony Hill. But it was not yet that the innocence had been murdered and fed to the dogs. No, this was just a precursor. The utter sadness in the moment of two brothers saying goodbye was astounding, but not powerful enough. The dreary results of such a moment were just a slight ripple in the pool of darkness. The town, a living being as it would be, was still in the womb. Its devilish wings had not yet spread wide, devouring its own mother and siblings. The nearby towns were still cleansed of the sins of the past, present and future. In Harmony Hill, a slight tarnish had appeared on its golden face; like the slight tinge upon the halo of Lucifer before he grew the plan to rebel against his maker.
Deny thy maker.
Anson strummed an A minor tentatively. His brother had just come back from his guitar lesson, and Anson was eager to see what Tony had learned. Tony had been playing for a good year now, with Anson helping him outside of his weekly lessons. Tony could make his way through most songs Anson threw his way, and the brothers Fordyce often jammed together, coming up with cool back and forth blues rhythms.
Tony suddenly burst into Anson's room, slamming the door behind him. Anson nodded, and Tony removed his Squier Strat from his gig bag, its pale white finish nearly identical to Anson's Fender Strat. They were two of a kind, and inseparable.
What'd they teach you today? Anson asked, running over an A minor scale.
Uhsome older metal stuff. Tony said with his high-pitched boyish voice. He always looked rather nervous while playing with Anson, though he knew that he would calm down after a few run throughs of some Nirvana.
Cool, cool. Anson muttered. Listen, I got this new chord progression, and
He could remember the day his parents brought Tony home from the hospital. Anson was 7, barely passing the second grade, and bored with life. Amazing how early he had developed psychologically. He could easily determine if someone was lying to him, and it happened to be his father that did it the most. Anson was bright, but not extraordinary. It was perhaps determined by fate that he would become a realist: trusting only the cold, hard facts. But somehow, the not-yet toxic air of Harmony Hill had a radioactive effect, infusing him with an unimaginable negativity, even as a child. He had been sent to numerous child psychologists, who tried to fix' him. But despite their efforts, Anson kept a smile: false; a chameleon in plain sight. He was depressed: constantly depressed, and he wondered why.
When they brought Tony home, Anson could only smile that charming, fake grin. He washappy for the family. So long as it followed the nuclear family ideal: two parents, two children, one car, two stories in a sh*thole town. As long as the status quo was met, he could sleep at night. Father and Mother, brother to brother.
But the words that broke the calm evening of two brothers fiddling around with their guitars were cold and empty. They were the words that would burn a hole in Anson's fragile psyche that no doctor could fix. Like a mechanic unfamiliar with German engines, he could not be fixed. And the words were a particularly dangerous pothole.
Boys? came his mothers voice. Can you come down here?
Anson nodded to his little brother and the two walked slowly side by side downstairs to the kitchen/living room and sat at the kitchen table. Their mother and father stood nearby, looking very anxious. Anson could tell his mother was upset, but his father never showed any signs of anxiety. He was rather cold, and pale faced, with little more than a face to really judge anything by. His hair was falling out, Anson noticed, probably due to the stress of having two disturbed children. But then again, they weren't visually disturbed; just in their heads.
Boys, we His mother began, then stopped. A tear welled in her eye. Your father and I have been having some differences.
Differences? Tony asked innocently, his big brown eyes shining in the dim light of the bare kitchen bulb.
Yes, honey. His mother replied. Differences. We've been talking about it, and we just don't think it can work anymore.
Wha? Anson started, then stopped. It hit him. His heart sank like the Titanic. Jack drowned in his soul.
We're going to file for divorce in the next week. His mother finally choked out. Anson sighed loudly, then stood up abruptly, shoving his chair out from behind him. It clattered to the floor like a fallen idol, and Anson pushed past his father toward the stairs. His mother called out, and Anson looked back. Not because of her, and not because of his father, but because of Tony. His brother was still sitting at the table, looking at the ground. For a moment, he looked up, and the brothers' eyes met. In that instant, Anson knew things couldn't be the same. The status quo, the very thing that drove his fear and his life; the anxiety welled up had broken the glass barrier of his darkened soul. The dam cracks had split it in half, and the flood seeped out.
Anson ran to his room and slammed the door shut behind him, sealing away the demons outside. What happened to the family ideal? Where had the American Dream gone? When his grandparents came to America, had they imagined the moment he was living right now? Had they seen the bleak future in which their offspring would live?
Where was the future?
It was happening again. His mind was wandering in his sleep, like a stray cat. Look for the next meal or die. You must feed upon the rodents of the dreamscape and flush out the rats from the cortex.
The mystical land of sleep was a canvas for his unconscious mind to paint a world he couldn't live in. The world he loved was a mere blink away; it hid somewhere in the back of his brain, active only when his head hit a pillow. The little creatures that led him on his way were afraid of the real world. So was he.
Wandering as he often did, completely unaware, Charlie knew this had been going on, and yet, he didn't mind it. It just meant that you woke up in a different place than where you went to sleep. Sometimes it meant waking up on the couch, and other times it meant waking up outside in the woods. Either way, he was never particularly hurt, and as it appeared, he did little more than move where he was sleeping.
The power of the unconscious mind is amazing, he thought during the day. He could control his body without active thought. It amazed and frightened him at the same time.
On this particular morning, he awoke to find himself in an unfamiliar location. The smell of rotting vegetation awoke him. His dark eyes shot open, and were immediately met with a flash of pure white light. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust, but he could feel his location between his fingers: sand. It's a freaking desert, he thought. But then his eyes adjusted, and he realized he was lying face down on a beach. The rotting vegetation, he realized, was the smell of lake plants wrapped around his ankles. He was still shirtless, but he could tell that he was still dripping with water.
Rolling onto his back, he could see from the sun's position that it was nearly midday. The burning rays of a dying summer stung his face. He placed a hand over his eyes, but he soon came to the disturbing conclusion that he had actually swam in the lake during his period of unconscious movement. The idea of dying without knowing hit him hard, and he suddenly lost all breath. His chest heaved heavily; an empty prison cell.
Then the sound of light, strumming music came to his ears. The familiar chords of F D# G C. He sat up abruptly, looking for the source. He then knew exactly where he was: the Mountain Lakes Beach. But he lived at least five miles away. How he had gotten here in one night was beyond him.
Then, the source of the music: a boy sitting on a wooden bench nearby. He was a larger kid, but he certainly knew what he was doing. The music dove and drowned, then resurfaced and took new breath. He was, in a word, astounding.
Charlie stood and walked over to the boy, shrugging softly.
Hey, do you know when I got here? Charlie asked the boy.
You've been swimming for the past hour, bro. The boy answered in a sad tone. He flourished the ending of his improvised song and looked Charlie in the eyes. Why?
Uhno reason, really. Charlie said, shaking his head to get the sand out of his hair. You're pretty skilled with that guitar, man.
I try. The boy replied curtly, looking back down in sorrow.
What's wrong? Charlie asked, honestly caring. Something, call it fate, drew him to this boy.
Ah, nothing you'd care about.
Try me. Charlie said, taking a seat next to the boy and relaxing. After all, he thought, I did walk five miles in my sleep to go for a swim.
Well the boy began. My brother just left for college. And I mean, he was like my best friend. And my parents weren't even home to see him away. It'sit's like they don't care.
F*ck them, then. Charlie smirked slyly. You control your destiny, not your parents. This life we live is not determined by what our family wants to do, its just influenced. In the end, you rule your life.
I suppose. The boy sighed, looking at the ground, then at Charlie. I'm Eric, by the way.
Charlie nodded and looked down at the ground at the same instant Eric did. Then, almost in unison, on the same disturbed wavelength of thought, they looked to the sky. The two boys sat there for a long time, staring up at whatever ruled their lives. In the moment, they imagined a dying God. And in the end, they realized that they controlled their own destiny.
When you're standing on the edge of nowhere, certain thoughts pass through your brain. Will I be remembered? Will I be forgotten? Will life go on, or am I the only living thing? Is existence itself my own hallucination? Am I some sort of experiment for God, to test the boundaries of human control? Does anything matter?
These thoughts passed through the mind of Becker Heiner as he stood on the edge of the cliff overlooking Harmony Hill. He had no idea that one year from now, he would throw a CD over these cliffs and kickstart a chain reaction that would endwell, he really didn't know that it would end.
The wind picked up, and Becker's dress shirt flapped out behind him. He smirked sadly. He had wanted to look good in death. He wondered how they would dress him, or if the clothes he was wearing would be too torn from the free fall. He wondered if you blacked out before you hit the bottom, or if you felt everything. What would happen? Was there a heaven? A hell? Or would nothing happen? Would things simply stop? Existence would be beyond him, and he wouldn't bother about Earth, its squabbles, or any of its people. After he was gone, nothing would change. No one would care, and nothing would ever be affected by his absence.
He stared up at the sky. How could the sun shine on a day like this? When everything had broken down inside of him, how could any God allow it to be bright and shining? What was this? A cursor to talk him out of it?
He sighed once more, pondering how he had gotten here. All the years, feeling so alone; so isolated. He had come to the conclusion that no one lived him, not even his parents. In fact, he was fairly concerned this was Gods plot to ruin him, and remove an ultimate evil from the face of the Earth. That is what he was. A villain in his own head. Every story needs a villain, he concluded. And I am that villain.
But as he took one last step closer to the edge, a calm voice spoke over the wind, carrying like a deity's. Becker didn't want to turn. He didn't, but he did.
What are you doing? the voice asked. Becker turned to find a red haired girl leaning over her bright blue bicycle, looking rather concerned. She was wearing a black Muse t-shirt and a pair of ragged jeans with a naturally torn hole in the knee. Becker stopped in his tracks. What was she doing there? The houses up the hill were still being built. Why would anyone be riding by this cliff?
Nothing. Becker replied vividly.
Stop lying. I can tell. The girl said. I know what you're doing. Been there, thought that.
What? Becker asked, stepping back toward the guardrail toward the girl.
I thought about doing it too. Matter of fact, it was that very cliff.
Funny how that works, eh? Becker replied in monotone, sitting on the guardrail.
Shut up. The girl soberly replied. You're really just fooling yourself. I know the world's bull. You just have to think about how you're giving the finger to God every day you live.
I suppose that has some merit. Becker nodded. He snapped his fingers. I'm the villain, you know.
Yeah, we all are. Failed experiments. The girl laughed. Get on the handlebars, freak. Let's see what we can do with you.
Becker thought for a moment, expecting the girl to be frustrated. But she wasn't: she was patient and calm, waiting for Becker to speak again. This awoke something in Becker. He hadn't expected it, but there it was: hope.
As he walked away from the guardrail and toward the bicycle, he didn't bother to look behind him for even an instant.
If he had, he would have seen the small fragment of a rip in space/time. The first precursor to the black hole of Harmony Hill.