Word Count: 952
Writing: 1 hour
Editing: 14 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 14 minutes
The front of the disk says Bach. I have no idea what the word means, but the sound that’s stored in the shiny plastic is otherworldly. At first I thought maybe it was just the thrill that was making the music so sweet in my ears. But the more I listened the more I understood, the more I knew. And with each passing note I cared less and less whether they found me and, secretly, I think I want them to. What better way to die than by listening to this thing called Bach? After the many hours I’ve been sitting here, listening to this disc over and over, it’s plain to see why the machines banned the music when they took over. Why it’s penalized by only one punishment, which, of course, is death.
I remember the first time I heard music as a boy. My mother and I were walking down the street, on the way to pick up our daily rations. I heard a strange and unfamiliar noise behind us. I turned and saw a man with a smile spread across his face, and he was humming. It was terrifying, I felt cold as the noise crossed my ears and hoped that you couldn’t get in trouble for accidentally hearing music. Then, a loud bang echoed across the line of people. The man’s body jerked and I watched part of his head splattered on the ground as he fell. I remember how he was still smiling, so content, looking up at me from the ground. My mom jerked my arm and everyone just kept moving forward as if everything were just fine and normal. Which I suppose it was.
I swore then to be a law abiding citizen, do my job, eat, go home, sleep, repeat. And I did, for many years. Yet here I sit, with these speakers over my ears, from this strange and lucky find that makes discs play in your hand, listening to the noises repeatedly. My mind racing with ideas as the ancient instruments make high and low noises, soft and strong, some boomed, others hummed gingerly. I can feel the stories being told through the sounds like an unfamiliar language. Pummeling information directly into my brain, and after one taste, I fear I’ve been thoroughly addicted.
Already the thought of going back, living without this Bach, makes my breathing fast with anxiety. It seems now like the equivalent of continuing life without ever eating or drinking again. Senseless.
I have an idea. How many hours have I been gone? Surely they won’t be looking for me yet. I think about turning off the music, but there’s no way I can. The addiction is too strong now, I’m in love, and as any blinded fool, I must do something stupid and brilliant to show my love for this new thing called Bach. Perhaps giving people a taste, no matter how short, will be enough.
I look across the clearing toward the shift lead’s announcement booth. It’s far, just a dot in the distance on the dark horizon. Surely if I’m even glimpsed running across the courtyard this far after curfew I’ll shot dead, or worse imprisoned. No human has ever come out of a machine prison, and the legends of what happen in there are sure to cover any person’s skin in clammy sweat and firm goosebumps.
But they won’t see me, not even my shadow. I know I’m fast and they have no reason to be covering the courtyard tonight. Not yet at least. And so what if they do see me, as long as I have this music propelling me, pushing me forward with the inspiration the machines so thoroughly fear, I can die happy. Maybe even die free.
One, deep breath, I stare at my target, my eyes cannot leave it for a second or I’m as good as dead. Two, deep breath, full speed, full force, or I’ll never make it through the door. Three, a low, honking noise blares in my ears as if Bach is telling me to go. I feel my body jump over a small wall, then my feet are smacking against the ground, pushing me harder and harder toward the small booth. But I’m not with them anymore, I’m with the heavenly noises that echo into the deepest parts of my brain, flying on the wings of each and every instrumental voice.
The door is just a few yards away, I push as hard as I can giving any and all extra, stealing from the energy of the Bach and using it to break through. I brace myself and feel the hardness of the door push back, trying to stop my force dead in its track, and failing. My shoulder hurts as the door gives way and I’m sure it’s broken, shattered most likely, but that doesn’t matter now. The alarm is sounding, no time to try and stop it. I jump to my feet and move to the announcement block.
For so many years, I’ve sat here, playing the machine’s announcements, once a day every day, and for what? I don’t want to sweet noise to stop, but it’s time now. I pull the disk from the ancient cd player and load it into the computer. The familiar window opens and asks if the announcement should begin. With a steady hand, I crank to volume and click yes.
I barely feel the bullets as they tear through the small booth. Nor do I feel myself hit the ground. But I can feel the smile, spread all the way across my face as I hear the light hum of Bach coming from under the ground.