Tag Archives: music

Rebirth

I tried to think of a pithier title and couldn’t come up with anything.

Rebirth

You can’t know what happens after you die. The piano feels screws loosening, feels a crowbar somewhere underneath. Wood cracks, splinters. It’ll be soon. They’ve already pried off its ivory keys.  At least it doesn’t hurt.

There’s a pling sound as its strings are cut, the last music it will ever play.

Consciousness fades.

* * *

“What a unique table!”

The table feels a hand run along its glossy surface.

“It looks like it was made from a grand piano top.”

Was I ever a piano? the table wonders. It can’t remember. Unfortunately, you can’t know what happened before you were born.

 

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How Much for the Tuba?

You can call this a second string Friday Fictioneers piece, not because it’s worse but because there was no way it was fitting into 100 words.

“How much for the tuba?” I asked.

The clerk told me.

I smiled and let nostalgia glaze my face like a Kristy Kreme donut. “You know, my mom used to play the tuba. She had lungs on her like a pair of steel bagpipes. Growing up ,I thought she could put her lips to an elephant’s trunk and blow him up like a balloon, just like in the cartoons. Once, I put a ball bearing into the bell of her tuba before a performance, just as a prank. She played that whole concert, keeping it hovering in there. It wasn’t until the final note that she launched it up and out. Knocked out the conductor cold.” I chuckled, in a subdued way. “She passed away last year.”

The clerk looked amused and sympathetic at the same time. “Sounds like quite the lady. You know, I don’t normally do this, but I think I can give you a 20% discount on it. For your mom’s sake.”

“Wow, thanks!” I said. “That means a lot to me. I’ll think of her when I play it.”

I paid and arranged for the delivery. Then I strolled outside and down to the next music store. One down, three to go for my brass quartet.

“How much for the trumpet?” I asked when I was inside.

The shopkeeper told me.

I nodded and looked far away. “You know, my old grandpappy used to play the trumpet . . .”


Sword Music – Friday Fictioneers

First of all, I was very happy to see my picture appear here.  I’m curious to see what others make of it. Secondly, I won’t be able to do that much this week, since I’m out of town on a business trip until Sunday. I’ll have Internet and will try to find time to read some.

Copyright David Stewart

Copyright David Stewart

Sword Music

The first note hovered in the air like an orb-weaver hanging from the horn of the moon.

More instruments joined, the energy rising like a waking predator. It ascended, a frenetic dervish, around the musicians, touching the forest of upraised swords. The edges kindled, maddened to fury by the throbbing cacophony of raw power.

The music ceased, except the first lingering, arachnid note. The hungry light of a thousand blades was quenched in their sheaths.

“We desire peace,” the king said, “but you see our weapons. Go tell your people.”

The ambassador wiped his brow. “There will be peace,” he said.


Music to Write by

Last week, my class was working on posters for International Education Week and I put on some music while they were working. I tried to find songs on Youtube that everyone might like or at least things that I liked. After a few songs, I put on Lana del Ray’s Summertime Sadness, which I really love. One of the students, a 20-year-old Venezuelan guy gave me a look, as in “Really? You like this?” I defended myself by teaching them the word eclectic as in “Shut up, I have eclectic tastes in music” and then changed songs.

The fact is, I do love a very wide range of songs that produce some sort of emotional response in me. After all, as a writer I’m trying to evoke an emotional response in the reader, so call it research.

I listen to music when I write since it fuels the creativity pumps deep inside my spirit. Here is a sampling of songs that I really love and that help me in my writing. I can’t guarantee you’ll like all of them and actually, I can pretty much guarantee you won’t like all of them, since what would the odds be of that? (I also like Nightcore-style music, so some of these songs are the Nightcore remix version).

Et Huomaa – Irina

L’autre – Mireille Mathieu

Fear of the Dark – Iron Maiden

Dust in the Wind – Kansas

Popcorn – Hot Butter

Blessed be Your Name – Matt Redman

Courtesy Call – Thousand Foot Krutch

Anima Libera – Emi

Back to Black – Amy Winehouse

Brother Louie – Modern Talking

Jai Ho – Slumdog Millionaire OST

Lady – Styx

Classical Gas – Vanessa Mae

Vampire Kiss (Nightcore version)

Helele – Velile & Safri Duo

Kernkraft 400 – Zombie Nation

Radioactive – Imagine Dragons

And for my friend Miles, who also loves this song:

Kyrie – Mr. Mister

Do you listen to music when you write? What kinds of music helps you write the most?


Beating Swords into Saxophones – Friday Fictioneers

Beating Swords into Saxophones

The Earth was snoozing peacefully—the sunny Sunday afternoon of history—when the aliens came to prod through what remained of human civilization, oohing and ahhing in incomprehension over our ruined cities and quaintly antique technology.

They found our weapon caches delightful. The casing of a Minuteman made a pleasant booming when hit with the butt of an M-16 and .50 bullets strung up on trip wire cable laughed and sang as they tinkled together in the wind.

Then one poked at a landmine, with explosive results. “Save that for the concert,” the leader said. “That’ll be the grand finale.”


Let me introduce to some friends of mine

Back before New Year’s, I did a blogging game, where I asked you to think of fictional characters and post them in the comments, starting with A, all the way to Z. We made it all the way to the end, eventually, thanks to one loyal fan, and I said that whoever got one for F, S, and Z would get featured in a future post. This one.

friends

Winner 1: Miles Rost (Music and Fiction)

As the blog name suggests, Miles writes fiction, inspired by music. Each story has a corresponding song and he often uses some of the lyrics in the story.

Some highlights:

Demolition Man is a madcap piece about a group of military misfits.

Hazy Shade of Winter is just fun, with lots of energy in it.

 

Winner 2: Sharmishtha Basu (Window to my Soul, Wing of Dreams, among others)

Sharmishtha has been blogging a lot longer than me and has 12 blogs, dealing with stories, poems, social issues and interesting facts. If you don’t know about Sharmishtha’s work yet, go check it out.

Some highlights:

Honeytrap: A Novel: This, along with its sequel, Kingmaker, are a chilling look into the plight of young Indian women and the depravity of some people who exploit them.

The Other World: Sharmishtha writes compelling serial stories. This is her current one.

 

Other Friends:

Since I’m writing this post anyway, I thought I would mention a couple other blogs as well. One is Dysfunctional Literacy. If you have never read Dysfunctional Literacy, definitely go check it out. Author Jimmy Norman writes about funny, interesting posts about literature, books, words, etc. and has great continuing stories. His current one, The Literary Girlfriend is top-notch.

The other blog I wanted to mention is called Two Small Feet and its first post was yesterday. It is owned by a real-life friend of mine, Carmelita, a world traveler who just arrived in Bhutan to live there. Go follow her and read about her adventures and life in a remote, mysterious country.


Broken Piano – Friday Fictioneers

Broken Piano

The casket was empty as far as I was concerned. I had come to pay my respects to my former teacher, the piano virtuoso Horace Thornhill, but as I approached, all I saw in the satin-lined box was a dead body.

I looked at the hands that had drawn exquisite aural elixirs from ivory vessels and the face that had worn an expression of such concentration and sublimity in the midst of his performances. They were empty—as cold and silent as a marble statue.

There was nothing more than a broken piano now; the music had flown far away.

 


The Killing Type (Part 2 of 2)

A few days ago, I posted a call for song suggestions. The idea was like my Open Prompts stories, except that I would use quotes from song lyrics in my story. Thank you to the people who gave me suggestions. They are, in the order they commented:

Arjun Bagga: Hank Williams Jr.’s “A Family Tradition

Miles Rost: Alphaville’s “Dance With Me

starlight: Patrick Park’s “Blackbird through the Dark

Michelle Proulx: Jack Johnson’s “Bubble Toes

The Bumble Files: Amanda Palmer’s “The Killing Type” (Also, obviously, the inspiration for the title)

I have linked the quotations from the songs to the place in the Youtube videos where they appear. This is Part 2 of the story, so you can read Part 1 here.

 

The Killing Type: Part 2

Cassandra looked over at Doug and saw the fierce delight in his eyes. He was staring at the squig-squill, like a gladiator staring down his doomed opponent in the ring.

“Come on, let’s just go,” Cassandra said, reaching out for his hand. He shook it away.

“Hold on, you gotta watch this.” Doug darted forward and held the knife in front of the squig-squill. The creature lashed out at the blade. A small splash of pale pink blood landed on the ground and it pulled back with a roar of pain.

“Hilarious, isn’t it?” Doug said, with a laugh. “It’ll keep attacking and hurting itself, it’s so stupid.”

“Doug, come on. Let’s go,” Cassandra said. She tugged on his arm, trying again to pull him back to the rover.

“Fine, let’s go,” he said at last. He darted forward again and stabbed the long knife through the squig-squill’s throat. The creature fell back and Doug stepped on its chest. Even with the thin atmosphere, Cassandra heard the crunch of breaking bones.

“What are you doing? Are you crazy?” she cried.

“What do you care? They’re just pests. I’m not going to leave it alive after I’ve found it.”

“But it didn’t attack us. It was just defending its home. How did you get in this condition, Doug? You weren’t like this four years ago.”

“It’s easy for you to say, Cassandra, living in Coventry in the middle of an empty plain. We fight these things every day up in the mountains. They hide in the mines, they ambush the transports. We wiped out a lot of them before we started digging, but still they keep coming back, again and again. We need to wipe this planet clean, and then there will be peace. Stay here a minute.” Doug stepped over the body of the squig-squill and disappeared behind the bushes.

“Where are you going?” she asked. He didn’t answer.

Cassandra followed him through the bushes. In front of them, the ravine came to an abrupt end and was covered with a screen of woven plants. Doug ripped it aside, revealing what looked like a pile of fur, until a head raised out of it, hissing and snarling.

Doug kicked the pile apart and a handful of scrawny younglings tumbled out of it. A female had been covering them with her body. The female attacked Doug’s legs with its teeth, but they had no effect against the metal shin guards built into his suit. He kicked it off and stepped on one of the younglings, slowly crushing it into the ground.

“Stop it!” Cassandra screamed. “Let’s just go. Please, Doug!”

This is a mercy killing, Cassandra,” he said. “These ones are dead anyway. If the female goes to get them food, they’ll freeze and if she doesn’t, they’ll starve. She won’t go, so they’ll all die slowly together. It’s a foregone conclusion anyway, so might as well get into it, right?” He gave her a grin as he moved from youngling to youngling. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch-crunch-crunch. “My jellyfish dance, Cassandra. No rhythm, so but I’ve got some deadly moves. Come dance.”

“You monster!” she shouted. It wasn’t just the killing; it was the look of joy on his face as he crushed the little creatures under his heavy boots.

He stopped smiling and looked hurt. “Geez, it was just a joke. Sorry.” Crunch. “It’s got to be done—I was just putting a good face on it.” Crunch.

“Would you just stop!” she shouted, so loud he put his hand up to his ear in pain. The female was crawling back towards him and he stepped away from it.

“What do you want, Cassandra? We can’t live on this planet in peace with these things, and if they’re going to attack us, someone has to stop them. And I’m good at it. I saw you when you were dancing, with that look of joy on your face, oblivious to the rest of the world. You know that desire that burns a hole you’ll never fill with anything else. You have dancing and I have hunting. You’re the dancing type; I guess I’m the killing type.”

She looked into his face and saw with horror that he was right. He had become a killer, and he loved it. He turned around. “Go back and wait at the rover. I’m just going to take care of this last one.” He held up the knife and took a step towards the female squig-squill.

Cassandra ran at him and shoved him to the side. Doug tried to step to the side to maintain his balance, but he tripped on a rock and fell face down. His scream of pain reverberated inside her helmet. She ran to him and pulled him over and gasped when she saw the knife sticking out of his chest.

“Doug, I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”

“Killer,” he whispered, and for a moment, she saw his familiar, teasing grin touch the corners of his mouth before the life went out of his eyes.

Cassandra stayed kneeling for a moment until she remembered the squig-squill behind her. She jumped up, but it was nowhere near her. It was picking up the crushed little bodies that were scattered around the dell and arranging them by the rock wall. Then, as she watched, it made its way out through the bushes and lay down, covering the body of the dead squig-squill with its own.

Cassandra pushed the button on the com, trying to keep the tears out of her voice. Still, her voice quavered when she spoke. “Akash, come get me. There’s been an accident.”

*         *         *

Coventry Outpost was a storm of rumors, but all anyone knew for sure was that Doug Rankin, the son of Camellia Outpost’s commander, was dead. Cassandra sat in her room, confined there by her father while they sorted things out. After an hour, her parents came in. Her mother sat down and hugged her tightly.

“This is a horrible tragedy,” her father said, “but I think we’ve found a way for some good to come from it. Here is what you are going to tell everyone: you were walking with Doug when you were attacked by a group of squig-squills. He tried to defend you and killed a lot of them, but then several hit him from behind and he fell, accidentally stabbing himself with his knife. Akash is willing to testify that he was worried about you and came to find you, arriving just in time to scare them off.”

“What good could come from that?” Cassandra asked softly. She felt as if all the energy was drained out of her. The world was a more confusing place than it had been, just hours before.

“You pushed him and he died,” her mother said. “Some people might consider that manslaughter, and that could even carry the death penalty if Rankin pushes for it. He is inconsolable. But there were no witnesses; there’s no reason we should even go through that.”

“Plus, now I’ll have a pretext to start hunting them again,” her father said. “The commander seems to think that since they’re not attacking us at the moment, we have to maintain some sort of truce with them. But their numbers are just increasing and some day there may be enough to attack Coventry itself. Remember the Magnolia.

“No, I’m not going to tell them that,” Cassandra said. “I’m not going to let you hunt them. I saw them, Dad. They’re intelligent, and it would be wrong.”

“You would throw away everything because of them?” Her father’s voice was full of disgust and disbelief. “You would possibly even die for those things—our mortal enemy?”

“I’m not a killer, Dad,” Cassandra said. “I’m sorry. I guess I broke the family tradition.”

coventry outpost


The Killing Type (Part 1 of 2)

A few days ago, I posted a call for song suggestions. The idea was like my Open Prompts stories, except that I would use quotes from song lyrics in my story. Thank you to the people who gave me suggestions. They are, in the order they commented:

Arjun Bagga: Hank Williams Jr.’s “A Family Tradition

Miles Rost: Alphaville’s “Dance With Me

starlight: Patrick Park’s “Blackbird through the Dark

Michelle Proulx: Jack Johnson’s “Bubble Toes

The Bumble Files: Amanda Palmer’s “The Killing Type” (Also, obviously, the inspiration for the title)

I have linked the quotations from the songs to the place in the Youtube videos where they appear. The story is about 2500 words, so I split it into two parts. The second part will be posted tomorrow.

The Killing Type: Part 1

He finally found her, dancing alone in the stardust dawn underneath the crystal roof of the power station. She was twirling and pirouetting with utter abandon, her eyes closed and her feet splashing through the oil and waste water on the floor.

“Cassandra,” he said at last, hating to break the spell of her dancing.

Cassandra stopped and looked up, then her eyes widened. “Doug? Is that really you?” She flitted up to the steel ladder and gave him a hug. “Stars, you got tall in a hurry. When did you get here?”

“An hour ago, maybe,” he said, grinning. “It took me most of that time to find you. What are you doing here, in this filth?”

“It’s the only place I can be alone and still see the stars,” Cassandra said. “I don’t want to dance where people can see me. I was born in Coventry Outpost but still, the close quarters, always being near everyone else—it gets to me.”

“But at what price?” Doug asked. He indicated her bare feet that were covered with tar balls and scars.

“It’s worth it,” she said and suddenly laughed. “Tell me what’s happening with you. I haven’t seen you in four years.”

“It’s a great life out there on the frontier. I’m working with my father to expand Camellia Outpost. We just built the smelter and factory.” He paused. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too,” she said. She took his hand. “Hey, do you want to dance with me?”

“I’m not really the dancing type. I’ve got no rhythm.”

“Bah! I remember you. You’re slow and graceful, like a jellyfish. When you move like a jellyfish, rhythm don’t mean nothing.”

“Jellyfish are deadly too, though,” Doug said. “Hey, I know what we can do. Have you ever killed a squig-squill before?”

“What?”

“I’ve gotten really good at it—you gotta be out where I live. I can hit one with an air rifle at 50 meters. You wanna try?”

Cassandra looked up into his eager, expectant face and let go of his hand. “I’m really not the killing type,” she said.

He nodded. “Okay, okay. But let’s go find some anyway, just to look at. Have you ever seen one?”

“Only in pictures.” Cassandra had seen lots of pictures of squig-squill bodies that had been killed back when she was a baby. They looked like limp bags of fur with claws sticking out of them. Her father was head of patrols and boasted about killing hundreds of them. These days, though, the outpost commander forbade them from hunting squig-squills unless they passed the outer perimeter of the outpost.

“You gotta see one up close,” Doug said. “I’ve gotten really good at finding their nests. So, you wanna?”

“Isn’t it dangerous? What about the Magnolia?” The very first manned mission to Asteria had been attacked and annihilated by squig-squills, back when Cassandra’s parents were children on Earth. The legend lived on, though, and every child in Coventry had to memorize the names of the ten astronauts killed.

“That was back when we didn’t know how to deal with them. Trust me; there’s no danger at all.” Doug gave her a reassuring smile.

“It’s pretty far to walk, though,” she persisted. “The outer perimeter is 5 km out and there aren’t any squig-squills within that.”

“Listen,” Doug said, as if he were imparting a secret, “I’ve got a rover.” His eyes were shining. “It’s the first one we’ve built at the factory. That’s how I got here; I drove it and my dad drove a transport.” He caught up her hand and squeezed it. “I know that before I left, we used to be just good friends—”

“More than just friends,” Cassandra said, smiling.

“We would have been, if I hadn’t had to leave.” He suddenly leaned in and kissed her. It felt good and she would have kept kissing him, but he straightened up with an impish grin.

“Fine, go show me a squig-squill,” she said and he hugged her again. Cassandra wiped off her feet, put her boots back on and then led the way out to the vehicle dock.

The commander of Coventry Outpost was hosting a banquet in honor of Doug’s father, Commander Frederick Rankin, and almost the entire population of Coventry Outpost was squeezed into the main dome. The only person Cassandra and Doug met on the way out was Akash, the guard at the airlock gate.

“I just heard over the com that they’re looking for you two, you know,” he said, giving them a knowing smile.

“They can’t be looking very hard,” Doug said.

“No, they’re not,” Akash said, “and they probably think you’re off somewhere, catching up. Which I guess you are.” He pushed the button to open the airlock. “Don’t go far, and stay on the com.”

“Yessir,” Doug said with a salute. He gunned the engine and the rover sped out over barren plain.

For Cassandra—sitting behind Doug with her arms around his waist—the feeling of speed and openness was heavenly. She was only able to leave the outpost every 20 days or so, and that was just to walk around the perimeter and check the instruments. Red dirt and sand covered all the land as far as she could see. Asteria’s blazing sun was just over the horizon and the light sparkled and flashed in the upper atmosphere. Above them, tethered lightdomes hung in the upper atmosphere, gathering energy and providing the outpost with its communications. Through the lightdomes shining in the sky, the last of the night’s stars burned in the midnight blue expanse.

Doug drove them out past the perimeter and up into the foothills of the rocky spine that led from Coventry to Camellia, 200 km away. Small, scrubby plants began to appear among the rocks, interspersed with icy pools.

They came to a ravine cut in the rocks and Doug stopped the rover. “This is the kind of place you’d find them in,” he said.

Cassandra heard his voice through the speaker in her helmet. He pointed to a white smear on the rocks, about a foot off the ground. “Look there. They leave those around a lot too. To mark their territory or something.”

Doug took Cassandra’s hand and led her towards the ravine. The light of the sun was blocked by the rocks and the ravine was in deep gloom.

“Is this safe?” she asked. “How will we know where they are?” She noticed that he had drawn a long knife and was holding it in front of him. “What’s that for?”

“The males are aggressive. Best not to take chances.”

Before they could take another step, Cassandra heard a high-pitched roar. It sounded faint and far-off in the thin air. A squig-squill burst out of the bushes, blocking their path. This looked nothing like the limps bundles of fur she had seen in pictures. Its small, misshapen head was stretched out on a thin neck and flicked back and forth, mouth open and menacing. It moved its clawed limbs in circles in front of it, but did not attack.

(to be concluded, here)


A Cup of Music and a Slice of Fiction

Do you have certain music you always listen to when you are reading or writing—music that seems to go perfectly with the words on the page? Music can be important for framing the mood of a story. A friend of mine, Miles Rost, is very interested in the relationship between music and fiction. He has recently started a blog called Music and Fiction where he melds songs into his stories. Check it out.

cup of music

Also, in honor of him, I am announcing the next story in my Open Prompts series, which admittedly has been on hold for a while. In the past, I asked people to give me story elements that I used to write a story.

However, for this one, I’m asking you to suggest a song name in the comments, with a link to it on Youtube. Anything with English lyrics is fine—go nuts. I will write a story using at least one quote from each of the songs, linking the song to the quote, so you can tell where it is. If you suggest a song, I’ll credit you in the post.

I’ll take the first five song suggestions that I get and post my story on Friday. If you’re up for it, write a story using the same set of songs. Post your story any time, but send me a link so I can read it.


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