ANTHONY M. BENEDETTO

ILLUSTRATION & DESIGN

WRITING

71702_Grey_Author

MODIFICATIONS

He saw his life as his own, graced with the ability to see beyond the consistent drab of undistinguished days. The ordinary was a hindrance, and the typical seemed to diminish his capacity. Time passed but nothing changed, everything was dictated by a century old structure. The Armament controlled the progress of every inhabitant from conception to closing and each walked the steps designated by their flawless design. Pursuit was removed and replaced with dependence. Each denizen was assigned an identity that corresponded only with his or her responsibilities. An all-encompassing authority made possible the continued existence of human life. At birth he was fitted with the necessary augmentations and his program was established. Without the intervention of the Armament, life expectancy was only two cycles. Human bodies walked the streets, rode the transits, and filled the factories, but never breathed the air or felt its breeze. They worked tirelessly to occupy a space amongst the stacks of cramped complexes. If life was only the function of organs and muscle then it was all around him, but if it found itself anywhere outside of the corporal, he had yet to feel its warmth. His drop fell inside an ocean of districts. Structures covered everything forming a crust above an unknown planet. He knew of nothing but this ocean. Even from the tallest of its pillars its end could not be seen.

He held the programmed settings for only a few years before making his own modifications in every category. His mind grew more rapidly than his systems, and by a dozen cycles he was completely self-reliant. He modified his auditories to capture the sounds of the city. While others received the standard broadcast of lectures and policy, he created symphonies from oscillating steel and stone. Shuffling feet for rhythm and machine clatter for percussion. His eyes began to see differently, and his fingertips felt every vibration. On his arm plate he wore a reminder of forced compliance. He slid open a covering on his forearm to reveal a series of sixty-four miniature push buttons. This interface, once used for encoding the commands of control, was now an arduinome for assembling his unique compositions. He sat and soaked them in.

PIECES OF PANDEMONIUM

His father was worried that he had missed his last three updates on the citynet, but he didn’t care anymore. His final stage in advancement was to acquire his transit license, which demanded weeks of mechanical operation study. He chose not to hold himself to their standards and spent his time sitting in the central passageways, building his music with captured pieces of pandemonium.

From his perch he noticed a flickering street monitor radiating a strange and welcoming glow. He slid down the canal wall. He felt the water spray his face as he ran through the spillway. His breath was heavy, but he felt strong. The screen was intact, so he inspected the wiring harness and found a missing coupling. It must have been tampered with by some nonfunctional scrounging for something to haggle with. Nonetheless, he realized his extension line matched perfectly to the receiving end of the cable. He took his mind down a barricaded path, and had an idea. If monthly updates of personal progress were required by the Armament, then he would show everyone who he really was. He commanded his sound catalog and watched it scroll across his lenses. With certainty he chose a selection. He drew several feet of line out of his back reel and made the connection.

RISE ABOVE THE DISORDER

An alarm screeched as he entered his I.D. number, but he saw a bypass and quickly chose the widest range of recipients that the city section allowed. He took his input signal and spread it out across 12,000 occupants. He opened his arm panel, and uploaded. The system was not designed to process his sound structure, and so the monitor displayed a series of numbers fluctuating between binary and its translation, revealing explosions of negative space each time it switched. He stood in the blue light of the monitor, and felt a strange vibration splashing in waves against his earpieces. He muted his internal system and opened his auditories to the outside. Underneath the clatter he heard his song, and as he focused, it began to rise above the disorder. It was as if it were adapting, jumping up an octave when contrast with interfering noise was needed, until it seemed to balance out and separate entirely from anything else. He had never felt so exposed, but the release swallowed his vulnerability, and he felt proud.

On every intersection there was a monitor, and as he stood alone in front of his, the same imagery flashed across the lenses of hundreds of commuters. On the transit, the scheduled broadcast was interrupted, and its riders were stunned by a barrage of sounds they had never before experienced. The passage of time instantly became clear for thousands, while they listened to his music. It was as if his creation had pulled them out of their repetition and caused them to see traces of beauty in the ordinary. The familiar reflected a new image and in that moment the whole became many. Before disconnecting he glanced at the user count: 143,999 had just witnessed his display. He had done it. He was 71702 and, they had no control over him.

He walked with confidence past the layers of brick and block. The city was dark, and the air was cold. He could not walk any longer, and broke forward with a new energy. A multitude of lights and moving objects surrounded him. He felt the beat of the city, and it became hard to tell where it stopped and his own rhythm began. He pressed his thumb on the transit pad and boarded the 5280 bound for home.

LOOMING CLOUD

He entered his housing quarter and felt his high fade under a looming cloud. As he approached the door he could hear their argument: he quickly scanned his entry code and pushed the door open. Behind the hiss of the air lock, he heard them switch to a series of quiet whispers, and then completely stop as the door re-engaged behind him. His father left the foodprep where they were and closed himself in his bedroom. He entered to see his mother gathering her composure while standing over the lavatory. She was holding a small memory box and he could see an old image of the two of them fade as she quickly switched it off. His mind began to work backwards on him, and he retraced his approach seeing the same things he had seen so many times before. He saw his feet climbing the steps of the brown staircase, the dim glow of the hallway lamps, and the stained paint at the base of the walls. His father was not unlike him. Although more cautious of the consequences of stepping outside of the strict routine of fearful dependence, he often found his father listening to recordings of speech and advertisements from before the unification. He remembered his father waving him to sit at his side and listen, never explaining what they heard, but rather leaving the interpretation open to his own understanding. He said that questions led to searching, and that answers would come when he had realized why he was looking. His mother was always stable and mindful of their needs. He saw the familiar image of her smile and felt what it brought with it, the comfort of her care and consistency of her love.

But this time she was broken, and he reached out to give her what she had always given him so freely. She received it but it wasn’t enough, he didn’t have the power to reassemble those past memories. He couldn’t command the separated parts. He felt his tear ducts swell and release, tears filling his eyes and exiting through his relief valves. He left her there and went to his father for any sign of treasured assurance. He wanted that wisdom to fill the cavern between them and beckon him back to his side. His father came to the door but blocked his pursuit with reasons of busyness and responsibility. He felt alone and lost. He stood at the bottom of a cavern searching frantically for an aid to ascent. He saw the walls of either side cracking and weakening. Shards of rock and steel fell around him, and his heart throbbed violently with a building fear. His thoughts turned to himself and his instinct was to run.

THE COLLAPSE

His eyes adjusted to the darkness between buildings. The metro fluttered his ears with sounds of life and death. Feet slapped against smooth floor surfaces and the rush of smoke bellowed out of stacks and exhaust pipes. Doors opened sliding along tracks and he heard the screech of steel against steel. Adjusting his covering, he noticed the cold and stepped out into his civilization. His thoughts were self-absorbing, and he was oblivious to how his steps affected the things around him. As he reached the terminal the noise expanded. He strained to see the approaching transit. Its sounds flooded onto the platform and crashed against the walls. They reverberated off of the smooth floor panels. He modified his ocular setting, but the distortion only amplified the sound. He could not escape it. He took his seat on the train with the sounds pressing heavy against his temples. The traffic of the passengers felt like the force of wind the transit made while passing empty terminals. He closed his auditories off to the world, but its noises were still there. He checked his internal systems, but they were dormant. Hours before he was connected to thousands, and now he failed to acknowledge the person sitting next to him. He staggered to reach an exit and held his composure for the next stop.

He had traveled miles in minutes, but the collapse was still upon him. He left the train and entered a section of the city where he had never been. He heard pounding of thunder and left the covering of the terminal into crushing rain and hail. He ran for shelter while those around moved slowly without concern for his storm. It was striking his skin, causing pain and clouding his vision. He saw a door made of splintered wood held together by bands of steel and surrounded by stone. Drawn to its strength he took hold of the handle and pushed forward.

REFUGE FROM THE NOISE

In the dim light, he saw a contraption completely foreign to him. He was compelled to approach, seeking refuge from the noise. He sat on its bench. His emotions felt like a force of water dammed up inside him. His head was filled with sounds radiating with no pattern or flow. His lenses focused, and he saw a row of black and white rectangles. He extended his hands and pressed down. The madness in his mind organized into rows aligning themselves with a series of gateways. He directed his attention to a single gate and opened it. The organ sounded out a blast, filling the air with thick dark fog. He continued to play without noticing what the music was producing. Instinctively, he funneled waves of emotion and changed his pace, opening and closing pathways of sound, and watching the music gather and separate as he commanded. His hands traveled horizontally across the keys, and he visualized new gateways. Inspired to adapt, he beckoned the sounds to follow his progression. He was operating outside of his auditories and his internals; he had captured these sounds and made them a part of himself. He was creating from a place deep within, where he was shielded from the outside world. His heart raced, but not from fear. He felt free.

Intuitively, he opened several gates and directed their flow simultaneously. Three-sided particles of the most vibrant colors emerged from the pipe openings. They spun and struck each other creating miniature explosions, and displayed mixtures of new colors. The fog continued to bellow upward, mixing with the fragments. A heavy cloud began to form, unfolding outward with each layer of sound. Within the cloud, the particles began to vibrate and swell, crashing into each other and shattering into dozens of identical pieces. As they hit each other, they generated blinding flashes of crackling light. The cloud grew but could not contain their energy. He drew in a breath, closing several openings and the momentum began to build and expand. Instinctively, he exhaled and released them in an organized procession. The cloud split and the particles began to rain down all around him. As they struck the ground, they burst forth forming plant-like structures that writhed as if looking for light, or as living organisms springing up to reach a surface. As quickly as they emerged they faded away leaving sound waves that rippled out across the empty space. He felt the music drain slowly from his fingertips, and his auditories awoke revealing a quiet peace in the solitude of the old cathedral. He lifted his fingers from the keys. With his head down he breathed a heavy sigh and felt his pulse slow and steady.

SEARCHING FOR SOLIDITY

What had just happened? Why were these things happening to him? Just as he felt the smallest sign of progress he was dragged back to reality. But somehow he was able to survive the storm. He had achieved a momentary peace. He strained to hold onto it, but it quickly faded. His life came crashing in and brought with it confusion. How could he be so certain of his insusceptibility and at the same time be clouded by the weight of his family’s failings? How could he maintain the power of expression from underneath the cave-in? If he had escaped it once he could do it again. He should be able to make things right. The realization of his existence bore down on him. His mind began to wander aimlessly down avenues and dark corridors. He began to realize that he only thought he was free, and that his temporary state was only an ideal. His mind felt raw and vulnerable. He was falling away from his recent climb and into the sobering stench of the world. He longed to be back where he was just hours ago. He longed for the adrenaline he felt while standing under the glow of the street monitor. He didn’t want to understand. He liked it better when he was unaware. He checked his components for malfunctions, but everything was in optimal condition. He knew it would only take a few cycles for the Armament to trace the source of his interference, and that his delinquency would only aid them further. In addition to these concerns, he was yoked with something new. He felt sorrow. He could see the people on the transit. They sat in silence, numb to those around them. He wanted to reach out and feel the coldness of their hands. Something inside him thought he could help them. He took his hands from his coat pockets and pressed them together. They were cold.

But if the music helped, then it must be designed to do so. How had it worked? Was he suffering from decay? Had his modifications caused integration failure? With the addition of each new thought his state of being fluctuated. He traveled through each emotion searching for solidity, but had no success. He had never been so alone. A few men ran the world, and the rest worked without thought to sustain the cycle of monotony. Suddenly, his mind focused on one thought. When we are safe then we are in the most danger. He thought, “I can’t be alone! I am not just a number in the sea of endless and relentless repetition.” But who else could possibly know me? Who even knows my name?

ILLUMINATION OF SOUND

The night was darker than usual, covering everything in its envelope. He pushed through the doors and stepped back into the cold. He could hear water dripping from a downspout, and splashing against the inside of a rusted-out container. Where was he? Why was he here? He descended the stairs from the cathedral, listening to the echo of each step. He was cold but the air felt clean as it entered his lungs. He must be in a southern sector. He could tell by the dated signage and maintenance condition. The citynet displays were only located on major intersections, because the occupants were so few in these areas. This is where the nonfunctionals scraped by, out of sight from the Overseers. This was the slum of the city, the lost corner, where expiration was common, and transgression thrived effortlessly. Strangely, he felt safe. The darkness thickened, engulfing almost everything. He watched the last slivers of light flicker and extinguish. All he had was sound.

He opened his auditories to seven tenths and sat down on the bottom step. He adjusted his feet and rested his arms on his knees. He felt the cool sensation of water absorbing through his garments. He had nowhere to go, and nowhere he wanted to be. He listened. He heard the creak of a door hinge, and in the distance was the hum of transits transferring shift changes, some coming, some going, but they both produced the same sensation. He heard the flutter of insect wings chirping, and the scuffle of things foraging for sustenance. He increased his intake to eight tenths and searched out further. His mind followed each sound to its end, and jumped from there to the next transport. For the first time he had silenced his thoughts to receive something outside of his perception. He adjusted to nine tenths, keeping an eye on the decibels to avoid damage. He heard something fresh and calming. His mind reached out to capture it, but fell short. Reluctantly, he opened his auditories the final tenth and pushed further.

He was grasping for something he had yet to obtain, something more. His ears searched frantically to detect that last sound, but he had lost it. He realized he wasn’t capable of catching it, and then there it was, so close. He felt it cover over him. He didn’t need to seek it out, because it was with him. It was soft and still, clear and comforting. It was different, complete and lacking nothing. It was whole, and he felt he could extend his arms and embrace it. He wanted to. He thought to stand but was unable. The sounds blended together, and settled into an unwavering consistency. The sound’s formation produced a calm timbre, and a slow breeze swept past him. His senses were meshing together. Time slowed to a dream-like pace as its resonance enveloped his entire body. This presence of sound gave his mind clarity. He separated thousands of thoughts, simultaneously eliminating incomplete or distracting formations, and reorganizing those remaining into smaller and smaller categories. He contemplated his entire state of being. Who was he? Why was he in turmoil? What did he have? He could now see only two columns. He realized they were both notions of how he saw himself, his understanding. He began to analyze each side. In one, he saw his gifts and qualities, in the other, his afflictions. As he contemplated them both he watched the latter grow and the former diminish. The world was almost completely dead. He was an unknown number in the mess of mass confusion. Families no longer existed. The only two who ever gave him any kind of foundation had fallen away and would soon be lost under each other’s collapse. Humanity is a frail and fading denizen. They cannot even survive without the aid of chemicals and prosthesis. He had no real connections to any one else. The destructive had eliminated all but one last prospect. He had life, but why? He had identified the most basic question, but feared it would yield the most complex answer. He was compelled to speak but didn’t know what to say. When he opened his mouth all of his thoughts came back with a deafening disintegration. He felt his body’s fatigue underneath the weight of all his worries. He fell prostrate, his cheek pressed flat against the coarse concrete. He cracked his lips open and spoke slowly. “I am lost and I need to find my way. I need someone to help me find my soul. I need someone to fix me, someone to give me life before I am suffocated.”

The sound, still standing firm and steadfast, opened and spread out at a blinding speed. Without strain, it eradicated every fragment of pain or failure desperately clinging to the walls of their former home. He felt lighter. He pushed himself up and knelt in the darkness, immersed in the illumination of sound. His heart slowed and synchronized with the pulse the sound produced. Someone heard his plea. He reached out again, not wanting the force to leave him. He relaxed his shoulders, and his hands fell to the ground. His physical frame settled in complete exhaustion, but his spirit came alive. He felt the light within him rising up through every member and mechanism. He sat in absolute submission, freely opening the places he had never exposed, and the light purified them as it passed. The corporal still contained the earthly contaminations, but the soul had been restored. He began to see the shapes of buildings and byways resurface from the depths of black. Time seemed irrelevant, or rather he just wasn’t concerned with its movement. His perception was changing. The world around him had not been altered, but he began to see it differently. Someone had met him in the midst of dismay, and revived him, and recreated him. He watched as the radiance changed and with it he received the overwhelming sensation of love. The sound extended itself as if offering something. Effortlessly, he accepted and as if designed to fit, it meshed and covered every aspect of his person. He felt joy. His spirit burst with this joy, and his mouth expressed the greatest gratitude. He was truly not the same, and he knew this would never leave him. He knew his acceptance of this love guaranteed its strength and consistency. He had met someone who knew his name, the one who gave him his name. The morning had crept closer and he could make out the silhouette of his own body. As his eyes adjusted he raised his hands opening his palm towards his face. He noticed his identification number and focused to read it. The numbers read “Liron.” He turned his face to the east feeling the warmth of the sun’s light, and saw his surroundings revealed in its awakening. The day had arrived and he sat and soaked in its glow.

THE DISCOVERY

His legs were weak, but they wanted to run. He stood up and started moving. As he walked, he noticed that his auditories were still wide open. Hearing everything clearly and at suitable levels, he thought that his system must have adapted and that maybe, he no longer needed to filter his intake. He walked with an explorative sway, seeing beauty in the insignificant, every inconsistency became a unique aspect. A horn from a nearby factory sounded out, and he grabbed a hold of it. He found himself reaching out into mid air and grasping the sound waves. He pulled them into his internal system and listened as they fluctuated back and forth. He held them in, and then propelled them forward, slowly releasing and letting them flow away. They poured onto the wall in front of him and after a second of delay, came crashing back. He brushed his left hand through the air causing a row of light poles to chime. Simultaneously his right arm extended. He opened his fingers and grasped his method of percussion. As he clutched his hand, a dozen bricks from adjacent walls were thrust from place and smacked together. He continued down the street. He stretched forth another hand and squeezed. The glass streetlights and lamps shattered, raining down shards of light and vibration. He stepped heavy with his feet, causing vehicle alarms to go off, and manhole covers to jump and return. He caught their resonance and added it to the composition. The waves of sound flung open car doors and ricocheted off of balcony rails. He walked on, attaching and eliminating elements as he passed. He was creating from his heart, and interacting directly with the world around him. He knew this was his purpose, the discovery of his gift. The occupants began to emerge from their doors, undoubtedly because of the sounds he composed. They stared at him, surprised to see someone exercising open expression. He closed his eyes and turned to witness the trail of music he had conducted. As he opened them, all of the pieces were unmoved, but in his ears he heard them fall to the ground with a fading clatter. He realized that he was the only one to witness his performance. Everyone was still asleep. He accessed his level meters, and they displayed the largest amount of output produced to date. He closed his arm panel and made his way to the transit terminal.

DESIGNED TO BE UNITED

This train ride was different. He noticed everything. The man next to him was slouching in his seat with his feet outstretched. His hands were rough and worn, and he noticed a lighter band of skin at the base of his ring finger. A woman sat a few rows away with a posture completely opposite of the man. Her legs were held up close to the bench, rigid and cold. Her arms were folded around an accordion file with her hands clasped tightly in her lap. He could see how the pressure created patches of lighter skin between her interlocked fingers. All at once he felt his individuality. He thought, I am me, and for a second he saw himself from another’s perspective. He thought, that’s me sitting there, and then he returned to himself. It was clear to him that if he was singular, then so was everyone else. He had his thoughts, and his spirit, but so did she, and so did the man. Why was the man so tired? Why was the woman so uncomfortable? He thought, we are all separated by who we are, but his mind followed the thought further. He began to see himself surrounded by people. They were a mass, moving individually without acknowledging each other, but there were so many that their steps frequently matched, and the group became a collection of grays varying only in shades. He thought he stood out, but they didn’t notice him. This is how he always felt. Then he saw them, shapes of color inside the moving mass of gray. He saw a woman completely covered in blue and radiating its tones. He saw a man clothed in brilliant greens, and another displaying an orange hue. He reached out to them, and they heard him, and amidst the swarming isolation he made a connection. He thought, we are separate for a reason, because we are designed to contribute something to someone; it is only when we are the same that we are not together. He felt love for his people and wanted to be with them. The train stopped at the exit for his district. He left the terminal and headed for home.

His hallway was lit in its usual dim and muted tones, but their familiarity comforted him. He rang the bell instead of just entering. The door released and he saw his father’s hand pull it open. They stood there for a moment in silence. He could feel his love for his father swelling, and he projected it forward without words. He knew his father could feel it too. His father led him to the living room to see his mother. She closed her book and stood. He wanted to be close to them. He wanted them to feel his love. He had been given an immeasurable amount. He held as much as they could ever need. He touched her hands and saw tears pulsing from the corners of her eyes. He placed his forehead on hers and let her soak in his overflow. The break was wide and its walls were weak, but not beyond repair. He knew they saw each other, and from them he felt the love as well. He said, “My spirit is bound to yours and we’re designed to be united.” Peace poured down on them, filling the room. He felt its volume and imagined it spilling from the windows and doors. His mind was at ease; there together they were bruised and weary, and whole.

His mother went to the foodprep, and his father followed to help her. He watched them working together and wanted to help. He grabbed the disposal cartridges and went to the hall deposit. As he loaded the last cartridge, he saw a friend leave the elevator. She was warm and smiled as she approached. He returned the smile and said, “How are you?” She looked at him with a kind but puzzled glance and said, “good.” It had been months since he’d seen her last. She had lived in his edifice since before they had been assigned residence, and he knew her well. He wanted to say more, but was just enjoying her company. She said, “ Its good to see you again,” and looked to her left distracted by something else, as if she had somewhere she needed to be. “You look great,” he said. Thankfully she said, “Hey, um, are you going to be around tomorrow? “… Yeah, I’ll be here.” Oh, okay, well, let’s go to the quarter and get something to eat. We can catch up.” He said, “That would be great,” and headed back to his door. He scanned his code but paused before entering. He looked back just to see her enter her apartment and smiled.

FILLED WITH JOY

After dinner his parents retired, and he rested. This peace seemed to dwell with him now. He opened the door quietly and slipped into the hall. He didn’t know where he was going, but wanted to be outside. He saw the blinking display for the stairwell and took it up. He pushed open the door and walked out onto the roof. There were poles and antennae covering its surface, but he followed a path to the edge and climbed up on a parapet. Below was the fire escape, and the breathing bustle of activity. He walked the roofline to a rusted water tank, climbed a service ladder to the top, and sat down. He looked out across the sprawling landscape of buildings and noticed the city’s lights. They reminded him of the conglomeration of people he thought of on the train ride home, but this time they were beautiful. Some rotated and flickered, some held steady, some were in motion, and some fluctuated from bright to dim. He followed the moving lights until they disappeared behind darker places and picked them back up again as they emerged beyond. He was basking in his surroundings, taking in every sensation. His heart was filled with joy. He had a renewed sense of life and purpose knowing himself and his Creator. The city was filthy and fallen. Things were dark and difficult, but he knew freedom was attainable. He saw the worthwhile in the struggle, and held onto it. He looked out and noticed a light fade to black. He was still and quiet in his soul. He looked again and saw a new light surface; he smiled and reclined to see the stars.

SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL

She was waiting for him by the tunnels. Water slid down their curved walls and mixed with sludge and debris. She noticed the cracks in the concrete and followed them out. Some just stopped, while others joined and continued. They all came to an end, and they all brought about the same end. The city was falling apart. There were too many components to maintain, too many people’s problems to address, and deterioration outran preservation. She watched as he pushed through the entry doors and she noticed his smile, a shimmer of light surrounded by monochrome. It made her smile, and she welcomed his company. She thought back to their meeting in the hallway and felt the same comforting presence. They greeted each other and made their way through the tunnels and into the underworks below the arterial expressway. Rust was draped across every surface; she thought that if she looked closely she would see it spreading. They climbed a sheer staircase up onto a steel catwalk. The railing was rickety and bent and the floor was made of bar grating. As they walked, she looked down through the rectangular openings, creating a blurred view of the spillways beneath. Unfocused, the shades and tints composed something new. She wanted to see things differently. She wanted to see something beautiful. She led him by the hand, past the rows of equipment and solar modules, and into an old-town square. In the center were the remains of a circular structure, and inside of that, an eroded figure. It was a woman made of stone, but all that endured was her torso and lower body. She stopped to examine the statue. Her first observation was the state of what remained. She ran her eyes across the uneven interior of the torso where the upper body had broken away, and then on to its discoloration and decay. She tried to imagine it restored, but quickly sank back to reality. She turned to leave, but he held her arm and said, “do you know my name?” It caught her by surprise and she dropped her response. He said, “What’s yours?” Confused, she revealed her I.D. number on her opposite hand and said, “I have no name.” He took her hand and read the number. 447937.

He looked up at her and said, “Harper.”

She liked it. They walked slower now, and she held his hand tighter, enjoying their connection. She began to notice the insignificant: a torn poster, a broken glass bottle, a plastic bag. They walked through an alley. Ahead of them sunlight penetrated a shattered window, casting its rays onto a brick wall. He felt her grip loosen. She slowed to a stop, locked in its display. She exhaled softly and turned to see if he saw it too. He let go of her hand and smiled patiently. She moved into the warm light and facing the source she felt it kindly touch her skin. Her arms were crossed, and she closed her eyes, as if she was nestling under a blanket. He thought she was beautiful. Behind her eyelids, she saw the brightest yellow, almost white and she watched it change to orange and settle into a brilliant red. She turned her back to the sun and opened her eyes. Her vision slowly materialized, revealing thousands of blurred particles swirling in the light’s current. The hairs on her arms straightened up, and she felt them sway with the ebb and flow of the fragments. Her eyes focused on her arms and then down to her hands, which were now stretched out in front of her. She felt the sun warming the back of her neck, and she relaxed her shoulders. The light split around her figure and the particles followed. They collided and shifted, but fell back in line, and continued to cascade towards the wall where they ricocheted off the bricks and faded into the surrounding shade. She reveled in this simple experience and let its beauty comfort her. She was still aware of the decay but found solace in its midst. She suddenly felt a wave of uneasiness and looked at him with insecurity. He was smiling, just waiting. She felt love and grabbed his hand, “let’s get something to eat.”

GIVE IT BACK

He knew he had given her something good. He gave her his love, and it comforted her. It made him feel good to share with her, but he wanted to do more. He knew this love was a gift. All he had done was ask, and he received it freely. He thought that if it had been given to him, then it was his obligation to give it back to others. This ran through his mind as they ate, and he wondered if she could tell that he was distracted. He transferred a few credits, and they stepped out onto the street. The sun had slipped lower and its glow outlined everything. He wanted to be around people. This was a new desire. It brought fear, but at the same time, a sense of excitement. He asked her if she needed to get back home soon. She said no and he suggested they walk. They were in the hub quarter where people populated every available square foot of space. He noticed the rising sounds of conversation and interaction. He sampled their voices. A man and woman sat on their balcony swaying back and forth in chairs. He recorded the swing. Someone emptied a disposal cartridge and he captured its clanking resonation. He was adjusting settings on his arm panel, and she looked on in amazement. “I’m collecting sounds,” he said, to ease her curiosity. He heard the streak of cloth cleaning glass. A small child ran ahead of them, dragging a steel pipe against fence links. They walked with a peace of mind, soaking in the world around them. He continued to store the ambiance.

The street monitors switched over to generated power and hummed with each conversion. Evening had arrived, and people were settling in. They passed a woman with her children, and he smiled and said, “hi.” He thought she didn’t acknowledge him, but she turned her head slightly and he saw her eyes. They were a radiating blue. He saw a wait station and suggested they sit. She watched as he organized and sequenced his collection of sounds. He stood up and said, “Wait here.” He looked back at her when he reached the monitor, and she returned his smile. He loosened the coupling and plugged in. Quickly bypassing the alarm system, he saw the flash of negative space and commanded the screen to display his sound pieces in vertical rows. He released a few feet of line and stepped in front of the monitor. He started stacking the sounds on top of each other, clipping unwanted portions, and adding bits from his library. He finished composing his arrangement and played it back internally. After making some adjustments, he faded the first piece to the street speakers. He wanted more volume, so he accessed the emergency broadcast equipment and transferred everything over. He let the introduction resonate for a few moments. Then he looked back at his friend, and he saw her stand up. Behind her bench, he saw a row of bars shielding electrical transformers. He reached his hand out and ran his fingers across them as if strumming strings. He saw waves of sound like heat from molten steel radiate off of each bar. He pulled his hand back in and grabbed the sound from a passing vehicle. It rumbled in his ears, and he chopped it down to manageable fragments. He saw them as rings of smoke, and as he pushed them down against the street surface, they created a layer of bass. He set them into a rhythm and searched for a melody. He chose the voices from the people they had passed and blended them together. He altered the pitch and placed it to fall between the bass and strings. He took the sound of the child’s pipe, added it to the sound of someone pulling a chain around a gate, and aligned them with each other. He spaced the two sounds to hit at specific intervals, and readied to drop them in. He pulled everything back as if holding his breath, then released it all, adding his newly created percussion. He felt the music vibrate from his soul. He stood in front of the screen and listened to his creation. His body was a silhouette against the screen’s glow. He turned back around to see his friend and set the music at a lower volume. He saw her among a growing crowd of onlookers. The music fell, revealing a chilling silence. He looked at the faces of his audience. His heart was pounding wildly, and he felt completely exposed. He stood facing them and breathing heavily.

To be continued…