Songwriter To The Stars
by Tamara Vining
*Her new one is out!*
*Onsite! Streaming live now!*
The grrl in the black suit, Seven, sits in her computer room, staring at the blank wall, the first step in coming down from the most recent event. “Probably no good,” she mutters. “Can’t tell. Tomorrow. Sleep. I need sleep.” But she says that almost every time she comes down from the mind-blowing, out of this world, fusion sound song trance she’s been putting herself into every other day for the last six months, where she channels music that seems to come from the stars, as far as she can tell.
Still partly in song trance, she starts unhooking all the connections; the only sounds—the humming of the gear and the tearing sound of the Velcro fasteners. She’s limp with sweat and fatigue and trembling a little all over. Half-way done, she reaches down into the saddlebag hanging on the arm of the lounge-like chair and grabs a bottle of electrolytes, guzzling the contents, and tossing it empty in the general direction of the corner, where bottles and wrappers create a small tableau called Still Life, around a square wire basket.
“This is my last one,” thinks Seven. “How do I tell...anyone? This is it. No more. Someone else has to make this work.”
In her head the messages continue scrolling by.
*How do I contact the grrl? It’s important.-- Stormy*
*Yeah, dude. It’s always important. No one EVER contacts the grrl.*
*<Stormy has disconnected>*
Seven is thinking that maybe she’ll look onsite and see if—but no, there’re only listeners there. A world of listeners. She doesn’t know how to begin looking for a replacement. Maybe meet someone f2f? Oh god.
She pulls herself up from the chair, one electrode still attached to her shaved head just behind the right ear, which stretches taut then pulls itself off.
“I need some down time,” she tells herself, and wonders if they’ll let her. How long could she disappear for? And how long could she stand to be disconnected?
The room is darkened, with only the blue-white lights of the screens giving her a too bright blown lens look before she opens the door and stumbles down the hall, holding onto the wall, towards the bathroom, where she strips the suit off and sinks down inside the glass cubicle of a shower.
“Shower on,” she slurs a little, and the just right hot-as-you-can-stand-it water streams down on her upturned face, pouring its reviving healing powers onto her body...
“A human body is made up of seventy percent water with the same salinity as the sea. Seventy percent of Seven.” She’s babbling.
...washing away the pain, memory, and exaltation of channeling the music of the stars for the last eight hours. She’s revived enough to wash, dry, and stumbling a little less, make it to her square foam bed, unconscious immediately. The lights turn themselves off in five minutes when no movement or sound is detected.
Ten hours later, almost to the second, her eyes open, and she’s fully awake.
“Lights on.” She turns over and stares at the ceiling for a few seconds, then goes through a series of stretches, bones popping like knuckles every now and then.
By the time she’s sitting in her kitchen having coffee, she still has a faraway look, but the frown between her eyes has deepened. Then methodically she cleans the kitchen, deals with about a week’s worth of dishes and picks all the clothes off of the bedroom floor and throws them in the laundry closet. The physical action does her mood some good, bringing her all the way back to earth, and she’s humming tunelessly to herself as she finishes stuffing trash down the compactor in the wall.
She’s studiously ignoring the computer room, knowing it’s no good going in there to clean right now, because she’d end up jacking in. She settles for plugging the phone into her ear and eye-clicking her way through to her speed contact list, to her best friend, Tau, that blond dreadlocked, slow moving, lightening quick thinking, sound architect and engineer who is the only person on the planet she trusts completely.
“Hey, Tau, it’s me.”
“Need to talk.”
“How about RB’s?”
Throwing on basic black clothes and shades, she vocalizes open her handless front door, the security system sounding like a bank vault or the satisfying thunk of a well made car door, as it locks behind her. She ignores it, walking down the corridor, confident that it will recognize her later, letting her and only her back into the sanctuary.
RB’s is a small local lunch counter with a bar in the back, with its own regulars that keep it in business year after year. Seven takes her usual table in the back and Tau walks in within moments of her sitting down.
They both dial real food, so Seven knows that Tau has been staying up too late, too.
“I can’t do this anymore. I’ve got to find a replacement.”
Tau just stares, and only if you knew him as well as Seven does would you know that he’s taken completely by surprise.
“Can’t. I’m serious. I don’t know how, but I’ve got to find someone else who can do this.”
“I have info,” says Tau.
They’re both silent as their food comes, and they dig in, eating like it was their last meal. Satisfied when the plates are clean, they push them away and sit with a second cup of coffee.
“Info? What info? About this?”
“Yeah. Wasn’t sure, but...I think so.”
“Jeez, Tau. What are you, psychic? It weirds me out when you do stuff like this. What have you got?”
“Tracking your site. Some user, Stormy, asking for you.”
“Yeah, well, people ask about me all the time there. I told them upfront that I wasn’t going to let them know anything about me but the music. What’d Stormy say.”
“One line. But the log—really trying to ferret you. 15 pings to the source. Last one to your firewall.”
“Did you get the real IP?”
“Text...” Tau reaches out and beams from his flash stick through the infrared port of her shades. “Google on your fan.”
“You got a name! Only you, Tau, only you.” Seven’s voice trails off as she scans the single screen of info. “Not much here. And the real name’s Stormy. Just that?”
“I see that. I wonder, is it a guy? Another reporter?”
“My take is that he wants to...” Tau stops, at a loss for words. Not surprising for him.
“You know what?” says Seven. “I’m going to meet him. I’m kind of looking for—I mean I had no idea how to even find someone I could talk to about this. Except you. Where do you go to advertise for this? Channel the music of the stars! Never do anything else again for the rest of your life! Obsessive compulsive? Than this is the job for you! Can’t play with people? No worries! You’ll never play with anything but a giant mind in the sky that won’t ever leave you alone again! Selfish bastards.”
“Stars rule,” said Tau.
“But I want my life back. Remember when I’d actually do shows? Maybe I can’t even jam around people anymore, let alone write real songs.”
“You’re online all the time.”
“But it’s the stars playing, not me. Don’t tell me you don’t believe that, after all this time.”
“You know why I trust you? ‘Cause you could never put two whole sentences together to tell anyone else. Are you keeping a log like I told you? ‘Cause I’ll be famous someday, when the whole story comes out. The first and only.”
“No worries. Jus’sayin’. It’s amazing—Stars.”
“Yeah. But, I’m so tired. And I’m not expressing the real me.” Seven smiled a little at the sound of that. “Not fair. So that’s why I’ll see Stormy. He may just be another freak. Like we aren’t, hey? But, hey, he’s a musician. Maybe I could talk him into it. Hah.”
“I’m tagging you.”
“Do it, Tau.”
*<message for Stormy. Your Eyes Only.>*
*Stormy. Meet the grrl, noon, cube, Kerry Park.*
Seven looks at her virtual watch, a sure sign that she’s irked. This dude is late. She knows Tau knows, too, though she can’t see him anywhere. Tau can be a real stalker, only letting you see him if he wants you to. She’s glad he’s here to back her up. She looks around again. Two more minutes and she’s out of here.
Seven spins around and stops short. She sees another rockergrrl standing there—boots, black fatigues, chains, tats, and shades.
“Are you Seven?”
“Are you Stormy?”
They stand checking each other out for a moment. If you were on the other side of the plaza, you would think by their body language that neither one is used to the presence of other human beings.
“You’re not a guy.” Seven smiles. “Let’s talk.” Seven takes off, heading for the tables at RB’s, without looking to see if Stormy is following. “Y’know, there’s only, maybe, three of us around here, doin’ the, you know, music, that are not guys. Hah! I have a proposition for you.”
An hour later, Seven’s laid it all out.
“So, that’s that. The job and the truth. Now there are three people in the world who know it. If you don’t take the job, I’ll have to kill you to keep the secret.”
Stormy’s stare only acknowledges the boilerplate threat with a raised left eyebrow.
“I’m glad I told you,” continues Seven, warming to her new friend. “But no one knows where my site’s music is coming from. The mystery is part of the charm. And—the music can’t stop. The people need it. We gotta keep producing it and posting it. What I’m saying is that I want to split this with you now. I haven’t had a break in—you know. Since it began.”
“How do I know I can channel the stars?” said Stormy, intrigued but unsure. “I mean, even if I wanted to try, what if it’s only you that can do it?”
“I’m pretty sure it’s just how my gear is tuned in. There was an opera singer who used to set the background noise recorded through those giant telescopes to music—that’s why I started trying to tune into out there, for a recording I was working on. And I got this.”
“If it’s like you say, I’ll need a break sometimes, too.”
“Like I’m saying, we’ll split time on the gear. It’s pretty basic, and goes directly to live stream. That’s all the users want, for it to show up every week or so. Pay off’s pretty good. Enough for everybody and then some. From the gear, it just keeps coming. Nonstop. 24x7. All the time. Every. Single. Fuckin’. Day. Maybe forever.” Seven fades out contemplating the enormity of the cosmic buzz.
“I’m in.” Stormy reaches across the table and takes Seven’s hand. And Seven doesn’t pull away, as small muscles relax in her shoulders and face for the first time in months. Perhaps her future has some sanity in it, after all.
About the Author
After living in Seattle for 30 years, Tamara Vining lives in Issaquah, Washington, works with, through, and on computers, writes poetry, short stories, scripts and music, and got an A+ on her final paper for film school titled “A History of Science Fiction in Film”. She is also a musician, and that’s probably where this story came from.
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