Only For The Music.
This is a personal piece that I wrote, hoping that it could’ve been used for my second year portfolio but its too long and even though I’ve cut parts I personally don’t want to cut any more. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating this story and character.
The night burned cold across the metropolis of Bridgecroft, wind rattled the window panes of towering constructs and church bells swayed to and fro, not managing more than a whisper above the torrid collaboration of shattering rain and howling winds that bombarded the city all night long. The city was a deathly still, every man, woman and child were indoors or hidden away in the darkened alcoves of buildings, all of them trying to escape the torment of the past, sleepless, rain filled nights.
As the night waned on there was naught to break the monotony until footsteps came into existence. Splashes followed by splashes. The continually overfilling puddles no longer disturbed by only rain.
The steps were made by a man draped in a long heavy coat; his jeans were dark with wet, his shoes even darker. As his hooded head turned towards the streetlamps his face contorted in pain. His jaw was chiselled and firmly coated in a short dark beard that covered from his adam’s apple to halfway up his cheeks without touching his top lip. His nose was bust, disjointed and carried a near white scar that showed up against his dark vermillion eyes. His hair was dark brown, matted and long, it shined with the rain that had seeped through his hood and it was all pushed back, held by a band of worn grey fabric that kept itself tort against his skull. He carried nothing but a black hardened case which held weight within in it.
As he continued to stare up at the light the wind whipped around his ankles, he shuddered and pulled his coat around himself, hands clenching tightly. Then before he could make another move, a foreboding gust of wind swooped in, causing him to shift back on his back foot, with a grunt he pulled himself away down a cobbled alleyway where the leering buildings loomed over all traces of light ‘til they were fully extinguished.
He came out into an older part of town, the roads were cobbled and dark from grime, remains which would never be fully washed away. The shop lights were out and the eerie shadows were dishevelled nothing but slight casts of their being, created from the protruding light of old black, embellished street lamps that uniformly lined down the roads. Each lamp giving every individual stone a warm glaze of honey like substance that oozed towards the pavement, before being swallowed by the blackness of nights gloom.
As he paced down the streets his hard soled boots clapped against the hard stone pavements, music slowly came into existence, moving through the air with little resistance, warmth pushed through with every word as it bounded off old boarded windows throughout the streets until they resounded in a state of floundering uselessness. As he kept walking the music got louder, a hue a light swathed the walls of the streets much like a climbing mist, it grew thicker with every inch of ground he gained. He hit the corner with pace, his stride had quickened with anticipation of finding people in this dreary deserted city.
The light hit his eyes and as they re-adjusted they came into view, three young men playing together, one stood the other two sat, all perfectly framed in the glow of the streetlamp towering above. A hooded character in baggy jeans and thick shoes sat cross legged with a snare and a makeshift base drum. The way he kept the rhythm going was beyond any he’d seen before, the second man was bobbing his head in time, his hair didn’t move an inch, short and pushed back, he had an acoustic guitar; all thick stringed, playing it like a slap-base, hitting it on every off beat. He sat on his guitars case, old and worn with stickers covering the scars and holes developed over time. The lead was an entirely different figure he had white trousers turned dark and mucky from the rain and wore an old bomber jacket. His hair was kept in a hat, and his hood was pulled over, he stood there strumming away at his guitar, singing out to no-one. As he approached them they looked down at his case, he looked up almost hopefully throwing them a few coins, they watched him walk on by, still playing but looking him up and down. With each step away from the boys the music dimmed, the magic disappeared and sound was overtaken by rain once again.
He walked for hours, meeting no-one. The darkness grew in the alleyways and then waned as he got to the streets. His clothes were now so dark with damp that the rain simply ran off the clothing, there was no space for anymore moisture to be taken in. He walked longingly until he got to a side-street littered with graffiti and ‘art’ he slowly wondered down the pavement, his spare hand running along, feeling the textures and layers of paint on the wall, he did this ‘til half way down the street and turned slowly to a door.
His hand slid from the painted walls to the brass handle; pushing his way in he disappeared into further darkness towards a dusty lamp in the corner. A low glow began to hum from the corner, the dirty shade not allowing more then a small amount of light to pass through. The sound of a cap unscrewing echoed across the room followed closely by the clang of a glass and the slapping of liquor on the mouth of the bottle before sploshing onto the icy rocks below, the finite clunk of the bottle settling on the side table. He slumped into a deep sunken chair and drank slowly, singing to himself words of no real importance or structure. He refilled his glass repeatedly throughout the next few hours, with little movement but that of his arms and mouth ‘til he finally passed out on the chair. His head rolled back; one hand grasping the glass, the other rested on the hardened case sat by the chair.
With a murmur he grunted and shifted his weight, his eyes slowly opening with heavy resistance, head in burly hands, nursing a well deserved hangover. He pulled himself up and moved the empty bottle into the corner alongside others and left the glass on the side as he pulled his coat around him and headed out into the city.
The rain was still pattering away, though with less intensity and for the first half hour of walking it was barely noticeable that it had even touched him. His hair merely glistened and his coat was a darker hue. The city was now starting to get busy, cars were periodically passing through with increasing numbers, and people were following suit. It was never obvious where each individual went, but seemingly within an hour the majority had disappeared into one building or another. He wondered the streets with barely an obstacle after that, people brushed past and his case knocked knee’s and thighs without a care, everybody was in a rush but him.
As his journey continued he slipped down a widened side street, railings went along the side halfway down masking a stairway down into the basement of an old building. Creaking gently there hung an old iron sign embellished with the head of a cat and the words ‘enough room to swing a cat’ along the walls posters and signs for gig’s and events were strewn across, overlapping each other, all partially ripped to bits. His feet were heavy against the stone steps, the door creaking as it was pushed open before he slammed it shut.
Lights flickered on, stuttering and struggling against the darkness, only finally being able to fill the room with a putrid gloomy glow. He pushed his way through the room towards the back wall past the tables, all with seats and stools piled on top on another to clear the floor until he reached the far-side of the room.
Across the main back wall and partway down the side stood a tall bar which stretched as one unit all the way around. Taps sprung up in three’s and four’s periodically each holding a differently liquid behind the powered nozzles. Behind the counter strewn against the wall stood bottles of all shapes and sizes, filled to varying levels, none of them new, more then a good dozen very old. With a clunk of his case against a table and the shuffling of his coat draping over a barstool he settled himself behind the bar, pouring a measure of whisky in a dusty glass. As he opened the ice bucket his face screwed up in disdain, with a grunt he walked away, his glass still missing ice.
Sipping away into his fourth glass the room began to creak, floorboards groaned under the weight of someone coming from the back, lights in the far side of the room flickered and the shadow of a man flickered into life. Still besotted by the bar he slowly looked up and as his eyes met the figure on stage he quickly necked the fourth glass of the day and stood up, advancing groggily towards him.
The figure came into full view as the lights managed to bloom and encase a whole stage like construct that took up a good amount of the other side of the room. He was a stout man with a thick ginger beard, his hairline had disappeared long ago and he wore a short sleeved shirt showing his tattooed arms now hardly anything but a mush of green colourings. He jumped off the stage and strode towards the bar, taking a route throughout the room which allowed him to grab down chairs of the tables, setting them down as he went. With not even a word they nodded to each other and shook hands, grabbing his case and taking a newly filled glass in hand he slumped off the bar, towards the stage and settled down there.
After an hour of silence he started moving more quickly, evening was approaching, the pavement and roads above were coming into life, hundreds of footsteps, tyres and the rattling of a orchestra of exhaust’s echoed everywhere, glasses on the bar shook gently, chiming softly against each other. He grabbed a worn, torn apart barstool, half the padding missing the gap now nothing more then a makeshift ashtray for the user. As people started coming down the stairs the bar was casually pushing out more and more drinks, everyone floated to their seats as though they had frequented them and chosen out their own spots for years ago and for eternity. The punters were a mix of old business men, worn out shopkeepers and their young upstarts who followed them constantly, trying to figure out how everything was done, trying to gain a place in the social groupings, but constantly put to the side whilst business and life was talked about.
The stage was still empty except the old stool and the solid case to the side of it. He was stood there in a long shirt and corded trousers, looking out at the audience. Stood to the right side smoking a crudely crafted cigarette he looked over to the bar, the ginger bearded man pointed to his watch and with that he slumped towards the case and opened it up. It gleamed with gold and rich red reflection and with his body covering everything but the lights reflection his arm’s moved manically, twisting and jamming pieces together ‘til he stopped and delicately slipped a brace over his neck and clicked a catch to his creation.
He turned and faced the crowd, all sat there barely paying him barely any attention, with a sigh he shrugged his shoulder’s turning towards the back, the lights on stage clicked out, the crowd still barely wavering from their conversations and drinks.
The moan of a worn pedal dropped, a light from above flickered on revealing the stage; a piano handled by a tall slender man with, a double bass held upright by a stocky man and a drum-kit which within held a tiny man with, in the centre was a space with a stand and the worn out barstool.
The lights were chased by the sound of white ivory tickling through the air, flowing easily. The men at the bar gathered their drinks and settled down.
A plucked beat began to ripple under the piano tones, going low and deep into a quivering state beaten out of existence with every beat that followed, It was slow and deliberate whilst the piano key’s fluttered along merrily. The conversations were stopping and men looked down to their drinks.
The rattling of a skin tight snare began to fill the spaces between beats and keys with the flurry of softened hits on cymbals gave the whole piece a shimmering light much like the cymbals themselves produced as they reflected the worn stage light from above. The crowd were watching intently, the worn faces of men nodded in approval whilst the virginal faces of their apprentices were bare with complete interest.
As the night went on the crowd began to waver, going to and from the bar more and more often ‘til only half the people were really sat down. As the band slowed down the men settled down again and as the music was creeping along he entered the stage, his long coat still cast to the side and his piece held by a strap around his neck. Sitting on the stool it groaned as he stubbed out his rolled up cigarette into it. The men looked up and the band began to pick up tempo the speed increasing to furious speeds. As he put his piece to his mouth breath left his lungs and he began to play, keeping his head down whilst shuffling about the stage, his left foot tapping causing his corded black trousers to bounce to the beat.
The crowd were all smiling, the pleasure written on their faces, drinks were being brought to the tables and the ginger bearded man looked on, slightly softer then his normal fierce appearance would allow. As they played low key pieces to major numbers like Baker Street the night became a euphoria of music, it was his show, he commanded it wielding his instrument so delicately, easing out every quality and golden note.
As he swung about the stage he never uttered a word, he held the stage, his band playing perfectly and reacting to every instance where he would take over and change the rhythm of the song. They played for hours and by the end of it his long matted hair was losing its solidness with rogue hairs falling out of place, his sleeves were rolled up and his face read of fatigue and pain. He began coughing and quickly left the stage, his band members began urging the punters home.
As he riled in the ally-way he dropped to the wet floor the water flaring up on impact and splattering his clothes, his hair was now draped around his face and he was left on his knees. He punched the ground and forced himself up, pushing his hair back and quickly rolled another cigarette, as he smoked he leant against the back wall a shady bulb lit up covering the tiny area around the backdoor in light. He was only halfway through the cigarette that the ginger bearded man came outside. He whipped out a small pipe and lit it. Whilst stuffing his tobacco and matches into his pocket he turned to his associate.
Within the space of drags the bearded man muttered “You want money this week or the bar again?” his voice was horse and stifled with age.
A gruff croak murmured out “Bar.” And with that they both nodded, as the bearded man went inside he tossed the keys onto the floor and left. He finished his cigarette and grabbed the keys, only the stage light and one of the lights over the bar remained on, everybody had left, the place was like it had been earlier; chairs up on tables, stage clear apart from his instrument case, instrument inside and his coat to the on top. As he picked up his things and staggered to the bar he fell into a slump, dropping his case and coat to the floor, holding himself up on the bars side. With a grunt he pushed himself to the bar and grabbed as many bottles as possible making four trips back and forth until he found himself crashed out in front of the bar, his case an armrest, his coat a lining to protect his body from the sticky boozed up floor.
As he grabbed each bottle in succession they began to surround him, the empty bottles encasing him in a hidden away grove of coloured glass. He drank and drank, half the drink missing his gullet at one point and merely dampening his body. After every bottle he had grabbed was drank his head rolled, left to right and then towards his pocket, he rolled another cigarette, a hastily rolled up piece, it was slipping apart as he held it, and yet he lit it taking long hard drags, holding the smoke in his mouth ‘til it burnt before releasing it through the back of his throat and out of his nostrils. He smoked all the contents in his pockets, chaining every piece and drag together, whilst still burning away the back of his throat, filling his body with smoke.
As he laid there slumped against the bar he pulled some paper out of his pocket and scribbled a note, he slipped further down, his back propped against the wall and his head now rested into his chest, with every heavy breath smoke, crept around the side of his face from the front, the bottles surrounded him and only the small light-bulb above the bar was dancing, swaying in the smoke, long after the music was alive. With every breath his body began to slow, ‘til his chest stopped moving, smoke still filtering out his open mouth and nostrils, trickling through the air his hand grasped around a bottle filled with cigarette butts his other atop his case holding a card with scruffy writing on it.
Lived only for the music