A video shot opens on a dark alley with a pool of yellow light in the foreground. A lone figure walks slowly toward the camera from the dark part of the alley and stops at the edge of the yellow light. A dim silhouette more concealed than revealed, reaches out a hand and beckons to the camera. A smooth male voice that sounds like it should be introducing performers in a smoky jazz club speaks.
"The world of the light is blinding. All day you run from place to place buying and selling and seeing nothing. Come with me into the cool shadow of the city after dark. Everyday you march in step for the rule makers. I say, step off of the stage. Your life is not a show. Follow me and leave the harsh spotlight behind. No one will find you here with me, backstage in the real city..."
The figure turns and walks away into the darkness of the alley, and the camera follows him. At the mouth of the alley, he stops, and turns back toward the camera. He holds out his hand. The camera continues to come forward until it sits in his palm. The image goes dark for a second as he turns it around to face ahead of him. It comes back up with a moving visual of the street ahead.
"I am Adrian, and this is 'Sighs from the Underground' - your source for free and independent entertainment. That's right. I said the 'F' word: free. Brace yourselves, take a deep breath, and come to terms with this: there is no transaction taking place here tonight. We are out of bounds, off the edge of the map, and in clear violation of the federal Private Enterprise Protection Act. Even as I walk and talk this video is being randomly dumped in discrete packets of data onto the web where it will be reassembled and made available for free. There's no turning back now."
The camera pans around to show tall buildings along a street that runs sharply uphill. A taxi cab crests the hill, driving toward the camera at a quick, downhill speed. Adrian and his camera pause until the cab passes then jog across the street and cut into another alley.
"I have something really fantastic lined up for everyone tonight. A few friends of mine are putting together a little shindig for us."
He exits the alley and turns right onto another uphill street.
"The Roman philosopher, Boethius, said, 'Music is a part of us, and either ennobles or degrades our behavior.' I'm hoping that tonight we'll get a little of both of those possibilities."
He turns down another alley, and the camera shows a lowered fire escape. Adrian begins to climb, keeping the camera in front of him. As he nears the top of the four story building, the sound of guitars tuning up can just be made out. When he reaches the top of the building, he eases the camera up over the lip of the roof, slowly revealing a group of musicians - three men and one woman, each with a black bandana covering the bottom half of his or her face. The woman is setting up a trap set, and the guys are tuning up an acoustic guitar, a string base, and a muted trumpet.
Adrian swings himself over onto the rooftop. The musicians freeze for a second, then wave as they recognize him. Adrian walks over and takes a seat on an overturned plastic trash can that looks like it was left out for that purpose.
"What we are about to witness here was once considered the ultimate prize of discovery amongst the hipsters of the previous era - a free concert. Prior to the enacting of the PEPA, news of a free concert used to spread by word of mouth and by phone, and people would drop whatever they were doing and head for the locale.
"But nowadays, if you offer something for free, you have endangered the livelihood of everyone who sells what you are giving away. You have violated their chief right - the right to make money - an offense punishable by up to fifty years in prison. That reminds me, a new report from the census bureau says that prisoners are now the fastest growing segment of the population in the country, and spending on incarceration is expected to set an all time record this year despite continued cuts in prisoner medical care and work training programs.
"But enough about that, it looks like the band is finally ready to begin."
The drummer kicks them off with a fast symbol beat. She's joined first by the base player with a walking base line, and then by the trumpet player. Finally, the lead guitar comes in picking a fast melody with a classical guitar influence. They play a full verse of just instrumental before the guitarist starts to sing. His voice is rough, not the polished pop singer style that's pushed by the big media corps. He closes his eyes while he sings, a masked bandido telling a story about the pain of lost innocence. He sings three verses, and then they each take an instrumental solo before finishing it out with a reprise of the chorus.
They are just starting the opening bars of the second song, when a spotlight floods the rooftop with harsh, white light. A voice comes out of the darkness over some kind of amplified loudspeaker.
"This is the police. You are under arrest for violating the federal Private Enterprise Protection Act. Get down on your knees and put your hands behind your head."
The camera spins to the left to show a dozen men in swat uniforms climbing over the edge of the building on the side with the fire escape. The band members are frozen in place, still holding their instruments. Adrian turns and rushes to the opposite side of the building. He leans over, but there is no fire escape on this side. The drop is four stories straight down. He turns back. The swat team is pushing the band members face down onto the roof top. Three of them are approaching him, machine guns pointed at his chest.
"Citizen known as Adrian, you are under arrest for illegally distributing goods without seeking proper restitution. Put the camera down, and put your hands behind your head, now!"
Adrian looks down at the ground then back at the policemen.
"This is your last warning!"
He turns the camera around in his palm, until he can see his face reflected in the lens. The camera shows a young man in his late twenties with a shaved head that is covered in dark stubble, a dark goatee, green eyes, and a gold earring in each ear. When he speaks his voice is quiet, but steady.
"Never stop questioning. Never stop seeking the truth."
He looks longingly into the camera, and then leaps off the edge of the building. He is still holding the camera as he falls.
"This is 'Sighs from the Underground' signing off."
posted by D @ 11:14 PM
I love stories - especially speculative fiction, and I named this blog Brief Glimpses of Somewhere Else because I think of each story as a window into another world.
If this is your first time here, I recommend "Legacies" and "The Great Puzzle", both of which were nominated for a 2006 Parsec Award. You can also find "Timmy, Jimmy, and the Beast of Tagmart" as well as "Late Shift at the Souleater" in the podcast anthology Voices: New Media Fiction available at podiobooks.com.
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