Dreadful Dissonance

Dreadful Dissonance
Appears in the #11 issue of Voluted Tales
Published by Voluted Tales
Published January, 2014

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A down on his luck musician finds abhorrent musical instruments he believes will restore his career.  He shall soon discover he has taken on more than he bargained for.


I stood in the wings, watching the band leave the stage. How am I supposed to make a good impression after that act? Why did the organizers have to stick me immediately after the best group of the evening?
If I turn around now, grab my instruments and leave, I won't embarrass myself. I feel like the kid alone on a cold stage playing an accordion right after everyone went wild over a fantastic jazz band. 
I can't compete with Manic Fury. The crowd loved them! My stomach was tied up in knots so tight my gut cramped. I can't breathe. Christ, I must breathe or I won't be able to play the oboe! If my hands don't stop shaking I'll never be able to run my fingers over the calliope. 
My heart beat so hard it hurt. 
I can't do this.
I'm a loser. Who the hell did I think I was kidding? I'm no musician. I'm a dried up old hack whose time has long since past. Hell, my time never came. 
If I turn now and leave no one will miss me...
“What the hell are you waiting for, Dyer?” The stage manager shoved my shoulder, aiming me at the stage. “Don't waste my time. Get out there now. The audience is growing restless.”
He pushed me into my cart, forcing me on stage. One wheel wobbled and squeaked an ugly tune as I pushed my cart and instruments out of the wings. Bright overhead lamps blinded me. If I weren't careful I'd topple right off the stage and break my neck.
I couldn't see the audience because of the bright lights. It took a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the glare. People chattered and laughed. I hoped they weren't laughing at me. Someone crumbled a bag - most likely a candy bag.  The sound pierced my ears, making me squint in pain but the suffering wasn't nearly as agonizing as the torture I felt when I first heard the squeal of the oboe. 
The candy bag skittered across the stage, pitched from somewhere in the rows of chairs. If they laughed at me, they would get theirs. With these musical instruments, I'd make sure of it. I paid a group of thugs to beat the musician who owned them and bring them to me. They were made of materials I had never before seen, and they felt warm to the touch when I held them. The sound that came forth from these instruments drove men mad. Who would listen to music as vile as this? Why would anyone want to hear it? I recalled the huckster's evening solitary concert in the park - the dreadful keening, that astonished crowd. I couldn't understand why anyone would tolerate listening to such filth, but I saw the crowd in rapt attention around the man who played it. He barely strummed the strings and his fat fingers fumbled with the chords. I could play much better. I deserved these instruments! I would conquer them! I deserved the fame they would bring to me.
When I reached center stage, I grabbed the calliope and placed it on its stand on the wooden floor. I quickly assembled the oboe in its slot near the steam pipes and the bellows of the calliope. The mandolin sat on its own tripod, looking like a gourd that had been gutted by maggots. 
I was so small on the stage I felt like a tiny mouse trapped in a box with a roomful of cats ready to eat me alive. The crowd yowled and hissed, claws out, eager to see me make a fool of myself. A box sailed through the air and hit me on the forehead. Rage welled in my throat. 
They wouldn't laugh for long. I'd see to that. No one would laugh at me anymore. I knew that after this concert my gigs would no longer be full of empty chairs and empty promises. Somehow I knew deep down this gig was different. I briefly flashed on my own misgivings about the nature of these instruments, but I shoved such consternation from my mind. I had my infernal music to perform, and nothing would stop me.

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