By Scott A. Bullard
“Enjoy the show, man. Feel your life.”
Damon Zealot accepted his instrument from the long-haired bouncer and smiled enthusiastically. He checked over his guitar once he finally made it into the underground arena. The strings were fine but more importantly, so was the camera inside. With the evidence he collected today he should be able to exchange it all for a new car and a year’s worth of rent. He knew he would find copyright violations. That was a given. He was also hoping to find a lot of TruIDs, unauthorized inventions, and even celebrities. Enough celebs and he could afford an entire house. But first, he had to work his way near the stage.
He strapped his guitar to his back and started to casually wind through the crowd, at least as much as he could with a big acoustic guitar on his back. He could already hear music. He wanted to get closer before he turned on his microphones. Too many people were talking and laughing all around him. They seemed to be reveling in their lawlessness. This was not his first Freewill Party, as the cultists called it, but it was the largest. With so many anarchists around, singing and writing, all he wanted to do was run before the Properties Police showed up.
Suddenly the lights shut off and he was lost in a black sea of murmuring bodies. The flame of a lighter appeared in front of him and on the other side was the most beautiful woman Damon had ever seen. Her round face was framed by a short haircut. Her eyes glinted in the flame and when she smiled, he felt as though he had known her his whole life. He had to say something before she walked away.
“Dark, huh?” he said, and instantly wanted to punch himself in the head. “I mean, you’d think they would have generators.”
She smiled again, “It’s probably a sweep, when the PP’s search for music. It’ll be over soon, they usually don’t take long. You want to drink while we wait? My treat?”
“I’m already drunk on your smile, but how could I refuse.”
“Well, you’re in the right place for lines like that. Come on. My name’s Bailey, my real name.”
“Damon. Mine, too.” A lie. He felt bad telling her.
Bailey took him by the hand to a nearby vendor with cold drinks in a cart. She asked for two sodas then actually paid with cash. Damon recovered quickly. Of course she would not pay with Data, no one here would. That was the cultist’s whole point. Their ideas and personal information was their’s, not the commerce giants, the real power in this country. Simple fools. You couldn’t have a happy, honest country if everyone had secrets. How would anyone know what they wanted unless they were shown it?
Damon took the soda and followed Bailey to a quiet corner so they could wait out the blackout. They sat on the floor together.
“Play me a song,” Bailey said.
“Your guitar. You can play it, can’t you?”
Damon again wanted to punch himself. Why was he so absent-minded? Bailey smiled and he forgave himself. Had he ever seen anyone like her before? He placed his guitar in his lap and began playing through a few chords of a song he had been taught by his supervisor. It was a new one specifically sanctioned for use by the Protection Police and their agents, such as himself. Everyone agreed not to sue over its use. He finished and had to take a drink to calm his nerves.
Bailey clapped, “That was nice. Can you play me something off the top of your head? I love it when artists just let loose.”
“Yeah. Don’t be shy. We’re all Freewill here. Just play whatever you feel.”
Damon hesitated at first, his fingers not cooperating. When Bailey began to look around as if she would get up to leave, he felt inspiration strike. He stared at her the whole time he played. He had no words, but the strings hummed and bent like he had never done before. By the time he was done, he was shaking but not from fear, rather from the thrill. He had just created a song. It was his. He looked up to see others gather around and clap their approval. He smiled and laughed until tears ran down his face.
“I’m sorry,” Damon said. “I don’t know what came over me.”
“It was the spirit of life, Damon,” Bailey said. “It’s why we’re all here. Now I’ve got a poem just for you.
“Damon lived his life in the shade of a shop
Where he was afraid to move or even to try
Then he determined to stand, to walk, to hop
Damon found a guitar and with it, he learned to fly
There was no song he could not sing
No rhythm he could not play
He no longer felt the curse of commerce’s sting
He had found his song, his voice, his own way.”
Damon grinned and clapped, “Did you just make that up? That was great.”
“Oh, please, it was terrible. But you inspired me. I asked you to play me a song and you played me something so beautiful. I had to come up with something. I don’t think the Book Bandits would even want it if they heard it. I’d worry about the Music Moguls, though, if I were you. What you played was unique. Thank you.”
Damon sat stunned. The whole time he had forgotten to even turn on his camera or microphones. He looked down at his guitar. His heart still pounded from the excitement of what he had created. For the first time, he thought he understood what people meant by a soul.
The lights came back on. People cheered.
Damon saw Bailey was even more beautiful than he thought. He had found his soul.