A little late this week with my Chuck Wendig story, but better late than never, as they say. This week’s Flash Fiction Challenge is New Life. Take the words “new life” and interpret as you will. I had some fun with this one. Please to enjoy and, as always, please feel free to comment afterward. It’s nice to get some encouragement from time to time.
Tod pulled out a battered ukulele. The body was scuffed, having obviously been dropped a time or twenty over the years. One of the tuning pegs was chipped, and another was loose. Tod found himself constantly having to retune the instrument; the offending string lost tension as he played.
He fiddled with the knobs until the uke was reasonably in tune, then looked over at Sanchez, sitting crosslegged on the futon, a cajón on the floor in front of her, a bowl of popcorn in her lap. “I’m bored,” he said.
“What do you want to do, then?”
Tod shrugged and plucked a couple of desultory notes. “I dunno.” He sighed and set the ukulele aside again. “There has to be more to it than this.”
Sanchez leaned forward and put her popcorn on the floor then moved forward to sit on the cajón, anchoring it with her knees. She tapped out a rhythm. Glanced at Tod. Tapped another rhythm. Waited.
“You know what you’re asking me to do,” he said.
“You’re the one that got the uke out. I was happy to sit here and eat my popcorn. Don’t write checks you can’t cash.”
Sighing, Tod picked the uke back up and began to play, not playing a song, just choosing chords at random and moving through various strumming patterns. Sanchez smiled. “It’s like being back in the islands,” she said, and she began to beat the cajón, her foot tapping faster as their music intertwined.
After a few minutes Tod began to feel it. Eyes shut, mouth set, his strumming intensified. Sweat beaded on his brow as he bent over the uke. He began to pick, fingers flying up and down the neck creating delicate patterns of musical filigree that filled the air of the little room with song.
Sanchez nodded along appreciatively. Her fingers and palms began slapping, brushing, tapping the sides of the cajón, the wood resonating and echoing. As Tod’s pace picked up, hers did as well, until the echoes became thunder roaring in her ears. Together they played, diving deeper into the music, her beats and rhythms providing a foundation for his notes and lines.
Tod began to sing. Nothing concrete, just nonsense words and syllables, almost like scatting. Every now and then recognizable words would float out but never more than one or two at a time. Sanchez contributed her own impressionistic vocalizations, harmonizing with him but doing her own thing. The words and sounds didn’t match, but somehow they did, and the disparate figures came together to form a whole that was as intriguing as it was unusual.
They had been creating music this way for years, since they were young together. Each instinctively knew where the other was going to go, which beats and notes and chords were going to emerge, and they played off of each other with an ease born of long experience. Not for the first time she found herself thinking they should record their jam sessions, but as always, she decided it wouldn’t be the same if they did. Music for them was a spontaneous, organic experience. It didn’t need to be preserved. Every time they got together it was an act of creation. That in itself was enough.
His eyes were closed as his fingers moved. She was focused on the cajón. Without a look or a word passing between them they began to move at the same time, increasing their tempo and volume. Sanchez’s hands were a blur as she beat out a constant rhythm. Tod’s head bobbed up and down as the intensity of his fingerpicking increased. The tempo of their vocalizations increased, becoming a steady flow of syllables from him interspersed with harmony from her.
It was barely holding together. It was a cacophony of voice and cajón and ukulele roiling together and barreling along, teetering on the edge of oblivion. Until. Suddenly it all came together. His voice, her voice, a ringing note on the uke, a solid thump on the front of the cajón, and there was a resonance, a single, crystalline instant when it all coalesced.
Behind closed eyes Tod could see possibilities stretch out before him. He made a choice, picked a direction, and moved his fingers. Without missing a beat, Sanchez went with him, never questioning, never doubting, always supporting.
More than twenty light years away, an average sized planet with two tiny moons orbited a smallish yellow star. Wind blew over the coastline of a small island in the equatorial region of the planet, spraying sand across the beach as wavelets lapped the shore. The tide was beginning to come in.
There was no one to hear when the air suddenly reverberated with a resonance: voices, music, thunder. There was no one to see the air shimmer and the surface of the water ripple as the wave of sound passed over and through then slowly faded away. There was no one to see as a shape emerged from the water, crawling—gasping, retching, then finally breathing—onto the beach.