Short Story: “Background Music” By C. A. Brown

Strange as it might sound, the best place to daydream is at a metal concert. In fact, I’d even go so far as to call it a form of meditation. If you’re seeing a band that you’ve heard before, then the goosebump-inducing “oh my god, I know this song and now I’m actually seeing it live” feeling quickly wears off and – with the cheering, the beautiful stage lights, the physical thumping from the speakers and the fast music – you can go into a kind of trance.

It is the last thing you’d expect to happen and yet it almost always feels perfectly natural at the time. I’d be standing in the middle of a music festival crowd and, whilst the rain hammered down and the gnarly dudes on stage growled into the mic, my mind would suddenly drift elsewhere. I’d find myself wondering what some kind of Aliens-style horror movie would look like if it was set in a bizarre desert village where the skies were always perfect blue and the buildings were painted the same colour as the hourglass sand below.

As the singer would rouse the crowd into repetitive cheers, I’d find that I was shouting along without even noticing it.

Instead, my mind would be mapping out this horror movie village, whilst also playing suspenseful scenes where scaly reptilian creatures lurk just out of sight and some nameless faceless main character explores the mysteriously deserted village.

And then, as the guitars begin to screech and wail again, and the rain drives down even harder, I’d suddenly realise that this cheesy B-movie that my mind had conjured up would work way better as a videogame. But, then, I’d wonder whether it’d be more fitting as a slow, suspenseful Resident Evil-style survival horror game or a fast, intense Doom II-like action game. I’d debate this question seriously for a minute or two, weighing up the pros and cons of each option until I remembered that I don’t know how to make videogames.

As the crushing disappointment of this fact hits me, the song finishes and the lead singer shouts to the crowd about how awesome we were. How we were louder than anyone they’d heard at the other festivals. Of course, they probably said the same thing at every festival. No doubt it was a hangover from the days when people held lighters rather than phones in the air. But, it didn’t matter. Because it was what we wanted to hear.

And then the band would launch into the next song and I’d realise that it was one that I associated with some memory or part of my life. As the sky darkens and the feeling of the rain fades away, I’d find that I was back in the past again. But not the actual past. Not the real past with all of it’s mixed emotions, awkward moments, dull days and foolish thoughts – but something else. My memories would suddenly go from being a montage of mental images and words to being a single emotion. A totally new emotion that literally was that part of the past.

Then, I’d try to think of a word for it. And I couldn’t. I could feel it more strongly than anything else and I knew exactly what this brand new emotion felt like – but, I was the only one who did. No-one had gone before and added a word to the dictionary to describe the exact feeling of remembering that exact time from that exact perspective. I realised that I had something really precious, but that I could never share it. Sure, I could try to paint a picture using words that people already knew, but it would be a crude, second-hand bootleg copy. It wouldn’t even come close.

Then, as the word “bootleg” flashed through my mind, I’d find myself back at the concert again, listening to the music. I’d realise that I’d been singing along the whole time and my throat was hoarse. My eyes would flit towards one of the phone screens held towards the sky, showing a miniature version of the flashing, dancing stage. Then I’d wonder if I’d be visible in any of the concert bootlegs that showed up on Youtube a few days later. Inevitably, I wouldn’t.

Then, with applause and shouts, the concert would end and the crowd would begin to scatter. And, with more than a little surprise, I’d find myself realising that I could remember more about the daydreams I’d had than the spectacular show I’d just seen.

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