That song’s the first thing I hear as I materialise in the transporter room back at my folks place in the ‘burbs of Kalgan City. It’s a beautiful night and Mum has the doors open letting the fresh breeze from the lake paint the room in smells of green. Well, that’s how I might have described it if i wasn’t so damn pissed off!
Damn fools, they’ve lost her again! My little sister Judi sees the look in my eye and pours me a beer. God I need it, it’s busy enough on SPP beat without having to babysit celebs. Now she’s taken off and guess who’s job it is to have to chase her? You got it, your lookin’ at him.
“OK Tobi what’s the problem” Judi askes as she hands me the beer her eyes are almost rolling before I even speak.
“I’ve been called in for nightwatch duty. Sorry J, can’t drink.” I hand her back the beer, I’d have cried if I held it any longer.
“Sorry Mum, just wanted to beam in and let you know I can’t make dinner.”
“Who you babysitting?” Mum asks, she knows the drill, it’s not the first time.
“That intergalactic music sensation – her names Sympathy” I was about to say more but my holocom buzzed an incall. Judi’s jumping up and down in excitement.
The boss has sent me her location. Damn, it’s down the seedy end of town. All the transporter bays down there are glitchy. With a sigh and a peck on the cheek I punch the location ID into the controls and I’m off. Judi’s plea for an autograph the last thing I hear.
A breeze is blowing as I materialise and try to get my bearings. It’s not cold but it smells acrid, it stings the nose. I’m in an alley behind the club I realize. Damn glitchy transporters. Music wafts from the upperfloor. The same song from home, but this is a remix, sung by none other than the disappearing Sympathy. Her remix, making the tune popular again across the galaxy, 200 years after it was released back on Terra.
I shake my head looking up at the pale lights of the club windows, like disturbed eyes their glow darts around the neighboring building. It’s going to be hard to get her out of there. I hope Brice has arrived it’s gonna need both of us. He better not be drunk. I frown as the song catches my attention as it wafts from on high.
“Pleased to meet you.
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah.”
I saunter up the dark alley, my head in a whirl. Don’t really want to work tonight. Maybe we can get this over with quick. Lost in thought the song beats a rhythm into my brain.
An old homeless man propped up on a crate warms his hands around a fire. He looks at me as I walk along. Something about him made me stop. It was his smell, like freshly baked bread. It seemed strange, I don’t know why. The poor old guy must have thought it was an opportunity to have a rant. Or maybe he was just listening to the song drifting out from the club.
“Oh I knows it, I knows it bad. That ol’ Georgie, he been up ta no good. Makes me shake in ma boots it does. See I’s don’t wanna give the beast any a ma Sympathy.”
I stop and stare at what he said as that song makes its final “oh yeah”.
“If the beast is ’bout I curls up real tight ‘n’ shut my eyes ‘n’ try not ta feel like he does.”
I stare entranced at the old mans words as he continues his speech to the flames.
“See Sympathy’s a powerful word in parts ‘ere I come from. D’yer know Sympathy’s a word to use when you wanna be as one? So when ‘e asks ya for Sympathy that ol’ conniving son of the morning you makes sure you turn him down lest you wanna lose your soul.”
He rubs his hands, a toothless grin as he shakes his head in concern.
“I worry for ya I do. See I’s been told you’s don’t know Sympathy like ya really orta should. If ya think Sympathy ‘s just a game of pityin’ and sorryin’ then afraid ya sadly ‘staken. Where I come from we needs not given any airs an’ graces. But that no matter one lil’ bit when we consider Sympathy’s amazement.”
I’m bewildered at the man sitting there, fingerless gloves glowing in the firelight. He looks up at me as I make to leave and gives me his final words.
“So stays away from the Devil ya hear! Gives him none a yor Sympathy, save that for ya fella man.”
I nod just once and then shake my head as he looks me in the eye. He returns the nod as I walk away to disappear into the night.
Out of the alley and into the street the horns of the traffic blare. I think of a girl I once met, her name was Sympathy as well. But I pay her no mind as I rush to the club already running late. Seems I always pay her no mind I think to myself as the doorman makes me wait.
I’m dwelling on things when I finally get in and the noise within forces my memories to whisper. I frown just then as I down a shot of American Honey that Brice hands to me. Damn, I’m on duty. But that drink seduces me as its heat trickles down my throat washing away the acrid smell of the alley and the smell of fresh bread too.
After a 2nd shot I start to relax and consider what’s on my mind………
……….to be continued………..
Lyrics: The legendary M. Jagger and unstoppable K. Richards
Ol' Georgie in homage to David Mitchell and his brilliant novel Cloud Atlas
All character references are fictitious, but may have been inspired by something. What you ask? All in good time.