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"I want...an alien."
The double take Damon expected never came; Keene didn't even blink. The executive's hands remained folded calmly on the desk's highly polished surface, the reflection below his fingers making him look like some double-handed android built to play a newly invented hellrock instrument. "You want an alien," Keene repeated. Damon squelched the impulse to remind Keene that this wasn't a psychiatric bull session where the doctor repeated everything the patient said to make sure he had understood it clearly. "Let's see." Keene continued. "You're not into weapons, so that's out. You're not into medicine or drugs, either. That puts those out of the picture. So exactly what do you need an alien for, Damon?"
Damon spread his hands, unconsciously willing Keene to understand, to show the slightest trace of empathy. "For the sound." The last word carried on the filtered air of the office like a drawn-out whisper, a sibilant floating in the air that teased both of them. Finally, a reluctant crack in Keene's disposition as the older man unwillingly bonded with Damon's dreams for an instant, hearing as the eccentric artist did the alien singing from its steel throat and screaming with a tongue of acidic flame.
Damon's words faded away as he and Keene stared at each other.
Bitter memories flash-danced in Damon's head as he waited for Keene's decree, and he remembered the first time an alien's screams had ever found its way into his ears. It had been on a vidscreen in a store window, a NewsVid item from Channel 86 about an infestation in the Long Island Incarceration Colony, sensationalist crap designed solely to grab the passersby and glue them to a vidscreen. And it had worked on Damon, though not for the reasons the media planners might have anticipated. The footage had shown a clot of aliens bunched in a subbasement of the LIIC's main prison, on the defensive against an army troop wearing suits constructed of the same material labs used to store acid and bearing flamethrowers loaded with long-burning jellied napalm. To Damon the creatures' screams had translated to one thing, unadulterated or diluted: hate.
And Damon hated so very, very much...
How many reviewers had slammed his work as "tiresome," or "obscure," or, worst of all, "boring"? The reviewers detested him, the public ignored him, Synsound humored him. All the while he struggled on, trying desperately to reach a public that seemed to want only hellrock or bloodrock, orGod help themandroid singers and performers so mutated that they had four arms, multiple heads, and mouths coming out of their mouths in a twisted parody of aliens. The closest John Q. Public came to exposure to the gentler sounds of the past was, again, in recreated androids; before dwindling into ambiguity, Elvis Presley's duplicate had piqued enough interest to gain a hall named after it, and Caruso's fabricated double sang for the upper class every night at the NewMet Opera House. A steady trickle of credits from the older generation supported Synsound projects like "Buddy Holly Sings Garth Brooks III" and thousands of other re-recordings of centuries-dead artistsandroids of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown, Richie Valens, Dwayne Allman, John Lennon, Patsy Cline, and others regularly belted out new hits.
And Synsound, owner of practically every piece of music and musician in the worldincluding Damonsat above it all with people at its helm like Jarlath Keene, a man with virtually no imagination, no vision. As far as Damon was concerned, the stages of Presley Hall were the Manhattan home of hell on earth, filled with appalling reengineered mutadroids that were half android, half mutated instrument, surrounded by the dregs of humanity who flocked to listen to the groups. Few people appreciated Damon's careful live recordings of serious music, the darker blends from wonderful classic composers like Beethoven, Paganini, Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach, so much beautiful music recorded on rare twentieth-century instrumentsviolins, harps, dulcimersall expensive and a struggle to come by. Synsound again, indulging him, using him as a pawn to show the world how it sponsored and supported what remained of the "arts" while it survivedprosperedon the ridiculous, discordant trash for which the people of this century constantly clamored. He hated Synsound almost as much as he detested the concertgoers who appreciated only torture and terror, responded only to the grotesque, frightening androids cavorting and screaming on the stage. If what they wanted was hate, and pain, and the repulsive, Damon decided, he would give them exactly that.
The press conference he'd called was only a stage for him to announce to the country and every place the NewsVid would carry the story how much he hatedJohn Q. Public, Synsound, everything. His tirade against Synsound and its customers had gone on for as long as he dared before he feared the media would turn away in boredom. "For you all, for Synsound," he'd railed into their microphones, "I will write the ultimate composition...a Symphony of Hate!" Afterwards his employer smiled its corporate face and nodded, pleased at the attention its pet artiste had generated and shrugging off Damon's anger with a humorous attitude. He was an artist after all; they were supposed to be temperamental, angry, excitable. It was those very feelings that made them creative.
Damon's work on his masterpiece had carried him everywhere. No place was too dark or dangerous: he visited madhouses, prison wards, even execution chambers where he watched killers leave this world shrieking in rage. A favorite haunt was the downtown government detox center where the screams of jelly junkies bruised the eardrums and forced the workers to wear hearing protection.
But it was the news item that made Damon search the sound library for VidDiscs from the Homeworld War of ten years ago. The poor quality and low fidelity of the military recording devices didn't matter; the screams of the aliens as they fought and were destroyed blasted through Damon's senses like electricity, burning his mind, stealing his breath. No one and nothing else in the world sounded like an alien, nothing. And nowhere else did the creatures' shrieks of malevolence belong more than in Damon Eddington's Symphony of Hate.