Home Stories Poems Site Reviews Writing Tips Charlie Fish
FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

The Listener
by Helen Gill

View or add comments on this story

He could hear music in everything. Not like everybody else. The people who surrounded him, who smothered him, would only hear the buzzing of the fax machine, the insistent bleeping of the green man. This is the reason he was different. The buzzings and bleepings heralded symphonies in his mind. He could not be sure whether they were symphonies already created by another and heard sometime in the murk or the clouds of the past, or whether they were, as he emphatically, desperately hoped, created by his own imagination.

But nobody would ever hear these symphonies. He had not the power of translation, and his lack of any form of confidence repelled him from singing or humming in company. In any case, even if these symphonies had not been previously written by some vast and charismatic talent, even if they were unique to him, could it not be said that they nevertheless lacked any creative uniqueness, anything he could be rightfully proud of. They were the work of the fax machine, of the green man that forced pedestrians across the road.

The talent was in them - the spark. The fire would not exist without them. The conflagration caused no wonder. Why did it exist? Because the spark had led to it. The only existence debated upon, considered, pondered about, dreamed of, puzzled over, the only existence that causes great minds to pound their heads in despair, is the spark. The fire can be explained easily. It is merely the result of something smaller and yet more mysterious, more fascinating, more symbolic of the order of the universe... something so pathetic and insignificant. Something so mundane.

Or perhaps, he suddenly hoped, quickly... perhaps the fascination should not be with the spark. Perhaps it should lie with the means whereby the spark creates the fire.

Some order, some existence, caused his mind to create symphonies from mundane noises. Something in his mind? His head began to hurt.


The pounding of his head, the pain, seemed to beat in time with his heart. He could hear music again.

Thud, thud, thud.

His own heartbeat, in concert with his pounding headache, caused yet another piece of music to form inside him. And this was truly his. This symphony was not inspired by an external buzzing but rather by his own heart. What could be more beautiful?

And yet, his heart was merely a creator of almost uniform noise. But it did not bother him so much as the fax machine. At least the sound originated within him.

The spark and the conflagration.

The music was finally his.

But he remained unhappy, unsettled. The anxiety had not left him, had not evaporated into the air and through the windows of the office into the throbbing sky. Indeed, the sky itself seemed to enrobe him, pressing harder and harder until he could barely breathe. He was suffocating under the weight of the grey electric clouds. And then the clouds invaded him. They entered him. But, like the release felt when doors open, allowing crowds in a tiny street to enter a large, voluptuous theatre with high, gilded ceilings, when the sky entered Phillip the suffocation abated and he began to breathe more freely. He felt the clouds, the thunder. The sky thudded in time with his heart and his headache.

Thud, thud, thud. Music.

Was the sky joining him in this creative burst? Was this particular Opus a collaborative piece with the air around and inside him? He smiled. His colleagues saw him smile, and wondered. But he did not notice them, or their puzzled and cynical glances.

The sky itself could not make music. Without him as the catalyst, it could not create the symphonies. It needed him. It was merely a collective of certain pre-conditions, that would remain stagnant until absorbed by Phillip, or someone else like him (although he doubted whether there were such others, in any case he had not come across any of them in his experience of the human world thus far). Indeed. Absorbed, and used, like Rembrandt used his oils. The sky was his material.

Phillip suddenly laughed. A quick, sharp laugh, that he caught back from the air swiftly. He looked around nervously, and saw that he had been heard. Everyone was staring at him. He looked at them, and they looked away, returning to their pretence at work, their mundanity of copying and sifting and clicking.

He didn't bother to battle with his smile. Why should he care what they thought any more? He was happy. The fax machine, the green man... just like the sky, they were his materials, his paints. Without him they would exist merely as pre-conditions.

View or add comments on this story

Back to top
Back to list of stories

Web www.fictionontheweb.co.uk


Home Stories Poems Site Reviews Writing Tips Charlie Fish