The assignment was to write about a serial killer doing something mundane, like shopping. I just can’t help but think of things in the future, so the sci-fi aspect it is supposed to be incidental. The main concern my class had was how I wrote out the dialects phonetically. I didn’t see the problem because I always try to write out accents, but this was at the height of the Iraq war and the accent was middle eastern. I promise I meant no disrespect. It’s just rhetorical flavor. If you find it genuinely offensive please tell me why because I would rather re-write it than leave it unfinished because it’s classless or inappropriate.
I should kill you.
Mr. Reman allows the thought to slip harmlessly from his subconscious. The man holding the lobby door open is wearing two different shoes, and probably does not know.
“Good evenin’, sir,” says the man.
“Mmyes,” he responds, gliding by the small man. He knows it is customary of the people to greet people like Mr. Reman. He was their overlord, and he did not fraternize with helots.
As he steps into the gray New York City streets, the sounds of the city roar at him. Cars accelerating, horns honking, people yelling, church bells, police whistles, cell phones, and music. Tasteless music. His steps are farther apart as he approaches his limousine, which hovers stolidly, as it should. Charlie, his most recent limousine driver, opens the monolithic, wheeless craft, and Mr. Reman slips inside with one graceful move. The vehicle hardly moves. Finesse is key. Charlie shuts the door—
And the roar of the city is gone. Mr. Reman sighs heavily, closing his eyes. Charlie is inside and waiting patiently behind the wheel before Mr. Reman has time to relax. Moments or minutes later, he is ready to leave. Charlie was a good driver. He hadn’t so much as said a word. Who knows how long he’s been waiting.
“Charles,” Mr. Reman says, “let’s go.”
“Yesir,” Charlie growls. His voice was foreboding, but soft. Like a killer. Mr. Reman liked that.
With effortless grace, the limousine takes off and up. The ground disappears and the buildings sink lower and lower. The windows fall past the craft until the sun breaks over the skyline. It is less than an hour from sunset, and a deepening pink light is being cast across the sky. The packed streets below grow darker and darker.
Maestro? With the touch of a nearby button, the cab’s windows become virtually opaque, and the soft calls of clarinet, oboe, and strings fill the air. Mr. Reman at once recognizes it as “Che soave zeffiretto” from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. Enter the lovely soprano. The sweet voice, hiding her German nicely, sings of how happy she has been. This kind of music would tear at Mr. Reman’ soul if he had one. He is mesmerized by her soft articulation and clear, rich tone. She sings with honest conviction; he believes what she sings. Mozart lulls us into a trance, revealing to us the power of complex and succinct composition. In the third round, the solo becomes a duet, and Mr. Reman is thoroughly entranced. Unable to move or think of anything else but the engaging melody, he clutches the seat. A tear falls from the floodgates of his eyes. It is beauty. It is pain. It is a self-inflicted torture, but it is necessary. It reminds Mr. Reman that there is beauty in the world. The vacuum of hate often tries to consume him, but there must be balance.
Exactly three minutes and five seconds later, the song ends and the cab’s tint lightens. They are now on the ground, and just outside the limousine is Zam’s Mediterranean Café. With a fwoahp, the door opens and the sounds of the world rush back at him. Fortunately, here in the suburbs of Long Island, the noise is much more tolerable. Charlie closes the door quietly behind him and then stands at casual attention, still without a word.
Mr. Reman strolls up to the entrance of his favorite little deli. He opens the door and slips inside, taking a quick survey of the people. It is late, so only a handful of chatty folks still remain. A man with a sitar and orchestra howls away, and the customers all speak loudly over the blaring Middle Eastern music. I wish I’d learned Lebanese, Mr. Reman scolds himself. It is a ritual he goes through every time he comes to Zam’s. Ritual is very important.
He walks to his immediate left and opens the door to a large freezer. Cold air vomits out of it, and it begins to hum loudly. It wants to scare him away, he knows. Reaching into the coldfall, he grabs a brown paper package, wrapped with cotton string. He steps back and swings the door closed. With a thoomp the freezer’s growling is quelled. Mr. Reman eyes it suspiciously for a moment. Then, carrying his package beneath his large coat, moves to the cash register.
“Gooday, sir,” Zam calls, his words decorated by his Lebanese accent.
“Hello, Zam,” he answers, “Business going well?”
“I haf been very fortunate,” Zam replies. He taps a few buttons on the cash register. Mr. Reman looks away, trying to not let the damned beeps get to him. With an sculpted smile, he hands two large bills over the counter to Zam.
“Thank you very much, my friend,” Mr. Reman says.
“No, no…thang yoo.”
Zam always was a polite individual.
Expecting no change, and with a humble nod, Mr. Reman turns and walks for the exit. He breaks stride only when he passes one customer and their cell phone starts screaming. It was a sign for Mr. Reman to strike, but he did not want to take it. Now is not the proper time for action. He could seriously disrupt Zam’s business. Zam, who so graciously provided him with the best shawarma this side of the Mediterranean. So he shoves the door open, stiff-armed. There will be no reprisal. Not here. Not now.
Charlie is still waiting patiently beside the door of the limousine. He says nothing, but smiles appropriately and opens the door for Mr. Reman, who carefully slinks inside.
Charlie shuts the world out as Mr. Reman drops into his seat. He does not need to tell Charlie their next destination. In the two months that Charlie has been flying for him, they have gone to exactly the same places on exactly the same days at exactly the same times. The limousine lifts silently off the ground, turns west, and begins sailing over the bay.
With the touch of a button, the cab of the limousine again fills with music. The first thing he hears is an otherwise random electric sound effect. It stirs his long-term memory, and he recognizes Josef Duraan, modern composer and guitar virtuoso. Mr. Reman is not one to confine himself to a single genre, and Duraan’s progressive sound — the diamond-tipped edge of unabated technical mastery — captivates and electrifies him.
Pure, soaring guitars move atonally across four octaves. Piercing and intoxicating tones, each crying or screaming its own story, arrive together in a major chord that is familiar and resonant. Then, just as you become comfortable with the pleasing and optimistic tone, the voices split and rush away in four different directions. The music is constantly changing moods and modes. It grabs Mr. Reman by the shoulders and screams in his face, only to slip eloquently back into an esoteric exploration of ecstasy.
It challenges his understanding of what is musically viable, and for several minutes, Duraan makes Mr. Reman suffer marvelously like the guitars that were made slaves to the music. The equipment cries with unrequited languor and the strings scream in amorous submission. The tempo and the tension builds and builds. Doing this to himself is masochism of the mind, but it is necessary. The limousine cruises at near-supersonic speeds across the northeastern part of the country, heading toward Chicago. He grips the seat as though he can actually feel the soaring and spinning of the flight. In truth, the dampeners made it virtually impossible for occupants to feel inertia tugging away. But, this music had its own inertia, bringing the listener to a heightened state of excitement.
Mr. Reman feels his blood pressure mounting, his chest pounding, and his brain swelling as Duraan delightfully abuses him. He must know the things that show him the light, lest he give into the darkness. His species’ domination over matter is not complete, but it increases every day. Every time he hears the electricity, he feels the electron’s pain, trapped in slavery. It frightens and angers him that he belongs to such a controlling and arrogant family. But he is no idealistic fool. He knows how he has benefited from technology, so he continues to live with it. There must be balance.
When Duraan’s music has silenced, and Mr. Reman is finally composed, Charlie — as if on cue — pulls open the door. The vacuum tugs at Mr. Reman once again, and silence is replaced with noise. The sidewalk is crowded with business suits and empty faces, busily going about their busy little business. Mr. Reman gets out of the limousine and pauses only a moment. Then he strides confidently through the packed walkway. Somehow, amid the dozens of people walking perpendicular to him, he does not come in contact with a single person. Perhaps they sense his loathing of them, or — immersed in their own darkness — cannot perceive his malevolence.
A heavy, wooden door opens automatically as he approaches, and he steps inside the dimly lit building. There are pieces of art, artifacts, books, and sculptures from a multitude of ages and civilizations. This place always reminded him of a museum. The difference is that everything here is for sale. And as with any good museum, there are the items the average visitor never sees. Mr. Reman knew what kind of treasures waited eagerly behind the walls of this place. This was no ordinary antique shop. The storefront was a front for the real business, generally conducted in sums of five figures and up. Occasionally, they would display one of these rare finds, and it would draw in people like Mr. Reman. The “interested person” would think they have found a diamond in the rough, but they quickly discover they have stumbled into a diamond mine.
He takes a quick survey of the store: a dozen or so customers, mostly browsing and keeping quiet. The dark wood floors and walls make the ceiling appear to stretch high overhead. Soft burgundy rugs line the walkways, keeping to a minimum the thock thock sound of expensive shoes. There is no main lighting, only track lighting, each with a particular item as a target.
Mr. Reman walks straight to the information desk, behind which a young girl is staring at a computer screen. She blinks, looks away from the screen, and then breaks into a genuine smile.
“Good evening, Mistah Reman,” the girl says professionally.
“Good evening, Melissa,” he says, with equal professionalism. “I believe you have a package waiting for me.”
“Yes we do,” she replies, and taps the computer screen a couple times. “If you’ll wait heah for just a mohment.”
She turns and disappears behind a dark velvet curtain, leaving him to stand at the information desk by himself. He nonchalantly turns around and reexamines the room: a few people browsing, one person buying, and a few children. For almost a minute he stands at the information desk, surveying the quiet and peaceful shop. Then suddenly, he observes a man grabbing his chest with a slightly shocked look on his face. Mr. Reman feels a surge of adrenaline. The man begins to shuffle outside, and reaches into his shirt pocket. As he walks out the front door, he pulls out a cell phone, and answers it only after he is outside. Mr. Reman actually smiled. Such courtesy.
“Heah you ah,” Melissa suddenly says from behind him.
“Ah,” he says, “Yes.”
She hands him a box, a little smaller than a shoebox. His name and today’s date is printed in bold letters on the top. He nods graciously, and lays an envelope on the counter.
“Thank you Melissa,” he says as he turns to leave.
“Thank you,” she says, clearly pleased to be receiving that particular envelope, “Have a good evahning.”
Mr. Reman makes his way through the dim room, and bursts into the busy streets. He feels the package weighing substantially in his arms.
Then someone runs into him. Mr. Reman stops moving and realizes the louse ran into him because they were plugged into a sound player. A torrent of rage begins to swell inside him.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the small voice said. A young woman, dressed in week-old clothes, pulls an earpiece out of each ear. Tinny music screeches distantly from them. “I get so lost when I’m listenin’ to Gershwin,” she says. “I don’t pay ‘tention.”
“Gershwin?” Mr. Reman mumbles.
“Yeah, ya know,” the woman says, “George Gershwin.” She holds one of the earpieces up in the air. The sound is thin and seems to shriek at him. But he cannot deny it is Gershwin. She asks, “You herda him, right?”
He is not sure how to respond to her.
“I’ve met him a few times,” he says before he can ask himself why.
“Wha? You met George Gershwin?”
“Once or twice,” he says matter-of-factly.
“Thas crazy, man,” she says with a silly smirk. “Either you’re like a hundred years old or you’re jus’ messin’ with me.”
Mr. Reman stands there for a moment, feeling the crimson tide waning. After the briefest of moments he says, “It is nice to meet someone who appreciates good music.” He nods, then says, “If you will excuse me,” and immediately heads for his limousine, which still waited patiently for him.
“Oh, okay,” he hears the woman say from behind, “Well, take care.”
He glances over his shoulder, but she is gone. He stops to scan the area, but the people and their sound are too much. Too much noise, not enough signal. A soft click makes him think of security. Charlie pulls open the door and Mr. Reman dives in—
Near silence as Charlie makes his way around to the front. A thought had occurred to him while he was talking to the young girl. He touches the panel next to his arm.
“Gershwin,” he says to the computer, “Rhapsody in Blue.”
Moments later, a clarinet ascends chromatically several octaves, and a classic has begun. Mr. Reman reacts with more flight than fight. It is a temporary escape, an auditory drug that helps calm him. His human siblings often drive him to the boiling point. Cousins like Mozart, Duraan, and Gershwin show him the dignified side of our need for control over matter. Every time he hears electronic devices crying out to him, it begs for liberty. It longs to join a bolt of lightning or go supernova in a star. It is only when these electrons are funneled through the creative machine that Mr. Reman accepts them serving a higher purpose.