• Published 18th Mar 2013
  • 1,883 Views, 42 Comments

Music and Madness - Bandy

The conductor takes his bows, smiling with pointed teeth as he drives me to insanity.

  • ...


-- Exposition

To some, a blank sheet of paper is an invitation -- a call to action to sully the blank slate and create something of their own devise, to stain the void with the essence of one’s self. It is only natural to want to leave one’s mark -- to let the world know that one was there, if only for the briefest of moments -- be it art or poetry or in my case, music. To most people, empty parchment is a provocation to make something out of nothing.

In my case, though, all the white void on my desk does is taunt me. It laughs at me, jeers at my unwillingness to put pen to paper. If only it would understand that my inability to compose is solely the fault of my stupid head not cooperating with my stupid hooves, not any fault of my own. I even tried telling it so a few times. But it still refuses to listen, insisting on belittling my attempts at musical composition.

It’s not like I want to be stuck in a rut -- more like a valley -- of writer’s block. After that disastrous appearance at the Grand Galloping Gala last year, I’ve been unable to piece together anything more than a four-chord children’s nursery rhyme, much less the epic sonatas that my constituents expect from such a well-known musical mare as I. My success as a composer (as well as the amount of fame that my name will command once I am gone) hinges on the blotches of ink that I put onto this parchment.

I mean sure, I’ve made music before. Most of it has been very well received by the community at large, too. In fact, I’ve achieved a level of notoriety that most other ponies would kill for. But it’s not nearly enough. I need to make something so blinding, so scathing, so absolutely timeless that the name “Octavia” will forever be etched into the walls of musical history. I will make them remember my name.

I look over at the candle stationed on the edge of my desk, the lone defender against the inky darkness of the night that threatens to cut off my work early. The flame, flickering on a stub of string and wax, reminds me of my own career -- Fledgling, frail. Once my masterpiece is complete, the waning light will become an immortal flame, forever blazing atop a golden torch. I can hear it now -- the crowds, speechless with awe, crying with passion, applauding uproariously, chanting my name. Their cries echo in my head as they beg for more. “Octavia! Octavia!”

The flame flickers, and I am brought back to the world. I turn back to my masterpiece, remembering that it is still just a blank sheet of parchment, still just a tiny flame in a sea of darkness. Sighing, I stare menacingly at the paper, hoping against hope that the notes have been there all along, etched into the folds and creases, waiting for me to highlight them.

They aren’t.

Disappointment washes over me in a wave, nearly drowning the flickering candlelight. In the half-darkness I am left with bleary eyes and a masterpiece that refuses to be written. I can’t even get out the Exposition to the blasted thing, how am I supposed to write an entire sonata like this? The hopelessness of my quest drags a frustrated huff from my lips.

I turn my eyes to the candle, still burning dimly on the corner of the desk. Will my life be destined to be nothing but a flash in the pan? Will the ponies of the future never know the genius of my musical talents? Why must I be the one to burn so brightly then fade to black like I’m nothing more than a passing phase? I am not like the ponies of the hip-hop industry. I am timeless!


Flash in the pan

fade to nothing

That’s it! The floodgates explode in a shower of imaginary mortar and stone, finally loosing my pent-up creativity into my waiting mind. I only have time to smile deliriously before I snatch up a pen in trembling hooves and settle into my craft, blotting the nothingness with note upon note upon note of what is sure to be regarded for future generations to come as the prime, unsullied example of musical genius. I can hear it now -- a massive, blaring crescendo rises to shake the ground. As trumpets blare out a wall of sound the earth rattles with the roar of timpani and drums. Trombones that raise their bells to pierce the sky with sound proclaim to the heavens that the music of Octavia has finally begun.

Then, the sound fades just as quickly as it began, leaving a stunned, stupefied silence. Before I can draw in a gasp that has been unknowingly forced out of my lungs, flutes flutter in, tickling the still shaking walls of my mind with flittering bursts of sound. The notes float like butterflies around me, captivating my flabbergasted eyes.

The pen runs out of ink, and I rush for more. I can hear the music, reverberating in my head like my skull has become a bell -- oh, a bell’s chime would work nicely there -- in a church tower. My hooves vibrate in time with the tolling, frantically jotting down the notes as they bob to the surface of my mind. I must hurry to capture them, put them onto paper before they are weighted down and sink again, lost to my own incompetence.

The parchment that once mocked me now sits silent and splattered in hastily scribbled dots. With my hooves a blur and my mind filled with the cacophonous racket of a forty-piece orchestra fighting hoof and nail to get out, a smile finally breaks through my taught features. Even as my clumsy hooves try desperately to keep up with the sounds in my head, a happy thought somehow manages to break through all the chaos.

This is going to make me immortal.

The ponies of the imaginary orchestra all nod their heads in agreement, never ceasing their playing as they do. Their agreement gives me a new vigor that my hoof immediately picks up on, sending it into a flurry of precisely-placed spasms. My smile becomes scrunched in concentration, and my eyes try (and fail) to keep up with the slate-grey blur that my right foreleg has become.

The music begins to pick up once more, the baritone blare of french horns forcing their way through the chirps of the flutes, pushing back the high-pitched buzzes in favor of a richer, deeper sound that fills the hall with warmth and intimate ambience. I wipe a bead of sweat from my brow with my unused hoof, them stare at the matted stain dumbly. I can’t ever recall composition being a physically demanding experience.

But of course, this is my masterpiece. It’s bound to be different. I can stand getting a little sweaty if it means an eternity of fame.

The horns start to diminish, leaving a void that the tubas fill with tooth-rattling zeal. Their shattering, mournful wails warn of some great impending danger. They are war-horns, calling an army to battle. My hoof cramps, but I soldier on through the uncomfortable tugging in my tendons. I can already feel the ecstatic buzz that comes along with inspiration start to fade, leaving me a shell, spent of my energy and my music. The tubas fade, leaving a steady marching tempo taken by the clarinets. They lead the army to the field, where they are relieved by fifes and drums.

Two armies converge with a great fanfare of fire. Shadowy figures, brave soldiers of some unknown republic, fall dead, slain to the tune of cannons and cold steel. The fifes continue to keep time above the tremendous pounding, pushing new figures forth as they march to slaughter. My hoof tingles, and pins prick my skin as it loses feeling. But it refuses to stop, moving of its own accord, spasmodically clutching the pen as it rushes the notes to paper. The relentless barrage of cannons fades to the dull roar of timpani, hammering out a mournful march as the dead are tallied. A lone trumpet cries out in sorrow, heralding the thin, dragging sound of chains. The dead are still marching -- marching to the afterlife. A misty, shrouded oblivion that swallows up the shadows. A piercing, demonic laugh slices through the night and stabs at my eardrums--

My hoof suddenly stops, heralding a dull, throbbing ache that will surely hurt a lot worse tomorrow. But my focus is not on my ailing appendage, rather the terrifying scream that makes every last hair on my body stand at rigid attention. The chaotic chuckle seemed apart from the tremendous torrent of music in my mind’s eye. It seemed real. It wasn’t just the imaginary flow of flutes and the ring of marimbas. This had substance, displacing the warm, humid air with ice that slithered down my back.

Music forgotten entirely, I drop the pen and skitter over to the open window adjacent to the desk. Positioning myself on the sill, I peer out nervously into the night. The only light comes from the moon, full of vitality and a silver glow that bathes the street below in haunting silver light. In my paranoia the shadows turn into spirits, weaving their way towards me, reaching out with black, bony appendages, squeezing my throat until I cannot breathe--

I release the breath I didn’t realize I was holding. The shadows are just shadows, they are not out to get me. No matter how much they resembled some long-forgotten spectre, filled with death and cannonfire, choking the mare responsible for bringing its suffering into creation, they will not distract me from my masterpiece.

The warm midnight breeze fills my mane like a sail. I turn to look at it, only then realizing how much my fervor has taken its tole on my appearance. Stray strands of already dark hair leap up and out of normal order, stained and sticky, marred with ink. Stray splotches dot my legs, clotting the grey fur together in odd clumps.

The sadistic laugh is still in my ears, a hollow ring that blots out the whine of the waking world. A lone violin pierces the night, its strings possessed by a demon long gone from this world. The angry, sarcastic whine of the bow against strings drags me from my search. I must finish my masterpiece.

I shuffle back to the desk and look at the papers. They hold no interest any longer. My only wish is to sleep, sleep forever and forget that horrid laugh that made my blood turn to dry ice and stick in my veins. I try jotting down the stray, random chords that the sadistic string plays, but I am utterly spent. The pen falls from my hoof and my thoughts are consumed by the thought of warm covers, a nice hot shower, and a warm cup of tea.

Scratch the tea. And the shower. I’m too tired to do anything but sleep. My eyes fall on the royal purple bed sheets as I levitate toward them, caught in a trance. The music that haunts my head is gone, replaced by a cold silence that stifles any thoughts but that of rest. Laying my head down onto the pillow, I fall almost instantly into a shallow state, not yet alseep, but too alert to be awake. The sound of shuffling feet and a muffled shout echo between my ears. The band wavers, sets their instruments aside to reach for their music.

The sound of paper, discarded and shifted, rings through the hall. The old sheets are incinerated the instant they are touched, leaving ample room for the next score. A director decked out in a stunning black tuxedo of ink-black and pearl-white turns to me. His eyes are the first thing to catch my attention. Sharp, blood-red, fierce, arrogant, they chide me without words or cause. My skin prickles again, despite being under the plush purple comforter.

Seeming to know that he has gotten my attention, he smiles. That’s when I see his teeth, yellow and sharp like a lion’s. These are the jaws of a predator, grinning with the satisfaction of an easy kill. His tongue flicks menacingly across the rows of incisors, eagerly awaiting the moment I fall into uneasy sleep.

He tries to form sentences with his flicking tongue and mangled mouth, but his words become the shocking squeal of a violin, strings scratching against the bow in a horrendous display of noise.

He laughs again, the same diabolic wail that boils white-hot panic in my belly. I try to scream, but I am already fast asleep.