• 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.

  • ...



A harsh, searing light violates my eyes as they drift open. Reflexively they snap shut, but I force my eyelids apart anyway. Squinting against the blinding beams, I roll my purple pupils around in their sockets. I can still hear the faintest tickle of violins and a laugh that makes my stomach flex and tighten. I lift myself up onto my right hoof and instantly regret it as an acute, shooting pain stabs my joints and buckles the leg, forcing myself onto my back.

Staring blankly at the hoof in pain, I find it red and throbbing -- not a good sign at all. I guess that all that frenzied writing really did a number on me. Crawling out of bed (and being careful not to put any pressure on my injured appendage), I am forced to use my mouth to make the bed -- an activity I haven’t performed orally in years. Doing it now, after all those years, I remember why I found the practice distasteful -- literally. The sheets taste like an unholy combination of lint and detergent that makes me spit out the covers in disgust.

As much as I hate leaving the bed unmade, I decide to just leave it be for now and go back to my masterpiece. Even as the chuckle of the conductor echoes through my head I plow on, eager to continue what will without a doubt be my definitive musical work. Weary as I may be, I must finish and leave my mark on the world. I will not become another anonymous thing, one grain of sand on the beach, baking under the hot sun into nothing.

Approaching my desk, the evidence of my fervor is scattered about the room. Ink dots the floor and the desk, the blackness marring the aged lacquer of the floor in a polka-dot pattern. I sigh frustratedly. That is not going to be easy to get out.

Repressing my frustrations, I approach my desk with no small amount of reverence. I look at the strewn-about pages, covered top to bottom in barely-intelligible scrawl, and resist the urge to smirk. I am quite the artist, but this chicken scratch is positively avant garde. I could probably sell it at one of those uppity hipster-pony galleries for far too many bits than it’s worth. I might just make enough to retire comfortably to someplace warm -- maybe with a nice, private beach.

But I will not allow my masterpiece, the one single, solitary thing that will forever immortalize my name, to rot on some undeserving pony’s wall for eternity. No, my genius deserves to be shared with the world. The very thought of ponies lining up for miles, cheering my name as I bask in the radiant glow of splendor makes a new vigor course through my veins.

A determined smile plays its way across my lips as I wobble up in front of the desk. I take a deep breathe. Remember, I think, this is for fame and fortune! An unquenchable fire blazes to life in my purple eyes. Brazen, bold, I pick up my pen with a flourish of delight. I can already hear the fanfare, the trumpets calling out to the world a message of joy and splendor! I raise my quill to the page and...


The hall is silent. The band refuses to play. Oh well, nothing more than a little bit of leftover writer’s block. Of course the music can’t be gone -- I just need to find it, force it out. Remember, I tell myself, this is only the most important thing you’ve ever done in your whole entire life. I try to recall the violin from last night. Maybe if I remember where I left off, I can just pick up from there. I breathe heavily and concentrate, willing the sound of the strings to invade my mind again. But I still hear silence.

I roll my eyes, realizing I could have simply looked at the written music the whole time. I guess the ring of the music that only last night burst from my head is keeping me from thinking clearly. Oh well. Chuckling breathily I recant last night’s compositions, sorting through the furious scrawlings of a madpony. The music is right here in front of me, yet the band still will not play. The strings do not lift their bows, the horns do not raise their brass tubes to their lips, and the conductor -- whose back is turned to me -- does not lift his baton.

Sighing in frustration, I pick up the quill. If I can’t let the music flow out of me, I’ll just have to force it out. I eke out a choppy string of notes, pressing the quill into the parchment far harder than necessary. The musicians stay hauntingly silent, their stoic faces taunting me, daring me to try and coerce them into playing.

The notes I jot down are unorganized, spastic, unfitting. Try as I might, no dots fit into the parameters of my playing. For what’ it’s worth, I might as well have dashed my head against the side of the table and smeared the blood onto the paper -- at least then there would be some telltale sign of emotion then.

I consider the prospect for a moment, but perish the thought. I still have a masterpiece to write. How would my work be remembered for all time if I were too injured to write it? Laughing at my own foolishness, I try to recall once more the chilling violin that clung to my mind last night. At first, only a few scattered plucks can be heard grazing the shroud of silence.

Ah, there it is, I think. Slowly but surely the bowing pitches worm through the veil and float up from the depths of my head, fluttering this way and that as they break the surface and pop like bubbles as they alight themselves onto the paper through my hooves. A fresh current of ecstasy rushes through my veins, and I become lost as notes dart this way and that through my subconscious.

But wait. The notes are melting, retreating back to the deep as if somepony has tied bricks around them. They sink with ever-increasing speed. I try to pull at them, but they are grabbed by a bony hoof, pulled down into nothing where they are lost. I try calling for them, but I realize that I too am underwater, sucked into the greedy vortex along with my music.

From the deep arises the same demonic laughter from last night. Notes of a violin become a screeching wail that hurts my ears, even with the water to muffle it. I try to cover my ears only to find that I can’t move. As I am pulled downward into the watery nothingness, I see the same triangular eyes of the conductor. He speaks, but I only hear the shriek of strings, pulsing in my head and paralyzing my body as I fall down into emptiness. His possessed howl is all I hear around me as the pressure it creates crushes my skull--

I scream, falling to my side onto the floor as my legs flail out, kicking wildly. I lay there gasping for air, pawing desperately at the floor just to be sure that it is still there. My eyes, wider than dinner plates, dart about the room searching for any sign of that piercing roar that dragged me down into the depths of the oceanic oblivion. But of course, my room is the same, save a dropped quill and myself. I let out a pathetic whimper to reassure myself that I can still hear. The voice of the conductor that seems to be haunting me is just a mechanical whine in my ear now, ignorable as an insect.

But it seemed so real... I felt the waters as they closed around my limp form. I heard the laughter as it rattled my bones. I saw those blood red eyes, running my soul through without pause as they locked onto mine. Those crimson orbs, unwavering in the darkness, swallowing me alive as my screams were rushed away by the imaginary current--

The eyes blink. The conductor whirls about on his podium and thrusts his hands skyward. The band responds in time, tensing themselves and lifts their instruments at the ready. His hands drop and my head explodes with the rattle of harsh horns and strings. Still sitting dumbly on the floor, my ears twitch anxiously as the flitting hum of flutes dart in and out of the wall made by the strings, adding sparkling specks of softness.

The horns crescendo again, bringing my mind back from its reverie. It’s then that it dawns on me that my music, my masterpiece, is slipping away into nothingness because I’m simply sitting there and doing nothing. I rush to the table and ignore the ernest complaint from my hoof as I pick up a pen once more and strike the page, writing down the dots as fast as my mind can comprehend them. Violins, this time in tones unpossessed by some mad conductor, punch solid waves into the concert hall. A single cello keeps a rhythmic beat, allowing its brethren to wander about aimlessly, adding occasional bursts of sound, curtailing the melody smoothly.

My breath comes in short, ragged gasps. The previous night, the music’s thudding against my temples was brilliance in physical form. Now, though, all the pounding is pain, dull and aching. My head and hoof are smarting madly, but the music refuses to stop. The conductor’s baton waves about, heralding the rise and fall of the sound like an ocean’s tides.

He ignores my suffering and draws his conducting stick horizontally, cutting off the band and leaving a harsh silence in the air. Said silence, unable to support itself, falls onto my shoulders and crushes me, stomps the air out of my lungs and leaves me leaving over my work, choking and gasping in the oppressive lull.

By the time I am able to sputter out a curse at my state, the music has already begun again. Tubas drive the beat forward, sending staccato quarter notes slamming into my skull. The rest of the brass joins in for a massive rise, filling my head with so much sound it feels like I will explode.

The brass dies out, and the clarinets and flutes pick up into a... polka? I snap my head up in confusion, and my neck cries out in pain. Ignoring for now the pulsing throb in my spinal cord, I turn my focus inward. I am utterly shocked and confused as the brass picks up again, this time in a jovial march. Trombones pour out a steady melody while the rest of the band puts forth a hoof-tapping step. So thrown am I by the sudden shift in mood that I stop writing for a moment and simply listen to the music in awestruck silence. A tiny smile worms its way onto my lips as the baritones dance around gleefully. It’s almost like he band is a part of some ironic farce, pouring out a happy facade even as they prepare to unleash another roiling explosion of harsh, volatile music.

Hey, that’s a good idea.

The bandleader seems to think so as well. The polka descends into a restlessly increasing tempo smothered by a reeling trumpet, blasting a lone wail over the din. The chords take a turn for the foreboding as clarinets flash up and down the scale, a wild glissando fading into a shimmering crash of a cymbal. The last note leaves my head vibrating like a bell.

The polka picks up once more, but there is a sinister undertone to the seemingly joyous racket. I can feel the conductor grimace with every shock of music that falls like a lightening bolt from a clear sky. The blows of the music send sharp splices of pain through my already swollen hoof as each blare of the trumpets makes the already swollen appendage bow under the strain to write down each and every note that sails through my head.

Sensing my pain, the conductor mercifully relents his barrage. The music dies to a soft, angelic chorus sung by piccolos. For what it’s worth, they sound like angels, descending on rays of light to heal my injuries. The brass dies in favor of the much more subdued tinkling of a piano at the forefront of the melody. My mind, which has spent the better part of Celestia knows how long being assaulted by an imaginary noise, takes the reprieve enthusiastically.

Slumping down against the ink-stained desk, I sigh as my hoof, still errantly dotting notes onto the page (though now at a much more reduced pace), relaxes a bit. For the first time since beginning my masterpiece I can finally sit back and listen to the music that is pouring out of my head like my cranium is a leaky faucet. Closing my eyes halfway, I tune out the scratching of quill against paper and really listen to the music.

I smile against the noise. It is my masterpiece, my greatest achievement -- and I have a private performance of it all to myself! Soon enough ponies will be clamouring for tickets to hear this grand spectacle of musical achievement, and here I sit, honored to be the sole audience of its first ever performance. I want to giggle with glee, but I repress it, lest it disrupt the symphony-in-progress.

Yet, even as I revel in my imminent glory, I can’t help but feel this nagging bite in the back of my head. Something with the instruments seems off -- every note they proclaim covers up a tiny whine, almost like a whisper in my ear that I can’t quite hear. My attempts to single out the hum as a single off key player resolves nothing. The annoying hiss continues, despite my attempts to eradicate it. It almost seems like something is murmuring, chanting just softly enough to not be heard.

This won’t do at all. This is my masterpiece, how dare some rogue instrumentalist try to ruin it? I close my eyes and concentrate. The music grows softer, while the chant slowly increases its volume. I am leaving up and off of my chair now, vainly hoping that straining my already-strained ears will help decipher the origin of the whisper. I’m so close to hearing the voice now -- I can almost hear it now, forming almost tangible words. So close--

I am so caught up in the hum that I hardly notice the conductor chuckle darkly as he raises his baton and drives it down.

My head splits open as the band erupts, sound exploding out of their instruments like magma from an erupting volcano. My pen is dropped, and I clutch my head in agony as timpani and cymbals and horns shatter the quiet and shake the walls of my skull. The music is no longer music -- just a screaming that batters my head like I am being punched from the inside-out.

I am torn down by an army of parasprites, shrieking their shrill calls in time with the rippling bursts of the drums. My room becomes a single grain of powder in a stick of dynamite. It detonates, flinging me off of my chair and into space. For a moment I am suspended in air, unable to even blink as the conductor drives him baton down once more.

His conducting stick comes down again and again and again. Each time I become a fly, splattered on a newspaper. Every hit turns me into a droplet of water as it is pounded against the shoreline, carried by a tsunami of screaming, wailing cries. I am flung again and again into a dark wall, every hit coming so close to killing me, yet backing off just as my vision begins to blur.

Writhing about on the floor I scream and moan in pain. I clutch my head, tear at my mane, rip at my fur. I must get into my head. I must crush the band that resides there. The conductor laughs, the same mirthless, spine-chilling chuckle that makes my hooves curl and my blood run cold. I try to scream, but it goes unheard in the cacophonous roar of a million howling souls. An army of brass and drums screeches into my ears--

Wait a minute.

That’s it. More brass and drums.

All at once the wails stop. The pain, so poignant in its delivery, so all-encompassing in its devastation, ceases at the flick of a switch. Silence, a steel veil of oppression, smacks into my head, shrouds my thoughts, blurs my vision. The harsh quiet is almost just as bad as the noise for a moment, but it soon fades to a manageable hum. It seems as though the conductor approves of my new direction.

Shakily, I approach the table. Pages of music, faded and smeared with ink, lay as the sole witness to the mind-made battery I have suffered. If it weren’t for my own struggle and the throbbing headache that pressed hot pokers into my temples, I would not have even thought it had happened at all. I find it funny -- the episode that nearly crushes me mentally leaves no evidence of its very existence physically.

Brass and drums, brass and drums, I think, picking up the quill once more and shakily putting it only the paper, silently praying that the music won’t pick up so badly. I hear a light bump as the baritone hum of a french horn jumps into the forefront, bopping up and down to an upbeat tempo. I sigh in relief -- perhaps this part will be an interlude, a break for my weary mind. As if to confirm my thoughts, a parade of piccolos pipes up from the background, putting my mind at ease as the lovely (but more importantly quiet) orchestra fills my head with a gentle lullaby.

My muscles relax, and for the first time today I feel like I can finally collect myself. The music luls a yawn out of me. Good heavens, a yawn. I force myself to at least half-focus on the music. Don’t want to get too complacent, after all. I do my best to keep some of my attention back to the band. It’s only then that I notice the conductor, new vigor emanating from his body in waves, raise his baton once more, prepared to drive it down and unleash another deafening roar.

I sigh again, this time in defeated realization.

It’s going to be a long day.