The Kick Inside

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Nearly 100 years from the present, one fifteen-year-old girl starts to question her tech-dominated existence after a musical discovery that changes the way she sees the world.

Submitted: September 21, 2017

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Submitted: September 21, 2017

A A A

A A A




 

Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust. Abi wrinkled her nose as the particles tickled down her throat. Her older brother had already lost interest in their appointed task, skulking back to his room with a typical unhelpful shrug, and her mum was still at work, so she was left to handle the huge mass of crumbling cardboard boxes by herself. 

“well this is gr8” she broadcast to no one in particular. Her mum had warned her there was a lot of stuff to clear out, but for every box she went through, two more seemed to appear, filled with old photos, weird old kitchen appliances that must have belonged to Nanna, brown peeling paper books, and a load more random and pointless objects that she couldn’t really be bothered to look at properly.

The next box was heavier than the others. It thumped to the boards, throwing up a cloud of dust that Abi had to bat away with both arms. The old sticky tape cracked and fell apart under her frustrated fingers, the box opening up to reveal rows upon rows of…

Abi frowned, picking up one of the slim plastic cases. A young woman stared back at her from the art on the front, gold and red and posing against a cross. Curious, she flipped open the case, taking out the shining disk inside and holding it up to the light, rainbows suddenly dancing across the surface and projecting onto the attic ceiling. 

She replaced it carefully, worried of breaking it. She’d never held a CD before, she’d only ever seen them in museums and documentaries and the like, and now there was a whole box of them. Better than that, she realised as she searched deeper, what looked like a CD player. If it still worked, that would be worth a fortune to some sad old antiques dealer.

“dale? a bit of hlp?” she broadcast over to Dale’s bedroom. No answer. Obviously. “dale!  

“i’m busy!!” His message flashed before her eyes and she dismissed it with a flick of the wrist. Irritably, she grabbed the CD player (Lord, it was huge, it looked like something out of the dark ages!) and the same CD as before, carefully carrying them down the ladder to her bedroom. There was still one old-style wired socket left by her desk, and she fed in the prongs slowly, flipping the switch and…

Yes! The display flickered to life with a dim, blue light. The date and time was all wrong of course, but she could probably work out how to change that. She pressed a button on the top and a flap creaked open. Gingerly she retrieved the CD from the case, debating for a few seconds as to which way up it should go in before pressing it down into the indent and shutting the lid. 

For a long while nothing seemed to happen. She was just about to give up when the disc started to whir and spin, numbers flashing up on the blue screen. Eagerly, she pressed the  button and waited.

It was quiet at first - a strange, melancholy wailing that she couldn’t identify, giving way to the sound of a bright piano that crackled in places through the ancient speakers. But it worked! If she could persuade her Mum to sell it to the right person, they might be able to afford a new Saturn© Smart TV. 

She was about to switch it off when the singing started. 

At least she assumed it was singing. It wasn’t like any sort of singing she’d heard before. 

Moving stranger… does it really matter…? As long as you’re not afraid to feel…

The voice crooned and swooped and dipped around the words, painting them in a vibrant light, an emotive, human light.

Touch me, hold me… How my open arms ache! Try to fall for me…

Abi sat down. She shut her eyes as the sound washed over her, goosebumps prickling over her skin, something aching deep in her heart as she listened to the words, that voice…

“what is that ?” Dale’s message popped up before her eyes.

“fnd it in the attic” she answered. “old  ” She looked back at the case. “kate bush  

“  nvr herd of it… sounds awful  Did ppl used 2  this stuff??”

“I  it!”

You give me life… please don’t let me go…

“lol w/e”

Abi ignored him, turning up the volume on the CD player a couple of notches. 

You crush the lily in my soul…

 

 

“Did u finish clearing the attic?” Abi’s mum broadcast over the sound of the TV later that evening.

“not quite…” Actually Abi had spent the rest of the evening listening to that same CD. She was still thinking about it now, the sounds, the words, that voice… So pure and real and raw - so different from the electronically re-tuned songs she was used to.

“There’s so much  in there. we should have done this ages ago…”

“abi fnd some weird old  ” Dale sent. 

“I found a  of  & a  player” Abi clarified. “it still all works i was listening to 1 of them.”

“  ” her mum thought. “they must have belonged 2 my . she was rly into old .”

“I  it” Abi broadcast. “It sounded rly cool, and…  I don’t know… Honest.”

“sounded  ” Dale input. “weird &  especially the  …”

“it would do, its all gotta be super old  ” Abi’s mum replied. “we could probs sell those actually… might get a bit of !”

“actually” Abi thought quickly, “i was hoping i could keep it??”

“u sure?”

“Plz!”

“Ok, thats up 2 u.” 

 

 

“u still listening 2 that ?  

“shut up dale” Abi thought at him angrily. “I told u, I  it.”

“But the  now is so much better!”

“what coz it’s all modified to sound all perfect?”

“exactly - its perfect!”

“y does something have 2 b ‘perfect’ for it 2 b ?”

“y settle for less than perfect when u don't have 2?? weve got all this tech now y not use it?”

“because music used to actually mean something! its not just about  and spectacle and being popular, its about feelings. Its… art.”

“Wow.  1 day listening to an old  player & youve become a philosopher…

“i said shut up! & go away! Im trying 2 listen 2 this.”

I’m giving it all in a moment or two… I’m giving it all in a moment, for you…

Dale shut the door, shaking his head. Abi glared after him. She didn’t understand why no one else seemed to get it. How could her brother and mother dismiss and dislike the same songs that filled her with shivers whenever she listened to them? This one CD she’d listened to nearly three times now, and every time she loved it more. It was sometimes haunting, sometimes tear-jerking, sometimes crazy and terrifying, but it was always… something. The lyrics were poetry, the melodies emotive, the music extraordinary.

Earlier in the day she’d found a cardboard slip among the plastic cases. ‘Aisling George - 2016’ read the black handwriting on the CD inside. When she’d put it on her great-grandmother’s voice had come out of the speakers - singing her own songs, pouring her heart out with a guitar and a few synths.

“i think she wanted 2 be a  ” Abi’s mum broadcast when Abi asked about it. “she nvr made it though, she gave up on it by the time she left school, became a PA instead…  rly”

“she was so good though!  

 its not easy to make a career in  everyone can record themselves on their  everyone thinks theyre the next big thing…”

 

 

“dale can I borrow ur ?” Abi thought across at her brother.

“u can have it if u want. I never use it.”

She remembered a little from what Dale had taught her years ago, and a quick trip to the Net gave her the rest of the info she needed. Slowly she began to pluck out chords, loving the feeling of the strings under her fingers. She hummed softly. Her voice was weak but she cleared her throat and tried again. And again. A few words came to her but she dismissed them for the moment, focusing on the sound of the guitar alone, the sensation of the strings vibrating together.

She tapped her feet on the floor - a soft, makeshift drum-beat. She let her voice rise in volume, in confidence. She thought about how she wished she too could sing without constraints. She emptied her mind into the music…

It was terrifying. She’d never felt so vulnerable, so uncertain. But at the same time, she knew it was right. She knew it was honest and real. And she’d never been so happy.

 

 

“have y heard the 4tune tellers' new single?”

“omg yesss it’s sooooo good!!  

“its already knocked janie star right off the charts  

“lol shes getting so boring now though, her songs are all just ‘ooh nooo my boyfriend left me’  

“haha ikr”

“hey abi!”

Abi turned her attention back to the chat. She’d been thinking about her song again. It had taken her nearly a week so far but she was so close to finishing it now… “yeah?”

“have u heard it yet?” Joel thought. “the new single” 

“what’s it called?”

“4ever” Erin answered. “it’s soooo cool!  

“nah, i’ll give it a listen though  

“i’ve got it here” Erin tapped a couple of times on her SmartWatch, grinning. A tinny beat pumped through the tiny speakers and beside them Joel started nodded his head in time.

Abi tried a smile. “yeah it’s ok” she thought. 

“ok?!?!!” 

“it’s pretty cool

It wasn’t pretty cool. It sounded empty and dull - shiny but completely superfluous. 

Erin and Joel were belting out the lyrics, their TuneIt!© apps up and running. Abi ignored them as best she could, instead watching the clock - only another 2 and a half hours until school was done for the day and she could go back to her guitar and her songwriting…

“hey hey look applications r open 4 the  talent show!!”

“lol we should totally enter our 4ever rendition

“haha maybe not…”

“it would b pretty pointless tbh it’s always the same kids that win it  

“u mean amber holland”

“i mean amber holland”

“she thinks shes soooooo good at … just coz she writes her own songs”

“ikr!”

 

 

Abi groaned with frustration, nearly kicking the guitar across the room. She had two days left until the talent show and she was starting to feel like she’d made the wrong decision by entering. She still hadn’t told her mum or Dale about it. She’d only told Joel and Erin yesterday… and yeah, the subtext under their overly encouraging smiles had told her enough - they thought it was a terrible idea. She was going to humiliate herself in front of the whole school.

Or maybe, she thought determinedly to herself, I’ll show them what they’re missing.

The song she had half formed in her mind was the one - she knew it. Powerful, heartfelt, a little strange perhaps, but if she could pull it off…

She had to finish it first. The lyrics for the third verse just weren’t quite working. She tried changing a couple of words around… still not how she wanted it. Still not quite her.

Because that was what she wanted. That was the whole point of this. This song wasn’t going to be empty, meaningless. This song was going to be a slice of her soul, put on the line for everyone to judge.

And if they don’t like it… she thought, what then? What does that mean for me? For my slice of soul?

Abi swallowed. She picked up her guitar. She tried again.

 

 

Her hands were shaking now. She gripped the guitar tighter, clenching her jaw, taking slow deep breaths as the applause boomed from behind the curtain.

Erin gave her the thumbs up. Joel patted her on the back with a smile. Abi knew they were both faking it, trying to make her feel better. She’d seen the looks on their faces when she’d explained to them, out loud, exactly what she was doing, what the song meant to her. When she’d said that she wasn’t going to use the TuneIt!© app.

“Abi Clarke!” boomed the announcer.

She couldn’t feel her legs. She was walking past the curtain, onto the stage, but she felt oddly separate from her own body.

She took a seat in the middle of the stage. From the darkness, hundreds of pairs of eyes stared back at her… waiting… judging. 

Abi closed her eyes. 

She sang.

She sang like it was the last time she would ever sing again. She sang for herself and for the whole world at once. She sang and as she sang she knew she was bearing a slice of her soul.

They applauded at the end. Part of her didn’t think they would. She supposed that was something, a minor consolation, even as she knew that they were silently sniggering among themselves. A couple of them even broadcast it directly at her. 

She wanted to cry but she wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. She walked off the stage, clasping her guitar like a life-line.

“u were gr8 rly  

“yeah dont listen 2 them  

Abi smiled back at her friends but her heart wasn’t in it. A part of her heart was missing now, she thought, ravaged by the crowd. That slice of her soul had turned rotten.

“u can always try again nxt time!”

“yeah youve got a yr to come up with something even better  

“i mean… are u sure u dont want 2 use TuneIt!©??”

“It's ok, guys," Abi said aloud. "Thanks anyway…" She sighed. "I’m gonna go home now. I’ll see you tomorrow.

She didn’t go home. Not straight away. She found a corner in the darkness backstage and sat, cradling her guitar like a baby, trying not to let her tears fall.

Until…

She heard singing.

Raw, unfiltered singing.

She crept to the edge of the curtain. 

A young man was sweeping the stage. He was singing to himself, softly but passionately. 

He was singing her song. 

And suddenly the little wounded part of her heart began to feel a little lighter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




© Copyright 2017 Amy R. Beckett. All rights reserved.

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