PC 7032, Martin Strurgess, was the first on the scene. The dead man was slumped over the table he’d apparently been writing at. The officer’s first duty was to secure the scene and put in the call to the coroner’s office. An initial cursory scan of the room revealed no indications of foul play but these things were always such a laborious task and had to be done by the book.
The neighbour who’d called the police came running out to meet Sturgess out the front upon his arrival, agitated with excitement at the situation. The small, bald-headed fellow with half-moon reading glasses said the occupant, whom he hadn’t seen coming or going for days, was Frederick Cireman. “A hopeless drunk,” the neighbour informed him as Sturgess shouldered the shabby front door open and entered the property. “Though at one time quite a famous classical composer, by all accounts,” the neighbour continued to shout down the hallway, loitering at the front step. Sturgess himself knew little of such things and the name meant nothing to him.
The cold, small room at the rear of the house was sparsely furnished. A table and chair, shelves of books. Ill-fitting yellow curtains hung in the tiny window that looked out over the shambolic back yard and beyond that, the tower blocks of Birmingham city. That was just about it. Frederick Cireman was slumped over the table, a string of solidified saliva hung from the corner of his mouth from where early signs of decomposition had begun to eat away at the flesh. Scattered about in front of Cireman were numerous sheets of musical paper on which he’d been evidently composing in pencil. Sturgess leaned over being careful not to touch anything around the body until the coroner had arrived and sniffed the glass of clear liquid next to Cireman’s head along with a cigarette stub in an ashtray. The drink was certainly vodka. There was an orange coloured pencil, the end typically chewed on, lying on the floor next to Cireman’s foot with its nib broken; probably when it had struck the tiled floor.
His vision was out of focus. He could focus his eyes if he wanted to but he preferred to simply sit there, catatonic with the room all a blur around him, not wanting to move. Lethargic, blissful, on the edge of the abyss. He could hear the constant sound of the city in the distance. It wasn’t traffic. It wasn’t anything in particular. There was the noise of traffic. But it was no one single thing. It was traffic and it was everything else as well. It was a constant amalgamation of sounds that formed the perpetual throbbing transmission of the city. Like the heat of a summer’s day, it was just there, simmering in the background. Life palpitating, striving for supremacy over murder and violence and starvation and disease; like cells breeding in a Petri dish.
Frederick Cireman’s last opera, The Emperor of Lozells, had been slated by the critics. He acknowledged he wasn’t what he used to be. His muse had deserted him long ago. He no longer had any idea who she even was or what had become of her. He knew nothing of the world she now resided in.
Miranda was like a viper, she was best left alone. Her pretty colours concealed venom. There was no reasoning with her because she was subject to her own neurotic psychology. She was a collision of beauty and nastiness. Quite frankly she was a predator. That is, beautiful on the outside as predatory animals so often are – but vicious to the core. Vicious because she did not prey for purposes of survival, as does the hawk. She preyed out of misplaced malice. She would perceive the slightest ambiguous or even innocuous comment as a laser-guided insult and because of this she charged anyone who’d gotten too close as a worthy recipient of her revenge. She viewed herself as sensitive but was in fact crippled by narcissism. Miranda’s sexual exploits provided her with no real inner satisfaction, they were exercises intended to bolster her fragile ego. Nothing ever truly satisfied her. Where her heart should have been there was a void inside her chest that could never be filled. In her affiliations with other human beings Miranda floated from one to the next, seeking such fulfilment, but instead leaving in her wake broken love affairs and broken people scattered around the globe. Frederick had been sucked into this void. Like many a man before him, a fly caught in a spider’s web. And like all those men he’d been left damaged. Irregardless of all this, he had to acknowledge she had left him feeling alone. The sadness was that in many ways Miranda was the same as he was. She sought beauty in life. The kind of beauty that Frederick had concluded simply did not exist. Maybe it all boiled down to the simple fact he had given up the quest and she hadn’t?
Frederick was now just burned out ashes with only a few embers left alight. He had little more to give. And yet still he felt compelled to sit at his table trying to compose. And really, for what? he wondered. What the fuck for?
The piece he was now working on was to be titled Solidarity of the Damned.
He had lived his life through his compositions. All he ever wanted was for it to count for something. If we don’t count for something what use is there in ever having existed at all? He wanted every little moment, every little second of his life to be somehow embossed into the ether. His lifeblood ran through his music. It was as if he had scrawled each note with his own blood onto the page. And yet still no one would ever know or understand his true meaning. He wasn’t sure if he knew it himself; for surely when he listened to his own completed works it was if it had come from somebody else, some disembodied entity. What was there for him to give? In truth, no one can ever truly and fully understand another human being. Although we may come to be able to predict the behaviour of those we spend time with, we can never really fully comprehend their motivations. We can never traverse the contours of someone else’s mind. In never being able to share Frederick’s subjective experience of the world who could ever really understand the essence of what he’d been trying to create, the essence of his being? We are all bound by being alone and that, he solidly believed, had proved to be an inescapable fact.
At the peak of his success he had found himself once so proudly in front of the Birmingham Philharmonic conducting the score from his most successful opera; a three part symphonic poem based on Henry Miller’s Rosy Crucifixion trilogy of the same name, Sexus, Nexus & Plexus. But those days had all but faded away. He was these days merely a shell of his former self. The thought bought a wry smile to his face. He’d burned himself out and was all but finished at the age of forty-nine. He could feel the lifeblood ebbing from the wounds he had suffered in life, dripping from his veins, leaving him weaker by the day.
On the mantle he kept stacks of his notebooks, on top of which his glasses sat. He heard the horn of a passing car. Now these little things might seem meaningless. But they were passing moments in his life that no one would ever know anything about. Ah, maybe he dwelled too much on these inconsequential matters. But he was thinking here of all those little instances in our lives that all of us lose forever. This he felt was the ultimate sadness of our existence. Life itself, for the most part, was nothing more than a sequence of forgotten, disregarded moments. Like the passing face of a beautiful girl at the window of a train as you stand on the platform. A moment gone forever. Frederick just wanted his life to mean something to someone outside of himself. He’d never known his parents and from these beginnings maybe that was why he constantly strived to reach out into the emptiness, requesting to be understood, or at the very least just to be heard.
He finally drew himself out of his stupor and looked out the window. Everything slid back into view. Grey British skies, as usual. The Rotunda thrust against the skyline. And always, always that throbbing collective heart of the city that he no longer felt any connection with.
The vodka tasted bitter, making him wince. It was a strange kind of pleasure.
Within the pages of those notebooks he would record thoughts as they came to him, or short bursts of musical notation that he’d later expand upon; occasionally the pages were punctuated with the odd shopping list or contact telephone number of someone or other. He tried to allow his work to grow organically. He composed his works for the stage and focused on infusing it with dramatic intensity, drawing on autobiographical subject matter and his observations of the world around him. His overall ethos was to present the average man as elite, to elevate those designated as proletarians to their rightful place above the lazy, ineffectual, parasitic aristocracies that preside over us by right of birth. His personal conviction was that within society there was born a natural hierarchy, and that natural hierarchy identified itself by its deeds rather than its bloodline. Within the great sprawling morass of humanity there are worthless parasites, there are adequate individuals, there are exceptional individuals. And at the pinnacle, forming the fountainhead, there are those who walk amongst men as Gods. This somewhat Nietzscheian philosophy of Frederick’s was probably one of the reasons he didn’t sit well with the critics on their intellectual high horses and moral high grounds. In fact, come to think of it, he laughed to himself; it was most likely why he didn’t sit well with anyone at all. Such zealots do not appreciate those of us who stoke the proverbial fires of hell beneath their feet. But still, as far as the critics alone were concerned, he’d never been too interested in their inane dribblings.
He carried a notebook everywhere with him. The books went back years.
Frederick drew on the cigarette as he laid his current notebook on the table and flipped through the pages of what he’d written, usually in drunken disarray, throughout the preceding week:
…and life is brutal. And all there is is brutality. All are adversaries. And if you don’t knock seven bells out of someone they will knock it out of you. If they don’t do it physically they will do it mentally. And this struggle is perpetual; it’s the force of your will against the world. And like the old stone gods one day you are unavoidably laid to rest and no part of your physicality lives on. You become as dust. But in life such was the magnitude of your primacy no one can believe you’re no longer there, fierce and raging with the fires of youth. You walked magnificent as a God amongst men.
We are an animal as any other animal. But because of our heightened awareness this gives a man the notion that he possesses moral superiority over another and thus anoints him with a passion that makes him believe he has the right to kill purely on the basis of that morality. The fight is primal. Such is the natural tumult within the society of men that it becomes as a self-fulfilling prophecy. And the victors claim their moral rights. Those who simply do not accept this code of natural ethics are the ones who will perish. God only exists in the brains of men. But those minds and the actions they instigate do indeed perpetrate their idea of God’s will on earth. Their collective heart is greater than that of the individual. And it is an evil heart. A heart that does not pump blood but bile. The law cannot effectively prevent crime because our contrived concept of crime itself is contrary to the nature of man. In effect, we have created a society we are all struggling to fit into…
When Frederick thought about a heart he didn’t think of it in any metaphoric terms, he didn’t consider anything ethereal or spiritual or of love and emotions. He thought of only blood and muscle and tissue with every spasm being one beat closer to death. Absolute death. The eternal state of nothingness that comes to us when our purpose is done and we have no remaining will with which to imprint ourselves upon the fabric of reality.
…We have lived entombed by laws established on grounds of religious morality. This is the age of dissent, where those laws are breaking down. Where we question the very parameters of human existence and its dogmas. The laws of the enthroned hierarchy are illusions, a fallacy. These laws acquiesce to the true bestial nature of man, for within mankind there lurks a beast that can never be fully contained. No religion or political ideology has ever succeeded in quelling the true spirit of man. Even intellect itself, is pulverised in the onslaught of brute force as man continues to utilise violence and selfishness in the vituperative pursuit of his own emotional gratification because such gratification is as central to man’s survival as is water….
Frederick’s final thought here was of darkly foreboding violins. Marching percussion; drumming drumming drumming. A pounding relentless coming of the shadow of death across the face of the earth.
As he fell forwards clutching his chest with his left hand, the pencil slipped from the grasp of his right. With his head on the table he watched sideways as it rolled across the surface and clattered to the floor.
Waiting for the arrival of the coroner PC Sturgess lifted out one of the notebooks on the mantle and opened it at random. In pencil scrawled down the page was:
U.V. Ray can be found lurking here:www.uvray.moonfruit.com