Ghost Tracks by Duane Pesice

by Duane Pesice

The muted swish of cymbals hisses from a speaker in the corner of a darkened room. A small red light winks in response, and the wash increases in volume slightly and pans.

The lights of a meter, green, red, yellow, follow the progress of an angular series of chords on an harpsichord distorted with reverb and chorus effects, and the roll of echoing drums. A bass guitar and saxophone entered, legato. The volume increases as the central instruments collide on a note and crescendo, hold, then the initial lick is played by the bass and the harpsichord at once, followed by the mournful drums.

The light from the meter discloses a man slumped face first over a desk. The desk holds a computer, and the monitor lies before the man. The computer is running some audio editing software currently, and the sound is the result of the most recent product of that software, the background track for a song that could have springboarded the composed into fame and fortune if it had been made available to certain someones.

However the slumped author was never in a position to make it known to them that it was available, and the certain someones were therefore forced to employ another composer on short notice, which made him slightly cross but he was able to acquit himself quite professionally under the admittedly trying circumstances. The fame and fortune are surely just around the corner.

At this time the author is unlikely to compose additional material, for he has left the building.
The electric bill is paid for another thirty days, so the song will repeat until however long it is that the power company is willing to allow you after that, which has been known to be an arcane and nebulous integer.

It continues after the crescendo with another wash of cymbals panning around the speakers in the corners of the room, chased by throaty chords of the harpsichord twinned with rumbles of the muscular bass-line.

The volume increases, and the light from the readouts grow brighter as more and more equipment switches on, disclosing tricolored shadows dancing in the corners of the room. Smaller portions of the endless night, they caper in grim jest before the various gods of the darkness without, clinging to the melody like drowning swimmers to driftwood as fins are seen in the near distance.

The electronically treated saxophone wails in a key it was never intended to as the key of the song modulates from F# to C# down the scale, the drums stubbornly continue the slow martial beat and the music crescendoes again in the newer, lower key and the legato bass shakes hands with the sinister harpsichord burbles.

The saxophone wails to the empty spaces beyond the might-have-beens as if to express its regret, and the rolling of the drums continued mindlessly and monotonously to escort the gibbering of the alien voice of the harpsichord that ever echoed and the figure continued through a wash of cymbals until it was punctuated by the meeping of the electric piano that had been tumbling in and out of the roil and the spats of a brush on a tympani.

And the composer sighed once, twice, and the little lights blinked off.

At times the song stirred him to dance. It played and played, each rendition subtly different from the previous as the program sequenced it anew. When his grinning and ghoulish toothy visage was no longer able to respond to the summons of the song, his shade took over and capered there in the light of the meters while the song played yet again.

The program ran, creating still another endless synthesized version of the song until the men who came to see what the smell was unplugged the machinery after disposing of the expired author of the tune, crashing the hard drive and forever losing the original song that it had all been based on, into the darkness of never.

The shade danced reminiscently there in the dark, keeping the faith.


Duane makes marks on blank pieces of paper and wields a piece of wood with wires on it. He is a self-taught college graduate and communicates through the ether. He writes weird fiction, strange songs, and a thrice-weekly column about the Chicago Cubs. His stories have appeared in a great many places, both online and off. He has at present one self-published ebook, about to go into a second edition with a new title, new stories, format, and deadtree options. More books are coming – three more are planned for this year, and he is the editor-in-chief of a weird fiction anthology called Test Patterns.

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