Audiophile III

Almost immediately, the sound isolation was total. The padding cupped his ears, gently sealing themselves around his hairline and ears, leaving no opportunity for stray noise to enter and ruin the music.

It was an eerie, discomforting feeling at first: there was a detached sensation to all his movements, as if he was not physically present and was merely watching his hands and body performing. The background noises of the room had faded away into almost nothing, as if they belonged elsewhere. A few moments later, it felt natural, though a little strange if he dwelt on it too much.

He slipped the vinyl onto the turntable, lowering the needle slowly with pinpoint precision. This was vital: the record would only come alive with proper respect and care, and any bump or twitch on his part would destroy the illusion of total immersion. The ritual preparations he went through every time he brought out vinyl amused Neil no end, but there was no denying that the results of his almost obsessive cleaning paid dividends when the music came through, and – all jokes aside –  the pair of them lost many an evening, pleasantly drunk and gloriously lost in sound due to his ritualistic preparation.

Tonight was to be no exception.

The lager was ready, the albums were set up and, already, the staccato tones of Barrett’s guitar punched clearly into Daniels head. The sound was so clear, so crisp! The vocals, buried gently in the back of the mix, reverberated inside of his skull and he could hear the breaths taken between each line. Every breath! It was as if he was standing in the recording studio. Incredible!

Taking another sip Daniel let his mind drift briefly from the music back into the shop, smiling to himself as he remembered how clever he was to spot the assistants hint that this pair of ‘phones existed. ‘Acceptable‘ – cheeky bugger. Like ‘acceptable’ music should ever be played in his flat? No bloody way. The best or nothing less. Simple as that. Happiness was warm vinyl, forget the gun. He smiled and leaned back into the chair.

The second track floated in, drifting across the back of his skull. He felt the gentle pulse of the guitar increase in presence, not volume as he expected, but actual physical presence inside his head. The chords, descending chromatically, cycled around one another, the delay between each engulfing his thoughts and swamping them into a literal wall of sound. It wasn’t that it felt as if his body vibrated with the sound, more that it became increasingly sympathetic to it, more open.

Daniel shook the nearly empty can, drained it, and opened a second, feeling a little light headed, slightly disconnected. Should have had more to eat you idiot! Day old pizza reheat and stale garlic bread do not a meal make. Ah well, the lager’s got calories in it, so that’ll have to do. He took a swig and let the last of the album wash over him as the lager worked it’s golden magic inside of him.

He paused, letting the final echoes of melody and lyric vanish into silence. 

Wow. He was almost breathless.

Never before had the lyrics hit home so hard, so intensely! It was as if he was really, truly feeling Barrets’ vocals as his own pain.  ‘Achin’ head, gold is lead’ was so appropriate: the quality of sound reproduction was…well, off the scale, and the feeling it produced inside… Daniel whistled in appreciation, impressed.

He slid out a single this time, wanting to give himself a break from the psychedelic rock of the last track.  A gentle voice was needed this time. How would the headphones cope with a close, breathy vocal? He wiped the vinyl down, tenderly removing every last trace of static, before slipping the needle on the record.

Closing his eyes, he allowed the alcohol and the music to take him away. The drums began, each beat crystal clear, punctuating the keyboards warm textures. ‘We were working secretly, for the military…

Goosebumps exploded along his arms, the closeness of the voice sending shivers along his nerves. My God! How chilling does her voice sound? It…it.. Jesus, it hurts!

He glanced down to hands, realising that, for some reason, he was holding the can so tightly it had been crushed in his grasp, spilling luke warm liquid all over his lap. Swearing, he moved to grab a nearby T-shirt – thanks Neil! – when he stopped and felt his world begin to crumble.

In front of him, the headphones box was almost transparent, the dark green wood disappearing in and out of sight in time with the music, pulsing in a sickly, stomach churning way. He felt queasy and reached for the arm of the chair to steady himself, only to find that it was warm and sticky, covered in yet more lager. Bloody hell, what mess have I made? Neil’ll go ballistic, stupid aluminium cans…

The box continued to pulse, warm ripples of air spreading out, distorting Daniel’s vision. It was as if the box was heating up, warping the air like a heat haze, twisting the silver inlay in and around itself. The more he watched, the more the box seemed to be turning inside out; the rear of it becoming the front, the bottom sliding liquidly into the sides and the lid disappearing altogether into the air. The silver inlay writhed, serpentine in intensity, forming a myriad of strange shapes and symbols in the air that looked geometric in one glance, then Arabic in another, then mathematical, then musical…

Still the song continued inside his head, its chorus tearing goosebumps from his arms and flesh, the fear and pain in the words tearing into his head like knives, paring his brain from the bone. What the hell was going on?

Sickening with fear, he found his legs collapsing underneath him. The armchair caught him, supported his body, even as his mind threatened to leave it. 

He lifted his hand from the arm rest to pull the headphones from his head. Somehow, they were causing this. They were making him trip out, hallucinate. Bastard bloody sales assistant! I’ll give you acceptable, right up your arse mate!  He reached for them, part of his brain planning to create merry hell in the shop just as soon as he’d tidied up the mess and figured out what was going on.

Daniel stopped and stared at his hand, horror overwhelming annoyance.

The song seemed to be stuck, the same lyric repeating over and over: ‘…could kill someone…could kill someone…’ The voice was demonic now; cacophonous, rabid. The ferocity of the vocal slicing into his skull, tearing flesh strips from inside and peeling them, line by line, from his mind.

A sharp tear sprang into his eye as he felt something sane split inside his head: Where was his hand?

 

Ah, poor old Daniel! I wonder what might happen next to the poor chap. (Well, I don’t really wonder, as I know, but you get the idea!) It’s been a while since I’ve written in a horror style, so all concrit well recieved!)

Be seeing you!

 

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