The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Page 3

But I couldn't stop listening to it; that was the problem. As much as I hated the way it made me feel like dancing, I became perversely fascinated with it as an exercise in self-flagellation, much like seeing how long one can hold a red-hot coal. At first I only listened for a few songs at a time, then I eventually put the whole set into the multi-player and set it for infinite repeat, letting the awful noise bounce off my Spic'n'Spanned walls 24 hours a day. I couldn't sleep. I began walking the halls nude with a flyswatter. Every time I passed a mirror I smashed it with my bare fist. The infocentertaindom registered that several E-mails had been received, but I ignored them, choosing instead to burn off all my hair with a set of long fireplace matches.

"Pain in my heart...just won't let me be..."

The music was trying to get inside my head, but I knew better than that! Yes, by golly, I did! You see, I was stronger than the music. I even turned it up as loud as it would go, the sound booming through the house like some joyful reverberating getdown gospel revue. I fell to my knees and clasped my ears in fright, unable to breathe. My mind wanted the music to STOP, but my body kept forcing me to confront it as nakedly and as directly as possible, to the point where I was kneeling before Gordon's old Sound-Labs stark naked with my streaked, stubbled head and burnt fingers, eyes wide open, arms outstretched to receive the message in all of its stupefying glory. My ears throbbed to sound pressure levels I hadn't experienced in years, my head ached from the enduring madness, my body tensed like a Bengal tiger at the moment of the kill. I began crying like I'd never cried before, and I knew I couldn't hold on much longer; it was happening all over again.


Richard's face came on the big screen but I paid it little notice except to smear several restaurant packets of ketchup all over the glowing surface. I wasn't thinking about anything at all, just moving forward on pure muscle-twitch. THIS was the state I'd been trying to achieve all this time: auto-pilot. The Automatic Man. Complete absence of conscious thought, bias, and conflict. Simple. Easy. Flowing.


I could hear the ants outside growing bigger and stronger with every passing second. God, to be an ant---cold, martial, without feeling. I wanted an exoskeleton like an ant's, a metal-clad armor that would keep me safe and everybody else away. I think I can I think I can I think I can I think I can I think I can---

"These...arms...of...mi-i-i-i-ine...they are yearning..."

The yellowed foam began to collect at the corners of my mouth as I strapped myself into the VR chamber while singing along with Otis; I'd had these discs on infinite repeat for weeks now, and knew every lick and lyric by heart. I was smiling with my eyes wide open as I tapped in the command with my dirty fingers: head circumference = 0. The motor came on and I started laughing, and Otis's screaming got louder and louder and the image of Richard flickered like a pilot light in the corner of my peripheral vision and it started to hurt but that's okay and all I knew was that the Stax/Volt box was indeed the most sensitive, human group of recordings I'd ever heard and that it was by far the worst thing I'd ever heard in my entire life. I loved it too much...

Corey's lifeless head flopped forward like a rag doll's, his black tongue sticking out of his mouth dry and stiff. The horror in his ears, the imperfect rhythms, and the crude sound quality were forever silenced, but the strange and foreign music played on inside his helmet as well as throughout the main perimeter. The online news service reported later that the music played on continuously for nine months before an electrical short started the fire that burned the house down to the ground.