The leader said, “OK, scratch vocals for ‘Life of Death’” then held up a hand to count down visually.
Nick sang “Death chanced upon me in the hall.”
The women on either side of him echoed “ha-a-ll”.
Just outside the cubicle, the leader kept unnecessary time with the same hand he had used for the countdown, and Nick sang, “But I refused to fall.” The headphones pinched.
The women sang, “fall”.
Nick watched the leader’s hand pumping the song’s rhythm, like drumming in the air. In the space between one empty tap and the next, Nick broke out into a sweat. He sang, “I said don’t call on me,” call on me, “I’m living can’t you see” oh can’t you see, “And living my life tall” So ta-all.
Perspiration flooded down Nick’s face. He tried to draw breath, but it caught in his chest, and instead of belting out the next lyric, he clawed at his throat. He tore off the wretched headphones and slammed himself against the cubicle.
“Nick what’s wrong?”
The session leader’s face loomed large outside the glass, and then it changed. Death had not passed Nick in the hall. It had come for him right here in the studio. It stepped through the leader and extended a single bony finger.
Unencumbered by the flesh mortals take for granted, it passed through the glass and straddled Nick. He clutched his soul, wanting the right song to dispel it, to cast it aside so he could go on breathing. But there were no more songs left. No more words. Death had come to call, and it left Nick voiceless.
This week, the Trifecta editors assigned us the third definition of wretched. Typically, I let my writing stand on its own. If you have to ask me “huh?”, and I have to be all explanatory, then I haven’t done my job. Sometimes, I am deliberately unclear on certain points.
However. I think you can understand the story perfectly well from the words above, and a small primer will not hurt and may, indeed, enhance your reading. If this becomes at any time a case of I-suffered-through-this-research-and-now-it’s-your-turn, then just stop reading. As I say, if the piece doesn’t stand alone, I haven’t done my job.
In the recording industry (not so much with indie groups and labels), before a band lays down a track, the studio will often pay to have a scratch track made. This is sort of like pre-washing the dishes. It’s a rough cut of the song, typically mostly vocals, to give the better known musicians something to listen to when they lay down the final parts. Scratch tracks are recorded by studio or session musicians, who are paid a flat union fee for their work. The session is guided by a session leader, typically someone who knows how to get the most out of three hours of studio time.
So. That’s who Nick and his colleagues are here. The research is actually something I did for my novel Divorce: A Love Story, that came in handy here.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.