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Drama Fiction Horror

ENVELOPE NO. 1


“Hi, my name is Jared Blass. I am nine years old. My mother is called Belinda and my father’s name is Anton.”


I popped the pencil in my mouth, reviewing what I had so far. Do we need such backstory? I tried remembering if Curt’s keepsakes had any sorta private information like that. Like, did he write an introduction anywhere, or did he, like my father would say (knowing it pees my mother – a veggie – off), “get right to the meat of the matter.” Things got wavy when I tried to think back.


But then I didn’t want to think of the contents of that box too much anyway. Cuz I worried they’d somehow take over my brain again. It was like that movie my buddy Teo and I stayed up late to watch when I was at a sleepover at his and these grey alien guys shoved these knitting needle things through this chick’s ears and then they could persuade her to do all kinds of stuff, like taking her top off right in the middle of office when she got too hot. They just filled her ears with all kinda of junk while Teo and I filled our mouths with, well, all kinda junk.


I examined the teeth marks I’d put on the end of the pencil, like the world’s tiniest beaver trying to make a log so it fits in with the others in his dam.


Dam. Damn.


That’s how the first lyric had started. On the very first piece of thin tissue-like paper I found in the box that day.


Mother had been having one of her headaches and asked if I’d go up to her room to fetch one of her pills. She’d had a Jerry Springer Show re-run on and if I’d been the sorta kid that clapped back rather than having been brought up properly I would’ve told her maybe she needed just to not be sitting in front of a giant screen filled with people who were all screaming at one another. But like I said, I was raised to be obedient. I sometimes wonder if my parents might have been happier just getting a dog.


A dog might’ve been a lot less clumsy than me, at least. I got my sock somehow snagged on the doorframe when coming out of my parents’ bedroom and went sprawling across the landing. Meanwhile, ma’s precious cargo went rolling into my room, where I watched it fall down between the floorboards.


“Jared, what on earth are you doing up there?”


The question made me jump up and turn back to the little pink dish where she kept the little blue pills. It kept her quiet for a while until my father got home from work and she wanted to practise what she had learned from the TV show, I guess. I excused myself, not that they noticed, and went to bed with a headache of my own. It was then I remembered the pill. Sure, I could’ve got a fresh pill from the dish but it wasn’t worth the hassle if they caught me in their room without permission. After inspecting a few toys for any parts that could be used as a lever I settled on a butter knife I found on a plate under my bed. After a few slippery starts, I finally managed to prise up the chunk of board.


In the gap beneath was a pink, heart-shaped box. Or so I thought, but that was just the film of dust coating it. I scrubbed it with the end of my sleeve and I turned out to be holding a red box. Which I came to call ‘the music box’, whenever friends or teachers prodded me. But back then all sorts went running through my mind. Like, would it be filled with some out-of-date chocolates? Photos, turning brown like the colour of tea the way grandma takes it? Maybe money. Or spiders.


Turns out it was money, in a way, just not for me.


I picked up the first scrap of paper on top of the pile when I opened the box, the one I said that started with ‘Damn’. I’m not going to repeat the rest in case what happened to me should happen to you.


As I started reading the poems, which I later understood to be lyrics that this Curt guy buried, it was like the black biro chicken scratches flew in through my eyes and lodged in my skull where they grew into angry wasps. Wasps that didn’t want to share space with anything else.


Over the next couple of weeks, I found I couldn’t remember anything useful like my locker combination or the name of my biology teacher. I’m sure I would’ve even struggled to tell you the name of the street where I lived. Everything became about the lyrics. If I got picked on to answer a question I’d intend to think about it and give an honest try at a reply, but it was like a wasp had found an opening in my head and flew out my mouth to tell the listener things about being rejected by women and experimenting with illicit substances and loads more stuff I didn’t know about.


I was walking the long way home after a detention for some expletives I had no control of, the end result having been me telling Mr Vellis (math teacher) where to stick it. I’d tried writing the lines he’d set for me – Mr Vellis has some old-fashioned views of punishment and I guess being that he deals in numbers he thinks it’s a gruesome task to work with words. Obviously all I could write were lyrics. I knew there was no use trying to fix it, Curt had the controls of my brain, my mouth, my hands even. I cursed that heart-shaped music box.


I decided to walk through the mall. I had no money on me but maybe I could go round a few stores and listen to whatever music they were piping through while I pretended to be interested in some overpriced sneakers. I had just told a very glamourous-looking lady with long tapered fingernails that reminded me of the aliens’ fingers in that movie I said about that I was not interested in trying out a new aftershave (like hello? I am nine) and no my father wouldn’t be interested in a sample either, when I heard speakers way up in the ceiling announce some band I didn’t catch the name of were about to take the stage. I thought, cool, I’ll go watch these guys for a bit. Ground floor, I just about made out the tinny voice having said.


And that’s how it started, just me trying to peer around adults to get a look at the band while I tried to get their guitar sounds flushing the wasps out my brain. But the wasps would not be flushed. In fact, they dug in their stingers and willed me to push through to the front so I was up by the stage. Then climbing it.


There were gasps of surprise and laughter from the onlookers. Just a moment ago, I’d been an onlooker and now I was being looked on. Funny how things go sometimes. Then – I know it sounds crazy – but my hand reached out for the singer’s mic. I saw his sweaty, middle-aged forehead crinkle and I could tell he was calculating what the best response would be – to keep me at arm’s length or allow me to join in. He saw a group of women who were all making gooey eyes at me and turning to each other mouthing about what a brave cutie I was and that helped make up his mind. He bent down slightly and tilted the mic at me, thinking I was gonna join in the chorus of the pop song he was currently murdering.


But no. The wasp-words, now aware they had an audience, poured out of me, ready for their chance to shine and sting. Abortions, false gods, apocalypses, poison, war, sex, it all came out. I was probably only up there for like three minutes before the strong arms of some security guard pulled me down but it felt like three hours.


I kept my eyes on the floor as I heard the singer make some joke that had the crowd tittering and the happy-go-lucky pop songs started their merry-go-round again. The buzzing in my head was the quietest it had been in days. I almost allowed myself to believe it had gone away completely.


But that’s when Terry (“call me Mac”) McIntyre tapped me on the shoulder and I felt the swarm sway his way before I’d even turned my head the same direction. He told me he’d liked what I sung and it reminded him of this singer from way back in the 1980s. Then Mac said the name of this singer was Curt. Even the wasps shushed for a blessed second.


When I got home I explained what had happened to me that made me so late back, after my mother had let her palm do the asking of my backside first of course. She told me she didn’t believe me, until I pulled Mac’s card out of my pocket to show her. Then I could almost see the dollar signs flash in her black beady eyes. A different kind of green to the one I’d seen if my dad accidentally mentioned a female that he worked with or that had served him coffee that morning or presented the weather report or whatever. She said she’d let Mac record my lyrics if she could be present. 


My lyrics. Hah. These chumps. Think they’re both so grown up and clever but I knew there was no point in even beginning to explain the contents of the heart-shaped box to any of ‘em.


The wasps left my head as soon as I’d laid down the last track (yeah, I’d gotten to know the lingo). At first I didn’t know how to cope with so much silence. I could hear my thoughts again, even though I had to later oil them with books and homework and stuff, as they’d gone so rusty.


I heard some of the songs on the radio months later and didn’t feel anything in the slightest. Never even got so much as an earworm off them, even with the one where they’d done a collab with a famous brand of deodorant, that got to be pretty popular.


Eventually I decided to chuck the scraps of paper. I’m kicking myself now, cuz they might’ve been worth something. Mac (with ma’s approval) had me sign stuff after the recordings saying about how I wasn’t the author of the work. So the singer they brought in that eventually got famous off my (well, Curt’s) words ended up making a bundle of money, Mac ended up making a bundle of money, and ma and pa ended up making a bundle of money. I never saw a dime.


I didn’t burn them, or tear them into little bits and throw them into the river, or anything that would’ve been at least marginally romantic. Nah, the chicken scratches went in the bin. I couldn’t think of a better example for what a waste of my time all this was.


Strange. Here I was thinking I was just thinking all this stuff, but I’ve gone and written it down. Funny how life goes sometimes; like something just grabs a hold of you and pulls you in a direction you never would have thought of.


Like how I never thought I’d become a maths swot. But here I am, now Mr Vellis’ favourite pupil, my brain teeming with numbers and symbols instead of insects. The world isn’t ready for them right now, but give it forty or so years when you’re all fighting for resources and they might just fix things. If you’re willing to give up your mind for a time, of course.


Which brings me to:


ENVELOPE NO. 2


You know my story now. Are you ready for yours?

February 18, 2022 18:41

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5 comments

Craig Westmore
22:09 Mar 03, 2022

Hi Karen! I like this idea of lyrics possessing a young boy. It has a Stephen King feel to it. Would the lyrics use the boy to get revenge on the people who profited from them? Only one thing, I don't know if he would call himself obedient. He might complain that his friends get away with everything and he's afraid of getting yelled at.

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Karen Mc Dermott
13:21 Mar 07, 2022

Hi! Haha, that does indeed make sense as I was battling my way through a long Stephen King book (plus a side order of COVID) when I wrote this! I like the idea of the lyrics continuing to cause mischief. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your feedback! :)

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Frank Chirico
17:42 Feb 24, 2022

It's cool how this story really feels like it was written by a 9 year old boy, and yet so very descriptive. You can't really feel the internal struggle.

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Jonathan Blaauw
19:33 Feb 18, 2022

Hey Karen, long time! I'm back🤣 The moment I saw these new prompts I had that Nirvana song stuck in my head and i went to look up the lyrics cause I thought maybe something there could inspire a story. Turns out not, life had other plans and I didn't write this week, but still, that's the first place my thoughts went. Unless I miss my guess (entirely possible) I'd wager you were similarly inspired, if not by the lyrics themselves then by the general idea of the influence of music. Particularly on the youth, and I, of course, was at the age ...

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Karen Mc Dermott
11:20 Feb 21, 2022

Omg, welcome back! I nearly fell off my chair when your name popped up! I hope it was a productive time away? :) I achieved my goal of writing an entire novel last year (!!) so I'm indulging in writing the occasional short story on here while I actively avoid editing said novel. I learned to play all of Nirvana Unplugged on an acoustic guitar in my teens (and those remain about the only songs I can still pick on on that same guitar). It was kind of fun revisiting some of the lyrics, although I'm glad to replace them with different earworms...

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