Crowds of people exit the stadium, screaming and cheering. An aura shrouds the area, an enchantment of ecstasy. The voices streaming out onto the parking lot and streets expel a sense of gratitude, a sense of happiness. The whole city can feel the brilliance being poured out of the stadium like an overwhelming surge of electricity energizing the souls of everyone living there. As the stadium empties, the hero of the night stands alone on the stage. Being unable to speak, he instead bows to the remaining cluster of concert-goers. After they are all gone, he breathes a sigh of relief, a sigh of accomplishment. More lives saved, more lives empowered.
The headlines of tomorrow will read: BRANDON BASS DESTROYS THE NIGHT, A CONCERT TO REMEMBER
An interview with a concert-goer reads: “Brandon’s music, his voice, has helped me through some rough times. Hearing his voice for the first time is astounding. I really can’t believe he doesn’t speak. I know without his music, I would not be able to get through my day.”
Another one reads: “I don’t know how to explain it, but when Brandon sings, I find an inner peace, a sort of enlightenment. It’s like my brain and body become entangled with every emotion I have ever felt. His ability to get past his condition through singing helps me be more mindful of everything I’m going through.”
Many other fans from that night and every other night will have similar accounts: his music has saved their lives. They will comment on his inability to speak, to hold a normal conversation, and others will express their astonishment for his ability to even sing. Some will confess they have become a better person; the music, they will say, moves through them, making them aware of their choices and actions.
The solemn nights and gloomy days many have experienced are elevated from the melodies Brandon sings; each song captivates those who listen.
For many, music is a way of life; for Brandon, music is power, a means to eudaimonia, to better living. And with this power, he has done what any other person with great power would do: save the world.
With every concert he performs, his abilities become more refined, stronger. He doesn’t know how to explain it, but tonight was different, in a good way. Seeing the faces, the smiles, the togetherness brings him utter joy, a feeling he didn’t always experience.
Brandon’s road to success and fame was nothing short of a struggle. Every concert is a realization of that fact, and just like most musicians, the path he walked on wasn’t paved in gold. His ability to bring people together didn’t arise by any natural means. Every occurrence in his life has led him to this immense power, one that can only be unleashed through verse.
Walking away from the stage, he notices the emergency exit sign. The red lights bursting of life and caution bring forth memories beholden to the past. At that moment, he flashes back to the summer when reality collapsed on him.
It is hard to recall anything before the incident—it could be because he was nine at the time—but every now and then, he gets flashes of something that may have once been there, residing at the back of his consciousness. The ringing in Brandon’s ears drowned out the shouts around him. He didn’t know what was going on. The dust in his eyes and the smoke filling his lungs held him to the floor. He tried to get up, but his foot was caught under something. He tried to call out for his mother, for his father, for anyone, but no sound came out. It hit him at once—the knowledge of his inability to speak. He continued to struggle beneath the weighted pressure of the object that was crushing his legs.
A distorted figure grappled him, and he was dragged across the floor. Through the smoke, he could see the face of his father, but the ringing in his ears still muffled any words his father may have been telling him. As he rose from the floor, he saw the emergency exit sign beckoning him to move.
The heat surrounded them, and a wave of destruction overtook the hallway behind them. He could see other people trying to escape through the emergency exit, so he had followed them. Without looking back, he went through the portal to safety and descended down the stairs. His family lived on the fifth floor of the apartment building, so it shouldn’t have taken long to get to the bottom level, but that descent had felt like he was running down an endless spiral to a dark abyss.
At the bottom of the staircase, other people were pushing through—the sound of coughing and the smell of sweat forever ingrained in the memory of that night. Sirens had overtaken the sounds of catastrophe when they exited the building. Firefighters directed them to safety as they gasped for freedom. He never looked back—something he can’t forget. He remembered his father saying something. The faint intonation of the word “mother” entered his mind as he was being directed towards a paramedic.
Everything that occurred after that is a blur. He can recall the moment he saw his sister emerge from the crowd. He remembers the hugging, the panic, the confusion. After all that, he remembers being in the hospital staring at his mother, unaware that his body was transported from the burning apartment building to the hospital.
The suction of air pressure and rhythmic clicks resonate throughout the hospital room, a brooding tone. As Brandon stood at the side of his mother’s bed, his father approached him. “She’ll be ok.” The only words he can recall from that moment, but hope wasn’t listening. She died the next morning, the fragility of life made itself apparent that day.
As he watched the tears roll down his father’s face, he had wondered how his father reacted the day he was born. He’s heard the stories over and over. His mother was rushed into an operating room in the maternity wing for an emergency C-section. His father was told he had to wait until they prepared her for the surgery, the panic overwhelmed him. He probably paced back and forth the same way he did while Brandon watched his mother’s life deteriorate.
Brandon was told that he didn’t cry after his birth and had trouble breathing. He was taken away from his parents to another room to be placed on a ventilator, an omen of a far future, only it wouldn’t be Brandon’s life needing to be saved.
As Brandon got older, his parents knew something was different about their son. They would always go back to the moment of his birth and think that there was the possibility that his inability to develop words or speak was due to that event.
The signs began when he was about three, and there was a definite diagnosis by the age of four. The psychiatrists called it selective mutism, his parents called him blessed. But he felt far from blessed growing up and going to school. He worked with different counselors and teachers, but none seemed to bring any progress. He did learn words, though, but whenever he wanted to speak them, they just formed in his head and stayed there. They were always at the tip of his tongue, but he couldn’t get them out, some unseen force acted against his will. Hardship with his peers developed faster than a virus. The only positive thing he felt he had was his ability to write.
It was during middle school when Brandon let out his first word. The particular incident involved a boy named Wes, and it was the first time he felt a power brewing within him. Wes would continuously tease him despite the redirection from the teacher. Brandon tried his best to hold it in, but the constant harassment pushed the pressure past the breaking point. Brandon only remembers screaming, but he was told the word “Stop” was belted out.
The next moment he was in the principal’s office. His parents were called in, and they were informed of the incident. The whole ordeal was made to seem like he was the one who reacted first; however, the school doesn’t tolerate any fighting whatsoever, so both boys were given a three-day suspension.
It would be three years after the fight that the apartment he had lived in burned down. The stress of everything he had endured—the bullying and the psychiatrists and the death of his mother—overtook his body. During the funeral service for his mother, he expressed another instance of power. Seeing his mother in her casket caused an immense pressure to build up in his throat. The words flowed out of him that evening, a song his mother would sing to him as a child.
Everyone in attendance was stunned (whether it was because this is the first time anyone has heard Brandon say anything or because his voice was angelic, soothing, concert-like is up to anyone’s interpretation) and that night instead of sorrow there was joy.
The years following his mother’s death were uneventful in Brandon’s mind. His father and sister moved on with their lives the best they could. Death doesn’t stop life, something Brandon had to learn to deal with. He continued writing in a journal, first just snippets of words strung together then verses and songs. He couldn’t speak the words, but he could feel the songs alive, pulsing through his veins. The power of music can transform, and Brandon used music to become the person he is today.
High school wasn’t much different from middle school, the teasing didn’t stop. He was a known loner, and the rumors of why he didn’t speak were plentiful. He did his best not to listen to them, not to internalize them. Some hit him hard, especially when the rumors involved his mother. One piece of gossip suggested Brandon started the fire in his apartment because he was demonic and possessed. Other stories said he could only speak in tongues, the Wes incident still haunting him.
It was a Wednesday when Brandon had to face another confrontation with the fragility of life. He was walking home from school and cut through an alley to get to the apartment complex he lived in. As he was walking, he came across a homeless man being harassed by some other kids that went to his school. They were mocking him and pushing him back and forth as they circled him. Brandon couldn’t say anything even though he wanted to; the words were there, but they were being tugged back into his mind, not even a whimper came out of his open mouth. The other kids finally noticed Brandon. “If it isn’t the mute. Of course, he would hang out in this alley. Did you come to join your Daddy?” One of the boys said, sneering and looking around for confirmation that his mocking was a hit. The other boys laughed. “Let’s get out of here before the mute tries to call the police. Oh, wait, he can’t talk,” the boy said, and this time he let out a bellowing laugh.
The group of kids pushed past Brandon, taunts and smirks followed them. Brandon went over to the man on the floor. He couldn’t say anything, but with the teasing he got, the man understood Brandon couldn’t speak.
“I’m ok, boy,” the man said while he reached for Brandon’s arm to raise himself up. “Thank you. Don’t you worry about those boys. I’ve been through worse if you can’t tell. I heard them call you mute, is that true?” Brandon responded by nodding his head. “I see. Well listen, boy, there is something about you, I can feel it. You have an immense force of goodness inside you. I could tell by the way you looked at those boys and at me. You may not be able to speak, but your face said it all. Words have a way of distorting our true intentions, but actions are a true signifier of who we really are. All the teasing, the vile words, those boys committed against us is just a sign of their weakness, don’t forget that. When the time comes, boy, you will know how to use that power inside of you, just use it for good like you did today.”
The man told Brandon to go home and he listened. As he walked away from the alley, he thought about what the man said. An immense force. Goodness. These words rang throughout his psyche, he ran home.
One evening a few months later he came home from school stressed from the overload of homework and teasing he yanked his journal out of his backpack, papers spewed all over the floor. Unfazed, he started writing down his thoughts and feelings, turning them into songs. His muse was pain, happiness, anger, melancholy, pure emotion.
His father called to him, disrupting the flow; dinner was ready. As he turned toward the door, he noticed a flyer on the floor.
In blue, bold letters: SCHOOL TALENT SHOW
As he read the flyer, the words of the homeless man snuck into his consciousness. If there was ever a time to display his immense force, it was at that talent show. He grabbed the flyer and ran to the kitchen. He handed it to his father.
His father was speechless, his mouth dangled open. For a brief moment, Brandon felt understood. His father then asked him what talent he would display. Brandon just stared back at him.
“But that was years ago, Brandon. I don’t know if you should put yourself through this kind of stress. Look, you’re doing good in school, so why don’t you just work on getting through high school. Your psychiatrist said the singing episode during your mother’s service was your way of communicating your grief. I just don’t want any more kids making fun of you. It’s bad enough you’ve had to deal with all the bullying. I just can’t put you through that.”
Brandon doesn’t know what changed his father’s mind, but he eventually supported him. The talent show was a couple of weeks out, and Brandon did what he could to prepare. He developed some musical sounds on an app to accompany his lyrics since he hadn’t learned an instrument yet. He didn’t practice either because somewhere down in the recesses of his mind, the time was not right. The power he held within didn’t need any practice, it would flow just as it should.
When the time came for his first performance, anxiety rose throughout his body, but he didn’t falter—the words of the homeless man resonated in his mind, a mantra of sorts. He knew this was the right time, and he was going to prove it. Rumors circulated the school about him performing, and in a typical immature fashion, jokes were made. He had overheard some say he was just going to go on stage and just stare them to death.
His name was announced, and he took to the stage. There was no applause, no friends cheering him on. He scanned the room for his father and saw him hidden in the shadows at the back of the auditorium, a sense of shame and guilt enclosed around his father. The same kids he saw tormenting the homeless man sat in the center, sneering at him. He looked toward the technician in charge of starting the music, and the sound started.
When he opened his voice, the auditorium was enraptured. The sneers and jokes evaporated from the minds of everyone there that day. His voice entered each person’s mind and released a sense of peace and happiness. There was a sudden understanding of truth in each person’s mind. The feeling they got was not like anything they had felt before.
Brandon finished his song and walked off stage. The audience was stunned at first, and then there was applause. There may be some conflicting stories, but it was said after that day, the happiness levels of everyone on campus increased, a flash flood of dopamine. Aware of what happened, Brandon made it his mission to use his voice from that day forward. He knew he could emulate what occurred that day.
Now, walking into his trailer, he will travel to another city and sing his soul out. He chooses to only hold concerts and doesn’t record any of his songs. His voice wouldn’t be the same; the recording would just be a simulation, a distortion of the power he holds inside. He will continue doing what he does best: bring people together. It will not always be easy, Brandon thinks. Everything he’s done has been to better society. His voice and lyrics captivate all of those around him, but he knows some people are trying to undo everything he has accomplished. The world is full of pain and suffering, and as long as he’s alive, he will use his voice to ease the fragility of life.