THE THREE CHORD RHAPSODY
Mace sat slumped in a chair in front of a mirror. He was in his dressing room, attempting to prepare himself for a performance. His long dark hair hung in ragged tangles down to his shoulders and the bags under his eyes betrayed a previous night of a raucous party with drugs and alcohol.This had been his life and no matter how he tried, Mace couldn't remember when this life he was living really began.
All he knew was his music no longer thrilled him when he played it, the screaming fans no longer inspired him to perform it and the drugs he used to get him through all the rest of the forced engagements no longer numbed the resentment he held for his life. Mace now sat shirtless except for an open suede vest and several silver chains hanging loosely around his neck, silently wishing he could dissolve into nothing and disappear.
Beyond his dressing room, Mace could hear the cheers of his many fans as they impatiently awaited his appearance onstage. It was just another rock concert, where thousands had come to hear him scream and howl as his guitar wailed in screeching accompaniment to his rock songs. All of his songs consisted of just three guitar chords, though alternated and rearranged it was still only three chords.
A highly respected music critic had praised him as one of the greatest minimalist rockers of all time, and that was enough for other critics to label him as a musical genius. Mace seemed to be the only one who disagreed with this assessment. He felt constantly uncertain about his future. He figured sooner or later he would be revealed as a fraud.
True music was so much more than three simple chords. At least he used to believe that. Now he wasn’t sure what he believed. His rise to fame had come so quick. What was demanded of him was so unreasonable, to play the same monotonous tunes every time, with no variation, was crushing life from him. He felt he couldn’t go on stage, but could figure no way out. In frustration, Mace let his head fall to the hard wood of the dresser table, too weary to even groan from the pain he had just caused himself.
"Remember, this is what you wanted." A voice said just in front of him.
Mace raised his head suddenly, to see his mirror image glaring at him.
"Now you're thinking of not going on?
You're thinking of stopping, now?
Mace was silent, certain he was hallucinating.
"You're at the top of the charts! His image continued, "making millions from the concerts and the recordings! His image rose from the chair and walked over to a door with a sign above it reading stage door in marquee lights. There was no such door in Mace's room, this was a door in the mirror only. His image opened the door, "Listen to them out there he shouted, they're all waiting for you! Waiting to hear your songs, waiting to hear you play!
As he spoke the screams became louder, chanting his name, "MACE VIPER! MACE VIPER! MACE VIPER!"
"Shut the damn door!" Mace shouted at the mirror. "I can't stand it! I can't stand it!.” He shouted above the chanting, hands over his ears.
His image slowly closed the door, wickedly chuckling as he returned to his seat facing Mace. "I don't understand you," he said, sneering as he leaned into the mirror.
Mace rose quickly from the chair, moving a few steps away from his image.
"But why wouldn't you want to hear them shout your name," the image continued "they've come to hear you sing and play your guitar.”
Mace shook his head, "I used to sing, he muttered, turning away. "and I used to play melodies, real melodies, not the three chord howlings I do now." He fell back into his seat, his eyes lowered.
"They love your three chord howling," the image said quietly.
"But it's not who I am!" Maze replied
"It is who you are now!" Or would you prefer to return to what you were?"
Mace then raised his eyes to an image of himself that was unrecognizable. The face before him was worn and old, with more wrinkles than Mace recalled from his old life. His hair was thin and mangy gray, his shirt less upper body was fat and flabby. Mace shuddered, drawing away from the mirror, shutting his eyes.
"You might as well look," the image said, "It is you as you would look now.”
Mace shook his head, “No,no, that’s not me, it’s not me.”
“Of Course it is,” the image sneered, “The very vision of what you were; a miserable, unaccomplished nobody. You wanted to be a musician, but no one wanted to listen to that dribble you used to play! You were doomed to be nothing but a so-called teacher of music. And to who? A bunch of sniffling, obnoxious brats, as I remember you called them, right?”
Mace gathered enough strength to protest, "That's not true, my songs weren't dribble…I was a musician, I...was…"
The image interrupted, continuing the attack, "As I said, you were nothing!"
Mace opened his eyes,stunned to silence as he now faced both images in the mirror. Not only the nightmare image of his older self, but the mocking one as well. The mocker stood over the older one in the mirror, never ceasing from glaring and taunting him. Mace sat staring at his aged image, touching his wrinkled face, muttering incoherently.
"You must remember, this is what you wanted." The image said
When the image repeated the phrase, Mace went into a rage, closing his eyes again, banging his fists on the desk "What the Hell do you mean, 'what I wanted '? I don't remember wanting anything like this!"
"You don't remember walking out on one of your classes," The image said harshly. "You don't remember wandering into a second hand store, picking up a guitar you saw there?"
Mace raised his head. The aged image had thankfully vanished, but grimacing before him now was the original one, the one showing him as his worn out, drugged out present self.
"You listened as the shop owner told you of the guitar's unusual history and you listened even closer when he said how it could grant a wish when you played the chords."
Mace sat back in his seat, the memory of how his rockstar career began came flooding back.
"Yes," the image continued, "you remember now. From the moment you played the chords you had your desire and you became the success you always wanted to be."
Mace looked past his mirror image to the reflection of the stage door. It's lights were flashing once again and this time a shining black electric guitar was propped next to the door.
Mace turned this time to see it was more than a reflection. The door and it's sign was real, the guitar was real. He stood and walked over and picked up the guitar as a booming voice from beyond his room announced " It's showtime!"
The door swung open and Mace felt himself pushed through it. He struggled, but continued to move forward as the guitar seemed to attach itself to him "I can't do this anymore! I won't do this anymore!" He screamed as he continued to struggle, but the darkness pushed him on until he stood on a dark stage alone. Bright white spotlights blinded him from seeing anything before him, yet he could feel the presence of a crowd rustling and shifting beyond the stage.
"Remember," a gruff voice spoke from behind him, "this is what you wanted! Stop your whining and play the three chords!"
Mace shook his head, refusing but his left hand obeyed, moving itself into position on the guitar neck as the instrument sprang to electric life. His right hand raised itself and came down striking the first cord. The fans in the darkness began to chant his name. It was low at first, but as his hand positioned itself for the striking of the second chord, the crowd's chanting of his name grew markedly louder.
After Mace struck the second chord, he began to shake uncontrollably. He knew for certainty if he struck the last chord, all chance of escaping his hell would be over. He had to get control of his hands, get control of his mind, he had to resist striking the final chord.
The fingers of his left hand stretched across the frets of the guitar's neck. He concentrated all his strength on trying to change the position of his fingers. Mace felt if he could accomplish this, it would stop the final chord. He could feel his tendons stretching and cracking as he fought for control. The pain was excruciating, but he was willing to break his own fingers if he needed to. His right hand raised itself like a hammer ready to fall.
Just as it came down, Mace managed to move one finger to the next fret down, it was on the same guitar string, but the chord would be different. This different chord, once struck, filled the place with a soft melodic sound that reverberated and grew louder as it continued to ring out, swirling around the whole place and around him. His hands were free, he closed his eyes and played an old familiar song from the chord. In this melody were many chords. It was a song he swayed to while playing the intricate, smooth guitar riffs.
The song was one he had loved and now it had returned to him to save him. The audience was silent, it was as though no one was there. The voice of his mocking mirror image was also silent. Mace knew he had won. When he finished and there was no response or applause, he didn't care. When the spotlights that had all but blinded him while he was on the stage suddenly went off, he had no fear.
For many weeks the mysterious disappearance of the renowned rocker, Mace Viper was front page news. Spectators reported their musical idol came out on stage and began the introduction to his three chord rhapsody only to interrupt it by playing an unfamiliar tune. When the melody finished, the lights reportedly went out. They came back on almost immediately only to reveal Mace Viper was no longer on the stage. When he failed to return to the stage and was never located, all sorts of theories arose. Everything from an assassination carried out by his managers for playing an unauthorized song, to being taken by aliens. In time, the sensationalism of his disappearance and playing recordings of his three cord rhapsody faded away.
While one great mystery remained unsolved another less notable mystery was at the same time resolved. There was never any correlation made between the two incidents. The return of a small town music teacher to his home after being mysteriously missing was quietly celebrated amongst the people of the small town. The teacher had no memory of what had happened to him and doctors who examined him declared him to be in good health despite his bout with amnesia. He was welcomed back and easily resumed his former life.
Mason Vyport awoke right away to the ringing of his alarm clock, yet he let it clang a few seconds more as he allowed himself a languid stretch and yawn before shutting it off. He was up in plenty of time and once up, he went through his normal routine; a shower, then dressing and having a simple breakfast. At his front entry door, he paused and glanced over into the only mirror in his flat. He made sure his shoulder length gray hair was neatly pulled back and secured. He then made adjustments to his neck tie and suit jacket.
With a slight smile, he turned from the mirror, picked up his guitar case and left headed for the school and his students. Today, he would begin teaching them a new song, though it didn't feel new to him. After he made sure it didn't involve a certain three chord progression he purposely avoided for reasons he didn't understand himself, he was sure his students would enjoy learning it.