Volume 1 Issue 35: P.S.A.

All About Music

Jose Varghese

We are at stall #65. 
My niece, D26-1, is looking intently at the wax sculpture – a weird looking teenager in a t-shirt that says ‘Rock and Roll isn’t Dead’. He’s smiling to the screen of a device that was once called a smartphone, or a tablet. 
D14-4 and I exchange glances, knowing how hard it would be to explain all these to my nerdy niece who has just turned six.
“D14-6, did your grandpa have one of those?” he asks me.
“That’s possible, the crazy collector he was. He used to talk about finding his ‘jewels’ among the electronic junk in the Thirties’ flea markets in Korea.”
“What was this whole point of ‘music’? Was it like a game of simulation, copying patterns from nature? Why was it considered a creative art?” D26-1 finally asks, after reading what’s written under the weirdo figure. 
D14-4 and I are tentatively clearing our throats when the radio noises interrupt us. Then comes the announcement. 
/Public safety measure. Attention, please. Evacuation in progress. Only those who’re coded A to C should remain in the museum. All else, please move out in twenty minutes./
D26-1 runs to us. It’s the second time this week we’ve to go through this. Her face reddens and I can hear her heavy breathing.
“Relax, dear. It’s all right. We will be fine”, D14-4 tells her. 
I can sense his temperature rising as I hold his hand. We have to hurry up. Three stairs down for the exit, and the lifts are apt to get overloaded. He lifts her up and we run towards the stairs, our fingers interlocked. 
/I repeat. No one other than A to C should remain in the premises. This is a high alert situation. We have received information regarding a specific threat to State Security, and if we find anyone who is supposed to be in the premises or outside it acting to the contrary, we will be forced to see you as a potential threat and to take the necessary action./
“Does that mean they’ll terminate the offenders, auntie?” she asks me.
“Hush…don’t use that word. How many times have I asked you to use the code names instead?” D14-4 chides her. I try to give her a reassuring smile. 
As we reach the ground floor, a couple of heavily armed men drag a teenager towards the police van. His eyes are dilated; his jeans getting soaked in blood in the right thigh area. He seems to have been shot seconds ago. He covers her eyes, but she has already seen it. 
“What’s going to happen to us?” she asks.
“Nothing. We can just leave this place and get home”, I say.
“It’s just that they need to find an offender from those codes.” he says.
“How many of them are going to be terminated?” she asks.
“None, dear. None”, I say. “They’re just keeping us safe. Let’s go home now. And we’ll talk about music there. All of it, trust me.”

Jose Varghese is the author of ‘Silver Painted Gandhi and Other Poems’ and his short story collection ‘In/Sane’ was a finalist in the Beverly Prize, UK. His poems and short stories have appeared in journals/anthologies like The Salt Anthology of New Writing 2013, Unthology 5, Reflex Fiction, The River Muse, Chandrabhaga, Kavya Bharati, Postcolonial Text, Dusun, I Am Not A Silent Poet and Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis. He was the winner of The River Muse Spring Poetry Contest, a runner-up in the Salt Flash Fiction Prize and Faber QuickFic, and a second prize winner in the Wordweavers Flash Fiction Prize. He was shortlisted in Hourglass Short Story Contest and two of the Eyewear Fortnight Poetry Prize competitions, and was commended in the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize. He is the founder and chief editor of Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts and Strands Publishers.


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