A vast area of land in the centre of England known as Cone Zero was given over to memorials marking all those one-hit wonders of mankind’s music. We always need to remember in this way that everything in life (or in what seems to be reality as we know it) defaults to music at the end of the day. And music can be intended as joyful, life-affirming as well as sad, death-embracing. I am afraid the particular music-memorial Ifear I may remember forever from my brief visit to Cone Zero was one that ‘celebrated’ probably the darkest dirge that ever had the fortune to become a one-hit wonder. For the music ‘personally’ it was counted a fortune to be thus commemorated, but for the many who heard the music it was a misfortune, no doubt.
I was accompanied, that day, by Mitchell Much. He knew all about Cone Zero. Although he was a friendwhom I had known for many years, I assumed that he was also to be an official guide for the steep tapering invert of a mountain or pyramid I envisaged the place to be. It was simply lucky (coincidental) that I already knew him. He said Cone Zero was almost impossible to negotiate on foot. I nodded knowingly. My dream of the place had been one of pumping my legs against the slope just to stand still. We needed a lop-sided ‘golf buggy’ of sorts to make any progress towards the stone memorials crammed in the bottom corner of the empty cone. After shuddering with delight as well as awe at my first sight of Cone Zero, he motioned me to step into the official ‘buggy’. We travelled for days, and my spinning head thought it was back in the earlier dream. I wouldn’t call it dizziness. A better expression would be disorientation between dream and reality, but, for this disorientation not to be counterproductive, I needed a convinced undercurrent of knowledge(knowledge rather than belief or faith) that there was nothing being dreamed about this at all. Mitchell had instilled this conviction of knowledge by a whole series of training sessions prior to our visit. I had watched screenings of Cone Zero being built from the remains of Birmingham’s spaghetti junction, slowly being carved into the welcoming ‘arms’ of the earth, as if such a down-towering slot of slants was simply, inevitablynatural. Like, in a rather trite comparison, a classic sculpture had always lived within the primeval stone from which it was eventually released by the sculptor. Or, more relevantly perhaps, a piece of music that already crouched within our ears waiting to be sprung by the composer into ordered sound from the random surroundings of noise.
“Are we there?” I had to ask. It was never certain where you truly had reached when within Cone Zero. It was as if my question was an announcement that I knew we were there. I didn’t expect Mitchell to answer. His grey beard was so certain about unspoken matters that he didn’t even need to nod. I could hear the cacophony of the combined music of the memorials. It had already been rising towards me for several hours above the engine noise of the buggy. It was possible (I knew from my training) to use one’s sight to focus on a chosen memorial which then served to focus its music alone towards one’s ears. I had already wanted to concentrate on the celebrated hit of darkest despair from the menu of memorials Mitchell had shown meduring training. I believed that any despair was the most efficient path towards hope. Mitchell had not tried to dissuade me. The music was a pretty silly British cover version of an American hit novelty record of the sixties. It was sung by a group that was once famous but now completely unknown (unknown either by having been straightforwardly forgotten or by entering a mental blockage that was stronger than simply forgetting). As I speak now, it’s just not there. I just can’t hope to remember the name of the group. It is possibly irrelevant, anyway. Mitchell does nothing to help. He probably suffers the same blockage, but he would never admit this fact, I guess. However, by this time, he was nodding. Nodding not to indicate communication with me but nodding to the beat of the music. I feared he might soon start whistling along! God forbid that he should suddenly stand up in the buggy in some wild unspeakable outburst of karaoke! Mitchell was in danger of losing all dignity. I put my face in my hands and wept. The music was so utterly utterly wrong.
Having once focused, I now instinctively knew that I couldn’t pluck my ears from the memorial’s music in favour of another choice. I was aghast as it dawned on me that Mitchell’s training had not warned me about any of this. I cursed him under ... my breath? No, it was under my own humming-along! As we both joined in the music’s chorus in some unholy unison, I pounced upon him, eager to punish my friend-turned-enemy.But it did not stop our harmonising. Even planting my teeth in his neck could not interrupt the flow of mutualsing-along. Incredibly, the bubbling blood seemed in tune with the arcane rhythms to which Cone Zero had bought us closer. A novelty sound-effect that was both laughable and tragic: the ultimate despair. And Deathgradually shrouded my bodily senses one by one as I yearned lovingly for Death’s silence while remaining utterly terrified by the selfsame silence.
Mitchell Much shrugged as he drove the buggy back up the open slants of Cone Zero. He pulled the plugs from his ears with a smile. Never trust anyone when it’s either you or them about to face the ultimate despair. He knew that fact as well as me, I guess. He looked down as the diminishing tunes studded like tombs on a stave. He knew that a sixties novelty record could not justly commemorate the Fallen of life’s ultimate war. The Horror was ever in the mix. Bad taste smothering one’s awareness even beyond the toe-tapping of Death.In shame, he poured himself blood-tepidly into the cup of his own open mouth. Meanwhile, I am, finally, at peace, thanks to Mitchell Much, because, gratefully, I feel I no longer exist.