There are some events which occur in one’s life and leave an impression so strong, one begins to question everything he’s ever known. Some are for the better, while some are for the worse, but one never knows when they begin to happen. They always start off with something normal until one notices something out of place and then everything unfolds so swiftly, it puzzles the mind.
If I knew turning on the TV at 8:05am would have changed myself, I would have spat out mouth-warmed whiskey and laughed my head off.
It was a normal February morning in Maidstone. The sun was just about to rear its head from the clouds, lazily beaming down at the world. The weather app said it was 2 degrees outside so obviously my house windows were shut. I dragged myself from my room to the kitchen, trying to get myself a nice cup of coffee to jolt myself back to life. The night before was the usual rowdy one, where guys drank till they puke and girls drank till they got a taxi to cry in. I checked in the cabinets in the kitchen for coffee and realized I was out. Ah well, I thought. I guess I had to drink more rum. I poured myself a small portion and muttered to myself as I raised the glass.
”I have picked you up. Now pick me up”.
I took a sip and grimaced a bit. Strong stuff. Good but strong stuff. I walked into the living and plopped myself on the couch, when my TV suddenly came on. I looked around in mild confusion and found that I had sat on the remote control. I chuckled to myself a bit and mused on how I was able to turn things on with my butt and then the thought left me as fast as my father left my mother and I. The headline on the TV seemed stupid but for some odd reason, I put the volume up to listen to whatever the reporter was babbling about.
“– and this has become the new craze about the youths as it has become a new challenge where they listen to the song and fall asleep then try to remember the lyrics afterwards. Some use it as a means to clear up their drug-induced state and local authorities have bemoaned the increase in the sale of marijuana in the last few days. Sources say-“
My attention went away from the TV as my hands went for my phone. I tapped my pockets and remembered I left it charging in the room so I went for the computer in the living room instead. Apparently, there was a song by an unknown artiste titled Beelzebub’s Lullaby that was spreading like wild life across the UK. While I felt this was an interesting name to a song, what stopped me dead in my tracks was when I read about the effects the song had on people.
The first guy who found the song was a DJ who was combing through old vinyl records in a store. He looked like one of those punk hipster kids that had a face knuckles would love to meet. He allegedly said that when he listened to the song for the first time, it felt like a second passed him by before he realized that the song was over. He thought the record was faulty and then he listened again. The same thing occurred but he said he had never felt so alive after that moment so he called out to the store manager to listen to it. The store manager seemed to zone out and stood there with his eyes closed until the song was over. He told the DJ he was ready to give it a listen and he stood in astonishment when he saw that the record was over.
That was how it begun. Vinyl went to digital formats. Digital formats got downloaded. People listened, slumbered, awakened and slumbered again. It was the new challenge everywhere and one thing I hated was people having fun without my permission. So I got away from the computer, wondering to myself what kind of song it was, when the distant sound of my ringtone caught my attention. I went into the room and took a peek at the tiny screen and rolled my eyes. What does he want now?, I thought to myself as I answered the call.
“What now, Howard?”, I said mockingly.
“Oi, prick! Have you heard the new song everyone’s going crazy about?”, the voice at the other end raved.
“That shit is a real mystery, mate! Had me going bonkers but see this, yeah?”
“I was knackered from last night’s shebang, heard about it last night from Louise actually, downloaded it, yeah, gave it a quick listen and boom!”
“Are you using a Samsung?”, I asked dryly.
“No, dickhead! My hangover was gone! Felt completely whole again! It was a miracle!”, he replied
“You should have had it on repeat, you know?”
“Yo! That would be so weird! I have shit to do, you know!”
“Same. I’ll talk to you later”
He was about to say something when I hung up and sighed. So this was going to be on my mind for a while. There was only one person I knew that could explain this and I haven’t been to visit him in ages so I had to get a gift (the elite word for a bottle of cognac) before I paid him a visit.
Old Sally was one of the most interesting men I had ever met. He used to be a road manager for a lot of British rock bands back in the 60’s and had so many experiences that a visit to him needed the right beverage, for hours will go by unnoticed as he told tale after tale. I couldn’t say for sure if all his stories were true but the way he told them, as though he was reminiscing over something, made me almost believe every last bit.
So out I went to into streets, feet moving automatically while I was deep in thought. Something inside me told me I would get the answers from Old Sally and it would be one hell of a story.
Old Sally’s house was like a museum of vintage music. He once claimed that he knew every rock song from back in the day till those punk rock kids took over. The living room was neatly arranged, surrounded by shelves of vinyl records. Sometimes I wondered if he was ever going to let them go or even better sell them for a great price but I knew he wasn’t that kind of man. His collection was the love of his life. He said he would sometimes listen to the stuff that never made it out there and imagine what would have happened if they did.
“How’s the weather today?”, Old Sally asked as he let me in.
“Boring”, I replied, grinning.
“Just how I like it”, he grinned back.
I handed him the bottle of cognac and he smiled gratefully, waving me over to the kitchen.
“Come”, he said, “Let’s get glasses and drink to bad weather”.
I followed him into the kitchen as he carefully walked to the cabinet to get out the glasses. He had arthritis and once compared it to Cliff Richard’s first recording session.
”It was painful but it got better later on”, he had said, laughing.
He poured out drinks and we raised our glasses.
“To bad weather. The only sure thing about England”, he said.
“To bad weather”, I replied, smiling.
We both took a swig. Good stuff. Strong but good stuff.
“So what brings you here, young man? Haven’t seen you in a bit”, he said, walking back to the living room.
“Music brought me here”, I said, to which he sarcastically responded,
“And there I was, thinking you were here about the economy”.
He turned back at me and chuckled. I smiled back and shook my head. Old Sally had some old wisecracks that made me want to hit my head on a wall made out of porcupines.
“Come now. What’s on your mind?”, he asked, sitting down on his favourite chair, which faced the window and one of the many shelves in the living room.
I sat down, thinking of how to tell him about this strange song everyone was sleeping to.
“So there’s a song out there”, I began.
“No shit, Sherlock”, he said, taking a sip from his glass.
“A weird song, really. It’s been all over the news”
“And people wonder why I never watch the news”
“Basically when people listen to the song, they fall asleep”
The look on Old Sally’s face told me that I did a good thing coming here. The usual smirk had disappeared and was replaced with a stern look.
“Yeah, they listen to it and it apparently makes them zone out and they don’t remember anything about it but-“
“-but they feel great afterwards”, he interrupted immediately.
I leaned forward and observed his features. The stern look was gone now and I didn’t like what I was staring at. Fear had taken over his eyes as he stared back at me.
“Did you listen to it?”, he asked in a shaky voice.
“No, I haven’t yet”, I replied, beginning to wonder if this was a good idea after all.
He seemed to be in a trance as he stared blankly at me. I felt it would have been rude to get his attention again so I waited for him to come around.
“Beelzebub’s Lullaby”, he muttered to himself.
“Yeah, that’s the name of the song. You’ve heard of it?”, I asked cautiously.
He leaned forward in his chair and said something that made my skin crawl.
“He walks among us again”
I sat back, confused and watched him. He didn’t seem his usual self anymore. In fact, he looked like he was about to pass out.
“Are you alright?”, I asked, worried about his behavior.
“Don’t worry about me. How the fuck did that song get out there?! Oh, Lou, you bastard!”, he said.
He seemed to be talking to himself so I let him carry on.
“Lou never listened. He never listened. He kept that damned song! He did!”
“Okay, you’re scaring me. What’s going on?”, I asked, feeling a little wary of him now.
You know, there are stories one hears that are so surreal, they begin to sound a lot like myths old folks make up to sound interesting. Old Sally leaned back in his chair and began to speak.
Back in the 60’s, every teenager wanted to play the blues as a form of rebellion. Old Sally, called Sal then, was friends with a lot of guys who eventually became rock and roll legends. He used to threw parties all around and get his boys to perform for the crowd, who loved every riff they heard from the guitars. It was the new sound of freedom and it was spreading across the country like bad news. Sal eventually saved up enough money to get a recording studio so naturally a lot of wannabe musicians showed up, hoping to record a hit and join the new wave. That was when he met Lou Bricks. Lou Bricks was a fucking terrible singer and guitarist but his passion for rock and roll kept bringing him to the studio to watch others record.
One night, Lou walked into the studio with a strange man. Lou was obviously plastered but the other man seemed sober enough. He had asked for a session to record one song. Sal wondered if the man was any good so he agreed, not without collecting payment, which the man agreed to without negotiation. The man had a weird aura around him. Sal felt the man was some sort of runaway conman who was trying to make a break in the music industry. His clothes were sharp, for he did not dress like the regular wannabe musician, in fact, one would have mistaken him for a banker.
Sal waited for the man to settle in to start recording when the man said something that took them aback.
“Whatever you do, do not try to listen to this song again”
Lou stared at the man and then at Sal. Sal took one glance at him and then told the man to record. It seemed as though he had just woken up from a deep refreshing sleep when he saw the man coming out of the booth. He asked Sal to make only one copy of the record and would be back in 3 days to get it. He walked out of the studio, leaving everyone confused except Lou. Sal had checked the sound board to see if any recording had been done and found that it had recorded about 3 minutes but he couldn’t remember when the man had recorded nor the song the man sang. So he play it back and felt the same thing from before again. He turned to ask the rest of the guys in the studio if they had heard the song. They all shook their heads but Lou was quiet. Sal asked Lou what was wrong and all Lou said was:
“That was a weird song”
Sal pressed on, asking Lou to tell him what the song was but Lou didn’t say a word. Sal eventually gave up and got on with preparing the record. Three days went by and the man never showed up. Sal got angry and because he felt his time had been wasted so he swore he was going to let the man get it if he ever showed up at his studio again. A week went by, when Lou Bricks showed up to the studio. He looked distressed as he sat down on the couch and shut his eyes. Sal asked him what the matter was and he said that he had not been able to get the song out of his head so he wanted to listen to it again. One of the guys in the studio had jokingly asked what song Lou was referring to and was met with a heavy blow to the face. After all the scrapping, Sal got everyone calm and brought out the record. He played it one more time and that feeling of waking up from a pleasant dream took over him again. He looked around and asked everyone if they felt the same way and they mumbled in agreement. This was a mystery and Sal felt he should have probably made another copy in another studio, just in case it was his equipment, but later gave up on the idea.
It was months’ later he thought about the record again and went back to the studio to give it another listen when he realized it had gone missing. He searched his studio, desperately and couldn’t find it. Suddenly, he turned around to see the strange man walking in. He was stunned, for the first time, he noticed the man had a green eye. The strange aura around him intensified and for a second, Sal contemplated running out of the studio and screaming for help. The man calmly asked him for the record and Sal shamefully admitted that he couldn’t find it. The man stared at Sal for a while and then smiled. He shrugged and walked out, leaving Sal feeling more confused than ever. He began to search for everyone and asked them about the record, all who denied having it. Everyone except Lou. Lou hadn’t been hanging out at the studio regularly but nobody seemed to have noticed until now so Sal went over to Lou, and found him sitting on the floor, smiling at himself. The record player had just finished playing and Sal could only guess what Lou had been listening to. He angrily walked over to Lou and kicked him, yelling at him for stealing the record. Lou seemed to be in some sort of trance and laughed at Sal. He said that he couldn’t hear nor remember the song anymore but he could feel that euphoria and felt he should share the song with other people. Sal told him the man had come to the studio to get his record back but Lou said he couldn’t give it away, for whenever he went by without listening to it, he heard voices in his head, telling him things. He was calling it Beelzebub’s Lullaby. Sal was concerned now and decided it would be better to get Lou some help and keep the record safe but it seemed Lou knew what Sal was thinking, because he suddenly jumped up, ran for the record and sprinted out of the house. Three days later, Lou was found in a dark alley, screaming and hitting his head against the wall. He was admitted into a mental institution where he died. But the record was nowhere to be found.
The next time, Sal saw the strange man was at a club in the 80’s where he witnessed the man giving the DJ a record to play. The DJ played it and immediately, Sal felt that euphoric feeling he hadn’t felt in years. The man spotted Sal in the crowd and took the record away from the DJ, making a move for the exit. Sal tried to follow him through the mad crowd, who must have felt the same thing too, but didn’t get him. He had hoped he would never see the man again.
I sat there, listening to Old Sally, not even noticing that the drink in my hand had fallen off and the dark liquid had spread across the floor. Old Sally was quiet now and staring blankly, his mind obviously pondering on something.
“You know”, he said after a while. “I once met a gypsy woman who told me about a song that David wrote to soothe King Saul when he was being disturbed by spirits. She said nobody knew what the song was but it made the king so happy that he always wanted to hear it. But the spirits hated the song and couldn’t touch David so they ended up tormenting Saul even more”.
I was a bit bewildered by this and sat there, trying to shake off this weird feeling I was beginning to get. I decided it was best for me to head home and I told Old Sally that I would see him another time. He only nodded and gave me a stern warning.
“Whatever you do, lad. Do not let that song get to you. I beg you”
I got back outside and breathed a sigh of relief. I walked back, thinking about everything I heard. I wondered what kind of song it was and if it was probably just a particular frequency bandwidth that affected the brain in some form or the other. So I did something that I shouldn’t have done. I brought out my phone and decided to search for this strange song and see if I would be filled with any euphoria. After all, if Old Sally didn’t go mad, I most likely wouldn’t. Besides, Lou had heard the song the first time before he stopped hearing it and went mad. My heart beat faster as I sat on a bench and plugged in my earphones. I took a deep breath and pressed play.
A feeling of nostalgia hit me almost immediately as I listen to the song! This was the song my father used to sing to me when I was little! I tried hard not to cry as I listened! It was my father singing! And then it hit me again! My father did have one green eye! I don’t remember his face but my mother, who had burned all his pictures, merely mentioned it in passing one day. I listened to every word of the song, vaguely remembering myself in the arms of a man I barely knew.
I told you that there are events that leave a lasting impression on one’s mind. This was just the beginning of stranger things to come. And I am sure you are wondering what the song was about. Well, here it is.
Wake up. You didn’t hear it, did you? But you feel great, don’t you?