Sunday, June 13, 2010

Background Noise

In the darkness of the room, Jean fingered a tiny remote.

He had been careful, so careful with his project. Months and months of preperation, hundreds of dollars in equipment, survillence, bribes to make sure that no information was leaked out, that no one took offense at his work.

The city wasn't large, and thankfully, not that developed. Not enough for the latest in anti-bugging technology, or sweeping tools.

Around him loomed the chromed metal frames of half a dozen instruments. Black wires snaked from each of them, connecting the essential bits of hardware and software together. Above his house sat a massive satellite dish, one he had installed just under an hour ago. It would take a while for the privacy agents to notice. Until then, he would enjoy the fruits of his labor.

He pressed the remote.

Control panels lit up, blinking like stars in the clear night sky. The whirling of a thousand processors and their respective cooling units filled the room, but thankfully, was unable to penetrate the soundproof padding of the massive headphones he wore around his head. The dish hummed and beeped, as the first of the many, many signals came it.

Patter. Patter.

It was the sound of rain.

Somewhere in the city, a storm had formed.

This was joined in by the rustling of leaves in the park, the tap tap of footsteps down the tiled office floors, the whisper of sheets in a clothes maker's shop, the gurgling of coffee at the cafe next door...

The cries of babies in the hospital wards. The sweeping of brooms down the dusty allyways. The screeching of cars, the honking of a band, the slamming of classroom doors and the thunk-thud of falling cans.

They all joined together, melded together, the computers calculating and adjusting, blending the noises and melodies of the city into a single, perfect symphony.

In the background, the chatter rose. Voices of office workers, of artists in their homes, of students in their canteen, of sweepers down the streets. Of shoppers at the mall, of sportsmen in their gyms...all of the chatter rose and fell, their meaning and exact words lost and screened as the formed one crowd, the heartbeat of civilization.

Months of work. Months spent placing those tiny recievers on every broom. On the odd door, office corner, water-cooler, toilet. On plates and tyres, on flowers even. Just for this.

This was the music of the city. Of people, of their creations, of the things they did. Yet no one paid attention, trapped in their tiny bubbles of music, pumped into their ears from an even tinier music player.

Jean sighed a sigh of contentment, and heard it echoed back to him a hundredfold, mixed with the sighs of a hundred people. And then he smiled, listening to the symphony of the world.