A familiar feeling welled up within Michael Kay’s stomach, as the shadow of a titanic black fist came down upon him, more than eager to claim his life.
With a quick roll to the left, Michael dodged an early demise, motioning to Denny once the dust cleared.
“I’ll keep him busy!” Michael yelled, rolling again as the chord’s palm pulverized the ground he had just been kneeling on. Huge fingers tried to grab at him as Michael bolted into a run.
“Just do as much damage as you can!” he declared, going in the opposite direction as the chord turned and followed.
Denny blinked, moving erratically before she picked up her music player and fumbled to choose a song.
With all the crashing and seismic activity around her simply from the chord moving, it wasn’t hard to decide on something quickly. Denny pressed play like she was mashing the button to close an elevator.
What followed was a powerful beat, a thrumming bass guitar, and then the familiar voice of her idol. He sang like an angel, as a soft, golden light began to emit from within Denny’s hands.
“I’m on it, Michael!” Denny shouted, turning back and forth until she saw what she needed. Without hesitation, she picked up one of the smaller guitar-plants, hefting it in her hand and gauging its weight.
Then, making a deep breath, Denny pushed out as much extra energy as she could muster. Golden light enveloped the guitar-plant, causing it to glow bright like some shining prize.
The light show was nothing she hadn’t seen before. Balancing it over one shoulder, Denny narrowed her eyes, aimed as high as she could, and then threw it upwards like a javelin.
Brilliant white starburst exploded from the chord’s shoulder upon impact, and it screeched at the sudden sensation of searing pain.
It turned quicker than its size might indicate, the black void of its music note-head now focused fully on Denny below.
She hurried to grab another guitar plant, hurling it forward as the chord’s hand dove down to claim her. More white starlight flashed in the air, and the chord recoiled as the purest energy hit home.
Denny smiled, picking up another plant in anticipation of attacking again.
Michael just about grinned as well, only for his expression to snap as a black hand barreled into Denny with monstrous speed.
She struggled and beat against it, but it was like a mouse fighting a cat. The chord hoisted her up high into the air, iron grip just inches away from crushing her entirely.
As Denny screamed for help, Michael burst into action.
With Canned Heat in his heels, he sped forward, heat channeling in his palm as he searched for any hint of a weak point he could take advantage of. After a few painful seconds of nothing, Michael unleashed a beam of heat at the creature’s back, searing into its black flesh and distracting it once more.
It turned, Denny still in hand and struggling like a maiden caught in the grasp of some psychotic simian. The chord had no eyes, no mouth or no nose to speak of, and so Michael was unsure of just how it felt.
Only its tense body language, and the low rumbling bass beat coming out of where its mouth should have been, displayed just how angry it was.
Turning its heavy head, it seemed to look at Denny. Like a person looking at an ant, it inspected her, as if fully aware of just how easily it could pulverize her in its grip.
Michael’s breath shortened, and a cold sweat developed on his brow. His heart pounded back and forth against his chest at the horrible reality unfolding before him.
Denny’s mouth opened to say something, and she tried to wave, perhaps to assure Michael she was still okay, but he had stopped listening.
His thumb moved out of reflex, swiping on his music player to the only song he knew would stand a chance in this situation.
Michael’s brain surged forward on autopilot, and he pressed play on his music player as the triumphant sound of a booming guitar entered the air.
The chord no longer moved to attack, attention now drawn to the growing shadow looming behind Michael Kay.
Bass guitar-trees were snapped in two, and other foliage stomped and demolished, as a towering, letter-form guardian birthed itself into being within the Soundscape.
Or more accurately, it was very much at home, body pulsing with latent audio energy as its size grew beyond Michael’s wildest expectations.
When its shadow dwarfed even that of the chord, Michael turned around, and his eyes widened in awe.
What was once as tall as a three-story building now looked capable of matching a skyscraper. Michael’s Big YMCA was larger than ever before, each letter glowing with otherworldly light. Instead of six arms, twelve adorned its form, and the gloved hands attached to each looked like they could crush a truck with ease.
Answering in an instant to Michael’s mental command, the Bigger YMCA mashed a fist against its palm. Those same fists seemed eager to dismantle the closest thing they could get their hands on.
At the sight of that, the chord took a tentative step back.
It shivered and retracted like a scared primate, showing its belly before slowly but surely lowering Denny back down to the ground. When it unfurled its fingers, she scurried out like a rat released from a trap, scrambling behind Michael as the Bigger YMCA took a step forward.
The ground shook as its sneaker stomped down. The chord shivered again, and then, its body fizzled as if being cooked in an oven.
Moments later, and it washed down to the ground like liquid, constituent parts separating into smaller notes again. They took one last look at the giant before them, before they went their separate ways and ran off into the safety of the surrounding guitar-forest.
Michael turned to Denny.
“You okay?” he said, out of breath from sheer effort.
She nodded slowly, smiling in the next moment. “Yeah. Thanks to you.”
What followed was a quick peck on the cheek, causing Michael to turn away and blush redder than he could care to admit.
“Great.” he said, voice cracking. “Let’s…let’s get going.”
His mental command surged upwards, and the Bigger YMCA hoisted both Music Masters in its palm, high up above where they could see the lay of the land ahead.
No longer concerned of danger ahead, Michael commanded it to take them forward, and with slow steps that destroyed swathes of forest at a time, his Sentonal obliged.
“Talk about big.” Denny commented, quite comfortable sitting on the palm of this gigantic thing carrying them. It was almost like being a huge life raft, plenty of space, and surprisingly warm.
Michael’s eyes were focused on the distance, his voice serious. “I guess it has to do with something about being in this place. Maybe song effects are stronger here. I mean, this is kind of like home for Sentonals, right?”
Denny made an unsure face. “Okay, but then how come Price got mashed? That’s not fair.”
Michael shook his head. “I dunno. I don’t know anything about this Soundscape stuff.”
He turned to Denny, trying to reassure. “But let’s not think too hard. We’re after the Mirror Chrome sea, remember? Paul’s the priority. Let’s keep our heads.”
Denny nodded with excitement, and with that, Michael turned his attention back to somewhere in the distance.
His Sentonal strode upon the Soundscape as if nothing could stop it. Each footfall was like an exploding drum.
And far away, in a realm of blackness and light, where dancing reigned supreme, cold metallic eyes watched and waited.
It had taken more than an hour for Lex Rydell to become comfortable in his current situation, and not try to kill the strange being that had found him at the edge of the liquid CD river.
Here he was, sitting on the comfort of a simple bed, in a home that looked like it could belong to any human of rural beginnings.
But this was not Earth, and Lex was not in some farm-filled countryside. He had been a resident of the Soundscape for more than a few hours now, and for the life of him, he had no idea how he would get home.
A few feet away, his host sat in silence. The motif said nothing and barely moved an inch, and from where Lex could see, he didn’t even seem to breathe. The sound of foreign music was present in the air, like curious elevator music that didn’t go farther than the interior of the motif’s home.
Lex paid it no mind. He had a hundred other more pressing concerns.
A soft aroma, like that of polished porcelain, hit Lex’s nose as he noticed the small cup of piano-leaf tea nearby. With some apprehension, he picked it up.
He was far too thirsty, and before he knew it, he was drinking in the strange, milky taste.
When he’d drank to his stomach’s content, Lex put the cup back down, and spoke.
His tone was anything but pleasant.
“Who are you? What is this place? Why have you brought me here?”
No immediate answer. In fact, the motif didn’t move at all. It was only when Lex stirred and began to get up from his sitting position that is physically reacted.
“Are you listening to me? What the hell are you?”
Despite the growing threat in Lex Rydell’s voice, the motif didn’t seem concerned or scared.
Instead, he finally turned fully, his thin body making inhuman motion in the process.
With one long finger, he pointed at himself. He had no mouth to speak of, but a digitized voice formed words in the air.
Lex blinked, as the motif then pointed at him.
Finally, the song made sense.
All this time, Michael Kay had been under the belief that the Bigger YMCA was invincible.
It had taken them some miles across the uncharted guitar-forest expanse, heading towards the strangeness that was darkness and bright lights in the distance. Beyond that was the supposed Mirror Chrome Sea, and with it, their ticket out of the Soundscape and back home.
But when they reached the end of the guitar-forest, the Bigger YMCA stopped hard, as if slamming right into an impenetrable brick wall.
“What the hell?” Michael said out loud, commanding his Sentonal to slam its fists forward into whatever invisible barrier was holding them back. The Sentonal obliged, but even as it battered against the air, nothing changed.
The air seemed as solid as diamond, and Denny looked at Michael with more confusion on her face than he was used to.
“Is this like a glitch or something?” she half-joked. Michael didn’t say a word though, another mental snap going off and telling his Sentonal to put them down.
The titanic letterform being obliged, and when Michael and Denny were safely on the ground, Michael pulled off his headphones, and the giant vanished.
Together they surveyed the path before them. The strange musical ground ended, forming into a colored path of lights that flashed on and off. They led to a foreboding darkness, one that might scare a lesser man.
But Michael recognized the decor in an instant. His ears caught hints of four on the floor beats ahead, and the disco lights beckoned.
He put a hand on Denny’s stomach, causing her to blush as he took a step forward.
Michael didn’t vaporize. It seemed for humans, it was safe.
“Looks like we gotta do the rest on foot.” he explained, putting his hand out once again.
“We got this. You good?”
Denny nodded quickly, and took his hand before both of them followed the dance tiles off into the great black beyond.
Their steps became quicker, and the rhythm of their footfalls flowed deep into the ground, up ahead where more ancient forces waited.
Metallic limbs became alive again, and the Preservers of Dance prepared for the light of human talent once more.