Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Earworm's Song

The Earworm's Song
By Michael Cannata

                He sat quietly in his favorite chair listening intensely to a song no one else in the room could hear. He knew every word and had since the first day he had heard it. It was called, “Sneaky Ways.” When he first heard it years ago it stuck in his head. He liked it a lot. It was one of those one-hit-wonders that raced to the top of the charts, stayed there for a few weeks until everyone on earth had heard it at least one time, and then just vanished from the airwaves… never to be played again, except at weddings and other such festivities so people could do the dance that it spawned
                For most people it was forgotten as quickly as it was learned. But for him it was the beginning of a decade long struggle to get the damn song out of his head. He’d heard it enough times that he easily learned the rhythm and the lyrics. He would almost always hear it on the morning drive to work and would sing it to himself all day as he sat in his office.

                Gradually, the song became a part of his everyday train of thought. He found himself humming it at inappropriate times. At important office meetings he had been asked several times by his boss to stop his ridiculous humming. He tapped his fingers incessantly to its beat. Eventually he was fired because his constant singing was disrupting the office.

                He couldn’t get the song off of his mind. And slowly it drove him out of his mind. After about a year he smashed his car radio because it seemed to be on every channel. After two years he would shut off every radio and TV at his office and then his home. No matter what he did he would always hear that evil, insipid melody ringing in his ears.

                He learned there was even a medical term for his affliction. “Earworms” Also known as "Musical imagery repetition", "Involuntary musical imagery" and "Stuck song syndrome." It afflicted many people throughout history. It had driven people to murder and had even saved the life of one man stranded on a mountain. Scientists had a lot of theories about what started earworms but they had no idea how to stop one once it started.

                He followed all the popular recommended antidotes. He tried solving crossword and Sudoku Puzzles. He would read until his eyes could no longer stay open. Regardless, as soon as he stopped, that song would start up again as loud as if it was playing on a stage.

                Sitting in his chair he watched the blood drip from his hands; Dropping slowly, to hit the floor in perfect time to the voice from the worm. For weeks now he had refused to leave his room. His wife was becoming worried, almost panicky at the way he seemed to be listening to something just beyond her range. She knew about his earworm problem but had always chalked it up to his inability to relax. He was always so restless to begin with. Lately, over the years, he had taken to incessantly singing or humming some crazy, silly song that had been big on the radio over 10 years ago.

                His wife wasn’t going to worry any more though. When she turned to him in the kitchen she was as angry as he had ever seen her. Yet when she opened her mouth to curse him all that came out were the words of that insane song in perfect pitch. In that moment he knew that she had been infected as well. He couldn’t bear the thought of her suffering the same fate as his. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to control his own panic but it only served to amplify the sound of the song.

                When he opened his eyes he was sitting on the kitchen floor holding his wife’s head in his lap. The large steak knife protruded from her left ear… or what was left of it. When he cut off her head it was still screaming the words to “Sneaky Ways.” He tried to help her by digging into her ear canal to kill the worm but all it seemed to do was make the singing louder. He couldn’t get close enough to the damn worm with such a large knife.

                He made his way back up to his room, stopping at the utility closet on the way. By the time he was back in his chair he could hear a pounding on his front door. It was the police. His neighbor must have called them when he heard the commotion that cutting off his wife’s head caused.

                He didn’t have much time so he had to act quickly. He had figured out the perfect way to get to the earworm. He raised the foot long ice pick and set it gently into his ear. With one powerful blow from his fist he drove the ice pick into one ear, through his brain and out the other. On the end of the ice pick was along slimy piece of tissue that he believed in all his heart was the earworm itself.

                He had finally killed the musical demon. As he slowly slipped into a blissfully quiet embrace with death he savored what he had craved for so long; the sound of silence.

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