Shhhh! Digital Media Presents: Tales Of The Sanctum - Lost Riff (Updated: July 15, 2024 1:00 PM)



Despite the fact that I was harassed for most all of my outing today (July 5, 2024), I've decided to at least get this story started and underway, seeing as its going to be much shorter than Crystals Are Forever (which I expect to become quite intensive). 

I am however not rewarding the bullies that were out in force today, but more doing this for the fans of what I write. A new friend of mine that is a fan of my writing that you can see below...


And yes, those are my monitors, and if you look real close at the left one, you can see the Revision Control dropdown from Unreal Engine 5(.4) because I've been working on something very much related to the content here at Shhhh! Digital Media...

So, I'll write something today, but not because of the bullies, but for the people who really mean something important to me. And no, you don't have to have furry pointy ears to be a part of that club, but it helps ;-)


Chapters

  • Deck Party, Skydiving And Lemon-Lime Spritzer (Finished: July 8, 2024 4 PM)
  • Machine Head Mastery (Finished: July 10, 2024 3 PM)
  • Cadence (Updated July 15, 2024 1 PM)

Wow, this is quickly turning into something much more than what it was when I began...

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Shhhh! Digital Media
Brian Joseph Johns

Introduction

Some of us were driven by something we identified early on. Something that kept us in pursuit of a goal of some kind, from our earliest years crawling on all fours, right until our last moments on a rocking chair. That thing that drives us forward.

This story isn't in the slightest about those of us who are like that at all, because the protagonist of this story only discovered himself and his passion for life much later than most of us. While most are already experts (with some being masters) of their plied trade or even their hobby, the protagonist of this tale has barely explored the surface of their own whims when it comes to self improvement or pursuit of that thing, whatever it might be. 

However, that is not the most intriguing point of this story. Its the fact that someone else from a different time was also, driven, even obsessed in pursuit of such a seemingly life defining idea...



Disclaimer: I myself am not a guitarist, but I am very well versed in music theory. So if you're a guitarist, and you read things within the context of this story that are innaccurate about guitars or the skill to play them, remember that I'm trying to empathize. I'll hit a few bumps on the road ahead but I'll do my best to avoid them altogether.


Lost Riff


Deck Party, Skydiving And Lemon-Lime Spritzer


The orchard under the middle afternoon sun was lined with trees and shadows alike, each bearing fruit of their own. Some ripe with flavour and hanging from the boughs amidst the flowering cherry blossoms, and others fallen to turf and roots, rotten with the very essence of fertility.

Just off of the back deck, some of their guests had gathered. Xenshi and Xuxu performed before a group of youths, presumably the adolescent children of other members of the Sanctum. The watched as Xenshi and Xuxu performed martial arts acrobatics for the guests. They did so out of their own interest in a such pursuit, and for the joy of laughter and the screams of terror it often brought from their audience.

Beside the performance of these Eastern spirits, the children played out in the grass enjoying their host's hospitality while the adults played on the deck, mostly speaking of their work at the Sanctum and its politics between sips of wine or tankards of ale, and shoving hors d'ouevres into their gullets.

Out a distance from where the children were playing, another group played, adults who watched as Kensai demonstrated various techniques with a bokken he'd brought with him for such purposes, while a with another group, Sir Manfred demonstrated his Knightly techniques with a practice blade crafted of dried birch.

Watchful eyes fell upon all of the aforementioned, with ever so much interest, intensity and a hint of envy.

Eyes watched as Kenshi demonstrated the principles and practice of Iaido to his audience. To all outside appearances, it appeared as if Kenshi did not even need to think about what he did. He simply did it.

The same eyes watched as Xenshi and Xuxu acted without thought.

Those eyes watched them all until they were clouded by tears.

"...and so Yirfir steps forward to address this new proposal, and of course it is met with the usual round of applause and angry fervor..." Jasmer, already a few sheets to the wind was cut off by Yirfir, his wife.

"...let me honey... and Jasmer steps forward and says: This isn't an unprincipled rant! This is actual due process! Treat it that way! We need you to be active in keeping this Sanctum Seclorum going! You vote counts! ...he says!" Yirfir explained to their audience before Jasmer interrupted her.

"We discussed the issue the night before, Yirfir and I, and she literally said the same thing... I was literally copying my own wife... and it was a damned good choice!" Jasmer slurred slightly as Lannay, Jexelen and Thara were audience to their shop talk.

"Funny isn't it?" a soft and seductive female voice interrupted Barris as he watched everything around him.

"I beg your pardon oh wondrous saint of all I see when I see you," Barris responded, turning to Mila.

Mila giggled at him, pulling her chair closer to his at the table, and then wandering her hand secretly up his leg.

"You need to be social with your friends too..." Mila pointed out to Barris.

"Yes... I know... but how can I..." Barris began what he hoped was going to be an in depth conversation with his wife to be, before it was cut off by one of their guests.

"...and what have you been working on Mila... We're ever so curious about what it might be that's on your canvas..." Feylachar approached the two of them with her date, and a few of her other friends from the Sanctum.

"...I can show you? I think Shaela and Nelony are down in the studio right now if you'll follow me..." Mila stood, Barris first admiring the curve of her lips as she spoke, and then the curvature of her body when she stood.

"Don't worry Barris... We'll be back with your fiancé when we're done..." Feylachar assured him as they all left, stepping into the house through the double sliding doors.

A distance over and away from where Barris suddenly found himself alone, Mishima Sato approached from where he'd been a student of Kenshi. He walked casually along the grass towards the table at which Barris was seated, when a miss-thrown frisbee flew towards Sato. He moved quickly and without thought, dodged the disc with quickly executed ukemi. By the time he was back up and upon his feet, he caught the disc with his far hand, and then swiftly threw it back to its sender, who caught the perfect throw Sato had delivered.

"My friend, why is it that you're here all by your lonesome, when you've riches in the count of your wife to be, family and friends?" Sato sat down beside Barris, barely out of breath from his recent exertion despite being decades older than Barris.

"I don't know. Maybe I'm just indept? Incapable..." Barris responded, obviously having given it some thought previous to Sato's arrival.

"I see. You know Barris, a great warrior once said that a warrior never gives ammunition to their enemies that might be used against them, except that which they express in the honour of truth's sake," Sato elicited to Barris, whose left eyebrow raised significantly upon pondering such a thought.

"Makes sense. I guess I was being honest," Barris thought about Sato's statement.

"You're saying that you're inept?" asked Sato.

"Well look at me Sato! I can't actually do anything... except deliver tours at an Alivale historical site..." Barris responded.

"A tour guide..." Sato echoed.

"I mow the lawn occasionally too..." Barris added.

"Ahhhh, that's good. A lawn mower. Very useful, especially if you don't like lawns with long grass..." Sato replied.

"Cleaning the kitchen and loading the dishwasher at home occasionally too..." Barris continued the sum of his worth.

"Good. Dishes definitely need to be loaded. That's what separated the neanderthals from the rest! One side of humanity loaded dishwashers, the other didn't and went extinct! You're on the winning side of history Barris, that's no small accomplishment my friend," Sato for a change tried lifting Barris' spirits.

"Its no use. I simply can't really do anything... but babble. I mean, even our neighbours a quarter of a kilometer from us on either side are computer experts or something like that. Bigwigs with MindSpice or one of those companies. Yup-Yup-Yuppies..." Barris told Sato.

"I'm sorry my friend, but I think that you've developed a stutter..." Sato responded.

Barris rolled his eyes.

"No, I meant Yuppies two decades removed from the first generation of Yuppies..." Barris responded in a frustrated tone.

"I think they called that generation the grunge generation? So technically it would be Grun-Grun-Grungers...?" Sato corrected his friend.

"Or grungies... You see? I can't even come up with accurate anachronistic terms! They're all tardy by a generation or two! Tardinistic! I'm litterally destined to be a tour guide!" Barris exclaimed to his friend.

"You know what I think Barris?" asked Sato of his friend.

"No. Because if I did, then I'd be working in a booth beside Bella as a psychic, you nitwit!" Barris replied.

"I think that you need a habit," Sato responded.

"A hobbit? What in the world would I do with a hobbit? Send them on a quest? Maybe to remind me to bring Mila's wedding ring when that time comes?" asked Barris sarcastically.

"I meant hobby, Barris," Sato replied.

"Like what kind of a hobby?" asked Barris.

"What have you always wanted to do, but never did?" asked Sato.

"Hmmmm... besides nude sky diving into a pool full of hard ale and lemon-lime spritzer in the middle of an Oasis/Coldplay concert? I've never really given it much thought," Barris put his hand to his chin, pondering all of his missed chances in developing a meaningful hobby.

He delved into the thought further, examining it from a sudden daydream. He leapt from the cargo-bay door of a C-130 Hercules troop carrier, entirely nude, with nothing but his parachute and bodily hair between him and the air around him.

He was ten years younger, perhaps just having arrived at the doorstep of twenty years old. A healthy young man falling from the sky, screaming as he dove headfirst towards the stadium. London's Wembley Arena? Ontario Place Budweiser Stage? Barrie Molson Park? Who knew where he was, he was just living the moment as the air screamed past his ears.

As he got closer to the ground, he felt the pounding beat of the bass and drums from gargantuan speakers as the concert started, though if it was Oasis or Coldplay, it was a song he'd never heard before in his life. Perhaps something new both of them were putting together Barris surmised?

He flattened out from his full on dive, slowing him to terminal velocity as he readied himself to pull the release on his chute while still five hundred meters above his target. His entire body was jarred as the pilot chute emerged from his pack, pulling the rest of the chute with it. It opened up, revealing a pseudo paisley-grunge pattern across its surface as the crowd cheered for both the musical intro, and presumably Barris alike. Barris, feeling very inspired, aimed for the pool beneath him, which at this point was still just a tiny rectangle three hundred meters beneath him. 

At this point, Barris could hear a catchy musical motif, as it slowly emerged in volume from the midst of the rhythm. The motif was a simple phrase, derived from a patterned melody, that yet remained distinct enough through its entirety so as not to become dull or repetitive. In fact, it was tricky enough that it wasn't quite predictable, even the second or third time after hearing it. It was in essence, a very well crafted phrase, not unlike the works of Mozart or Brahms. Except it was all played on a guitar.

When finally that last repetition of the motif had come to a close, it expertly bridged the musical piece into a guitar riff that Barris, let alone anyone had never heard before. It was so simple, and yet mind bogglingly complex at the same time. It integrated several different styles of musical performance, the most prominent of which was definitely rock. When everyone heard the riff, their first thought was they'd heard it before, and yet it was so unfamiliar.

It did not simply rely upon the foundation of most rock, the one-four and five chordal positions from the modal scale, it went beyond that familiar, tried but true foundation of the musical style, instead integrating creative use of the chordal tonic, to make such a simply riff sound so familiar and yet completely new. It was as if someone had thrown the works of Jeff Healey, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Pete Townsend, Roy Orbison, Mark Knopfler, Chet Atkins, Eddie Van Halen and a slew of the greatest composers of all time into a blender, mixed it on high speed and then poured the results onto a musical staff.

Barris heard it clearly in his ears and felt it throughout his entire body as he lined up his landing into the pool. It was pure aural heaven. It was the musical perfection of the instrument kithara in its modern form: the guitar.

Barris heard, rather felt the music of the most prolific guitar riff as the scent of hard ale and lemon-lime spritzer hit his nose. He arrived at the surface of the pool with a fizzy splash and as he did, he screamed:

"Yessssssss!" at the top of his lungs.

...

As he fell beneath the surface of the tasty alcohol beverage, the world spun and inverted itself. The surface of the drink had now become the bottom of another pool towards whose surface he swam. When he emerged, he gasped for air but his lungs only tasted hot air and sulphur.

A large hand reached into the pool and grabbed Barris, wrenching him from it and placing him onto the deck around it.

Barris could feel the heat of the primordial furnaces from what he assumed to be the interior of the planet. It was in fact so hot that his body was no longer dripping, but was sticky with beer and lemon-lime spritzer.

"The riff! THE RIFF! Did you bring the riff with you?!!!" the voice was deep and forboding, its heat exceding the air around it.

Barris stood to see a tall man, taller than himself by a margin, wearing a black button-down designer suit and with long nineteen-seventies rocker hair. His face was hidden behind a veil of shadows, and the bangs of his hair.

"Lemmy, I presume?" Barris responded.

The tall man stood silently for a moment before speaking.

"I'm afraid not. He's in another section you see, which is in the deepest and darkest depths of this place!" the man said to Barris.

...

A few kilometers from where Barris and the tall man were speaking, Lemmy walked to the front door of his posh suburban bungalow and picked up the morning paper in his silk bathrobe and slippers.


"G'morning George. A lovely morning, isn't it?" Lemmy greeted his neighbour, Mr. Harrison.

"I've seen few better in my time. How's things?" asked George.

"The bass is in the shop, getting a new bridge installed," Lemmy replied.

"The Fender or the Gibson?" asked George.

"Actually, the Rickenbacker. How's yours?" asked Lemmy.

"Well, she's still gently weeping... so the pun goes," George responded, grabbing his paper and morning milk.


"Have a good one. Come for tea at three if you'd like," Lemmy grabbed his paper and took a moment to peer at the front page.

"Damn! Its still 1975! Disco's still at the top of the charts!" Lemmy steamed upon reading the headlines.

"I heard that Lemmy! Read 'em and weep!" Maurice Gibb opened the front door of his neighbouring home and responded to Lemmy.


and


...

"Where am I...?" Barris asked the tall man.

"Where do you think you are, Barris?!!!" asked the tall man of Barris.

"Uhhhh... Yellowstone Park, during a dangerous geiser activity advisory maybe?" Barris replied, at the very extent of his YouTube obtained knowledge of geology.

"Close... but you'll figure it out soon enough. You see, I brought you here because you're the only one who's ever heard it..." the tall man addressed Barris.

"I think I have it! This is your place, and you're Joey Ramone, right?" Barris found a little bit of courage for sarcasm towards his host.


"Not quite. However, you could say that I'm a surgeon of sorts, and there's something in your head that I need. You heard it and don't deny that you did. Now, I'll just take what is rightfully mine whether you like it or not..." the tall man reached out towards Barris, who stood rooted to the spot in sheer terror.

Then something in him sparked him back to life. It was the riff he'd heard at the concert, its melodic tenure flowing through his mind and memory. At that point, he remembered the concert and how he'd arrived.

Barris quickly dove into the pool of ale and lemon-lime spritzer and began swimming towards the bottom, taking a few healthy sips along the way. He felt a large hand close in around his ankle and he struggled to get away, diving deeper into the pool. With one final thrust of all his energy, he broke free, and pierced the bottom of the pool...

The world suddenly inverted itself again as his face crested the surface of the pool, the concert still going and the crowd still cheering. And then he awoke.

...

"...you could collect hockey cards... there's also basket weaving? Macromé? This world is full of things you can do to kill time... in a meaningful way... to keep that ticker of yours from being idle for too long," Sato tapped Barris' head lightly.

Barris suddenly sat up in his chair, clearly alarmed.

"Sato!???" asked Barris, looking to Sato with wild eyes.

Barris jumped when he felt a pair of warm hands caress his shoulders.

"Its only me honey..." Mila leaned down and planted a kiss on the top of Barris' thinning crown of hair.

"I was somewhere else... it was like a dream... but it was real!" Barris exclaimed, looking to Sato and then to Mila, who sat down beside him in the neighbouring chair.

"A daydream perhaps?" asked Mila.

"A delusion more likely..." Sato responded.

"No! It was real, as if I was there. I literally parachuted from an airplane..." Barris began.

"...you can barely step off of a curb without experiencing acrophobia, never mind an airplane..." Sato responded.

"You're referring to my bathmophobia, and I'm mostly cured of that my friend. Living in a manor with four floors and a scrumptous wife to be, does that for you. The best cure I'd say," Barris quickly responded.

"Continue... about your dream honey," Mila encouraged Barris to talk about it rather than to bottle it up.

"I leapt from the plane... naked..." Barris continued.

"With a parachute I'm hoping...?" Mila interjected.

"...of course. I had a parachute and was diving into a pool full of ale spritzer... at a concert... and when I landed, I was in a warm place that smelled like sulphur..." Barris paused.

"Uhhhhh... Mexico? Bahamas maybe?" suggested Mila.

"Could have been, but I don't think it was..." Barris thought about it for a moment.

"Florida? Its definitely warm most of the year. It is a place many people go to retire, an early possibility for you maybe...?" Sato insinuated sarcastically that Barris should just give it up.

"...true, and that would also explain the smell of sulfur, as many seniors contend with a problem of flatulence you know. Not unlike your bad case of flatulence of the mouth...!" Barris responded to Sato as Mila struggled to contain her laughter at their antics.

"...or yours of flatulence of the cranium!" Sato responded.

"I would have guessed the same of you given the rapid retreat of your hair..." Barris replied.

"Ok. You two forget this. Honey, go on with your story..." Mila wanted to hear what had excited Barris so much.

"...well... I heard music... from the concert but it was like nothing I've ever heard before! It was not of this Aerth... it was beyond!" Barris tried to explain to Mila how the music he'd heard had impacted him.

"What kind of music?" Mila asked him.

"It was from... a guitar," Barris said to her as he suddenly realized what he must do.

"That's it! Mila, you're a genius!" Barris laid a hurried but tender kiss on her lips.

"Thank you, though I'd be even more grateful if I knew what I did," Mila blushed.

"You helped me to find my purpose in life! ...Uhhhhh my other purpose next to our purpose of exploring all the different ways we can be affectionate to one another..." Barris quickly corrected himself. 

"Speaking of, I think I'll go pursue my purpose of escaping every moment you to smatter each other in affection..." Sato stood up and left the table, seeing Nelony in the distance who appeared an enticing target of his crass humour as she had been many times before.

With that, Sato was over to her side where he immediately began mocking her.

"What do we need to get you going on your purpose?" Mila asked Barris, standing from her chair and then sitting in his lap and wrapping her arms around his neck during their moment alone on the deck.

"I just need one thing... a guitar," Barris explained to her.

"A guitar? But you don't play, do you?" asked Mila.

"Not yet. But I have to find that riff... I have to!" Barris said to Mila with a look of obsession in his eyes.

Machinehead Mastery


Barris woke up to Mila's soft touch and the fragrant scent of her perfume the following morning, the sun streaming in through the curtains.

"Barris honey? Wakey wakey..." Mila coaxed him as she sat on the edge of the bed closest to Barris.

A devious smile crept across his face as his eyes opened and he spied his wife to be seated on the bed next to him.

"Well look at this... a flower just happened to bloom next to me in bed... I'd better partake of that irresistable fragrance right now...!" Barris quickly leaned up and began nibbling on her chin, pulling her down into the bed with him as she giggled, struggling against him.

"I don't have time!" Mila urged him, struggling to contain herself.

"Oh, it can't be that late..." Barris maintained his seduction.

"Its ten already, and Nelony, Shaela and I are going to pick the bridesmaid dresses..." Mila struggled to speak as Barris' mouth slowly found its way to her lips.

"...ten o'clock?!!!" Barris suddenly retreated from her, leaving Mila's hanging lips just before they touched.

He quickly got out of bed and ran for the closet to grab his trousers.

"Where are you going?" she asked him.

"I'm late for work!" Barris skipped his undergarments altogether, going right for the pants, shirt and shoes.

"Honey, its Sunday... relax..." Mila said to him reassuringly.

"It is?" he confirmed.

"Yes...!" she replied, still laying on the bed very invitingly.

Barris immediately dove into bed with her and resumed from where they'd left off.


...

"She's been up there twenty minutes already. How long does it take to deliver a see you later today kiss?" asked Nelony politely, yet impatiently.

"There's only one way to find out. Wait here...." Shaela stood up to her full six foot height and marched up the stairs, her red hair trailing her step.

"Don't you disappear too..." Nelony said as she took the last sip of her tea.

Just as Shaela arrived at the bedroom door, ready to knock, Mila opened it and stepped out into the hall, her complexion glowing as she smiled.

"Yirfir and Jasmer took Sato with them to the Belleville flea market. They should be back around the same time as us. Don't forget that you said you were going to work on your vows today..." Mila said to Barris as she left.

"Don't worry honey, I'll have them done in time. Miss you, kiss you, with you..." Barris said to Mila as she closed the door.

"Miss you, kiss you, with you too...!" she blew him a kiss and closed the door as Shaela mimed gagging herself.


"That was a long goodbye..." Shaela said to Mila suspiciously.

"...he wasn't feeling too well, so I had to comfort him..." Mila responded innocently but Shaela saw through her alibi.

"I'm sure. Come on, you can fix your make-up in the car," Shaela responded as they returned to the kitchen to get Nelony.

"Finally. Is Barris feeling better?" Nelony asked, assuming that he was ill.

"Much better, thanks for your concern," Mila responded.

"I tried to tell him last night not to eat barbecue and veggies at the same time, especially when you're drinking. Its either one or the other, and as you know, I don't eat meat and know all about this topic, but he just went ahead anyway and ate like there was no tomorrow..." Nelony began, speaking as if deflecting the blame for Barris' malady.

"What did you think of the bird feeders Barris installed around the deck?" asked Mila, quickly changing the topic to something Nelony liked.

"They were just lovely! Saw a few warblers with enough courage to take a few bites, but most of the other birds refrained from using them for some odd reason..." Nelony observed, suddenly joyed to be talking about nature again.

"I wonder why? Perhaps they should rightfully be called cat feeders..." Shaela noted Mila's three cats seated on the window sill staring intensely at the bird feeders, though more focused on the birds themselves.

"We're all ready then? Let's go, I'm sooo excited to see the dresses they put aside for us..." Mila said as she coaxed them out the door.

A few moments later and they were out the door, while Barris had stepped into the shower.

...

Ten minutes later and after several horrible and cringe worthy renditions of This is Love, Barris stepped out of the shower dripping wet and raring to go.

[PJ Harvey - This Is Love] (Much, much better than Barris' version. Believe me).

"I have a feeling that this is going to be a..." Barris said as he stepped out of the master bathroom, coming to a discrete halt in his statement when he spied something standing in the middle of the bedroom floor.

It was upright, reaching for the sky if not the stars or at least Mila's and Barris' master bedroom skylight. It had a long and slender neck that connected to a solid body whose curves were as nearly immeasurable as those of a woman's body. Subtle where need be, and pronounced when called for, while still being sharp enough in some places to reminded onlookers that they'd be proceeding at their own peril. It was something definitely produced by masters of their craft.

It wasn't quite a Fender Mustang, but it had hints of a similar oval near its base. It wasn't quite a Gibson Maestro Vibrola, but it appeared to have similar horns, though it favoured the Fender Strat's configuration in that manner, with one horn being longer than the other. It wasn't quite a Gretsch Jet, but it did have a similar pick guard, and dials on the horns. It wasn't quite a PRS Classic or a Schecter Sunset Extreme, but it did have similarly finely crafted machine heads and an ornate tuning-locked tremolo bar.

It was, in its stand, the most finely crafted of guitars. A carbon shaded solid body appearing much like the Clarke/Kubrick monolith from the film A Space Odyssey, and much the same, it had made its entry into their bedroom completely in silence.

Barris knew nothing about guitars, or any instrument for that matter, but he intuitively knew that this was not your average run of the mill guitar.

He stood there gawking at it, his hair dripping onto the carpet, still berobed in his favourite bath towel.

"Hello? Anyone else in here? Maybe an Amazon courier? Purolator perhaps? Fed-Ex I'd bet? DHL perchance?" Barris looked around the room, his eyes shifting from side to side for any signs that a courier had been in the room.

The silence responded deafeningly, while the guitar spoke in the language of possibility. Potential. 

What could come to be.

[]

Barris stood his ground fast, his feet still rooted to that same position while the urge grew within him.

He stared at the guitar, while it looked back at him, seeing his entire soul through and through in the blink of an eye. It knew. Barris knew, and yet Barris held his place.

That was, until he could no longer forstay the urge.

He moved upon the guitar, reaching for it and plucking it from the stand, and then immediately going over to the edge of the bed and seating himself there. He then lifted the guitar to his lap and assumed the position he'd seen on so many music videos, shifting it until it felt right.

And then...

He struggled to play: Stairway To Heaven...


and


Despite the fact that this electric guitar was not plugged in, it sounded amazing to Barris. He was actually playing a piece of music (which was actually just a jumble of barely discernable notes) all emanating from his already painfully blistered fingertips.

When he'd finished with Stairway, he then struggled amidst stage fright to come up with another song to play.

"Wait!" he said to an imaginary audience as he struggled with his first bout of stagefright.

"Uhhhhh???" he followed.

"I know!" he added before he continued playing again.

It was a loving (horrible) rendition of I Can't Get No Satisfaction. Monotone and all played on one string. In fact, that was the pure genius of the song. The fact that it was a catchy linear melody that could be entirely played on one string, hence securing it as the second most played first song on a guitar.


In Barris' perception of the situation, he'd just performed like a master of the guitar before an audience of tens of thousands of fans. Perhaps even more, and yet, he was simply seated on the side of his bed with a wet towel wrapped around his waist, and a guitar (of supernatural origins) on his lap.

At that moment, Barris felt a sense of elation that went beyond measure (musical pun intended), for he'd just lived a dream. An imaginary one, albeit, and one that many, many other potential guitarists had lived. 

At least once.

Barris watched the room around illuminate, but not with the light of day, but the fires of obsession.

An intense reddish-orange glow engulfed him, streaming in from all of the windows and any other entry-point into the master bedroom, until a group of five figures stood before him in the center of the carpeted floor.

"Spinal Tap I presume?" Barris responded without pause, perhaps sarcastically even.


The dry-ice smoke continued to fill the bedroom floor, feeling cold to Barris' feet as it engulfed the room from wall to wall. The lighting behind the quintet of silhouettes shifted through a variety of colours, accented by the recently dispersed pyrotechnic effects.

"Barris!" one of the silhouettes spoke, his voice washed heavily with reverb, analog delay and a bit of chorus.

Barris looked around too see if there might be a scapegoat in his midst. Much to his chagrin, there were none.

"Uhhh... I've heard that word before a few times. Are you Barristers or Soliciters?" he responded.

One of the silhouettes lifted its hand to slap its forehead, dragging the hand down across his face.

"Oh lord please... not another one..." the very same silhouette responded.

"You're referring to the smoke, aren't you?" asked the silhouette in the center position.

"You mean this isn't my concert?" asked Barris, suddenly caught off guard by the main attraction.

"I'm afraid not, but we've been chosen to express the fact that you've graduated to a higher level of ascendancy..." the same central silhouette responded.

"So... why the grand entrance?" asked Barris the most obvious question, if it wasn't all for him in his own bedroom.

"Its in our contract. Under page twenty, paragraph five, clause two, that we - referring to said performing act defined on page two, paragraph six, clause eighteen, must always be preceded in terms of entry to a performance, speech or simply a public appearance, by the sudden emission of visual effects smoke of the dry-ice variety... end clause," that silhouette surmised for Barris.

"So you're silhouette lawyers?" confirmed Barris, now completely confounded.

All five of the silhouettes slapped their foreheads, exclaiming: not again.

It was silent again until one of them took the initiative to speak.

"Barris, we are in fact every single quintet and quartet and trio and duo and solo act that has ever existed since the beginning of time... so long as they wielded a guitar, or any variant thereof..." that central silhouette explained to Barris, who seemed suddenly dumbfounded.

"Sorry, I know what a trio is... but a quartet? a quintet?" Barris held onto the guitar protectively.

There was some more slapping of foreheads and a few oh goshes and oh dears, before the quintet resumed.

"Quite simply put... four members in a band and five members in a band..." the central silhouette explained.

"Ohhhhh... I see now. QUIN sounds so much like FIVE and QUAR sound so much like... hmmm quar and four do sound alike. So who came up with QUIN meaning five? An idiot perhaps? Ha! That's so funny I almost forgot to breath!" Barris defied them, thoroughly empowered by his recent (illusive) performance.


"Are we even right for this job? I mean he has a point, even if his meter's off tempo..." the drummer silhouette responded, already creating divisions amongst them.

The bass player silhouette suddenly found himself in a conundrum, torn between the drummer and the rest of the band. In the end, he sided with rhythm.

"I'm with the drummer," the bass player silhouette added predictably.

"Want some kick with that?" the guitarist silhouette kicked the bass player silhouette's leg.

The keyboardist was ready to step in, readying himself for conflict. 

"I heard that this is exactly how the Beatles broke up..." the bass player added, trying to calm things down before the vocalist silhouette intervened.

"Barris, you've suddenly graduated into a world that you did not know existed. You are now the member of a brother and sisterhood that spans..." the central silhouette raised his hands as he delivered a rousing speech.

There was a pause.

"Decades. At least four. Wait, let me do the math..." the central silhouette struggled with even the simplest numbers, unless those numbers involved booking times or money.

"Five point two nine decades for crying out loud! I mean its all there in black and white!" the keyboardist responded.

"Yeah? Well I can play sixteenth note triplets at one eighty beats per minute you damned glorified button presser!" the guitarist smirked at the keyboardist.

"And to think, I wasn't even trying to press yours..." the keyboardist silhouette responded.

"Don't you dare talk to a guitarist that way!" Barris replied, already feeling a kinship to the silhouette guitarist.

There was another moment of silence. A long one, where the vocalist didn't even feel like they had to tell the rest of the band what to do. 

It was a rare moment of understanding.

"Barris Windsor?" the central silhouette addressed the man on the edge of his bed.

"You have hencely graduated into a fraternity of unrealized power and potential. You, have become a member of those first time guitarists whose first time playing, tried to perform Stairway To Heaven and I Can't Get No Satisfaction! You are amongst millions, perhaps billions of other guitarists (or beellions and beellions as Carl Sagan would have put it) who've all found their way onto the path of guitar perfection!" the central silhouette addressed Barris.

"I am?" confirmed Barris.

"You are. You've stepped into the realm from which we can guide you (according to page one hundred and seventeen, paragraph six, clause nine)" the central silhouette replied.

"And you are?" asked Barris, suddenly intuitively understanding his signing powers as a sought after artist (of very, very common proportions).

"We are the legendary band CADENCE, and we are going to guide you towards your pursuit of the one and only... LOST RIFF" the central silhouette responded.

"And even from here, sitting in nothing but a towel, I assume that I'm going to be famous? Like Eddie Van Halen?" Barris responded.

"Barris, if you can find the LOST RIFF, you will be the most highly regarded guitar player in all of history! You'll have women. Fame. More women. More fame, and..." the vocalist silhouette began.

"...even more women? But I'm about to be married! I am already with the woman of my dreams!" Barris responded, very unimpressed by the prospect of what they were offering, for he was for Mila and as much so as she was for him.

"Forgive me, I come from the nineteen sixties and a lot of things have changed since then. So no, you won't be getting even more women. You'll be getting a shrink. A full-time in-house psychiatric professional to deal with your ego problems, and there will be many. All singers have them, though few admit that they need them," the vocalist silhouette replied.

"But I'm a striving guitarist, not a singer!" Barris responded.

"Denial. That's the first sign you have a problem, Barris. So said Peter Frampton, and look at him now. Trust us and you'll be the singer of the millennium," the vocalist silhouette told Barris.


"But I don't want to be the singer! I want to be the guitarist, or if that fails... the drummer!" Barris replied.

"Barris my dear friend, everybody wants to be the drummer but there can only be one, or two if you're Genesis from back in the day," the vocalist silhouette replied.




Cadence

[The Turtles - Happy Together] (In The top ten from 1967)

It was 1967.

Well, back when it actually was 1967, but I'm sure you get the drift. 

Actually, if you understood the term: get the drift, then obviously, there's no need for clarification. You were there in 1967 in one form or another.

So, where was I?

In fact, 1967 was the very same year that Cletus Bart Addersin, a (local) guitarist of some reknown in northern Ontario, had formally founded a band with four other musicians. John Clarkies, the drummer. Dan Drogen, the bass player. Paul Sholtz, the keyboardist and Felix Smith, the vocalist.

They started out gigging under the name In Formation, playing two sets of their own homegrown original rock and roll music, throwing in the occasional cover tune to fill a third and final set. They changed their name to Steady Sound a year later, which their management felt would help their audience identify them with rock music. They grew their audience under that second name to a considerable size before changing their name one last time. From that point on they were known as Cadence.

By nineteen-seventy they put together their first album Go The Distance, which was an enticing mix of original progressive rock. Upon its release it was praised by the critics and fans alike, not to mention it landed them their first number one hit: Freight Train. The album eventually went platinum (one million units in sales), solidifying Cadence's fame.

Cletus had by that time become a guitarist of reknown, highly respected amongst other musicians for his skill and ability as a player. He even developed his own progression, which utilized his three initials: Cmaj, Bbmaj and Amin7, in the key of F (or C mixolydian), taking the rock genre away from its adherence to the often used one four five progression and entering into a new and refreshing territory of five, four, three. This progression was even named after Cletus, other musicians calling it the Cletus Slide, which began a trend in his career that put him in competition with himself. With every new release, he was competing with his own past and as time went on, it became harder and harder for him to outdo himself. What he reckoned he needed, was something of epic proportions. Something that would put him at the top, and keep him there for good, and that's when he discovered the existence of the lost riff, or rather, when it discovered him.

Cadence was on tour and at that time in the city of Seattle. They'd finished their show for that night and by two o'clock in the morning, they had already turned in. Everyone that is, except for Cletus, who sat up with a bottle of whiskey, trying to write something new with his twelve string acoustic. He was four fingers from the bottom of the bottle when he passed out in the chair, his guitar still on his lap. And that's when the dream began.

It was a distant and tight echo at first, which most musicians and studio engineers knew as the early reflection component of reverberation, for from where ever it originated, the floors and walls were as solid and immovable as stone. The sound bounced around between these surfaces until it was a mixture of aural ripples splashing into his ears like the waters of a healthy tide and a sound like the flavour of the whiskey he'd consumed earlier.  A serene texture, but with one heck of a bite.

Playing music for a living as did Cletus in the band Cadence, one got to know music so well that eventually one could merely hear a tune and just as easily play it. Playing by ear, as most musicians referred to the technique. A handy skill to have if you were working playing covers of other musician's songs and audience requests, or if you were collaborating with a music writer who communicated their ideas without sheet music. The performance experience of one's playing eventually led one to the point where if they could hear it, they could play it. However, for some reason, with the motif Cletus was hearing in his whiskey induced stupor, he could not piece it together at all. Like seeing a face right in front of you, and then drawing a blank when asked to describe it.

This was music that could not be captured and transcripted by ear and hand alone, for it went well beyond copying and reproducing what was heard. This music wasn't sound alone, all by its lonesome. In fact, what could be heard of it was actually the least of it, for this lost riff went well beyond that concept alone. Like the tip of an iceberg, the sound only made up one percent of the sum, the rest of it hidden well beneath the waves.

Cletus began to feel the music, through his body, in timing with the beating of his ever thrashing heart. The thump in his ears became like the kick-drum, and the reverberation in his auditory canal the low frequency sound of the bass. 

The tempo of the lost riff picked up (accelerando as it was so called), and Cletus' heart followed in suit, beating faster and faster in order to keep up. Cletus did his best to remain focused on the music, the sweat now dripping from his eyebrows by way of his drenched forehead. At that moment, he felt a sharp pain in his chest.

"You're not gettin' away from me that easy!" Cletus exclaimed from the midst of his waking dream, the mumbling from his lips barely coherent.

"You're a strong one, aren't you?" a voice replied to Cletus, though he couldn't tell if it was real or simply another role in his dream.

"Am I dead?" asked Cletus, suddenly recalling the pain in his chest from moments earlier.

"If you were, you'd be the first to speak about it with your own voice. Most dead people speak to the living in a multitude of ways except through their own lips," a tall man with long seventies hair in a stylish rock and roll suit looked back at Cletus from his shadow obscured face.

"Are you the good one, or the bad one?" Cletus clarified with the mysterious figure.

"Now that's the second most common question I've been asked upon a first meeting. Its your first question that's at the top of the charts so to speak, which means our conversation so far is exactly the same as with all of the others I've met. Am I being a little presumptuous in expecting more from someone like you? Make it a little more interesting than routine, Cletus. After all, you and your band mates have written a lot of music that treads that line perfectly. Too avante gard and progressive, and few people will be able to relate. Too routine and predictable, and there's nothing to challenge them as an audience. So here I am Cletus, an audience of sorts. Impress me and don't alienate me, or I'm libel to get bored and abandon you altogether," asked the man seated across from him.

"I just want to know if I'm dealing with a devil or an angel?" Cletus pushed the issue, not truly having understood or considered the man's previous statement.

"That's twice you've imposed concepts into a situation that don't fit. An oversimplification as it were. Would I be the good one if I were a devil? Would I be the bad one if I was an angel? Would you prefer a devil in heaven or an angel in hell? Would I be lying to you if I revealed myself as either one of those stigmatic archetypes? You see, those ideas come with their own history and baggage and we're way beyond that, Cletus. Let me ask you a rhetorical question: If I wanted ignorance and to keep my road as the most prevalent in the world, then wouldn't I be the one putting dead-end signs on every other road that wasn't mine?" the man responded, quickly dispatching ideas that imposed any kind of preconceived structure onto their conversation.

"This is a trick. You're my audience then..." the concepts once again escaped Cletus, to whom the man's words meant something very different than what he'd intended.

"No, Cletus. I'm not Cadence's entire audience embodied as one man, but I am an audience of sorts, and you still have one more chance. You've stumbled onto a road less traveled, and as such, you were within earshot of what it has to offer. You were curious enough to begin down that road but when confronted by me, someone who is essentially a lost hitchhiker on the road of life, you panicked. You became afraid of the road ahead, Cletus. Its your biggest fear in life. Commitment. You heard... no. You felt what was in store on this road by way of that riff, and you turned, ready to take a safer path. A predictable one that has never asked you any questions that you couldn't answer. The same bologna steak, eggs and bourbon for breakfast that you've been eating since your first real tour rider from ten years ago. You see Cletus, the moment that you got yourself into a predictable routine, was the moment that you sold your own soul, though I'm only speaking in the language of ideas that you presented. Ideas that basically say: don't think about anything that might change you, and don't take risks. The riff. That lost riff lies somewhere down this road, Cletus. If you want it, you're going to have to get out of your comfort zone, the same as when you and your band mates had formed Cadence," the man explained to Cletus, who for the first time in their conversation really listened, and more importantly, heard.

Cletus' saw the last ten years play out before him, from the comfort of his own memory. Cadence's first real deal, signing with a major label. Cadence was given two hundred thousand dollars up front, and five years to produce three albums, between the legs of a North American tour, and finally a World tour, and all before the 1980s were officially born. Cadence had become a world phenomenon and it was as the man had said, that Cletus had given up his own soul when he opted to have every moment of his waking life planned for him from that moment onward.

What the man had said to him appealed to his artistic - rather than his business sense. Two ideas that had found opposition in one another amongst the ignorance of those who'd never really considered them thoroughly. That to embrace a good business sense was to sell out, or to embrace one's artistic sense was the front door of virtuosity. Simple ideas easy enough for someone like Cletus to wrap his head around. He'd always been about the art of playing, of creating, and saw the business side of art as the flip side of the coin. No matter what, heads and tails would never see eye to eye as Cletus saw it, and so long as he stuck to that idea and gave others the impression that it meant everything to him, they'd continue selling records to those who'd subscribed to the same perspective. The truth was that Cletus did see things that way, and was under the option that it was all part of a bigger picture. It was the struggle of the artist, and he never realized that the two sides of that coin were always in the hand of one person. No coin in history had turned up all heads or all tails when flipped.

Cletus had somewhere along the way abandoned his art, instead having jumped into bed with the label as he saw it. He had sold out. He had become everything that he'd wanted his music to oppose.

Now here was a mysterious man, who'd committed no crime other than to open Cletus' eyes at the lowest point in his height of heights.

The lost riff had once been Cletus' for the taking, but when he'd signed that deal, he'd sold his soul for the price of predictability and the guarantee of a routine. Ever since, he'd lost the trail of the lost riff. Every moment from that point, whether Cletus realized it or not, he'd struggled to find that spark in the band and himself that ignited their passion for music, and not simply a spark that enticed them into making a cookie cutter they could use to make the same music over and over again.

"Its way different when you do music because you couldn't not do it if you tried, than it is to do music when someone else tells you to do it! That's when art dies..." Cletus finally broke the silence, grabbing the bottle of whiskey and guzzling the last four fingers.

The man sat silently in his seat across from Cletus.

"Impressive Cletus. You didn't let me down, either. I was worried for a moment there, but I never doubted you. You think you know someone until they surprise you, and then you come to the realization that you never really knew them at all," the man responded, suddenly realizing that he was as lost as he'd always been and alone as he'd ever be.

He may have found another hitchhiker on his eternal journey, but ultimately he knew that hitchhikers were all thumbs, while guitarists and the lost rift required fingers to play.

What Cletus didn't see was that every argument he'd put forth in protection of his art, could just as easily apply to someone else's sense of business and ethics, and that it was the driving passion itself that motivated some people to become artists, and others to become entrepreneurs.

"I'm doing this for the art! For my fans!" Cletus leaned forward in his chair, holding his guitar firmly as he began to write what would become the most important song the band Cadence had ever written.

The very same song that Barris, more than fifty years later and already two songs into his first time playing, would attempt with his new guitar.


To be continued...


Credits and attribution:

Artwork: Amy WongWendy PuseyGhastlyBirdman, Brian Joseph Johns, Daz3DUnreal Engine...

Tools: Daz3DCorel PainterAdobe PhotoshopLightwave 3DBlender, Stable Diffusion (Easy Diffusion distribution), InstantIDSadtalkerGoogle ColaboratoryMicrosoft Copilot (Windows 11), Hitfilm, Borderline Obsession...

InstantID by: Wang, Qixun and Bai, Xu and Wang, Haofan and Qin, Zekui and Chen, Anthony. Research Paper Title: InstantID - Zero-shot Identity-Preserving Generation in Seconds.

Sadtalker by: Zhang, Wenxuan and Cun, Xiaodong and Wang, Xuan and Zhang, Yong and Shen, Xi and Guo, Yu and Shan, Ying and Wang, Fei.
Research Paper Title: SadTalker: Learning Realistic 3D Motion Coefficients for Stylized Audio-Driven Single Image Talking Face Animation.

Gratitude: Our Mentors, Senseis, Sifus, Sebomnims, lifetime inspirations, family, friends, the Nomads (ask Stanton about that one), the Music, the Movies, the Theatre, the Arts, ASMR, (both YouTube and Bilibili and the many other creators on those platforms), the Gaming and Developer communities and of course, the audience.

Martial Arts (in the words of real experts and at least one comedian): https://brucelee.com (home of the real Dragon and an entire family of inspirations), http://iwco.online International Wing Chun Organization (International presence of a very scalable intensity martial art, protected and developed by Shaolin Nun Ng Mui) and the alma mater of Jinn Hua's own specialized variation thereof, https://iogkf.com International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karatedo Federation (even Hanshi had his teachers), https://itftkd.sport International Taekwondo Federation (Here there be Taegers), https://tangsoodoworld.com Tang Soo Do World (the path of Grandmaster Chuck Norris), https://www.aikido-international.org International Aikido Federation (how else would Navy Chef Steven Seagal liberate a Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier from a team of hijackers?), https://www.stqitoronto.com Shaolin Temple Quanfa Institute (The City Of Toronto's own Shaolin Temple), https://www.enterthedojoshow.com Master Ken's Ameri-Te-Do presence (If we can't laugh at ourselves, then we can at least laugh the loudest at others, and other Zen)

Special thanks to AitrepreneurMickmumpitzHugging Face and the YouTube educational content producers, including those catering to the AI content production pipeline and of course AlphaSignal.

Special thanks to John Paul Young and the Cardboard Brains, whom you can now visit at https://www.ermiescub.com

Something to give you perspective: The very first teacher had no formal education, didn't graduate and was self taught, but only because they had no other choice. We do.

This content is entirely produced in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at 200 Sherbourne Street Suite 701 under the Shhhh! Digital Media banner.