They met in the dark. One with the box, one with the notes, and one with the brains. A rusty street lamp glanced blearily at the strange crowd below. This, indeed, was a strange crowd on a strange street on a strange night.
No one should have been out on the streets at this hour, especially with that box or with those notes or with his brains. Everyone, in fact, should be tucked neatly in their beds like cigarettes in their boxes or sardines in their tin cans. Instead, the one with the brains pressed his finger to his temples while extracting a thin, silver baton from his moth attacked cloak. The one with the box shifted his weight from one foot to the other, impatiently waiting for him. His frustration bubbled.
“Hurry up, Jordan. We’re in a hurry.” He snapped. The one with the notes, standing near to the one with the box, snorted at the mention of a hurry. She now shuffled her notes with her thin, nimble fingers. In the dim light of the yellow light, the delicate strokes of a pen could be seen in the form of music notes.
“Hide those away, quickly,” said the man with the box as the clicks of boots neared them. They drew to the shadows of a building looming overhead as the owner of the boots passed; it was a man wearing hat - a hat with the insignia of the local police.
Once the man departed from the scene, Jordan spoke tersely.
“Banjo, come on. Take it out now. And don’t tell me to hurry.” Banjo started to scowl, but seemed to decide against it. Instead, he set his box on the ground with a thud; he opened it with a sharp turn of a key retrieved from the back of his ear. A cloud of dust arose from the interior of the box and hung around them in the air.
“I still don’t understand why you guys call him Banjo,” the woman whispered in a quiet tone. “It’s so childish.” Banjo rolled his eyes playfully at her. He laughed quietly, his breath creating a white fog in front of his dry, chapped lips. He drew his hat further down his head before speaking.
“Lighten up, Sam. Then, I should be asking you: why do we call you Sam when your real name is-” Sam reached over and clamped her hand over Banjo’s mouth, which tried to squeak out the rest of his answer. The footsteps had returned. But as soon as they came, they retreated.
“They know something’s going on tonight. That’s why there are police around the area,” Jordan whispered gravely. He fumbled with his coat some more and pulled out more silver batons which glistened as he turned them ever so slightly with flicks of his wrist. Sam was mesmerized by the movement while Banjo made more muffled sounds under her palm; she withdrew her hand without the slightest whiff of an apology. Banjo cast her a look, one that she returned with a deadly glare. Banjo stuck out his tongue and looked surprise with himself for his apparent silliness. Jordan looked up and sighed, muttering some words not needed to be heard by the other two.
“Here are the batons. We need to act fast. Sam, roll up those notes and tape them to the batons. Banjo, get…” he drew a deep breath as if naming something terrible, “get them out.” This all happened in a flurry, Sam quickly fastened the music sheets to the silver rods while Banjo discreetly pulled out five slender tubes with golden valves - flutes. The alley around them seemed to be in an utter silence of shock for these instruments had not been seen by any living soul in a century. And there was good reason for this. Anyone holding this flute would be shot dead before they could realize what they were being shot for.
Except for these three.
Sam took the flutes from Banjo’s hand and paired up the flutes with a set of music notes and a baton. Banjo dusted off his hands and lowered his hat over his eyes.
“Well, I’ll see you later,” he said gravely. Then with a thought and a pause, he continued, “Or not. We’ll see.” He nodded to Jordan with a quick dip of his chin and lifted his hat up to Sam. However, Before he could go, Sam caught onto the fraying sleeve of his coat.
“Wait. We’re not done,” Banjo’s expression hardened.
“Oh, yes. The most fun part of all.” Jordan who had been silent for a while, pulled out yet another thing from his ever spacious inside pockets of his cloak - a map of the city, a city that sprawled out for miles, block after block, complex after complex. Yet no person in this grand city knew who they were or had control over their mind or body or life. They were all trapped, trapped by the iron fist of the city’s authority as it gripped them tightly with any hope of escape crushed into smithereens.
But something remained. These five, golden flutes remained as the keys that would free the people of the city like birds fleeing their cages.
“You two go. Spend your last moments together or whatever. I’ll plant these around the city,” Jordan said. The other two turned to leave when he said one last thing. “Remember what you have to do tomorrow.” They nodded in unison and started off the street, hand in hand, for who knows if they would ever be in each other’s arms again.
In the main square of the city, the drones of the city’s inhabitants gathered in massive sizes never seen before. The reason for this was a new announcement - or rather a very old and trite one that needed to be repeated to really drill it in their brains. Little did the patrolling officers or the president or the chief of the police force know that three hooded figures were struggling to keep a countenance of one who is brainwashed. Sam and Banjo, huddled together, kept their heads down, waiting for Jordan’s signal, a cry of the flute, to wake everyone up from their forced sleep.
Because this was the only way. Hence anything that produces the sweet sound of music was banned, thrown into the jaws of a fiery monster and cremated to be forgotten by the world. But these three were to make sure of it that humanity would not stay dormant for long, but life and freedom would return. Operation Spring was in action.
In the frigid weather of late January, the public crowded before the stage where he stood, a gray haired man with glasses perched on his bony nose. His ears jutted out from the sides of his triangular head, scouting for any trouble although, to be honest, he expected none of the sort. He opened his lips to speak; but instead for his rasping voice came the solemn notes of the golden savior - the flute! It went on for about three seconds when there was a gunshot; it echoed through the stadium and the birds overhead scattered. Sam screamed as Banjo slipped a hand over her gaping mouth. Another gunshot.
None of the people in the crowd stirred, but for one girl. Her head turned towards the sound of the music, her eyes widening for a split second and she realized that they were controlling her like a puppet. But now she cut the strings and set herself free. This girl woke from her stupor when she heard the music. Then someone else then another one, more and more, like a wave rippling. Energy crackled through the air as the hibernating animals arose to the sweet sights and sounds of spring.
One fell. Two dead. Three, four, five. A family. More and more figures fall to the ground as the masses awoke and awoke.
Banjo reached down to Sam’s face as the red stain on her blouse grew darker and darker - the bullet was fatal. She pulled herself up and whispered in his ear.
“Get me a flute.” Banjo, while holding her hand the entire time, fumbled for the instrument and placed it in her hands. She raised it to her lips as her fingers flitted from valve to valve. A tune of victory sounded from the flute as tears slid down Banjo’s face.
“Joe… don’t forget… the…” Whatever Banjo had to not forget was never heard as Sam drew her last breath, her grey eyes reflecting the grey sky above. Her bronze hair had a dull shine as the sun hid itself behind the dreary clouds. Banjo closed her fingers around the flute and picked up her body. With tears mingling with the dirt on his sad face, he turned around to look for Jordan, but he knew that he was long gone. Banjo was crushed under the weight of his loss.
The girl who had woken first came weaving through the retreating crowds to Banjo. Her golden hair fluttered in the wind as she stood in front of him in a sort of defiant way.
“Who was she?” The girl pointed to Sam’s dead figure.
“A great friend. What do you want?” said Banjo tersely. The girl, by instinct, reached for the flute from Sam’s stiff fingers; Banjo drew a sharp breath when the girl pried the flute from her grip. Banjo lay Sam on the ground and watched the girl intensely. Like she had been trained by the great Mozart himself, she played a tune that soothed even the most troubled of minds. It rang loud and clear over the near empty stadium, and Banjo knew for sure, like he had never been more sure about anything before, that this girl would save them all with her gift, and they would rise again to see the sun. Spring would come, he thought as he looked at his only friend’s dead body, and we will see the sun again.
A last gunshot rang out as the black closed around Banjo.