Short Story | ‘The Icon’ by Martin Hooijmans, Illustration by Lars de Ruyter
As every other day, in the darkness of his small apartment, Nikolas polished the old guitar he held so dear. Once it was to his satisfaction, he tenderly placed it in its case, picked it up and headed out.
As every other day, in the pale light of early morning, Nikolas plucked and strummed for the working class, on their way to dusty offices and greasy factories, simply surviving under the whim of the regime.
Unlike every other day, Nikolas reached a point all musicians aspire to. He lost himself in his music. His fingers seized control and moved out of their own accord. Nikolas no longer played classics. He created magic.
It was the start.
The first one to stop was a secretary, a young woman holding beauty long enchained by the drag named life. Letting the music wash over her, the beckoning clock held no meaning anymore. She thought of bathing in sunlight, letting her hair hang loose and painting her lips red. She felt passion course through her veins, a warmth she hadn’t felt for the longest time.
Next came the baker, a man unfit for the skinny appearance he held. His thoughts turned to sugar, cream, eggs and the wonders contained within. He remembered the feel of a belly, the happiness that came with it. The gasps of ladies who layed eyes upon his creations. Passion grasped the baker, and he felt that no longer could he create the coarse bread that was the rule.
One by one they stopped, sparks leaping into their eyes. That day, the sun did not seem that pale. Warm, vibrant color seemed to seep into the streets and the people they held. That day, something kindled.
Nikolas held on to the magic. He couldn’t stop. Each passing day, the crowd got bigger, and each passing the day the colors felt warmer. Murmurs of protest arose from countless lips and labor came to a standstill. Everyone came to relish in the freedom offered by the old busker. A movement formed around him. Whispers spoke of a revolution, soon replaced by men and women who truly voiced their desires for all to hear.
Nikolas became troubled. He had become an icon, a leader, a villain in the eyes of the government, and had not meant for it. One day, the thin wooden door of his apartment shattered and police officials lifted him from his bed, depositing him in a dank, concrete cell. In there, he was subjected to ruthless interrogations. They wanted to know why. They wanted to know how. Always, the unsatisfactory answer was the same. It was all Nikolas could say about it, in his old, weathered voice. “The music simply came to me.”
The icon’s imprisonment enraged the movement, and soon civil war broke out. It was a bitter affair, a deadly one. In Nikolas’ absence, movement leaders played recordings they had made of the man’s music, and it continued to fill hearts with courage. Each man fallen made way for two more, and that was all the government could handle. It fell.
Nikolas was set free and offered the chance to become leader of the nation. He politely shook his head. Power had never been his desire. When asked what his desire actually was, he smiled and said that a new front door would be nice.
Illustration by: Lars de Ruyter