17 Sound & Vision

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17   Sound & Vision

It seems that a lot less than ten minutes has passed, when the return of Rik's level, quiet voice cuts into the extreme stillness that reigns. Before even the split-second of the "T" in his word "Ten" is finished, however, I know that that this must be the inevitable countdown, right here upon us, at last.

In the middle of me now is a circle of uncanny calm, an empty round spotlight on a smooth black floor. Somewhere beyond the edges of this circle, a tiny intellectual voice in my head reminds me that he won't say "zero". I can't engage with anything intellectual now, but I absorb this little reminder lightly, around the edges of the spotlight, as being not without its helpfulness. Meanwhile the clear, calm, relentless countdown continues: "... nine ... eight ... seven ... six ... five ... four ... three ... two ... one..."

A huge distant murmur arises, and swells loud.

The audience! Digitally created, to stand in for the millions at their television sets around the world. "Well, that's showbiz," I reflect.

Here it is, then, Sound & Vision...

Space unfurls, ballooning forward, up and out in front of me. Ten giant floodlights rear up skyward, from the highest outer rim above the stadium's upper circles. The dizzy fall of bluish-white light across a landscape of several hundred thousand tiny heads below is fierce—and yet it's also feeble, spilling to the ground beneath the cold gigantic darkness of infinity beyond it.

And now the floods start to dim, very slowly.

The crowd's random babble dims along with the floods, while a unified cheer fades in from round the stadium. I close my eyes, seated here in my hidden perch above the big screen, and listen. I let my eyelids open and raise my glance. The cheer swells louder and the floods keep on dimming, till for two or three seconds just a scratch of blue filament in each of the ten banks of huge glass bulbs is left against the blackness. Then this dies too and faint stars appear instead, dotting the entire sky. The cheer simmers down again, to quiet and expectancy.

My outer gaze descends from the minuscule stars, to alight upon the central of the three camera lenses ahead of me. The focus of the audience approaches its peak. I slide my outer gaze aside, laying bare my sensors but not projecting anything. Immediately, I feel the hushed attention of every person present as a soft silk string, fired out across the stadium and sticking to me—soft and intelligent, the optical fibre of a secret human spider.

Behind me where I'm perched, a dim glow fades up, to silhouette me, as arranged. The big screen beneath me shows its first image—just my head, full-on but silhouetted black against the glow. In the instant, as the audience observes this and murmurs, I feel an outward pulling of attention on my face, from every seat around the stadium, non-physical but potent and growing all the time: a pull, from eyelash-close to the spanning of a dam across the width of a valley...

The moment of optimum audience focus arrives. The surface of the deep blue night is a-shiver, like a shiny poster rippling in a breeze. Lamps around the cameras burn bright and light me up, so I burst alive and huge upon the giant screen below. A tiny curling spotlight like a hair hits Alaia far beneath me where she stands on the stage underneath the big screen. I open my projectors, and my eyes on the screen flood the lower echelons of the stadium with ocean, and the music of this ocean fills the watching bodies, buoys them up and carries them, as if the most bewitching tide of melody and harmony were sweeping them in circles. Fluorescent waves lap the shore, the scent of brine suffuses the enormity of space ahead, then over the horizon it appears ... the greatest ship you've ever seen! Gliding through the silence behind the ocean's music, it's the size of a range of hills, the shape of an oil-tanker, deepest black, its many decks twinkling with strange lights—bewitching on the night sea. Who knew this ship would come? My projectors insinuate the shadow of a question: do you want this? Yes! my sensors catch your answer, huge and immediate. I love your answer and I love you too, although I know that love is pretty easy at this distance. Yes, of course you want this ship, though I know you didn't ask for it. You're mesmerised, there where you sway among the waves before its majesty and magic ... so take this ship, it's yours!

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