The needle hung over the spinning disc. Like a blade over spinning wood before that first bite.
But unlike the lathe that sprung to Jacob’s mind, the disc would cast off not waste, but – as Jacob saw it – salvation.
He slid his hand back to the lever near the rear of the stylus arm. His movements slow, sliding and precise.
His demeanour changed when he operated the turntable. The usual bundle of barely-contained manic energy slowed and quieted to a gentle sliding pace. Feet left planted firmly to the ground, only knees and hips allowing movement. His elbows laid heavily on the surface of the console. Only wrists and fingers allowed freedom.
It was all part of it. It was part of why this – for now – worked.
He was a cliché. He knew that. The small mid-life crisis that resulted in the purchase of a turntable was an idea he himself would have mocked just barely a year ago. Maybe even still.
It was, he thought, a small concession – a tiny balm to soothe life’s painful bite. He didn’t drive – there would be no over-priced, over-sexed, over-performing sports car. He had no need of hair plugs, plastic surgery, tanning room re-coloring. He would never allow himself the predictable weakness of adultery.
So it was a turntable.
It wasn’t even a very good one.
He’d picked it up at Urban Outfitters. He hadn’t even really known why he was in the shop that day, or any of the hundreds of other days that found him on his lunch break, browsing the fashions, toys, and other ephemera of a demographic to which he no longer belonged.
It was a Thursday this time. Nearing the end of another week of under-use and over-stress that had become his norm. Perhaps he’d slept even worse than usual. Perhaps not. He could never tell.
His bedtime nightlife had become a confusing, puzzle-piece of waking impressions made unreal by whatever amount of sleep he managed to get.
He assumed it wasn’t much, but who knows? Maybe he was getting a solid eight hours a night. Memory was too unreliable to offer the question any aid.
Good god, he thought, what if I’m actually getting enough sleep and I’m still like this?
The thought rattled around inside his head, randomly hitting switches. Switches with labels marked “small invisible panic attack”, and “general non-specific feelings of dread”, and “flight mode in the face of no real threat”.
As more and more switches were flipped (“check your phone, quick!”, “go somewhere with no people!”, don’t do ANYTHING wrong!”). The now-familiar feelings started to wash over him once again.
It had been some hours since it happened last, and as usual, he had failed to note – and celebrate – its absence. But here it was again.
His feet grew heavy, his eyes trained downward. The familiar toxic tightness began once again to boil his insides.
The gigantic medieval-seeming doors of the Urban Outfitters began to glow with the promise of escape and cessation. The saviour doors hung half-open. His route was clear.
Flee! Flee into the crowded faceless sidewalk, peopled with anonymous approximations of semi-people. Moving obstructions that could be speedily navigated, slalom-style to the safety and respite of his small, windowless workspace.
His eyes had already narrowed, zooming in on the portal to freedom. His body already shifting its aspect to better angle itself into the proper escape vector. One last look around to ensure his path was clear, and he’d…
And then a speedbump. A trip line caught his fleeing mind and brought everything crashing down.
For three full seconds he was a twelve year old boy. It was summer, and his world was limitless and undiscovered. He could be anything. He would be everything. The world was magic and the universe filled to brimming with unknown sorcery. Foreign lands awaited. Wild frontiers begged to be tamed.
Sex! Magic! Adventure! The world was built of potential, and he would conquer it all.
The exploding universe of those three seconds was contained in a memory. A small, flashing dust mote of a memory.
The sound of a dust particle hitting the energized metal of a record needle.
A small, dusty pop of sound. A tiny, timeless memory of sound that filled his mind and encompassed his soul as his eyes – once planning a gently panicked escape from the increasingly oppressive confines of the cavernous store – now only saw one thing.
No. That’s not right. No. This… this was a record player. Self-contained. Locking cover. Built-in speakers.
Faux weathered material covering every surface of the briefcase-sized record player. Artificially aged and brown. Authentic-seeming scratches and imperfections artfully arranged on the not-leather of the thing. Stripes – two a bright, lively green, one a faded white – extended around the entirety of the left side of the record player. Giving it a look that made him think of Vespas and Italy in the 1960s. The lines were broken only by the opening slit of the player’s lid.
He was transfixed.
The memories of the purchase and journey home had long since been erased, having been deemed unworthy of continued existence by his nightly rituals. Only the moment of discovery remained.
He blinked the memory away and stared down at the black shining surface that spun before him. His elbows still braced on the console top, his feet still nailed to the carpeted floor.
He moved a finger. A single digit, and the needle landed gently. The speakers breathed a sigh of life into the air around him.
He picked up his glass, smiled an unfelt emotion, and took a sip.
His body found the resting place – the overused and under-loved couch that stood stolidly against the rec room’s wall. He slid upon it and let the breath of this universe wash over him.
Seconds passed, with only the exhalation of the record player to fill the room. And then the song began.
And at once – he was at peace.
For twenty one minutes and seventeen seconds.