"That's the last of them, sir!" The grey-uniformed man said as he tossed the acoustic guitar, a classic cherry red Washburn, onto the pile.
"Light it up." His name was Adam Smith, that was General Smith, or Sir, to everyone around him. He took a step back to avoid the splash of gasoline as it was poured onto the mound of peoples’s hopes and dreams.
With a flip of a match, flames begin to spread, leaping first from the guitar to a record player, then to a baby grand piano, to a pile of sheet music, to records…
On and on the flames spread, the instruments twanging and pinging their dying screams. And General Smith smiled. “Job well done lads,” he called out over the roar of the flames, “job well done. Don’t let the flames die until it’s nothing but ashes.” He added, before turning on his heels.
As he walked past his soldiers, they saluted him, and he nodded to them in turn, until a bulge in the grey pocket of the fourth man, the one who had thrown the guitar on the fire, stopped him.
“What is that?” General Smith said, stepping up to the man, whose name tag simply read Johnson, and reached into his pocket. He knew what it was the moment his hand closed around it. As he pulled the harmonica from the man’s pocket, his other hand pulled the pistol from Johnson’s holster.
Fear spread over Johnson’s face, but the bullet tore through his skull, splashing gore on the men to his right and left before he could even move.
General Smith caught the body as it slumped, lifeless, toward him, and, bending at the knees, he lifted the dead grunt onto his shoulder. Without changing his expression, he carried Johnson to the fire, unceremoniously dumping him into the flames, tossing the harmonica in after him. “Let that be a lesson to you all.”
“Yes Sir,” came a chorus from around him, and with a curt nod, the General walked off.
Gavin Johnson, whose tag also only read ‘Johnson,’ watched as the General shot his brother and tossed him like a rag doll into the fire. He manage to catch his scream of rage, of despair, in his throat, and looked away to hide the tears that streamed down his face. He stepped closer to the flames, to Joseph’s, his brother’s corpse, the intense heat quickly drying the tears, under the guise of observing what him and his fellow grunts had accomplished.
Music, all gone from these people’s lives. If it made music or played music, it did not matter, it was now forbidden under the new laws. Music led to dancing said the old books, and dancing led to, well, other things. It was not really specific as to what these other things were, but the General had an idea, and he wanted it nipped in the bud.
Gavin reached into his own pocket, his cracked and blistered fingers brushing against his own harmonica, the match to the one that had just fallen to ashes in the fire before him, nothing but a glowing red metal frame remaining. His father had made one for each of them, had spent countless hours teaching them to play. Everything from ‘Camptown Races’ to ‘Old Suzanna.’ He remembered one day, sitting on the porch, when they were six or seven, Joseph had bet him he could hold a note longer, and how thy had blown. Their father had found him wheezing, his brother passed out. Gavin laughed about it now, the tears coming again.
“Goodbye brother.” He said and he pulled the harmonica from his pocket, “and goodbye dad,” he said, tossing the instrument into the flames. He turned away quickly, suppressing the urge to dive into the flames, to save the harmonica, to somehow save his brother.
“Everything ok, Johnson?”
Gavin took a deep breath and looked up, the flames casting dancing shadows on the dark skinned man before him.
“I said, everything ok, Johnson?” Said the man, Mick Stoneman, known as ‘Stoney’ to his friends, or Captain, to everyone else, which included Gavin.