Dorian's Small Forte
Dorian packed his backpack with all of the necessary things he would need when going out. Hook. Line. Water. Food ration. Paperclip. Thumbtack. Towel fragment. Hip lamp. These were all of these things he needed for a normal borrowing mission; but, today wasn’t just another borrowing mission.
This was an outing – an actual outing.
The middle son of the Rafters, Tiron, invited Dorian to come hang out and meet some of his friends who, evidently, were interested in music too. The thought of not using instruments like humans was definitely an interesting concept to Dorian, and there was no way he was going to pass up on the opportunity.
Plus, it would give him a chance to get out of the apartment and get some freedom from his brothers.
Dorian loved his brothers, but he didn’t entirely agree with all of the things they did, specifically with their interaction with Ashlynn.
Just thinking about her made him feel tense, but he didn’t want to think about this now. What Dorian wanted to focus on was meeting Tiron and the others.
He made sure to wave good-bye to his family before crossing over the beams and ducking under the protruding nails toward the elevator shaft. He had to admit to himself that he was a bit nervous meeting so many borrowers, especially when they could ask questions about his past and where he was currently living.
Dorian talked with Soren and Rey to establish a good story, but it would only hold if no one pried too hard. He knew how to deflect questions, but he was also aware that the Rafter family seemed a little off after Soren came out of the back room and their conversation where Soren revealed they talked to and knew Ashlynn.
At any rate, Dorian was almost there and, admittedly, was getting excited. Before he knew it, Dorian was standing on the edge of the elevator shaft making his way along the path to the wooden stairs where he saw Tiron standing at the bottom.
“Tiron!” called Dorian. The teen turned around and smiled. Dorian noticed Tiron didn’t have a borrowing bag or any other major implements except for a hook and a simple thumbtack dagger.
“Dorian! Hey, how’s it going? What are you… making a stop somewhere?” asked Tiron, laughing slightly. Dorian now felt slightly foolish for having all of his borrowing gear with him. He was so used to having everything with him anytime he went out that it was pure instinct that brought his gear.
“Um… no… I just…”
“No, it’s all good,” said Tiron. “I get it. Moving into a new place, you want to bring your gear.”
“Should I go put it back?” asked Dorian. Tiron shook his head and shrugged.
“You ought to be alright. Anyway, let’s go. Everyone is probably already there getting warmed up. Ready?”
Dorian was admittedly surprised when Tiron simply walked up to the ledge of the elevator shaft and turned on the light to signal the elevator. They stepped onto the device, Dorian following faithfully, as Tiron told the elevator operator, Klink, to take them to the ground level.
“‘ow you doin’ t’day?” asked Klink. “’eaded ta practice?”
“You bet,” grinned Tiron. “And I’m bringing on a new member hopefully. This is Dorian, new arrival.” Dorian, caught off guard, smiled nervously and nodded.
“Nice to meet you,” said Dorian.
“Well! Nice ta meetcha too,” said Klink. “You’re gonna fit right in.” The switch was pulled and the makeshift elevator descended level after level to the lowest floor.
Tiron and Dorian left the elevator and watched as it ascended, making subtle clicks and clacks as it left them. Dorian turned and surveyed the surroundings. The ground level was a concrete landing with small Christmas lights lining one of the sides of the walls. The ground level was very tidy with no speck of dirt along the path.
The landing led to a corridor which was six or so feet before there was a hole in the wall. The hole, which was an entryway, led to a set of stairs which continued down many levels down. Dorian could see light at the bottom of the stairs and Tiron was already walking down.
Without question, Dorian followed behind and walked down the steps. The two boys’ steps sounded slightly hollow and loud in the wooden passageway they descended. It was when they made it about halfway down when Dorian swore he could hear something.
It was rhythmic. Voices maybe? Pounding and echoing voices. Dorian held his breath just for a moment to hear better. The voices didn’t sound panicked, and Tiron didn’t seem concerned in the slightest. He decided to follow without bringing up his concern; and he was glad he didn’t.
There were only two sets of stairs more to go and suddenly the voices which were unintelligible before were now clear as fresh tap water.
It was singing.
It was music.
Dorian, feeling his heart beginning the flutter nervously in his chest, focused on the words and recognized the songs they were doing. It was a mashup remix of several Imagine Dragons songs. Dorian listened how their voices harmonized and blended as they went from a version of, “I’ll bet my life,” to “Whatever it takes.”
They walked through the carved out wooden frame of the door into an industrial looking room. There were massive pipes, metal and plastic, propped up all around the room as well as heavy machines that only humans could have created. The machines were humming and rattling without issue. Some of the pipes were on the ground nearby, creating dark tunnels leading to shadow beyond.
Dorian’s focus was not on the yawning mouths of the shadowy pipes or the whirling machines. It was on the group of seven other Borrowers singing at the top of their lungs illuminated by candles which surrounded them. Four of them were about the same age as Tiron and Dorian while two looked to be around the age of Tiron’s oldest brother, Atlas. The last one looked about Soren’s age.
All of them had a shrug or a sway to their shoulders as they bopped to the music. The oldest, a woman, was using her mouth to make the sounds of crashing symbols and beating drums while she clapped and stomped to keep the beat. The others blended their voices, hitting every harmony Dorian could pick up. No one voice overpowered the other and highlighted the primary vocalist.
Dorian was so speechless that he couldn’t take a step forward, mind numb with what he was hearing. He never heard anything like it. Voices instead of instruments. The way all of them played off one another was mind boggling. How did they learn to do this? Who cared! This was something he wanted – no, needed – to be a part of.
The song ended and Tiron began clapping as he walked up to his friends.
“Hey guys!” he said walking up to them. Instantly, the group lit up with smiles as they stepped forward and welcomed him into the fray, some ruffling his hair while others gave him playful punches on his shoulders. Then, all eyes turned to Dorian.
“Tiron, is this the new guy you were telling us about?” asked one of the boys who was about their age. He had a chipped tooth in the front and dark brown eyes which matched his hair and complexion.
“Yeah, everyone! I want you all to meet our new arrival and potential member,” introduced Tiron. The others nodded while Dorian gave a nervous wave. He couldn’t help but suddenly feel reserved with so many new Borrowers around him.
“Aww! Is he shy?” cooed one of the girls who looked to be around Dorian’s age. She had blonde hair in pig tails which were perched on the top of her head and light blue eyes. At this, Dorian couldn’t dare to lose them. If he wanted to be taken seriously, he needed to speak up.
“What? I’m not shy,” said Dorian, voice noticeably tense. Everyone’s eyebrows raised before their lips pulled into smiles.
“I like this one,” said one of the boys, a smattering of brown and blonde mixed into his hair with dark brown eyes that almost looked black in the candlelight.
“Okay, okay. Dorian, this is Small Forte, the group. Group, this is Dorian. Broken down we have Shana, oldest member and founder. That’s Timbre and she’s Dey,” said Tiron as he pointed to each person. Shana had curly brown hair that cascaded down her shoulders and keen blue-green eyes. Timbre had flat black hair that came down by his shoulders and light brown eyes while Dey had light brown hair that came down past the back of her knees and dark blue eyes.
“Nice to meet you,” said Dorian.
“Then we have the ones who are actually our age. There’s Rhoob, Argon, Lou, and she’s…”
“I can introduce myself! Hi, I’m Ivory,” interrupted Ivory, the young girl with brown-blonde hair that looked like caramel with dark brown eyes. She stepped up to Dorian and gave him a playful cuff on the shoulder and a sassy wink, instantly making Dorian blush. He glanced over and gave a nod to Rhoob, the guy with a chipped tooth, Argon, the one with almost black eyes, and Lou, another boy with wavy strawberry-blonde hair and pale green eyes.
Dorian went over the names multiple times in his head. Shana, Timbre, Dey, Roob, Argon, Lou, Ivory, and, of course, Tiron.
“Well, um… nice to meet you all,” said Dorian. “I… well… do you mind if I ask how you were able to do all of that? Make all of those sounds and stuff. Like… did you teach yourselves?”
“Years of practice,” grinned Timbre. “We listen to the humans’ music and try to figure out the sounds from there. We have loads of musicians here in the building, so we get together during some of our practices and just listen in. We also have our own people who we go and listen to – unseen, of course.”
“That is awesome,” breathed Dorian.
“Yeah, we’ve been working on this for a long time. Started with just Shana, Rhoob, and Dey and now we have our collection of misfits,” said Timbre.
“You mean treble makers?” grinned Lou, overly pleased with himself with his pun. “Get it? Treble?”
“Seriously? Now? Of all times?” asked Argon, exasperated.
“Knock it off guys,” said Shana, quickly quieting the group. “This is hardly a proper welcome for the newcomer. It’s really nice to meet you Dorian.” Dorian couldn’t slap the smile from his face.
“Likewise. I’m just so excited to be part of the group. You have no idea how much music means to…”
“Wait a sec before we drop the beat,” said Shana, tilting her head to one side curiously. “Part of the group? You can’t be part of the group.”
Dorian immediately felt his insides twist and plummet. His disappointment welled up inside of him, but was countered by Dey’s immediate follow-up.
“That is, not yet. You haven’t auditioned for the group. We can’t guarantee you a spot if you’re terrible and tone deaf,” stated Dey. Dorian let out a sigh of relief as he stared at the older Borrower.
“Okay, so what do I have to do to audition?” asked Dorian.
“Simple. Show us what you’ve got. Can you lay down a beat? Can you take the heat? Can you keep with the rhythm and the pitch and the rhyme?” asked Dey, purposefully speaking in syncopation so her words began forming a beat.
“Oh, um… okay. Like… now?” asked Dorian. The group nodded and looked at him eagerly. Dorian, suddenly feeling slightly cold and numb, nodded almost mechanically just to keep this fast-moving group interested in him.
What could he do? His mind was racing while his fingers tingled with the faintest of prickling sensations. He hadn’t performed in front of strangers before. Was this an initiation thing? Something to tease him?
Dorian shook his head and took a couple of calming breaths. No. They weren’t out to trick him or get him – unlike some people he knew. He thought about the songs he knew and tried to pair them with what he thought the others would like.
It struck him suddenly. He knew which song would fit well – because they were just doing songs from them.
Stomp. Stomp. Clap. Stomp. Stomp. Clap. Snap. Snap.
He tried keeping his mind calm as he let his body sink into the rhythm. This was one of his favorite songs of all time. Hopefully, the others liked it too.
Stomp. Stomp. Clap. Stomp. Stomp. Clap. Snap. Snap.
“So, this is what you meant. When you said that you were spent. And now it’s time to build from the bottom of the pit right to the top. Don’t look back. Turn in my bags and giving the academy a rain check,” sang Dorian.
He let the words flow out of him as he continued the same pattern of stomping his feet, clapping his hands, and snapping. He wished his voice would stop feeling so tight, but thankfully the others didn’t seem to care. Dorian wished he wasn’t shaking to his core he was so nervous performing on the spot.
Stomp. Stomp. Clap. Stomp. Stomp. Clap. Snap. Snap.
No way to stop this now…
“I don’t ever want to let you down. I don’t ever wanna leave this town. ’Cause after all… this city never sleeps at night. It’s time to begin, isn’t it? I get a little bit bigger, but then I’ll admit I’m just the same as I was. Now don’t you understand? I’m never changing who I am.”
As Dorian reached the next verse, he saw the members of the group smiling and nodding to the rhythm he was keeping. By the next chorus, all of them were stomping and clapping, raising their voices to sing along with him.
As they finished, the group cheered and clasped their hands around Dorian’s shoulders.
“Well,” they said, sounding impressed. “Looks like we’ve got a new member.”
Dorian, over the moon, couldn’t believe it.
He found a new group of friends so soon after arriving. It was far from humans – from her – and they were all as crazy about music as he was. Dorian couldn’t wait to learn some more songs and to see this group again.
Practice in three days could not come soon enough.