a NICK BEAT single
Nick Beat studied the map in the sunlight, a beautifully hand-drawn waterfall with a walkway along the cliff detailed in the center that had a vibrant Brasilian village lining the river at the top.
His companion was flustered. “No, this isn’t right,” Maria said, poking her golden-brown head from behind the map to look at the actual land. The real village was in ruin, crumbling buildings overgrown with vegetation. Only the beautiful waterfall remained, and its proud blue flow.
Her hair blew in the breeze. “Why would my father hide a studio here?”
Nick was confused. “Why would a musician set up in a waterfall canyon?” The map bent in his hands, revealing Nick Beat’s square black sunglasses and tanned, freshly bruised face. “For the acoustics,” he said, and snapped the paper back rigid. The map put their days-long adventure into perspective. All that was left was to find the legendary funk hero Marco Zaya’s lost studio.
“You continue to justify your price.” Maria said. “Your agent was right.”
“She knows you send a musician to find a musician,” Nick said. “And I’m a one man band.”
Maria laughed. “A band without instruments.”
“I’ll play if the mood strikes,” Beat said. “You hired me to bring you closure.”
For the dozenth time during the trip, Nick glanced at the poem written in the upper right corner.
Sing to me, Lady in My Heart.
I hear your voice across the land, this land I love.
Sing to me, Lady in My Heart.
I will always be with you, even when I’m gone.
“Read that again. My father loved this country, but he still abandoned us. What I need is to unburden.”
“Then let’s jam,” Nick said. “We’re not the only ones who-”
A gunshot rang and a bullet whizzed through the map between them. Nick peered through the hole.
The man pointing the pistol had dark skin, groomed black hair, and wide, crazed eyes that showed whites around the sides and top.
“Zaya’s Greatest Hits Collection is mine!” João, senior member of the People’s New Brasil party, shouted.
“Doesn’t this guy ever quit?!” Nick asked, taking Maria’s hand and running towards the fallen village.
“Radicals never stop,” Maria said. “The only thing that stopped the last group were the P.N.B.”
“And you Brasilians are a passionate people.”
They escaped into a hollowed out building near the waterfall and stumbled across broken floor.
The village thrived before the rebel Brasil Revolucionários took the country and implemented heavy taxes for the new capitol’s pet projects. Community and infrastructure rotted until people pushed back, and Marco Zaya became their voice. And because it united people, Brasilian culture was suppressed until Marco Zaya only lived in songs sung between citizens. But People’s New Brasil learned while fighting the Revolucionários and claiming top seat, and Zaya’s music was to be weaponized against the people as the P.N.B. had witnessed its power.
Nick and Maria stopped at the back of the building. The broken end of a walkway led from the back, like on the map.
“This should have led about halfway down the cliff,” Maria said. “We need to get there.”
“We need to ditch the zealot first,” Nick said, turning back to João entering the building. Nick spotted a tree at the top of the falls. He took off his backpack. “Run ahead,” he said, pulling a rope from the bag. “I’ll distract him.”
Maria took the rope and slapped Nick’s butt. “Hurry,” she said and ran off.
“You could have just helped when I brought you the map, Maria!” João shouted at his audience, wherever they were. “But you took it and run. And the next I saw you, your merc friend somehow tricked me into kicking my own ovas!” Nick quietly laughed at that again. “But I don’t blame you! The Revolucionários did this to us! They made us desperate! They divided us! Now we can return them justice!” Nick weaved through the building.
Maria reached the top of the waterfall and started fastening the rope around the tree.
Nick was curious. “You mean torture them until they rebel against you??” he asked João. João followed Nick’s voice as it continued. “Seems like a one track record on repeat.”
Nick ducked to pounce on João just as Maria repelled down the cliff. She stopped halfway down and waved to Beat before disappearing into an alcove behind the waterfall.
João noticed her too, and changed course.
It was time for Nick Beat to take the stage. He cracked his fists, tuning his instruments.
Nick rushed and jump kicked João, landing into a windmill spin on the ground that knocked out a weakened support column. Nick’s breakdance was bringing down the house. Nick tackled João and drummed fists across the worried Brasilian’s face. João knocked Beat away and reached for his gun, but Nick changed tempo and kicked out a second support column. He sprinted away as the roof gave way. João looked up as the ceiling crashed down.
Just as his footing collapsed, Nick leaped from the building towards the rope. He swung out and then back at the cliff, and while unsure where Maria had disappeared, momentum carried him too quickly to matter. Nick clenched as he crashed through the stream, expecting rock next.
But Nick swung into an alcove and landed beside his companion.
Startled, Maria turned from a metal door built into the cliff, a digital display beside it. Nick shook off the water like a dog and touched the screen. It lit.
It played a melody, a soundwave throbbing on the display. Maria’s eyes went wide, and a memory, long forgotten, flooded back: She was 6 years old, tucked into bed, her father sitting beside her strumming this melody on his guitar.
“Sing to me,” he sang in her room, lyrics she finished “Lady in My Heart.” The memory summoned the song to her lips. “I hear your voice across the land, this land I love.”
Nick realized the panel analyzed her singing.
Her voice was the key.
The song ended and the screen went dark. Nothing happened.
“There’s no escape,” came a voice from behind them.
João stood close by, his back to the waterfall, gun trained on them.
“Why fight this?” he asked. “Let your father’s voice resurrect these villages!”
“Because you are the same evil with a different face,” Maria said.
“Fine,” Nick said. “We’ll get the Greatest Hits Collection for you.” Maria shot Nick a death glare.
“How?” João growled.
“Do you think I’m stupid?”
“Yes,” Nick said bluntly. “But I’m still right.”
The man glared. “Very well,” he said and cocked the gun. “Sing.”
Nick shook his head and held out the map with the lyrics. “I don’t speak Portuguese.”
Maria looked at Nick curiously, knowing he spoke enough.
João snatched the map.
Nick looked at Maria. “Ready?”
She nervously eyed the gun and lowered her hands.
Nick pressed the screen and the music started again.
“Sing to me,” Maria sang with a quivering voice. “Lady in My Heart.”
Nick looked at João, reading the lyrics, and clapped to encourage him.
The man awkwardly sang. The panel lit up to their harmony. That first line was shaky, so Nick started shuffling his feet to coax out the beat.
Maria heard her father in her head. “I hear your voice across the land, this land I love.” But now she really heard it. “Sing to me, Lady in My Heart.” Nick was getting into the music, swinging his hips.
“I will always be with you,” João heard the citizens cheer in his head, “even when I’m…”
But then Nick finished his dance by roundhouse kicking João’s face just as he sang “gone,” and he did go, go right through the sheet of water and onto the rocks below.
The panel beeped happily and a large lock slid back inside the door. It popped open and the interior exhaled.
The small bunker was lined with instruments, recording equipment, and monitors.
Maria soaked it in. Large controllers fitted with knobs and levers ran to a microphone. A drum set stood near a keyboard and a trumpet hung on the wall.
“No one’s been here in decades,” Nick said, looking at the empty mattress in the corner.
Maria eyed three large golden discs on display. She put one in the player and pressed play.
An old home movie popped on the monitors: a young girl sang into the camera, performing a concert in her living room.
“You have a beautiful voice, my love,” Marco Zaya said from behind the camera. “Sing for me, Maria.”
The real Maria was speechless.
Nick smirked. “The legendary funk master’s greatest work was singing with his little girl. Poetic.”
Maria picked up another of the discs, hugged it to her chest. “Papai…”
“You still don’t know where he is,” Nick Beat said.
“But now I understand he took me with him,” Maria Zaya said.
The young girl on screen and the grown woman watching it both smiled ♫