Chapter 1: The Jukebox

Chapter 1: The Jukebox

A Chapter by syther

Say hello to the puckish rogue for me.


Chapter One: The Jukebox

The future. A place of top hats and suits, a place where Victorian lifestyle came back after a true world war, everyone, everything was nearly destroyed in its entirety. Nukes were dropped and only a few bits of the future technology remained, the governments were left in tatters and the majority of the world who remained held only one belief.

The old ways were the best ways.

Style, laws, belief, opinions over 100's of years they reverted and now in 3012 a steampunk paradise exists. Towering buildings of stone and bronze pierce the heavens of every skyline. Glints of sun bounce and refract off the glass highlighting every person in their gowns of fine tailored craftsmanship. Great dresses adorn each lady bursting with colour to contrast the drab blanket of black and white suits.

A ball of business is danced pencils sharpening, water pouring, kettles boiling, people chanting. The cacophony of noise that is the backing track to the corporate waltz. Yet through the monogamous noise one sound differs in the northern segments of London.


Hearty laughter is free in a place where rugged pirates come together, they talk in bars of loud noises and background deals. Here lies that one noise.

“Hey Marty! Why’s that jukebox on the fritz?”

Marty was a girthy man, he had a belly and dirty blonde hair, a slight beard growing on his face, he however was not weak, his arms were strong and his complexion reflected how he was a no-nonsense guy. He held himself not as a proud man but a reassured one. He held everything a bartender needed to not be messed with.

The bartender turned his head towards the patron and said as if a natural reaction “It’s not broken, it just got a life of its own”

The patron laughed till his laugh went raw obviously, a newcomer to this port and its booze.

“What dja’ mean by da?”

Marty moved over to the drunkard and placed one elbow on the counter facing perpendicular to this man, his hands cleaning a glass.

“That’s a longish story friend, do you really wanna hear it?”

The patron looked back to the jukebox. He noted how old it was. It played music louder and with more heart than he ever heard before. Which when he thought about it should be impossible. These older models had a whole miniature orchestra played by robots of archaic design. Say any song aloud and they were meant to start playing it. You could see them through a glass pane on the front. The gold trimming had worn away and the robots had rust instead of sheen yet still they played.


Marty started “You see a long time ago, about 20 years or so now an engineer came into this bar”

“Not interested pops, save that story for someone more muesli Inclimbed than I”

And so, the day continued people drank, deals were struck and men were bargained for. Still the music played and still patrons arrived. In and out people went and then one man entered with a guitar on his back wearing a large trench coat, to the average man it made him look spindly but underneath was a tone strong body. It also did an excellent job of concealing the ten throwing knives on his back.


He wore a low brim duster and was completely out of place. He was a cowboy and although they shared values had no place in this pirate’s cove. Stepping up to the bar he grabbed a stool right next to the jukebox and grabbed the bartender’s attention by tapping two coins on the counter. Not that he needed to try, the entire bar had their third eye on the stranger and Marty was a professional at spotting a man in need of a drink.


Marty stepped over to the stranger and in an exaggerated southern drawl stated “Howdy, what can a getch’ for ya pardner?” The entire bar went down in volume as the music almost dominated the room till the stranger started to laugh and responded

“I’ll take some moonshine sweet and clear on its own” The chatter continued to its normal levels of influence. The stranger and Marty were drowned out as they talked.

Marty started “so, you come from the so-called land of the free?”

“Yes sir, just got into port on my ship. I’m captain of the Jubilee, a big town music show traveling the world”

“Well ain’t that something? A circus of musicians. Never thought I’d hear of such a thing”

Marty returned with a drink and placed it down in front of the stranger.

“I’ll give you this one for free if I can get a name. Billy the kid maybe?”

The stranger chuckled and tipped his hat “The name’s Kusti, pronounced like crusty without the r”

“Well Kusti, the name’s Marty and I run this joint, if you start a fight, no weapons and the first on the ground and out loses”

“Ha, for an English bar you sure got western rules”

“Let’s just say I’m a fan of Clint Eastwood”

“Well, aint’ you an old timer? This place will do mighty fine indeed”

“What for?” the barkeep asked inquisitively

“You’re the first barkeep to not give me a dirty look and you even joke with me, the rest of my people will be comin’ here”

“Well, I appreciate your business Kusti, is there anything else you need?”

“Hmmm, we need a place to play before the big event, practice makes perfect after all”

“This aint’ the place for you then my friend, unless you can get that old monstrosity workin”

Marty waved in the direction of the jukebox.

“What do you mean? I’ve never heard a better jukebox in my life”

“That’s why I haven’t called in a repair guy” Marty turned to the bar and filled up the drink again “The thing doesn’t take requests it’s stuck on its own random list of music”

“Well that’s peculiar, When’s the last time you had it checked?”

Marty stopped wiping down the glasses and mugs and thought.

“Bugger me, I’ve never had it checked over the 20 years it’s been here”

Kusti sputtered remnants of moonshine everywhere and spoke in a rushed voice.

“Did a guy bring that machine? An old fella with scraggly hair and a tied beard, probably carrying a case with him”

“How in the blue bloody blazes do you know that?”


Kusti flew the guitar over his head and with a Cheshire grin started to tune the beast in his hands.

“Kusti you seem to be a nice enough kinda guy but, what in the seven hells has you so excited?”

“That man was my father, a man I originally despised because he left our family when we were young” the bar quieted once again, the patrons had been wondering about this jukebox and their answers were right in front of them.

“He travelled the world, creating music wherever he went. After learning his story and hearing his music I have nothing but respect for him. He infact created his own jukebox his though, had one difference” The bar was completely silent now. The jukebox and Kusti, the only ones left in the room. Thoughts of music and far off lands invaded every patron, twisting landscapes and towns dancing to unknown and foreign sounds all leading to a single tavern and a single man tuning his guitar in preparation for one single song.

Kusti stopped tuning and bounded off his chair. He turned towards the patrons.

“The capacity to learn”


Kusti shot off to the jukebox and began playing “Map of the World” by Jack Savoretti. The jukebox stopped playing as soon as the chorus began. The bar went silent listening to this gravel voiced angel play. A dull metallic world had colour brought to it, every bit of rust became more defined, every person straightened and finally the song concluded and everyone felt something hidden away in the shadows of this oppressive world, heart.

Then Kusti started a new song “One Man Band” by the same singer and something changed. Rusti gave an over joyous grin as he heard a harmonica from the machine and he began to sing.

That day was one remembered by every patron in the bar. The day memories and joy flooded their thoughts and wonder gave them a daydream. Old debts were settled, friends became soulmates and for the first time in a century these men and women had a tavern. Not a bar or a hangout. Drink poured quick and smooth for the entire night as Kusti and the machine played, then Kusti stopped and said his last words. The songs settled and people talked not as patrons but as friends.

The barkeep stopped Kusti just as he packed up looking at the man filled with a devilish charm and a great willingness to sing and dance. He wanted to give so much as thanks for this amazing night of joy, so Kusti sat down next to the barkeep a fresh drink poured and ready. Kusti slid the drink down his throat a fresh warmth invading his stomach and things started to make sense again. He came down from his escalated joy and looked the barkeep square in the eye.

“What do you want for him?”

Kusti continued “I am willing to give you anything for that jukebox”

The barkeep looked Kusti up and down and saw the flare and passion, the fulfilment no matter the answer Kusti would leave happy

Marty spoke his tone completely bland his face stone “I can’t sell it to you”


Kusti grew a sad smile and sipped his drink, he understood of course he was prepared for this. Usually these wondrous machines were in places with no heart or love of music. It was reassuring, his smile turned into a smirk and he looked back to see Marty on the countertop addressing everyone.

“Ladies and Gentleman. I have never understood much outside of this bar but tonight we sang songs of a greater time, so now I need to ask a favour of you” the bar went silent and everyone listened.

“This man works to bring music to the world and he wants me to sell him this jukebox” once again complete silence as everyone prepared to hear the old man’s request.

“I want to give this man this jukebox for nothing but, this is your bar as much as anyone else’s so what do you say?”

Everyone mumbled away to themselves for a few minutes, for Kusti they felt like hours. The words were like a whisper lost to a crashing wave but for Kusti it was a tempest each snigger or gaze a harsh wind shoving him in another direction, Snapping him from the ground into the air. One patron stood up and walked over to Kusti. He had a worn expression with short grey hair, people looked at him with respect some even tipped their hats.


“We can’t let you just take it, after today, after everything you’ve gave us we can’t go without this music”

“So, while you’re here, you will play here and give us the music we love so much and then when you leave, you will take that machine and bring the same joy to as many as possible”

At this point Kusti entered the eye of the storm, everything became calm ad serene and unbelievable. He stared up at the sun represented by this old man’s face and he smiled. Great cheers echoed throughout the halls as Kusti and this man shared a hand shake and a smile. Kusti took himself outside into the world of a corporate waltz and he moved against the beat. His feat moved in reverse against the music and he did so while smiling.

Meanwhile, in the rafters above the bar high above where anyone saw, a woman laid down, completely calm to the music and unmoving. She was asleep with a smile on her face, she passed away peacefully as the man in the blue suit with a smiley face mask removed the needle from her body. He picked up the body in his hands and stepped into the shadows of the rafters, the friends below having no idea that the man who had just given them hope was meant to be dead.

© 2018 syther

My Review

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I enjoyed the story. The hope music brings us and the way, once it is felt, it must be shared. I am a little bit confused about the ending, because I am a little thick... lol. What I think it meant is the man figured out how to get past his own bitterness toward his father, and found that hope first for himself, and that saved him?
Anyway great story and well written, cheers!

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 Year Ago

Thank you for the feedback! I don't think you're thick at all and I'll look at trying to make Kusti'.. read more
Karen Redburn

1 Year Ago

Just realized this is a chapter. Maybe it will be explained more fully in subsequent chapters? And y.. read more

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1 Review
Added on December 6, 2017
Last Updated on January 1, 2018
Tags: Steampunk, Music, Comedy, Future



South Shields, Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom

I'm a young man, I have no reason to spout philosophy or anything grandiose but the one thing I adore is telling a story. The story is always my own, what is real and what is false however is for you .. more..

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