FNS: City Music, Frontier Past from Kayla Dean


Every Friday night we will feature a short story, essay, personal narrative,
poem, spoken word, or short film for your enjoyment.

Helen Presents: a flash fiction piece from Kayla Dean

I often think, as I turn up the music and turn onto the freeway, that we live in a city of conflicting visions, two different visualizations seen through the lens of sound.

As I hurtle past the towering brown walls of the freeway, the roofs of stucco houses jutting out from above, I look towards the mountains that loom over the valley. On a clear day, I can see every rock face, crevice, and line that marks the mountains. The orange, red, and brown tones jump out in contrast as the light shines on the natural edifices.

When I see these rock faces, I’m reminded of Las Vegas’ frontier past. I think of the first people that must have lived here, that traveled over the land I’m now driving over. They must have seen the orange dust and cacti that we’ve now subjected to the outer reaches of the valley.
When I allow myself to drive in unison to the rich notes of a cello song, I see this vision of Las Vegas.

Many people see Las Vegas as a city of lights: a place where they can spend a weekend, a world of brightly-lit casinos, clubs, and pools- a city that never sleeps. A loud place filled with music and sound- cacophonous or in unison. To many, it is a world of color and novelty, of techno music and parties.

As I round the bend in the freeway, music beating and thrumming through my speakers, I start to see the highest buildings in the valley, the skyline expanding, my first view of downtown the buildings that populate the southern reaches of the Strip.

I let the music sweep me away. Techno has this strange power over me; its melody singing a song that seems distinctly Vegas. The sound of it reminds me of the way traffic sounds on a busy Friday night, a music of its own. Or the deeper, more personal experience of looking out at the beauty of the world, of noting its shadows and edges from the view of a mountain into a valley.

I suddenly see the entire reach of the Strip finally within my grasp. At just the right hour of the day, the Luxor shimmers and glitters so brightly that it’s blinding to look at. At night, it’s another sort of blinding the ever-powerful behemoth flashlight that shines out every night, seemingly into infinity.

I imagine, as I watch the road, the city from above, myself removed from the picture. The streets are like lifeblood in a big city, like arteries carrying different platelets-people- along. It bleeds and courses with light in the navy darkness, little pinpricks of golden streetlights dancing constantly on the valley floor. This is the city from above, from a high point on the Strip, or from the vantage of a mountain top. The era of silence on my radio.

The mix of these visions shows that the views of Las Vegas are as vast as the sky. We see our city one way, the rest of the world sees it as somewhere else entirely. The music is like a litany of our city theme music to an ever-changing landscape, a contrasting place of old and new, which, on days like this, seemingly blend into one.

Kayla Dean is a student and writer from sunny Las Vegas. When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading, or at the bookstore. Follow her on Twitter at @kayladeanwrites.

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