Note: This will be streaming for a limited time only, building up to the release show at The Ritz in Detroit on April 30th (where you can score a free download of this very album (ONE NIGHT ONLY) before it's official "physical release.
This is the latest work from Jack and the Bear:
By the Book: Folklore by Jack and the Bear" is twenty track concept album inspired by Grimm's Fairy Tales, musical theater and real-life industrial surroundings. Giving off a bit of a "Dark-Disney" vibe, the songs cascade one into the next, as an original story (influenced by a mixture of both fictional, and not-so-fictional modern day current affairs) guides you through the duration of the album. The story takes place in the year 2076, focusing on themes of tradition, corruption and greed, as the pulsing sounds of futuristic "industrial" New-America provide the back-beat for the album and characters in the story. Aside from theatrics, this release also features a batch of well-seasoned guest musicians from all over the country (such as Chloe Feoranzo of Pokey Lafarge, Andrea Morici of His Name is Alive, Libby DeCamp, Olivia Mainville, Kameryn Odgen + many more) creating a bit of an "Industrial Ensemble" sound when you bring in the addition of a small choir.
Super important instructions for listening: This album is meant to be listened to in it's entirety "all at once." We strongly encourage you to grab some popcorn, set it down, turn off netflix, leave it off...close yourself off from everything and everyone you know...for a little over an hour....allowing yourself to get "lost" in this futuristic folklore; where Adam Schreiber takes you on a vivid, cinematically produced journey written by Brandon James Schreiber, to a world sixty years into the future.
The song titles are spread out through the story, follow the cues after the prologue.
-- The Story --
By the Book: Folklore by Jack and the Bear
Setting the mood for the industrial city and tale: This is a modern day fairy tale of sorts, showing what might happen if civilization holds on to tradition. "By the book" is a written guide to success in which everyone should live their lives by if they wish to succeed -- Read everything below now...enjoy.
Not long after the turn of the millennium, a self-inflicted apocalypse of sorts takes place due to human activity, tradition and corporate gluttony. Corrupted political rule led to World War III; nukes were launched, governments were demolished, traditional (by the book) economics were failing more than ever before, but that didn't stop people from practicing tradition, after all, it's what they were taught.
After roughly twenty years of warfare, a select group of "self-elected, self-praising, privileged business enthusiasts took it upon themselves to plot and start a new civilization.
They devised plans and began constructing factory after factory, with their ambition set to create as many jobs as possible, focusing all their sights, intellect and goals on the task of raising the necessary funds to build a new land, that of which they promised (to the rest of the population) would be ten times as prosperous and profitable as "old America."
This elite group of officials were known as "The All Powerful Leaders of the Land" (A.P.L.O.T.L
) referring to themselves as the APLOTL for short. (Or something else more clever…I still have time until this is printed you know...)
Over the years, the new land began to take shape as the All Powerful took their place at the top (both literally and figuratively), expanding their genius and corporate greed onto the rich, natural, untouched grounds of America. They quickly devised plans to build on new lands, abandoning the old infrastructure (due to the twenty + years of airstrikes, devastating bombings…etc.) The once great cities of America were no longer habitable, and so they sought out to build on what little land was left untouched.
The All Powerful started building towers, smokestacks and factories on what were once sacred national forests and landmarks. The more land they developed, the bigger their clan of leaders became, marking each new member of their distinguished elite group with a branding of their abbreviated, narcissistic title (APLOTL), along with an emblem (logo) of their new land, to classically separate the very rich from the very poor.
To rouse interest from the rest of society, the All Powerful created slick advertisements for their newly formed (combination) world of natural and industrial lands. Making it appear to be a good thing (to be harvesting the last bit of untouched natural land for big business), clearing it up to the rest of the population that this was the only way to bring New-America back.
Due to the past war, rations were short, there were non-stop shortages of materials that used to set up cities, this forced the All Powerful to scavenge whatever components they could to create the necessary infrastructure needed to form the industrial world.
Because of the shortages in certain elements, this gave the newly formed cities (across America) an oddly intriguing “steampunk” look.
Now, the remaining majority of the grief stricken, post-apocalyptic nation had very few options but to obey this elite group of officials, (having just gotten out of war-times) and so, while the APLOTL set their stage at the top of society, the rest (majority) settled into place in a land mockingly titled “Frumbello.”
And so, with the somewhat forced cooperation of the townsfolk, the industrial land grew so vast in a surprisingly short period of time that nearly anywhere you went you could hear factory sounds pulsing and grooving, clanking and cranking; forcing the people to step in time with the consistent beat of machinery, which, much to the delight of the All Powerful, subconsciously influenced the people to work round’ the clock, creating the illusion that you were playing a role in a never ending industrial musical of sorts.
Higher and higher went the egos of the All Powerful as they deemed their reign never ending, creating themselves a monarchy of sorts... though it wasn't closed off to those that weren't blood relatives of the APLOTL; so to them, this was a new form of governing all-together, because if you were lucky enough to be nominated by one of their scouts and “possibly” deemed worthy, you just might be invited to join their superior class at the top of the hills with all the divine. This gave the citizens of Frumbello a glimmer of hope, and pushed them to work all the more.
As the years continued to pass, schools were formed, banks were constructed, church’s rebuilt (though only one religion was allowed), markets were established, and the old constitution was re-written (looked at as more of "guidelines" at this point in time), in fact, the name "America" itself was also on the brink of extinction as the All Powerful began nominating new names for their beloved machine of a country.
And so, new history is formed, and tradition continues to perpetuate.
On another matter, to bring the youth of the land up bright and prosperous (through the eyes of the APLOTL), they gathered their sick greedy minds together to develop a wonderful text book series for the students of the new industrial land entitled "By the Book: A Guide to Success"
Now enter the year 2076, focusing our tale on a youth named John.
A young man that's gone through the motions of the newly formed education system of the industrial world, and has his sights set high to one day become part of the All Powerful Leaders of the Land…
[Cue: Greed’s Theme Pt. I]
Beyond comprehension, yet near in time, lies a world full of corruption, and industrial grime.
Far from the peaks, in the newly formed suburbs of a town known as "Frumbello", there lived a young man named John. [Cue: Industrial Interlude]
John was a strapping young lad, naive in character, stocky in posture, yet thin in the waist. He was a product of "trade before tribe" meaning; he was born by parents who valued work over their own family (a not so uncommon practice in this world.)
[Cue: We’re Always with You] Raised as an only child, and a steady flow of neglect, he dreamed up all sorts of outlandish schemes to one day become exceedingly wealthy enough to rule this industrial land at the very top of society with all the divine. With little appearances made by his Mother and Father, he often turned to his mentor Orville Wyatt for parental guidance. Orville was an older fellow, sporting a handlebar mustache and a messy flock of white hair; having lost his family at a young age (due to war), he had no fear of sticking out from the crowd, he quickly learned how to fend for himself. He saw it as his civic duty to raise John up right, in a girder building side of town known as "The Track", teaching John to work hard in a traditional "bloom where you're planted" manner.
[Cue: Trouble] Now Orville knew of John's ambitions to one day venture off to become one of the elite, and often warned him of the trouble that comes to those who seek out a greater hand than their dealt. Being one of the few radical "non-believers" in the newly formed government, Orville feared the consequences of the recently formed "By the Book" educational system, a system he believed sculpted the minds of the youth to serve nothing but greed and greed alone. [Cue: Praise! Holy Praise]
Aside from Orville and John, the rest of society focused primarily on perpetuating the industrial dreamland of the All Powerful. [Cue: From Below] The citizens knew their lives weren’t ideal, but after years of war, and complete devastation, they felt little desire to revolt against a system that provided them what they needed to survive (even if it was the bare minimum), in exchange for a lifetime of work, it’s traditional economics after all.
As John meandered about town in search of something better, he’d often entertain himself by whistling tunes to the ever present factory sounds in the distance. And as he whistled, he viewed the world around him working in time to the relentless driving beat of the industrial city, almost appearing self-aware that they're in a musical of sorts.
With the name of the city being Frumbello, John found it amusing to join in mocking the lives of the people who settle there, singing “From below, is the show, oh the show our leaders lead, from below, from below, we all do our part, in turn we play our role” (poking fun at the distorted view of the town making believe that their leaders are right there with them below, and so they’ll play their role in their show.) Praising bills and worshiping thrills, well, one thrill really, the thrill of living in a society once again. “Yes we bring, what they dream, pulling the carriage of misguided guarantees, pull strong the plow, and give a bow, from below we play our role in their show.”
Throughout the never-ending shifts of the people in Frumbello, the All Powerful on occasion would send out scouts "Law-Enforcement" to not only make sure laws were being followed, but also, to very seldom seek out a select outstanding citizen (worker) to nominate for candidacy to potentially join the rulers at the top. Now this of course was John's dream, however, the chances of being selected were essentially one in a million, and John was taught to be a realist.
One day as John was searching for higher level work in the city (to avoid settling for a life of mediocrity with Orville), he overheard a commotion outside one of the merchant stands. It was at this moment he witnessed his first nomination, an extremely rare occurrence. Now, you might think this would inspire John, giving him a thin glimpse of hope that a life of hard work might one day pay off, but it didn't.
Unfortunately, his lack of guidance in life made him feel nothing but resentment for the lucky worker pulled for candidacy. [Cue: A Man Lost] John started to fall into a state of despair, beginning to lose hope that he'll ever amount to any higher-level of success, developing a sick desire for riches; the inner workings of his mind were becoming clouded with greed. In his bitter angst, he strapped on a piece of gas cloth (cloth scientifically designed to filter out poisonous gasses for people that venture out of marked safe zones “off the track”), and made the quick decision to run away from life on the track, to set out for the highest peaks in the industrial land that of which he was always warned to avoid, far past the barren wastelands that surround the city and toward the high rolling lands, where the smokestacks appeared to billow gold.
Having very little money to his name, John trudged about the outskirts of town until he was so far out from everything he'd ever known, that even the familiar factory sounds he’d consistently heard since childhood had begun to fade in exchange for new foreign industrial noise. As he ventured, he took note of the rare wildlife sites, he’d never heard so many birds before; John was now undoubtedly “off the track.”
And so he pressed on…and on…and on some more. Until he reached a massive slope where two unfamiliar smokestacks stood billowing golden smoke, gracefully dancing around him as he approached closer and closer toward a tower that stood in between the two mighty stacks. It wasn't until he caught wind of a delightful scent, that he began to realize how incredibly famished he was.
Completely unsure of his surroundings, John began to feel a bit apprehensive of what lies ahead, and for a moment considered turning back, but the sweet smells kept luring him in, regardless of how very tired he was. He carried on a little while longer until he reached the gate of the tower between the two stacks. Regardless of his apprehensiveness, he continued on as he became conscious to the fact that he was now being accompanied by a gently hummed tune that seemed to cascade perfectly as the smoke that now surrounded him. [Cue: The Deal] As he strode a little further, John realized he was being watched, it was then that he locked eyes with the most beautiful woman he's ever seen...probably.
Before John could muster a word, the woman walked over in such a form of elegance that she seemed to glide as gracefully as the smoke that surrounded her.
As the humming picked up tempo, attended by the clatter of machinery providing a percussive beat, she began to circle John to the industrial noise, performing a seductive belly dance of sorts. She danced about to the toxic rhythm, waving around an empty bottle in one hand, placing herself right in front of John, as she appropriately introduced herself: “Hello my dear, might I have word? For I know your pain and what you yearn for, a fattened life, full of what you desire, that's precisely, why I'm here for hire now.”
Completely enamored by her beauty, and all around appeal, John's lips remained sealed as Smoke was joined by the humming group of beautiful women that seemed to appear out of nowhere, dancing in a burlesque fashion.
As John settled into the alluring temptation, Smoke offered John the very thing he lusted for; a one-time job in sales that would produce enough funds to provide him with a life-time supply of any richness he could ever possibly desire.
John's mind fell deeper and deeper into Smoke's seductive sales-pitch; a deal any entrepreneur would be foolish to ignore. As she finished explaining her proposition, she provided him with three wooden crates (He paid his weight, three tons) that contained products she referred to as "tonics" as she said with a sinister grin “Right here's a tonic, drink it up, and in three hours you'll find this ain't just luck, for I've dealt with pharaoh's and I've made kings, devoured up their sadness, replaced with treasured dreams.”
And so, as Smoke estimated John's darkest dreams and desires, she promised him that if he successfully sells all of these (said) tonics, then he is to be whisked away, straight to the top of society with all the divine. Hesitant at first, John accepts, ignoring Orville's warnings. Thus the deal is done, and John, now accompanied by the beautiful temptresses (provided by Smoke to ensure sales) makes his journey back into the humble land of Frumbello to sell off his newly acquired "goods" that of which he knows nothing about.
The rest of society, having to work round the clock, day in and day out had hardly even recognized John's lack of appearance, it wasn't until he returned with the three large mysterious crates (along with the temptresses) that they even knew he was gone; besides his mentor of course, as John's eyes met with Orville's, he decided it was time to prove to everyone how elite he really was.
As he approached the center of town, he kicked over an old merchant stand (so as to draw attention), snagged a megaphone device and proceeded to shout [Cue: Tonics] "Listen folks, I've got a brand new product out on the market today, so lend and ear."
His antics worked, the townsfolk huddled around John by the dozens to hear what it was he had to sell. He started his pitch by building up an assortment of false promises to spark interest; saying anything the crowd might want to hear, even if it didn't make complete sense.
Tonics for prosper, tonics for truth, tonics for wise-men, tonics for anything you could possibly think up, if you willed it, John deal’d it.
As the people started to offer up what little earnings they had to snatch up one of John’s tonics, he started to hum a tune (once again to the clanking, clattering sounds of big business) as the temptresses caught onto the song as well. “A tonic made from blessed thistle, I sell elixirs you see, cloves of richness, rub them on you, you'll be the only one not on your knees” – John and the temptresses danced around the crowd, making the products so irresistible that everyone just had to have it. A slogan was developed, "If you wanna be wise, you must buy" and thus John became an overnight success, just as Smoke had predicted.
As he marched through the crowd, tipping his hat to the "little people", he developed an unhealthy amount of arrogance that led him to grasping up enough nerve find himself a trophy wife. After all, what is a king without his queen?
Sorting through the massive crowds that flocked to his cart each day, John sought to snag himself the most beautiful woman in town: "Jazz." Yes, Jazz was her name, with a desirably thin waist line, delicately sculpted facial features, and all around looks that could cause an industrial meltdown, Jazz was indeed a piece (a piece meaning "attractive." Slang for these modern times.)
[Cue: Jazz] Not long after John flashed his newly acquired cash to Jazz, they found themselves wandering off the track, running toward a higher class of living. They began dating, which blossomed into an engagement, which of course eventually grew into a wonderful marriage.
Now, due to the side effects of pollution, Jazz wasn't able to bear children (or, so she told John at least); so they decided to adopt a young child, to flow with tradition, for what's left after a marriage, but a family? (Note: The child will no longer be mentioned throughout the story because it's really not all that important of a detail, okay? okay.)
John thought the world of Jazz, she was everything he ever wanted, she had it all…. looks....looks....looks....and more looks.
[Cue: John’s Success] Yes indeed it was all so wonderful, and yet, aside from all the quickly accumulating success, something seriously wrong had begun to fester in the back of John's clouded mind, for he now had nearly everything he's ever lusted after, but was it deserved? Was it all really his? All of these wonderful things? Smoke would often follow John's paths, unseen, trailing from a distance to check up on him, whispering the words "it's not yours you know, all that's wonderful." Mysteriously aiming to plant loads of worry into John's subconscious.
Regardless of the riches, John's guilt was beginning to weigh him down; guilt that sourced itself from ignoring his mentor, making false promises, taking the easy way to so-called success, and selling a product from an “otherworldly” being that of which he never had any reason to trust. Yes, John's remorse collected more and more, haunting his days...and his slumber.
Throughout the days to come he'd do his best to enjoy his wealth, but the dark corners of his mind had different ideas…he’d start to see visions of people greeting him as smokestacks, having their heads swapped with a smokestack; other times he'd envision smoke billowing out from where their eyes should be midway through a sales pitch or regular conversation.
It was at this point that he began to notice a terrible sickness growing over the faces of everyone that succumbed to the tonics, thus began the night terrors.
Each night terror John dreamed up reflected a different form of corrupt greed or trade of big business. [Cue: Don’t Look Down] This particular terror that haunted John's subconscious displayed the effects of corporate success through the animal trade. In his dream, John is wandering through a strange, yet oddly familiar jungle land, when he spots one of the temptresses walking ahead of him, waving him onto follow her. The temptress continued to flag him on, as she directed him toward a sweet smell (John is very hungry in this dream; he also hates clarinets) reminiscent of the scent he caught a whiff of back at Smoke’s tower.
John struggled to follow her as she glided ahead of him twice his speed until he ended up losing sight of her all-together. And as he stopped to catch his breath, he found himself next to a long wooden bridge, a bridge only seen in history books at this point in time, and standing at the foot of the bridge is none-other than his mentor Orville. Surrounded by a vast amount of weeds and foreign vegetation, Orville stood with a stern, yet eager look on his face. He told John to come across the rickety bridge to get something to eat with him, but warned him to not look down, at any cost, no matter how much he felt the need "Whatever you do..." he says "don't look down."
Led by the sweet smell of what seemed to be roasting meat, John began making his way across the bridge, averting his eyes from looking down, it wasn't until he got halfway across that the temptation to gander below crept upon him.
"John, John!" shouted voices from below the bridge. "John!" his name was called again. “Who?” “John” “Who” “John” the voices began to chant, whisper and scream his name all at once “from below”….as
he continued to fight the urge to look.
He did well resisting at first, but after a familiar voice called out his name resembling his wife, he finally gave into temptation, ignoring his mentor (even in his dreams) and as the aroma of well-seasoned searing meat grew stronger, his eyes were introduced to a horrifying sight: Pigs….large
, full grown pigs by the hundreds were dining at long trough-like tables, dressed in suits, ripping, devouring and tearing apart everyone he knows and loves, only to reveal that the sweet smelling meat John starved for, was actually that of his family, townsfolk and everyone he ever knew.
Thus reversing the roles, animals eating humans. John begins to go mad.
Meanwhile, the people of Frumbello started to discover the ailing effects of "Consumerism Woes" (Consumerism Woes: a chapter briefly covered in the By the Book series: Buy your copy now!), and not too long after they purchased the bottled up desires John marketed to them.
[Cue: Swarm] What seemed to be all at once, crowds of John’s product began to fall ill, with each illness correlating with whatever tonic they consumed.
For instance: take a tonic for "Ailment": you only find yourself becoming sicker, contracting every disease imaginable; or if you purchased a tonic for "Height" (with the ambition of growing a little taller): your bones would start to expand rapidly, growing and growing until they protrude out of your body. And if that’s not enough, say you drink a tonic for "Beauty": you grow uglier and uglier until you're so hideous you can no longer bear the sight of yourself, eventually dying from horrible ugliness.
Upon the self-brought and bought plagues entering the town, the people of Frumbello became incredibly aggravated, and with good reason. They noticed John hadn't been out and about in quite some time, knowing now that he was the original cause of blame for all of the new-born illness and death, they focused their aggression on him, forming a plan to seek him out and seize him in order to obtain their rightful vengeance and restitution. Being “not so dumb”, a cowardly John flees far away from the land "below", making haste toward the top of society to seek counsel and guidance from the All Powerful.
Alas, at the very top of society lived the elite, CEO, All powerful, Executive, Masters of New-America. The crown jewels of the world, the privileged few who went to the right schools, studied the right crafts, lived by the book, and by the book they reigned supreme. Playing out their role in the show at the very top (coinciding with the majority playing their role "From Below") are the very same few that John has always hoped to join. He now stands at the front gate of their headquarters, staring in astonishment at a the massive turning wheel that marks their section of the industrial world (the wheel: representing them as the perpetuators of big business.)
[Cue: The Stage] Having tasted the tonics themselves (though, being so incredibly wealthy, you'd assume they already had everything they could ever desire), the elite have also begun to take notice of the side effects, growing ill from the products John marketed. And so, upon receiving notice of John’s arrival, they arranged for a business meeting, so as to offer false hope of their support. The All Powerful dressed in their finest apparel and sent for John as they prepared to assign him his new role in their industrial show. “We don’t need you now, we don’t need you now, down from the stage, we’ve tradition here, we’ve got systems here, so down from the stage.”
Thus takes the place of "Cruel Ironies" -- The rich dismissing the rich for "bad behavior" -- Down from the stage they say, down from the stage.
After being guided through the gates, John was told he was to attend a “long-table meeting.” Before recent events in John’s life, this would have been incredibly exciting, but instead, a broken John enters their office room feeling hopeful; anticipating some much needed advice, yet instead found himself receiving quite the opposite treatment as the blubbery faces of the All Powerful sat down in preparation to tear apart any last looming specs of confidence John might’ve preserved.
With their crooked posture and oil dripping lips, they said to John “Defense here, couldn't save *coughing up oil in between*…even if it came, so retire your parade, and step down from the stage.” Nodding arrogantly to one another, shooting glares at John "Down from our stage” they refrained. In between the verbal jabs toward John’s sickening presence, he remembered his night terror involving the pigs, realizing how strikingly similar this scene playing out in front of him was, only this time, he was the meat.
As scouts (employed by the All Powerful) tackled him to the ground proceeding to rid him from the confines of the rich, we find John entering into a state of despair worse than ever before. [Cue: Greed’s Theme Pt. II: All for Liberty]
Overpowered, John starts to cope with the fact that he's just been banished from his beloved industrial city, thinking back to the deal he made, John started to truly regret his quick decision to sell what the smoke filled woman had contracted him to market.
Exiled, John sets off on yet another journey, arguing with himself, trying with his deplorable mind to justify his actions, striving to make it seem like he only ever did it for liberty, for the better of all lives...not just his own. But in the end he knew he could no longer lie to himself. He's become the villain his mentor always warned him about, and saw for the first time in his life that the people that take their place at the top, are most un-happy.
As John ventured further, he heard the violent moans of the townsfolk perishing in the distance, cursing his name. Keeping up a quick pace, he struggles to escape the daunting sound of the poisoned angry masses; combined with the dragging beat of machinery in the distance.
Meanwhile, John's wife goes missing.
Throughout his banishment, and growing level of madness, John noticed his wife hasn't shown an ounce of support (or interest) in him in weeks. With scouts (police) strictly enforcing John's sentence, he realized that he had no way of ever entering back into the city easily, and since he was a bit of a coward, he had little desire to try. He merely hoped that Jazz would come to her senses, eventually setting off herself to look for him. As he hopelessly awaited her arrival, he visited landmarks "Off the track" that the couple used to enjoy at the start of their fling.
[Cue: John] All the while he reminisced, he began to sing odd praises to himself, trying once again to justify his actions by making what he did seem heroic (in a legendary fashion.) "John was a strapping young lad, searching for his wealth, to save himself for poor living and form his honorable self, he paid his weight three tons and lived a life of class, made sure the strong received payment, by the book, by the book it must be said" he'd sing to himself to the consistent clatter of distant factories.
And so, as John battled his sanity, Smoke sang out sweet melodies in the distance, hoping to lure John back to her smokestack lined tower that seemed to billow gold.
Back on the track, Orville Wyatt had lost all hope for John. Whistling old time funeral marches, he swept away the ashes of those that have perished outside his home. "John, a mighty lesson did they learn, one that you have not gotten down, well what to say have you now? Not a lot…" he'd mumble to himself as he began to become brittle and slower-paced.
Strong in spirit, Orville kept his fatherly affection for John under-wraps, trying not to show how heartbroken he truly was. [Cue: Off the Track] As his broom dragged against the pavement to a steady, yet reluctant beat, Orville lamented his final words on the matter of his former apprentice saying “And so time goes, to relieve debt, from all of those who have suffered in your bed, guilty one, I'm off, I'm done, far off the track, you have...become...”
Though he himself never bought into any of John's tonics (one of the few), he was feeling incredibly ill nonetheless. As he glanced around at the chaos surrounding him, he shook his head while a deathly melody nestled its way in for the first time….as
it carries Orville out the story.
Calling out John for his actions one final time, he sings of the consequences as he drops his broom to the ground.
Orville is no more.
Back to John's journey of reckoning; remorse takes the place of arrogance.
As John walks along with a ragged-smoke colored scrap of "gas mask" fabric strapped to his face (fastened with a golden chain) he often lost his footing, tumbling down hills, into trenches and all over the barren industrial wastelands. [Cue: Smokestacks] After rolling himself into an open field, he strived to shed just a little light into his nightmare of a world, struggling to remember his "golden" days with Jazz; the one aspect of his life he thought had brought him true happiness...as he continued to unwillingly make his way toward Smoke's tower, he stumbled upon a letter in one of Jazz’s old hangouts which read:
"Have you ever really thought about it? I mean really ever thought about it? All those words they didn't mean a thing, no, they did not mean a thing, no they did not mean a thing, when I said you were my one and true, when I said I'd never bother you, well those words too they did not mean a thing, no they didn't mean a thing, Now I'll practice chivalry" as he recited the cold, cold words of the letter to the distant pulsing beat of factory sounds from the city, he recognizes upon the first few words that it's a confession from his wife; a confession affirming the final blow to John’s greed infested persona, stating that she was only ever with him for the riches.
If John hadn't been fully morose already, this surely set him over the top. Sobbing, flailing…he beat himself with the letter in hand, becoming truly delusional. He pressed on with his mad walk until he fell flat on his face tripping over an object in the middle of the woods, and upon reading the last few words of the note, he dropped the letter to the ground only to reveal that what he had tripped over was actually a smoldering body, and as he rolled it over, he discovered none other than the body of his now dead wife “Jazz", with molten gold dripping from the edges of her mouth, holding an empty tonic in hand that read "Richness".
Lost, disoriented and more poor than ever before...John continued to limp toward the wretched beauty that contracted him to sell the tonics.
As he approached the two massive smokestacks, he noticed the temptresses seductively lining the walkway once again, humming the very same tune as before (only few keys down this time.) Averting his eyes from making contact with any of the temptresses, John showed little emotion.
Upon witnessing a lifetime of horrific events in such a short span of time, John’s mind could only focus on one thing that didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. Having partook in his own products, he began to question why he himself had yet to perish from the poisoned tonics.
As he pondered the query, it wasn’t long before he arrived at the heavily polluted gateway to Smoke's industrial throne room. With his visibility thinning, John began to feel so distraught and weak that he could barely make out the imagery surrounding him, with the focal point being the dreaded creature that stood before him; sporting a wonderfully seductive outfit. [Cue: Greed’s Theme Pt. III: True Form)
With her back turned to him, John struggled to build up the courage to confront her, but as he approached his perception started to unravel yet another terrible realization….as
Smoke turned around, it was revealed that she was no longer the beautiful goddess he once remembered.
Puffing golden smog over herself as she took the form of one of the grotesque pigs from his night terror. Before John had enough time to properly react, Smoke laughed and grunted as she gathered more golden smog around herself shifting into his mentor Orville, all the while gliding closer and closer to where John stands. John watched in complete terror as she finally glided up to meet his eyes.
Relentlessly torturing John's already broken being, Smoke stared him down, as she took the form of his wife Jazz. It was at this moment she began to sense his agony, and never ending grief, appearing to almost feed off it. Upon realizing that John no longer desired "greed"...she swooped herself up in the air, levitating to finally reveal her true form.
Dropping her clothes, she vanished into a whirlwind of wretchedly beautiful golden smoke swirling about.
John’s left speechless, as he gawked in awe-struck horror, his mind flashed through every significant memory of his life thus far, sifting through key moments; fast forwarding to the time when he first met her. Coming to the conclusion that Smoke was never a she (or he) at all, for you see, he was simply blinded by the greed...learning the terrible truth that those who look onto Smoke with greed in their eyes, view it only as what they desire most.
Much to Smoke’s splendor, she thoroughly enjoyed watching John's painful struggle as he silently battled his human emotions. Without a word to say, John continued to watch, mouth agape, as she billowed and danced to her delightfully sick tune once more.
As the not-so foreign industrial clatter joined, Smoke swirled toward John in a tighter and swifter circular motion in time with the sinister sounds of the factory on the horizon; she began to sing to him:
"Hello my friend, yes we meet again, I trust you've lost your burden and have found success. Now I've done your dishes, cleaned out your drawers, replaced your troubles with riches I though you yearned for?"
Upon hearing the commotion, the temptresses entered the room as well, walking slowly and seductively in time to Smoke's tune as they blissfully began to hum along.
"Now you come here dressed in shame, insulting my performance, my parade, showing ignorance to gold's face…”
It is on those last few words that Smoke began to grow larger and larger, taking unnatural, intimidating strength against John, hoisting him up in the air.
And as John looks into what seemed to be a never ending abyss of smoke, with nothing left in his life but all the regret in the world, Smoke spoke to him in a voice so perverse, it could only be described as a joyful whisper: "Now it appears you've nothing left to say....well that's perfect" chuckling as she released her hold on John, sending him hurling toward the floor as his body began to swirl, mix and twirl in a smoke like manner until he vanished into a cloud. Revealing the answer as to why he himself had never perished from said tonics; is due to the fact that he's become the embodiment of pollution itself.
Now, as John began to comprehend his true form, he reflected back on the words of Smoke from when the deal was originally made "At the top of the hill with all the divine, this is where this product lets you stride." He realized Smoke was never promising him a place at the top with the elite, but with herself, and all the other greed seeking beings that succumbed to her twisted trap valuing a life of wealth "trade before tribe".
Just then, a whirlwind of golden smoke billowed out from the top of Smokes tower as it began to cover nearly the whole industrial city.
Alas in his new form, John glides and billows alongside the others at the very top of the industrial land, tricked by greed to live in peril for all eternity as the very pollution he always sought out to find - "Smoke"
[Cue: Things That Are Not The Same]
(Told from the perspective of the new pollution version of John) He recites a tune of warning, much as his mentor to him; perhaps Orville was smoke all along as well? (Dang! Plot twist!) - (I mean c'mon, that's why he drops the goddamn broom at the end of "Off the Track", that might just be his "true form" of pollution finally vanishing as John takes his place.) Gliding over future society's, watching history reform again and again, tradition continues to perpetuate and John begins his time as the thick swarm of golden smoke.
He takes it upon himself to warn and advise the youth to appreciate the so-called "little things in life" before it’s too late, before it's all over. He says to himself, and to all who are lost:
"And so, whether you live by the book, or off the track, enjoy the little things in life...for you will never have them back."