May 14, 2012
James began softly. It was a beautiful song. Peaceful and happy. It agreed with his soul. Struck a note with his being. He let his mind go out to the music, touch it, probe it, become it. He was every note, the fiber of his soul existed in every harmony. Sound poured from his very core, fluid, serene.

Mark sat outside, notepad in hand. James had hurried him there calmly but firmly giving no other explanation than, “Sit. Listen. Write” before walking into the room and closing the door, leaving Mark sitting puzzled in the hallway. Now he laid his head back as the music began, soft and elegant. It slowly swelled out of the small room, washing over him as he sat calmly on the ground by the door. An invisible tide flowed forth from behind the door. Mark sat calmly, the music forming a diaphanous tracery of sound in a web around him as he let it envelope him. The world became distant. A student walked in front of Mark. Her footsteps were muffled as if heard from underwater. Mark was content, and sat with his eyes closed, absorbing the music as it came to meet him.

James was glad he had found Mark. He needed someone to be here to hear his music, especially now. It wasn’t that he wanted to show off; he had been thinking this over for a long time, and now was the time. “Let him be the one to hear this,” he thought to himself “to experience this”. He concentrated on the melody now. Soft and sweet like before, but with just a tinge of impurity, a note here and there to subtly throw off the delicate structure of the piece. To suggest all was not right.

Mark cracked one eye. There was something slightly off with the music. He found himself wanting to reach out and physically correct the harmony. As if to tweak it, to make the one small correction required to complete the melody. Sometimes, erratically, there would be a single note, always the same one, which would finish the melody, relieve the tension. In these sparse moments Mark connected to the music, felt its true purpose, its depth. No longer able to relax, he felt agitated, on edge. His hands fidgeted, itching to pluck the sour notes from the air. He felt hot. Mad. He picked at his clothes, shifted his position. Suddenly he felt an intense dislike for everything around him. His back arched. The notepad fell off his lap empty; the pen tumbled next to it, still capped.

James heard the restless shifting outside and knew it was time to move on. He now poured more of himself into the music, more of his being. There no longer remained a hint of impurity but a force. It leaked from James like icy water, thick, sluggish, wretched. It was the same melody, the same tenor, only twisted, gnarled; tired.

Mark sensed another change in the music. He still felt the same heat, the same discontent. Yet he was unable, unwilling to fight it any longer. He simply looked upon the world with jaded, dejected eyes. The resolving note came less often now, and could no longer complete the melody on its own, could no longer hold together the failing structure by itself. He wished he could leave this hallway, wished he could just escape into silence, be free from the music that now grated against his ears. He sagged against the wall, downcast.

James threw himself into the music. It dropped, causing a reverberation which rattled the door and the walls. It was low, disconsolate. The melody was barely audible, yet the music vibrated undeniably within the building.

Mark was numb. Disconnected. He looked down at his lap in frozen silence. Somewhere far off surprise registered in his mind. He didn’t remember picking up the pad or pen, yet he looked down and saw page upon page of neatly penned calligraphy. He touched his face and his hands came away wet. A single thought registered in his mind. More than a thought, it was a message which was not his own. “I’m sorry”. With deadened fingers Mark reached up to the door and twisted the knob. Unable to summon energy from his now unresponsive body, Mark dragged himself towards James. He was dead. Stiffly cradled around his instrument in a sitting position, back rigid, James was dead. Something died within Mark. He clutched James’s knee. He could think of nothing to say. Nothing to do. Stunned, he looked at the pad of paper which he realized was still clutched within his fingers which now clung so tightly to the paper they had turned completely white. He read the paper slowly, with growing horror. He was looking at James’s eulogy. He broke. “My fault” he mumbled, eyes wide, and pushed himself against the wall in a ball.

The paramedics arrived to a strange scene. Apparently, a student had died while giving a recital for another student. The paramedics simply shrugged, stranger things had happened. As they loaded the body onto a stretcher, another student appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. He had a vacant look in his eyes, and always seemed to be staring past what was before his eyes. He mumbled a string of words which sounded like a single repetition of a phrase while staring past the paramedics. “My fault”. Then he would hum snatches of strange, dissonant music. The paramedics paid him no mind and proceeded to carry the body out. Before they could make it out of the building however, the strange, empty-eyed young man stumbled up to the body and tucked a pad of paper into the body bag before anyone could say otherwise. As they drove away, the paramedics received a call to turn around. Another body had been found.

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