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Long, graceful fingers glide across smooth keys, their weathered skin rough against the polished ivory.
The Dreamsmith closes her eyes, and she feels the music, warm and alive, cupped in the palms of her hands. She breathes, feeling the song flutter against her fingertips, as if it is a living, tangible thing, eager to break free and soar.
And then she releases the tension, and the music plays. A sweet, simple melody drifting through the darkness. Soft and hesitant, it shakes itself free from her fingers, fluttering its damp wings timidly, and slowly begins to explore the world. She breathes again, in, out, and her fingers dance in earnest now, strong and bold, gaining confidence with every note, flying across the keys in a gracefully, spidery waltz. The song spreads its wing, and flies, as she weaves new layers into the melody, and the waltzing fingers are beginning to move faster, reveling in their newfound skill.
The music is soaring free now, swelling up to fill the room, the notes echoing off of the ceilings and walls. And the Dreamsmith is flying too, spiraling upwards with the notes, as an intricate tapestry of layered notes spring from her fingertips.
And now, it is almost as if the music has a life of its own. Her fingers are mere spectators- dancers, leaping and pirouetting across a ballroom of ivory and ebony, caught in the music's hypnotic sway. And the Dreamsmith too increasingly becomes only a spellbound witness, standing in awe of this thing of unimaginable beauty that she has somehow birthed. It is a symphony now, an epic, a fierce march of war, echoing brave and strong off of every surface, soaring to the roof of the world, filling every corner of the world. The dancers spring across the keys with bold intensity and delicate grace all at once, never missing a single beat, and the Dreamsmith feels the world around her vanish, swept away by this beautiful storm. She is the eye of the hurricane, a lone pianist and her instrument. The only relicts of crude, imperfect reality left in the heart of this grand, utterly perfect dreamland swirl.
And she too is fading now, as the storm closes, and the eye fades, and the dancers become mere ghosts on fast-vanishing keys.
There is no eye of the storm left, no world, only the storm, wild, and free and strong and beautiful, quickly absorbing the last islands of clumsy, barbaric reality into its heart and the Dreamsmith watches, elated, as she herself becomes one with the storm.
Then there is only music. Transcendent, otherworldly music, singing the song of stars above, and the birth and death of distant suns, a celestial symphony that human ears are unfit to hear.
She is not aware of the moment the song ends, for there is nobody there to be aware of anything, only the music. But alas, the music must end somewhere, and when it does, the world returns slowly, filling the void. The Dreamsmith breathes hard, and then slowly places her hands on her lap.
She takes a deep breath. She wrote this song herself, practiced, and practiced again. She's logged nearly a hundred and fifty hours with this song. A hundred and fifty hours of beauty and passion and freedom. A hundred and fifty hours, that will be gone within seconds. But this is her job. This is how she keeps herself fed, keeps the bills paid, pays for the instruments she loves so much.
She reaches to the socket at the back of her neck, and pulls the little chip loose.
It is there, and then instantly, it is gone. Though her brain remembers those months upon months of practice, her fingers have, without warning, utterly forgotten how to dance. Those memories are not hers to keep, but logged on the little silver chip she holds in between her fingers, and suddenly, she has a desperate urge to put it back in, and play, one last time. But she cannot keep her client waiting for much longer. He is a wealthy man, she knows, and wealthy men and women are, as a rule, busy and impatient men and women.
An aching sense of loss fills her, as she carefully places the little chip inside of a velvet-lined box, and closes it gently. There is a blunt finality about packing this chip away. It is gone. A hundred and fifty hours thrown away for nothing. Not nothing, she reminds herself. Twenty-five thousand dollars. This may be painful, but nobody said it wasn't a lucrative trade.
"Sir?" the Dreamsmith says, as she pushes the door open, entering the front of her store. "I'm sorry to keep you waiting, but I wanted to reinforce it one last time. It tends to help it integrate a little better this way."
Her client stands, straightening his expensive-looking gray suit, brushes back his gelled gray hair. He looks as if he's chipped out of rock, the Dreamsmith notes, not for the first time. Gray suit, gray hair, grayish skin, sunken, grayish eyes that rarely seem to blink. He even moves stiffly and slowly, and when he speaks, his cheeks never seem to move. She has never taken him for a music lover, but then, its not her business. Perhaps he just has somebody to impress, and he is obviously wealthy enough to buy someone else's talent, time, and dedication.
"Not a problem," he says, in a deep, dull voice, holding a stiff gray hand out for the box.
The Dreamsmith brushes her fingers over the box one last time. It's smooth and warm, like the keys of a piano, and she tries to remember how to play, but she cannot. She slowly hands him the box, watching those short, stout, gray fingers wrap around the wood.
"I would recommend that you use it immediately," the Dreamsmith says. "These higher quality memchips can be temperamental, so it's a good to get it used to your mind as soon as possible. I have a piano in the back, if you want to try it out..."
Her client nods once, and she leads him to the acoustic room in the back, littered with her instruments and discarded sheets of notes.
"Sorry about the mess," she mumbles, brushing a few pages off the piano bench, and nudges her cello case out of the way gently. "Take a seat, and try it out."
Her client sits, resting his fingers on the keys, and the Dreamsmith tries not to listen, as the music takes wing once more.