Chapter 12:

It Might not Mean a Thing

Crescendo at the End of the World

            “Actually, I don’t know your name.” It really had been soon the next time I was able to see him. I thought he might have warmed up to the idea of visiting after I had solved the case. In reality, it was more likely the change in season allotting him more time to visit, as, over in his timeline, it was winter. The trail of snow he brought upon entering, and the blanket of white over his umbrella’s canopy was enough indication. Though I wondered if the room responded by this shift in time, and was why it had snowed and settled. I wondered if the room had any sort of logic to its creation, but those thoughts wouldn’t matter. Already conceding the idea of being able to interact with the room or understand its concepts, I was just glad to have company.Bookmark here

“I suppose not. It did not seem needed as I considered the possibility of your already knowing any of my personal information. Is that not true?”Bookmark here

I still hadn’t explained the extent of my powers. Keeping secrets, some part of me agreed, was human, though that same part didn’t particularly find it enjoyable to act openly coy with people who I enjoyed having around.Bookmark here

“It would, regardless, be appropriate to properly introduce us either way.”Bookmark here

He gave a short laugh. I was sitting on the piano chair, while he was brewing tea in the middle of the room, accompanied by baked cookies that he held in a plate stationed nearby. Though he considered them to be burnt failures, their smell was far from that intonation, only mildly stinging and giving discomfort, but as a whole, pleasant. Bookmark here

“I suppose it would. It is very human of you to consider, I would presume, such a meaningless task. My name is Flander.”Bookmark here

“Thank you.”Bookmark here

I still didn’t have a name, and hoped through a lapse in the conversation, he would forget. To continue feigning ignorance, I began a short melody over the piano. Knowing his name, it made it all the more appropriate the sound I produced to accompany this revelation to be somber. Slow notes strode the air, connecting through the sustain pedal, sounds bumping and clashing and released, and back, bumping and clashing, building gently upon each other as if the slightest break in rhythm would cause collapse. I didn’t have any particular place in my mind for the performance, but I played and I hoped to bring the conversation elsewhere.Bookmark here

*Bookmark here

It didn’t work.Bookmark here

“Though I appreciate the music and ability you possess in being able to play so well, I not being anything more than a novice, I believe this is all a rouse to avoid telling me your name. As if that holds far too great a weight.”Bookmark here

He took a bite of a cookie, wincing at its apparent taste, but washing it down with a sip of tea. Somehow, telling him the truth felt embarrassing, as if I would lose some fabricated authority over him. Such petty thoughts roamed my mind, though it was also incredibly human, and so I relished in it all the more. However, I wasn’t one to feign basic knowledge of myself if given the chance, and so I simply told him.Bookmark here

“I don’t have a name.”Bookmark here

“I see. That would be something to keep clandestine, it would lose you authority.”Bookmark here

I gave a half-laugh at how accurate he was. Bookmark here

Sitting there, laughing away at meaningless banter, with the proof of winter outside the world, with the gentle sway of tea in the air, I almost forgot where we were. I almost forgot who I was, what I was, and for that moment, I simply sat, and continued to play, finding meaningless chords to string together, just to pass time.Bookmark here

*Bookmark here

“Have you ever considered leaving this dimension?”Bookmark here

“No, she hasn’t, and for good reason. Also, you don’t have to be so interested if you don’t even care, you know?”Bookmark here

Flanders was hunched over, this time, chewing on a candy cane, as he crossed his arms and examined the star map Celeste had brought to examine on her free time. What neither of them expected was their presence together. Watching from the piano, a safe distance away, I couldn’t help but smile at the growing presence of the room.Bookmark here

“What reason may there be to confine herself to this desolate dimension?”Bookmark here

Celeste paused for a moment as she was in the middle of tracing a line from one star to the other. Both of them referred to me specifically based on how I looked, but I wasn’t too sure if I could be considered either gender. The body I had, the voice I could produce, they were all taken from memory, from the people who I spent time with, from the very moment I began to explore the possibility of being human. But I didn’t correct them. It felt right.Bookmark here

“Uh, well? You know, um, hey, help me out here.”Bookmark here

“I might not be able to return.”Bookmark here

“There! That’s it.”Bookmark here

She continued, satisfied with the explanation, and continued with her finger, dragging it across until satisfied.Bookmark here

“That would indeed be a conundrum, though the extent at which an ultimate being would worry about such an inconvenience is beyond me.”Bookmark here

“If I were to help people,” I began as I pressed a few lone notes, quiet enough not to disturb Celeste’s loose concentration, but enough to at least sustain some echo in the room, “It would have to be done here.”Bookmark here

“I suppose you are right to that regard. Neither of us would be here if not for this room.”Bookmark here

That was something Celeste and Flander could agree on, and they nodded in unison.Bookmark here

*Bookmark here

“In the future, will we be able to reach beyond Earth?” Flander took a big crunch from his candy cane, the sound resonating between us. Bookmark here

Celeste, not quite realizing the difference in their time, didn’t understand the full sentiment of Flander’s words, and I laughed as she tried to explain.Bookmark here

“Well, duh? I mean, you know, people say it all the time, the sky’s the limit, but, for the space-bound, it’s the galaxy. The galaxy is the limit, and we can go anywhere we want, as long as we keep trying.”Bookmark here

Despite how ardent she was in her words, and how serious she made them be, they would be lost on Flander, who, in his timeline barely breeched flight. Flight, by all logic, by all practical usages, were for human transport and intelligence, machines of war, and it wouldn’t be for a long time that they could be fathomed for any other purpose. Bookmark here

“Such fanciful dreams I am unable to dispute. But to see it be enacted, to think it be anything but tiresome for those involved, I am also unable to reason.”Bookmark here

Celeste took his words seriously, not outright reacting to the objections he posed, but thought on how to challenge them. Tucked to the side of the piano was the planetarium, still hiding in plain sight, but Celeste had easily noticed where it was. Before I could object, or even tangentially express why it might not have been a good idea to openly expose technology that wasn’t within his time, or that he wasn’t from the same time Celeste had already made her way and brought it out.Bookmark here

A part of me realized it might serve some use to properly explain the convolution of the two of them in the same room separated by a generation’s worth of time, except, it would never make any amount of logical sense, and it would have produced more questions than answers. A different part of me found it amusing to keep the string of misunderstandings loose, to have those affairs be beyond the time we spent. It didn’t matter where they were from, it didn’t matter who they were, it didn’t matter who I was or what I was.Bookmark here

We were there, and we existed, and that felt human.Bookmark here

*Bookmark here

As Celeste turned on the planetarium, I noticed the world outside slowly changing. It wasn’t all at once, not like before, but parts of it began to evaporate, starting with the vegetation and snow. Colorless particles began to float into the sky, leaving behind stark emptiness. There was nothing to fill in the world, and I wasn’t sure what the room’s intentions were by showing me this change while Celeste and Flander were visiting. I wasn’t sure of anything in the room, of anything about myself either. No reasons yet had given me any pause for concern as to these changes to that outside world, and no one else had noticed any discrepancies. Bookmark here

No matter what happened in this world beyond theirs, they could leave and nothing would change. I had already helped and given my support, and they had no further obligations. As the stars expunged from the sphere onto the ceiling, capturing their attention, the silence in my mind was filled with those thoughts of abandonment. Escaping elsewhere in my mind might leap me into someone else’s life, and that possibility of intrusion stopped me from thinking. It must have shown on my face, and I wasn’t accustomed to it yet, or able to distinguish what face I was making, but Celeste had looked at me with worry.Bookmark here

“You’re doing it again.” Celeste stood, not disturbing the trance Flander was found as he watched those faux stars. She took slow steps until facing me head on, her expression softening as she smiled. Bookmark here

“If you keep that up you might really make me forget about what you are.” She turned away, looking towards the childish wonder being expelled in the middle of the room.Bookmark here

“You’re no different than he or I. From what I know of you, not a single thing sets us apart. For all I care, not a single thing can ever make you different from either of us.”Bookmark here

She placed her hands over the keys, making sure not to press into them, but to feel their material, sliding her skin off as if wiping away dust. Bookmark here

“Well, maybe you can sing better than I can,” she giggled. “And you can play piano way better than me. But, that’s about it.” She reached over, holding my hands, and pressed into my fingers, not hard enough to cause pain, but enough to ascertain the body as mine. The warmth of her hands presided over mine, and if I concentrated on the sensation of touch, I could feel the blood rushing throughout my body. The softness of her skin cooled over my hands, and as I looked into her face, only softly illuminated by the floating particles of the outside world crumbling, I could feel my breaths. Awareness of living washed over me, and by then the bridge of the outside world was beginning to disappear, but I only wanted to exist in that moment with them. In the silly nonsensical mixture of delight from Flander watching stars, and the care of Celeste. Bookmark here

“So? Isn’t space something beautiful enough to seek out?” Celeste turned her attention to Flander, letting go of my hand and placing them onto her hips as she gave him a snide smile.Bookmark here

“It is something beyond this this world, that much with certainty I can give you. I wonder if those who know only of bloodshed would even fathom a place among the stars. ”Bookmark here

He laid himself onto the floor, closing his eyes, engraining those fabricated stars into his mind. Bookmark here

“But I am willing to try.”Bookmark here

My hands gravitated to the simple tune universally equipped for occasions of rest and respite, catching even Celeste off guard as I softly sang the lullaby of stars, not adding any extraneous complexities to the piece. I didn’t dare bring us anywhere in the music, only wanting to punctuate the moment the only way I knew how. Bookmark here

It felt human. Bookmark here

*Bookmark here

“May we meet again. I share no animosity towards you, only the appropriate scrutiny any dream should deserve. But I thank you. I had never bothered to think of anything above ground. My past self would not have either. He would have perished the thought immediately. But, lately, I feel like it is only correct to be more…”Bookmark here

“Open?” Celeste laughed and teased him.Bookmark here

“Fair. But, I will accept your answer as well.”Bookmark here

They left one after another, as if unable to leave at the same time, as if the room compelled them to wait, to have their timelines be independent of each other. Bookmark here

Alone, my thoughts didn’t stagnant to brandish negativity, but instead, I watched as the last of the outside world vanished.Bookmark here

There was nothingness. Bookmark here

No image remained. No world left to greet me. For the first time in a long while, I was completely alone. Bookmark here

I figured, with endless time at my disposal, that I might as well fill it in the only way I knew how, in the skill I used far more often than I realized. Focusing on the piano again, I made sure to keep my eyes ready to catch any change in the outside world. Bookmark here

As if answering my thoughts, the first note I played, light sprouted from the glass window.          
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