Crescendo at the End of the World
Even with the lack of any response from my new visitor, it was becoming easier to understand her gestures and short movements, and in due time, we started a short rapport consisting of my empty conversations and her physical actions. The amount of pointless things to talk about dried pretty quickly, but there was always one activity which never ceased to be useful, always available as she entered the room.
Often times, she led the charge in confronting the storm of music nestled in her mind, playing without regard to her condition, as if the only thing she could do was exhaust herself in the endless notes within that guitar.
It had become habit enough for me to leave the guitar on the floor of the room, expecting it to be the only outcome for her visits, and as long as it wasn’t damaged, it would stay there, waiting.
Often times, I led the charge, rushing ahead with a flurry of notes to test the extent of how far she would join me, and no matter how wide I swept and how quickly I played, they would all be accompanied by her, without fail, finding every tone to land on, and in the flurry of lights we created, I watched the expression on her face revealing itself in slivers between her hair. Catching occasional peeks at her eyes, she was sullen with concentration. It wasn’t anything of the spontaneity I expected, but every note seemed seared into her mind. Often times I noticed her mouth moving, no words escaping, but short breaths of fatigue, and when she did, her playing slowed. Her body strained to maintain her pace, sweat rolling down her face, and though her skin had hardened through strain, I could see the onset of tear. In those moments, I stopped all playing, drawing the rhythm to a conclusion, hoping she would follow.
Certainty for her listening to the flow of the music didn’t arrive naturally, but eventually she would listen, and the haggard breaths she gave after the room would be drenched in darkness gave soft glows of blue.
There was no other instrument that sparked the same amount of intensity, though she did try as I plucked them off the wall. Even if the quality of sound would not reach the same heights as her guitar, she was proficient enough to play short tunes on most wind instruments, but no matter how much I gave her to play, she always gravitated to the guitar.
On some days, she entered the room without any intention to play, instead, she would sit by her guitar, staring at the outside world, or, at whatever I was doing, which, in those quiet moments, wouldn’t be much. Tinkering away at the planetariums and the pocket watch could only be so interesting from afar, but she never spoke, and she seemed content with the flow of the room, even if there was a lack of music.
From those quieter days, I was able to determine a few more rules of the room. I had always been interested in the way time flowed, how things didn’t seem to break or change the way it would in reality. I decided to disassemble the planetarium, slowly picking away at the material with picks or forcing it open by lodging it against the floor. Setting out all of the mechanical innards in the middle of the room, I would go through two sets of tests. The first would be a careful watch to see if the parts would regenerate within the watchful presence of another being. I had a feeling that the regenerative properties only activated under certain conditions, with one of them being complete lack of presence.
Somehow, during these tests, neither Celeste nor Flander had made visits, but my new guest definitely made plenty, and I suspected the room had some part of it, though I couldn’t quite discern it in the moment.
While under watchful duress, nothing seemed to heal, and while I spent days of music or emptiness with my new guest, the parts didn’t react the slightest. I had suggested my guest attempt to further destroy or put the planetarium back together, but no matter how much she tried they always remained the same.
Deciding to play along with the room, I slept. Upon waking, as if nothing had happened in my experimentation, the planetarium was fixed, completely whole, in the middle of the room. When she had arrived, she seemed particularly interested in the development, her eyes, still mostly covered through her hair seemed to sparkle in the few slivers I caught.
“That’s just how it is in this room. Maybe it’s shy, but, this really is a miracle. But, I guess, miracle would downplay the severity of it. This is an existence beyond anything in your world.”
She shook her head. It was the most direct line of communication I’d received from her aside from the occasional head turns and confused stares. Though no words left her mouth, she looked at me, shaking her head again, refuting what I had said. Though, unable to know what exactly was wrong about my statement, I couldn’t continue with a conversation. Instead, I hoped our means to speak would improve, in whatever ways we could.
It seemed, even with objects native to the room, such as the piano or the instruments, if left under a watchful eye, they would never regenerate. But the moment I left them alone over an extended time, they would always be fixed. I tried multiple times to sleep and force myself awake, trying to catch the process, but it would never lead anywhere, the room always watching.
Mixed with these tests, thoughts of testing actual people occurred. I wondered if Celeste or Flander could stay in the room over an extended period of time. It would alarm those who knew them in their world, but I wondered if there was a theoretical way to keep them from aging or dying by watching over them in the room. In essence, they could be immortal.
But I dismissed those thoughts. Playing with the flow of time and of the actual world seemed far too distant from my design.
On a particularly quiet day, I decided on another test, this time, less imposing on the fabric of reality. Trying my best not to make it obvious, I declared to her, as she was plucking away on her guitar, “If you need me, just wake me up.”
There was no response, but I was sure she heard me, as her head gave a slight nod through her playing. Closing the fallboard of the piano, shifting the chair back, I leaned down and closed my eyes. It was a childish experiment. Slowing my breaths, I could feel my heartbeat. Though she was still playing the music, I tried my best to drown her sounds. If I wasn’t careful, I could slip into the endless knowledge of my mind, and if I wasn’t careful, I might have intruded on her life, and so I kept myself occupied, flipping through random music theory.
Before I knew it, I had started to hum softly as I played notes in my head, transcribing rhythms and harmonies onto imaginary music sheets. I found myself in an afternoon glow, walking across an empty park, blades of grass gently in swathes as the stars began to wake. Every so often, peeks of wind would join me, and the coolness of the night on my skin was as if winter, but a winter that did not sting in harshness, but welcomed me into a new year.
Although it wasn’t my intention, and it had been in complete accident, I heard her attempt to join the humming. She was following the impromptu song, but every sound from across the room was muffled, jarred the moment it escaped her mouth, crashing across the room. I wanted to keep the façade, and so I couldn’t see the color of the sound she made. But I was sure it was striking, harsh to the eyes.
Putting a stop to her voice was a cough, the pain of the words caught in her throat. The flurry of coughs had a rhythm all its own, and I heard rustling as she moved about, positioning herself in a way to lessen the pain. I knew she wouldn’t be vulnerable if I revealed myself, but another part was raging through, wanting to rush over to ask if she was okay. I wasn’t sure what to do, the struggle to fight against my body’s reaction inevitably caused me to soften my humming, and it took all I could to put my mind first, to stop myself from breaking through.
When she stopped coughing, I could feel my pulse lowering. The room drained into silence. For a moment, I expected her to play, to act as if nothing had happened, that she was strong, that she was strong enough to push through as if she was playing music that it didn’t matter how much it pained her to play. But there was nothing, and in that nothingness, I heard soft sniffles, but there was an absence of release.
It was just darkness.
Eventually, she had left all her own, the door opening and closing, prompting me to wake, to look at where she had left the guitar, to see that it had remained where it always was, and to see where I was in conjunction with her, how far we still were. But that was okay too, and I began to brainstorm all the ways I could to get her to be a bit more vulnerable, to allow her to trust me the way she had shown when she thought she was alone.
Although I was sure the room had some part to play in the visitors that arrived, either choosing when they could or coordinating their presence, for a moment, I thought it had given me a favor. One of the ideas I had could only be accomplished by material not present in the room. Figuring out what timeline my silent visitor was from didn’t require much deduction, as she seemed comfortable with all of the technology available. It could easily be explained through her sense of reasoning, but, I didn’t have room for approximations. I could only trust her.
Celeste had arrived, but before she could even speak, I had already made my way in front of her, ensuring that there would be no distractions.
“I need to ask you for a favor.”
I wasn’t sure what she would say, or how she would react, but the smile on her face told me everything I needed.
“I can’t really pay you for it, I’m not sure I can make things out of nothing in this room. I’m not sure if you can or if you might even want to but, I need you to buy me something.”
Before I could explain further, Celeste had already taken a step, clasping my hand in hers, and shook her head, indicating that I didn’t need to worry.
“As long as you’re not making me buy something outrageous, then of course. We’re friends, right?”
“Well? If it’s something you need right away, then I’ll be back in a cinch.”
What I had in mind might have been overly simplistic, and a part of me felt the room wouldn’t have enjoyed my meddling, but I felt it would have made her happy. Even if I had to go against the grain of the laws restricting where I was, restricting every fiber of my being, I was ready to make that dive, to find myself in acceptance of whatever the world had for me. A part of me wasn’t afraid of what the room could do to me, that I was wholly myself, with thoughts my own, and actions I could take. Finding solace and strength in individuality felt human.