Crescendo at the End of the World
Celeste’s visits had become more frequent, and since my new guest was still nameless, we decided it was our first priority to find one. Celeste was quick on the uptake that she couldn’t speak and could only have few gestures of communication, but it was easy enough to navigate, part in due to how we met.
“Well? I think something simple would probably work best. How about Harmony?”
Both of us shook our heads.
“That’s a little too simple.”
“Okay. Then, what about…” Celeste thought long and hard, putting all she had in her mind as she scrunched her face in thought. A strung out “hmmm” escaped her mouth and by the end of her breath, she made a motion to speak, “I got nothing.”
The room filled in quiet laughter. We were all sitting in the middle of the room, positioned around the planetariums which were lightly turned on, bleeding stars onto the ceiling. The slight buzz never managed to fill any silences between us, and thanks to the blue still being emitted in the outside world, there was never a dearth of visibility.
“You know? I’ve been recently talking with my mom again.” Celeste was looking down at the planetariums, reaching her hands to the sphere-shaped one, tumbling it back and forth, disrupting the flow of stars. “It’s nothing too big or serious, but, we’re trying again. Well? That sounds more ominous than it really is, and I guess you don’t really know what I’m talking about.” Celeste gave a soft smile and shook her head. “The point is, somehow, we circled back to my name. Apparently, it’s quite expansive, but you know? We can start like that, a name that has some kind of meaning and be expansive but not too obvious. I’m not in any position to really know but I think someone here is.” Both of them looked at me as if I could conjure any word to mind. They weren’t wrong. I could. But being able to attribute it to another person through the small bits of circumstantial information was still difficult.
Regardless, I focused on all of the words in the world, those yet to be invented, those long forgotten, and tried to find any which fit for a name.
“When she gets like this, it seems like, it seems like she’s not even here? You know?”
Except I could hear Celeste’s comment clearly, cutting through my concentration but not enough to dispel where I was heading. I had narrowed a few words as candidates, and not to keep the suspense I picked out the most likely.
“Aria.” I wasn’t sure whether the term was widely used for names, though it did relate to music, just not in the same capacity of the music we were playing in that room. But it was something, and it sounded nice enough to be a name. How relevant it was I left to debate, but I hoped it would be enough.
“That’s a really cool name, I’ll give you that.” Celeste nodded in approval.
Unsure of what to really think of it, the recipient of the name, with her guitar case to the side, out of way but still within reach, scrunched her face, her hair neatly parted away by Celeste’s handiwork. Though her voice could not convey the expression on her face, it seemed to be the right hit, and somehow, that light from the outside world, seemed to glow a bit brighter.
“You know Aria, I wonder, if we were to walk out at the same time, if we would arrive at the same place.” Celeste’s suggestion seemed beyond the realm of the room. Though, I was sure, if they did decide to test out this theory, that the moment it would be enacted, the room would cause it to fail. Even if they were from the same time period or location, I was sure they would not be permitted to use the room in such a way. Yet these thoughts also found their way to my fundamental being. If I were to use the door as a means of teleportation, would the room allow me? Though that then required if I could even enter the outside world and retain a way to return, and the circular questioning could lead on forever, but I was more interested in the current moment we were sharing.
“Though, I guess, that would be pretty mean? It would be mean to just come here and pop somewhere else for free, you know? It’s like, it feels wrong. But it would be cool.”
Aria nodded and made a face as if she was taking Celeste seriously. I hadn’t really paid attention to Celeste’s appearance, but it seemed she was growing out her hair, the frayed edges no longer so evident. They weren’t as freely moving as Aria’s which could easily shift into her face with too much movement, but it did reach below her shoulders nonetheless, and I could imagine it reaching even more. I shook my head, shaking away the slight possibility of intruding on her life. However, the same tug towards intruding didn’t happen when I did the same for Aria. No matter how much I looked at her and focused, there wasn’t any sort of reaction, and it almost seemed like I needed to access a different part of her life to even breach into it.
“I’ve been singing a lot more lately, though, not really what I sang for the kids or anything, just, you know? Small things here and there.” Celeste had already told Aria about her situation, about the kids she looked after at her school and the little bits of development since then. Before she continued, she seemed to find her words, picking them out through her mind, but once she realized she was sifting through, she shook her head, letting herself speak first.
“It’s you know, I’m not quite sure why I wanted to talk about it? But, I, maybe I just wanted someone to listen, and well, there are people to listen here. But, I guess I’m feeling a little bad for stealing the show from Aria here.”
Celeste looked over, and Aria smiled, shaking her head. To further show how much she didn’t mind, she reached out to take her guitar from the case, brandishing it across her body as she sat straight, strumming a chord. Giving two more nods to Celeste, Aria played a scale.
“I guess, this is your way of telling me not to worry.”
In response, Aria repeated the scale, this time letting each note sing out, mimicking words, though neither of us could find a legible sentence.
“It still doesn’t feel good, but, thank you. Thank you. If, if you want? I mean, it would be hard but, if you have anything you want to try to say, you could. I’m not sure how, but, it only feels right.”
Though it was impossible for Aria to respond in any complex way, she ran through a few notes, telling us again that she was going to be fine, that she was content with the way things were. Celeste leaned over, adjusting the planetariums, rolling the sphere shaped one back and forth, adjusting the cube on its edges, catching it before it would fall, and eventually, she found a strange configuration. The cube would be hoisted against the sphere, which, after many iterations had finally remained still. Watching as the pattern of stars pointed away from each other, and making a gap in the middle for us, made us laugh. It was as if this time in space existed only for us, as if there was no other way for us to exist, as if it had always been like this.
“I guess? What I wanted to eventually get to was that, I started singing a little more at home. Not really anything too serious or disruptive. Nothing like that, you know? Just, it’s always been hard.”
Celeste let her eyes rest on the floor. Aria, without words, felt like she wanted to comfort her, to say something of elation, to add sprinkles of smiles within the atmosphere. But all she could do was reach out with her music, strumming soft notes, not to interrupt, not to add anything too substantial, just to let Celeste know she was there. Trust had been made far easier than when I met Aria, or it seemed that way, or, she could have always been that way, and I had went about it wrong. Pointless thoughts like those didn’t matter, and I let them simmer away in the moment, focusing instead on my guests, who made time bearable.
“But I’ve been more engaged, I guess. I’ve just been around? I’ve been around, more, letting myself be myself, around my mother. It’s, not like she, it’s not like she’s the type to be angry, or anything.”
Though details of Celeste’s life had been kept close, I had still stolen looks within, her initial case seared into my mind as a pivotal moment of my creation. Even if the large swathes of the life I peered into were missing, I had a good idea of the relationship Celeste was alluding to, and I didn’t want to give that away. I didn’t want to give any indication to Celeste that I had intruded. Parts of me didn’t want to bundle it within myself, but other parts of me found it harmless.
“Little by little, I think I’ll try and tell her, more properly, more focused, more sure of myself, that I want to do what I want to do. Even if it takes everything out of me. Even if I have to sacrifice everything there is, I want to do this.” For a moment, I could picture Celeste the way she was when she first arrived, her hair mangled in mess from haphazard cuts, the way she didn’t mind, the way it was a part of her. It wasn’t an image of my mind, it wasn’t anything intrusive, but I could see how far she’d moved on, and all she did was sing a song of stars. For a moment, I felt like intruding on her life, to tell her if her future stored fortune, and although it would have been a positive use of my knowledge, I forbade myself from it, instead, I nodded and told her, “I’m sure, whatever you do, it’ll work out.”
“Thank you. I’m not sure I could have gotten this far if, if it wasn’t for being here, you know? Maybe I would have still gone on to keep studying those stars, but, it wouldn’t be like this. You know?”
We had long forgotten what our initial premise was, that we had gathered and wanted to further the bonds between us, and to let Aria feel more connected, giving her a name. Though we had accomplished it, I couldn’t help but feel there was much more left. There was much more left, and I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to solve anything with Aria. I wasn’t sure of anything, and that felt human.
Having conceded the idea of Aria being the official third guest, and by correspondence the third case of helping someone, I was ready to accept her existence as a part of the room proper. Our days didn’t indicate anything past her simple existence, and I was fine with it. A part of me designated my purpose to be a being to help any who stumbled upon this room, and a part of me found such time spent on a person who couldn’t speak or express whether they had a problem to be solved to be pointless. But another part didn’t mind at all. I was simply there, and adding names to an arbitrary roster of “salvaged” emotions and repaired people didn’t matter to me. In that moment, even accepting my existence into this room as only having a single purpose, and perhaps not fully realizing that purpose, I was fine with the way things were.
But, like being a human, I knew nothing of the future, it had always eluded me that I could never know the ending of any bit of information I had. The extent of Aria’s existence, and the new guest which would open the door, would coincide in the revelations I would receive. And yet, the outside world, was still dark, the only stagnant illumination the pulsing blue which remained its intensity, flashing to ensure me it was still watching.