Crescendo at the End of the World
Eventually, Aria’s visits had become commonplace, and so, on one such arrival, I had placed my expectations for how the day was going to proceed in the forefront. Sitting on the piano chair, I quickly realized none of it was going to matter. It was difficult trying to rationalize what I saw as anything but normal. I knew Aria’s appearance; the amount of time I spent with her with the grace of illumination bridging into the room, her attire never having changed it was engrained in my mind. However, she looked nothing of the sort. I hoped the edging feeling of oddity was misplaced. I had never felt such a way, and it was human, but it wasn’t a good feeling.
When Aria moved towards the middle of the room, her hair neatly tied behind her in a ponytail, her face beaming with energy, and her frilled summer dress instead of shirt and jeans exposed in the slight blue light still present in the outside world, I felt as if a foreign object had entered. Somehow, it seemed she was slightly shorter, and though I hadn’t gotten good looks at her face before, she seemed less worn, younger, even. She didn’t move toward the guitar, didn’t seem to realize it was even a part of the dimension she had entered, and instead, she crouched down onto the floor. Tracing her hands over the wooden surface, the room repelled her fingers , causing them to hover but not enough to cause her to notice.
As if ascertaining whether the room was real, she gave a stomp, being repelled, and turned her head. She scrunched her mouth in thought, then with a smile, exclaimed to no one in particular, “So this really is a special dimension.”
The words were not stifled, and though I hadn’t heard Aria’s voice prior, I figured it was exactly what it should have sounded like. It was so clear I almost thought it wasn’t hers, but then she continued, and there were no more doubts, “And you must be the one sitting here waiting for me.” She turned in a clean pivot, and I smiled, as much as I could, hoping she wouldn’t think anything strange, hoping whatever it was this encounter was, I could manage to find some logic.
“If you have something you need help with, then I am here to help.”
All at once, a bright smile formed over her face, and it seemed she couldn’t contain her energy as she rushed over, stopping just short of me, entranced by the encounter, she let her eyes sparkle and her mouth wide in awe.
“I didn’t think you would be so real. I mean, of course you’re real, you’re right here with me. But, I didn’t think –” She looked back for a moment, taking in the scope of the room again, at the instruments which lay scattered on the wall, at the lone guitar cased on the floor. “I didn’t think those rumors were true. It couldn’t have been, but here I am.”
She nodded wildly in agreement at the situation. As if there was an unending spark in her movements, she skipped towards the center, sneaking towards the case until finding herself towering over it, her shadow cast with the floating blue light sustaining her figure.
“With you sitting over there, and this sitting over here, I can only guess that this isn’t yours. Or at least, you’re choosing which one to play, which, for now, is that big one over there.” The sound of the zipper filled the air, and as the case collapsed, she pulled it back up. The sound of the metal enclosed the guitar contrasting.
“It’s well loved too, it seems. Instruments in another world might be cool, but, it looks like we share something in common.”
“In that case, I assume you play?” Though I could already guess the answer, I wanted to ask, and I wanted to know just how deep this contradiction was, just how convoluted this version of Aria was from the version of Aria I had previously encountered. I wasn’t too sure whether I should even attribute them using the same name, but I wasn’t sure on anything. I had never been, and for a moment, I wondered if it would have been easy to peer into my mind and intrude. But she gave me no room to even entertain the idea.
“That’s right. But, well –” She stopped herself short, scrunching her face again as she dived into thought. Placing my hands over the keys, I pressed lightly and listened as a note sustained itself.
“If you’d like, we can play.”
She stayed silent, and a strange nostalgia bred in the air as Aria let my words linger in the air. Leaning down with as much weight she could muster, she stretched her body forward, groaning at how much she was straining herself before releasing all the tension built within her muscles. Then, in another motion, she leaned back, stretching her arms in the air, and though enough sound was made from all of her exaggerated actions, I didn’t need it to see how distant her eyes were, how much the thought of playing swirled and conceded in her mind. Silence didn’t grow stagnant with all of the avoidance she was doing, but there was only so much before she had to start repeating motions, and so she crouched back down, picking away at the wooden floor, pouting at my suggestion.
It was as if she was a child, and that made me laugh, which only caused her distrust to grow as her pouting increased.
“You’ve come all the way here, I guess you don’t want to meddle with something you can do in your own world. How about we try something, a little, weird?”
At my suggestion, she brightened again.
I wasn’t quite sure how exactly I was going to meet her expectations, with the most unique quirks of the room only visible through certain conditions, and I wasn’t sure telling her to break something to see it be repaired after she left was going to impress in the immediate moment. The outside world didn’t seem to be a good idea either, as whatever it was she could see through those glass windows were already different from the staunch darkness and blooming lights I had. The only other option was me.
“I can tell you anything you want to know,” I said. It was risky, as I could at any time intrude on a life, and if I wasn’t careful, I might have even found my way into Aria’s, but with enough focus I could hone my mind to only find the information I needed. Walking away from the piano, I made my way to the middle of the room, grabbing the planetariums, and placing them on the floor. Aria was pacing near the instrument wall, head in her hands as she thought of what to ask. Every so often, she let out gasps, though what she wanted to convey wasn’t clear as she immediately slunk back into thought, racing even faster, as waves of expression ran her face, and a barrage of ‘hmms’ and ‘ahhhs’ collided together.
When she noticed she was out of breath, she turned towards me with a raised finger and a triumphant smile.
“In that case, what is the diameter of the sun!”
“One million three-hundred thousand nine hundred twenty seven kilometers.” Thankfully the question was one of measurement and logical statistics that couldn’t deviate into any other avenues.
“From how quickly you responded, you either had that memorized before hand, or just really know how big the sun is.” Aria placed her hands on her hips, raising her head as if she was in an interrogation and puffed out her chest such that her voice would bellow in the room. “However, that was merely the start of my tests.” Putting one hand in front of her nose, she mimicked the motions of pushing up glasses.
“Tell me, what do the folds of a chef’s hat represent?” Hands on hip, she beamed as if she had won some imaginary contest between us.
“Each fold represents a different way to cook an egg.”
As if her world had been shattered, in exaggerated motions, she slumped forward, catching herself before an animated fall, and began nodding furiously. Satisfied with the answer, after a moment of recollection, she pondered again, pacing back and forth, and it seemed like it might last a while, and yet, I realized the ends of my face curling, remaining a smile.
Once her ritual had ended, she produced a new question.
“Which musician in the Classical period still sees great success in the modern era, to the point of outselling some of the most popular artists?”
I noticed the tinge of the question had shifted, and I wondered if Aria had done so purposefully.
“Mozart. The factors at play may be more complicated than a sudden resurgence in popularity as the selling of his anniversary collection played a large role. But nonetheless, he had made waves during that year.” My words found themselves laid bare as the information flowed out of me, the strange and useless facts becoming an answer difficult for her to respond as with her gestures, she knew she had been beat once again. Though, I was only hopeful the information I had was relevant to her time period. Telling her that testing a being living beyond her world with trivia questions was a waste of the near-infinite amount of things she could ask about seemed a little too mean, but it made me smile all the more that she was trying so hard in something so inane.
“Alright, it seems like you might be the real thing after all.” Aria, still playing the detective-on-the-case, pointed at me with as much haughty arrogance she could muster, and by then, I noticed how her feet tapped in place. Draining most of her energy in her exaggerated motions limited how far she could extend on all of the high-paced movements, but, even when still, she found a way. “But, don’t think you’ve fully beaten me yet. There is one question, one impossible question that only a being with infinite wisdom, a being beyond anything I’ve ever encountered, could answer.” Each syllable was held for as long as she could, giving emphasis on every word as if everything she said had the punch of revealing murder.
“In the future, will I still enjoy music?” But these words which followed had nothing of the excessive energy she showed before. Her face turned somber upon finishing them, the face I knew Aria for, stoic and staring, eventually avoiding my eyes, staining the floor instead.
But I couldn’t quite answer. It would have required intruding on her life, and I didn’t want any bit of it, and the Aria I knew played music with so much fervor that it was never a question, but the fact that this version of Aria had even considered it made me unsure. It felt like any answer I gave would have been dissected, that if I were to give anything but the truth it would be understood without failure.
“In the future, do I have any right to enjoy music? After the way I am? After what I chose to do now. After how much I’m not, do I have any right to still enjoy music?”
Silence was all I could give her.
It was all I had for her, and we stayed like that for a long time, and eventually she nodded, walking towards the guitar, feeling its warmth as she placed her hand over the case. All I could do was walk back to the piano, our distance never having shrunk, and I sat back in the seat, thinking of how to answer her, thinking if I had any right to answer her.
“Will I at least seem like I had at all enjoyed music?” She asked while facing me, the guitar hiding behind her body as she stood in front of it.
“Will I, in any capacity, be able to play like I had before? If I wanted to? If I really had to? If I had any hope of honoring who I was, could I still play?”
I wasn’t sure if she wanted an answer.
“I know you know, it’s why I’m able to be here at all, isn’t it? It’s why this place exists, right?” Her words grew ragged, her expression growing more pained as I let her talk. “I can ask you anything and you can do anything, can’t you? You have to. You have to.”
Her appearance had been strange, a force of will unseen, and equally as forcefully was her rampant thoughts taking over, but I couldn’t answer her. And as equally as her change in attitude, in the blazing colors which accompanied each of her words, she switched back. She smiled, her movements fluttering, and she walked to the middle of the room, short of the planetarium.
“But I guess if you can’t answer me, then that means I win. Then that means I’m right. I’m right, aren’t I?”
Constructing a timeline of which Aria had visited me, I realized the possibility of linear logic not being applied, and without being able to tap into my mind, I wouldn’t be able to understand it with certainty. She spoke with clarity of things I chose not to access, and I knew simply finding her within my mind would elucidate everything I needed to tell her. But I didn’t want to intrude. And I began to feel a sharp sting within me.
With Aria gone, and with the room empty, I stared into the still blooming blue light, wondering if the outside world was going to remain like so, wondering, if there was anything I could have done, wondering why I couldn’t just say something to her and pretend to have authority, to try and bypass the feelings within me. I wasn’t human, but I cared.
I wasn’t human, but parts of me couldn’t deny how much of them I was becoming.