Chapter 20:

I See You Smiling Halfway

Crescendo at the End of the World

When Aria had disappeared, I figured the room wouldn’t give me any new guests. I knew, for a fact, that Aria was not affected by the room as she seemed to anticipate her disappearance, as if, in her world, it was a normality. Nothing in my mind told me regular humans disappeared when falling asleep, and even if they did, metaphorically, she didn’t die, she vanished. In her absence I failed to realize the stagnant blue light having left with her. As such, I was drenched, once again, in complete darkness.


I wasn’t quite sure how long it was before the door opened, slivers of light from the outside world responding in soft blooms. But there was no one there. It had been a while since the room offered this possibility. From where I sat, slightly behind the piano, back against an empty wall, I couldn’t tell what was on the other side of that absence. All I could do was wait and watch.

“If I were to leave, would I be able to return?” I spoke to the room, but it didn’t speak back, it never could, and I didn’t think it ever would, the only indication it was listening was the lights it produced from the outside world beyond my glass windows. They stained me in red.

“I guess, you don’t care, do you? Whatever you are.”

Silence persisted for a long time.

I didn’t move, not wanting to see what was on the other side, what world the room wanted to show me, not wanting to play its game, give it the time of day for whatever it was planning.

“Though I’m not mad.” I found the words oozing out of my mouth, even if I didn’t want to speak to the room, I didn’t want to keep those thoughts within me and let them live in my mind without resistance.

“I’m not mad at all. I don’t think I can ever come to feel that way about the being who created me. That wouldn’t feel right. It wouldn’t at all.”

I let silence persist again, some part of me thinking there might have been a chance, even infinitesimal, that the room could respond. I figured the outside world was its only avenue, and some part of me told me I was right. But I received no response.

“I’m not mad at all. I just want to know. I just want to know.”


Aria had arrived through the door, not the Aria that disappeared, but the one who took on her appearance; hair tired back not intrusive to her view, a full summer dress to allow her motions to be full of energy, a look of clarity and, the ability to speak. Listing out those features in my mind, I realized, those were just common human traits.

“I honestly didn’t think that would work twice. I’m back, I guess. Did you miss me?”

“I’m not sure, but I’m glad you’re here.”

She laughed. This was an opportunity, I told myself. An opportunity, if the occasion arose, that I could tell her what she wanted to hear, that I could right the wrongs of the past. But I knew it was all up to her, if she wanted to give me that chance again. I couldn’t force anything, I didn’t have the right to. All I could do was hope, and act as I always had.

“That’s an odd way to answer. But I guess that’s just what you are. Something more amazing than I could ever imagine.”

“I don’t deserve such praise.”

She shook her head, dragging her body down and pointing a finger towards me.

“But a being such as you, with all the power you posses to create and exist in this dimension, to send out those rumors and call people to you, it has to be amazing.”

“If you say so.” Though, she was only slightly right, I didn’t want to press further into the mechanics of the room in the way she described. I surely wasn’t the one sending those rumors out, but whenever I did ask in the past from Celeste or Flander, no results yielded.

“By the way, I never did ask you what those things are.” Aria pointed to the planetariums tucked near the piano legs.

When I took them out, she recognized them immediately.

“So even you have technology like this here.”

But it wasn’t the recognition I hoped. A part of me already knew she wasn’t the same. But another part hoped. When I turned them on, stars blistered onto the ceiling, and I merged their beams, the mess of stars together a polluted ocean.

“In this room, they can go on forever. They won’t drain battery, no matter how long I leave them on, and they won’t break. They’ll never be damaged or discarded. Everything here stays here.”

“Even you?”

It was a strange question, and when I looked at her, still admiring the display above, she had a small smile.

“That’s right. I’ll be here until the end of the world.”

“Or maybe, this is the end of the world.” She chuckled, and turned in a single motion, her dress following in a circled frill. “Not that, the world I’m in has ended or anything. But I can imagine this to be something like that. A place full of music here and you can listen to one last song before you go. Wouldn’t that be something?”

I didn’t quite know how to answer her, and so, I let the room fill in silence. But that silence was full due to her presence, and it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t bad at all, and we stayed like that for a while, not really doing anything, not really needing to do anything.


The next time this version of Aria visited, I prepared something special. She wanted to see just how true it was the extent of my words, and so she watched me dismantle the planetariums, and completely scatter the remains of my pocket watch. For good measure, I even plucked away the strings of the guitar, knowing it wouldn’t do any harm, and I laid each in the middle of the room, telling her to inspect every corner for any way for me to feasibly heal them. I promised her I didn’t have any innate ability to do so, and so she left and I waited.

“Okay, well, that really is impressive. And way more cool then just asking you a bunch of dumb questions.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

“I wish I could see how all of that worked, that would have been so cool.” She admired each of the objects as if she had never seen them before, as if by inspecting and keeping a close eye, she would be able to uncover the secrets of the universe. To an extent, she could, but it wasn’t much. This was the biggest secret she could ever stumble on, and it seemed she wasn’t too keen on testing the extents of it.

“This applies to any object you bring as well. If you leave something here, it’ll never wither away.”

She made a face of deep thought, scrunching her eyes and mouth, and then once the idea found its way to her, she lifted a finger into the air. With her free hand, she dug into her pockets, and produced a silver sphere pendant, the shape not indicative of anything specific, however its chain was broken.

“Why don’t we push that all the way. This is something that I had for a long time, but, I never got the chance to fix it. If you can get it back to how it was, then you can keep it.”

“It’s not something you want?”

She shook her head.

“No. I guess, not in that way. It’s just, not the same time, I guess. At least, I’m not the same, so, I wouldn’t want to hold onto it, if that makes sense.”

I couldn’t quite grasp what she meant, but I accepted, and placed the pendant on the middle of the room. The chains couldn’t connect, and rust abound every link. Inspecting it further, I noticed the sharp sting of the odor oozing off of the material. Even in the absence of light, the shine it must have had seemed brilliant.

“Watching you be so awestruck at something like that, makes me think you really are just like me. A human.”

Those words were more appreciated than she would think, and I smiled to her, hoping she could see.

“I’d like to think so too.”


Her next arrival was brimming with energy as she forced the door open, causing it to swing all the way, nearly bouncing back into her face. As it were, the pendant she brought, had been fixed, the chains connected again, the rust cleaned off, revealing, in the slight color she brought with her, the silver shine it deserved.

She nodded upon picked it up, lacing it over her fingers, and had a face of satisfaction. Once she was done, she crossed her arms, and, as if solving a case, pointed her finger towards me.

“The culprit was you!”

Though, technically, she was wrong.

“For the crimes you set out today, I will have to give you a punishment!” With even more bravado and energy, she spun in place, letting her dress frill in the light, and then stopped in front of me, the pendant barely balanced between her fingers.

“My past will be a burden now yours.” Her voice mellowed, and her eyes avoided mine as I took the pendant. “Though, I’m sure, you already know everything you need to know.”

She smiled. Shaking her head, and placed both her hands on her cheeks. She forced a laugh.

“Now’s not the time for anything gloomy sidekick!”

“I’m the sidekick?”

“All of our tests have been complete, and another conclusion has been made.”

Each of her movements were exaggerated as she raced across the room, looking at every possible object, at the instruments, at the planetarium, at the piano, at the pendant still in my hand, at me, at the glass window, at the door, and then when she was done, she stamped in place. “This truly is a dimension beyond anything the world has seen.”


“Do you mind, if I stay here a bit longer?”

Aria was lying on the floor as I played loose notes on the piano.

“You can stay for as long as you want.”

The other Aria hadn’t appeared for weeks. But I made sure not to forget about her, replaying the times we spent, making sure not to trudge too far, but to keep her present. I tried to find any sort of clue in her appearance, in her actions, in her slowly opening up and being able to express more despite her lack of speech. I convinced myself I could find some logic. I convinced myself of many things. Whenever this Aria arrived, I convinced myself, over the weeks, that she would reveal she had always been the same Aria, that she had just been testing me, but it never happened. In the short slivers of time we had, in the silence which persisted in the room, in the darkness which sat over us, I convinced myself Aria was lingering underneath, but she never was. Whenever Celeste or Flander had arrived, Aria was absent, traces of her being seemingly wiped away, as if she was never meant to belong, I convinced myself that wasn’t true.

The concept of time remained in my mind, the smaller moments of insignificance betrayed by the importance of key events. Often, with nothing remaining in the room, I played through these events, no matter how large, no matter how important it may have seemed, no matter if no one else in the world could see, they existed within me, and I kept them close. It was my own private space, even beyond the room’s direction.

Keeping secrets felt human.

Even if I wanted to breach the secrets behind Aria, I knew it wasn’t human to use my mind to pinpoint where she was, or who she was, or what happened to her. It was human, I convinced myself of that, and so, I waited.

“I mean, can I stay here, forever?” Aria turned over, looking at me with a slight smile, then chuckled before I could answer. “Don’t worry. I don’t really mean it. Not really. But I do wonder, what would happen if a human stayed here where nothing could be destroyed.”

Without realizing it, I begun to play a starry lullaby, matching it’s rhythm with Celeste as I thought of a reply.

“I haven’t tested it, but, if the same clause applied, then as long as they could remain isolated every so often, without my watching, then they would be able to regenerate. They could stay here for as long as they wanted, sorting out any kinds of problems they might have, an endless amount of time to think. But those in their world would notice, I’m sure.”

Aria turned onto her stomach, her legs kicking in the air, and she balanced her chin onto the palms of her hands as she bobbed her head back and forth.

“But, if they wanted to leave and escape their world, would they really care about that?” Her voice was pitched with playfulness.

I considered her words, thinking then of Flander, and my playing slowed to a controlled and slow tune. There hadn’t been any singular song which helped with Flander’s case, but capturing the mood of the time we spent together was easy enough.

“I guess they wouldn’t, and in that case, they could stay here for as long as they wanted, if that’s what they want.”

“Because you’re here to help?”

“That’s right.”

I then transitioned into the variations, seeing how long I could last, playing, not the support as I had with Aria, but the lead, and in my notes, in the colors being splashed through, I could see and hear humming, and when I looked, this Aria had her eyes closed, her feet now tapping in rhythm. As I flitted through every variation, I noticed Aria’s support staggering, her wanting to overpower my playing, and with each missed note, she grew agitated, her face scrunching and she waved in the air, and eventually she stood, holding her hands forward, pretending to play herself. I eventually let her voice take over, and, as if the most natural combination, we phased through each variation. She supplemented her hums with laughs and skips, and she danced along with her voice, the song turning away from its original intentions, and it was a variation all our own.

When we finished, she seemed on the verge of tears.

“I just couldn’t help myself,” she could barely say still smiling while stifling her voice, “It just all felt like I had done this before, and I couldn’t help myself.”

I realized how wrong my assumptions were in that moment. It was impossible for me to know the exact implications, and all I could do was watch as the outside world covered her in warm lights.          

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