Crescendo at the End of the World
The being in the mirror of the outside world acted on its own volition. It was a short façade, and I felt if it had kept going on with pretending the world was a reflection, it would have grown tiresome and even more agitated. It had never been a reflection the room created. It had been another world. Staring into mine, our rooms were identical, instruments on the wall, and a being to oversee them. I wasn’t sure what to call the being which resided in that mirror world, and no matter how much I tried to ask for its name, I never received an answer. Using all of the available words at my disposable I found an equivalent, and when I called out to it using this name, it seemed happy. We spent many days in a strange ebb and flow, neither of us necessarily hostile to each other’s existence, but the curious distant between us brought us together.
“You seem like you’re up to something today Dusk.” Dusk smiled, breaking apart its mouth, revealing the emptiness of its mouth, and the undulating darkness within. I eventually learned to tell its facial expressions apart. It’s face and body, despite being made of shadows, had parts of it which were lighter or darker, and that made it easy to distinguish shapes. No visitors had arrived in the time I spent observing Dusk, and neither did any visitors arrive in its world. I wondered if our worlds really were mirrored in such a way, but, for the time, I couldn’t get any concrete answers.
Dusk’s arms were pulsing like waves. It nodded its head, and raised its arms, tendrils of darkness shooting in my direction, but I knew it couldn’t affect me.
“You’ve been working on that power of yours for a while now. You seem to have good control of it.”
It nodded wildly, and then retracted all of the tendrils into its skin. It seemed capable of utilizing the body it has, able to produce or extend whatever material it was made of as a weapon. It also seemed to be able to mimic the appearance of anything it saw, as it did when we first met, though it never bothered to use or practice that part of its abilities.
“Though I wonder, if it’ll ever come in handy. We haven’t been up to much these past few weeks.”
“One day, it will.” The way it spoke was less grating to the ears. It learned how to control its sounds to be less sharp, instead, it was able to vibrate its throat and produce sounds closer to regular speaking. Though it wasn’t perfect, it was much more acceptable than its first words. Whenever it got too excited, its voice would leak out uncontrollably, like an un-tuned piano’s key being pelted until the sounds waved out in echoes instead of music.
“Me over here, have a lot to do. I know, many things more than you.”
“I’m sure you do.” I was content with knowing it was a manifestation of the room in some capacity, just like I was, and I was also content in knowing it probably knew more than I ever would about our creation. I just wanted to exist in my way, and as long as it didn’t go against what I wanted, I had no problems with our co-existence, nor would I even know how to fend against a being that had such powers.
“One day, we see, how much, we are to do.”
It always talked of ominous things, things I wouldn’t really know about, nor did I want to humor its foreboding words. Dusk raised one of its hands, focusing hard as it produced a long rod of shadow from its palms. Then, when the rod was of a significant length, it began to shape it into an umbrella, the canopy curved correctly, and the handle thinned to an appropriate size. Holding the creation over its head, it smiled.
“Me in my mind, imagine over head, rainy days, very fun.”
It apparently had the same rudimentary knowledge of the world, though the extent at which it could grasp was far less than I could. Regardless, it seemed to spend much of its time sifting through its mind and creating objects from what it saw.
“But you’ve never quite been able to create the rain yet. Why not try that first?”
“Harder to do, less fun, but things I can do, making it fun.”
I watched as it paced around with its umbrella, pretending to avoid puddles, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
Dusk eventually figured out how to change its body into different shapes, not in the same way it did when it copied my appearance, but to use its shadows to add or subtract its mass. It was able to turn into a smaller creature similar to a cat, and spent a whole day meowing and sleeping. Eventually, the mass which it stored within its body to condense its form spilled out while it slept, and it turned into a mess when it woke.
I suggested it needed to affix the excess mass in a way that didn’t obstruct what the shape was going for, assuming I understood how its body worked. The solution was to turn into a cat, but make its tail extra large, and it worked. There was no more excess shadow leaking, and for a week, I dealt with a shadowy cat, skirting around and jumping all over its wall of instruments.
Somehow, not a single visitor.
No matter how much it shot out its shadows, it would always return to the source. Shaping its hands into a bow and arrow, it shot arrows of darkness at the wall, the ammunition dissipating without impact, and landing in pools over the floor. However, after a few moments, they would evaporate back into Dusk. Using this, it shot arrows onto the ceiling, and then, with thin lines of shadows, sustained them with more of its mass, but not enough such that they could exist independently. This created a pseudo rain with each droplet racing towards it, but not in random increments. It was close, but, it still had a long way to go.
The room was up to something, and I was sure, somehow, it was preventing visitors.
“World outside, real world, you ever go?”
“No. I haven’t. Though I suspect I’ve been given plenty of opportunities.”
“Sounds like, fun. If I go, I would have fun.”
“I’m sure you would. Though, you might want to hide what you are.”
When it laughed, it somehow didn’t expel its sound in haphazard ways. It instead came naturally, an actual laughter, pleasing to listen to, as if it was human, as if it really could have blended into society if it chose or was able to leave its world.
“How long, you think, we wait?”
“Wait for what?”
“For something. To do, I think you did things, before me, and now, no more.”
Dusk was balancing swirls of hovering shadows in the air, mending them into birds, trying its hardest to create randomized flight patterns.
“That’s, a really good observation. But, I’m sure you already know plenty about me.”
“Only a little, that you are like me, but different, that you are to help, but different.”
The more Dusk spoke, the more its birds were able to fly without any preset motions, its concentration waning to find the right words to speak, but once silence filled the air, the randomness began to dissipate as it focused on sustaining the birds.
“Either way, I have as long as the world exists to do whatever it is I want to. So, I’m in no rush.” Though what I said was true, parts of me still felt agitated at the lack of visitors, and though I kept Celeste, Flander, and Aria fresh in my mind, there was a glaring absence in my thoughts. A part of me felt compelled to intrude, and the more I kept them in my mind the more I had to focus to restrain how far I reached for them. Spending time with Dusk, realizing it wasn’t necessarily a dangerous entity, and learning how it worked, was ample distraction to keep my mind from wandering too deep. But, there would always be that emptiness. I kept their objects away from me when I was facing the window and watching Dusk, but on some occasions I would bring them out, and tell Dusk about the experiences I had.
“But, those people, you want to see, bring you fun.”
“Sure, but, I know they’re fine. I can wait, it’s really no big deal.”
“If, you say so.”
Dusk was able to keep its birds in flight for a while, until eventually its concentration broke and the birds all dissolved back into its body.
“You, don’t ask, why I am here, you do not, worry about me.”
“I really don’t. If you were here to enact some kind of punishment on me, I’m sure you would have already done it. But that’s not the case, I think we both know that.”
Dusk was floating in its room, keeping thin strands of shadows on the floor to hoist itself up like a bed. It kept another mass of shadows floating over it like a cloud, letting it sway as if it really was lying and staring at the sky.
“You don’t ask, what I know, or about things, I know.”
“I guess I don’t really. I don’t have any reason to unless you or the room wants to say them.”
Once it seemed confident with its concentration, it began to add complexity to the world it crafted, adding wildlife with more shadows, its body visible shrinking.
“So many secrets, but you, no fear, no fear at all.”
“I’m not sure I have any reason to fear.”
Until it was no longer a body, and it was just a fabrication of a park. I watched as the shadowed world it created moved in perfect arbitration.
The door eventually opened, and I was talking with Dusk, and so I had perfect view as to what was on the other side. It was a street, indiscernible from any other street in the world, bricks laid upon bricks. Dusk noticed the oddity.
“The door, it open for you, to go.”
“I’ve never accepted, and I don’t think this is one of those times.”
“It want, you go, that’s why, it open, for you.”
Dusk was trying to peer over the glass, but all it could muster was planting its shadowy face over and barely being able to see.
“And, I don’t have to do anything it wants.”
Dusk stopped, and it seemed it was considering its words, about something beyond my current knowledge.
“It not angry, it just, disappointed.”
It looked at me when it said those words, and for a moment, I thought it was sad.
“I don’t care what the room feels. I’ll act however I want to.”
Dusk didn’t respond. It knew I wasn’t directing any of my words to it, and so it turned its attention to manipulating more shadows, this time, it grew an interest in the instruments of the room. Sending tendrils of shadows to grab a guitar, it began to strum notes, and though it was unskilled, I listened, and gave it tips, and we stayed like that for a while until the door closed.
“Play together, I can learn, be better.”
It had tried just about every instrument in its room, but the one which interested it the most was the trumpet. It was able to manipulate how much air went into the mouthpiece, regulating the sound which was produced, and all it needed to do was learn how to control the valves in a way to produce actual harmony. Although it didn’t know any songs or music theory, I humored its want to play.
“Sure, follow my lead, we’ll do some scales.”
I taught Dusk the basics, trying to explain the different keys and how to form them together into notes, but, since she was playing trumpet, how to support. I started with C major, and played slowly, listening for all the sounds she produced, and matched my pace such that they would be mixed appropriately. Once a flow was established, I increased speed and noted any moments where she might falter or be confused, and replayed those sections. Even with our basic practice, I was able to add accidentals and dynamic to brighten the music, and since Celeste, Flander, and Aria were fresh in my mind, I played, using those scales with them in my mind. Scales became slow building anticipation, with trills and crescendos, but equally present, were decrescendos and pianissimo and I never stopped playing, and Dusk was able to follow along, even when things got complex, and the rhythm was split in two as I introduced my left hand, supporting our already converging sound with another, and as I found myself running dry of thoughts to fill the music, I landed on myself. On the song of my life, and though it wasn’t a complex song, Dusk fumbled in following along, the change in notes too forceful, but eventually she found her way back. In the song of my life, I started with fortes, playing out the frustrations I had with the room, hoping it would hear everything festering within me, and even though I was playing with as much energy I had, creating a crescendo at the end of the world, I couldn’t help but slow down. I couldn’t help but slow my playing, creating a calm passing breeze, transitioning to what I felt of the people I met, to the experiences I had, and a hope that they would visit again. My story was far from over, and my existence in that room had only just started, there was so much more left to do, there was so much more left to learn, and as I played the last note, the song of my life still incomplete, I sustained it for as long as I could.