‘Round Midnight (135. Multiplicity)

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I awaken in the ambulance. Dave insists on accompanying me, holding my hand the whole time. It’s a long ride to the hospital in Ipswich. The local cottage hospital doesn’t have an emergency department.

It’s probably shock, the Paramedic says. It’s only a flesh wound, the bullet just grazed your side. Dave squeezes my hand. Remind me not to play rugby with you. You knocked Jem completely out.

She’s on the other side of the ambulance. She waves at me weakly. We have a police escort. Eileen is in another ambulance with Nadine’s body.

Did they catch him?

They cornered him on the roof and he jumped. He’s dead. As far as they know, he acted alone, although they don’t know who clocked him on the head.

I did. He’s the same one who took several shots at me in New York.

How do you know?

I chased him. He has a scar on his cheek. I didn’t realize then I could do what I did today.

We need to talk about that.

When we are alone. I have to figure out how to explain it to the police. He slit Nadine’s throat. He must have surprised her from behind.

I won’t ask.

The Paramedic gives me a cautious look. Jem isn’t paying attention. Her head is throbbing. I think she’s concussed. My jacket is torn just above my hip and my white blouse is soaked with blood. They have taped a gauze pad to the wound. I have a saline IV in my left forearm. It’s almost midsummer, so the sky is lightening already. It’s officially morning.

At my request, Dave stays with me in the ED while the doctors assess my wound. As expected, there is little more than a tear of the skin, so they clean it up and will soon stitch it. Akira will be here soon. Dave and I need to talk first. We are alone finally.

You’ve got some explaining to do.

There is very little to explain. I projected myself onto the roof. When you said you saw something, I immediately looked around and he was there. I whacked him over the head with my trumpet case and that caused him to pull the trigger before he was ready. That’s when I noticed he was the same guy.

You took your trumpet up there with you?

My trumpet is part of me. I think of it, and it is there. You might want to open the case. I hit him as hard as I could. Twice.

He opened the case and found a crease in the bell as well as two broken joints. Don’t worry. I’ve got a guy who can fix it in Cambridge. When is your next gig?

Tonight, but it’s on piano. I’m actually doing a composition masterclass in Cambridge in a couple of days before I go to York. Then I go to Manchester and finally to Birmingham, where I will need it again. Obviously, I’ll need to practice, but no trumpet gig until Birmingham.

Are you going to be up to playing tonight?

Let’s see what the doctors say.

You still haven’t told me how you did that.

I can’t really explain it, or at least not in a way you would ever believe. I’ve never before quite done what I did tonight.

In what way?

Usually, I look at a place and project myself there. Tonight, I had to take two actions at once, and rather than choose one of you, I chose both, and conked the shooter over the head at the same time. I didn’t think. I just acted – two bodies springing from one. Because my actual body went towards Jem, I was forced to reveal myself to you, like I did to Timothy. I stayed with you until I passed out.

Longer. I was putting pressure on your wound, and it wasn’t until Eileen carried you to my side of the road that I looked up. She placed you down right where the other you had been. The blood on my shirt is where you bled onto me, not from the you that tackled Jem. How can you be multiple yous at the same time? What does it feel like?

I can feel what any single one of me is feeling in all of me.

A second me stands next to him and puts an arm around his shoulder. It still hurts when I move, and I’m not totally assured on my feet. I kiss him on the cheek. Ouch!

I can feel your hand holding my left hand, while I can also feel my right arm over your shoulder. Others can’t see me unless I allow them. So far, only you, Timothy, and my friend Maria can see me this way, although you are the only one who has seen two at once. Tonight, I was four places at once, I have been more, a couple of times, just on a whim, while I was testing myself.

Why me?

I trust you. Not consciously. I trust you deep down in my subconscious.

Akira and Alayne come bursting through the door.

I’ll go check on Jem and leave you to catch up. If she’s okay, I’ll head home. I think Becky and Jon are with her. My husband is probably wondering where I am. Should I take your trumpet for repair?

Yes, please.

I don’t have my card with me. I should write down my number for you.

Just tell me. I’ll remember. I’ll text you later to confirm. Timothy can contact me, if you need to reach me before then.

He tells me his mobile number and leaves.

Alayne is afraid to touch me, but I hold out my arms to embrace her. She’s crying. She knew as soon as I had been hit. She felt the pain. Akira thinks I should cancel the tour. I won’t. I don’t give up that easily. I’ll play tonight. The sniper is dead, so they will have to send someone else. That could take some time.

My real enemy is not trying to kill me. They are trying to kill the concept of me.

That was a thought that took a long time coming. The sniper was not the existential threat. He was related to the Senator’s attacks. This was to create fear. Whether or not he succeeded, it didn’t matter. You can slow down the Truth but killing me won’t erase it.

‘Round Midnight (130. Droplets of Blue, a Death Foretold)

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Drip.

A spot of blue splatters onto the keys in the middle my solo improvisation. It is accompanied by a feeling of profound sadness: the hive mourns. Thoughts are jumbled. I can’t untangle them.

Dona’s host died today before giving birth, Alayne’s voice explains, arising from the wailing masses.

Can anyone see my ears dribbling? I’m in the middle of a gig, for Heaven’s sake!

This isn’t the first tragedy of the day, and I felt that one happened this afternoon: a jellyfish sting. The hive is allergic to the venom. CS27 died a painful death in anaphylactic shock. Their pet doctor couldn’t save her.

That was the hunky doctor that carried me to the Urgent Care Center when I cut my foot. He is in their thrall. There is no telling how many minds they control.

Another drip from my nose. Etienne looks at me nervously. I have my hair down tonight, so maybe the blue trickling down my neck is hidden. My top is shoulderless, though, and I can feel a drip pass my clavicle and ooze towards my left breast, the side away from the audience, fortunately, but Etienne sits close by. He can see it.

I do my best to let him know it is OK.

A sniffle stems the tide for now, but I can’t avoid the keys I’ve dripped onto. It’s all over my fingers. Unlike blood, it is slippery, and doesn’t coagulate. It isn’t blood. Mine is still red. I know from the cut on my foot.

Timothy is stage left. I couldn’t get him tickets. They sold out within minutes when the review of Intimate came out. Jamar has noticed and motioned for a stagehand, and he quickly returns with a box of tissues, setting them discreetly on the music rack of the piano. I don’t need the rack, but they couldn’t remove it at the rehearsal this afternoon. At least it is coming in handy tonight. I take one and wipe my nose. We are supposed to be going directly into The Honest Truth, so Etienne vamps with a little bass solo.

I’m ready and Jamar counts it off. The two of them had a couple of weeks off from me, spent playing in Paris, where Etienne grew up. They are back and firing on all cylinders. I may be bleeding blue and deep in mourning, but I’m focused, partly in thanks to that blue ooze that flows in my body, that alien part of me which clarifies my thought and purpose when I am performing.

Are you alright? Etienne asks at the end of the set. I am. What is that blue stuff?

I could tell him it was red, just a nosebleed, and he would believe it. Hey everyone! Blue is the new red. It is a good thing I’m dressed in blue tonight. Did I foresee this somehow?

No, Etienne, don’t worry about it. I do my best not to exert any mind control. The Instinct would want me to protect myself. Can I turn it off even if the Instinct demands it?

And round about her tear-distained eye
Blue circles streamed, like rainbows in the sky.

Dona’s host dying is a huge loss. Dona was born from an imperfect host, and that has killed her perfect mate. The Instinct tells me that the death of a perfect mate is very rare. It doesn’t bode well for the future.

It means the entire species cannot expect mating to work every time. They have a mortal fear of heights, an adrenaline intolerance, which the human part of the body creates naturally, and a severe allergy to jellyfish venom.

Earth isn’t quite the Goldilocks planet they imagined.

We give the audience our hits in the last set, then Timothy and I share a taxi home. He expects me to invite him up. I don’t.

Why? Because I like him too much. If anything is to happen between us, I don’t want to rush it. I’m six years older, and I’m damaged goods. Someone wants me dead. I can’t do that to him, and I won’t put him in danger.

When am I?

I’m in my universe, standing on a sand beach of a planet that is starting over. How do I know this? There are few signs of life, just some old broken shells. No birds. The beach seems more like a desert, with just some grasses here and there, a few mottled small trees in the distance.

Go to the sea, the Instinct whispers.

I was afraid of that, and make myself even more like you? No.

That’s not the Instinct.

Truthy? Why go to the sea?

All life comes from the sea. It is time.

Truthy doesn’t usually visit me when I’m in the future, and this is way into the future. Why here? Why now?

In the weave of time, this is the stitching of the hem. Many times cross here. Think of this as the tornado safe room.

Why should we need a safe room? I have a cousin on my father’s side who lives in tornado alley. They had a near miss a few years back, so near that their neighbors on the other side of the street all had their houses flattened.

It’s just a contingency.

Why after all these millennia do we need a contingency?

We have never faced a threat like we do now.

Someone shoots me and I’m dead. I reincarnate in a few years or so. We play the long game, right?

So does our enemy. They have been preparing this for a long time. If your contact with Amelia is something to go by, this battle will last beyond this life. At least, if we survive this life, her battle may have a chance to be fought.

How did we reach this decision? Has something changed?

Have you not noticed that Eileen is here? The woman who was with the man on the plane is gone. We haven’t seen her since Tuesday. Eileen has taken her place. Did you not see her?

Eileen is a lot better at blending in. I don’t see her unless she wants me to.

You need to pay better attention. You passed her on Tottenham Court Road this morning. You almost touched her.

I review the walk in my memory. Yes, she was there. I almost ran into her.

She’s a white-robe. She isn’t an ordinary bodyguard like the others.

You think there is something up that requires her presence?

Yes. It’s time to resurrect this planet. Go to the sea.

How is stepping into the sea going to kick-start this world? In the past I have been impregnated by the native flora or fauna.

Or flora-fauna. That was until Alayne. Walk into the water. All the way in.

It is quiet here and the water is crystal clear. I am like that jellyfish; the water permeates me. I am one with the sea. The saline content is high, but not enough to hurt me, but too high for the Instinct. It withdraws. What now?

Just wait.

I feel my awareness expanding, feet, then yards, then miles, hundreds of miles, all the way down into the depths, awakening a leviathan. It swims up to the surface, reaching a tentacle towards me, daring to wrap it around and round my body like a lover rather than a threat. He and I are one with each other and with the sea. We explode into millions of tiny creatures of all sorts.

I stand on the beach facing a jellyfish version of myself. It looks like me, but clear, not a vestige of blue.

And she speaks, too, my jellyfish twin says. And I am not a jellyfish. I will live on the land. Kiss me.

We kiss. Tongues! Like with Truthy, I feel both sides of the transaction. We are indeed two aspects of a single being.

Except that I will give birth to a new race. We will populate this planet. We will make it safe.

I am back in my bed. I feel I have been torn away from myself. Part of me is missing, lost to a tiny corner of my universe, at the far end of time, a place I must forget, forget until I need it.

Ketumati.

It is the forgotten place at the end of time.

There is a knock at the door. At this hour? Eileen is there. From now on, one of them will be with me at all times, an adept. They will alternate 12-hour shifts. Everyone close to me will be watched, including Timothy. I’ve gotten him into it, whether I wanted to or not.

I’m in deep trouble.

I find it hard to fall asleep. What was I thinking about before? I was having a dream, an important one. I can’t remember. When is the last time I’ve said that?

Never.

I feel almost human tonight. The Instinct is still there, but it feels like just a memory. I wonder what caused that.

‘Round Midnight (121. Message received)

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Boredom, and a little cold.

When you are 50′ underground, you can’t generate much heat. The robes come in handy. The police don’t know where we are, and it will probably stay that way until Monday, when I have to emerge from hiding.

I’m not far from the void. How can I be, if it is nowhere and nothing?

I am nothing, not a spirit, not a singularity, barely a thought. Rather than fleeing to the void, I have become it.

I could have died last night.

I look within myself. It’s much like it was inside Gaia, an indistinct place where I see no limits, a never-ending haze in all directions. A blue haze. I’m infected.

In the middle is a bright blue globe, my universe. In it, I know, is the source of the infection.

I could destroy it, make it cease to ever have existed. Would that cure me? It’s a paradox.

I am the epitome of a paradox. The paradigm of a paradox.

One needs a little levity at a time like this. I can be anything here, see anything. I can make myself look like Alayne with dark hair and brown Asian eyes. I can make my skin blue – that is what she should look like.

Is that what you want, oh Instinct, to make me one of them? The problem is that they aren’t really them either. There is a strong sense of otherness in them, but they will never be pure other. There will always be part of me in them, part of Akira, and part of Earth in them. They spawn in the sea of Earth, the water, the salt, and they came from me. They do not belong to that blue universe.

They were born of me, and they originate from a universe that is part of me, that I created. They depend on me. They thought they could control me, but have proven that they can’t. Perhaps it is time for me to control them. Mobilize them in aid of me.

If only I knew what I needed them to do.

The Instinct will always be there. It wants to proliferate, but at this rate it will overrun the planet, kill what it needs to survive. I need to teach it to conform, to conserve.

I need to go … there. Yes, to the future, to the Goldilocks planet, after it is no longer Goldilocks, to witness. The few that survive are deformed. They no longer look like me. Most of the planet is desert. The salt has killed most of the sea life. What is left is inedible, and the air has too much nitrogen in it. It poisons my people, the infestation. Global warming has stolen much of the land mass, and it is too warm to reproduce.

I wade into the sea, but the salt burns, rather than soothes.

This planet is inhospitable. My offspring have reached their last generation. I sense the fear. The Instinct retreats deep within me.

Please take us away from here.

For the first time, the Instinct speaks to me. Learn this lesson, pass it on to the others.

She doesn’t respond, but I have made my message clear. I can unmake you as easily as I made you, and you are on the road to saving me the trouble.

I’m back within myself. I still look like a blue Alayne. She will never look like her mother, her other one. She can’t. There is too much humanity in her.

I’m back in the sub-crypt. Alayne is awake, no one else is, at least on this floor. I still look like her. I must make my point. I take my robe off. This message is for the entire hive. The overnight sleepers awake.

We must co-exist.

We, I say, because in addition to being one of them, I am one of you, and you belong to them, too. We must work together.

I release Alayne’s form. I am me again. The Instinct is in there, but educated. We are all in danger.

Alayne’s nose bleeds blue, as does mine and all the hive.

Message received.

‘Round Midnight (99. Me, myself, I, we … Modesty? Where?)

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It’s the eve of an amazing week professionally. Gus Ferrotte is in town, and we will open for Tower of Power at the Saban Theatre. Yes, I’ve opened for them before, but not at an important venue. We will play the charts from Gus’ album, and then I’ll sit in for some funk. They are letting me play lead trumpet on the set I’m playing.

They are the funkiest band on the planet.

The only thing that turns me on
Is when I hear a soulful song
I like soul with a capital ‘S’
Soul with a capital ‘S’

I’m pumped! I just can’t wait to boogie again. (I’ve got just the outfit for it, and maybe my red wig.)

I’m leading a masterclass at UCLA tomorrow and am featured with one of their jazz ensembles in the evening. We’ll play a big band arrangement of The Honest Truth, and Maynard’s Primal Scream. I haven’t played that since I was a freshman in college.

I spent the day practicing and composing on campus, as well as talking to students, since I couldn’t help but draw a crowd. A couple of them actually knew who I was.

I got the chop
I can’t be stopped
I’ll never get popped
I got the chop, hey now

I possess the keenest mind
Perhaps of all mankind
My cranium do contain
Undoubtedly the greatest brain

Modesty? Where?

The girls spent the day on the beach. Obviously. There are only five more of them now. It was a little cooler than optimal.

But my credit card is melting.

And my bed was warm. Some of them have been sleeping here during the day.

Part of me wishes they would just come clean.

And what part is that?

The human part, strangely. I feel more human today. I was on campus on my own. Now, the others are asleep. Neither are originals, but Sarah hides in the bathroom with one of the other Alaynes. The other baker’s dozen is on the beach.

By the window, I’ll be undisturbed. Is that me standing outside?

Is that me looking out the hotel window?

I dare not look down. I’m 13 stories up and standing on … nothing. It’s a cool humid night. I think it will rain tomorrow. Don’t look down.

Look down.

Why? I’m terrified.

You need to train yourself not to fear heights, to be different from them. You need to learn to let that fear pass right through you.

I can float in the void, and the middle of a vast nothingness.

Or a nothingness the size of a singularity. Look down, dip-shit!

When did I get blue tartan PJ’s?

Concentrate. Alayne bought them for you today. Look fuckin’ down!

I look down. A mortal fear possesses me. I can’t look. Why do I feel like jumping?

That’s typical. You won’t fall. Even if you jump. We’ve got this.

I have to let myself fall. That’s the only way of beating it.

Then let yourself fall, but keep your eyes open.

Shit! I’m falling, accelerating towards the ground. Halfway there.

Void. A naked representation of me just went splat in the drive of the hotel.

Or didn’t. We’re here, aren’t we.

If my body is in a plane, and it goes down. Can I come here?

Yes, and no. Your body has to be somewhere. We will be here, but when you return there, you will be newly born.

So what did we just do?

We tested your mortality.

I’m mortal. Am I dead?

No, but that is what would have happened had you died on the pavement. We return to the void. Gaia returns to her multiverse. The other creators choose not to live in their universes, so they don’t experience death. That’s why you and Gaia have a mutual affinity. You dance an eternal dance.

Is that all there is to death?

For us, yes. It’s different for others. What have you learned?

You, I, we are different from all other beings.

And …

If I die, I continue. I have nothing to fear.

Not entirely. Gaia won’t thank you for corrupting her universe.

I better clean up my mess before I leave then.

Wait! Why come back here?

I’m standing outside my hotel window again. On the pavement below is my lifeless body oozing blood. Nobody notices. I’m not there. I’m standing on a floor inside the hotel room 10 feet away from me, wearing blue tartan PJ’s and staring at myself outside. One of the girls, tonight’s Alayne, gets up out of bed, takes a tentative step towards the window, stops, pleads for me to come to bed. I join her and Sarah in my bed. The other two wait a safe interval, and then emerge from the bathroom and slip into the other bed, unaware that I stand out here watching them. I look down again at that lifeless body.

Remember that.

I remember everything.

‘Round Midnight (83. Holy Saturday)

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After last night’s gig, Tammy drove me back to the apartment. I went upstairs alone, yet not alone. One or more of Opus Dei were there in spirit. I knew that. I don’t know how.

I let it all out in my improvisation, and then we lit the place up. I hope somebody recorded it.

Today was quiet. No gig. Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, so we probably wouldn’t get an audience anyway. The gallery was closed, so I spent the afternoon down there playing, playing, playing. I was afraid to do anything else.

Maria left me alone, instead spending the day painting in her studio. Akira stopped in briefly in the morning to say goodbye. She’s headed back to Chi-town to tell her mother her news, now that she has calmed down.

That’s something I’m still working on.

Maria made pizza for dinner – just what the doctor ordered. She knows something is wrong, but I dare not tell her what, certainly not the whole thing. My instinct tells me she is not a member – no tattoos that I’m aware of, but I haven’t seen her with her cloths off. She has been my companion off and on through the ages, and I don’t think she would have countenanced a “Mary’s Army”. I feel that I have come to know her that well.

I am not crazy.

But I am standing on Maria’s rooftop patio watching a thunderstorm blow in during the night. I’m standing back from the railing. Truthy still hasn’t cured my acrophobia. The lights of the city are still bright, seemingly unaware of what is coming …

… what is here.

I am.

I am that storm. It will blow fiercely in the warm night air, and bring a cold crisp Easter morning.

They tortured my son to death, calling him a criminal, hanging him without charges. He was half dead even before they pounded the nails through his hands. I couldn’t leave, even after his last breath. His last words were unintelligible to me. Some said he pleaded to his father, others say he asked my forgiveness. What does a mother need to forgive her only child for?

For dying before her? He could not help that. He couldn’t hide that he was different from them, different, too, from me, yet I am even more different in ways that I don’t even understand.

Magda sits with me now, waiting she knows not what for. I do, but only because it has been revealed to me by my inner voice. It will be misunderstood, yet it will change the world. The love of my life will return to me in the morning for a short time until he moves on. 

The men are asleep in this secluded hideaway, separate from us as is appropriate. They are here to protect me, yet it is I who protect them. I keep the watch while Magda sobs. She will miss him most. In time she will be unable to picture his sweet face. Only yesterday’s horror will remain. I will never forget. I can never forget.

We keep Passover, for whatever good it does us. I must play the game, just as you do.

I’m not as good at playing the game as you are, but I can get away with a lot more in my time.

I see you have other troubles, in what little your presence reveals to me.

I was just observing. I didn’t mean to intrude, especially today. I am in danger, but I don’t know from whom. Someone tried to … maim me … today. It is an existential threat to us. That is all I know.

Your city is beautiful. So much light. A storm is brewing though. You should take cover.

You can see it?

When you are here, I can see fleeting glimpses of your world, if I choose to allow myself. It can be so confusing and different. Today, you need my help, although I don’t know how much I can give from 2000 years in your past. Trust your instinct. Trust yourself. Surrender to the Truth. In the Truth you have nothing to fear.

But you lied once.

I lied to reveal a greater Truth. Forgive me, Magda stirs. I must console her in her time of grief.

Magda’s cheeks are soaked with tears. Surely, she should be consoling Mary. 

But she lacks our strength. We must be strong when it counts. It counts as much for you today as it does for me. I will meet my son again in the morning. Magda doesn’t share that certainty.

Surrender to the Truth.

Large drops of rain begin to fall. Mary urged me to take cover, but this feels good to me, at least until the wind and hail comes.

And it will.

‘Round Midnight (81. Therapy)

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Ismene, sister, mine own dear sister, knowest thou what ill there is, of all bequeathed by Oedipus, that Zeus fulfills not for us twain while we live? Nothing painful is there, nothing fraught with ruin, no shame, no dishonor, that I have not seen in thy woes and mine.

I left Akira in my bed this morning, thankful to be away from her.

She was only the messenger.

And I cannot separate her from that. I spent the morning on re-takes, but I couldn’t go back to the apartment. I couldn’t be with her with the acrid smell of her ashes permeating my existence. Instead, I wandered Central Park with the vague assurance that the Protectorate was monitoring my every move.

Who were they anyway? Was this all my imagination? Should they lock me up and throw away the key?

Only if I am a danger to myself and others.

I cruise through the first half of our concert on autopilot. Etienne senses my disquiet. How can I explain it?

I had a dream last night that threatens the order of the universe.

Yes. That’s it. Then they will lock me up.

Don’t fear for me. Set your own fate in order.

Akira smiles politely backstage. She doesn’t know how she was used. She wears a demure black dress unlike the one from the dream, less cleavage, more shoulder. No black drawings on her face. What kind of magic does she practice?

Surely some, at least that night with Pagan. I have, but not in a long time. It was totally ineffective, otherwise I would be happily married now. Candles. Is that the fire that will smite me?

Oh yes, the second set. I open a Capella with Remember Me. I reprise the song on trumpet. It’s a comforting connection that I make with that silver tube. Etienne joins and we meld, at least for a little while. I love his soul, if not his body. He and Jamar improvise while I take my seat at the piano.

I didn’t have it in me to dress provocatively tonight: dress blacks, white halter, jacket discarded at half time. I notice a green tinge on the inside of my forearm. It’s still there, glowing in a certain light.

It reminds me of who I am, as we leap into The Honest Truth.

Do you understand just what you’re saying? Are your words the truth?

Why am I obsessed with Antigone tonight?

It’s a play about death.

I play right through the end. You see what you made me do? Now, I’ve got to make it look intentional. I’ve improvised right into Pärt’s Tabula rasa again. How long will this one last? Amelia will be a concert pianist. I wonder if she will know this piece, this haunting opening chord that stirs my soul. Etienne knows it. He joins in playing the violin ostinato on harmonics.

I close my eyes and play. This is the mood I am in and Etienne’s willing to indulge me. Jamar has brought his tricks tonight, including a tam-tam. An inspired coincidence. They know that we are best if they let me roam, remove the clothes from my soul and let the spirit fly.

I know that at some point we will need to return to regularly scheduled programming. The “After” medley is next, Aftershock, Aftertaste and Afterburner. Fast, slow, lightning. I find a transition into the harmonies of Aftertaste, and play it as an introduction to Aftershock. Breathe, and then one of Jamar’s new charts, Orange Blossom to close. Encore with Maiden Voyage. Autographs, then home.

Akira doesn’t have the hotel reservation until tomorrow, so she’s with me again tonight. She makes a point of undressing in front of me. She is so beautiful. She awaits a response. I’m not there yet. She puts on a lacy white negligee. I’m transfixed by the skyline.

The slacks come off and the halter, as I ponder a t-shirt. Akira does her toilette.

You shouldn’t stand in front of the window like that with no clothes on, she says, emerging from the bathroom.

I still have my panties on. Little does she know what I do when she is not here.

I’m not ready for bed. You go ahead. I sit in a chair by the window.

She sleeps. She once told me that she sleeps better when I am nearby. I think she loves me. Loves, not desires. Maybe a little of that, too. It’s probably better that way. I wouldn’t want desire to get in the way of love. Love respects in a way that desire cannot.

It’s not a gallivanting night, but I need the void. I need to be so alone that there is nothing other than me. Anywhere.

Am I standing up, or laying down? There is no up or down. I float without the nausea of weightlessness.

I cradle my trumpet across my naked chest. It is a part of me. I will play something, when I’m ready. 

Stravinsky is here, wearing a tux. This isn’t the first time he has seen me nude. He looks in his thirties, but his eyes are those of one who composed his late serial works, Requiem Canticles and such. 

Why no Antigone?

I wrote of her father, Oedipus Rex, he says. I left her for you.

I’m never going to write an opera.

Why not? Maybe a ballet.

Too much work.

Think about it. Fill that hole for me.

Why are you here? This is my place.

I’m here because you summoned me. That is the only way anyone can be here. You adore me. Too bad we never got together. Bad timing.

I’m not Tamara.

You were. But I prefer you as Cassandra anyway. A girl playing trumpet. It excites me. It wouldn’t have happened in my time. I love your piano playing, too. You have a nice touch.

Are you trying to seduce me?

I wish. I’m a hundred years older than you.

You don’t look a day over 35.

I am what you make of me. You called. I came. Play for me. Play something new.

I begin with some supersoft chromatic runs, ultrafast, almost too fast to differentiate separate notes. Enough to create an atmosphere. I will the notes to echo infinitely. I can do anything here. I can even make them move in the space around me, and around Igor.

I may call you Igor, may I? He nods.

From the spinning notes, I pluck a D. I hold it. I weave a web of quarter-tones around it. I soar up to B taking the quarter-tones with me, before a slow arpeggio down. An echo, which I answer with different pitches. My melody is slow and languid, playing with the tiny variance of pitch in the echoes. 

I once played an improvisation in a cathedral with a 14-second echo. It was much like this. Eventually, I pick up the pace, and the echoing chromatics increase in volume. They shouldn’t do that, but it is my will that they should. This is my Ritual Fire Dance, and flames burst around us in all directions. I’m playing as fast as I can now, a variation of the tune punctuated by repeated notes, as well as a countermelody. It’s like there are three of me playing at once. I could have that, but where would be the challenge. There is still the echo, but that is only the bed in which I play. I build up the volume and then soar into the stratosphere on another simpler variant of the tune.

Stravinsky loved his tunes. He also loved rhythm, so I deviate from my structure with a quirky break of mixed meters, finding my way back to the original melody, fading back into the chromatics, which get softer and softer until I’m not playing at all.

All is silent now.

Brava, Stravinsky whispers. I needed that.

So did I.

He is gone. I am alone again.

I awake to a soft touch on my bare shoulder. Come to bed, Akira whispers. She is right. I will ache in the morning if I sleep in this chair. For what it’s worth, it is 3 am, precisely.