Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Doomsday Symphony: Chapter 14

In the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, Richard Kerr, after leaving the farmhouse, is giving Zoe and her son and their friend Cameron a ride to their respective destinations. Zoe talks about problems she'd always been having with her father and how she hoped auditioning for this new job in Chicago might be the change she'd been hoping for.

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Chapter 14
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Dr. Klavdia Klangfarben drove her bright red Ford Taurus north through the streets of Manhattan, deftly dodging cabs and pedestrians as Abner Kedaver, pale as a ghost – or at least as invisible as one – cowered on the floor, his head under the glove compartment, unable to process the sensory overload that is driving through the streets of New York. Whenever they were stopped at a traffic light for more than thirty seconds, he would hesitantly peer up from his hiding place and quickly retreat, realizing they had not yet escaped the stress of the city.

As a music student, Klavdia enjoyed her trips into New York City, taking in concerts mostly around Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall or going shopping at the legendary book stores and music shops in the area. But she always hated driving in the city, preferring the subway or, on those rare occasions when she felt like splurging, a cab.

This time, though, was different. Now she was something of a “hit-person,” carrying her "Femme Fatale for Hire" license, and her first big job turned out to be with the biggest music corporation in the business. She felt pretty good about the way things were going, whatever reservations her companion, Herr Kedaver, may have been feeling at the moment.

In SHMRG's board room, lavish and pointless as it was, she had managed to sufficiently snow the CEO – the otherwise indomitable N. Ron Steele – into accepting her terms to pull off what sounded like an impossible plot.

On what basis could that character Manfred Kaye have imagined you could actually eliminate the greatest composers of classical music of all time? He used the expression "kill off" like he’d watched too many gangster movies in his Corporate Ethics Seminar but didn’t he also find some inspiration in the realm of science fiction, if you thought about it?

Manfred Kaye (she knew, for instance, he preferred his colleagues call him Man Kaye, never Manny) was highly regarded in the company as a well polished mid-level corporate cog; but as a composer, not so much.

When she asked him more about "killing off" the great composers he mentioned, Kaye seemed surprised to learn that Beethoven and Mozart, much less Bach, were already dead.

"But you hear their music all the time!" he'd sputtered, no doubt going far to explain how he had risen so quickly in the ranks as one so young and stupid.

Klangfarben modified Kaye’s idea to "kill off" composers like Beethoven, Bach and Mozart – she added Wagner to the list, for good measure – by doing it in such a way no one would notice they were gone. He found it curious, not to mention fortuitous, she already had an idea how this could work out, as incongruous as she sounded. Since you couldn't go around scaring the bejeebers out of everybody, intimidating performers till they were too afraid to play their music, the trick was, somehow, to eliminate all the music as if it never existed.

But to do that, she implied, involved more expertise and planning than upper-level cogs like Man Kaye could even begin to appreciate, knowing how to appeal to his inner aspirations, separating perceived brilliance from workaday execution. As a corporate "idea man,” he knew it was up to his minions to implement these ideas, no matter how outlandish they were.

While there was no "I" in TEAM, something he'd learned from some of the most ruthless Human Resource directors in the industry, Kaye was not the only one who realized TEAM was an anagram for MEAT. And there was something so thoroughly exhilarating about his challenge to turn icons of the past like Beethoven & Co. into "dead meat."

Discussing this in the most theoretical context with her former thesis adviser, Klangfarben discovered something that would no doubt prove very useful. The only problem was it had to be done quickly, before anyone would notice.

She swerved to miss a truck careening into her lane, the squeal of brakes and angry shouts of hostile pedestrians and outraged drivers sending poor Kedaver into a wail of self-pity deeper beneath the glove compartment. Klavdia caught her breath, recalling that spring day and her mother's death, the car crash, a drunk who didn’t mind the stop sign. Years later, how often had she wondered if even another minute’s delay would have somehow made her mother late for that collision, the drunk sailing harmlessly by as she was getting into the car to leave?

Ever since then, as a child who was only 10 years old, she'd become fascinated by the idea of going back in time: knowing what she knows now, could she have thrown an even greater tantrum that, though it would have annoyed her mother even more than just being late, would mean her mother might still be alive today?

Afterward, she was given the usual excuses, spiritual consolations that her mother's time had come, that only God knows our expiration date, that it was now Klavdia’s fate to carry this burden and learn from it. Basically, she found more powerful consolation in science. If prayer couldn't bring her mother back, perhaps discovering the principles of time travel might?

In between hours of practice at the piano, she began reading everything she could find in the library about Einstein and quantum physics. Most of it made no sense to her but she often wondered, “what if?”

Time for her was fluid. Most people thought it was linear: you move from Point A this morning to Point B this afternoon and now, as evening approached, you were set to arrive at Point C, which, in our everyday perceptions of things seen and unseen, a moment ago was the future but in another moment becomes the past.

Driving through Manhattan, covering a few miles, took forever. But once the metropolis of concrete and steel was in her rear-view mirror, time passed more quickly. Before she knew it, they would arrive at their destination.

Speaking of time, the problem she had to contend with now, according to the invisible mass of sniveling insecurities settling comfortably into the passenger seat beside her, was everything had to be accomplished in one night.

It made it more challenging, but there was, he said, no way of getting around it.

So, yes, "Time was of the essence."

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To be continued

- Dick Strawser

The novel, "The Doomsday Symphony," a music appreciation thriller written between 2010 and 2011, is the sole supposedly intellectual property of its author, Richard Alan Strawser.
© 2012

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