Tuesday, June 12, 2012
The Doomsday Symphony: Chapter 40
In the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, the rehearsal for Beethoven's newest symphony - his 39th - had been going so well, until Roger Babbitt got the call from BHUIA about the Trespasser's pending trial where he and his colleague, Rondo Sharrif, would be needed as witnesses. Meanwhile, Cameron was trying to act as a decoy, drawing off Milo Smighley and the Harmonian Police while Dr. Kerr and Zoe are back in Dresden 1848 trying to rescue Wagner. Instead, he finds Detective Jenna Ste.-Croix from the Collierville police back in PA.
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As if finding ourselves slammed down in the middle of a city turned battlefield wasn't bad enough, now we found ourselves in a completely unfamiliar place with no idea where – or more importantly when – we'd landed.
At least it wasn't Dresden after its revolution collapsed. Familiar with Wagner's biography, I knew it wasn't a time to get stuck in.
"But at least we got Wagner out before he got arrested."
"Yeah," I told Zoe, "who knows what Klangfarben had in mind." Even the king admitted, had Wagner been caught, he would've been executed for treason.
"I kept wondering what would happen to me, in the future, if I'd gotten hit by a bullet and killed there..."
"Well, for one, Xaq wouldn't be born – I suspect your parents would have had a different child – Cameron probably wouldn't be along with us, since he's your student and only here because you'd invited him, so who knows..."
"I was thinking maybe I'd just cease to be as of today, that Xaq would worry about me because I didn't come back." She sounded more afraid after thinking she might never have been born in the first place.
"It's not like I know anything about Time-Travel," I answered, "but changing the past would have repercussions on the future."
In fact, looking around, I didn't know anything about where we were now, either, which was more of an immediate concern. If we hadn't made it back to Harmonia-IV, that "repercussion topic" might be an open-ended one.
Then I remembered Sebastian's little white disc.
"He said this would let us know how to find him if we got separated. Wherever we are, I think we can agree that we're separated."
I could see Zoe tighten up at the thought her reunion with her son might be in jeopardy.
"Relax," I said, "we'll find them, don't worry."
The next trick was for me not to act worried, right?
This thing was supposed to work but of course so was the Time-Device. Whatever that problem was, that's nothing compared to where it dumped us.
Did Klangfarben's not returning right away mean something else may have gone wrong? We know we left Dresden alright, but who knows what happened to her and her companion. Was this something beyond a mere malfunction?
On the other hand, hoping we didn't run into her anywhere around here, either, something dawned on me.
"Hey, look, it's sunny out!"
"Oh yeah," Zoe said, not really thinking about the implications.
"But when we left, it was the middle of the night."
"Oh... yeah..." Zoe now sounded even more worried than before.
We were on the edge of some dense woods, with a bucolic field stretching out on our left. It was hard to tell which direction we were facing because, even though it was bright, we couldn't see the sun. Or whatever star it might be that caused daylight versus darkness, here.
Just then we heard some voices from around the corner, past some trees.
They didn't sound like policemen and it certainly wasn't Sebastian and Xaq: too high-pitched and child-like if otherwise difficult to describe. Unable to hear specific words, I sensed we were walking in on a pleasant conversation.
We peered around a large tree-trunk just as the voices abruptly stopped. They had seen us at the same time we saw them.
"Why, it's flowers. The flowers talk here!" Zoe was transfixed.
They began almost immediately, asking us questions about who we were and where we'd come from.
When she asked them where we were, some chicory laughed, "You're right here, of course!"
One tall aster said, "just where we always are."
"Like we get around much," a snapdragon added caustically.
"City? Planet?" a columbine nodded. "We don't know words like that."
"These are woods. Those are fields," a milkweed pointed out, "and we're in between them. For that matter, so are you – so, there you are!"
Just beyond the flowers, I noticed a man with his back to us sitting on a large mushroom-shaped cushion. He appeared to be playing the bassoon, though I couldn't hear a single note he was playing.
Everything he wore was some shade of bluish-purple, blending into the shadows so well, it was difficult even to see him, at first.
I asked the flowers who that was, a little further down the path, but none of them knew him.
"They say he comes here every day," said the morning glory, "but then, how would I know?"
A beautiful flower, more of a bush covered with thousands of tiny white blossoms like points of light, told Zoe to hold out her hand and a shower of white petals began to fall into it.
Once the bush finished shaking a little, it explained how these will help make everything right. (It looked like a mock-orange, to me.)
The man turned out to be Alexander Skryabin, much annoyed having his meditation disturbed. He wasn't playing the bassoon so much as smoking it, having modified it like a hookah. Judging from the sweet aroma, my guess is it wasn't tobacco.
"I am working on my Mysterium, my greatest composition. Leave me, please," he said imperiously, closing his eyes.
"You've been writing it for almost a century? How much is left to finish?"
"All of it, of course. It is the ultimate creation, meant only for my own appreciation."
With that, drifting away, he stopped talking.
Zoe pocketed her handful of white petals so as not to appear rude by brushing them off onto the path. Saying good-bye to the flowers, we kept walking along, figuring there was no sense bothering Skryabin further: in a parallel universe, he was his own parallel universe.
Another bend and more voices lay ahead. This was one busy location!
Certainly, someone here must know where we are?
The first man I see was easily recognizable.
"Oh my God, it's Mahler!"
He stood next to a large-built man looking vaguely familiar but I couldn't place him.
The two were looking over a score lying open on this table covered with many dishes of food like they were in the midst of a reception.
Zoe said, "wasn't that the man talking to Wagner back in Dresden?"
"Of course! I didn't recognize him in the top hat."
Mahler saw us and waved us over to join them.
I knew that Gustav Mahler, despite being a titan of the symphony, was a relatively short man in real life but he looked almost diminutive next to this hulk in the black trench coat and top hat. Who he was or what he was doing here, I had no idea.
Mahler explained as if we were late-comers and not total strangers appearing from nowhere, "I was just telling Herr Schweinwerfer about my newest symphony – put the finishing touches on it yesterday, in fact!"
The man named Schweinwerfer ignored us as he paged through the score.
Zoe and I looked at each other in great relief. That confirmed we were back at Harmonia-IV, at least, so now all we had to do was find our way back to the city. But to talk with a man like Mahler about his latest symphony was an opportunity not passed up lightly. We stood on his other side.
It was his Symphony No. 17, even though there were a few other large-scale works he didn't call symphonies that probably were. Recently, he'd become looser about the concept of the symphony as a "musical organism."
"After all, 'symphonic' means something that is developed or expanded through development, not just a four-movement work in a set and acceptable pattern."
This one was a massive work – two hours in length – with eight movements and a typically huge orchestra: thirteen horns, seven trumpets, six trombones, three tubas and quintuple woodwinds including two contrabassoons. "Enough to wake the dead!"
Schweinwerfer laughed what could only be described as a malevolent laugh, deep and resonant. "Everyone will call it your ‘Doomsday' Symphony!"
"Doomsday – yes, I like that," Mahler said, "that's exactly what I had in mind. I'm not sure about this series of chords, though," pointing at one on the next page.
My eyes bugged out just looking at it.
"There are seven of them placed structurally throughout the piece, each becoming increasingly weightier, violent, expanding till the last one is like the hammer-stroke of fate that initiates nothing less than the destruction of the world!"
No doubt, judging from the look of this one!
The fateful hammer-strokes of his 6th Symphony translated to a universal level! Would he take the last one out for fear it would ultimately fell the world-hero?
Schweinwerfer said it would unleash dark matter from the black hole that would destroy Earth on the winter solstice of the year 2012.
As Schweinwerfer laughed, Zoe tugged at my arm, pointing to the right. There on the horizon were two unmistakable figures advancing rapidly toward us.
They were not Sebastian and Xaq as I'd hoped.
"Ah," I said, excusing myself for changing the topic, "can either of you show us the way back to the center of town? It's rather urgent."
Mahler graciously pointed the way, down the path to our left. "But must you go so soon?"
"I'm afraid so: we're trying to avoid those two unpleasant people."
Mahler looked up. "Kedaver? I should think so..."
Excusing ourselves and sorry to miss more of their conversation, Zoe and I hurried down the path and took the first left. The top-hatted Schweinwerfer quickly disappeared from view but there, not too far ahead of us, we saw the skyline of what had to be Harmonia-IV. Two more figures ran toward us – Sebastian and Xaq. They'd found us!
"Ach, mein angel of destruction," Schweinwerfer said, grabbing the familiar figure by her waist, "my little devil of temptation!"
Klangfarben resisted but clearly she was no match for him and Kedaver wasn't about to take him on.
Mahler, meanwhile, engaged the lawyer in a conversation about a possible law suit he was contemplating.
"Abner, those bastards are getting away!"
"And so, my angel, someone put a bullet through your neck, too, and now you're here?"
"I'm not dead. Leave me alone!"
"Ah, so then this time, I could kill you? And keep you here forever?"
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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.