Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Doomsday Symphony: Chapter 41

In the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, we finally got to meet Gustav Mahler and find out about his newly completed symphony which has already been dubbed the "Doomsday" Symphony. But then, trying to evade the returning team of Klangfarben and Kedaver, our heroes run right into the clutches of Milo Smighley and the Harmonian Police. Tough break...

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Chapter 41 
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The closer they got, the further away they seemed to be. It was clearly Sebastian and Xaq but as we broke into a jog headed straight toward them, running on this uneven ground with the path's gentle undulations soon proved strangely tiring. Yet, for all the time we must have been running, we were still no closer to them.

The city rose behind them, stretching across the horizon. I could even recognize the dome of the Central Library in the background, one of the taller buildings in town – but why weren't we getting any nearer?

The path, lined with tall grasses waving in a soft breeze, was interspersed with flowers like the asters and the lupines that urged us on while the ragweed and sumac laughed that we would soon fail.

I began to feel we had become for them a spectator sport.

"We don't get many Zoombies out here," a pokeberry told us.

There were poppies abounding in the field, too, nodding their heads and smiling knowingly. I found myself trying to fend off sleepiness as we noticed Sebastian and Xaq motioning frantically to our left.

There'd been a fork in the path – were we supposed to have taken it, instead? Maybe there was some obstruction between us we were to avoid?

Then we noticed ahead of us on the right, people were running toward us but they seemed to be getting much closer much more quickly. And in the woods behind us Cameron was wildly waving his arms!

If Sebastian and Xaq were motioning for us to go back, we would only run into Klangfarben again. But the group of people heading toward us from the right weren't very inviting, either. In fact, they were no doubt the Harmonian police. Like Klangfarben, we needed to get back to the library's Time-Device room: jail was not an option.

Was Cameron, waving his arms like a semaphore, signaling us to come over and hide in the woods? That would be better than running around openly in this field full of laughing and increasingly unfriendly flowers.

We decided to turn around and head for Cameron and the cover of the woods. The path became a slight but straight-lined incline and we were making much better time, but Cameron's gestures became more frantic.

The police, however, must have been flying because very quickly they were there on top of us before we could elude their grasp.

Just as the officers grabbed us, I noticed Sebastian and Xaq turned to head back toward town as Cameron disappeared into the woods. For us, there was no escape, now: we were quickly hand-cuffed and led away, tied together by a rope, each end held by a particularly large and unfriendly officer of whatever passed for the law, here.

It was very strange, though: moving laterally, parallel to the cityscape, we traveled normally. Running directly toward the city, it was like we'd been moving in slow motion, where objects pulled further apart, not closer. Weird!

Even stranger, as we entered the city on our way back to jail, was how it suddenly got dark. No sunset, no twilight, not darker, just sudden darkness dictated by the border between city and countryside. Though it was obvious we were no longer on Earth, where were we that the basic laws of physics were suddenly so different?

Once back at the jail, we were led, still roped and hand-cuffed, to a larger, much more secure-looking cell. Everybody eyed us up far more suspiciously than they had before. I had seen this look before and it was not comforting. Despite the right of due process we'd expect, we were being regarded as guilty regardless of our innocence.

Not that much would surprise me at this point, but the person Zoe indicated already sitting in our cell was not someone I'd expected to see. It was Detective Jenna Ste.-Croix from the Maskehannek Township Police.

"Yessir," the first guard said, cautiously untying the rope and removing our cuffs before locking us in the cell, "we've got a veritable plague of Trespassers, we have. But don't worry – you'll not escape this time."

Another said, "Now to get out there and catch the bloody rest of 'em..."

"Come on, time's wastin'," another one said, "Milo's waitin'."

We could clearly see several guards standing nearby. We didn't even have a window – the one across the hall was enough to know it was still dark, but as for a chance to escape, not likely.

"So, Det. Ste.-Croix, good to see you again," I said by way of starting the conversation. "Any news from the Other Side?"

"My mind is exploding trying to figure out just how I'm going to word this on my report."

"More of a concern, I suspect, will be your getting out of here so you can write that report..."

"Not that I understand any of what's going on," she told Zoe, "but I understand you've found your father?"

"Yes – how'd you know?"

"I ran into that young man, the one who looks a bit Arabic. He was there when I fell through whatever that was I fell through."

"Ah, that's Cameron – he’s Persian-American, as he prefers expressing it."

Ignoring this, she continued, "I'm sorry to hear he died, but Cameron mentioned something... strange."

"My grandfather said if we got him back to the Other Side – New Coalton – he’d probably revive. I don't understand it, either."

We tried explaining how the place was populated by dead composers apparently brought back to life who continued to compose, and how time, at least as we knew it, doesn't make a lot of sense, here. I mentioned that we'd met Mahler who told us his new symphony was all about the End of the World, his "Doomsday Symphony."

Zoe added he was showing the score to this guy Schweinwerfer who had an apocalyptic philosophy – we'd seen him talking to Wagner, earlier – and how he was going on about the Earth being destroyed in 2012.

Before we got into the whole time-traveling thing, Ste.-Croix just put up her hands and surrendered.

"Please, I don't think my brain can process anything more. It's like a bad dream after watching TV's 'The Fringe.'"

Then I saw Xaq and Cameron looking in at the window, but I couldn't let Zoe know for fear of alerting the guards.

Rescue was an unlikely prospect, given the number of guards around – five, I could count within view; who knew how many, elsewhere in the building – regardless of what Xaq might have up his sleeve this time. Sebastian understood it was imperative we get out of jail as quickly as possible: Klangfarben & Company had even more dirty work afoot. It was my biggest fear – well, one of them – she’d go back to "re-do" Bach and Wagner, despite Sebastian's assurances she was working within a limited schedule with technology, though amazing, he considered less than ideal.

Minutes passed and nothing happened. I didn't want to keep looking toward the window in case the guards noticed but then, out the corner of my eye, I caught some movement and automatically turned and gasped. There was a flash of billowing platinum blond hair, then nothing. If Klangfarben found us, chances are she'd find Xaq and the others.

It didn't take long before a beaming Milo Smighley and several guards appeared, escorting more people. When they opened the cell door, there stood Cameron and Xaq who were then unceremoniously pushed in to join us. Behind them stood the familiar figure of Klangfarben's odious partner, wearing his black suit and matching cravat, his goatee practically quivering in satisfaction.

"So good to meet you, finally, Dr. Kerr – I am the lawyer, Abner Kedaver," his nasal, slightly lisping voice mismatched to his appearance, sounding insincere like a used-car salesman (not to impugn either lawyers or used-car salesmen).

But wait – the Time-Device! I had it in my pocket! D'oh! We could have escaped any time if I had known how to reset it. Zoe and I could've simply disappeared into – what? Setting it back to a few minutes ago would only have us lost in that field. Could we transport ourselves back to the library, but when? Not that I wanted to go through that ordeal in Dresden, again! It was probably just as well: who knows, a slip of the finger and we could be dealing with dinosaurs rather than Detective Smighley.

Kedaver turned and said something to a guard who took everything out of my pockets, including the Time-Device.

"I'll take that," he said, "My phone, stolen from me by this miserable pick-pocket of a Trespasser!"


As Kedaver left, Smighley sensed the presence of someone new: I introduced him to Detective Ste.-Croix. The chemistry between them was almost palpable.

Sebastian, who’d overheard Smighley telling the guards as they whisked the boys away that the trial would be soon – within the hour, no doubt – knew in that time Klangfarben, flouncing away toward the library, could manage to terminate the career of another great composer. How was he by himself going to stop her? It was unlikely he'd succeed in breaking us out of jail, not a second escape in one night. He sat there forlornly hiding behind some bushes, wondering how he'd manage to get himself out of another fine mess he'd gotten himself into.

Perhaps it was time to engage the help of some friends. Who could he call, especially at this hour of night? His best bet was Johann Nepomuk Sauerbraten who works in the library's Posthumous Manuscript Collection. He had told Sebastian about the Time-Devices in the first place, then caused trouble in the PMC with their joy-ride back to 1801.

Sauerbraten was only 18 years old, one of those prodigies who died too young. Still a kid at heart even after two centuries of postmortual life, he'd be willing to risk taking on a dare-devil challenge. Fortunately, he lived not far from here, just a few blocks away from the library. Spirits renewed, Sebastian was off on a mission.

Not only was Sauebraten up for the challenge and willing, he showed Sebastian what he'd been working on recently. A little more cumbersome than the other units, he held up his own home-made replica of a Time-Device.

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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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