Friday, July 06, 2012
The Doomsday Symphony: Chapter 61
In the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, after Beethoven had been left for dead by the nefarious Klavdia Klangfarben in a field outside Heiligenstadt's only tavern, there's one of those structurally significant and dramatically contrasting interludes full of flashbacks and inside meanings to some of the major characters, this one about our hero, Dr. T. Richard Kerr. Now, we return to Heiligenstadt in 1802...
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“Give ‘im some air, stand back, please,” the bartender shouted, waving everybody away, all ten of us. “He’s comin’ to, he is.”
Ilsa the milkmaid, having fetched a pint of beer, wafted it under Beethoven’s nose.
“What was all that about, there, ‘im bein’ dead an’ all,” the bartender scowled.
“I just wanted that woman to think he was.”
“What woman,” he asked, looking anxiously around, “I don’t see that woman here, now.”
The beer worked its wonders: Beethoven began stirring.
“No,” I replied, “she assumed he’s dead and left – back to Vienna’s my guess.”
We gave a cheer as Beethoven sat up, still a bit groggy considering the fall he’d taken, being thrown from that height. Men checking over the wagon’s remains marveled he hadn’t broken his neck or worse.
Beethoven rubbed his temples, cautiously twisting his head back and forth, then his shoulders. He winced like he already had a nasty headache.
“I seen everything,” Beethoven’s landlord, Herr Binder, said. “These crazy young city-folks and their larks, I said. They’ll kill themselves yet – dangerous!”
He disliked their fast-paced ways, preferring the peaceful quiet life found in the countryside.
“As long as they pays their rent, Binder, what care you?” the bartender laughed. Neighbors, they still rarely agreed on much of anything.
“How’s the old head, boy?” An elderly farmer knelt down, giving him a look-over. “Nothing broke, is there? Nasty spill you took, lad.”
Though he was almost 32, to them Beethoven was still their lad from Vienna.
There was a long silence as everyone gathered around him, peering down at him, cautious but hopeful their friend would be alright.
Adjusting his eyes as if from a deep sleep, Beethoven looked about and sighed.
“My beloved, my immortal one,” he stammered, looking back and forth, “where is she?”
“Poor boy’s delirious, ‘e is,” the neighbor woman tutted.
Just then, Beethoven focused on my face, puzzled, not quite sure who I was.
“You were there, you saw her. Who… where…?”
“Yes,” Binder asked, looking around, “she disappeared awfully fast.” He disapproved of anything fast.
Thinking quickly, I wondered how to explain her to those who’d witnessed this scene. I couldn’t risk telling them she’s a spy. It was one thing to warn Beethoven but no sense to alarm Herr Binder.
“I recognized her, I’m afraid, from Vienna, you see. She’s not quite right – in the head,” I gestured, “mistook you for somebody else.”
It occurred to me, then, that Kedaver, left behind, must still be around somewhere. Sebastian saw him cowering along the crowd’s edge.
“’Ere, then” one man said, “who’re you,” pointing right into poor, shivering Kedaver’s face.
“I saw you – you was with that woman, you was,” the old farmer said.
Everyone turned toward him in silence, staring and waiting.
“No, seriously, I wasn’t – I’m with them,” he said, pointing at Sebastian and me. “We’d come – to take her safely back to Vienna.”
“But she escaped!” the old farmer bristled at him.
“Yes, sir – she’s very sneaky.”
Their curiosity shifted to animosity.
“And just how could she escape that quick, eh?”
“Well, you see, she had this fancy carriage...”
“But how’d she leave so quickly without bein’ see’d?”
“I told you… very sneaky!”
“Another one of those hot-rod contraptions – these young’uns, agh!!” Binder was in a dither.
(“Hot-rod contraptions?” Sebastian whispered.)
(“Free translation, I would imagine...”)
“So she’s left already? My barefoot countess has disappeared? Gone to Paris without me…” Beethoven still sounded a bit dazed and disappointed.
“There, there,” the neighbor said, acting very motherly toward him, warmly patting his hand.
Showing their friendly concern, they gathered around poor Beethoven and helped him stand up, dusting him off and straightening his badly torn coat.
Once everyone turned their attention back to young Beethoven, Kedaver approached Sebastian and me.
“You can’t leave me here – please, sirs, you must take me back with you,” Kedaver whispered, getting down on his knees, begging.
And so, she’d thought, at least Beethoven was dead, leaving his second symphony unfinished!
Even incomplete, Klangfarben’s plan would do enough damage to classical music that SHMRG should be satisfied with their gains – and very generous.
She had planned on just talking him out of a career in music, instead – but hey, Beethoven was no longer a major composer!
There was no time for a victory dance. When the Time-Device started beeping, it surprised her she’d been granted so little time. Standing amidst the wagon’s wreckage, she discovered that the battery was already dangerously low.
Her immediate concern was getting out of there. Without being able to recharge the battery, how stable was it going to be? If she were time-traveling alone, however, there might be enough power to return safely.
She didn’t feel all that guilty about leaving Kedaver lying in the dust, though. Besides, he’d served his purpose: that was over, now.
Heiligenstadt was only a few miles and eighty years from the Vienna he knew. No matter how you sliced it, those were far better odds than the distance now separating her from New York in 2011.
She needed to be ruthless – she told herself this was important, this corporate femme-fatale-ity – if that meant sacrificing someone for the greater good.
She considered there might be enough power for a small side-trip, now – a bonus. Lübeck, The Hague or Dresden (even during a revolution) were interesting enough but she’d always dreamt of Paris – the early-1900s might be nice.
No, more important to her than seeing Paris was visiting a small town in Connecticut in 1985 – April 12th, to be exact. Clearly this would be the chance of a lifetime: it was now or never.
Ever since her early childhood, Klangfarben imagined going back somehow to change that day, thinking how different her life might otherwise have been.
She was only a small child with no concept of consequences, but she always blamed her little tantrum for her mother’s death. She couldn’t help but think a few minutes either way would’ve saved her life.
The device – could she manage? She’d seen Kedaver program it through the library computer but was programming directly into it even possible? How could she ever live with herself if she didn’t at least try it?
Taking a deep breath, she punched in words and numbers, hoping for the best. Mumbling “there’s no place like home,” she hit ‘go.’
It was very tempting, I thought, to leave Kedaver behind, stuck in the past. But there was an unspoken code among Time-Travelers about altering nothing in the past to avoid creating dangerous changes in the future. That was the whole point of chasing Klangfarben back and forth over the centuries – to undo the nefarious damage she sought to inflict. Deserting her henchman was reprehensible – or at least another example of her reprehensibility – but what would we possibly benefit by ignoring him? Did undoing this one particular action weaken her plan or make ours any stronger?
One could argue it’s the humane thing to do, the essence of Christian kindness. Weren’t we doing a good deed, turning the other cheek, earning points for karma by extending a former enemy our helping hand?
Abandoning Kedaver to the past may have been another example of Klangfarben’s un-team-like behavior: rescuing him hardly guaranteed he’s now one of us.
Would beginning over in 1802 make him a different person by the time he reached the future – that is, our current present? But since he’s already dead, would he continue “undead” through the intervening 208 years? Is there any guarantee that, when Klangfarben contacts him – as events come ‘round again – he’d have learned his lesson to say, “no thanks”?
In the grand scheme of things, this one small action seemed neither particularly grand nor very much a significant part of any scheme.
So I told him, “Okay.”
Sebastian whispered, “Are you out of your freakin’ mind?”
While the others attended to Beethoven, Sebastian and I talked things over with Kedaver, stressing, if we left him here, it was pointless trying to carry out Klangfarben’s plan since he could never receive his fee. Who better than a lawyer to understand the business end of his client’s defection? Even his retainer languished in an inaccessible Harmonian bank.
If he succeeded, what then? Was rescue imminent? Would she come back to retrieve him, offer him his share of SHMRG’s payment?
We made him swear to renounce Klangfarben’s plan and sever all ties with her.
However idealistic – and doomed to failure – that was, there was an even more urgent dilemma: getting any of us back to Harmonia-IV. Would Sauerbraten’s device be able to transport three people? What about the other device, the one Klangfarben inadvertently gave me? I thought with any luck, it might get him back safely and tossed it over to him.
A loner, Klavdia Klangfarben grew up a life-long fan of science fiction, hoping some day that time travel would become science fact. She watched the movies and read the books, both fact and fantasy, and dreamed. Once Professor Bohr told her about this parallel universe and introduced her to Kedaver, the possibility of time travel ignited these old dreams. That there existed a hand-held device which you could program to transport yourself back to any century and any location you wished was her fondest fantasy come to life, beyond the usual spaceships and flying phone-booths.
SHMRG’s plan sounded so far-fetched but with Kedaver’s help, time travel had become a reality, a way of implementing their malevolent scheme. But it was also a way she could realize her single, most cherished wish.
What did it matter if people no longer had Beethoven or Mozart to listen to if she could grow up with her mother?
Having decided she would do whatever it took, if she’d come this far, this was not the time to focus on fears. Careful to formulate her plan, it was now a matter of following it through.
Her only concern was, without Kedaver, she’d program it wrong and end up God-knows-where. She could only hope and – unusual for her – pray.
Now she found herself standing in front of the old familiar drug store, just five doors down the street from her mom’s house.
If the town clock was close to accurate, there wasn’t any time to spare.
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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.