Monday, July 09, 2012

The Doomsday Symphony: Chapter 63

In the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, the 4th Movement began with sort of a slow introduction: a dialogue about various religious, scientific and philosophical views of the End of Time, especially the Mayan's. With the last of Klangfarben's attempts to kill off four of the world's greatest composers now foiled, the focus must switch to rescuing the score of Mahler's new symphony before it's too late!

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Chapter 63
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“It’s not just that they were calling it the ‘Doomsday’ Symphony,” I tried explaining to him, “whether the symbolism works or not. And it’s not just about keeping a posthumous score from making it back to…”

My voice trailed off. I still hadn’t figured out how to distinguish between wherever here was and what I should call “back home.”

“…Well, let’s say to get its world premiere back in New York City with some second-rate conductor hoping to create a sensation.”

“But do you seriously think its premiere will facilitate the End of the World?”

Sebastian, sounding more skeptical than usual, motioned me toward the wall, slipping quietly through a narrow gate and into the fields beyond. This looked familiar. I could see the silhouette of the woods not far ahead.

“In fact, over there,” I said, pointing, “was where Mahler had set up a kind of reception and was telling people about it.”

Sebastian still didn’t see why it was so urgent, chasing down a stolen score. The real urgency was rescuing his great-grandson, Xaq. And, quite frankly, that was enough to keep both of us on the move.

“Don’t you remember all the anxiety Mahler was going through in his 6th Symphony: taking out the final ‘hammer-strike’ or leaving it in?”

“His ‘blows of fate,’ sure – but what’s that got to do with this symphony?”

I tried telling him about Mahler’s seven fateful chords.

“He said the last would initiate nothing less than the destruction of the world.”

We turned a corner in the path and were now headed into the woods, past a grove of large, dense pine trees. I expected to run into a bunch of gun-toting survivalists, suspicious of our intrusion.

“Mahler said that or that big guy who… – what’s-his-name?”

He thought I was talking about Siegfried Schweinwerfer, a local nutcase and well-known end-of-the-worlder.

“Schweinwerfer, then, whatever it was – so, what, you’re telling me he’s crazy or something?” I had to remember Sebastian was very left-brained.

“Who, Mahler? No, a bit over-the-top, maybe, but not… Well, it’s difficult to explain.”

Sebastian doubted Schweinwerfer, crazy as he might seem, was that far off the track, should civilization as we know it be destroyed. Undoubtedly, it would also mean the end of all such parallel universes as Harmonia-IV.

“Some feel we’re merely energy – thoughts and ideas sustained by the consciousness of art-lovers. When modern culture dies, we will ‘die’ with it.”


If there was such a thing as “buzz” back at Stravinsky’s Tavern, that very topic would have ranked high on the list. With all the excitement after the trial broke-down, the place was busier than usual. Outside of the usual performances and art exhibits, life was pretty dull in Harmonia-IV, so something like this got the social networking going.

Mahler wrote a blog post about the score’s theft, hoping his fans would be on the look-out to help get it back, describing the symphony at considerable length but unfortunately lacking pertinent details about the thieves.

Mozart, meanwhile, was tweeting about the strangest thing that had just happened to him, getting turned into a small child nobody recognized. Revived after a fainting spell, he woke up to find himself back to normal.

Brahms was still going on about being in danger and urged his friends to stay close to him for his protection and well-being.

Wagner, obnoxious as usual, demanded to know the whereabouts of Eduard Hanslick, the critic he accused of still wanting to kill him. He would sit nowhere close to Mendelssohn, convinced it was all a Jewish plot.

Skyabin, sitting in the corner smoking his pipe, chuckled quietly at the crowd’s excitement, rarely seeing such commotion among his usually boring colleagues.

Then Schumann mentioned how one Trespasser explained the real danger was not here, but in someone’s going back to change the past.

“And how does anyone manage returning to the past?”

“The Time-Devices at the library!”


“Did you hear that?” I turned and looked back toward town, hoping it wasn’t the gun-toting survivalists I had only been half-anticipating.

Sebastian stopped, irritated it would slow us down, and motioned me off the path.

We had assumed Xaq was up ahead of us, but what if there were a few more bad guys bringing up the rear?

“Maybe it’s the police?” I wondered if they’d they know not to shoot us.

“Maybe it’s Zoe – she and Cameron were supposed to go after them, and possibly we’d gotten a head start, leaving from Sauerbraten’s.”

I still couldn’t get used to this idea of returning seconds after you’d left, regardless how long you’d spent in the past. I had no problem admitting, time travel aside, this whole thing was very strange.

We hunkered down when the path became lit by fireflies, speaking of very strange, which surrounded the familiar silhouettes of Zoe and Cameron.

“Aah,” she gasped, catching sight of us, “how did you get ahead of us?”

“Damned if I know,” I said, stepping forward.

Sauerbraten, bringing up the rear, was glad to see us, happy his device worked.

He knew, by arriving back at his place, we’d come from a different direction, so he wondered how we’d picked up Kent-Clarke’s trail.

Sebastian explained how he’d gotten a message from Xaq, a call for help that he would only describe as a kind of telepathy.

Motioned us ahead, Sebastian led us to a series of tunnel openings.

Now what?


The familiar view of her limited childhood world brought back a warmth of memories as she glanced up and down the street. Klangfarben couldn’t get over how small it seemed, now: it had been huge, then. It felt more like just a couple years ago, that last visit – not twenty – but she didn’t need to bother getting her bearings.

The houses were all familiar, the people in those houses – at least the kids she knew who lived there – were all familiar.

There was Susie, her best friend, riding her tricycle!

“Don’t wave,” she reminded herself.

She quickly checked the pile of newspapers spread out across the rack in front of the pharmacy – yes, the date was right! She would ring the bell and stall her mother for just a few minutes.

She’d have to hurry, though: there wasn’t much power left in the Time-Device’s battery. It would be close, but she could do this.


A great roar erupted from those gathered around the bar, simultaneously milling and seething. Some were raising their fists; others, their steins. Everybody, no matter what their viewpoint might have been, was certainly raising their voices. The cacophony was deafening, the counterpoint dense and dissonant. The tension continued building until Stravinsky was concerned for the safety of his furniture.

“It’s all very simple,” Brahms shouted over the crowd. “We must protect the past!” He thumped his fist, rattling more than glasses.

“You always were a Luddite, afraid to trust any new technological advance,” Liszt snarled.

In the heat of discussion, no one could come up with a logical defense for having time-traveling devices in their midst, anyway. Some thought they needed better regulation but other declared they needed to be destroyed.

Flicking on cigarette lighters or holding tuning forks aloft, the crowd – now an angry mob – rushed into the street, surging toward the library.

Meanwhile, Abner Kedaver, greatly relieved to find himself standing in the library’s Device Room, warily looked around for his erstwhile partner, Klangfarben. Nowhere to be found: she wasn’t in the side rooms or in the hallway. Nothing indicated that she had left on another journey nor had even yet returned. Had she experienced some technical difficulty along the way?

He couldn’t help but smile.

Then he heard a loud commotion headed his way.

A mob led by Brahms burst into the room.

“You,” Brahms yelled at him. “You were with that woman!”

Kedaver was quickly subdued.


Compared to the heat and humidity she’d been experiencing the past few days back in Collierville, Detective Jenna Ste.-Croix felt almost chilly. Hiding in the woods waiting for something to happen didn’t make it any warmer. While this field certainly looked like the one she’d seen in New Coalton, it had turned out be quite a different place entirely.

And then there was trying to wrap her brain (what’s left of it) around the report she’d eventually have to write up. This was the strangest stake-out she’d ever been on and it wasn’t over, yet.

Plus this detective, Milo Smighley, turned out to be a really sweet guy, too. If he were living in Collierville, maybe she could imagine developing some feelings for him – if he were even living, at all.

So she thought carefully before asking him a question.

“Do you think there’s another way they might approach this gate – say, from underground?”


Schweinwerfer and Kent-Clarke continued their discussion even as the Old Man of the Mines led them deeper into the tunnels beneath Harmonia-IV.

“But do the Mayans believe in anything as apocalyptic as the End of Time?”

“Nothing comparable to Revelation or the cyclical destruction and regeneration of the Baghavad Ghita,” Schweinwerfer responded, “but there’s so much more than that.”

Interrupting their conversation, the Old Man of the Mines impatiently held up his hand to shoosh them, nodding forward into the darkness. They barely saw ahead of them, guided only by the Old Man’s dusty glow.

There were several different tunnels branching off of this one and the Old Man paused for a moment before leading the way.

“You must be very quiet,” he whispered, almost walking on tip-toe, “very, very quiet.”

He told them this was probably the most dangerous part of the old mine.

“And why is that?”

The Old Man didn’t respond.


“Answer me, you idiot,” Brahms shouted.

But Kedaver, being a lawyer, decided he would say nothing on the advice of his lawyer. He continued struggling until several began twisting his arm while others ransacked the room.

Passions were running high, especially among the Romantic composers, but even some Classical composers were hot to string him up without a trial.

Several demanded to know where “that woman” was, but he protested he was clueless. Threatening him, they dragged Kedaver into the hallway.

Then they started to smash the console to bits.

He’d returned just in time.

= = = = = = =

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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