Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Doomsday Symphony: Chapter 68

In the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, they reach a strange underground lake that appears to be either reddish acid or is so highly polluted, it's enough to dissolve bones yet is home to large reptilian-like fish and a great white squid named Fasolt. Uh oh...

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Chapter 68
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Whether man created Satan to explain the evil in the world or God created Satan thereby causing that evil is not the argument. Nor is it who created whom in whatever image you’d choose to imagine. But there are observations to be made in the various polarities of the argument and those shades of black or white shaping it.

Since the beginning of time – or, more correctly, since the time of human consciousness – mythology has been used to explain the world. The complex details which man was incapable of comprehending were rationalized through simple stories.

What made the sun rise or how malevolence was punished could all be explained in simplicities of the starkest black or white. These stories – rather like fairy tales, if you will – also taught us moral values.

Mythology was something that we usually regarded as a primitive belief system different from our own which we, by comparison, designated as religion.

Priests were the first scientists, so we are told, keeping it securely in their jurisdiction as a way of proving their beliefs. It was something considered far too sacred for mere mortals to understand or assimilate. Later, when scientists developed into a social sphere of their own, their explanations often were at odds with greater, generally accepted spiritual beliefs.

One has to look no further than those thought-provoking scientists persecuted for having “discovered” the earth was not the center of the universe or that creatures unmentioned in the sacred writings existed, by evidence of skeletal remains.

Nothing is quite so detrimental to the sake of argument as the blind acceptance of one “fact” at the expense of another, whether contradictory or simply different. Inevitably, new polarities mean it’s either acceptable or not. Unable to agree, disagreement takes on the characteristics of rejection and thus, lacking consensus, are born religious intolerance as well as political intransigence.

It is the general perception of this fact, its transcending of pertinent truths, that is nullified by becoming ‘either/or’ rather than ‘both/and.’

When someone says “I tell you the truth,” the next question is “whose truth?”

If creation myths placed man squarely at their center, the whole reason for Creation apparently being put here solely for man’s use, doesn’t his becoming one brief component of the natural continuum automatically erode his superiority?

Is this any different than science telling us that man, no longer divinely created, has merely descended from a long line of apes?

Whatever history may or may not be, its sequence of facts, chronologically told, is invariably complicated by the context of its times. Not all facts survive or manage to survive translations through time, languages and cultures. Such times, existing before the observations of those present, are often, by default, reinterpreted to reflect the acceptable viewpoints of our immediate society.

Theories – potential interpretations of experts making well-intended assumptions – fill in where facts are missing but often become more assertive than facts themselves. If one implication of these gathered facts proves false, shouldn’t the entire argument collapse?

Cursory by nature, education serves its introductory role by choosing the most representative facts, since not everything can be explained in expert detail. When the distant past is reduced to the names of kings or presidents, lists of battles, dates when wars begin and end, very often one thing missing in summaries found in many textbooks is the people.

Plus, we tend to absorb too much of our historical awareness from our entertainment – from movies and television; before that, historical novels – where facts are sacrificed for a good story’s needs, fiction only factual in part. But because the medium allows for greater expansiveness in developing some of these facts, we might get a better picture of the past.

But these are still filtered through an author or director’s viewpoint, possibly biased, picking and choosing what many would consider “better drama.”

Absorbing all these various influences, our faulty memories later create additional layers of perception.

As a case in point, whatever overview we may have learned in our history classes in school about the Spanish Conquests in America, the general perception is that Cortez conquered both the Aztecs and the Mayans. However, the Mayan kingdom had basically disappeared, so far inexplicably, during the 9th Century when, without warfare or plague, great cities were abandoned.

Seven centuries later, the Spaniards found remnants of this civilization, blindly destroying many of their sacred writings as works of the devil just as they murdered many of the people they found who refused to convert.

Five more centuries pass and still we know little about the intricacies of the Mayans’ faith, their science or how they interrelate. Only comparatively recently have scientists rediscovered their great cities or started translating their language.

We know, for instance, their complex calendar ends abruptly even though it extended thousands of years beyond the chronological boundaries of their civilization.

Even though scientists – and surviving Mayans themselves – tell us their religion contains nothing so extremely apocalyptic as the end of the world, many people assume because the calendar just stops, they believed the world will end.

Many creation stories – on-going and regenerative – imply the destruction of the world out of which is created a new (and presumably improved) world.

Conflating the often contradictory Mayan and Aztec mythologies, well-meaning philosophers (and I use the term loosely), unsure which age we’re currently living in, have become convinced, in 2012, the universe will be destroyed and time will end.

For things that cannot adequately be explained by science, we often revert to mythology, still finding the “either/or,” the not-quite-reality of “black/white.”

Take, for instance, the mysteries of man’s artistic creativity: where does art come from?

Whatever their initial explanations – involving inspiration-bearing muses and the patronage of Apollo or Dionysus – the Greeks had no word for “art” or “creativity.”

To them, art, the work of craftsmen, was called “techne,” a word giving us “technique” and “technical,” implying a more conscious approach. The idea of the inspired artist was an image distilled in more recent centuries.

In fact, until a few centuries ago, “creativity” was the prerogative of the Divine (as in “The Creation”), not of mere mortals. Yet we still describe the differences between Classicism and Romanticism as Apollonian or Dionysian.

Now, an artist has a “God-given” talent and receives periodic infusions of “divine inspiration,” something that’s devilishly difficult to quantify and explain scientifically.


Periodically, Klavdia Klangfarben – that is, the adult Klavdia Klangfarben – would pull out this odd little hand-held contraption and stare at it wistfully, checking to see if anything had changed since the last time she’d checked it.

Her mother – the woman who had no idea she was her mother – would sneak a glance in her direction, wondering what that was.

“Dead as a door-nail,” she’d mutter, slipping it back into her pocket and sighing. But it still indicated the battery had power.

Whatever had gone wrong, technically, she missed not having Kedaver there to fix it.

Yes, maybe she’d been too hard on him, and it would only have been for a little bit longer – not much time. But she knew he would’ve tried talking her out of this little side trip.

That was the main reason behind accepting SHMRG’s offer, to try rescuing her mother. Ironically, now, her brashness had become her own undoing.

She had to laugh, thinking about it. There were Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner, all still alive, doing just fine, thank you, all because there was this numbskull professor of hers who’d successfully thwarted her plan.

She’d failed, thanks to him, and now here she was, in some time-traveler’s limbo.

She had failed big time. What would happen now?

Maybe it wasn’t nice leaving Kedaver stuck in 1802, considering she would never have figured out how to implement the plan without him. And now, no one even knew where she was: who’d bother to rescue her?

The important thing was, whatever else happened, she had saved her mother’s life, and that, she felt, ought to count for something. How could she have known that her best friend’s mother would have died instead?

Every day, now, she’ll be thinking of Susie, suddenly growing up without her mother. How could she do that to her best friend?

She glanced sideways at the woman sitting beside her, perceived through different eyes, now, not the idealized image of her Mother but a woman who was very ordinary. Was rescuing her a kind of failure, too?

This was something new Dr. Klavdia Klangfarben was experiencing. What, after all, was guilt? Wasn’t she devoid of guilt, coming into her maturity in a capitalist, corporate environment? It was like being in a Dickens novel.

There was a brief glimmer, something akin to hope: perhaps, waking up, it’ll be Christmas morning so, Scrooge-like, she could reform her ways.

She hadn’t begun thinking about her own difficulties. Here she was, an adult in her childhood home, not a tourist stopping by. How would she be able to explain herself, become part of everything around her? She couldn’t even use her real name, could she? Because Klavdia Klangfarben was really that child left playing back in the living room.

She had no identity, no history, no job. She had no income, no money, no place to live, not even any luggage. She had no idea what she could do about it or where to begin.

She couldn’t buy new shoes because she only had credit cards in her wallet, cards that expired thirty years into the future.

Did they even have credit cards back in 1985?

She couldn’t remember. Everything froze.

How did she create a new identity, get a job, rent an apartment, fake a birth certificate, starting her life over from scratch?

And didn’t she know too much about the future? She’d have to be careful what she’d say or how she’d say it. They’d think she’s crazy if she started warning people about terrorists before September 11th.

Could she start a new career as a psychic? Madame Klavdia! Well, her degree as a forensic musicologist was even more worthless, now.

Basically, she had nothing and could do or say nothing without giving herself away. She was unemployed, homeless, penniless and potentially certifiably whacko.

There was nothing she could do. She had become the embodiment of the negative.


Man Kaye lay in bed, unable to sleep. He kept staring at the clock. When would he hear some verification from Dr. Klavdia Klangfarben about the success of her mission – his mission (his plan, at least)? Could he walk into N. Ron Steele’s office first thing in the morning, informing him SHMRG could take over the classical music business?

What a great moment that would certainly be, pointing out how he should be given a promotion and, above all, a raise? Hadn’t he proved his worth? SHMRG was poised on the verge of unbelievable mega-greatness!

He had spent months going through the archives and buying up the rights to long-dead composers’ music, the also-rans of music history. It hadn’t made much sense: only classical radio stations played the stuff any more.

“Who’s going to listen to Kozeluch or Weigl if they have Mozart and Beethoven? Its only purpose is to make good audio wallpaper.”

“Ah,” he said with an evil grin, “but then, if they no longer had Mozart and Beethoven to listen to, any more? Without them, what was left for people to listen to or perform or record?”

That’s when his colleagues knew he was an idiot. How else had he managed to rise up the corporate ladder, becoming their boss?

That was when he formulated his plan – it was brilliant, really, and very simple. The only problem was how to make it happen.

That was when Dr. Klavdia Klangfarben answered his ad.

And tonight was the night.

It was already 4am. Kaye reached over and struggled with the radio by his bed, fumbling with the switch in the dark. Soothing piano music soon filled the room. He knew this piece: it was famous.

“Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata,” the whispery voice announced once it had quietly concluded, “inspired by watching the moon shining across the beautiful blue Danube.”

Right, he remembered that, now. Interesting. So beautiful. It was a shame they would lose that, once Beethoven died – or, rather, disappeared. Maybe he could write it out and then publish it under his own name?

That hadn’t occurred to him, before, taking the most popular songs by these guys, then, when nobody remembered them, publishing them himself. Why, he’d make a killing in the market since he’d own all the copyrights.

Would all that sheet music just disappear into oblivion? Wait, if these composers never existed, it would never have been written or printed.

He sat up, afraid it was too late. He must write this stuff down before it was forgotten, vanishing from human consciousness. If he wrote it out himself, wouldn’t his own anonymous copy survive their disappearance? Wouldn’t it be great if he said it’s based on some guy named Beethoven” and people would say “Beethoven? Never heard of him.”

What else should he try to pirate? Bach’s Jesu Joy thing and that “Air on a G String,” maybe some Mozart (what?). And the opening of Beethoven’s 5th (that’s all he’d need for the commercial rights).

Then he heard the radio announcer’s smooth voice continuing. “Amazing, how Beethoven could turn such a beautiful scene into such beautiful music. Well,” he added with a chuckle, “he was deaf as a doornail, not blind.”

Kaye snarled at the radio. “Dead as a doornail, not deaf, you insufferable imbecile.” Then he laughed, “and now he really is dead!”

Distracted by anticipation, not to mention the sheer magnitude of his most incredible plan, he forgot about writing down these soon-to-be-forgotten hits and looked at his phone, willing it to ring with news of Klangfarben’s victory.

While he checked his e-mail one more time – nothing – the station began to play something by Mozart, something for winds, pretty but unfamiliar.

But if the station was still playing Beethoven and Mozart, it hadn’t happened yet. Maybe it was some kind of time-zone thing.

“So I can still jot down the Moonlight Sonata?”

He ran to his desk.


Stuck in her childhood world as an adult, she was sitting in her mother’s car on her way to do some shopping for shoes she couldn’t afford to buy, couldn’t, in fact, even pay for, herself. Klavdia Klangfarben (or whoever she would become) tried not to dwell on the enormity of everything that was about to happen to her.

There were so many things she hadn’t thought out, hadn’t done the requisite research. She might have tried approaching it more scientifically. She couldn’t explain, “I should’ve at least googled it.” (“What’s that she said? ‘Google’?”)

Going back to eras when she didn’t exist, she could understand becoming an observer. But hadn’t she expected – that’s the way it was in her dreams – on that day in 1985 she’d become her childhood self?

Dreaming of growing up with her mother, now she was going to watch someone else – her other self – grow up with her instead.

And how weird was that going to be, watching herself as a spoiled ten-year-old growing up until she went off to college, majoring in music, becoming a forensic musicologist, then taking on that job for SHMRG?

Should she try advising herself – the young Klavdia – to pursue something… well, more practical? Knowing what she knows, could she actually change history?

Not like knocking off some future President or terrorist. More like killing Dr. Kerr so he wouldn’t be a factor in her future.

By the time she’d return to the present – her former present – she’d be 60.

Remembering all the failures, even the slights, that happened to her throughout her life, she could imagine looking after the young Klavdia, smoothing her way like some beneficent fairy godmother or guardian angel looking over her.

But was that possible? Was there a three-wish limit? Would she waste them on boy friends before getting to things that really mattered?

What were the scientific ramifications to think about? Would she stay permanently unaltered or continue growing older like any normal person would?

Or would she just, eventually, fade away like the battery power in her Time-Device?

No, she had to get back to 2011. Somehow, everything had to get back to normal, whatever normal was (speaking of perceptions). Could she find the Time-Gate without Abner Kedaver’s help? How hard could it be?

It shouldn’t be too difficult to find New Coalton. How long would it take her to get there, hitch-hiking from Valley Hills, Connecticut?

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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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