Heart of the Sunrise Ch. 02byAdrian Leverkuhn©
©2008 by Adrian Leverkuhn
(Note: The first part of the Sonata appeared under the title "Woman in Chains"; the second part as "The Stones of Years".)
At times it felt like a fever.
Hot and close, like death stalking.
Then the music would come. Out of the light and into her hands. She could not stop it, she could not control it; the music possessed her completely yet occasionally it must have taken pity on her and let her be -- for a moment. She would drift as if on the wings of fallen angels...
Then the music would come back for her and shake her soul, wring all that it could from her clumsy fingers -- testing her, pushing her. Dark chaos full of wild magic would take her mind and in the flood fill it with a language she had never known, then on the ebb she would drift in distant recall of the life she had known once. Wondering... why?
Like a virus.
The question penetrated chaos, left her shaken and scared. It was as though a virus had infected her and in the periodic deliriums of her fevered madness a great noise consumed her and she tried to make sense of what she heard but nothing ever could. Nothing ever could.
She saw fragments of the life she had known in the stillness, the shattered mirror on cold stone, and within these brief moments there was some comfort, but increasingly she saw fragments of another life superimposed over her own.
As if two bodies occupied the same space and time -- together.
Then the music would come for her again -- and take her completely.
It was all very odd.
The little sailboat swung on a mooring in water that looked as if it had been poured directly from a swimming pool. So cool and silver-frosted blue was the still water that the little, blue hull seemed suspended in air above a sandy, white plain. Only the quivering shadow of the little hull on the sand below gave away the illusion.
A thin man of indeterminate age, perhaps middle-aged, perhaps well beyond those middling years, sat in the little boat's awning-shaded cockpit, a cup of tea in his hand. He looked at a bustling village some hundred yards away, at the old oak trees lining the ridged mountain that slashed downward like a blade to red-tiled roofs and white-washed walls, and at the row of gleaming white yachts lined up along the quay, then he looked down at the crumbled yellow paper he clutched grimly in his other hand.
Like a blinding clash of cymbals or the nervous rolling of deep thunder, the words on the paper picked at his mind and wrinkled his brow.
A tired old cat bounded up from below and looked at the man, then walked noiselessly across the cockpit and jumped down by his feet. She circled twice then settled on his bare feet and began purring. The man put down his tea and began to scratch behind the cat's ears. The purring grew louder and he smiled, if only to himself.
The cat, an ancient if otherwise undistinguished gray tabby, was named Pyewacket, but the man out of habits old and dear called her Pye, and after consenting to be scratched for a few minutes she hopped up into the man's lap. Back arched, claws extended gently, she leaned into the man as if to take the measure of his mood.
"Well old girl," the man said in tired, Baltic tones, "it seems we will be having company soon." He looked at her, at the top of her head and her scruffy back, and he reached under her and rubbed the soft skin that loosely covered her belly. He could feel her slump into his body more deeply now, could hear the explosive rumble of purring that sprung from deep within her as his fingers ran through her fur, and he smiled deeply.
The man read the telegram again and folded the yellow paper, put it in his shirt pocket, then looked over the water to the village of Capri spread across the knifelike mountain. They would be landing in Rome, at da Vinci, in the morning, so with customs and the train to Naples by noon, the noon-thirty hydro-foil across the bay would put them in a little after two.
'What could it mean?' he asked himself for the hundredth time. He turned the words over and over again in his mind, yet every avenue they led him to presented a new and uncomfortable dilemma.
THE WOMAN IN CHAINSstopSHE HAS RETURNEDstopLARGE PARTY ARRIVING FRIDAY MORNING ROME ALITALIAstopWILL MEET YOU AT THE QUISISANA FOR COCKTAILS AT SIXstopBY THE POOLstop
A large party, at that hotel?
He shuddered to think what that would cost and wondered who might be picking up the tab for that one, then felt the cold icy grip of dread that told him that of course, he would.
Some things never change.
She was washing dirt from potatoes she had carried in from their field not a half hour before when she first heard the sound.
Not quite a rustling of dry autumn leaves, not quite the gentle whisper of a fresh breeze through the pines behind their cottage -- no, the sound was more a sigh. It was, she thought, as if the earth itself had sighed. She dropped the potato she had been washing and walked to the open door.
Tomas was gathering wood for the fire, yet whatever she had heard -- the experience had been hers alone. Her husband swung his axe with great care, split wood into fragments that would provide heat for the night -- yet that was all that had happened. He had not heard -- it - whatever it was she had heard.
She had turned back toward the pale of potatoes when she heard the rustling again, and this time she ran out into the yard. The sun was now fading from the far horizon, the last bands of purpled-amber were settling across the western sky. She peered off into the woods -- into that infinite darkness -- and without understanding why she closed her eyes.
Suddenly she was back in Paris and music swarmed around her like crisp, heady perfume. Without thinking she walked from the house, past Tomas, past the few apple trees that were just bearing fruit, and she walked into the woods -- this Vidzgiris around which so many dark rumors fell -- her mind alive with the sights and sounds of Paris in another time.
She walked a few minutes lost in her reverie, long enough to lose her way, and soon, with the growing darkness, she grew slowly aware she ought to feel afraid -- but she felt nothing of the kind. Indeed, she experienced something that felt rather like hope, or maybe even faith -- and that she was where she was supposed to be.
She heard the sigh again, but no -- there was something different about the sound now -- something almost melodic... hypnotic.
A man's voice... singing...
She moved toward the voice, careful not to make any untoward noise. Trees and gas-lamps stood superimposed over one another, as if they were occupying the same space and time. The voice seemed to transcend time...
A man, old and gray, kneels beside a shallow depression on the forest floor...
'ose shalom bimromav
She hears him sing... his voice full of infinite sorrow...
hu yaase shalom alenu
His body shakes with the grief of ages...
v'al kol yisra'el, v'imru amen
... and she recognizes the Kaddish, the mourner's prayer, the prayer for the dead.
She stands transfixed, unable to speak or even move. There is barely enough light to see, yet she can see the man clearly. He cries for a long time, then stands, and as he stands he lifts his hands as if he is freeing a caged bird...
She gasps at what she sees, and the man turns toward the sound, a terrible fury in his eyes...