But Felicity was serious. There's no playful glimmer in her eyes this time. Her lips aren't curling in to a coy smile. And she won't break his gaze, either. What does she want from him?

"Alright, I guess so."

Was he really supposed to believe that anyway? It was very pretty words – hell, if he was a songwriter, he could use her for lyric work – but it's all pointless. Calvin knew no 'language of the Gods.' He didn't even believe in God, or the Gods, or whatever pantheon got it right.

"You're not listening to me, Calvin. You are a voice of the Divine."

Okay, not fun anymore. Getting creepy. Deep philosophical discussion of religion and the influence of music is not why one comes to Jonny B's. One more shot, and maybe she'll start-


Her lips touched his, and every worldly perception around Calvin faded in an instant. Every sense was dead. No, no... not every sense. He could definitely feel her warm lips toying with his, and fingernails scratching lightly in his hair. Another hand wove against his torso and embraced him, and her legs gliding amidst his own. Yes, his sense of touch was not dead. But there was more.

He could still hear, too. But not Jonny B's. Not the recorded jazz on its second loop of the CD. Not the drunk patrons arguing over the latest crap on Sports Center. He heard Felicity. A light moan, or a purr. Hard to tell. Soft and lilt, carrying his mind away.

The sound was wind in a valley of orchestration, rising and falling along hillsides of harmony. A chorus of lilies sang to the baritone trees, swaying against the melodic breeze. Pizzicato leaves bounded amidst the rhythmic ground, trailing light contact that bounced with lively energy and motion. And still the wind sang its joyous tune, rejoicing in the peace of this place, weaving its song though symphonic forests to an ocean of pure sound. The world was music, music the world.

Reality. Back to the world. Eyes open, catching breath. The background noise is back, life no longer a self-sustaining symphony. His ears heard the world, but he couldn't listen to it anymore. He could feel again, but only with his body. He could think, but not with his soul. Seriously, what the fuck was that?

Felicity sure seemed to know.

"Okay, what just happened?"

It had to be the whiskey. He was on shot... uh, two? Or three? No, only two. Nope, can't be the whiskey.

"What do you mean, honey?"

Okay, quit being cute. Did she slip him something? It didn't feel like it. If it where X, he would still be floating along on a high. But everything is normal now. Can't be drugs.

"I'm serious, what the fuck was that? You kissed me, and then..."

"Mhm, and then what, Cal?"

Yeah, what? What the hell was it? He'd never seen, or felt, or thought, or experienced anything even close to that. He was the world, but flowing through it. It was real, but all a work of fiction, and every last scrap of matter was just another note on the staff. It was... was...

" was like I was pure music. I saw and felt music. I was it all, but watching it at the same time."

"Mm, sounds like it was a good kiss, honey."

More giggling. She knows. She has to know.

"Did you... y'know, did you feel the same thing?"

"Hm, I don't know... but it sure sounds good. Maybe we should try again. In the name of science."

Hah, cute. A scientific experiment. Repeat the results and confirm the hypothesis, and-

Drifting in a sonorous sea, water composed of the melody of life itself. Rising, falling, ebbing and flowing in time and beat. Falling now, beneath the waves of rhythm, a diminuendo to dark bottoms of somber tone. It sang of sadness, loneliness, pulling deeper down, darker, blacker. Effervescent bubbles of hope cascaded amongst him, popping to release marcato prayers, reminders of the serene surface waiting for a return. He held his breath but did not need to breathe. Could he breathe? Was he real? The concerto of fluid moved around him and through him, as he melted and joined it all. His soul became the ocean, the world.

Then cold reality, once more. Concrete, physical, lifeless.

"So... how was it this time?"

It happened again. Felicity kissed him, and he was in a world of music once again. Damn. Hypothesis confirmed.

"Yeah... wow, same thing."

It was almost too much. With Felicity's embrace, every sense and emotion was alive and vivid, hurling him to a world of intuition. But as her embrace faded, he returned to the dull, the tactile, and the dissonant. How was she doing this? What was she even doing to him? And why was she doing it? Why him? Yeah, those were good questions.

"How can you... and why...?"

Except the ability to speak was among the last of the senses to recover on the system reboot. The kiss was that good.

"So is your studio nearby? I would love to see where your work, oh, and to hear some of it!"


"Yeah, a few blocks, sure. But, hang on! Just what the hell was that... that thing you did?"

"Time will tell, honey. But it's time to even the score. I gave you a present, and now it's your turn. You've heard my music, so I want to hear yours. C'mon."

"Yeah, okay... let's go."

Pay the bill, grab the coat, walk out the door. No, this was not an ordinary night at Jonny B's. But with that nagging voice of concern and curiosity quieted for a minute, Calvin had a chance to take stock of the situation: the leggy brunette just invited herself to his place. Correction, the leggy, sensual brunette with magical lips that reinvented his reality with a simple kiss was leading the way to his apartment. Damn. Good day. Very good day. Fucking awesome day. Fuck, it's even colder out here.

"Need a cigarette, too?"

"Mm, sure honey."

Huh. Not often you find someone else who smokes nowadays. Click, ignite, breathe deep.

"Helps me keep the cold at bay on nights like this."

Giggling. "Done trying to figure out my 'magical powers' for now?"

"Hah, yeah. I sure as hell don't understand it, and you don't seem to be revealing your secrets. I figured I'd just sit back and enjoy the ride until I get it."

"Mm, I like how you word that, honey."

The English language has many little treats to those skilled enough to use it. The double entendre is one of them. Or maybe that would be French. Whatever language it is, it's fun.

So, with the world handing Calvin a living dream for a night, just why was his demeanor souring with each step closer to home? Oh yeah, Felicity wanted to hear his music. What music? An hour ago, Calvin had just finished a mass genocide of aural notation, leaving only straggling settlements of phrases behind. He had other music, though. Taking Back Solina was one of his earlier works, so it was still fresh with his post-collegial enthusiasm. Which meant it was not as shitty as the newer stuff. Bad choice. Tearful Promises, though, had him nominated for some kind of independent award for some unknown award event. At least that's what the producer told him one day. Probably didn't even exist.

Okay, so what then? Ezekiel's Journey was a flop, and even the score could tell you that. Lost in the Twilight of Harvest was a joke; just a bunch of gimmicky orchestration for that lighthearted fluff film. And the rest? Celeste's Big day, or Desenchente, or even Pandoran Exile? They were okay, at best. Still, though, any piece, and score, would be better than Samuel and Sahndra.

"Why so quiet, honey?"

Huh, what? Wait, how long had he been silent? Ugh, damnit! He had just walked for two blocks without saying a damn word. Smooth, Calvin. Fuckin' smooth. Only thirty feet from his apartment, and he'd wasted the entire walk brooding.

"Sorry, it's nothin'. Just going through my portfolio in my mind, trying to figure out what pieces to play for you."

That sweet smile redeemed his failures once again. "Oh, I see. Want to play the best music you have so you can impress me, hm?"

"Well, yeah, of course. Here, this is the place."

"But you should already know exactly what I want to hear, Calvin."

No, don't say it, don't say it, don't say it...

"I want to hear what Sahndra's done to you to make you so unhappy."


"Yeah, but it's not done. Not even close. Hell, I spent the better part of my day butchering it instead of writing it. That's why I was at Jonny B's to begin with. You don't want to hear that."

That was not a face designed to frown. Felicity's thin lips curled down, pulling them forward to illustrate a pout for her disappointment. The green eyes that danced will life immediately softened and lost their luster, sorrow tentatively sneaking its way inside. Felicity's was a visage made for inspiration and happiness, and such design only served to render her sadness that much more severe. Again, smooth. Sigh.

"...okay, sorry, sure. I'll let you hear Sahndra. Ready to go inside?"

"Yes, let's do, honey!"

Vanished. Gone. Any trace of disappointment dispelled with the opening of the door. She nearly bounded in to the open room, drinking in every facet of Calvin's life. There was the practically unused kitchen, still yet to tarnish from the day he moved in. Then the old wood floors, covered haphazardly with an old rug. Then the studio/bedroom, the superstore-brand desk covered in paper and a large computer, surrounded by the large sound system plus keyboard on the right. The entire apparatus was larger than his mediocre bed. His mediocre, unmade bed. Damnit.

"So, I suppose this is where you work your magic every night, hm?"

Another entendre? Cute. Though, magic is hardly the word for it. He hadn't worked any magic at the desk in months, and that was only getting worse daily. And magic on the bed... well, okay, that one is looking up. That bed hasn't seen a woman in a while, but with Felicity now leaning back on the mattress, it's making up for lost time. Out of the bar's cheap florescence and in to his warm, though dim, incandescence, she seems to almost glow. With her jacket off, Calvin can truly see the woman that's a gift from the Fates. Okay, yeah, maybe that wasn't such a stupid thought after all.

The olive skin he noticed shined further with the change in lighting, amplifying her exotic air. Her arms were just as lithe and slender as the legs, still toned and firm, but long with an aesthetic softness. Devoid of the fluffy collar, her long neck flowed smoothly to round shoulder. Yet, she was no twig. Her entire body was that same toned strength of her arms and legs, a figure that was full and curvy, no anorexic bones stretching her skin, yet not even a suggestion of a gram of excess fat. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

Oh, and really nice tits.

"Alright. Felicity, I'd like you to meet Sahndra."

And so she did, with the begrudged click of play. Instantly, the large speakers blared the MIDI sounds, roughly translating the binary coding of music back to the aural origin from which it was first transcribed. Calvin never cared for using MIDI, but it was so much easier than working it all over a piano. Sahndra continued her longing protests, violins waving her mourning through the room as droning low brass deterred any escape of her pain.

With seconds passing to minutes, Calvin lost track of every mistake, every flaw, and every single problem in the sonata that continued to scream his failure. But Felicity couldn't see it. No, her eyes were closed and her head down, now lightly swaying with the oboe. Calvin was hearing his music, his flaws, but she was listening to it, searching for the meaning within. Too bad her search was futile.

And then it was done. End of track. And he waited. Waited more. But Felicity wasn't moving, not yet. Still she sat, eyes closed, the mind obviously working furiously, yet betraying not a hint of what she thought. She was drinking down the sonata, just like the Merlot, savoring the rush of flavor with the first sip, drinking down all of it to gather every nuance of flavor, and basking in the aftertaste.


Here it was, the moment of truth. Never before had he previewed his work. Too much risk. But here he was, career and ego on the line, all for the goddess resting on his bed, the goddess now looking up with open eyes to respond.

"It's wonderful."

Snicker, eye roll, shrug. Yeah, okay. Telling him that it was bland and cliché would have been better, if painful. That would have been the honest thing to do. But okay, lying works too. He can pretend that-

Uh oh. It's that serious face from before. Felicity is done with the playful conversation and flirtation. It's pure, serious honesty again.

"Calvin, listen to me, and really listen this time. It is wonderful. You must hear it! I can feel Sahndra, and her loss. Her sound, her melody intrudes me, infects me, and I feel like my lover has died, not hers. She is the woman grieving, yet I am the one with tears. Don't you hear that? Don't you feel that there, in the music, your music?"

Did she really feel all of that? How could she have been that enraptured with the music? It was the same exact track Calvin had played hours ago, and all he felt was resentful frustration.

"No, I don't. I don't feel any of that. I just hear how normal it is, and how it doesn't flow. I still can't get the theme to make the harmonic transition without interrupting the alto voices. And any time I tweak the ornamentation with the repeated motif, it never sounds right and just screws up the inner harmonies. I'm glad you liked it, thank you, but to me, I just hear the same junk as before."

Another eye roll, another sigh, but neither of them from Calvin.

"Why do you ignore the voice inside you? I know it's there, and it's begging you to open your soul to it again! Your music has not altered, and your creativity has not been lost. Nothing at all has changed but you. You've closed yourself to the world, wedging yourself away from the conduit of the Eternal. Music is your gateway to Paradise, to eternal bliss, but you've turned a blind eye to it. Can't you feel that anymore? Why have you turned your back on the greatest gift life has given you?"

How the hell should he know? Until tonight, Calvin wasn't even aware he possessed 'the greatest gift life can give.' Yeah, fine, he's a musician; so are millions of other people. Do they all have the same gift? Or is he just one of the special people? Ugh, so stupid. Music just is, and always has been. Yeah, it was easier in college, and more fun, but what wasn't? It just flowed out of him back then, less thought and more action. But so it did for all of his other classmates. It's nothing special. That's just how people write music. Nothing changed. He didn't turn on his back on anything.

"I don't know. I guess I just don't feel it, or whatever."

"No, Calvin, but why? Why don't you feel it? I know you can."

"Okay, how: how do you know that I can, hm?"

"Calvin, I've already shown you, twice, this evening. That world is in you, not me. I didn't take you anywhere you couldn't already go. I am just the map, the guide. But you are the traveler and the destination all in one. So why... why can't you find the path inside anymore?"

"I don't know, alright?"

"Calvin, why?"

Ugh, would she stop asking that already? He doesn't fucking know. Nothing like those... those experiences has ever happened to him before. It's not like just sat in a chair, rode a yellow submarine to the land of music and emotion in his mind, and took notes while looking through the porthole. He just wrote music. That was it.


Enough already! He doesn't know why he can't feel it. Maybe he never did. Or he just forgot. Or any other excuse to get her to quit asking. This was getting annoying. He had no answer to her question.

"Why, Calvin? Why can't you feel it?"

What is she even talking about? Feel it. Fucking feel what? There's nothing to feel. He never felt it, or anything. He just did his job, and went about his miserable life. He never felt anything. He doesn't feel anything. Never has, never will. It's just a bullshit world where you survive long enough to die old instead of young. There's nothing to feel.

"Calvin... why?"

"Because I don't feel a goddamn thing, okay? Fuckin' Christ, lady, I don't feel anything, at all. That what you want to hear? I wake up, go about my lousy day, and write shitty music. Nothing, okay? That's what I feel now: nothing. The music, your fucking gift or whatever, or the whole fucking world: I don't feel a damn thing!"

Panting, sweating, drained. Whoa. That was a first. He had never had an outburst anywhere close to that. But was it true? Does he really feel nothing at all? Maybe. Yeah, probably. Okay, yes, Calvin felt nothing anymore. Not for a long time. You can only try so many times to make life work, before you finally just... give up. What was the point in feeling anything? Apathy was easier. Wake up, do you job, eat, sleep. Simple. Feeling shit just made it... complicated. Can't get your feelings hurt if there's nothing there to break. Quite caring, become a recluse, and live alone. Easy. Unfulfilling easy loneliness.

"You're not alone, Calvin." Huh? He didn't say that last thought, did he? "You've never been alone. You've been hurt. I don't know how, or when, and I don't think you do either. Life isn't lived in an instant. It happens. And whatever happened to you was not instant. It's how life works, but just as life can be cruel and strip you of everything that brings you joy, it can revitalize you and cast shadows back over the pain and doubt."

Felicity was holding him now, tenderly, nearly motherly, cradling his head to the crook of her neck. She was warm, and softer than she looked, oleander smelling stronger than when they had met. He felt this, at least. This felt good. Like everything else, he had forgotten how wonderful it feels just to hold, or be held by, someone. Just another feeling ignored by his senseless apathy. How much has he missed over the years? Why has missed so much life?

"It doesn't matter why, Calvin. But now, we move you forward."

"Yeah, alright... but how?"

She shifted their embrace, pushing him back to look in to, though his eyes. It scared him at first, because Felicity's eyes were too intense. The green irises were talking to him, reaching out to hold him with arms they couldn't have. Emotive, loving light radiated amidst the tranquil green, illuminating a room that was still dark, bathing Calvin with their caring and hope. And he fell, hard, tumbling through the pupils to her core, her soul, finding a darkness that was not empty. In the next instant, she spoke, and he saw only a smiling face again.

"I will show you, honey, just like I did before. You know the path, but you cannot remember. That's why I came to you tonight. You need my guidance. I can show you how to get back to the path, the path to that world of music. I can return you to your wellspring of inspiration. Just trust me, and let yourself feel. Stop seeing, stop listening, and just feel. Let me give you back your gift."

She kissed him then. And Calvin began to remember.


It was dark, and quiet. Nothing existed, not even him, and yet he was here. His contradiction carried him through the abyss filled with absence, yet he wasn't afraid. He couldn't be, because he wasn't here. Pinpoints of light struggled for attention, appearing and squirming though the void. The lights talked to him and pushed him in all directions. He could see one as Happiness, the other as Joy, and saw so many others surround him. Light carried him in a stream of bliss, climbing up while flowing down to a pool rippling with sound. He saw the ripples as much as felt them, ripples in a cacophony of expression, his heart hearing their happy swells. The coalescing sound carried him as-

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