Woman in Chains Ch. 02byAdrian Leverkuhn©
Todd Wakeman was on the telephone in his office, his fingers drumming away loudly on the desk; both Somerfield and MacIntyre could see he was agitated. He was trying to talk with someone, anyone at the Julliard School after listening to one of the clinical art therapists on the ward. She had heard the music earlier and watched from the corridor, and she too had been completely confused by what she'd seen, but had presented Wakeman with an interesting idea.
He was finally connected to one Ina Balinski, one of the school's people in the community relations department, and Wakeman got right to it, explained the Tomlinson case to the woman, what Somerfield and MacIntyre had done that morning, and she was impressed, interested.
Then he told her what the art therapist had in mind and she laughed.
"I've heard a lot of, well, off the wall stuff, Dr Wakeman, but I think this one tops a very long and distinguished list. When did you want to do this? If we can pull it off, I mean."
"As soon as we can, ideally. I feel like we had some kind of breakthrough this morning. I don't want to let that slip away."
"Okay, I think I understand. Do you think the family would mind if a TV crew comes along with us?"
"I don't know, I'll ask, but I don't see why not. We had a video camera in the room this morning, but that's a long way from a news crew, you know."
"Okay, well let me get back to you. Oh, before I forget, where do you think you want to do this?"
Wakeman told her and she laughed again, said she'd be back to him in an hour or so.
"Well," Somerfield leaned forward, "what did she say?"
"Nothing definite," Todd said. "I guess that means maybe."
"Cool," MacIntyre added. "Maybe is better than 'Hell no' any day of the week!"
"Got that right," Somerfield said.
"Any day of the week," Wakeman added. "Any day of the week."
'Now why does that seem important?' he asked himself.
She drifted amongst fields of stars, and they sang to her.
Notes as pure as a sigh, as discordant as death; the stars knew no end to the range of their music. She listened, and she learned, and still the music came to her on never ending streams of relentless starlight. In time she grew exhausted, and still the music came.
It occurred to her more than once she was in the presence of a vast, inscrutable teacher. She could feel an odd presence all around her, an infinite, vast presence in the darkness, waiting, watching. She made mistakes and felt palpable fury building among the stars, and then she would find a new chord and the presence settled as a mother rocking her child to sleep. But the music never let up; this teaching, this watching and measuring -- it never stopped.
It had not been so long ago that she could not remember being blinded, blinded by an overwhelming burst of music and light, and she had felt herself streaming through fields of stars at impossible speeds. But she had felt something new and different within the light itself, something or someone so familiar the sudden remembrance of brought great pain. Memory pushed inward, tried to push away the music; then she was aware that this someone had once been a part of what she once was. As this dawning realization flooded into consciousness the speeding light tore at everything, rendered memory useless. Sudden pain reached inside this womb of light -- the pain reached out for her, pulled at her, twisted her into impossible shapes, and in a heartbeat the music stopped -- the stars grew silent -- and a vast, infinite darkness settled all around her.
For the first time she could remember in this new life she felt the terror of aloneness. She fell within this well of darkness and tumbled mercilessly for what seemed an eternity, but at last a star appeared. A single star shone in the darkness, a single note pierced the infinite loneliness. She focused on the star, focused on the purity of the note and responded with one of her own; another star appeared, and another, and soon she was composing again, dancing in fields of stars, running free among the stars as a child running through a field of bright summer flowers.
And yet she knew the time was coming again. The puppet's odd music, and the stopping, and there was nothing she could about it now.
She always felt it first as remembrance, as pain, then as an unbroken stream of notes, and eventually as a single, forlorn note falling off into darkness; now -- right now -- the remembering came to her, she knew this beginning and she felt sad, because she knew the man would fail again. She would float incorporeally among the stars, at home in the music she created with them, then there would be...
...surf and warm wind, sand on her thighs, a body wrapped in chain, and always, that distant faceless man playing the same penetrating music that led only back into the night...
Cindy Newbury looked into the camera, blinked her eyes to clear her contacts.
"Sound check," she heard in the bud hidden in her right ear.
"This is Cindy Newbury, ABC News, one- two- three -- four."
"Alright, good," she heard while she turned again to look out at this fantastic scene. A gymnasium, what amounted to ninety percent of the New York Philharmonic and a handful of violinists from Julliard, a couple of med students with violins too, all arrayed around a hospital bed standing on the middle of the polished maple floor. A cluster of doctors and technicians manned complicated banks of instruments; occasionally they looked down at the comatose woman on the bed and adjusted leads and wires.
"It looks like a Shuttle launch down there!" she said into her microphone.
"Cindy?" she heard the producer in the ear-bud, "go on and move on down closer now. Let's see if we can catch her face when it starts."
"Right, Stu." She looked at her cameraman. "Come on, Paco, let's get to it."
"Stop calling me Paco!" Gordon Murphy shot back.
"I will when you stop calling me 'Dingbat'!"
"Fair enough, Dingbat."
They made their way from the stands down onto the floor. She saw the Tomlinson girl's mother, nodded at her as they made their way closer to the bed. She looked at her watch again, feeling nervous as she did.
"Okay," the producer said, "let's go live in twenty seconds."
Newbury settled into place with Tomlinson's bed just visible over her shoulder.
"Live in five-four-three-two-and go!"
"Yes, Good Morning, Steve, Jody. We're here this morning at Columbia University, at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, reporting on what appears to be a very unusual treatment that's being tried for the first time...
Newbury talked for a half minute; she offered her audience a succinct rundown of the tragedy and its immediate aftermath. The television image cut to scenes of the Tomlinson's home, the mangled Volvo, a mother's tears over fresh flowers on three graves...
"Research here over the past few days has revealed that these episodes begin at precisely the time her family's car was struck almost nine weeks ago. It was recently reported to us that the woman has been heard singing notes from Sergei Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet at precisely that time, but for some reason she stops at exactly one point in the music, the same point each time, by the way, then she falls back into the coma. Yesterday students from the medical school accompanied her on the violin and there was an unusual response; when the music stopped the woman dropped back into a complete coma. The thinking is that the intense stimulation of a larger ensemble might evoke a more significant response..."
(The camera zoomed out, revealing the Philharmonic arrayed around Tomlinson's bed. The audience heard the morning anchors in their studio muttering about the size of the orchestra and how it had been so rapidly assembled...)
"Yes, Jody, that is the New York Philharmonic, a student conductor from The Julliard School is readying them as I speak. She should be..."
The stars were growing silent now, one by one they shimmered and went out, and she felt herself adrift, bereft. Yet she felt different, altered -- her mind felt ordered and full, devoid of all emotion as she studied her surroundings anew.
They had been her teachers. And they had been friends. And yes, she knew now that they had been watching her, measuring her, and she understood. Time was now as time had always been; as time had once measured them so had they measured her.
She felt the warmth of the sun on her arms now, the cool sea surge against her feet, yet the chains seemed as tightly bound to her as they ever had. She felt sadness grip her chest again and she looked back to the stars now receding from her. They had turned from her, they were indifferent again, their curiosity at an end. They were now, she knew, quite finished with her.
She saw the man on the boat, the piano, all of it was as before... but something was different! The strings! The puppet's strings! They were gone! He began to play and she settled in to listen, and to sing once again the vast, indifferent music of the spheres.
"Steve! Jody! Something's happening now... yes, Tracy Tomlinson has started to sing, and well, as I'm sure you can tell -- there goes the Philharmonic! What a majestic sound!"
Wakeman had been watching rows of EEGs and EKGs and so was not too startled when the music began... he had seen Tomlinson's brain swarming, seen the build-up of energy and he knew what was coming. But Wakeman, like Somerfield and MacIntyre and all the others from Tomlinson's tiny hospital room, was unprepared for the awesome scale of the music that now filled the gymnasium. Compared to what had been produced yesterday, the orchestral response went beyond overwhelming; the plaintive lament of the strings was crushing in its willful intensity -- the music that filled the gymnasium now did so with an almost palpably unbearable emotional intensity.
And those who could watched as Tomlinson sang as before, willfully, soulfully, and with a purity that stunned even the onlookers from Julliard.
Gordon Murphy, the cameraman, walked carefully around Tomlinson's bed recording the scene: Tomlinson's mother and twin sister -- their features lost somewhere between pain and hope; the two medical students -- Somerfield and MacIntyre -- doing their best to play with some of the finest musicians in the world; Wakeman -- lost in the glow of dancing electrons and the ever-evolving music of the brain...
Somerfield felt the music building -- not in intensity, because this piece was as far from bombastic intensity as music could be -- but building to that penultimate moment, to that gap in time that had been bridged only once.
"Jody, as you can see now, Tracy Tomlinson is singing, her eyes are still closed, yet she is singing, and they are fast approaching that point where yesterday her neurologists say the breakthrough occurred! Gordon, can you move in now, get a close-up of her face?"
The music was the same again. She knew every note of it by heart now, yet she remembered how last time the music had been different, how the man on the boat had turned to her, and she had seen his face.
Now the music was shatteringly different. The music was full of power, full of celestial resonance, and it was beckoning and compelling her to walk out into the water toward the man on the boat. She tried to stand, felt the full weight of the chains that bound her still and she struggled to break free. She rolled and twisted, fought them off with her hands and feet, and the rusty links bit into her arms and legs. She began to cry, to wail as frustration painfully began dominate all her thoughts...
The music faded. The man on the boat turned again and looked at her. His smile was as it had been the last time: warm, welcoming, knowing. Now, the puppet-master's strings were gone and the man stood; he walked to the edge of the boat and beckoned her with his smile to come to him...
A link shuddered and cracked, one strand of chain fell away, then another and another. She could stand now, but the music was gone, gone, gone...
She turned to the sky again, and everything disappeared into pure light.
Judith Somerfield saw it first, just as the music drifted past the dividing line.
"Dr Wakeman!" she yelled. "Come here!"
"What is it? Is it important?"
"Wakeman, get over here!" MacIntyre yelled, and Todd walked over, looked at Tomlinson. "She's crying!"
"What the fuck!" Wakeman was completely unaware of the ABC cameraman by his side.
"You got that right, doc," the cameraman muttered.
"You getting this, Murphy?" the producer asked Gordon over the headset.
"Yeah -- got it. Newbury, can you get over here?"
"Right behind you, Paco."
Wakeman was looking at Tomlinson; he saw her body shimmer and turn translucent and golden hued, her form surrounded as if by mist one moment then clear and pure within the span of a single heartbeat, and in that next instant her form turned solid and as human as everyone else in the room. Wakeman had the impression for a moment the body in the bed glowed pure white, like light was being born inside the body and reaching out into the world of man for the first time.
Tomlinson sat up in the bed and one by one members of the orchestra fell silent; some stood and looked at the figure in the bed, others turned away from the light and covered their eyes.
The light pulsed once and went out; all that remained was Tracy Tomlinson. Wide-eyed, scared, confused, and totally alone, she turned her head and looked around the room. The room was totally silent, the air filled with measurable dread.
"You'll pardon me for not standing," Tomlinson said, "but I can't seem to get these chains off my legs."
Somerfield and MacIntyre high-fived; Wakeman joined them and soon everyone gathered around Tomlinson; there were a few hugs, yet all the physicians were looking at the woman in the bed as if something more than unexpected had happened.
Soon everyone noticed that Tracy and her sister were looking at one another, that a sort of contest of wills had developed and was building in intensity right before there eyes. Wakeman felt what happened next first ... a sudden surge of power, like lightning, he thought, as the surge coursed through the building. Medical monitors flickered, then winked out in a single cascade; Murphy's video-camera flickered and went out, and in the next instant light-bulbs in the ceiling fixtures exploded, sending showers of sparks down on stunned musicians and perplexed physicians.
As the room fell into darkness, Tomlinson's mother turned and caught her other daughter as she fainted and fell to the floor. She felt that Becky's body was icy cold, and she yelled for help when she felt patches of ice forming on her daughter's arms.