The Pianist

by Katelyn Duncan


The keys called to her. They were her companions and her inspiration; they were constant. When in vain she struggled to find solace amongst the endless tides of society and change and life itself they held out their black tendrils to comfort her, as they did this night.

It was a night like any other, a night of dimly shining stars and of endless lights and she sat, morose, before the grand piano. Manuscripts and scripts, books and countless pieces of music lay scattered about her. A wavering lamp sent a beam of light cascading across the room’s piles; as if she needed to see the keys!

Vision, scent, touch were all secondary; even the ear itself was extraneous. She had no need of such idle aids to create her song, to color her music. It was something that was felt, deep inside of her, beneath the tedious masses of flesh and skin and bone that made her corporeal existence, felt down to her very core. And tonight she would play, as she had played a thousand, a hundred thousand times before.

She closed her eyes, found the scent of old paper wafting in — and banished it to the winds. Her delicate fingers hovered over the ebony and the ivory. Finally she struck a key; a whole note filled the room, filled her being. Another note, and another.

She began slowly, a quiet sonata to the moon or to the darkness, the melody sweet, simple, yet soon it came to rise. A glittering glissando of sixteenths and suddenly a haunting tune swept about her, flowing from her limbs, melodies and countermelodies initiating from she knew not where and flinging themselves out upon the world. Her song built into a slow crescendo, spiraling towards some inevitable and yet elusive climax —

And all at once her hands fell still, and there was silence. Soft eyes fluttered open. She waited, standing at the edge of something that she could not name, trapped in reverie.

What had made her stop? Why should she stop; why should she ever stop? The walls that parted her from her music were harsh ones, divisive ones, walls built of iron and steel that dared not open for friendship. For hours she could play, ordinarily. For entire evenings she could lose herself.

Yet she had stopped. It was unthinkable, it was unfathomable; she could not remember anything that she had played; the melody that had completed her was gone. Futilely she reached to press a note, but there was no sound. The space within her mind where the keys had once called to her fumed in agony.

She hit another key, harder, more violently, but the harsh, sharp noise of a string breaking was the only response and she flew from the bench, eyes alight with something close to fury and not so far from madness, kicking aside the piles of music that neighbored her bastion of solitude.

With trembling arms she flung open the lid of the grand piano — the light that once was so calm and subtle casting fire on her skin and in her soul — and blindly she grasped the offending strings. They were the perpetrators; they had stolen away her music. No matter that their deaths had already been completed, no matter reason or even sanity. How dare material things so impugn upon her glory! How dare the instrument rebel against its player!

Lividly she tugged at one of the strings, until at last and with a satisfying snap it came free in her hands, and she stumbled over the piled manuscripts, towards the edge of the room where a beam lay uncovered across the ceiling, tossing aside anything that dared cross her path.

Her knuckles taut, she threw the wiry string over; she dragged a simple wooden chair from beneath a stack of knickknacks and through the ensuing cloud of dust. Her body trembled as she stepped atop it. The chair threatened to break; she swayed but still she managed to take hold of the string’s ends and pulled them tight.

A quick knot with nervous fingers, a swift kick to send the chair shattering to pieces across the scattered attic, and the pianist let out one final cry — a single whole note — another note, and then another, spiraling towards some inevitable and yet elusive climax —


Copyright © 2007 by Katelyn Duncan

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