A work of fiction where humanity’s only saving grace is the melodic elixir that is music…
by: Cameron Kirk
The bunker was in a secret location, a hundred meters underground, designed to house the president and his family in the case of nuclear war.
It was now used for a much darker purpose.
At the end of an eerily-lit hallway two armed guards stirred at the approach of Charles Breams, each turning locks on opposite sides of the door in a simultaneous series of movements. The door slid back on invisible rails and Charles entered the small concrete antechamber lit by two small table lamps. A red leather sofa and dark wood coffee table occupied the center of the room. Upon the sofa sat a man gently placing a violin in a case.
“Hello Frank,” said Charles. “How was your shift?”
Frank looked up with tired eyes. “He seemed pleased, but one never knows.”
“What did he ask for?” inquired Charles.
“Mozart, concerto number 5 in A minor, among others.”
“Minor? That’s a major piece.”
“Well, he wanted it in minor, and I wasn’t going to argue.”
Charles nodded and slipped the straps of a guitar case off his shoulders. He noticed Frank’s fingers were trembling as he attempted to zip up his violin case.
Frank stood and gave a wan smile as he scurried from the room. “Good luck, Charles.”
Removing his time-worn classical from its leather case, Charles looked at the door at the opposite end of the antechamber. He took a deep breath and approached it.
The room within was large. The walls held paintings of the masters, glass displays encased some of the greatest sculptures and works of art known to man, many of them thought lost forever. In one corner rested a Bechstein grand piano.
Charles took a seat in the center of the room and placed his guitar on his raised left leg in the classical style, neck almost vertical.
The room was lit by candles alone, which gave off a dim, flickering light. Charles looked around and from a darkened corner the Client wafted in like smoke.
“Good evening, Charles.” The creature that spoke was seven-foot-tall, red-skinned, and twin-horned.
“Good evening,” responded Charles, heart pounding, the skin of his scalp tingling in fear. “What would you like to hear tonight, sir?”
The creature rubbed his temples, a pained expression washing over his face. “I tell thee minstrel, I must weep, or else this heavy heart will burst. Play me something beautiful.”
Charles took in a deep breath of air, closed his eyes, and began to play “Little Wing” as the creature eased itself into a massive Jacobsen egg chair.
The creature closed his heavy-lidded eyes and lifted his burnt head, listening intently.
To his horror, Charles realized his D string was a fraction out of tune. He stopped. “My apologies,” he said breaking out into a cold sweat. “May I begin again?”
The creature nodded. Somewhere in the South Pacific, a long dormant volcano erupted near a chain of sparsely populated islands.
Charles tuned by ear and began to play once more.
Charles was an inspired musician, one of the greatest classical guitarists of his generation. As a child he had dreamed of playing the great concert halls to the applause of thousands. Instead, he now found himself performing to the same audience seven nights a week, an audience of one, and for his efforts was paid one hundred thousand dollars per performance by the government of the United States. He had been the Client’s guitarist for five years and was now wealthy beyond his wildest imaginings.
Charles hated his life.
But the Client had specifically requested him, and the world needed Charles though very few knew just how much.
When the song had ended, the enormous red creature shifted forward in his seat.
“Bellissimo, Charles. Pulchra. And now, “Comfortably Numb,” as performed for the recording of the Delicate Sound of Thunder album. I will add the sustain and reverb. Begin.”
Sixteen bars from the end of the piece, the troublesome D string snapped. The musical spell was broken, and with a creeping dread Charles noticed the demon wince. The guitarist did what any professional musician would do and continued on, doing the best he could.
Thousands of miles away, eighteen civilians and several military personnel were killed by a naval missile strike on the border of South Korea. The North claimed it was a training mission gone awry, but the South believed it to be a naked and barbarous act of war. Tension rose as nuclear weapons were put on standby.
The demon spoke in a baritone growl. “You recovered well, Charles. I noticed you relied heavily on the high A string to compensate for the missing D. Cleverly done.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“I would advise you to replace the string quickly. I feel the pressure in my head building. The music, Charles. I need it.” The Client sighed and said, “If in these eyes there lurk a tear, twill flow, and cease to burn my brain.”
Charles fumbled in his guitar case for the replacement string, feeling his fingers becoming moist and slippery.
Two hours later, when Charles left the Client’s room, Gerald Crane was standing in the antechamber.
“Hello Charles,” said Gerald.
Charles nodded, his face ashen, his hands trembling.
“What did he ask for?”
“Hendrix. Gilmour. Prince.”
Gerald massaged his fingers and took a deep breath. “What was that last piece I heard you playing?” he asked.
“Chris Rea’s “Curse of the Traveler,” said Charles heading for the bunker door.
“I don’t know that one,” said Gerald.
Charles Bream did not reply.
Gerald Crane sighed and entered the darkly lit room, seating himself at the Bechstein grand piano.
“Good evening, Gerald,” came a deep, rich voice from the menacing gloom shifting in the corners of the room.
“Good evening, sir.” A deep silent breath. “What would you like?”
The briefest of pauses.