"Interlude"

by Christopher Green

2004

We stumbled wearily in and dropped ourselves and our weapons every which way. One man sat by the edge of the room and opened the dirty old piano key-cover. He ran his fingers along the keys gently, then slowly played a chord, a few bars, a slow song. A remorseful song of mistakes made, of love forsaken, of what might have been. The room's atmosphere changed from listless ennui to attention. We fell more silent than before. The man played on, never stopping, one song leading into another in an endless stream which melted from lovelorn to frolicsome to reverent and back again. Perhaps he repeated songs, but I never noticed. I was carried by the stream of music to shores far away, to people and places both familiar and strange. Some scenes I recognized myself, and some I experienced fresh in awe, or pity, or joy. And yet I thought none of this at the time. I was swept away, far away from the squalor of the cluttered room and disheveled companions. The piano was out of tune and one key didn't play, but it did not matter. I was mesmerized.

We had not heard music for a long time. The part of our souls in which music made its mark had long been silent and black, silenced by the horrors we had seen and heard. It was dark, and there was no light there. But this soothing balm of notes and melodies, this stream of sound which the man, swaying, produced from the unlikely source, this music sent light into those dark parts of our souls, and gave us hope. We remembered the greater things, and that we were fighting for them. We recalled our purpose, and what we once knew. We were rejuvenated.

Then with a discordant percussion, the man was dead.

I didn't understand. It had stopped. The greatest atrocity in the world: the music stopped. I looked. Instead of fingers running along those chipped ivory keys, blood. Instead of hypnotic musician, a corpse - like so many others. Who would be so heartless, so cruel, as to stop that heavenly stream? What would possess him? It was an offense against God himself! He would suffer my wrath! To extinguish something so beautiful - but perhaps I was mistaken. I looked again. No, it was certainly so. He was dead. Alas! Alas, for one more good thing gone from the world, for the wanton destruction of life, for what would be no moreā€¦

The percussion started in earnest. It broke the last binding of the enchanting songs. With sudden clarity I broke from my reverie and realized that we were discovered, our short respite now over. I saw others already scrambling and recognized the cacophony, chaos. This is what I am now. The music told of what I was, and what I fought for - but I could never return. My life is death, and my death, I hope, will be life.

I grab my weapon, see the piano speckled with bullet-holes - it too will never play again - and I run. I shoot to kill.

I kill - so that somewhere, music may yet still play.