He was a tall, striking man, confident and passionate about everything he did. Normally he was quiet, but when he spoke, people listened. He was fiery, and his personality was marked with unconquered genius. A newspaper critic once described him as "brilliance personified."

I remember vividly the day that I met him, long ago as it is.

It was in my sophomore year at Juilliard, one winter morning as I searched the halls for an empty practice room. It was a foggy, snowy Manhattan morning and my gloved hands were still numb from the icy chill of the city outside. Rubbing them against each other, I walked the length of the gray-carpeted hallway, glancing swiftly through the window of practice room, only to see that all of them were taken.

As I neared the end of the hall, I began to feel an invasive sense of warmth at the very tips of my fingers, as though a soft beam of heat was permeating through the frozen numbness surrounding them. Stopping dead in my tracks, I glanced at my fingers curiously, only to feel that the air surrounding me was gradually growing warmer. I looked around at the white walls to find a heating vent somewhere nearby. There was none in sight, but as I scanned my surroundings, a thick oak door engraved in bold black lettering with the name "Antoine Leroux" caught my gaze. The name was familiar to me, even though I had never met the man.

He was a special favorite of the Juilliard director's; he had his own studio at the school even though he was supposedly just a graduate student. He was somewhat of a legend among both the Juilliard piano students and the composition students; the story was that his musical abilities went beyond the scope of a normal musician, venturing into the range of the supernatural. Not many people had actually been privileged to hear his playing- as he was somewhat of the lone wolf type- but the few who had heard it said that it wasn't just beautiful music; it was beauty itself.

I paused for a moment with my ear to the thick door, listening closely until I heard a tantalizingly faint whisper of music drifting through the air. It was like nothing I had ever heard in my entire life. The melody and chords were quietly bursting with rich, vibrant warmth so strange to me, yet so beautiful that my breath caught in awe, and I leaned in closer.

On impulse, I turned the silver doorknob and opened the heavy, creaking oaken door a tiny crack, expecting the music to come to an abrupt stop. To my surprised delight, it continued, and I instantly felt alluring waves of heat emanating through the crack between the door and the room. Almost involuntarily I stepped inside, closing the door behind me.

The studio was dark, and I closed my eyes, inhaling deeply to savor the luxuriously soft melody as it streamed from the strings of the piano and crossed every bound of my senses until I was enveloped in a tingling, surreal world of warmth. I say warmth because there is no other word to describe it, but the sensation went beyond mere earthly warmth. Somehow as a result of the soaring music, my mind's eye was gradually engulfed with the vision of an inviting room, heated by a magnificent roaring fireplace. It wasn't simply an image that filled my mind; I truly felt as though I was standing in front of the fireplace, relishing the twisting, dancing flames that licked the air tauntingly near my outstretched hands.

My mind became a peaceful whirl of vivid memories mixed with foreign senses; the room in my alternate awareness smelled faintly of roasted cinnamon, and the lush red carpet on the floor in the vision was thick and soft, and so real to me that I began to wonder at my certainty that it wasn't. I stood still in this room until I gradually felt the piano's music surge louder and clearer, grander, fiercer, the fire slowly grow to white hot, and suddenly in a blinding flash of light, the lavish yet painful heat overcame me and everything in my consciousness faded to black.

When I awoke, my head was lying on the hard, cold wooden floor of the studio, and my hands were once again numb with cold. I lifted my neck, feeling my joints ache as I strained to see in the semi-darkness. The air was chilled, and the lack of sunlight in the room left me colder than ever. My teeth chattered uncontrollably as I looked at the man sitting on the piano bench. He had turned around to face me, and sat staring into space with his strikingly dark, solemn eyes.

I inhaled a sharp breath of air, calming myself just enough to speak. "What happened? Why is it so cold?" I managed to whisper in a raspy voice, pulling myself slowly to a sitting position.

He glided his fingertips over piano keys, looking away. "I stopped playing."

I stared at him, waiting for him to explain his cryptic answer.

He focused his eyes to look directly at me with a troubled gaze. "Something is missing." He said quietly.

I sat speechless in disbelief, staring at the man who shaped the waves of sound like a sculptor with clay, creating something with music that I had never before seen- or heard- in my entire existence, yet somehow, was unsatisfied.

I sat in the dark silence, massaging my frozen fingers for a few moments, waiting for him to explain.

He stared at his hands. "This isn't it." He mumbled without looking up. I couldn't help but ask- "This isn't… what?" A few seconds passed, measured by the ticking sound of the grandfather clock on the opposite wall of the studio.

"My masterpiece." He replied. "I still need to find my masterpiece."