I sat on the airplane and looked out the dusty window as the plane began its slow descent, watching as the early morning outside flew past me with the same rushed haste that the last three years of my life had passed me by. Yet, just as the last three years, I could not pick out any detail from the scenery beyond; it was a mere blur of colors and sights, hazy and meaningless.

A few months after that lunch with Kallie, I transferred to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, the city where I had been studying for the last three years. The time I spent there had been dreary slopes of demanding routine, and the memories- of events only a few days ago- merely shrouded my consciousness like a cloak woven with unnamed faces and insignificant experiences. Even the music that I played, which once offered me relief from all in life that was tiresome, now was the very source of all that was dull and tiresome. Whenever I touched the piano keys, my head would ache for a moment and the memory of that day in Antoine Leroux's studio would fill my consciousness like a haunting nightmare, involuntarily noting the incomparable difference between the genius of his extraordinary musical power, and the mediocrity of my weak artistic interpretations.

I looked down at the soft beige envelope that lay open on my lap, staring blankly at the card embossed with elegant script, sitting atop the envelope. It was a wedding invitation, from Antoine Leroux and Kallie Emmet, dated the twenty-third of January- two and a half months ago- but I hadn't seen it until this morning because of the massive pile of mail that lay stacked on top of it, over-accumulated from my month long trip in Austria.

Apparently- I had found just barely in time- the wedding was taking place tomorrow; a fact that upon discovering I booked a flight to the La Guardia airport. Once my ticket was bought, I finally took the initiative to call Kallie for the first time in three years, telling her that I desperately had to see her one last time before her wedding.

"Without a doubt." She had agreed, her tone ringing with enthusiasm even over the phone. "We'll meet for dinner at the Four Seasons, and then go to his concert together."

I had stood still for a moment before hanging up, simply savoring the fullness, the reality of her voice as it echoed through the walls of my apartment, waking emotions in me that had been restrained for too long, now soaring high, giddy despite the looming realization of the short life ahead.

I stayed in motion only for the sake of warmth, pacing back and forth in the harsh, cold wind outside the airport, until finally I hailed down a taxi and gave him directions to the hotel I would be staying at. After placing my solitary suitcase into the trunk, I sat in the back seat with a sigh, sinking into nostalgia as I gazed with new eyes at all the sights of New York City so well-known to me. The familiar knot in my chest tightened as we drove, and I was helpless in staunching the flow of bittersweet memories, but I took a deep breath and rested my head against the seat, somehow relishing the rush of emotion that was flooding through me, preferring the intense, aching despair to the dead emptiness that had been the norm for the last three years.

Among the multitude of display screens advertising on Times Square, a great number of them streamed with pictures of a man's face, a man dignified features and dark, solemn eyes that seemed hauntingly familiar to me. It wasn't until I asked the taxi driver about it that I received an answer.

"You don't know?" The man chuckled heartily, his great paunchy stomach heaving against the steering wheel. "I thought for sure you were one of the thousands of fans that flew into Manhattan today just to see the show." He turned and gave me a strange look, leaning back towards me slightly. "Supposedly," he said in a conspiratorial tone, "the man can do some sort of supernatural hypnotizing thing with music." He straightened in his seat, laughing as he did so. "Personally, I don't give a damn about all that sort of stuff."

I forced a polite smile and nodded, but realization was slowly dawning on me. The man on all those screens must have been Antoine Leroux. I didn't recognize him because I had only caught a glimpse of his face- that one day so long ago- before discreetly letting myself out of his studio, and had not only forgotten how he looked, but just how famous he was. Apparently New York City had not.

I began to notice crowds of people lining the streets, rushing to buy last-minute tickets outside box offices that advertised with signs so bright they almost shouted the words- "Antoine Leroux: The Music Man, One and Only Showing."

When the taxi passed the theater district and finally arrived at the Four Seasons Hotel, I breathed a sigh of both relief and trepidation. Hesitant, I walked through the revolving glass door entrance and caught a brief glimpse of Kallie before she ran at me, with her long dark hair streaming behind her, and threw her arms around my neck without restraint.

"How are you? How was your flight? For god's sake, how have you been? And why did you leave so suddenly, only to never talk to me again?" The questions were hurled at an alarming rate, but she smiled at me, her eyes lighting up like they always had.

"Oh never mind, you're probably tired. There's plenty of time to talk now." She said, pulling me to sit down at a restaurant table.

I had to hold back a bitter laugh. There would never be enough time to tell her everything that I wanted to.

Dinner was uneventful, but she continually raved about her fiancé with an ardor that I probably would have found nauseating if I myself had not been fascinated by him. Peculiarly enough, it wasn't difficult to quiet the voices in my mind that shouted at me to tell her how I felt; I simply listened to her stories about him, intrigued against my will.

Reluctantly, she told me that he had recently been working on what he proudly called his "masterpiece."

"It's kind of flattering, actually; he told the all the reporters that it's about me." She smiled, looking away demurely.

"But it's all very secret;" she added, "no one has heard the piece, and tonight will be the only showing of it."

We wove our way through masses of people, toward the box seats that Kallie had reserved. The grand concert hall was packed, and filled with more noise than it had previously contained probably throughout the entirety of the last decade. I sat in a soft velvet seat next to Kallie, watching as she scanned the hall, her eyes anxious.

Gradually people were ushered to their seats, and the sound of a bell rang through the hall, signaling for the performance to begin.

The superintendant gave a lengthy introduction, boring half the audience to sleep, until, finally, amidst deafening applause, Antoine Leroux walked onto the stage, his head held upright in a regal manner.

When he sat at the piano, the hall immediately melted into a mesmerizing silence, quiet enough to hear the legs of the piano bench squeaking slightly as he adjusted it. But when he finally began, the music flooded my consciousness like a waterfall pouring over a parched desert. The melody streaming throughout the great hall was enthralling and magnetic, compelling all who listened into rapt attention. The only inhabitant in the world of sound was his music.

Every chord played, every piano key touched, was reminiscent of Kallie. I had no reason to close my eyes; already a vision was materializing in front of me, vivid and luminous, with clearer definition than my view of reality. The mirage was of Kallie, but she appeared different, as though somehow elevated beyond the bounds of physical realism. Her skin glowed softly, as though exuding a magnificent light to glorious to contain. Her eyes were a darker, deeper blue, more alive and vibrant than I had ever seen them. Her smile was a silent laugh, brilliant, beaming with earth-shattering happiness. But the vision was not simply a picture of her, looming in my mind's eye. It was filled with scenes of her that I had never witnessed, yet felt to my eyes somehow familiar. And then there were some of my own memories of her blended into the hallucination, always tinged with an air of helplessness and regret, as though watching fine grains of sand slip slowly through my fingers.

I dimly felt a hand grasping mine, as though from another world, another existence. The thin, delicate fingers were strangely cold and feeble, but even the vague physical sensation caused the effervescent heat of the hallucination to momentarily falter, blurring slightly for a second, until it surged again, stronger than ever, a powerful force locked over all of my senses.

The vision seemed to continue over an inestimable amount of time, growing in strength over my consciousness. The silken touch of the mirage became a virtual reality swirling around me, and I drifted without any semblance of control in the churning waves of bittersweet oblivion. It was a vision pulsing with the very heartbeat of life, a life that belonged to Kallie.

What seemed like ages later, the last chord was struck, a mournful sound that resonated softly throughout the spacious hall with a haunting radiance. The vision died away from my sight, and as my senses slowly returned to their normal state, I became conscious of the ice-cold hand that no longer grasped mine, but simply lay there, the small wrist limp and lifeless. My brain stuttered for an instant, unable to comprehend. I closed my eyes, subconsciously trying to shut out the true reality. The vision of Kallie jolted through my mind like an electric shock before I opened my eyes again to look upon the real Kallie, a mere corpse; cold, ashen, and dead.