Music never dies.
[Jon+Vangelis \\ King Is Sailing]
Henry Taggart had watched his orca watching little Dana for hours, and now he was wondering what was going on between them. They had been staring at one another for hours — at least it felt that way to Henry — and there had been two occasions during this communal trance when he had seen his little girl literally growing before his eyes. He had blinked in disbelief but yes, he was certain he had seen her legs grow longer during one spurt, and by what looked like a couple of inches. A few minutes later her forehead seemed to expand, and during this spurt he had leaned over to look at her; her eyes had rolled back in her head and her body had appeared almost rigid, and he had turned away – still not knowing what all this was about. He had spoken her name just then but she had either ignored him or been completely unaware of his presense, so he had retreated to the wheel and silently kept his eye on them both.
His own link to the orca was tenuous at best, but Debra’s was now so strong it too was beginning to bother him, yet nothing he had seen or experienced yet could have prepared him for the almost total connection Dana and his orca shared — and this had also begun to concern him – but now more than just a little. Had orcas always been wired this way, to communicate with humans like this, or was ‘his’ orca somehow different? If this one was different from other orcas, in what way? Physically? How so? And perhaps most importantly, why?
But…why was Dana now so deeply connected to this particular orca? Or was she limited to this one only?
Dana Richardson, on the other hand, seemed to Henry almost adrift. Lonely in the extreme and still grieving the loss of her mother in the crash of the American 777, Henry found he wanted to keep a close eye on her too, and even Sumner Bacon felt something was deeply wrong with the girl. So much so that at one point during their second day out from Hilo, Sumner advised Henry that he thought the girl might be suicidal…
…yet little Dana expressed no such concern. In fact, she seemed quite sure that the older girl was adjusting to her current reality, and that while it might take time she would, in the end, be alright.
And this ‘revelation’ happened just after little Dana and the orca broke off their little symbiotic trance-dancing marathon. Indeed, when little Dana broke off during their second night out Henry watched as his orca returned to aquaTarkus, resuming his patrol duties beside Debra.
And soon after this happened little Dana came up to him, and with a start he realized that now she was over five feet tall. He’d shaken his head in bemused disbelief when he saw that, but then she came close and spoke in hushed tones: “Daniel Wingren is in trouble. If you want to help him, you must do so soon.”
“I must…do what?”
“You must go to him. I can not bring him back without your presence there.”
“My connection to him is weak.”
“Look, I thought the whole idea was to remove him from the equation, ya know? So, why…”
“His death is unnecessary now, and it would be pointlessly cruel,” she said, studying her father’s face.
‘Is she testing me?’ he wondered — but he already knew the answer to that one. ‘Children are always testing their parents. It’s how they learn,’ he sighed. But still she merely looked at him, watched the changing expressions on his face chasing phantoms across amber waves of guilt.
“Okay,” he said. “But I’m assuming you’ll be able to bring us back. Uh…right?”
“Yes, Father,” she said — as she looked skyward.
And yes, there it was. Another blue sphere descending through the clouds, settling just over the aft deck — and then he felt a hot prickly sensation as the sphere enveloped him…
Harry Callahan had grown so used to the little pink and blue motes hovering around the ceiling that he almost never took note of them now, and all memories of his earlier encounters with the Blues and Greens had all but disappeared, so both he and Deborah Eisenstadt were blissfully unaware that Jim’s presence had been noted by one of the spheres. And when Callahan returned from his impromptu trip to the high desert he found both Deborah and Brendan waiting for him by the piano in the living room, and still he didn’t take note.
“We were watching you,” Deborah told him when he asked why they were waiting for him. “While you played Debussy and Gershwin, we were watching you both.”
Brendan was staring at him – for once – and not completely focused on problems in the ether, but then he spoke: “The way it reacted,” Brendan said, “was strange. I thought of the word hypnotic.”
“As in hypnotized?” Harry asked.
And Brendan nodded. “I think so, but not quite. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“I doubt anyone has, Brendan,” Deborah sighed, still trying to come to terms with events. “When he first appeared I thought he was going to kill us…”
“Well, he’s coming back tomorrow night,” Callahan grinned, “and he’s bringing along some friends.”
“What?” Deborah and Brendan said, in stereo.
“I think he wants to share what he experienced.”
“Why do you think it reacted the way it did, Harry?” Brendan asked…
…and Callahan had to think about that one for a minute…
“You know, maybe because all they’ve experienced of humanity is our inherent chaos, and so maybe the beautiful things we’ve created have been hidden from view.”
Brendan seemed to think about that one for a while, too. “But why would chaos be the only thing they see?”
Harry took in a deep breath, then he shook his head: “You know what, Brendan? Maybe there’s more profit in chaos than there is in beauty.”
“But that would mean that the most important thing to us is profit, wouldn’t it?” the boy asked.
“Yes, it would.”
“I was thinking, though. Would you like to play the guitar for them?”
Brendan looked stumped by that. “I still need a guitar.”
“Well, yeah, you want to look now or wait ‘til morning?”
Callahan nodded and took off for the studio, with Deborah and Brendan following along close behind – and with several blue motes dancing among the ceiling beams as they too came along. Harry flipped on the main lights in the old, original recording studio and walked over to the control room, then took Brendan to the instrument room beyond.
His eyes lit up like a kid turned loose in a candy store, but his eyes zeroed in on a Martin and he walked over to it and took it down from the stand. “Is this an OM-42?” he asked.
And Callahan nodded. “That’s right. A friend of my son, Todd Bright, used to play that one a lot and he ended up giving it to him. My boy liked the tone, but I also think he liked the way the frets feel.”
Brendan quickly checked the state of tune then launched into a breathtakingly long flamingo riff, then he dropped into a very mellow rendering of Norwegian Wood, and all the while his face was turned to the sky. Callahan thought it strange, one more time, that the boy seemed to find all he needed up there in the clouds.
His flesh seemed to be on fire. Literally — on fire. Hairy blue streamers of electricity arced off Taggart’s forearms and thighs, and each one hurt, and badly.
Then as quickly as it had come on the pain was gone, and he was standing in an arid gully. The air smelled burnt and overwhelmingly putrid, like sulphur dioxide, and as he looked around the first thing that came to mind was that he was inside a huge, shallow caldera. Great gouts of yellowish steam were venting everywhere he looked, and the sky seemed to be — on fire. Beyond the sky he could see the great comet, and it was huge and now appeared close to impact.
The next thing he noticed was something that looked very much like a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and probably because it was. The most not annoying thing about this was that the Tyrannosaur seemed to staring right at him, and it did not seem in the least amused. It also seemed hungry.
Then he heard a man — screaming. And this was out of place, to say the least.
“Hey, motherfucker!” the man shouted next. “Over here!”
And there was Daniel Wingren, about fifteen meters up a rock face — and with several small, very hungry looking dinosaurs trying to figure out a way to get to him, presumably to eat him. Taggart had to assume that Wingren had been trapped up here for about forty eight or so hours, so he was probably ready to come to terms. He sure looked that way.
Unfortunately, the Tyrannosaur did not appear either ready, or willing, for that matter, to indulge Henry’s wishes, as it was now sprinting towards Taggart.
Henry put his hands in his pockets and shook his head and, knowing it was going to hurt he stepped back inside the sphere. He didn’t consciously do anything other than look at Wingren, and the sphere drifted over to the rock face and hovered a few meters away from the totally wigged-out mercenary.
“Well?” Taggart barked. “What are you waiting for? It sure looks like that comet is going to impact in a couple of minutes, so maybe you were you planning on hanging around for the finale?”
One of the Velociraptors was scaling the wall now and was only a few meters away.
“What do I do?”
“You need to promise…no more bullshit. No more trying to fuck around with Debra. Got it?”
The Velociraptor snapped at Wingren’s ankles.
“Fuck yes I agree!”
“Okay. Hop aboard.”
Wingren hopped. The sphere did its thing. An instant later they were hovering over the Swan, then they were dumped unceremoniously on deck…
And about then Dana Richardson came up the companionway steps carrying dinner, but she stopped and wrinkled her nose. “What is that smell?” she cried.
“That would be him?” Taggart said, pointing at Wingren. “Too many beans for lunch, I reckon.”
“Gee, thanks a bunch, asshole,” Wingren sighed under his breath.
“Hey,” Taggart added, pointing at the orca swimming alongside. “Ready for another bath?”
Little Dana stared at the man for a moment, then she turned away in disgust, while Debra – still on aquaTarkus and now about fifty meters off the Swan’s port quarter – looked at Wingren’s aura and finally relaxed.
Callahan waited by the piano, sitting on the bench and watching the last light of evening fade away, and he was alone in the room now, waiting. He started playing random notes, letting his fingers find what they may in the gathering night, and he closed his eyes, drifting, and he relived the moment when bullets slammed into his knee. He drifted again, felt Fujiko rocking on top of him in the moonlight at the inn of the spires, and as quickly his father was racing across the Bay Bridge while his Looney Junes bled out with her head in his lap…and then he saw his son Lloyd, with Todd Bright sitting by his side, and they were both grinning madly — at no one in particular — and he thought they looked like something out of Alice in Wonderland. ‘Ooh, who was that?’ he thought. ‘The Cheshire cat…?’
When he opened his eyes Jim was staring at him, his eyes lost in the wonder Callahan had felt as he relived those last few moments.
“Did you see those memories?” Harry asked.
‘I did, yes. You have experienced so much grief, I wonder how you have endured?’
Callahan looked at the others in the room now; a female and what appeared to be two children were with Jim, and so Harry turned to Jim. “Is this your family?”
“It is, yes. This is my companion. Call her Becky. And these are our boys, Tom and Huck.”
“Excuse me, but I’m seeing a pattern here. I take it you’ve been reading some of our literature?”
“Yes, on the journey here.”
“You just arrived?”
“Two of your months ago. We are not allowed to leave our facility without permission.”
“What do you do here?”
“I study humans. Tell me, what was that music you were playing just now?”
“It wasn’t a song. It was more like walking through a field full of memories.”
“Ah, just so. I think I experienced that. Could you play the same music again? The music that you played last night?”
Callahan nodded, but then he turned to Jim’s youngest son, Huck, and he asked the boy to come stand beside him for a moment. “Put your hands here,” Harry said, indicating the area between the keyboard and the soundboard, “and tell me what you feel…”
And Callahan drifted back into Moonlight, the Clair de Lune, and the boy’s head snapped back as vibrations coursed through his body. He played slowly, gently, and the boy began to glow – just as his father had – and soon the other boy – Tom – came and stood beside his brother, and he too placed his hands on the piano.
Completely unexpected emotion coursed through their beings, emotion so foreign and yet so universal, feelings so pure, so uncluttered that they too began to weep, and as they made their way – together – through the closing notes the boys began to drift on unseen currents.
Undercurrents of melancholy reflection define Gershwin’s Preludes, but the Second is the most emotionally complex and now Becky came to the piano, joining her boys as Callahan took them on a hidden journey inside the transition from classical structures to the more emotive jazz-blues forms taking hold in the 1920s. He changed timing, sinking deeper into the dreamy flowing grace of a lullaby and he could feel all of Jim’s family drifting off…
…and he felt himself walking down Bourbon Street, the old red brick pavement still wet and he could hear thunder in the distance, a soft breeze, soft like a careless whisper, carrying this uneasy memory along…
…to the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth…to where he first really experienced Wagner…and he wandered through a final passage in the Liebestod…
…and then he was in the living room of the old green house near Carmel and he could hear his mother playing…playing…
…Camille Saint-Saëns, the Aquarium sequence from The Carnival of the Animals and without thinking he began playing the piece, the sudden jarring transition from Gershwin and Wagner electrifying the boys, and even Jim seemed taken aback by the changes he too experienced…
…but nothing could have prepared the boys or their mother as he flung them all into the Rhapsody in Blue, and just like their father the night before, the boys began to leave the floor, to flutter like flags in a freshening breeze. Callahan wanted them to get a sense of human exuberance, to fall under the spell of Times Square at midnight on New Year’s Eve and the sheer mass of humanity coming together to celebrate together in the middle of the night…
And just as Gershwin’s Rhapsody wound down Brendan came out with the Martin and be walked slowly through an instrumental take on the Beach Boys God Only Knows, and with that Jim drifted over and examined the instrument while he could, before he too drifted away, lost inside the many kaleidoscoping cross currents echoing around the space.
Perhaps an hour had passed when Brendan stopped playing, but by that point Jim and his family appeared completely spent. His wife and children bowed once then disappeared, leaving Jim in the room with Harry, Brendan, and Deborah.
‘I must thank you,’ Jim said, ‘but my wife wanted me to tell you how much she appreciates your willingness to share something so precious with us.’
Harry nodded. “It was our pleasure. Please tell her anytime she wants to drop by, she’s more than welcome. Your children too, of course.”
And this seemed to startle Jim, though he expressed his thanks again and then disappeared.
Dan Wingren stood on the aft swim deck with a bucket of seawater and a bottle of Palmolive dish soap, washing his hair over and over, trying to get the sulfuric stench out of his scalp – without much luck. He lathered up a loofa and started on his arms, rubbing until his skin began showing signs of serious abrasion…
“I told you it was cruel,” little Dana whispered to Henry.
And Taggart sighed. “I was kind of scary,” he sighed. “Ten more minutes and I think that comet would’ve made impact.”
“It is what you wanted,” Dana quipped.
“You’re right. It was cruel. Remind me not to do anything like that again, okay?”
“I can’t do that.”
“I can’t interfere in matters of Free Will.”
“That is not my purpose here.”
“You have a purpose?” Henry asked.
“Yes, of course. Don’t you?”
“Who, me? Of course I do. I’m the fly in the ointment, in case you didn’t know.”
“Is that another one of your jokes?”
“Do you always joke to deflect introspection?”
She nodded. “This is difficult.”
“Excellent! Say Dan? Need some sandpaper? There’s some 40 grit in the toolbox?”
“Fuck you, Taggart!”
“No thanks. I’m trying to quit.”
Dana looked at her father and sighed.
“Well, that seemed to go well,” Callahan said — to no one in particular.
“I thought so too,” Deborah added, still in a state of shock.
Brendan seemed pensive. “Those children were taller than you, Harry.”
“You gotta start somewhere, kid. And you know something? You’re pretty good on that thing.”
“It has a lovely sound,” Brendan said, looking at the Martin admiringly. “You said it was your son’s? Where is he?”
“I’m not really sure, Brendan. He’s been gone for a while, and I’m not real sure what happened, or where he went.”
“How old is he?”
“Oh, a couple years younger than you.”
“There’s a picture of him on the wall in his room, up on a stage with Bright. Does he know them?”
“Yes. He and Todd Bright were friends — for a while. Say, we need to put that guitar back on the rack,” Harry said, getting up from the piano and heading for the studio. He stopped in the kitchen for a bottle of water, then grabbed his cane and continued on, his prosthesis really chafing tonight. He made his way to the studio and flipped on the overhead lights…
And Lloyd was sitting at the piano.
And Todd Bright was standing next to him.
Both were grinning. Just like a couple of Cheshire cats.
© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…
[Beach Boys \\ Feel Flows]