Instrument

by Martin James Hunter

 

A week ago I was dropped from my record label and only have myself to blame. I should have been aware of how quickly commercial music fell in and out of favour but with my immediate success also came blindness.

I begin again from scratch yet it does not take long for me to grow bored with the familiar. So I tinkle with the inside of my piano and distort the tuning then place items between the hammers until every key sounds unique. I spend weeks assembling a cacophony through mashing and caressing. Deciding on a direction to travel before I begin. Eventually I find myself waltzing clumsily forward as though blindfolded and spun and pushed.

Whenever a portion of the song feels even vaguely familiar I replace it with something unusual. My composition warps and spreads like a beautiful cancer, but fails to satisfy yet. There is something still out there.

My girlfriend leaves to visit her parents and I use this period to experiment with a variety of psychedelic substances. The product of these sessions are mostly astounding until I am sober again. Sometimes I screech with laughter at particular chords, or lie there moaning and rolling my eyes a meter from my instrument. Once I couldn’t even bring myself to face the keys.

I end my chemical sessions no closer to success and eventually my head recalibrates. Before I know it I am battering and stabbing the keys again. My girlfriend returns enquiring about the dreadful noise I’m concocting.

I have gotten nowhere over the course of two months. A part of me is convinced my obsession is getting me nowhere. But for now the part of me that believes otherwise still has the upper hand.

All of a sudden I feel something from my composition, a peculiarity that evokes curiosity. I immediately write down the sequence, imprisoning it in scrawls across paper. My handwriting has degraded significantly.

Over the course of a few hours I discover more pieces of this puzzle. Combinations of notes fitting impeccably together. Bound with unprecedented beauty like two perfect lovers entangled in lust. All it took was the first piece and now it is growing itself like a living thing, its birth and development and whatever else lies ahead.

For a while I am convinced that what I am writing is the greatest song in the world. Later I realise it is much more than this, more than just music. I carry on, determined to unlock this puzzle. To release the rewards hidden within its intricacies.

She kisses my head, breaking my concentration. Irritated, I nudge her away and put a finger to my lips. She coos as I play but I take no notice. Eventually she wanders off, leaving me alone with my piano. Leaving me to solve this enigma, to writhe alone in its reward.

Night draws over the town again but neither the instrument or I plan to sleep. My girlfriend attempts to separate us with the promise of sex but again I ignore her. She becomes persistent, rubbing my shoulders, kissing my neck, giggling. I snap and curse and salivate leaving her wide-eyed and silent and trembling, before returning to the instrument to play her out.

As the sky grows darker so do my thoughts, my obsessions lying with the notes and keys I sow together like an elaborate embroidery. By this stage my creation has become so complex I have no choice but to develop my own language of sheet music consisting of unique symbols and runes.

My eyes are unable to part from the instrument for any more than a few minutes. When my girlfriend awakens the following morning she can tell right away I have not slept. She tells me to go to bed and leaves for work. I carry on regardless for what I know will be the rest of the day.

Throughout the afternoon the doorbell is rung and the letterbox is chattered and I hear the handle being tried, but still I remain on my stool. I draw the curtains, my only light from a single lamp atop of my instrument.

I think she comes home at some point, finished with work and perhaps worried about me, but the furniture against the doors prevents her from entering. As she shouts to me I am vaguely aware I have forgotten her name. My music drowns out the sound of knuckles on glass and the cry of the phone and eventually she leaves for her mother’s or the police station leaving me with a canvas of silence.

My composition is almost complete, its locks filled with ivory keys. Only a few gaps remain. With each I have a system which involves narrowing down the possibilities until I am left with only the correct answer. Each one is filled quicker than the last. The end draw closer with incredible speed.

A wonderful chord slots right into place amongst its brothers and sisters and I am certain I have reached the end of this conundrum. With a trembling hand I add this final note to my sheet music. In its completion it has become nothing short of a masterpiece, a scroll so rich in information as to send musicians and scholars wild.

I begin to play the song from beginning to end for the first time, seeming, at first, as unusual as reading out a completed crossword. Each note sends a shudder up my spine, every chord a stroke of pleasure. As I progress I feel my natural chemicals twisting into forbidden substances.

My breathing quickens with my fingers, and my eyes dart from paper to instrument to paper to instrument to paper to instrument and spittle hangs from my chin, spattering over my musical notations with every stuttered breath, the pencilled scrawls spiralling out of control and indecipherable to anyone but myself.

As the song nears completion, I feel myself growing harder and the sensations in my body intensifying. My limbs shudder, my breath comes in short stabs, the sweat meanders over my face, dribbling over my body, my fingers, the ivory, intertwining with my instrument, filling it. I hit the final chord and let it ring, falling back from my stool as though struck by a fist, lost to an orgasm. Euphoria shoots through every vein and artery and bone and organ and even the hairs in my head.

I am blinded by the pleasure that the music has unlocked. Tears of happiness rush down my face at the sensations traversing my body. I go into another wild fit of ecstasy, jerking and trembling and salivating and screeching with laughter. Then I pass out.

 

I wake up in a pit of darkness and the phone is ringing. Clumsily I get to my feet and feel for my instrument, embracing it with blind arms. I sit on its stool, my new ability pulsing through me like a superpower. Begging to be unleashed again.

I tinkle the keys with light fingers, teasing us both. A vast hunger almost cripples me, a reminder it has been aeons since I ate. I play a few gluttonous notes and a thousand tastes come at once, quenching me. My bladder is full, but I have no time for toilet trips. A soft splash of ivory fixes that.

My blindness is unconcerning. At my defunct sense. The landscapes of my music are all I need now, realms more vivid than anything attainable by human sight.

The doorbell rings and the police identify themselves, demanding I open up. I continue playing until I hear them bursting through the door. They scream commands at me as they storm up my hallway, but halt upon entering the living room.

I play something alluring for them. Twenty minutes of incredible beauty. It is the least I can do since it is the last piece they will ever hear. As my song progresses I hear them cry and laugh and sing and fight and dance and scream and fuck. They submit to the music, becoming its marionettes. When I finish I give them a moment to savour their experience and ponder what came over them. Then I play a few tyrannical chords, wiping them screaming from existence.

I repair the front door with a swipe of my left hand. With my right I erase my girlfriend from my life, casting her into the arms of another. I smile to myself, the canvas again blank. Once more I begin playing, a piece dedicated to myself.

The flesh of my fingers parts and trembles as I play, layers flapping open like gills, absorbing the music as it is produced, letting it run up my arms and amongst my organs and down my legs and seeping from every orifice like a chaotic perfume.

With each segment of my next song, evidence of my existence is wiped from databases and memories alike until I no longer officially exist. With a second symphony, a more powerful and despotic number, I imprint into the citizens of the world the instinct to never come near my home, and for them to never question it.

My next song grants me eternal life, and my piano too. Together, we become one, an inseparable being of flesh and wood and ivory and bone, entangled in an intricate network of tendons and veins and strands of muscle, my blood rushing through its structure and vitalising it and vice versa. From my body, a great curtain of flesh has drawn over the grand instrument, and bone has fused with oak.

I begin to weep again, tears of happiness splashing over my keys and fingers, knots of living tissue leaking fluid. A vast spectrum of emotions converge on the heart we share; an amalgamation of music and flesh.

 

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