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I Had No Choice

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~~First We Take Manhattan~~

The musician waited.

And waited.

And waited still.

He didn’t know when the signal would come, or what it would be composed of, but he knew he would know it when it happened. Patience wasn’t his strong suit, but this was too important to rush. He could last as long as needed for this.

When it was finally time, his heart pumped fast, and every sound was magnified. Enough sipping champagne with artificially thin and fake people. Time to finally break free, and break out. Enough of hiding in plain sight. Just a little further, and he would be there. Be free.

The musician slipped through the doorway, making sure that his instrument case didn’t bang against anything, and make a noise. It would be cruel if he got caught now. He could see the shadows of the others making their way too. The shadows danced and stretched in the wavering light, as if in anticipation.

As he finally reached his destination, goosebumps broke out across his skin. There were many more musicians than he had thought. He could hear them tuning up, harmony lifting over the discord here and there. Someone clasped his forearm, and gave it a squeeze. They caught his gaze as they passed, and he could see the same fire in their heart there that was burning in his own.

A wild grin broke out across his face, and he hurried to the stage to take his place, and do his own tuning up.

The musician woke each day with fervor. First was Manhattan, and when their music spread like wildfire through the Eastern Seaboard, it was time for London and Paris. Each stop linking like a chain of hope, one by one. Every stop just one step ahead of their pursuers, and each concert one drop in an ocean of lifting sound.

Every concert was a harmonization of life and death, profound silence and rising sound. They blazed a path through Europe, melody in their wake.

~~Take This Waltz~~

The musician knew the music was ephemeral and couldn’t last forever. That was its beauty and gold. It was the hum of the river and the rumble of the ocean, caught for a moment in humankind’s heart.

In Vienna, he danced with life and death, birth and decay. Old and new juxtaposed, and pushing for a hold on the hearts of the old and young. His fire ebbed and flowed, morphing as his steam ran out.

He had always known this time would come, the bittersweet ashes that were left by their blazing trail catching up with him, choking the sound out of him. He didn’t know the form of his downfall until she appeared before him, singing songs of bittersweet excess.

The swirl and twirl of skirts were now incongruous with the melancholy music flowing hardest, like eddies of sweet discontent. But, oh, how this new sound spoke to his soul now that his fire was dampening down to burning coals.

With sensual, smooth touch, he gifted her with all he had, slowed down and stripped to its bleached bones. With a secretive smile, she pulled him into her arms and swept him up into her song. He drowned in his love for her, and the smell of lilies.

La petite mort of his heart and lungs.

~~Jazz Police~~

With nervous glances, he followed her towards the center square. His gaze caught on two men in trench coats, and then two more in sport coats. They all acted as if they weren’t watching him, but the hairs on the back of his neck stood up.

He made a break for it. She just smiled confidently as he broke off down an alley with the police on his tail. He dodged down side streets, and small, dank alleys, but it was futile. They cornered him near where his niece lived.

As he was dragged down to the station, his ears were ringing. Forced into a small room with a mirror, he was handcuffed to a metal table. One of the detectives slammed a thick folder ono the table as he settled in the seat opposite.

The musician watched as photos fanned out on the table. Manhattan. London. Paris. Berlin. And finally Vienna. Most were poor quality, grainy CCTV frames with his hat blocking his face, or his coat shielding his instrument case. Vienna’s photos were crystal clear, however. He wanted to throw up.

She had played him, and sold him out. The musician shook in his seat, but inside his fire was roaring back to life.

They would get nothing from him. The others were safe to continue their rampage of melody through the cities. He let his fingers tap out a staccato beat on the chair arm as he smiled.

The policeman looked at his tapping fingers, and then at his face. He was frowning. The musician just tapped harder.

~~Tower of Song~~

After years of solitude, the musician’s inner fire was reduced to cold ashes. There was no music in the tower. Separated and isolated, the stone absorbing nearly every sound.

He stood near the wall under the small, high window. The sun shined a small patch of light and warmth on him. The stone floors and walls kept the tower cold year round, brutally so in the winter. He almost looked forward to the periodic interrogations because they got him out of the cold tower.

He let a bitter and tiny smile cross his lips. He had never broken, and he knew by the continued interrogations that his friends had escaped. They were still out there making music dance across the earth.

His imagination was his only comfort. He could picture them in Budapest or Tokyo or Perth. Spreading crashing music and rising harmonies. His dreams, unfortunately, were filled with her. He had loved her, but it wasn’t until now he understood her. His fire was gone completely, and now the songs in his heart were only melancholy blues, filled with lonesome guitars.

He was bitter, but not filled with regret. He had flown to the glorious heavens on the wings of sound, and it was worth every cold, soundless day he was stuck here with their silence and voodoo dolls.