A Short Story
NYC Midnight Madness Short Story Challenge 2009
The music began eleven nights after I moved in.
The Collegno Apartments overlooked a crowded alley that seemed to be a thoroughfare for the vociferous regulars of this colorful district. I knew my tiny flat in this foggy city by the Bay wouldn’t be a quiet spot but I didn’t care. It was mine. There were only six other flats in this four story building. Two each on the first three floors and on the fourth, above me, was a penthouse suite of sorts. Although calling it a suite would be a slight exaggeration; the building looked as though it had been standing for over a century with only a few structural overhauls.
In my first week of residence at Collegno I eagerly checked the names on the mailboxes. I wrote each name down with the intention to introduce myself to these strangers I now cohabited this building with. But it seemed the others were very busy people. I never saw them come or go. Regardless, every afternoon I returned from my daily walk and waited around the lobby in the hopes of casually bumping into another occupant. After an hour or so, I would grow tired of loitering in the lobby and would head back to my flat. I left my window, which overlooked the main entrance, open as often as possible to listen for potential movement, but most of the noise came from the transient travel through the alley.
I began to grow lonely. I was once a very social creature but I noticed that over time I had gravitated towards a more secluded life. Still, even with the loss of dependable interaction I was relieved that I could call this unfamiliar space my home and had desired to meet the other people in the building.
It was on that eleventh night of my perpetual waiting and listening that I heard the first sounds of life. A soft yet vibrant sound of a violin seeped through from the ceiling. I sat up and thought…Finally, someone was home! In my hurry to make the acquaintance of the mysterious musician, I hadn’t realized how late it was. I stumbled up stairs, just a few hours before dawn and stopped in front of the door debating whether or not I should disrupt the violin player. I took the list of names from my pocket.
Penthouse: Dr. Zamora.
I knocked lightly and the music stopped. I heard a pair of foot steps that sounded like those of a child. Then there was some whispering followed by the footsteps of someone much older and heavier then a child. I tried to knock again but the violin solo resumed and I was too entranced by the music to move. My body froze in a serene pleasure. All I could do was listen. As the strings were plucked to a yielding crescendo, the door opened on its own. I looked in and saw what I could only describe as a young girl, emanating a multitude of brilliant light, passionately playing a violin. She looked so familiar. My mind rushed to recognize the memory of her face but before it would appear, someone shut the door and the darkness crept in.
I awoke to the new morning’s sunlight coming through my bedroom window. The confusion began to clear, allowing me to regain memory of everything up to the point of the door closing. I immediately went back up to the penthouse, but there was no response to my vigorous knocking. I went to all the other flats and knocked, one by one, but no one answered. How could no one be home on a Saturday afternoon? Then I heard a noise down in the lobby. I ran down and found the post man delivering the mail.
“Excuse me.” I startled him. “Have you ever met any of the tenants in this building?”
“Of course,” He responded. “Nicest people on my route. You must be the new tenant.”
“Yes. I’m in Apartment Three - O -”
“-Two.” He cut me off. “Zahira Sands, 35 years-old, born and raised in San Diego, moved to San Francisco 12 days ago.”
“Excuse me? How do you know my-”
“Apartment 102, he raves about you.” The postman quickly responded. “And right across your hall, Apartment 301, she told me your story. You know, that’s something I’ve always appreciated about this building, how quickly they all get to know the tenants that have lived in your flat.”
I was stumped. How did they know me? I gathered my thoughts and asked, “Umm... The penthouse. Who lives there?”
“Ahhh....The famous Dr. Zamora. He, Ms. Sands, is your only neighbor I have yet the pleasure to meet.”
“How long has he lived here?”
“Probably as long as this building has been around.” The postman noticed my curiosity. “Don’t worry Ms. Sands,” he continued, “I hear he’s a very nice man.”
“The other tenants have met him?”
“Well, not the tenants that live here anymore. Only the previous tenants of your flat. They’ve told me bits and pieces about him. Apparently he’s a musician." He grabbed something from his bag. "Here.” He pointed to an envelope in his hand. “He receives a lot of mail from this organization.”
I looked at the piece of mail. The envelope was addressed from AMATI: Asomatous Music As Transcendental Insight. The address was hand written. “How often do you see the other tenants?” I asked the postman.
“Everyday Ms. Sands. They seem to like you very much. In fact I was just talking with the family in 201 before you swooped down. They were in a hurry.”
“Where were they going?” I asked.
“To the park, I suppose. The little girl loves the park.” The postman said as he returned to his mail.
I ran to the front door and peered out but saw no family with a little girl walking down the alley. As I stood in the doorway I heard the postman behind me.
“Excuse me Ms. Sands. All done here.”
“Does the little girl play the violin?” I wouldn’t let him leave.
“The girl?” He laughed. “Why she’s only 7. But... I suppose there’s no reason why she wouldn’t. She’s a brilliant little girl.”
“How do you know?”
“Oh, just a guess. Seems like all your neighbors are,” he paused, “exceptional in some way.” He said as he was gathering his things.
“Sorry Ms Sands, I have to finish my route. It was a pleasure to finally meet you.” He grabbed his bag and quickly disappeared.
That night, after a nap, I awoke to the unearthly music of the violin again. I hurriedly ran upstairs and knocked on the door. The music stopped.
“Dr. Zamora? My name is Zahira Sands. I live downstairs. I know you’re home. Please, will you open the door?” There was a long silence then some whispering and the sound of footsteps then silence again.
“Dr. Zamora? I want to know about AMATI.” I yelled.
The violin burst into a vibrato and I heard the bolt unlock but the door remained closed. I mustered up the courage and stepped inside. At first sight, I was nearly blinded by the sight of the young violinist for the second time. The lights bouncing off her skin were soft yet lucid, a kaleidoscope of colorful waves. The music she played was so intoxicating that I felt myself drowning in my own memories. I was so involved that I hadn’t noticed the man close the door. The girl stopped playing and the room fell silent of not just sound but the colors as well.
“That my dear,” came a gentle voice, “is AMATI.”
I turned to see the 7-foot-tall man with deep maroon hair down to his shoulders who seemed well into his 80’s smiling very kindly at me.
“Are you Dr. Zamora?” I asked.
“Of course. Who else would I be?”
I was stumped. I had no answer.
“Relax Zahira, my question was purely rhetorical.” He grinned. “So you’ve come to learn about time travel have you?”
“AMATI.” He continued.
I stared in confusion.
“Asomatous Music as Transcendental Insight. The practice of inter dimensional travel through sound vibration.” He clarified.
“I don’t understand. I just want to get acquainted with my new neighbors.”
“Of course you do. We all do. Without neighbors who would keep us from the death of loneliness?” He paused and his smile invited me to trust him.
“Who is she?” I observed the girl.
“She is a vessel. A traveler so to speak.”
“Does she live here?”
“Yes and no. But that is not important. What is important is why you are here. You can’t seem to let go can you? You are holding on so tight to your memories of the past that you can’t seem to make room for the people in your present.”
“Why haven’t you talked to the others in the building? They are very nice you know. And wonderfully gifted.”
“How do you ... But, I’ve tried everyday to meet them. No one opens their doors or responds to my calling.”
“Have you tried? Have you really tried?”
I grew angry with his circular questioning. “Dr Zamora I don’t know what you are getting at but I am very interested in meeting all the tenants of this building!”
“Good. Then we will travel with the sound.”
“The what? Where to?”
“The general point at which an event occurs overlaps with the vibration of music which in turn connects to a memory of that event. Therefore, what I can bring you is a replication of that event not the actual event.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Taking you back in time. Not forward mind you." He walked to the little girl. "No music exists that would agree to take you there.”
“So then I am not going to travel in time?”
“No. You already have. Time is going to travel in you. You will be who you once were and the you who you once were has a vibrational connection to the you who you are now. Your vibrational present time is a visual connection to the audio vibration of the memory of the viewer or shall we say the listener. Those that hear the music see the memory of that which the music connects them too. You might travel to the memory of a place, an event or a person.”
“But, it can’t bring anyone back.... so it’s not real.”
“Of course it’s real. Take Johann Sebastan Bach for example, a known Free Mason. His compositions were latent with mathematical formulas that contained secrets of the universe and the keys to eternal life. He composed music, the notes and score which where the blueprint for travel without time, motion without space. But, dear Zahira, the purpose of your travel is not pleasure. Nor is it to bring anyone back.”
“What do you mean?”
“Life is sound. You will travel back to let someone go by listening to what is already composed in your memory. Now, would you like to meet your new neighbors?”
I looked at the little girl holding the violin. She too mimicked the gentle Doctor's smile that asked for nothing more than my trust. I was scared to let go, but then what did I really have to lose?
“Ok Dr. Zamora.” I said with a refreshing confidence. “Introduce me.”
The Doctor closed his eyes and turned to the girl. He whispered something to her and without hesitation, she began to play a soft, almost rhythmic melody with the violin. The walls around us dropped away and an influx of the most brilliant light and colors streamed through my mind. I fell to the ground trying to understand the feeling. I couldn’t. I let myself go.
The music continued as the sight of the young girl was replaced by a more familiar face. A face similar to my own. Was I looking in to a mirror? No. It was me, like the Doctor said. It was me in my memory. I saw myself lying on a table, no, on the ground. Asphalt. Then there were people standing around me. Some were crying, some were talking frantically on their phones. I walked to the crowd. I watched them as they sadly looked at the me lying next to the overturned bicycle.
I felt a hand on my back. Dr. Zamora moved me forward. The crowd stopped looking at the me on the ground and turned to stare at the real me. Suddenly, they were all calm and smiling. I heard the voice.
“Zahira, I would like you to meet your neighbors.”