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Their Music Is Strange

by Paul Kesler

In this ancient music room, tucked in a corner of the castle, you sometimes here the sounds of former times. When the wind is right, a horn will blare, a violin bow will secretly glance across a barely varnished neck, timpani will build to a crescendo. A whisper of applause will rise, the half-wrecked furniture shift slightly. 

When it is over you notice nothing. Except that perhaps an instrument nailed to the wall shows prints that were not there before, or a string, once vanished, will have reappeared. There is no accounting for it. You have come here in the daylight, sometimes during the narrowest hours of the morning, but the instruments show no preference for visitations. Nor do they obey the expected protocol of memory. Gradually, the orchestra will be tenanted with new arrivals, a contorted branch in the shape of some unknown animal will appear, and a different kind of music will sound. Perhaps an existing instrument will mutate, its parts transpose like a material anagram, and introduce itself decorously, with an antiquated gesture from the eighteenth century. 

This menagerie could be a relic, but it is not, since unlike an artifact it is constantly changing, particularly when you are not there. While you are there it behaves with an ill-concealed condescension, audibly bristling, as if waiting for proper acknowledgement. Perhaps, you've conjectured, the room is used to better company, perhaps the constant changes in its countenance and in its inner depths are prompted by despair --- or, lacking deference, an effort to build approval from within its own confines. 

The orchestra, in short, pleases itself. You will come back, of course, but without expectation of pleasure, merely curiosity --- you will return to see what new members of the company have arrived, or which have altered. Is that unusual object with its neck coiled about its limbs behaving prankishly? If so, how will it look tomorrow? Why do these creatures insist on playing tones and rhythms you have never heard before? And what if their morbid incestuousness results, finally, in an abuse of nature, or has it already
done so --- hence these bastard offspring, who continue to play discreetly, while unaware, seemingly, of how they have declined? It is as if they cannot control themselves --- they regard their performances with minds so removed from convention that they have lost contact. They play, but without purpose, and fitfully. You, too, have lost any meaningful rapport, though you return here constantly, as if, like they, you cannot abstain from ritual, no matter how perverted or obscure.

to Paul  ~  to Moongate