Going Back, Going Home

 

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From somewhere he heard a few hesitant notes from a piano. Perhaps it was coming from the back room, but it sounded even further away than that. It was the sound of a piano stretched to the point where it could possibly not even be a piano you were hearing. It could have been an audio hallucination, or just some of the loose and jangling noise of the world. There was no pattern, just a random pinging at the high end of the keyboard. Silence, then a burst of four or five notes.

He went through the front room and into a hallway heavy with shadows. The place was sealed up tight, and only an occasional angle of light snuck in from outside, crepuscular and loaded with slow cruising dust. There was blood on the kitchen floor, a substantial patch of it, cooled to the black edge of maroon, and become almost chalk, or tempera powder. It had splashed up onto the cupboards and across the refrigerator door.

From the kitchen window he could see out into the backyard, where there was an empty doghouse, and there he found his piano: a clunky set of windchimes swaying slowly from a clothesline pole.

At the end of town there were ruins of an ancient fort, perched right at the edge of the ocean on a hill. The ramparts and parapet were all more or less in place, thrown up around a cluster of terraces, each of them situated at a different height and connected by a series of damp tunnels and stone steps and the occasional wooden ladder. Above it all at the southermost end overlooking the water was a large terrace, completely exposed to the stars and sky.

He made his way through the tight lanes of the town to this fort, and through the labyrinths of the fort to the terrace above the ocean. It was a wonderful place for silence; whatever sound made the journey up there was oddly transformed and amplified. The voices from the little tavern at the bottom of the hill sounded as if they were rising from a great well.

The whine of an unseen boat in the darkness lulled him almost to sleep. He saw blazing cruiseships creeping along the distant horizon, and, exhausted and splayed on his back, watched stars crashing again and again into the ocean.

 

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