The Dream Melody

Photo by KELLEPICS, courtesy of Pixabay.

Perhaps, finally, he had gone mad.

It was to be expected, after all. Whoever knew him, and meant him well, told him he ought to stop. Rest, breathe, walk, clean yourself, eat, sleep – these were their words of advice. Maybe he should have listened. Their concern should have roused him from his stupor. Their resignation should have been a call to sobriety. The pangs of hunger and the sickening tiredness, that alone should have been enough for him to give in. And yet. And yet! And yet when they placed their hands on his shoulder, pleading with him. He shrugged them off – there were movements coming together and he could feel their electric jolts throughout himself. Then when they left, calling him a drunk, a lunatic, a waste, he took another swig, out of spite, and tapped his hand around in the half dark looking for his pen. And what did this madman, this drunk fool, get for all his effort? Why, he had done what every artist had strived to do for centuries: he brought dreams to reality. 

Darkness set in. 

The kind of darkness in which one begins to doubt his own presence on this world. Where the bounds of a person and that which surrounds them become – tenuous. Any other lesser kind of darkness and he would have simply kept on writing. The piano lay silent, hollow and cold, though he could still hear the notes. They were slow now, like lazy droplets of rain on a spring morning, they came to him. At any moment, however, the breeze might become a gale, a sprinkling of rain a violent downpour, and the pleasant and well-tempered melody might turn into a barely discernable flood of harmonies. 

He breathed in, deeply. 

The air was thick with the smell of life, of decay and stagnation. It was biting cold, but still humid. Blood pumped through his body as he brought the air in, and he could really feel it now, streaming, engorging and contracting, it was as intoxicating as brandy. He couldn’t tell very well if his eyes were open or closed. For a while, piecing the notes together, he thought he saw colors. But as he heard the sounds echo through his mind now, he knew he could see everything: the places, the people, memories brought to life. He could smell them, too, the flowers of the Parisian gardens, the smoldering ruins of the catacombs – the drying death of a thousand skulls and the perfume of a young mademoiselle mixed with the elegance and beauty of a Viennese waltz. If he reached out his hand into the darkness, he might very well touch the mossy wall of an abandoned Roman Castle, or the gleaming skin of the fruit put on display in an Alexandrian market, or the cold of an Alpine mountain stream, or… 

…he dared not extend his hand. A dull but certain feeling informed him, that in the dark waited only the bony, cold hand of Death. It had come for all he loved, it had sucked out their final breaths, left them quiet and pale, indifferent to all he would ever do. His tears fell on hard, hollow caskets, just as now his fingers played on a hollow, formless keyboard. 

The melody distorted itself. The succession of notes became erratic, its rhythm changing like the sea wind. 

His love, his heart, his friends, and family, they peered at him through the darkness, their eyes warm and tranquil, but indifferent. The composer swallowed and drew back. Tears streamed down his swollen, many-colored cheeks, purple from brandy, black from sleeplessness. He called out to them, but his voice was lost in a crescendo played by his mind. His throat choked; his chest compressed. He wanted to rise, to embrace them all one more time, to feel the electricity of their touch as he did feel the music. But his body, depleted of all vitality, failed him, and he could only lean back in his chair, paralyzed. 

He cried pitifully. 

 It was not the first time he had cried himself to sleep. In the morning the maid will find him, half dead, lying on a floor, in filth, reeking of drink, ill with fever, ink everywhere, on the composition sheets, on his hands, his face, the piano keys, the wallpapers, spilled on the floor… a doctor will be called. The Doctor will prescribe aspirin and advise him to rest and recuperate, knowing full well his regular patient will do neither. But for now, the composer sleeps, drifting between painful coughs and migraines. Heavenly weightlessness and abandon, monsters in dark forests and crypts filled with bones, gardens awash with warm light and the sweetness of a loved one’s kiss.

As he awakes, he will at first remember nothing of his visions. Even his grief and his loss will be away from him for a moment or so. For a moment, he will be at peace. But he need not worry, his efforts will not be in vain. 

It will all come back to him, when once again dreams appear in the darkness before his waking eyes.

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