Fade to black
As a child, he liked to imagine that the old modernist building where he studied music was an enchanted castle, sheltered by others in the middle of a haunted forest. He had always an overflowing imagination. When he was older and went back to that park, he smiled as he remembered the building as “the castle enchanting in the middle of the haunted forest” of his childhood. Then he also remembered his friends from the conservatory and how, all together in childhood camaraderie, they escaped from classes and crept down the corridors to which they were forbidden access. They used to go up into one of the mezzanines, where many of the belongings of the last family that had lived in that old modernist house were kept.
Among all those antiquarian pots, he always approached an old piano. First shy, spending jokes with his friends, on ghosts and other spirits that might be waiting for them in those abandoned and sinister rooms. Then, with more confidence, like the one that is going to visit an old friend, with hope and desire to rediscover it. Sneaking, he caressed the keys of the old piano, which sounded in the sordidness of the room as if it were a whimper, a cry to keep him there for so long.
With the passing of days, he had taken the habit of going up to that part of the house, lonely and dark. He made his way in the classroom, he stayed the last picking up his notebooks and pens, and then, when most of the boys had gone, he went up quietly, through the familiar corridors, and slipped in, no type of hesitation, in those rooms with restricted access for all students. I just wanted to hear the sound of that piano, which sounded like a brief wail in the gloom.
Those were the days when he decided to learn to play the piano. I did not pretend to be a great pianist. He was content only with playing the piano.
One day his life changed radically because of a serious accident. The darkness and pain stole the light and completely calmed her down. Although as he grew older, piano music was the only thing that made his heart vibrate.
His fingers caressed the keys of the piano as if it were the body of a demanding lover. It did not matter the time of day. I only thought about approaching the piano, feeling it, touching it, feeling it. Interpret the nostalgic soundtrack of his life. The hours passed slowly when he was not sitting at the piano. The piano had become a severe mistress who daily demanded his attention in an obsessive way.
Three. Four. Six in the morning. It did not matter. Midnight. There he was, the piano was always waiting for him.
He discovered that feeling of calm that the sound of the keys of the piano gave him, that sound that enveloped him and gave him light in that constant darkness in which he felt imprisoned. I just had to play the piano. As I had always wanted since childhood. That was his daily dose of inner calm. Something that he habitually did and that helped him to accept that infinite darkness from which he was unable to detach himself.
Dark watched him from his doggy position. Attentive always to the gestures of its owner. Always with his brown collar ready to take a night walk. Night closed, and in the sky those eternal flashes of phosphenes in the darkness. Like so many other walks with Dark, he fantasied about walking to the outskirts of the city, where he remembered that he was the closest forest, and always following his dog, Dark, that guided him patiently on the way. A forest with which he fantasied and he called it the enchanted forest, like that urban park he remembered from his childhood.
It started to rain with surprising violence, Dark took him to a safe place, he followed the dog, he knew that his animal instinct would take them to shelter from that storm. Then, following Dark, he thought he had run into a house half cracked and ruined, lost in the darkness of that immense forest that he imagined.
A glorious entrance between the unending murmur of people, who tormented him with their voices in the background, their coughs, and their intermittent silences. At first, it was constant, then they stopped, then they heard again in the distance, it was as if they were listening as their footsteps broke the dark silence following Dark, and sudden silence, and then murmur, silence, murmur … and so on.
Dark waited a few moments, while he stepped on the first steps that reached inside, and heard again the murmur of those people in the background. He felt a cold nervousness that ran through his body and made him feel insecure. The murmurs came from inside. Moved by curiosity, he advanced his steps and entered an interior corridor. The voices were completely silent. He ran a thick and heavy curtain, which, to the touch, looked like velvet. He heard applause that broke between the gurgling storm. Then the silence. The sound of rain against the crystals. And then he felt his own footsteps tread on the wooden floor, like someone treading on the floor of an old-fashioned stage between drama and comedy. His feet, unsure of the unknown, trembled, stumbling at every step. The murmur had become a strange presence that watched him hidden from a dark silence. And then there was that smell. That damn smell of white flowers that he hated so much. A smell of jasmine that flooded everything, as if it were on the stage of a great theatre that opens a show. Dark watched expectantly behind the large velvet curtain. The rain fell violently, I could feel the sound behind the glass. The thunder followed one another leaving a trail of light in its wake. Suddenly, he heard a noise at the top. Then, without any fear, like those other times he had climbed the high rooms of the conservatory, he went to investigate on the upper stage of that place.
He found himself before a single and great room, with a black piano right in the middle of the room, as if it were a great stage. Everything, absolutely everything, looked like waiting for his entrance. As if that piano was waiting to be played only by him, like that old piano of his childhood, which was always in continuous expectation of his presence. He heard a grunt on the floor of the upper floor again. The loneliness of his darkness was interrupted by that instant grinding. In an instinctive gesture he raised his head strangely to the ceiling, a little dust fell on him, as if someone was moving just above him.
He decided to go back into the hallway, and suddenly, that murmur again. They were voices that did not understand where they came from, but there they were. Beating every moment. Inopportune in silence. He did not know what to do. He pulled back the curtain, and he heard another applause followed by a long dark silence.
Suddenly Dark began to howl. He had forgotten that his dog, I weighed to guide him, was a wolfhound, of those who howled on full moon nights. But the howling of that night was different, it was the loudest and loudest howl he had ever heard from Dark.
Dark joined his master fast and on guard as if wanting to protect him from a threat. He howled again, but this time it was like a desperate call. Quickly Dark joined him in attack position. He felt that he was protecting him from something he did not understand. And suddenly, that uncomfortable silence let those murmurs of people appear again. A coughing cough, a nervous laugh among a continuous murmur of people, like spectators hidden in the darkness.
Suddenly, Dark became tenser, growled towards what looked like a stage in the darkness.
A tremendous thunderbolt fell near, and although the noise was spectacular, Dark was completely paralysed as he watched as the perishable light of the beam briefly illuminated something similar to a human broken by fog in a corner behind the piano. She looked like a girl about seven years old but she was not. It was a volatile presence, unattainable by its transience. Dark growled, moved toward that small, defiant presence, came closer, Dark took one more step. It was raining outside with violence. The storm had no intention of stopping. Dark had no intention of abandoning his master.
And that dark silence interrupted again and again by the murmurs. Tension began to bother him so much in the same space and he could not stop feeling that strange figure that was floating in that corner behind the piano. He began to feel difficult to breathe and an anxiety that pressed his heart to make him feel dizzy. Then Dark jumped in the direction of the spirit that floated in the air and ended up falling on his face with the ground, without being able to stop what that was. Dark sat up quickly after lamenting with a weak moan and ran, faithful, with his owner.
That chilling presence had sat at the old piano and began to play Sergei Rachmaninoff with absolute precision and impressive agility. He was amazed. Dark went to the piano again and tried to attack what was that almost ethereal presence, but when he felt that Dark passed by his side with force, grabbed his dog quickly, almost to the flight, and stopped him just when the animal was pouncing on the spectrum. “That” whatever it was performing a magnificent concert, and he wanted to hear it.
But they were not alone, suddenly Dark raised his ears and his gaze to the top of the building. From the ceiling descended a much more robust presence than the one that played the piano, with more vehemence and much more strength. This time Dark did not attack, he retreated as he passed as if he had been hypnotised under the rope of respect and subjugation. The presence passed through his owner, and seized his body, while he could do nothing to prevent it. It was as if that higher presence had fallen asleep to his limbs and he could not do anything to get rid of that state of heaviness that dominated him. He tried to fight against it, it was a superior force that had appropriated him, but there was no point in fighting. As if everything around him had melted into black, the same black that had been all that life that had not been playing the piano. He felt his body vanish from the fatigue caused by that strange presence in his body, and that led him to the piano. He felt that in a different state of consciousness that he had always felt, like feeling himself floating in space. He could not control his movements voluntarily but floated with them. Dark turned away completely to see the state of weakness in which his friend was moving.
He felt the power of the same presence, as it forced him to join and play the piano with the other small presence. The magic of the moment did not stop as the storm did not stop. It was a mental state of inspiration and total creation that he felt in those precise instants and that they were united to the magic of that light and small presence, before which he no longer felt threatened, but felt a tremendous melancholy when looking at her. The same melancholy that lived in his life after losing the light.
The rain was dying and Dark lay quietly by the piano, listening to the music of the piano, at last, as if the music had tamed Dark and the storm at the same time. The rain slowdown likes the darkness, which at each moment became clearer. Then the presence that played the piano next to him, went away disappearing little by little, like a drawing in the ground that the water of the rain erased with care.
The timid light by the end of the storm began to sneak through the windows. The strange presences were gone. They had disappeared. He continued to play the piano as a prisoner of a magic that made him flow with the music, but with the presence of who is aware of his movements. Then, while still playing the piano, he could feel the heat of Dark dozing at his feet, totally relaxed and calm.
Suddenly, a great light illuminated him and thousands of applauses began to sound. He had finished playing that melody on the piano. More than a thousand people rose from their seats and began to applaud and cheer. Those murmurs that he felt and tormented him, had transformed into spectators who enjoy their piano concert. Dark rose and placed himself next to his owner, attentive to his movements.
He looked at the audience, but only saw darkness. A darkness that had always accompanied him since that damn accident. Dark approached and pressed his back to his leg as if to indicate he was there. He picked up his leash, he knew it was brown because someone had told him about it. He bowed to the thousands of applause he felt. He could not help but tilt again and again, grateful for the applause.
It was not raining outside. Dark accompanied him. As always, he was the guide. It was time to go home. This time, they walked slowly, like the one who tastes a success, like the one who knows he has reached a dream after having struggled to make it come true. But nevertheless, that darkness was permanent in his eyes. As if everything around him was a constant fade to black.