“It was the music,” he said as I leaned over him. “The music touched me, emptied me out, filled it back up.” His voice softened at the end. I had to lean forward to hear the last word. “Different.”
Binit wasn’t the first one to go through it, but he was the most spectacular. On death’s door, waiting for the Whites to collect him for burial. No heart beat, no colour, no sign of life at all, and then the music came for him. Apparently.
We all heard it from the chapel. My heart pounded because I knew what it was. I ran through the shocked and silent bodies who didn’t move fast enough.
I was the first one in the door, saw him sitting up and wiping the wisps of flaking skin from his now pink body. Naked. Pink. Eyes bright blue. As always. My vision blurred. Was it real?
“The music,” he whispered in my ear. “It’s the passport to a second chance,” he swung his legs over the side of the gurney-table and stood. He smiled. “I have a second chance, just like him,” he pointed at Eric, “and her,” he pointed at my mother.
“We have a task.”
And the three of them reached out to each other through the crowd of white-faced onlookers, clasped hands to elbows in the way of a greeting in triptych – a painting of movement, in this case – and grinned so hard at each other the creases in each face outlined the depth of something other, something different. Obscene.
But he was alive. I should be glad of that, shouldn’t I? Alive. Eric too, I suppose; he was – is – my friend. And my mother, although she’s too different now, and she doesn’t live with us anymore. I don’t know where she lives; I don’t know if she sleeps at all, or if she walks the forest each night and the village each day. She never stops.
Would this happen to Binit? Would he be that different? Too different for me to understand?
The crowd separated as Binit – still naked but for the soft white death-cover – Eric, and my mother walked through the villagers and down the green track towards the river. They didn’t look back. They didn’t stop smiling.
I ran after them, called to Binit, tried to remind him of the life we had, but he either didn’t hear me or wouldn’t.
When they reached the river and walked in, deeper and deeper until they disappeared and didn’t come back out – on either side or on top of the fast current – that was when I knew. They weren’t alive anymore. They had a task.
Would I ever know what the task was? Would I ever share those lives again? Did I want to, if they were so different to the people I once knew?
I walked into the river after them, felt the pull of the water as my legs flew out from under me and my head sank below the surface. I didn’t close my eyes – I didn’t want to miss them – and I looked and looked.
What I saw was … I don’t think I can tell you that, but the doorway, the light to … somewhere else – it wasn’t what I expected. And it wasn’t what I wanted!
The darkness reached out with a cold hand, touched my heart and my ears, sang to me in a voice that compelled, with instruments that tingled every muscle and sinew in my body. I heard the music, I felt the pull, felt the emptying; I wanted to join in, to sing, but I saw that hole for what it truly was, and …
Copyright Karel Jaeger 2017