(it all started here)
3. Accelerando, Moderato
She woke up. Alarm clock shown 06:32. It was the usual time for her to wake up, but normally she always set an alarm to half-past six. This time she probably forgot. Everything went smoothly this morning though, according to the established schedule: yoga, shower, breakfast.
While eating her cereal, she watched out of her window how trains were running running down below. Their sound was loud and clear. With time, she learned to distinguish the types of the trains by the sound they produced. Newer regional trains were next to silent, for example. City trains produced characteristic hissing sound, accompanied by the whirring of the electric engine when they were speeding up. Intercity express trains were rather loud on the outside, their heavy engines working full power, their sound resembling a cloud of flying bumblebees. She liked these sounds.
Her commute was quiet this morning. A bit too quiet for the city full of people, she thought, as her train car was empty. Not that it really mattered much. Having the entire car to herself was giving her a pleasant feel that this train was there just for her, a personal transport for her to get to her music.
By the time she reached the building, she felt uneasy. Everything was too silent. Both train cars she had entered this morning were empty. She haven’t seen anybody in the street either. She noticed though that, the building lights have been going on and off, as usual. Maybe it happened to be a public holiday she didn’t know about – after all she moved to Germany only about half a year ago, so she wasn’t on top of everything just yet.
She got to her practice room, took the mallets from the stand and removed the cover from the marimba. She took a sip of water from the bottle she filled for her practice, and took a deep breath. Time.
As soon as the tip of the mallet touched the surface of the instrument, along with a note, everything around her exploded with sound. The impact was so strong, she leaped away from the marimba. What just happened made her feel scared for it was so strange. Maybe she was getting sick, she thought. This time of year everybody caught cold or flu and spent a week or two at home running fever. Or maybe it was just a momentary hallucination. She played another note, this time carefully, and as she did so, along with an expected sound, she heard strange noises, again. After few moments, she realized what was wrong: she didn’t hear anything. Or, to be precise, anyone. There was no one around whole morning, and now she knew something was going on. The trains though – they got her here, right? So someone must have driven them, someone was out there – must have been. She felt a bit scared. Scared, but at the same time a little excited – for something new, something unexpected had happened. She would play one piece, she thought, and see what happens. Then she will get out and try to figure out what sort of a creepy joke that was. She played slowly, note after note, and as she did, noises became more distinct and vivid. They were sounds of people all around her, she knew. The people she was unable to see or hear otherwise.
Once she finished the piece, everything disappeared into silence as if nothing happened. Dead silence with nothing to hear, but her heartbeat. That couldn’t be real, she thought, trying to remain calm. She went out of a practice room, walking the hallways, listening, looking for anybody – just anybody. No technicians, no guards, no fellow musicians – no body. She started to panic. She felt like a knot was getting up her throat. She ran out of the building, crossed the street to the offices nearby and found the lobbies empty, just as she found empty the hotels and cafés nearby. Everybody was gone, and, as soon as she realized that, she woke up.
4. Ritenuto, Lento
Alarm clock showed 06:17. Her heart was racing, her body covered with drops of sweat. She was used to her dreams often starting as if she had woken up – sometimes – multiple times in a single dream which made confusion only worse – but it was hard to get used to nightmares. This time it was a bit too real, which made it slightly more creepy than usual. She lied in bed waiting for the alarm clock to go off, not willing to get up, but not going to fall asleep either – too little time left. At least she would check if the flow of time was back to normal, to make sure it was not just another dream of hers. The alarm went off precisely at 06:30, preceded by the long thirteen minutes, each reflected on the screen of the clock. So she was probably not dreaming any more. Good.
She didn’t get a lot of rest this night, so she did a shorter yoga practice, followed with a longer meditation and a long coffee, to allow herself to get back to reality and lift the blanket of stress a little. After all, it was just another day. As she were having breakfast she remembered her dream and stopped to double check – the sounds were there, and out the window she saw other people. Then it meant for her only one thing – time to get it over with.
Last days her practice was focused on achieving only one goal, but an ambitious one. Each year, every scholar of the Philharmonic had to give a number of concerts. Sometimes smaller ones – recitals, other – big ones, for much larger audience. Their purpose was not only to make a musician comfortable playing for the audience, but also make them known to the public, for it is well known that academic music crowd is rather conservative, and it takes time for a young artist to get known and respected. She was not afraid of audience: back at home, she was practicing on the ground floor of the building located in a rather crowded place. She would always have windows wide open, so people would stop and watch her playing. Tourists would take pictures of her, and she knew how to handle them – with a smile. Sometimes she was even asked out on dates, which she normally politely refused. But then, when she deliberately exposed her practice to the people, she monitored their reactions: when, and why would they stay, why would they leave, what made them applaud and what appeared to weaken their interest. Spectators did not realize that, but they were ones who were being watched.
What made her a bit nervous was the music itself. She had to practice very efficiently if she would like to play the piece she had chosen, and there was not much time for preparations. Date was set in two weeks, tickets sold out. She was supposed to play solo, in a chamber hall of the Philharmonie, for the marimba performances mostly were unaccompanied. She realized that some five hundred people paid their money to listen to her, so she couldn’t afford any surprises. And so she practiced.
The dream she had the other day repeated few more times. To be precise, during those two weeks, she had it almost every night. She was able to recognize it instantly and, as soon as she did, she gained control over it. She practiced, playing the concert program again and again, until she was waking up. Strange as it was, she began to like it: playing, she had control over all the sounds of that world, except, only the trains. Trains that had no drivers inside, and yet operated precisely to the schedule.
As days went by, her schedule did not change much. She was happy she had those dreams too, because every time she woke up and practiced in reality she felt more confident. The brain is a marvelous thing, she thought – even though you dream, you still learn. She knew she would have to stop and relax after her performance, to cool down before she burns out, but for the time being, when all she could think was the concert, her nightly practicing was, if anything, handy.
5. Accelerando, Moderato
On the afternoon, the day before the concert, she gave herself few extra hours to simply enjoy the time. She knew, that whatever she could do that day, it would not help her performance any more, or possibly, could even harm it. So she took a take-away coffee and, slowly drinking it, went for a walk.
Potsdamer Platz was one of the bigger stations in Berlin. It was also one of the rather modern ones, for it was renovated in the early 90’s, after the Berlin Wall fell. It was not one of the most beautiful stations, and actually, many people found it looks ordinary, of not ugly. The station was very lean, poor on decorations, but at the same time, if one looked around, they would be able to find something worth a closer look. Walls were mostly covered with glass, ceiling, escalators and signs lined with lights. Together, as lights were reflecting all over the place, they gave a certain illusionary feel to the place. Main entrances to the stations were grand, even if stripped down to the bare minimum. They were build as large cubes of glass and metal, entering which, one could see three stories down.
It was one of those entrances that she was exiting through now, after walking along platforms, drinking her coffee and watching the people around her. She turned towards the park, and decided to cross it to the main railway station on the other side. She was glad that the coffee she took this time was rather large, so she would have something to warm her up during the entire walk. It was already end of November, so the sun was already gone. Still, it was relatively bright outside, remains of sunshine trapped in the clouds which covered most of the sky. She put on her headset and walked, accompanied by the usual chaos and thunder of noise in her head.
Tiergarten is a relatively large park, but it took her little time to cross it on that side. In about twenty minutes she reached the parliament building – the Bundestag – still surrounded by the crowds of tourists queuing for the tour of the building. She passed it, leaving it on her right, turning towards the main railway station – the Hauptbahnhof. She crossed the bridge through the river, making a brief stop in the middle to watch the waves and feel the cool wind of the coming winter.
The Berlin Hauptbahnhof is a large and beautiful building, five levels in total, the ground being the third, or – the middle. From almost every point of the station one could look up and down to see through all the levels, which made the building feel very spacious and grand. The ceiling of the station, as well as walls were all made of glass and metal, which made the construction feel very light. During the day, it was lit predominantly by daylight, whereas during the evening, artificial lights were taking care of the job. As she entered the station, slightly tired from the practice and walking, she took the elevator to the highest platform, the one where she knew city trains were passing through. She pressed the button and soon, as the doors opened in front of her, she heard: “Stock Zwei, Gleis Fünfzehn und Sechszehn. Übergang zum S-Bahnlinien S5, S7 und S75”.
6. Accelerando, Vivace
She waited for her train to appear. From her platform she could see all the way down to the ground floor, as well as outside, through the giant entrance hall. Three minutes. The long gone sun now also took with it the remains of daylight. Outside, people were working at installing Christmas decorations – a big tree, numerous lights, and mistletoe. Soon entire city would become a bit more cheerful, anticipating the big holiday. Two minutes. She walked along the edge of the platform. People around her were waiting patiently for the same train. She looked at the elevator which brought her here, designed as cylindrical shaft, as if cutting through all floors. As almost everything at this station, it was also made of glass end metal, with a strong light at the bottom, giving an impression that it was a light well, shining, bringing in the light from under the ground. One minute.
She saw the train approaching the station, slowly, meter by meter. She knew they did that from time to time, to alleviate the differences to the schedule. She saw the driver – middle aged woman with no expression on her face. Slowly, but graciously, this sixty-ton machine was drifting along the platform, lights of the building reflecting on its surface, until it finally stopped. Time.
Doors opened without her pressing a button. When she was about to make a step, she saw – the entire car was empty. She turned around, her heart racing. No one. That cannot be, they all have been here a moment ago. Turning around back to the car, she bumped into somebody. The person pushed her a note. “Don’t” – was written in rough broken letters, on a crumbled piece of paper, as if someone was writing them on a run. She looked up and her heart skipped a beat. The shock went through her body. Terrified, she let the coffee cup go. Only the glance was enough to know – that someone was herself. A moment later, cup fell on the platform with a loud noise, sound that was so completely out of place here and now, neither of the cardboard nor of the concrete of the platform. It was a sound of a mallets striking a chord on her instrument. Then, a loud beep came: “Stock Zwei, Gleis Füenfzehn und Sechszehn…”.
That night she did not get much sleep. She was afraid. She was not one to be scared easily, but this time it was important. The only explanation, that she could come up with, was – she is loosing it. Now, insanity was never a part of her vision of the future. She did daydream from time to time, but who didn’t? This though was not a dream. This *was* real. Or at least, it felt real. Did she just nap? Was it exhaustion of the endless practice or did her brain indeed start to give up on her? She took a bottle from the shelf. She was not much of a drinker, but this time she needed it. She tried to read, but nothing went through to her, so she tossed the laptop away. She turned on music, but, after skipping one song after another, realized it aggravated her even more. She poured herself another glass and took a big bottle of water from the fridge. If anything, she had to stay hydrated – hung over musicians don’t play well – that she knew for sure. In four hours, that is, around two a.m. she gave up. Sleep would not come to her, so she put her coat on and went out into the night. Of all things, the only one she took with her was her pen. She did not know exactly why, but it was her little habit, never to go out without, at least, a pencil.
After walking for ten minutes she sat on the bench in a little park and tried to breathe deeply. Winter was almost there, and the cold air had only subtle remains of the pungent smell of rotting leaves. She took her pen out of the pocket. The bench was made of wood and cast iron, painted black and dark green. Here and there, the pain wore off. Half of the bench was covered with stickers or marks left with a marker. Some of the marks were unreadable, others – she would prefer them rather to be unreadable. She found one of the vacant spots and, when she managed to make pen write, she left there her name.
Next morning she did not remember coming back to her place. Evidently, she managed. She even got some sleep, although, too little. Too little to be confident, but she didn’t have a choice. She tore off another sheet of her calendar, revealing the date: November 29th. After all preparations – the time has come.
She tried to do some yoga but her body was too exhausted from the night, so she limited her practice to a long meditation instead. She made coffee, a proper breakfast and she was rehearsing silently, in her mind, as she was eating it. When she finished, she took the dress she prepared for this concert and carefully packed it into her bag. She didn’t need anything else for tonight’s performance as everything was in her head for a long time now. She was prepared. She took on her coat, and as she was walking out, she felt the pen in her pocket. Don’t. She instantly remembered “her” looking at herself, and that note. “Don’t”. Don’t what? “Ah, crazy.” – she thought and shut the door behind her.
(to be continued… here)