(it all started here)

14. Rallentando, Grave

Next days seemed like hell to her. She tried to pull herself together, but she couldn’t. What she had done was out of the ordinary even for this world, she realized, and she knew she was being punished for that. She lost all the interest in playing. She did a minimum of what was required from her to survive. Nothing mattered to her anymore. If she only managed to pass one word to the “other her”, and it took her that much, she would sooner die than get out of that place.

She took trains, one after the other, not paying any attention where they were taking her. She stayed at random places, ate whatever food she found. She never again touched the instrument. She never hummed again either, her mind was blank, all music gone from it. Soon, the hiss of the trains became the only sound in her life, along with beating of her own heart, the proof that she was still alive, fading day by day.

She knew she was lost. Everything was lost. She could either stay in this world, surrounded by nobody, or she could just give up on it. Dying. More and more she thought about it – for what would happen then? Would she wake up or would she be gone forever? If she died here, would anybody even know that she lived? If she jumped in front of the train, would it stop or would it continue whirring, crushing her to pieces as it went? She was scared. Scared of staying here, scared of silence, but even more – scared of herself. She knew she was depressed, and she knew where she might end up with her thoughts. But she had no strength to deal with them now. She needed somebody by her side. Someone alive, it did not matter much whom, just someone.

Awakened by the sudden gust of wind, she saw where she was. Automatically, her mind, drowning in silence and depression, brought her to home – the only place she knew was truly hers. She went upstairs, turned on the kettle and took a long hot shower. Even if she has to die here, she would die taken care of. She made herself a cup of coffee and looked around. No change since last time. She took her clothes on and went out, locking the door behind her.

She walked, taking sips of coffee to keep herself warm, until she reached the park. She curled up on the bench, wrapping herself around the warm cup, trying to calm her mind, to stop thinking. Last days, thinking proven not too good for her. She did not know anymore whether thoughts were her own or it was the world talking through her, making her desperate, trying to get to her from the inside. So she just stared at the void in front of her, a void of silence, interrupted by the menacing sound of passing trains.

She must have dozed off for she was rudely awaken by her drink spilling out onto her body, burning as it ran down the clothes under her jacket. She jumped up trying to rid of hot liquid on her, and as she did that, she caught a glimpse of something. There, on that very bench, on that very place where she had left it, now what seemed a very long time ago, there was it. A reminder, from the other world, a reminder from herself.

She saw her name. Only then did she realize nobody called her by her name anymore. She had almost forgotten it, she had almost let herself disappear. This world, the silence, it almost got her. As if getting a wake up call, that night of early January, covered in damp clothes, sticky from a spilled coffee, she got hope. If she had to die here, she will. But she would not go so easily. She would not give up. She will try. If music was the key to everything, the music it will be.

15. Accelerando, Vivace

She tried herself at composition earlier, mostly during her early years of studies, but the music never answered to her expectations. Unconsciously she always copied styles of her favorite composers, ending with something resembling a mix of all of them together. Or, at least, it was what she thought for she herself was her strictest critic. Nonetheless, she set out for her final attempt at getting out of this world. If everything and everyone had their own song, the escape must have one too, she only had to find it. Or invent it.

She knew she could not play anything else anymore. She had only one chance. No rehearsals, no practice, just one concert. A grand finale, she thought. And she smiled. For the first time in weeks she had a smile on her face. She wanted to laugh, to show that she was not defeated, that she would fight. Maybe, she thought, whoever was there, pulling strings, whoever locked her in this world, they would smile at her being so naive and let her out. Just may be.

Day after day she worked on her music. She tried to remember everything she played here before. Everyone she had seen in those visions and everything she tried to do to interfere. She avoided everything that would remind her of herself, for she knew there was no escape in looking back. Even if she would manage to pass a complete latter, what good would it do? The “former her” would simply not believe any of it. There was no escape in the past, she had to change the future.

Slowly, note by note, a score started appearing. She wrote new parts, replaced the existing ones, over and over. She tried to collect every reminder she had of the world she left, and she tried to put it in her music. How would the song of her neighbor sound? One of a barista at her favorite shop? Her guiding professor’s? Her parents’? Of a dog from two stories down? All her friends and all the strangers she managed to remember – all of their melodies had to contribute to her escape. She hoped, that maybe, if they all heard her, she would exist, there, in their minds, just for them. Maybe that was enough. Maybe, that would pull her out of here. If not – she might not wake up anyway, for she tried to rip through the border once. And if she used a finger then, this time she was getting ready a shotgun and a belt of cartridges. She knew the price of failure will be high, and she was ready to pay it.

As the early February snow was falling down on the streets of Berlin, she knew she was done. It took her a little over one month, and what she had written was grand. The score was now a thick book, full of stories and hopes. If she were lucky and would not interrupt the performance because she couldn’t play it, she knew it would take her at least two hours to play. She did not touch the instrument since the last incident and her fingers hurt from writing day to day. She looked through her creation again and again, visualizing how her hands would move. She was visualizing how mallets would hit the instrument, the force, the timing, the melody: now left would take C2, right after, her right would follow with E3 and G3; a little jump; a slow arpeggio in the left hand, a trill in the right; another jump.

She used all her talent and skill to prepare. She had only one chance. But even more, it was *her* music. She wrote it, and she loved it. And even if nobody else would hear it, even if it would be the last piece she would ever play, she had to play it good, so that at least she would hear how it sounds. And so, standing in the middle of her room in a small apartment in Wedding, her hands in the air, as if conducting to the invisible orchestra, she played, her mind wide awake.

16. Ritardando, Andante

It was February 17 when she knew she was ready. She woke up and felt strong chill coming through the window. It was never that cold in Berlin, not while she has been here. As she woke up, she knew she had to play today, or never. Something felt different that day.

The music was stuck in her head, and now it was *her* music. She had not given it a name earlier, but today she knew how she would call it. “Songs of Escape”, she wrote in the corner of the sheets. She was not content with thoughts of depression and death any more, for she created something, and she knew it was beautiful. She wanted people to hear it, she wanted to share. She wouldn’t care if anybody would love or hate it, she just wanted another human being listen to her as she played. She wanted to be remembered by this music, even if just by one person.

She got up, went through the diligent yoga practice, even though she had forgotten her mat at the hotel. She had not done any yoga in weeks and today, this time, it was rewarding her with the sound of the bones shifting, moving into place where they belonged. She devoured the remains of whatever she could find in her fridge. She ironed her black dress, the very same one, in which she came into this world. She cleaned up her place, taking time to remove the dust from everywhere. She looked at the score lying on her table and decided to leave it here, for she knew it so well, she would play it even if anybody would wake her up at three in the morning. She wished someone would. But now, she knew what she was going to do to make it happen. She put on her coat, took a bag with a her dress, and went out, determined never to return to this empty apartment.

As she was walking through the park, she walked past the bench that had proven so instrumental at her awakening. She read her name again, the name written by her, name out of the other world. She took her pen out of the pocket, and bent over it, her hands freezing in the cold air. When she left, a little heart was left next to the letters that were so dear to her now.

She did not take a single train this time – she had a lot of time before she had to play, so she went to her favorite coffee shop, and fixed herself some espresso and a thermos of a filter coffee. She visited the main railway station, walked along the river, and crossed the park at the path she knew so well. At last, she was there. She looked again at the building of Philharmonie, its walls golden in the light of day. She looked back at the city behind her, and asked it, without saying a word, to wish her luck. She pushed the doors open and went in.

17. A Piacere

Inside, nothing seemed to change at all, rehearsal room looking just like she left it. She changed into her dress, took a sip of coffee out of her thermos and tried to prepare herself to the performance. Closing her eyes, her hands spread wide, she imagined the hardest bits of her music and went through them, carefully, note after note. She had one song to play, one song composed of hundreds of melodies, transitioning one into another, carrying one another, singing separately and together, sharing their stories, until they all intertwined to sing one song, one that had to pull her out if here.

The chamber hall was silent and greeted her with a slight chill. It was lit dimly, as if interrupted in the middle of a concert, the performer’s place accented by the spotlights. Time.

She carefully removed the dust from the instrument and checked that it was in order. She bowed. Even with no audience, it was her concert. What she was about to do, would be the most daring performance that world had ever seen. She took a deep breath and struck the first note.

From the start she knew it was different. Like a hurricane, music went through the seats, shaking the entire hall so much she barely kept on her feet. She did not stop playing, and now she knew that she was right, it was now or never. As she played the melodies, she saw the people – people she had written them for. As she finished one and switched to the other, she knew – someone was appearing here, at this hall, to watch and listen her play.

Halfway through the score, something happened. She was engulfed in absolute silence, unable to hear neither the sound of the instrument, nor anything else. The only thing she could hear was the beating of her heart. Steady, pacing the tempo of her music. She knew she had to continue, she had to play until the end, whatever happens.

And so she was playing, imagining, believing. When all the solo voices finished their parts, told their stories, when they followed each other and complimented each other, it was time for them to cry out in a grand finale, together, supporting each other, every note, every strike stronger than the previous. Each of them, singing their own part, yet all of them crushing onto the border of this world, ripping it apart, making her an exit. The hall was half full now, and with every note she played – she knew – someone would appear here and there. Every strike pulled her closer to where she belonged.

Suddenly, the hall was full. The last touch. Mallets up. And bow.

18. A tempo

Like thunder, applause exploded around her. She would not believe it, she was there – in front of those people, real people, looking at her, and they were *here*. They *stayed* here. Lights went on and she saw everyone standing – every one of them. The sound of applause was so strong it hurt her ears, but she was happy she could hear it. She cried. Tears were running down her cheeks, dropping on the surface of the instrument. She was finally there. She was home. She bowed again and, exhausted, left the hall. The sounds were all around her, beautiful sounds of life. She came back.

She felt cold, her body was shaking. She wrapped herself in all the clothes she could find at the rehearsal room and ran out. As she was crossing the street she saw cars driving around her. The world was alive – again. Without second thought she jumped into a cab and told her address to the driver. As the taxi pulled out, she looked at her watch: 20:54, November 29. As if no time had passed since her first performance. As if nothing happened. Was it a sick joke of her mind? Or was it real? No, that *had* to be real. But now, the only thing that mattered was: she was here. Alive. Home.

She ran up the stairs and was fiddling with a lock when the door opened. “Did you win them all?” – asked her neighbor smiling. She did not know what to say, so she just cried and hugged her really hard. Astonished, she responded with a smile. She took her shoes off and looked around. She was home. She took the coat off and went to her room.

From her window she could see the silhouettes of people in their rooms, the cars passing by in the distance, and the trains, now, she knew, full of people, going their separate ways, joining together for a ride between the stops.

As her sight traveled through the room, she saw a bulky notepad on her table. It did not have a cover and its pages were written by hand. In fact, it did not have a single word in it, except for three words inscribed at the top, in the corner of the first page. As she saw it, tears falling from her eyes, she smiled. So it worked, she said. I am home. And so are you.

— the end —