THE CALL OF MUSIC

 

MARIA ZACH

:::

It's not the first time I hear it. Nor will it be the last. It is ethereal, haunting, terrible. It's not a solo voice nor a chorus. I perceive what it means. I've heard it one too many times. I scan the area. Who's next? The angels are here for pick up. There's a couple talking on the street corner. A boy staring in at the bakery window. A woman entering the boutique opposite. A lady in a wheelchair at the pedestrian crossing. When I set eyes on her, I'm positive.

The light turns green. I lock eyes on the lady in the wheelchair, a warning lodged in my chest, my feet glued to the pavement. A little boy runs across the pedestrian crossing. A truck careening out of control. Screams. Blood sprays. The truck continues on its way tilting towards one side at the corner. The little boy lay bathed in blood, his right leg bent at an odd angle. I'm stunned. That's not what I expected. I turn back to the handicapped lady; her face riddled with tears. When the sound slaps back on, she is wailing. The child was probably her relation -- nephew or grandson.

I was sorely mistaken. I walk home. There's nothing I can do. The boy is dead. I know it as assuredly as I know that I'm breathing. The angels are picking him up now as I walk home. I wonder whether I could have prevented it. What if I'd guessed right? What if I'd observed the boy waiting to cross? Or seen the truck careening down the road. Had I time to get to him? Say fifty meters from where I stood, to the traffic signal another twenty across the road. Did I get six seconds notice? Maybe. Maybe not.

It's a curse--my burden to carry; this gift of mine. Can I even call it a gift? I mean I can hear the music of the angels--be they of heaven or hell--when they arrive to take delivery of the departed; of those that belong to them. I get a few seconds warning to look around and identify the person slated to meet the end.

Usually, it's an old Crone who's had their feet in the ditch far too long. Today I was wrong. Once again I wondered whether I'd had time if I'd identified the victim. No. No. Don't think that. You couldn't run seventy meters in six seconds. That I suppose was true enough. I was no athlete. With the six pounds of meat I carried in my belly bag, I couldn't have outrun the wheelchair lady.

At home, I reheat last night's pork ribs. I switch on the TV and shuffle through the channels, trying to find something to settle on. None of the 650+ shows suit my current taste. I turn my attention back to the pork ribs--the poor things have been stabbed to death a second time.

:::

I pass by the same pedestrian crossing on my way to work the following day. My eyes are drawn to the spot where the child laid, leg bent, blood pooling around him. I want to look away. I see the blood spreading, seeping into the tar, tainting it with murder for eternity. I cannot look away. I promise myself not to take a different route today evening; not tomorrow either or the day after. I promise myself never to turn away. I owe it to the boy. Although I'm not sure what I owe him and why.

:::

Returning from work, at the same pedestrian crossing, an old man is trying to hobble across using his stick. I push people aside in my hurry to reach him. At his side, I let him support himself on my right shoulder and help him across the remainder of the pedestrian crossing. I breathe a sigh of relief when we make it across before the signal changes or the angels sing.

At the corner of my housing block, a group of children playing with a ball. The ball rolls off into the street. It’s not a busy street. But I run over. I outrun the kids trying to reach the ball, pick the ball and closest kid and rush back to the sidewalk with both tucked under an arm each. Disaster averted. Or was it? I heard no singing. I watch as the boy skips home along the sidewalk.

:::

Every morning I eat cereal. Every morning I convince myself not to take an alternate route to the office. Every day I promise myself not to let my feet glue itself to the ground. Every day I chant “Don’t let the angels sing. Don’t let the angels sing.”

Did the kid have a father? Did he miss the kid? Perhaps, he had a father who, like me, had no clue about his son’s whereabouts.

Cereal and news. The cereal lodges itself in a heretofore un-christened part of my esophagus. Neither in, nor out. I cough, dislodging the rogue outwards, on to the newspaper. The photo I’d been staring at, is ruined by a splattering of cereal; no longer identifiable. But, I’ve already identified it--the kid whose ball and self I saved from an empty road a couple of weeks ago.


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THE CALL OF MUSIC

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maria loves everything experimental and cross-genre; things that cannot be put into boxes. She is an introvert who talks to dogs, cats, trees, books, reflections... you get the idea. She calls her pet monster “Over-Thinking”

CREDITS
Editor: L. Naisula
Cover art: Shompole, N.L.