Resto Sonata

A Remnant's Story

Da niente

He stood, listening, as the children's voices filled the halls: laughter, young ringing voices, full of joy and life. They ran all around, a powerful stream of their little beings flowing around his tall figure.

He smiled, looking down at them. They were so eager to learn, so ready to know something new. Full of questions and impossibly funny remarks about the things they saw every day. Their observations were often spot on, simple and naive, leaving him questioning the validity of the adult world. Were the adults truly so knowledgeable and experienced as was commonly assumed? Someone once said, that when you look into a child's eyes, you see God.

He frowned, as his hearing singled out a tune in the music of the children's voices. It was a sad G minor, a lonely and quiet tone. It was coming from the stairs, so he moved there, following the melody.

Cautiously, so as not to loose it, he walked towards it. Children moved on all sides of him, running up and down the stairs, oblivious to his purpose. They had their own goals in life, to grow and learn. They were cheerful. There was one child, who wasn't. Sadly, it was not the first time.

He was now following a soft strumming of a guitar, although he could swear it was a simple piano tune just a few seconds ago. He paused, checking his senses, to make sure his mind was not playing tricks with him. No, it was still there. The voice was very young; the song was calm, but very sad, as if the singer had accepted some grim fate. Not right. Children should be happy. Most of the time at least.

On top of the stairs he paused to listen, to make sure he didn't loose his bearing. The singing was closer now and he continued down the hall. It was a little quieter here, as most students have already ran outside, into the courtyard, or bunched up into the cafeteria. He smiled, as he imagined them sitting together, sharing their secrets.

The singing lead him right at the turn and he came to a door, where he could hear the singing clearly. Yet again it changed form and for a moment he was afraid he'd gone the wrong way, away from the sad child who needed comforting and maybe help. He realized he was now hearing a girl singing the same tune and thought he even heard some words, yet they were unclear. Judging by her voice she was no more than eight, and he wondered what she was doing in this part of school.

He turned around to look at the T-junction. Where a flock of tiny students had just been circling around their teacher, there now was no one to be seen. A skipping rope lay forgotten near the drinking fountain. It was very quiet.

He tried the door and it opened inwards, into the pitch black of the room. He took a step back, reflexively, as if the darkness lounged at him. The light from the corridor seemed to disappear in the room, dissipating into nothingness.

"Come on now, you're not eight anymore", he said to himself and stepped in.

It was dark inside, and he wondered why there was no light coming from the windows. He felt for the switch on the wall and flipped it. Nothing happened. He opened the door wider and showed a door stopper under it.

In the light of the corridor's lamps he managed to make out shapes of shelves and desks. It looked like an unused classroom appropriated as a store room.

"Hello?" his voice drowned in the velvet black, just as the light seemed to. "It's Mr. Price, your music teacher. Is someone here?"

The singing continued, uninterrupted. He turned his head, trying to pinpoint the direction it was coming from. It seemed to emanate from all sides at once.

"Must be some weird acoustic paneling here", he thought. He fumbled in his vest, searching for a pocket flashlight. He always carried one, along with a piece of string and some loose change. "In case I will need to establish contact with an extraterrestrial", he used to joke. "What if they just want to eat you?" someone would always reply. He chuckled weekly to himself, as his imagination drew up tentacled, drooling monsters, that lured him here with the singing and now waited in the dark. Such ill-serving fantasies seldom boosted courage and so he chased them away, before stepping outside the lit area, into the darkness.

"Okay, I'm going in now. Stay where you are, I'll find you." He cautiously walked along the wall, cursing under his breath.

"You know, it's dangerous here. You shouldn't be playing here, you could..." he grunted as he walked hard into a desk. "...Get hurt in the dark", he finished with a groan as he doubled over, wondering how it was accomplished with a flashlight in hand.

As he straightened out, he threw a glance over his shoulder and regretted it. The lit rectangle of the doorway had shrunk in size, bordered by the solid, impenetrable darkness. Immediately, he felt panic sweeping him, overcoming him, cocooning him in a web of childhood fears and night terrors. He felt scared now, like when he was thirty years ago, in that dusty, dark attic.

He had found his way under the roof of their newly bought home and froze in fear just as he made it to the middle. He stood for an eternity, staring at the solitary small window under the roof, afraid to avert his gaze from the stars and see something horrible creeping up to him. He could hear his parents and their guests laughing somewhere below him, but couldn't bring himself to call for help. It was stupid, he assured himself, there were no monsters. He would just turn back and walk down and sip some of that tasty punch, that his mom had just cooked, and play with the dog and listen to the boring adult stories of their youth.

The next thing he remembered was sitting below the trap door, panting, his eyes fixed on the dark square above him. He won that time, he would win again.

Shuddering, he wiped beads of sweat from the forehead, forcing the hammering of blood in his ears to subside. Somewhere in the dark a sad little girl was all alone, and he had to find her, and bring her down to the cafeteria.

He turned to continue walking, the circle of his flashlight offering some sanctuary. It fished out familiar, recognizable shapes: a couple of chairs, a bunch of desks, a bin of toys. He walked only a few steps further when his light caught a figure of a little girl, who sat crouched by the wall, with her hands wrapped around her legs. Her head was down, black hair flowing down around her shoulders.

"There you are", he spoke softly. "It's okay, come on now. Let's walk down and have some punch." He smiled and stretched out his hand. "What do you say, kiddo?"

"How about we got where there is a bit more light", he thought but did not say outloud.

She raised her head with a snap and the quiet singing abruptly ended. He felt a gust of wind on his back, and as he turned around he gasped in terror. The bright rectangle of the doorway rushed away, overcome on all sides by a wall of dark void. The wall approached him at a disheartening pace, knocked him on his back; his flashlight fell and disappeared into the darkness.

The little girl stood above him, her hair floating in the air. He stared into the shadow pits that contained her eyes, mesmerized, too terrified to look away.

She leaned down and whispered in a low, hushed voice, as if continuing her song.

"Why did you fall down?"