Morendo

His voice reverberated through matter, piercing flesh and crushing bone. The echo of his mind penetrated into the hollow of silent souls and brought them to life. Where once their beings were, there would now be music.

The stranger stumbled backwards, as the loud, piercing shriek invaded his mind. It was not only acoustic in nature, for he felt a physical blow to his whole body. Only the wall saved him from being felled by a powerful shock wave of pure hate.

Bodies started to rise, carriers of those who sought to usurp the silence before. They were empty, shallow, no more than when they were still full of dissonant noises. Their empty husks would serve a purpose yet.

This was his exposition! The stranger now knew what waited him. He will start with fortissimo and never let it be less than mezze-forte! This was a march, a strong and proud piece. A triumph of the highest order!

He brought his hands upwards and threw them before him, sending his troops forward. He then moved behind them, to oversee the battle and conduct his masterpiece from a safer spot.

The stranger, still shocked, watched as the creature staggered out of view. In it's place half a dozen dead men lurched around, searching for weapons. He'd seen this before. The first time he was taken by surprise and nearly died. This time he foolishly managed to let himself get shocked, but was now ready for what was to come. He would need to kill that creature, before it brought more puppets to unnatural existence.

With a short burst, he dropped the closest corpse. He heard a familiar sound – a crack, as if a string had snapped. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed a corpse pick up a sub-machine gun and turned to face the threat. They fired almost simultaneously: the stranger into the puppet's head, the puppet into the floor, before he could even bring the gun to waist level. The familiar sound followed. Another corpse rushed past the stranger, going for the shotgun in the corner. The stranger spun in place and send the puppet flying forward, with a few fresh holes in it's head and neck. A snap. Other puppets were out of view, as was the creature. He had to find them fast.

HE wailed in pain, as the ties snapped, never to be healed. The stranger brought more pain, more discomfort than was anticipated. Those were the strings of his soul that led those who listened, guiding them with music. Every single one that tore, caused him unbearable pain and brought him to his knees. How was this possible? His body was not alive, and his mind was fractioned. How was it then that he felt this pain? He recognized it, even though he never felt it before. He thought he saw a glimpse of something else, knocking on the door of his mind. Something familiar.

He gritted his teeth and forced his beaten body upright. He would win this battle and be whole again!

It was time to repeat his motif, and new puppets rose to replace those fallen.

The stranger kept moving, knowing that the bodies he shot at before would stand up and try to kill him again. They were no longer alive, driven by some unfathomable desire, or maybe even hate. He knew with certainty, that the only way to bring them down would be to completely shatter their bodies. He would have to settle for the next best thing – stop them at the source and kill the puppeteer. He did that once, and it worked. He counted on it to work this time as well.

He dived out of the way, just in time to avoid a lead rain, sent his way by another lifeless soldier. His roll was stopped by a piano, and he returned fire. Bullets went through a tower of loudspeakers and he heard a satisfying thud of a falling body on the other side. Immediately, he trained his weapon on another corpse, that blundered his way through a forest of music stands. This one had no weapon and seemed resolved to reach the stranger and choke him with his bare hands. His march was stopped short by a snap shot to his head.

As he turned around, he saw the creature rushing for cover. He fired a shot that would win him a medal, if this was a shooting tournament. Instead, this was a fight for life, and the shot won him the battle.

NO! That searing pain, eating at the seat of his existence! Unbearable, so very familiar! He had no memory, he only existed now, in this moment, where harmony had to be reinstated. And yet, every pang of pain brought clarity to him. Somehow...

The image of his goal was ablaze in his mind, burning his very being. He had to succeed, he had to become whole. There would be harmony, and he would destroy whatever stood in his way and use the parts to reassemble himself.

He raised his hands once more, calling forth additional servants with his scream... and was thrown to the side, as the bullets shredded his body.

Was this his coda?

The stranger moved his rifle from side to side, dispatching his enemies with calculated efficiency. He knew he was close to firing his last round, having expended most of the magazine in this short battle. He fired another round and let go of his weapon, letting it hang on his chest. There were still rounds in the magazine, but they would not be enough to finish off the remaining opponents. There was no time to reload.

He took out his pistol, brought it to eye level and fired a few rounds, all in a single, flowing motion. Sidestepping between towering equipment racks and columns, he continued his onslaught, minding the number of rounds fired. One of the more agile puppets made his way behind the stranger, and received a fast knife jab in the eye for his troubles.

In a few seconds, the immediate number of undead soldiers was exhausted. The stranger approached the creature, that was now trying to get up, and emptied his pistol into it.

It was the end! He had lost...

He tried to get back, but the stranger kicked him and he stumbled on his back.

No, not yet! He had strength still! He would not fade away!

The stranger calmly reloaded his pistol and holstered it, before taking hold of his rifle. He fired the remaining rounds into the creature and released the empty magazine. With a 'clank' it fell on the floor littered with empty shells. The stranger scanned the room, alert for any stragglers, and pushed a new magazine into the receiver. He cocked the rifle, flipped the selector to full automatic and fired at the creature, point blank. He would have preferred other means of destroying his target, but he was out of grenades and this did the job last time.

He could no longer conduct, his mind in chaos, he heard no music. His being pulsated with pain, and it was all he could hear. There was no harmony in it, only chaos.

In a way, it was a relief.

For some reason, pain allowed him a moment of peace. He knew he was dead, stuck here at someone else's whim. There was never any hope of becoming whole in a way he sought to accomplish. He could not continue existing so, fractioned, in pieces. He realized, that the only way for him to continue was to let go. He was stranded here, a slave of someone else's hatred, an unwilling puppet, leading puppets of his own. Now, the only way to become complete again was to allow himself to be killed.

He saw familiar faces: his wife, daughter, parents, brother, his students, friends.

With a final scream, he was gone.

The stranger took a step back, shielding his face from another shockwave. In an explosion of light, sound and wind, the creature was gone. Just like the first time, it left no trace behind. Only bullet holes and empty shells reminded of the battle that took place here moments ago. Even the bodies of the dead soldiers lay still, pretending to have never risen in violation of the laws of life.

Smoke still hung, when the stranger left the room. He played his part here, and his goal was still ahead. His crusade was far from over.