Consequences Part 19

December 30th, 2011 by Wordsman

“I’ll bet you spent most of the morning trying to figure out what was going on,” she continued.  “Doing whatever you could to find out what had been done to you.”

“I was looking for a cure.”

“You were looking for an answer.  And you won’t be satisfied until you get one.  Suppose the song just disappeared right now and never bothered you again.  Would you really be okay with that?  Being better but having no idea why, or even what was wrong in the first place?”

“Fine,” he snapped.  The woman’s pressing was starting to get almost as annoying as the earworm.  Of course, he could have just walked away, but then he would be taking the risk of having the vile tune return.  More important even than that, though, was the fact that walking away without saying anything would have been equivalent to admitting that he had lost the argument.  Peter Hamlin did not like to lose, and the thing he hated to lose above all others was an argument.

The woman didn’t even smile.  The experience with the police officer had taught her that gloating brought nothing but trouble.

“But how can you teach me, anyway?  You just said you’ve never played the flute.”

“I can sing.”

“That’s it?  You’re just going to sing it to me, and then I’m supposed to play it back?”

“It should work, if you’re any good at listening.  Now, I shouldn’t even have to do that, because you think that you’ve heard the song many times already.  But you can’t remember it, even if you try, can you?  Gee, that’s awfully mysterious, don’t you think?”  As it turned out, the woman was not as good at not gloating as she thought she was.

“Hang on.”  Peter turned around to look at the crowd of subway passengers, which he had all but forgotten were there (they had been ignoring him, too, so it was all fair).  “What if they hear you?  Will they be . . . affected?”

She shook her head.  “It doesn’t work like that unless you’re doing it intentionally . . . uhh, most of the time,” she added when Peter gave her a dirty look.  “And I wasn’t singing that time, anyway!  I just hit you.”

“Yes, that continues to be a very comforting thought.  Let’s just get this over with.”

The woman took a deep breath.  Peter expected to hear an angry, violent noise, like a cross between the buzzing of a swarm of hornets, cannon fire, and a traffic jam’s worth of car horns, but what the woman sang was calm, gentle, even beautiful.  He began to suspect that her claim of “I can sing” had been a significant understatement.  Still, the tune was immediately recognizable as the one that had nearly driven him mad that morning.

“Now you try.”

So he did.  What he played was the Beherrschunglied, in the same way that a toddler can pile a bunch of yellow Legos in a vaguely triangular shape and call it the Great Pyramid.  The woman, who had never been a music teacher, did a poor job of concealing her disappointment.

“I told you this wouldn’t work.”

“No, no, you’ll be fine!” she said, in the voice of someone who knows a project has to succeed only because she has invested too much for it to fail.  “You just need a little practice, that’s all.  Just, uh, try it a few more times until you get the hang of it.  But . . . maybe you should do it outside.  You know . . . there are fewer people out there, so . . .”

Peter walked off, saving the woman from having to come up with a logical ending to her suggestion that didn’t involve telling the truth, which was: “I don’t want to listen to you anymore.”  He glared at the flute.  “I used to be able to play you,” he muttered grumpily as he went up the stairs.

The woman watched him go.  Her spirits, temporarily raised by the thought of actually getting out of there, were slowly sinking back down below ground.  The boy was right, of course; there was no way this plan could work.  The Beherrschunglied was a fearsome weapon, but it was only as good as the person who wielded it.  For example, an above-average rendition would be required to control Peter Hamlin, at least on a day when he was well-rested and in full possession of his mental faculties.  Legends spoke of the song’s ability to sap the will of entire armies, though such a feat would require a performance the likes of which had never been heard on Earth.  The way he had just played, she figured he would be lucky to get a couple of blades of grass to bend.

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