This Stolen Life

Short story

When I wake up I try to keep my eyes closed. I don’t want to see what’s out there. The  brightness of the solar-lights glows through my eyelids. The daily message pours down my ears.  “All patients report to the main hall for head count.” plays in your head until you’re standing in  your designated spot. You get used to it, but it ain’t exactly Brahms either. While I’m waiting I’m not allowed to talk. We are to wait for the warden.  

Once his projection appears we count off from left to right. There are seventy-three  patients in the Dole institute, everyone who is here is a minimal violent offender. They got into a  fight, beat their children, hit their wives or husbands. Only one is in here for murder. Most  murderers get chopped up, their parts given away to the world.  

After head count we’re led to the chow hall for breakfast. A bowl of oatmeal, four  different flavors you can add, two pieces of toast, and a short cup of milk. Once we finish chow  we go to our rooms to await treatment. 

The structure of Dole reminds me of my old music hall. The browns and maroons of the high walls and curved floor, the oblong windows throughout the institute. The oak door to my  room reminds me of my youth, waiting in small rooms for my instructors to come and fill me  with music. 

Prisons aren’t prisons anymore. Hope isn’t slowly pulled away from you, it’s rebuilt. The  reason I’m not allowed to socialize with the other patients is due to my crimes. They fear that my  merest squawk will poison their consciences and rot their new education. 

This institute houses patients, not prisoners. They aren’t needed for manual labor  anymore. Their only goal is to heal. Everything in Dole is to help the patient restore their soul, to  become a part of society. There are no guards in Dole, just the gas, a small implant in your  sinuses releases a tiny spray of it at the first sign of violence putting you out instantly.

There are different therapy sessions every stretch except for weekends. I only have three  sessions of therapy. I have other duties. I have a talk therapy session, a lucid dream therapy, and  effect therapy. 

I spent four years in solitude before I would begin meeting my therapist due to my  crimes. Everyone meets with a psychotherapist of their own choosing, you get to read the  biography of any doctor in the program. Every doctor I pick declined to meet with me, until I  met with Philip. 

Philip Capra is my therapist. He fills my need for conversation. He’s younger than me, but he sounds like a father. He told me when he met me. “If we don’t know why you did it, we  won’t be able to help anybody else like you.” He still thinks I’m lying about the night or was it  the morning? The details you do remember. The way she looked at me with fright and shame.  The same way he looked at me when I,…,oh please I don’t want to feel this pain anymore. 

Today is my effect therapy session. That means my daughter is coming to visit me. The  last time I saw Gloria in person was when I was arrested. I forgot how my daughter looked after  seven years in here. I had a breakdown when I was writing a section of my work. I couldn’t find  my joy, I couldn’t find any light. I begged Capra to let me have a photo of Gloria. I begged to know the color of my child’s eyes. 

I asked if we could stop doing these sessions. I’ve had to meet old colleagues and friends their words burn me in all of the appropriate places “You killed a better man than you would  have ever been.” Or “You’re actions have proven to me that there is no God.” If you think  someone has said something hurtful just wait a couple of seconds, they’ll surprise you.  

Gloria requested to see me and I can’t deny her privilege. I have no freedoms. How could  I be excited to see her? Her image of me isn’t of a father.

A mirror appears in my wall so I can inspect myself before meeting Gloria. I look over  my green one-piece coverall. I part my sandy blond hair away from my eyes. People always told  me that I didn’t look like a composer. I’m now and always have been a lean man I stand at five  feet and eight inches, light green eyes. The showers keep us clean shaven. I never had a beard, but I would have like to try one.  

My cello instructor told me that my looks would get me in trouble, but my brain would  keep me out of it, I heard him, but did I listen? I open the door to my room, making my way to  the meeting rooms of Dole. I’m told in my ear that I’m to wait for the door to appear then I can enter. The door appears. 

The meeting room is circular. A pale yellow sofa wraps around the room, and the floor is  soft. I’m too nervous, I’m walking the circle of the room I only want to hug my baby girl again.  My ear is telling me to sit down, once I finally do and a door appears. 

Gloria passes through. Her brown hair is wrapped in a ball floating above the back of her  neck. She’s wearing a long-sleeved white shirt and jeans with flats. They look like slippers to  me. She looks like her mother.  

We stare at each other for five minutes without saying a word. I get up, I’m told to sit  down. I talk, I’m told to be quiet. So I start to hum. I’m told nothing. I didn’t mean to start  humming her song. My eyes are closed while I hum so I don’t see her start to cry. I hear it. 

“That’s my symphony isn’t it?” Gloria asks. 

“I didn’t know you ever heard it. Did your mother...?” The word hardens the air. 

“I’m here because I don’t know why you’re in here. No one ever told me the true story. I  know you would never hurt mom.” Tears wall in her eyes, never falling. They looked like her  mother’s even more so now. “You have to tell me.” 

I run my tongue over the back of my teeth and think when do I start the story? “It all started twenty years ago.”  

By the late 21st century the shroud of calling it Classical was done away. How could we  call something that has been in the human culture for so long classical? The name and the  instruments have changed from what this music used to be. Orchestras are bigger due to the  change in materials and acoustic design for music halls. The instruments are now made from one  piece with expert craftsmen’s using a light weight metal named Hertzium.  

With 3D printing, musical instruments were able to have something that they never had in its entire history, customization. This changed the orchestra forever, individuality would shine through violins made of orange, blue and grey. Cellos could be the hue of black, steel or custom  paint jobs. No instrument was the same the sound yes, but the look no.  

I was studying music theory on planet Minnesota. I was leaving the music conservatory  when I received a call from Cy McAhren, the Bach of the 23rd century. He told me that he just  got ahold of a piece I wrote for piano and cello. He told me that it is amazing and he’s never  heard anything like it. He asked me if I could fly off planet to Earth so we could work together. I  wanted to work with Cy McAhren of course, but even more, I’ve always wanted to see Earth.  

I was on Earth in four stretches. My shuttle landed at a transport hub in Northern Asia.  Cy and his wife Margaret were waiting for me there. Cy greeted me like a long-lost son we’ve  never met before Margaret doesn’t greet me at all she seemed to abhor my appearance. For the  first few months, it was only implied that we spoke to one another.  

Within a week on Earth, Cy and I were in each other's pockets. I would be at the cello, he on his piano. The room would record our music, and what beautiful music we made. Our first piece of music we wrote is Symphony No. 80 opus 123 “Nature’s Symphony.” We were commissioned to write it for the viewing of a dying star. The praise for that piece was never ending. Margaret even told me her feelings about it. 

We had written twelve other works while working on No. 80 so after that took off, we did as well. Our planet-to-planet tour was sold out everywhere. People had planned for the tour to be ten years, changing the music every year, but Cy and I didn’t want to stop. Cy even more than me. It started affecting his life more than anything consider Margaret. She demands attention more than food and water.  

On our fourth planet of the tour, we were at an after party at one of our fan’s homes. I  was standing outside smoking, not really staring at anything. I heard the door behind me open  and close. A warm body stood to my right her head resting on my shoulder the sides of our  bodies connecting. Margaret stood 5’5 her hair black as space her frame was of the modern woman and her eyes. Oh her eyes. 

“I hate it when people meet the both of you and they say that you two are so alike. Cy  knows what technique and form is and you do it for the love of it.”

I offer her a puff of my smoke. She declines I took two drags before I talked to her. 

“I know me and Cy are different. I don’t need you to tell me that.” 

“That pretty face doesn’t match that ugly attitude.” Margaret said. I moved away from  her. “Now where are you going?” I turned around to face her as she walked toward me, the slit on her dress showed just enough leg. The halter of the dress, along with her elbow length gloves, did it for me. Her black hair was wrapped upwards within itself. She kicked off her shoes and  stopped just a pace away from me. 

“What’s your game Margaret?”

“No game, just friendly conversation.”  

“I don’t think you’ve ever been friendly, and we’ve never had a conversation.” I said.

“There are lots of things we’ve never done.”

Then her legs were around me, and I noticed that I hadn’t stopped us from kissing.  “Upstairs there is a room. Look for my shoes.” She kissed me again before grabbing her shoes and leaving me.  

The arguments you have with yourself bear more weight than arguments with a loved  one. Which side do you agree with? No side won that night. I chose uncertainty. I never went upstairs. I went back to our tour ship and pretended to sleep. After that night, Margaret ignored  me for the next four planets. I enjoyed it.  

Cy came to me after our show on Theophilus. We stood outside the Haun Theater, our view is made of an orange moon with trees of purple leaves. Brown sand grass stretches to the  horizon. 

“I wouldn’t call you the son I never had because I dislike children. He said. “I have better friends than you. Musically, you are far superior too me. I don’t know how you can string and hear the music you create. I don’t need you is what I’m trying to say. I’ve gotten what I wanted out of you. So after this year is over, we are as well.”

Cy walked away, and I didn’t talk to him  until our next show. 

The next four planets in the Maverick galaxy were to be our last performances. Our  tourship’s engine blew several particle rods, and we had to link up with the space city Codex. One night in the living community, I couldn’t sleep. I went walking on the streets of Codex.  Somehow the city is wrapped in light, but surrounded by darkness. 

I would see posters of me and Cy’s tour us in fun playful poses, smiles on our faces. I started to hear this waltz in my head as I looked at our poses. I began saving the sheet  music onto my memory as I write it on the walk back to the tourship. I left my Cello in the storage bay. 

The door slowly fizzled away. I entered the ship, While I rode to the top of the ship, I  passed the lounge the lights were on. I stopped the steps with the brake touch on the hand railing. The clear doors parted like magnets. At the bar, I saw that black hair draped down her bare back.  Her maroon dress was slightly above the knee. She was wearing black leggings. She turned to  face me. 

“Earl, what are you doing here?” Margaret said. 

“I need my cello. I only came in to see who was in here. Have a good night, Margaret.”

I  knew I had to leave, I didn’t know if I wanted to be with her out of enmity to Cy or that fact that  I’d always wanted her. Not going up those steps that night was difficult.  

“Have a good night Earl.” Her wave and smile made me feel that things between us were  new. I had just downloaded my cello when the door opened to the storage bay. Margaret walked toward me like each step was important. “Why didn’t you come up stairs that night?” she asked. It was a question that I didn’t  have an answer to. 

“The cat has mine on that one.” 

“Just so you know I waited in that bed all night. You know how  that makes a woman feel?” She sat in front of me crossed-legged. I was sitting more than an  arm’s length from her on a piece of equipment. “You’re not saying anything, so I don’t think  you do.” 

“I’ve had enough of you and your husband to last a lifetime. Is this some game you two run? Use up some young musician by warping his mind?”

I stood up and tried to get past her. I  had what I needed, and I wanted to leave. She grabbed my hand with both of hers, I looked down at her.  

“Help me up before you leave.”

When I pull her up she uses that moment to kiss me. I  didn’t want to stop. I pulled myself away from her not wanting to, but needing to.

“I need to know what this is.” I said.  

“This is just me trying to get what I want.” Margaret said.  

“What do you want?” 

I pulled her close to me, she tilted her head to kiss me, our eyes slightly open. She pulls my collar down pulling my shirt off. Her dress folded itself as it hit the floor. We lay on the  floor, our passion overflowing with every kiss, every movement and moan. 

We left Codex at the end of the week and continued the tour. No longer did you sit in  your seat you finally experienced the music again. Shows had gone back to what they once when they first started. Our performance on Renaissance got our longest standing ovation. We gave ten encores that show. Margaret met us at the music hall exit crying tears of joy. 

“Cy, I’m pregnant.” As they hugged Margaret, gave me a look and I knew was the father.  Over the course of the pregnancy Cy, Margaret and I became a family. It’s strange what a pregnant woman will do to a man. He feels he has more worth. When I watched Gloria take her first breath, I was the one who was truly born. I was only improving music, but with Gloria I  created life. The song I wrote that night I was with Margaret, The Fun Waltz, was number one in the galaxy. 

Margaret and I hadn’t been together since that night. Cy and I were meeting with the  U.E.C. on a planet in the Tiger Galaxy named Sharlan. Sharlan was getting ready for population in the next twenty years. They had just begun city placements and were gathering all resources  for construction.  

They wanted to commission us for a symphony. The new inhabitants would have their own song to hear upon their arrival. We couldn’t decline. We ended our tour and chose to live on the planet Georg to write the Sharlan symphony.  

This symphony pushed both of us to our limits. Everything I brought to record was either too jumpy or loose while everything Cy had was rigid and bland. Our arguments over how it  should sound led into our writing it. We each took turns with the holo-orchestra, recording the music we wanted and mixing our work together. This didn’t just take all night, this took weeks. Cy and I missed too much life out there.  

We had completed the second adagio of the sixth movement by the time Gloria was six.  Cy left for Sharlan to gain more inspiration and I started to come around for Gloria, she had just  started learning the cello.  

I got a call from Margaret asking to see me. She didn’t sound scared or anything, but it  seemed urgent. I entered their home finding no one until I made my way upstairs. I found Margaret sitting on the edge of a bed. Her hair was down. She was singing the notes from a  music holo. 

“What is this?” she asked. 

“That’s a piece of music I wrote for Gloria. I wanted to give it to her for her birthday  coming up.” 

“That’s sweet of you, Gloria’s symphony?”

“Is there a real reason for me to be here?” 

“You know why you came. You know Cy won’t be back for a year, and Gloria is at cello  practice then orchestra practice.” She slid up the bed spreading herself and her clothes fade away. Her voice, body, and her just being her is inviting. I peeled away my clothes as I got into bed with her.  

We could heard footsteps in the house. We dressed quickly. The door to the bedroom moved up, and even with our clothes on, we looked suspicious. Cy didn’t come into the room. He walked away. 

Cy walked down the stairs babbling and shouting I could hear all of our names in his  shouts. He returned with great speed skipping steps with calculated leaps it wasn’t until I saw the  glare of the knife that I knew what he was going to do. I tried to stop him with words, but it  didn’t work I closed my eyes waiting for the blade to be inside me. I felt him bump past me. He was heading for Margaret.  

Her scream forced me to open my eyes. He had just missed her. She ran out of the  bedroom and into the hallway, Cy running after her. He pinned her to the ground, his arm raised to stab Margaret I grabbed that wrist. 

“Cy, get ahold of yourself. Think about Gloria think about our work.” I don’t think he  ever heard those words. He turned to face me and pulls his arm back to thrust the knife at me. Margaret caught that arm. 

Cy hits Margaret with the back of his hand, knocking her to the floor. I went for the knife  and stabbed my friend five times. He didn’t have any last words. I watched Cy take his last  breaths. As I stared into my friend’s eyes, he held no emotions in his gaze. Margaret couldn’t  stop screaming.

The C.O.P.s were notified when our brain waves set off the house alarms. I went  downstairs, hands wet with my friend’s blood. I told them to hurry, thinking they could still save  him. I ran up thinking they are following me I look to the right to see Cy laying there waxy and  unyielding. 

Margaret was standing at the foot of the bed holding the knife to her chest. I watched her tip forward. The sound of the knife hitting the floor starts my reality. The C.O.P.s received an  email she sent before she just killed herself, she told them that I was raping her, and Cy was trying to stop me. 

Gloria didn’t cry at any point of the story, not even after I spoke my last word. She  looked at me, not with forgiveness, but with acceptance. She may not understand me, but she  now knows what type of man her father is. Before Gloria left she handed me a photo of Wam her son. He is six years old in the photo. We were allowed to hug. 

Today is my recording session I’m working on the fortcendo of the Sharlan symphony.  That’s a lie. I’ve been working on the fortcendo for the last four years. It’s hard trying to put Cy  into the music. Experts will be able to know just by the stringing of chords who wrote this. The U.E.C wanted a Cy McAhren piece of music, and I don’t want to let my friend down again.  Every part up to the second adagio of the sixth movement me and Cy wrote. Without Cy, I’m  drowning him out. 

As I listen to what I wrote I can’t help but feel that I’m killing Cy again. Certain  progressions, palindromes’ and cords he would never let me get away with if he were alive. My  thoughtpen is set to leisure I draw to pass the time and help me think. 

I read through the first and second movement of the fortcendo, and I don’t like what I see, I start ripping the papers with primal anger. I splash the papers into the air. I’m surprised I  was able to do so much before the gas hit me. As my eyelids creep together I watch as the paper  sways and flips in the air. I wonder if this is what snow looks like. 

I awake in the infirmary. My therapist Philip Capra is to the left of me. Even with my  fuzzy vision I can see the anger on his face.  

“Just lay down, Earl, there’s no need to get up,” Philip said. “I wish I was here on good  news. The U.E.C is worried you won’t be able to finish the symphony by the deadline.” Philip  shifts in his chair. “Earl if you have another outburst like that we’ll be force to send you to the  O.C.C.”

“Who would finish the symphony?” 

“A new composer by the name of Troy Heiden he’s been doing some very interesting  things in Innovative music.” 

“Philip please don’t let them kill me before I can help my friend.” 

He has a dispassionate look on his face. 

“Just finish the symphony.” Philip walks me back to my room and asks why I did what I  did. I told him that I feel that my punishment and my crimes are one and the same I erased Cy genealogically I took his wife, music, and life all in one swoop. Now I’m to write his  masterpiece, his life’s work, putting more clouds around his ability and skill. What good have I  ever done my friend? 

“Earl, you know what you have to do.” Philip said. “I have to go. I was only supposed to  relay that message to you. Stay out of trouble. Finish the symphony.” 

Philip tells me a story about his childhood him and his mother would dance to The Fun Waltz it was that song she taught him how to dance. I know tomorrow will be an easier day for me. I don’t feel anger anymore. I ask Philip if he can get me older recordings of Cy from before  we started working together. He tells me they are already downloading them into the recording  studio. they’ve been listening to our conversation with my ear. 

I stand before my holo-orchestra and raise my arms slowly. I drop them, and the cellos, pianos, and the violins start. I lead the orchestra, my body directing the pace and intention of the  symphony. I don’t like using the baton, my hands do just fine. As I twist and twirl them, the rest  of the orchestra starts to fill in. This is what Cy wanted, I know it. This is the life my friend  deserves.