A World Without Music

A World Without Music is my new work in progress.

I’ve always loved music—most genres from jazz to blues to rock and roll—despite being tone deaf and never having learned to play a musical instrument. Music is an international language. It can bridge cultures, soothe the savage beast, move a people to revolution, or bring two lonely hearts together.

I expect A World Without Music will be my most challenging write. I’m starting with only a vague premise and will go where the story, the characters, take me.

Below is the prologue. Comments are welcome.

Prologue

“Generally music feedeth that disposition of the spirits which it findeth.”

—Francis Bacon

I hung, naked, bound to a gibbet by iron spikes through my hands and feet. Beneath me a woman knelt, her face streaked by tears. For the last three years I had known this woman as mother. I called down to her, in Hebrew, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then, to John, my favorite, who stood near to her, I said, “Behold your mother.”

Beside this woman who had birthed my flesh knelt her sister—Mary, wife of Clopas. Behind them, another woman wept; at one time she sold her body for money. The part that was of this world had desired this woman’s flesh, as it had no other while I’d inhabited this body. But I stayed its desire; so we never took what she would freely have given. Her face upturned, she seemed intent on experiencing my agony through her eyes. Never before had I witnessed such pain reflected in the eyes of another.

To one side of me, where a criminal also hung from a gibbet, I heard words of rebuke directed to another criminal, hung on my other side.

I spoke: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Nearby, a group of Roman centurions with spears made sport of my shriveled nakedness. The earth rumbled and shook, and they at once lost their humor.

My arms, outstretched to either side of me, bore most of my weight. It was becoming more and more difficult for me to exhale. Each breath I took filled my lungs a little more. They were, as my sixth hour on the gibbet neared, filled all but to capacity with carbon dioxide; I was slowly suffocating.

I looked to the darkened sky, where lightning flashed; a moment later a clap of thunder echoed. Large drops of rain began to pelt the earth, kicking up dry dust.

The rain moistened my lips and I whispered, “I thirst.”

I felt a searing pain in my side: one of the centurions had thrust his spear into me, to speed my death, and I cried out, “My Power, my Power, thou hast forsaken me!”

As I felt the last of my strength abandoning me, I breathed, “It is finished.”

Then, in a loud voice, I spoke: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

But I did not die. I withdrew into myself, to call upon the healing Power.

I was dimly conscious of being lowered to the ground and wrapped in cloth. Although the hands treated my broken and bleeding body with care, its wounds screamed their outrage. My breathing, slowed and so shallow as to be undetectable, I ignored the pain. A more advanced race of beings would have perceived life in my inanimate flesh, determined that I lay in a coma; but to these primitives my body was barren of spirit, of the spark of life.

I was moved and, after a time, felt my body laid on a bed of rock.

For more than a day and a half I endeavored to heal myself, summoning the influence of the One Power. First, the gaping wound in my right side; the spear had perforated my lung. I felt the tissue knitting slowly, over a period of many hours. When the healing was complete, the scar would be pale but visible.

I rested for a time, before tending to the wounds in my hands and feet, closing each, also leaving the scars as a reminder.

I then turned the Power to the bruises and deep lacerations on my back and chest; finally, to those on my head and face.

On the third day I emerged from the cloth that swaddled me, stood and, calling on the great strength of the Power, moved the rock that shielded me from the morning light. Terrified by my emergence, the two centurions charged with guarding my tomb fled in great haste.

Forty days later, I left this body. Those in attendance saw my essence step forth and rise from the flesh it wore. I turned to look at the host body I had inhabited for three years and wondered if he would take Magdalene for his wife after I was gone.

Then I stepped forward, and walked into another body …

***

As Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis, I converted to Christianity in AD 387, and influenced the development of Western Christianity. I developed my own approach to philosophy and theology, writing that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom.

When the Western Roman Empire began to crumble, I originated the concept of the Catholic Church as a spiritual City of God, separate from the material Earthly City.

Before I left Augustinus, who would one day be elevated to sainthood, I had the satisfaction of persuading the medieval worldview, while my book, City of God, became closely identified with the Church.

 ***

I stepped into the body of Johann Sebastian Bach, aged ten years, when he lived with his oldest brother, Johann Christoph. Christoph was the organist at the Michaeliskirche in Ohrdruf, Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.We studied and performed music, receiving valuable teaching from Christoph, who instructed us on the clavichord and exposed us to the works of the great composers of the day, including South German composers Johann Pachelbel and Johann Jakob Froberger, and Frenchmen Jean-Baptiste Lully, Louis Marchand, Marin Marais; and the Italian clavierist, Girolamo Frescobaldi.

At the age of fourteen, we were awarded a choral scholarship to study at the prestigious St. Michael’s School in Lüneburg, where we were exposed to European culture. In addition to singing in the choir, we played the School’s three-manual organ and harpsichords.

I left Johann Sebastian Bach just as he came of age, leaving him the remnants of my mathematical knowledge, which he would use in composing his music. Sadly, I came away with little understanding of music.

The Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, to vote for independence from England. The Congress selected a committee of five to draft a declaration of independence. The four other members of the committee—John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman—instructed me to pen the treatise.

***

I commenced my task on June 11 and wrote several drafts, presenting my final to the committee; the committee made several revisions to my document before submitting it to the Continental Congress on June 28. Four days later, the Congress voted for independence and refined my Declaration of Independence before releasing it to the public on July 4, 1776.

Several days later, as my host body lay sleeping, I stepped out—my host, who regarded music as “a delightful recreation for the hours of respite from the cares of the day, and lasts us through life,” was devoted to the violin (we practiced three hours a day), would live another fifty years and have no recollection of me whatsoever, that my presence was in part responsible for the birth of a nation and his presidency, the nation’s third—and forward …

***

… into the body of Donald Howard Menzel. One of the first theoretical astronomers and astrophysicists in the U.S, I helped Menzel identify the physical properties of the solar chromosphere—a two thousand kilometers deep layer of gas between the photosphere and the corona of the sun—and determine the chemistry of stars, the atmosphere of Mars, and the nature of gaseous nebulae.

Still ravenously curious about music, I left Menzel’s body shortly before his death, on Earth date December 14, 1976. I stepped forward, to Earth date January 1, 2011, into the body of Prisco Crasto …

J. Conrad Guest, author of: One Hot January, January’s Thaw and Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings

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2 Comments

Filed under books, fiction, J. Conrad Guest, writing

2 responses to “A World Without Music

  1. Intriguing, J. You are off to a great start and I’d like to see what’s next!

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