I hope you enjoy, and I look forward to sharing with you my learnings from my first critique.
Fourteen credits remaining, the synthesised voice within Konrad’s head advised, as he scanned his implant at the reception desk.
Great, thought Konrad. Spending all of my credits on another doctor who couldn’t help. Just a glitch, it will go away in time.
He stepped from the surgery into the abandoned mid-morning street, The Feed smashing its way into his introspection. Trying his hardest, he ignored the barrage of emotional tag-lines and started the long walk back to the train station.
A police bulletin cut through the inane chatter.
Robbery in progress on Third Avenue. Perpetrators may be armed and dangerous. Citizens are advised to avoid this area.
Konrad sighed. He would need to double back and take some of the small alleyways; he would miss the next train. Resigned to his suddenly lengthened day, his steps fell inline with whir-thump, whir-thump of the Grand Pistons to the West.
Winding through the alleys, he moved from meagre home to hovel. He quickened his pace as his path wound through the rougher sections of town. Up ahead, a small gathering of people blocked his path. Preferring to avoid interactions with the manner of inhabitants in this locality, Konrad crossed the road.
Konrad hunched his shoulders, trying to shrink into invisibility. He scurried past the gang, keeping an almost jog-like pace as he glanced over his shoulder in anticipation. He had wandered blocks, not really paying attention where he was going. Constantly glancing over his shoulder, he barely stopped short of running into the old, weathered man before him. The tattered clothes named the man a beggar. Pale skin barely draped over skeleton marked the man as not being far from the grave. One hand twitched nervously, thumb caressing each finger in turn, and back again, whilst the other clutched on to an old battered cello.
The Feed flashed; hope.
“Sorry,” Konrad muttered as he dropped his head, trying to step past the old man.
A bony hand grabbed his arm with deceptive strength, coming from the rag-covered beggar. The longing eyes stared into Konrad’s, as the beggar slowly worked the saliva around his mouth.
“Please,” the old man started. He paused to work his tongue around his mouth again, as if being used for the first time in days. “Please, can you spare some credits for an old, dying man?”
“Sorry,” Konrad said again, trying to break free from the grasp.
“Please,” he begged again. “If not charity, will you. . . will you buy my cello? It’s all I have left worth anything.”
“I don’t have anything to spare! I barely have ten credits!” Konrad said defensively.
“Ten credits. . . could buy a kingdom for the likes of me.”
The old man released his arm, dropping to his knees in front of Konrad. Proffering his cello toward him, a prize offered to a king, his eyes widened, glistening with tears.
Tears flowed freely, leaving streaks of pale skin showing through the dirt-caked face. The man pressed the instrument into Konrad’s hand, nodding cautiously; optimistically. Konrad extended his right arm, turning his wrist to offer his implant.
A trembling arm reached out toward him, accepting the incoming transfer. Konrad glanced away as The Feed flashed glee and embarrassment toward him.
“Thank you,” the man said, bowing as he back away from Konrad. “Thank you. Please. . .treat her well. I hope she brings you peace.”
Konrad carried the instrument away. Feeling guilty for taking the man’s only possession, he reasoned with himself that the man hadn’t given him a choice. The internal debate lasted several blocks, until he winded his way back on to the main road toward the train station.
Having missed the last train until the final siren, Konrad searched about for somewhere to sit and wait. Spying a hole in the fence ahead, he ducked through and made his way into the old, abandoned building behind it. Picking his way through the rubble-filled building, he found himself entering a courtyard.
Konrad’s eyes widened at the sight. Grass. Actual grass. It was slightly overgrown, as was the garden beds framing it on either side as it led toward an ancient oak tree. It looked as though this place had long ago been built around, perhaps some form of natural retreat for some rich person. A tree. . . alive.
Konrad slowly sat, leaning against the tree, marvelling at the feeling of his back on the trunk. He had never seen a real, live tree before. And grass. He placed the cello down in the grass, his fingers running through the long blades. The moment would have been perfect, were it not for the constant battering of unsolicited information being pushed at him through The Feed.
He picked the cello back up, turning it over, searching for any clues on how it worked. Attached to the side was a long piece of wood, a sort of string running from top to bottom. Lifting it from the body of the instrument, he tested the weight in his right hand. It reminded him of a story his father had once told him of an ancient weapon called a bow.
Pulling the bow against the strings running along the front of the instrument, a beautiful sound emitted from the deep hole in the centre of the body. A reverberation that sounded, into Konrad’s body, momentarily cutting through that constant chatter. He pushed the bow back again, the sound again offering a moment of peace.
Excited at his revelation, Konrad shifted upright and readjusted his hold on the cello. Pulling the bow once more, the cello made another sound, this time offering a higher pitched note. Concerned, Konrad moved his hands again, returning the sound back to its original beauty. He began to experiment, moving his hand to different positions along the spine of the instrument.
Engrossed in his experimentation, it took a moment for Konrad to notice the bird that had landed near him. Pulling the bow across string, Konrad laughed as the bird chirped a note in counterpoint. Again, he drew the bow along and the bird chirped again. Back and forth they went, Konrad and Melody performing together. Konrad finally finding peace within the music, and Melody happy that at least one of her grandmother’s fabled trees still lived.
I will be honest with you here; I am not happy with this one. Whilst there are elements that I’m content with, the merging of the two POVs is forced and unnatural. However; as committed, I promised that these posts would be unedited so that I can show the power of that process.
I have submitted the completed piece off for critique and look forward to sharing that, and the edited version of the completed short story with you all.
Thanks for reading the final instalment of Melody. I hope you enjoyed it! Please make sure you hit like and subscribe below!