A father contemplates family and the existence of his soul during an interstellar space flight.
Music and the Soul
By Ash Warren
For the ENGINEERS DO IT IN THEIR OVERALLS Award
She always used to tell me the same old joke whenever she saw me playing:
‘How do you get to Carnegie Hall, Daddy?’ and I would say I didn’t know.
And she would say:
‘Practice, practice, practice!’ And laugh.
And I would laugh too.
My calculations are exact. I know where she is.
On this ship, I am the only one awake. I walk alone here, a ghost among the Sleepers. It was my decision though to wake up six months before the rest, partly to keep an eye on things, but mainly because I need the solitude.
And I need the time…. to think.
About the physics of the universe. About how to bend it to my purposes.
I need to send her something.
Most would say that’s impossible, but I know it isn’t. The universe is made to be understood, like all machines. And I am the one who knows machines.
And she must know that I have not forgotten her. That I can never forget her.
And so here I am again, walking through the endless silent corridors in the vast underbelly of the ship. Like Jonah, alive in the belly of the whale. Moving through its silence and its vast structures and my own towering emptiness.
I am heading for the engineering decks and the vaulted cathedral of the cargo bay, where I have found the acoustics to be the best.
I know where she is. My calculations are… exact.
I am an engineer, the Chief Engineer. I make things work. I can take apart the ticking machinery of the great clock of the universe. I can put it together again.
I used to question if I have a soul, but not now. And her soul, like all souls, is a basic form of electrical energy. And as such it must travel at the speed of light. And knowing this, and calculating the number of days since she died, it is possible to know how far from the Earth it has travelled. And that it is returning to its origin.
There is an Ocean of Souls. And this is where she is heading. I know this.
My calculations are ….
The door to the cargo bay opens. Look up, the huge expanse of steel and girders overarches me. On one of the girders above the doorway some forgotten wit has written in chalk:
‘It’s a long way to Tipararee….’
I would have to agree.
I take my chair and pick up the cello. I tighten the white hair of the bow and draw it across the strings, testing the tuning.
I look up at the music, but I don’t need it anymore….
I close my eyes and begin, and the great sadness of Bach’s Sarabande from the First Cello Suite reaches out across the cargo bay, the stricken chords drawn like an agonized breath. And this hot, white sorrow, this lance that pierces all pain begins its journey, its speed magnified by the speed of the ship as it crosses the great silence of space where it will find her, as she herself speeds, straight across space to the Ocean of Souls and where I know, she will hear it. She will look up, and know that she is not forgotten, and that I am coming.
That I am coming.