The Sun rose above the distant horizon, the golden disc spreading far and wide its wan rays of light, gradually banishing the chill of the cloudless night. The land awakened gradually, from the waves breaking upon the rocky coast, across the overgrown fields and ruins of a civilisation long passed, up to the mountains impassively standing guard over the spine of the island.
A shallow river wended through the landscape; its banks flourished with life, but the eddying waters were not enough to reverse the drought that had ruled the land these past decades, rendering the grasslands a parched wasteland. Here and there were what remained of villages; rusting steel bars, eroded bricks and weathered planks lay haphazardly alongside the broken remnants of paved streets, the only reminders of a once thriving community.
On a rocky outcrop overlooking one such village was a domed structure, large and brooding. Most of its myriad windows were still intact, despite countless storms lashing them. The roof was almost a memory; many of the heavy oaken support beams still reached desperately towards the heavens in mute supplication. A few panes of delicate stained glass had managed to survive in their wrought iron frames, providing a glimpse into their former splendour.
The building was circular, and comprised a single room, spanning about a hundred feet across. The walls were clad in bookcases, ten shelves high, with a walkway running along the top. Almost every shelf was full of many thousands of forgotten tomes gathering dust and mildew. Small shrubs, plump moss and waving blades of grass carpeted almost every inch of the floor.
To any casual observer, this was simply a musty library, ravaged by time. They could not fail to notice, however, what was in the middle of the huge room.
A tree grew in the exact centre. Its lineage unknown, it thrust gracefully into the air, spreading out its branches to touch the walkway. Despite the drought, the tree’s foliage was somehow fresh and green, casting a dappled shade upon the floor’s mossy tiles. Surrounding the tree was what might be called a moat. A few inches deep, it extended out a few feet, leaving the tree isolated on a small island of tiles.
The oxidised wreckage of a plane was wedged against the tree’s massive trunk. Much had rusted into nothingness, but upon the wings could still be seen the red circle that marked it as being of the former nation of Japan.
On the tree’s other flank stood a grand piano, its condition mysteriously pristine given its surroundings. Its grandly curved lid stood upright, exposing the strings and mechanisms within. Not a trace of rust marred the shiny strings, nor borer the polished grain of the wood. A small rectangular stool sat before it.A light breeze redolent with the scent of the grasslands wafted through, eddying languidly around the instrument and the tree, setting its verdant leaves aquiver.
The Sun rose higher and higher into the sky, until it reached its zenith above the ruined dome. Light bathed the library in early autumn warmth, reflecting off the windows and illuminating the warped floorboards that surmounted the bookshelves. The only shadows were those cast by the tree.
The air above the stool shimmered as the form of a boy took shape upon the stool. A shock of unruly strawberry blond hair sat above a freckled face, set into which were dark grey eyes and a slightly aquiline nose. He wore a white polo shirt and dark blue-green trousers. His feet were bare, allowing him to feel the different textures of the floor beneath them. His lips curved as he gazed at the piano before him. Slim fingers gently stroked the white keys, which were somehow free from dust.
He pressed a finger down on a key, and a pure tone rang through the library. Another key was pressed, and a second tone melded with the first. Once the notes had died away into ethereality, the boy poised his hands above the keys, flexing his fingers in preparation. He gazed into the bowels of the piano, as if searching for inspiration from the strings. A few seconds drifted by before he began to play.
At first only his left hand was active, playing an Alberti bass in a minor key, but after a few bars his other hand joined in with a simple melody that drifted languidly up and down the treble keys. The pace was almost funereal, but as the song progressed the tempo picked up to that of a brisk walk. The music seemed to fill the room as the boy played, swelling in a crescendo as he attacked the keys with passion. Powerful chords merged with rippling arpeggios as the piano’s soul was hammered out of the strings. A sudden pause left the last few notes fading, then the boy slammed his fingers down on the keys in an abrupt modulation, driving the depressive mood away with a high-spirited rondo in a sharp major key.
The Sun continued its westward journey across the heavens, dragging its warm rays away from the library. The boy continued to play, his whole body shaking as he put every iota of his being into the performance. The song rushed towards a thunderous climax in a frenetic series of cadenzas that rumbled down the keyboard. A final chord, deep in the bottom part of the bass, marked the transition to a recapitulation, replaying the opening bars at its original tempo.
As the light left the library, letting the afternoon claim the space for its own, the music came to its inevitable coda. The boy’s eyes were closed as he hunched over the keyboard, his fingers stepping over the keys slowly and deliberately as the last few notes sounded.
The final chord reverberated into nothingness, and the piano’s strings lay still.
His hands slipping off the keys, the boy sat back, his chest heaving from the exertion. He tilted his head back, to look up through the tree’s leaves at the sky beyond. A beatific expression flickered across his face as he began to shimmer again, disappearing over a few seconds, leaving only a depression in the stool’s padding to show there was ever anyone there.
For now, the cycle was complete.