SordinaA Chapter by Domenic Luciani
Sordina's story, continued.
Beneath a frayed straw-hat, Sordina was pressing her hands to her ears in an attempt to shut out the monstrous mechanical groaning beneath her feet. The bathroom was hardly more than a cubicle with a single mirror and the strangest looking toilet she had ever seen; a perfect circle of steel about waist-height off the ground. She sat on a stool, for she wasn’t quite sure of what to make of the little toilet.
She had changed into a rather flowing white nightgown. She stood up, feeling foolish at first, but as she touched the silky material, she twirled around, letting the edges of the gown graze the golden walls.
In some places, mirrors had seemingly been removed; their faint outlines still vaguely visible, imbedded in the ornate decorative carvings of vines in the gold paint.
Sordina, dear, Are you in there?
It was him. Sordina froze, embarrassed as if he had seen her. She readjusted the loose bodice and knocked on the door once.
The man had introduced himself as nothing more than the scientist. She had told him her name via the paper and pen and he had, in turn, explained to her where she had come from, and where she was now.
At first, she was worried, even frightened. Clothed in nothing but a large white shirt while she awaited his female servants to bring her a suiting gown, she had preferred to sit in the corner of the spacious living room beyond with her hands wrapped around her knees and her head tucked deeply into the tangle of limbs. He had fixed her a drink; a strange bubbling formula of water and something that tasted faintly citrus. It had made her feel slightly better, primarily by settling an upset stomach.
There was a machine inside the tower that had been the cause of it, he told her. For some reason, a logical answer had also soothed some of the uneasiness that Sordina felt.
She stepped out of the bathroom; bodice tightened just enough, hair washed clean and straight. She had never worn makeup in the first place, so it didn’t bother her in the slightest to be without it. The scientist took her hand as she stepped out, bowing as if to greet royalty. She blushed at the sight. When he looked back up, his eyes so delicately handsome, his jaw line tapering at a thin yet masculine angle, she was captured. She didn’t even realize that they were walking towards the door.
Once beyond, she realized how beautiful the tower really was. He avoided showing her outside, but she didn’t care, the inside was beautiful enough to quell her curiosity. They moved through many rooms; rooms with beautiful marble floors and some with frescoes of heavenly skies and angels painted on the ceiling. Enormous chandeliers hung in nearly every room, the gold shimmering, a deep sunset in the gloom.
He led her up a coiling ring of stairs that seemed to lead up the full height of the tower. Glass panels intricately positioned in the walls like a puzzle, shimmering leaves hid in the moldings.
In most parts of the tower, Sordina noted, the sound of the metal gears grinding together could not be heard, yet in other parts; parts less frequently visited, it was quite clearly audible. Sometimes she felt there was an enormous engine just beneath her feet and could even feel the vibrations in the floor from time to time.
He led her into a ballroom that supposedly took up an entire floor of tower. At least a quarter mile from end to end, with huge white pillars that stretched to a marble-domed ceiling. A window stretched up on the far side, reaching all the way to the ceiling. Outside it was dark and the panes were spattered with droplets, blurring the light that came through and making the city beyond somewhat translucent.
The scientist stood against the door, arms folded, waiting for Sordina’s interest to run out. She wandered back into the center of the room and, feeling somewhat emboldened, began twirling again, doing her best to keep her back straight and toes pointed. Then, the scientist was there, taking her by the hand and waltzing with her to imaginary music. To her surprise, the music suddenly wasn’t imaginary anymore. It began coming from everywhere; a mild paced tune with piano accompanied by violas, proclaiming a sound that requested quick foot movement. Sordina had only danced as a child, but found her past talent returning to her as the scientist spun her around with the skill and precision of a finely tuned dancer. The music kicked up, and Sordina felt her feet leave the ground as the scientist picked her up by the waist and spun her gently around. The music died down. The song ended on a harsh note that faded slowly from existence. Her feet found the marble floor once again. She couldn’t remember the last time her heart had pounded so fast.
Led away by his firm hand, Sordina looked back once more upon the golden ballroom, just before the door shut closed.
He led her onto a steel platform at the dead end of a hallway which gave a sudden, squeaky lurch, and then made its way upward. Their bodies were nearly touching; Sordina moved ever so slightly to his right arm. He turned to her as the lift made its way up the open shaft. Sordina, dear, do you like music?
Sordina nodded, a soft smile spreading across her face. The scientist smiled as well. Wonderful, he said. Do you play an instrument?
Sordina took out the paper hidden within her bodice as well as the pen. On it, in small neat letters, she wrote Cello.
Perfect, said the scientist, obviously excited. Tell me, you wouldn’t happen to know the Corelli Adagio, would you?
Sordina shook her head.
Just as well. I’ll have something to teach you besides dull things.
The lift came to a shuddering halt at one of the floors and the scientist briskly set off down the hallway, Sordina following tentatively. He kept his arms behind his back and his head held high when he walked, as if he were a practiced gentleman.
He took a quick right, without the slightest pause invading his step as the door in the dark hallway before him slid open. Beyond was blackness; a room where no light reached. The scientist slipped into this room and disappeared from view.
Sordina paused just outside, craning her head in order to spot the gleam of irises, and rubbing her arm nervously. A familiar feeling set in.
Sordina, dear, would you come in? A candle was lit. It’s flickering glow rippling over the walls creating menacing shadows. Another was lit, the room pulsed with light. Sordina entered the room, noticing the thickness of the air. This room hadn’t been used in a very long time.
In the corner of the room, a few instruments were revealed with the lighting of the third candle. A few chairs were stacked against the wall opposite. The scientist lit a few more candles on a table near the door and then brought down two chairs.
Come, sit with me. You said you played the cello?
He pulled over an enormous double base cello of deep-colored wood and leaned it against one of the chairs, and then took up a viola that had been lying in a black case. He found two bows to go along with the instruments and handed the longer to Sordina, who held it within both hands, unsure of what to do.
Please, he said. Sit down. You know your chords, correct? Play a G for me.
Sordina found her fingers amongst the heavy stings, gathered up the bow and played the requested note. The scientist listened carefully.
It sounds a bit scratchy, but it might be a problem with the bow. He fished a new one from a case and handed it to her. Try this one.
Sordina played the note again, this time waiting for the scientist’s approval. The first string may need to be tightened, he said.
It took well over ten minutes for the scientist to be satisfied with the cello, and at last began to teach her the Corelli Adagio. He placed her fingers on the strings when he asked for a chord she wasn’t quite familiar with. She blushed as his hands carried hers.
By the time they had a good amount of the melody learned, a man entered the room and the scientist stopped playing, causing a deathly silence.
Sir, er, there seems to be a . . . situation occurring. Um, the, uh -- The man glanced hesitantly at Sordina who shrank in her seat.
It’s quite alright, Stephen, He said, speaking in English now. What is it?
The man named Stephen was tall and his neat shirt and pants clung tightly to a muscular body. He looked to be about mid-thirties; the same age as the scientist.
There has been a large - er - breakout at the . . . asylum.
I see. Has the news caught wind of it yet?
No, sir. Not yet. I was told it was an isolated event.
Make sure it stays that way.
Have a perimeter set up around the island, get a few trusted representatives out there to scope the damage, Have some tradesman do repairs to the outer walls so it would appear, from the outside, as if nothing had happened at all. We don’t want to alarm the public.
Yes, sir. Of course, sir.
Oh, and Stephen?
Could you escort my friend here to her room? I’m afraid that time has not permitted a longer discussion. The scientist turned to Sordina, once again speaking in Italian. I’m terribly sorry, my dear. But it appears our lesson must continue another time. I apologize. He stood up and walked past Stephen. We will . . . talk more, soon. With that, he left. The door slid open at his approach, and then closed behind him.
He’s a busy man, but he makes time when it’s important to him, Stephen said. He must consider you a great priority in his life.
Sordina could only nod distantly.
Stephen spoke Italian well enough, but to Sordina he had a thick accent when he talked.
But please, come with me, he said, offering Sordina a hand. Stephen led her out of the music room, down a hall and to another lift. Eventually, once they passed through a multitude of other corridors, they came to a large bedroom covered from floor to ceiling in scarlet. The bed, the walls, even the lampshade was scarlet.
There are clothes in the closet; in the morning you may pull the string on the bedpost for breakfast. There is nothing for you to do tomorrow, specifically, so if you want to sleep, in feel free to do so. However, if you wish to explore, please request my assistance. It’s terribly easy to get lost in this tower, especially for one such as yourself. Stephen turned to leave. Oh, and I advise you keep the window closed. It can get very windy up here.
Sordina nodded quickly and bowed as Stephen left. She looked in the wardrobe and saw three dresses neatly hung inside. She closed the doors and moved to the bed, laying on it and rolled around on the silky sheets. She tried not to let her mind wander, but it couldn’t be helped. She clutched at the sheets and sobbed quietly, only composing herself long enough to crawl under the sheets and turn of the lamp. Through the silence, the distant clicking of gears and zips of gyros found their way up through the floorboards, haunting her thoughts, as if the entire tower could suddenly shudder to life and carry her off.
In the darkness, she waited for morning.
She didn’t remember falling asleep. In fact, she didn’t remember closing her eyes, but there she was; slowly drifting into consciousness. The room was just as dark as it had been when she had gone to sleep. She figured it must still be night time.
She opened the windows and witnessed the city beyond. It didn’t surprise her too much, it was almost exactly as she would have imagined it: dark and hopeless. She sunk into herself at the vastness of it, of the great smoldering city she had fallen so suddenly into. A glass pane had been recently installed. The sky was a deep grey today, and even though it must’ve been morning, she could see the tiny colored dots of people in the streets down below moving like a school of fish in an invisible current. Smog blossomed out of various smokestacks across the city, rippling and dissipating into the air.
She pulled the chord hanging down from the top of the four-poster bed just as Stephen instructed. The bed welcomed her back and she shut her eyes for a few more minutes until a silver cart pushed through the doors, bearing a platter of fruit. The servant took the tray, laid it on the edge of the bed then gave a low bow and took his leave.
Sordina slowly ate the fruit, trying to decide which one tasted familiar, if any. One of large, purple ones tasted like an apple, but was juicy like an orange. She had her fill, and when she could consume no more, she placed the platter on the nightstand and curled back into bed. She didn’t feel much like exploring.
The scientist had promised that they would see each other later that day. She waited for him, but he never came. Once she though she heard his footsteps just outside the door, but nobody entered. The feet moved away.
A week passed " twelve days " with no word from the scientist. Stephen came once to tell her he had left the tower for a few days and would be returning sometime soon. Sordina sunk into the enormous bed, losing herself to a few more hours of rest.
On the twelfth day, she finally ventured outside. Hopefully a bathroom could be located. She had held it in for a fairly long time, but an all-fruit diet could only be withstood for so long.
She snuck out carefully, like a spy amongst enemies, and made her way down the hall beyond. She clutched at her gown; the days were growing colder and it seemed there was always a forgotten window somewhere in the tower that hung open, welcoming a chilling breeze.
The hallways seemed abandoned, and, in some places, desolate. Once or twice, she saw a servant moving up a flight of stairs or down adjacent hallways. Sordina would stiffen and make for another hallway.
After some time of skulking through the hallways and avoiding staircases, lest she lose her way completely, she came to a rather large door made of heavy, polished wood. She doubted it was a bathroom, but even her mild curiosity would not be dissuaded.
The room beyond seemed very odd at first, but, upon closer inspection, Sordina realized it was a study. The walls were lined with chalkboards covered in enormous rows of complicated and indecipherable equations. Chalk nubs littered the floor.
The far wall had a window that looked out at the city, but was covered in some sort of amber, making the sky outside appear to be in the midst of a golden sunrise. Sordina walked past a bookshelf full to the bursting with enormous volumes and a plush leather chair. She toyed with the combination ring of a safe before sitting in the chair. She thought of picking out a book and reading, but figured she would disturb some order the scientist had organized, or possibly that all of the books were encyclopedias. She wasn’t even sure if she would be able to inch one out they were packed so closely together.
There was another placed just on the table beside the chair. It was somewhat smaller and much older than any other. She opened it up, but couldn’t read the tiny, handwritten notes scribbled on the inside pages. But there were sketches of dissected wires and different atoms amongst the words, and on one, a value drawing of a machine with dozens of lines directed towards individual parts. She did her best to make out the words, but even if she could, the handwriting was too poor to be properly read.
She closed it with her finger still between two pages and looked at the front cover.
The word Fox was engraved in gold. She turned to the back, but found it blank. She thumbed through the pages once more, but found them once again devoid of meaning. Then she came to the last page. Sordina could hardly make out the letters, but it was a statement that she believed she had heard before, something in Latin.
Deus Ex Machina
Sordina vaguely recalled the statement’s meaning, but couldn’t derive a purpose for its placement.
She shut the book and left the study, replacing everything back into its place.
Outside she met Stephen, who bowed low to kiss her hand. Startled by the treatment, but flattered nonetheless, she waited for him to speak.
Your audience is requested, miss, Stephen said with another curt bow.
Sordina nodded and allowed Stephen to guide her down the hallway to a lift; something she would not have done on her own. It led the two up four flights to a separate landing, where they dismounted and continued down an especially lavish hallway.
Through an enormous archway, an open dining room resided, with the scientist sitting near the window. He looked up as she entered and gestured to the seat across from him. Sordina smoothed down the edges of her dress and combed her hair with her hand nervously as she sat in the chair. Stephen bowed low once again and exited, just as a servant brought two glasses and a bottle of red wine.
A moment passed before the scientist said anything. He simply poured out a bit of wine into his glass and swirled it around a bit. Sordina didn’t drink.
I hated this city, you know. I was afraid of it once upon a time, when I thought it was a monster rivaled against me and everything I knew. But then I came to realize that it is the same as any other city, and its people, well, let’s just say they’re not the most imaginative lot. The scientist took a sip of wine from the glass before him and cringed slightly. Bitter.
Sordina looked beyond the film of amber at the city, trying to picture what it would be like to walk through its streets, amongst its crowds. She drew within herself slightly at the thought.
You know, Sordina, I came here a long time ago in the same manner as you. These days, my subordinates call me ‘Doctor’, and my superiors simply call me the ‘Scientist’. I had a name some time ago, but I’d abandoned it long before I left home for this place. I want you to call me Fox. We are equals, in a sense. Both ripped away from families. I hope you’re not too disheartened by being here, I promise, that if there’s anything you need, I will get it for you.
Fox placed his hand overtop hers and smiled. Sordina felt the strangest feeling in the pit of her stomach that she refused to identify as anything other than a bit of nausea from too much fruit. She remembered her needs, but decided against voicing them.
There are things I would like to show you, Sordina, so many things. If it would not be too bold of me to ask, would you accompany me to a societal dinner tomorrow? I’d like to show you that there is more to this city than desolation and darkness.
Fox paused, seemingly at a loss for words.
Sordina removed her hand from underneath his and, fighting through a scarlet face, nodded vigorously, hopelessly trying to control her smile.
Fox caught the gesture and smiled, in turn. So it is, then. I’m glad. I’ll have a dress prepared for you - Fox stared intently at her for a moment - sea-green; to match those beautiful eyes of yours.
Fox explained the layout of the dress, his inventive mind working around seams and fabrics instead of cogs and gears for once. Nothing like this had ever happened to Sordina, and she understood that an incomprehensible universal shift had been set in motion, or had, quite possibly, already taken place.
Sordina returned to her room after dusk had supposedly set in, and darted into bed with childish enthusiasm. She had still made a point to avoid the servants, but Stephen had been wary of her interminable shyness and resolved to escort her through lesser-adopted paths.
She gripped handfuls of the bed sheets and painted, in her mind, an image of herself in an intricate dress with her arm intertwined around Fox’s. She could envision herself beyond even that, lavish parties and being adored for a beauty she didn’t have. A wardrobe filled with elegant diamonds and jewels like the princesses and queens in the stories she once read, how fascinating her life would become, oh, the many possibilities! She stifled a laugh with her hand, a subconscious movement, developed due to the horse-like whinny that she would often utter.
A slow pit-patter of rain tapped at her window, beckoning to her, but Sordina was already fast asleep.
“And that’s the end of it?” the gentleman asked, unfurling a large black umbrella as puddles were speckled with the early developments of rain.
“Well, that depends. Is it the end of Sordina’s tale for now? Yes. Is it the end of the story? No, not at all.
The gentlemen flipped open his enormous pocket watch and read the time. “Well, that’s that. I’ve missed my meeting. I should have at least tried to get to a phone and call in.”
He smiled roguishly. “But then you might have missed something important. I’ll have you know I wouldn’t have stopped.”
The gentleman frowned. “But if I hadn’t been listening to the story, what would have been the point of telling it at all?”
“I will not accommodate your personal needs, sir. We agreed this would be on my terms and my terms only. Besides, I don’t tell this story often. Sometimes I like to hear it for myself.”
“You’re mad, aren’t you?”
The two men were silent for a long while as they made their way towards the inner city. Crowds thickened, people shoved past them, and all the usual commotion could be heard a quarter mile from the market. The gentleman followed as closely behind Him as humanly possible, afraid that He could start the story at any moment, and he would not catch it over the noise.
Thankfully, He did not feel inclined to ruin the story for the eager follower.
They passed below a high wall covered in posters of a young man, crossing the street to reach a shoe shop. In the window, a sign had been erected offering shining services. They entered the shop and He sat down in one of the large black chairs. An old man quickly entered from a concealed backroom, pausing only briefly to accept the money He handed out.
“I paid for two, you know,” He said to the gentleman who stood awkwardly at the door. “And I’m not known to be a generous tipper.” He gestured to the chair next to him.
Once the gentleman had settled himself in, He began.
“You may not remember, but there was once a tale of an odd clockmaker and his daughter, who lived on a lonely isle and made a living off scraps. Does this startle a memory?”
“No, I can’t say it does. Is it terribly important?”
“Yes it is, for you will come to learn that many stories have a hand in this one.”
© 2010 Domenic Luciani
Added on September 28, 2010
Last Updated on September 28, 2010
The City of Senses
AboutThat is my real name, and that is really me in the picture. Like Patrick says, I'm not in the witness protection program. I mostly write books and stories. I like fantasy, or fiction, but if.. more..