Erratum No. 1: Where the composer is cited as anonymous, it should read Petra Skaro. I omitted my name because I feared alarming my family and friends.
My sister, worried about my fixation with completing the fugue, took me away from the city apartment I had shared with Abed. She believed the mountain air would ease my obsession.
“Abed called to the Abyss, and it came to him.” I sat on the guest bed, tapping the fugue’s rhythm on my knee. “If I can get the notes right, remember what he played …”
She pressed her lips together. It was the look she got when she was about to lecture me on how a fugue couldn’t summon an underworld dimension. But she exhaled and forced a smile as she opened the guest bedroom’s curtains. “We’ll get you help. Anything you need.”
I was expected to marvel at the morning light streaming over the mountains, but the Abyss was more real than anything around me. More palpable than my dreams and my waking hours. My determination to find it couldn’t be weakened by a view.
Erratum No. 2: For instrumentation, replace the piano with a viol built with sympathetic strings.
Abed was designing a new instrument, a viol, when his headaches started. Below the fingerboard, he had added a second set of strings, half-concealed twists of metal and gut that hummed along to the strings tensed above the fretted fingerboard.
Abed said, “Reality can’t be separated into black and white like a keyboard. There is no equal temperament in life.”
He finished the viol just as his headaches became unbearable. For weeks, it leaned against a corner of our apartment as we visited doctors and clinics in search of a diagnosis.
Erratum No. 3: The tempo marking “Andante” should read, “The endless cadence of unknowable darkness.”
Between treatments, Abed talked about the contrivances that tie music to our corporeal bodies. He talked about the freedom of the Abyss.
“In the Abyss, there are no heartbeats, no walking tempos,” he said.
“How do you know?” I thought it was his illness speaking.
He climbed out of bed and wrapped his hands around the viol. His fingers had grown thin and his arms were weak, but he coaxed a deep sound from its strings and improvised a melody. When he stopped, I heard the response: the pulsing silence of the Abyss, rattling against our window.
Despite my fright, I rushed to the window. The Abyss was pushing against the glass. More frightening than its power was the sentience inside its depths. Abed closed his eyes, content; he was playing for the Abyss, his audience of one.
Shaking, I pulled down the blind.
I gently removed the bow from Abed’s hand. When his music ended, the window stopped rattling.
Abed allowed me to help him back into bed.
“Don’t keep me out, Petra,” he said.
I only understood his meaning later.
Erratum No. 4: Measure 86, the fourth note of the fugue should be “D.” The theme is always A-B-E-D. How could it be anything else?
Erratum No. 5: Remove all fermatas. This marking, telling the players to hold a note as long as they wish, is only an illusion of control.
The fugue has no time for reflection. It must run as powerfully as the energy needed to care for another person.
You must never, ever stop moving.
Erratum No. 6: Measures 101-120 should be played as if your heart is breaking.
As if your beloved’s illness isn’t responding to treatment, as if nothing can keep him from crying out for the Abyss in the middle of the night.
Erratum No. 7: In measure 212, the dynamic should read: “Scream with a reality beyond any dreams.”
When he was in hospice care, Abed asked me to bring the viol to his room. He could barely sip the orange juice through the straw I held to his mouth. I helped him to the chair by the window and placed the instrument in his hands.
The viol seemed to breathe a new rhythm into his blood. He summoned a few notes, and I didn’t stop him from playing because I was happy the music gave him energy.
The Abyss responded with greater force than before.
When the darkness forced open the windows, I tried to hold onto him. The Abyss wanted life, music, Abed. He pleaded, “Don’t keep me here, Petra.”
I let him go.
Erratum No. 8: Remove the double bar at the end, and add “da capo infinitum.” Return to the beginning until the end of time.
My sister says the clean air is doing wonders for me.
I have spent the past months sitting by the window with a view of snow-capped mountains. It is beautiful, I suppose, but it hasn’t distracted me as my sister had hoped. The altitude has cleared my head. I now understand how Abed’s improvisations fit into the fugue.
With the errata complete, the Abyss will hear me.
When I reach out, Abed will be there, reaching back.
© 2017 Aimee Picchi