August 10 – 10:15 pm
At last we are inside.
Exhausted from the tunneling effort, we
made camp on the Damper Pedal’s cool brass surface. I note that the
interior air smells of oakwood and old oil. We dare not risk a campfire in
this place. For tonight at least, we will sleep in the echoing blackness
with only our lanterns for solace.
Tomorrow, the ascent.
August 11 – 11:45 pm
The air in the Piano is surprisingly
agreeable. There is a great deal of dust, but it seems a purer dust than
the musty stench from the Floor outside. Sealed inside the wooden walls,
it smells not of animals and dead skin but of time and patience, refined
over decades by ceaseless vibrations of music.
We are halfway up the side of the Harp
now. I have ordered we ascend semi-horizontally, one string at a time
until we reach C3#, believing it to be the most navigable. The ridges on
the lower strings proved too large for easy purchase, and we nearly lost
Mr. Byrd in the attempt. We climb now at a northeasterly angle, relishing
the comparative ease of this traversement. The dampened strings make
muted, harmonic thumps as our grappling hooks take hold.
August 11 – 3:45 pm
We have reached C3# and are preparing
for the climb. The string is the perfect circumference for a man to
straddle and inch his way up, and the angle is not too severe. We will
have to make good time in order to reach the Harp’s crosspoint before
nightfall, as there will be no stopping for camp while clinging to this
slippery copper wire.
It is afternoon now, although this can
only be determined by pocketwatch. The Piano is utterly dark. Thin lines
of light appear through cracks around the Lid high above, but we have no
way of knowing whether the light is natural or artificial. This feeling of
timeless night could be oppressive, but I choose to luxuriate in it. What
greater peace than this? This silken silence, this velvet dark?
August 11 – 10:45 pm
We have reached the Harp’s crosspoint
and succeeded in mounting the scoop of heavy, gold-painted steel in the
center, but we have lost a man. In the process of dismounting the C3#
string, Mr. Scott miscalculated his leap and fell into the depths, taking
a large portion of our supplies down with him. Worse still, Scott’s broken
body and the full weight of our supplies have come to rest on the Damper
Pedal itself and depressed it slightly, releasing the entire Harp to
vibrate freely. The once-silent interior of the Piano has become a
swirling cauldron of ghostly sound, each booted footfall setting off a
vast ripple of resonance. With a great distance still to travel, this
early setback has surely injured morale, but the men are strong, and we
We make camp for the night here on the
Harp crosspiece, and expect to reach the Keys by evening tomorrow.
Subliminal breezes tickle the strings and produce a constant whispering
music, ghoulish but not altogether unlovely. Sleep may come easily
August 13 - 10:40 pm
Awakened to soft tremors from outside
the Piano. Muffled sound of melancholy recorded music in the distance.
Murmurs throughout the camp that the Boy has come back. Will address this
with the men first in the morning. Sleep will be difficult after all.
August 14 – 8:00 am
The air has grown very cold for some
reason so I consented to a small fire for cooking breakfast. We are
surrounded by plenty of steel, and the men have added incense to the
flames to avoid detection. Immersed in this soothing smoke I addressed the
camp on the question of the Boy. Acknowledged the possibility that he has
returned, but reminded them that by all reports he has lost interest in
the Piano and has in fact not gone near it in nearly a year. Urged them to
keep eyes on the goal ahead, and most seemed resolute.
Amundsen complained of inadequate light
for mapping the deeper reaches, noting that our searchlight was lost with
Scott. His sketchings so far are quite exquisite, but sadly limited to our
narrow path of ascent. I am mindful that the success of the expedition
will be quite incomplete if we fail to fully chart this inner terrain. I
may propose lowering Amundsen down on ropes when we reach the Lid…
August 14 – 9:30 am
We will begin our ascent of F5 in less
than an hour. Presently the men are donning their sticky rubber gloves.
Shimmying up the thin, smooth steel of the high strings will be slower
going than before, but I still anticipate reaching the Keys well before
We continue to hear faint noises from
out in the Room. Booming footfalls and low sighs.
August 14 – 4:50 pm
Paused in mid-climb for this entry
should disaster befall. Sounds in the Room remove all doubt the Boy has
returned. Air torn by a clamoring bell noise, rumbling of conversation for
nearly an hour, followed by great creaking of the Door. Thunder of voices
increased, suggesting another Person arriving in the Room. We are nearly
to the Keys but clinging here to these threefold wires, our vulnerability
Air continues to sing with harmonic
vibrations. Soothing in spite of peril.
August 14 – 8:30 pm
We have reached the Keys.
The landscape of this region is
magnificent. Our lanterns are barely needed anymore, as light from the
Room streams in through myriad cracks and seams in the Piano’s frame,
golden lances through the vaporous dust. The Keys themselves stretch out
before us like a wide open road of dry bare wood. Since I was young I have
dreamed of walking alone on the Ivories themselves, leaping from the black
to the white and over the cracks between, wherein lurks the music of the
East, those dark and strange quarter-notes…
Yet it seems this dream is to be
snuffed, for I dare not emerge from the interior while the Boy and his
guest roam the Room. We can see their shapes by the shadows moving across
the lines of light, and can pick up snatches of their peculiar
conversations. Mr. Hillary believes the newcomer is the Girl, and judging
by the lilting quality of the second voice, I am inclined to agree. This
is a discovery in itself, and will surely be of great interest to the
financiers of this expedition. However, her presence only redoubles the
danger ahead of us. For once the Keys have been mapped, we continue onward
and upward, over the Action mechanisms and toward the Hammers, to the
impact point and the Note itself. With the Boy and the Girl together in
the Room, the danger could not possibly be greater. I will confer with
Shackelton to decide our next step.
August 14 – 10:20 pm
We have made camp for the night. The
risk of the Piano being Played while we ascend the Action is too great, so
we have decided to wait here on the Keys until the Boy departs. It pains
me to lose an entire day to idleness, but the image of Scott plummeting to
his doom haunts me, and I envision still more grisly fates, men crushed in
the mechanisms, gnashed and chewed in the backchecks or damper springs.
The hourglass empties, but we will be patient.
While Amundsen roams the shadows
sketching the intricate architecture, taking measurements, readings,
calculations, I stand at the widest crack, looking out at the Room. The
light is low and the Boy and the Girl sit on their vast sofa, speaking
softly to each other in their deep and inscrutable tongue.
August 15 – 1:00 pm
The situation grows grim. The Boy and
the Girl slept not at all the whole night through. The interior of the
Piano reverberated with the beat of their jangling recorded music as they
talked and danced, bare feet pounding the floor and setting off a riot of
resonance in the Piano’s unfettered strings. The entire camp stayed awake
along with them, finding sleep in this cacophony to be impossible.
Now, as the afternoon drags long and
the Boy and Girl show no signs of vanishing, we may have no choice but to
cast aside wisdom and begin the ascent despite their presence.
August 15 – 7:00 pm
We can delay no longer.
I have clearly communicated the dangers
to the men, and not a one has shied away. We will begin climbing as soon
as we pull up camp, though not without precaution. The men’s bravery is
unflagging but we are not foolish. Magellan has agreed to stay below as a
lookout. Should he see the Boy or the Girl approach the Keys, he will
sound the alarm and we will take safety as best we can.
Peering through the crack one last
time, I see the Girl leaning out the Window with a cigarette. The Boy
looks on, smiling but sad.
August 15 – 8:00 pm
We have begun the ascent. After a
difficult climb up the sticker rod, we paused for a brief rest on the
narrow ledge of the wippen. Amundsen came to me with an intriguing idea,
which I am pondering still. When the expedition began our plan was this:
1. To reach the Hammer
2. To tie back the Damper through an
arrangement of ropes and pulleys.
3. To strike the Hammer against the
strings, and hear the Note.
At the time, it was with the assumption
that the Boy would be absent from the Room. Now that he is present, how
are we to strike the Note without being detected? Amundsen’s solution is
elegant and propitious, such that the skin of my neck prickled upon
Since the Boy is here, suppose we could
be present at a safe distance when the Piano is actually Played?
August 15 – 9:30
We are very close to the summit. We
have grappled and spiked our way up to the hammer-shank, and are preparing
for the final ascent to the Damper itself. Amundsen’s proposal still mulls
in my mind, but since the Boy and the Girl are still deeply engaged in
conversation, according to Magellan far below, we must respond to the
circumstances as they present themselves. We will continue with our
original plan despite the dangers. The men have all sworn oaths that if
striking the Note leads the Boy to rise and inspect the Piano, we shall
all leap to our deaths in the lower recesses to avoid discovery.
Since Scott’s tragic demise has already
freed the strings to vibrate, we no longer need to fasten the Damper.
Shepard and Ericsson have begun tying the ropes and weights necessary to
trigger the Hammer. Soon Mr. Aldrin and I will once more don our rubber
gloves and mount the gleaming cables of Middle C.
Magellan has just called up a signal.
He is difficult to hear from this height, but he appears to be urging
increased caution. We have no view of the Room from here, thus no way of
determining the cause of his alarm. Perhaps the Boy and the Girl are
stirring, moving about? We must proceed quickly.
August 15 – 10:20 pm
I am reclining on the Damper, watching
Aldrin climb the rest of the way to the Bridge, where he will observe the
Note from that alternate perspective. The white felt is soft and warm
under me. It is like lying upon the alien grass of a foreign world. I
close my eyes and adjust the cotton plugs in my ears, preparing myself for
the Note. It will be brief, and I must absorb and record every nuance of
this astounding sound.
Aldrin has reached the Bridge now.
Ericsson and Shepard are ready with the Hammer. Everything is in place. We
will now sit in silence and listen to the Room. Once the noise of activity
has reached a sufficient level to minimize the risk of the Boy hearing the
Note, we will proceed. The anticipation is palpable in the dark,
August 15 – 11:00 pm
Oh what wonders sleep in the mundane!
What newborn magic in the dull earth! The range uncharted, the size
unmeasured! What bright secrets, hidden in the dark around our lamps!
I must recount the events of the last
forty minutes before they fade from Truth and become simply Fact.
After about ten minutes of waiting, we
felt a commotion from the Room. At the same moment, we heard the alarm
from Magellan, but I could not bring myself to call a retreat this close
to the goal. I gave the command, and Shepard released the Hammer.
The Note that rang out from the strings
in front of me was a revelation. Even muffled by the plugs in my ears, the
sound filled my whole being and penetrated through the very core of my
brain. A strong, pure white stream of tone that sang with subtle overtones
and rich, warm depths. I looked up to see Aldrin perched upon the Bridge,
his eyes closed and face lit by a rapturous smile.
Before we could even fully comprehend
what we had just heard, however, we were interrupted by other sounds less
divine. Deep, pounding footfalls from the Room, then a thunderous clang as
if from a tumbler set upon the Piano’s surface, the arctic clinking of ice
floes in a sea of whiskey. I froze as understanding came to me. I could
hear their rumbling breaths against the Piano’s wooden frame, their soft
words and laughter.
Then the Piano began to Play.
What followed shall tax my powers of
description. I have of course heard the music of a piano before, the
fragile replicas we have imagined for our dismal concert halls, and I have
even faintly heard the Piano itself, muffled through walls and floors and
great distances. But to be here, in the inner heart of it all… The mind
August 15 – 11:15 pm
It began with one Chord. High on the
Keys, perhaps an F# major. With that threefold braid of Notes, the dark
interior of the Piano lit up in my mind, flaring with red and yellow and
blue and white, gleaming off golden frame and silver string. More Notes
followed, all high on the scale, piercing clear and sweet, but clumsily
played, hesitant. From the angle of their voices and slow breathing, I
perceived that the Boy and the Girl were sitting next to each other on the
Bench, and I understood that the high register Notes were the Girl’s. In
that crystalline twittering that stumbled from the Girl’s young
fingertips, I felt my mind reach out and expand, and the unyielding oak of
the Piano’s frame seemed to melt away like gauze. I saw them there in
front of me, side by side at the Keys. I saw the Boy’s wistful smile as he
studied the Girl’s profile, listening to her Play, waiting patiently. I
saw the Girl with her eyes closed, feeling her way across the Ivories by
no light but her own soul, flowing up from some primal place inside her.
Then the Boy touched the Keys and
joined in. Watching the Girl’s hands, he played root and harmony, point
and counterpoint, and the childlike dance took on depth and power as the
low end of the Piano rumbled to life.
And there I sat, perched on the white
felt of the Damper in the center of everything, watching the wooden
mechanisms gyrate and the Hammers strike again and again, white and green
felt bouncing and copulating in a mechanical orgy of dizzying complexity,
impregnating the compressed air of this vast oak box and giving birth to
sounds unlike any I have ever heard. Such limits our instruments have!
Such pitiful paucity of range, our grandest creations barely covering the
Piano’s shrillest octave. I believe not one ear of our race has heard such
Notes, such cosmic depth of frequency, such warmth and softness and
roaring godlike power.
There I sat on Middle C, digging my
fingers into the felt to keep the Damper’s motions from flinging me out
into space. I was distantly aware that the Hammer was positioned low
enough to obliterate me against the strings if it happened to strike, but
I felt oddly serene. Though B and C# pumped to my left and right, I
understood that the key of this piece should keep me safe between. Of
course the Boy and Girl are not seasoned players, they made errors, and I
knew there was the chance of a sour note, but I remained unafraid. I
reclined on the felt and absorbed the great ocean of sound around me, the
tense pulse of dissonance, the liquid sweetness of harmony. It swirled
around my head like a galaxy, a celestial waltz, perfect in its
imperfections, beautiful in its discord, words from the mouth of God
spoken out into the smoldering dark.
I removed my ear plugs, then. I let the
sound enter me fully, caring not for pain or deafness, caring not for
anything but to drink down every droplet of this sacred dram. I cast the
plugs out and away, and I sat there on the Damper, watching the angel
faces of the Boy and the Girl, their eyes glancing between the Keys and
each other, searching all deep and unexplored realms as they Played.
– end log