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

 

Disaster.

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 will persevere.

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 tonight.

 

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 sundown.

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 is manifest.

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 hearing it:

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, reverberant air.

 

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 fails to…

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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