Someone once told me before that when the moon is highest, whether its the brightest celestial body in the sky or obscured by disappointing clouds, an organist comes to play at night.
He sits on the seat and raises his long, elegant fingers, his feet perched and ready to perform.
He plays for Death, Jesus, or Buddha, it depends on who you believe in.
But most of all, the organist plays for those who struggle in the still night alone, for those who never see the sun’s mortal rays again.
I drag myself slowly up the cathedral’s long steps. My feet are laden and frozen. Each new height is a treacherous foothold on a precarious mountain. My breath comes out ragged and heavy. The unearthly reflection of the moon shows the muffled fog I breathe and the dark trail of life I leave behind me. It’s trickling.
Inside, I stumble into one of the benches, a hand reclining on the bench to support my weight. The other clutches at my twitching heart.
I’m trying, is what it beats.
The cathedral is modest and drafty. Its high, sloping ceiling makes it airy. Something in the beams flutters its leathery wings and I shiver. I clench my teeth to stop its chattering, ice cubes clinking in a glass. The loud rhythm of the clock fills the silence.
Moonlight lies in strips on the ground, shining through the tall windows and the open door. I sit in the dark, still and calming my breathing. My eyes start adjusting. They widen at the sound of scuffling at the stairs. They’re heading up the cathedral. Frightened, I bunch myself smaller and try to hide any living signs of me.
But it’s not who I expect.
He’s quiet, his footsteps not light or heavy. He walks with a ease but doesn’t hurry. His shadow is long as he pauses briefly at the doorway, it grows shorter as he briskly heads down the aisle. In many ways, he owns the cathedral. Every step of his rhymes with the heart of the ticking clock. His figure is hidden by a dark cloak, as black as a pit. When he walks into the shadows, I can barely see his outline. The only brightness of him is the light fringe peekingg from under his hood. But it can be the blonde strands of a lithe young man, or the wizened crow nest of a frail grandfather.
My eyes follow his movement, traveling with him. He walks straight to the organ. The chair, he pulls out and gently sits down.
Outside, I suddenly hear the distant, angry cheer of a crowd of men. It sets my heart to panic and I breathe wretchedly fast again. More life trickles out. Still, the organist doesn’t hurry. I see him place his taper, pale hands on the keys. They are the shade of moonlight. His feet creep forward to the pedals leisurely.
The clock is his metronome, his conductor.
It’s a minute to midnight.
A tlast, the organist presses down with vigor and jarring notes bang and echo through out the cathedral. The fluttering in the beams grow thicker. I close my eyes in shock when the music hits my eardrums, blaring and deafening.
His hands are sporadic, amazing, and his fingers tap each key with ferocity yet facileness. Below, his feet keep time. He switches panels. The notes are long and scary. They are terrible and appealing. I’m left appalled and silent.
The music grows faster, in a frantic, and confusing. I lift both my hands to the sides of my thumping head and try not to scream from the thunder of erratic chamber. I hear the men come closer, their beastly voices clearer. Can they hear?
And suddenly the booming pipes of the organ die down. He plays softer, his fingers bunny-hopping and scampering over every key delicately. It is peaceful. With magic, my head’s ache subsides.
The organist is a magician. He bends the melody to his will. It bows to him and he plays with it. The music becomes simpler and more complex at the same time. They are his pawns, each key a kind soldier.
I feel emotion rise out of me. It’s a feeling that is awoken. the deep river inside me cracks open. Large, dewy drops streak down my cheeks without asking.
He plays for the beauty of closure, for the ending.
It’s a few seconds until the finale of the piece.
The organist, with an angel’s delicacy, taps out one last note. It’s light and merciful. It is faith.
All I want is to thank him, the organist.
As the final note’s echo dries out, I slump back and close my eyes. I don’t need to see the sun again.