The audience are shushed by the lowering of the lights, and a black curtain at the front is raised. Standing behind a microphone stand is the head-teacher I spoke to about DeeDee’s violin, and she looks like she’s trying to hide behind it. She taps the microphone and then jumps when she gets a loud pop from it.
“Oh, er, yes,” she says. She takes a breath, straightens her shoulders, and it’s almost as if another person steps forward, as though there’s a more confident person hiding in her body. “I’d like to welcome you all this evening to our little concert, and I hope that you’ll find our performers as wonderful as I do. All the proceeds from the ticket sales will be used to fund school trips through the year, with our first being a trip to the Natural History Museum next month for all of our Year 9 students. And now, let me introduce our first soloist, Jenny Braemore, who will be performing two piano pieces by Mozart.”
Jenny is pudgy, glares at the audience as though she’d not agreed that they would be there while she played, and plays competently if aggressively. I don’t much care for piano music, and if all Mozart sounds like this I’m not about to change my opinion in the future. The next performer is an oboist and I have to stifle a couple of yawns while he produces melancholy dirges from his instrument. The couple sat next to me are sat forward, listening intently, and I think that they must be somehow related to him. When he finishes they both sit back, and I overhear a whisper from her to him asking if they can go now.
“Wait till the intermission,” he whispers back, and I conceal a smile.
DeeDee comes out next, and as she walks into the spotlight my stomach does a little flip. Even from this distance I can see that there’s something wrong with her eyes; they look like the ones they create for zombie-movies. She walks stiffly, stands in the centre of the spotlight, and lifts her violin. The instrument is midnight-blue, the same as the guitar, and has an ornate patterns of swirling, curlicued tattoes all over it. Her sleeve falls back slightly, and to my horror I see that there’s the beginnings of a tattoo on her wrist as well, and I’m positive that Melanie doesn’t know about it, or I’d have heard her shouting from where I live. She draws the bow lightly across the strings.
The lights in the auditorium don’t dim, but it seems like they do. I can hear the note continuing, sustaining beyond what is possible for a violin, and I can see people in the audience ahead of me nodding slightly. When the second note comes in, the room darkens a little more, and a couple of people slump. Now DeeDee starts bowing more quickly, her feet tapping and moving, creating a very small dance step as she plays. The notes throb in the air, and I can feel them against my skin. The lights seem to dim and brighten, and I realise with a start that it’s my eyes. As I fight to resist the music the light comes back, when I falter it dims. The music is unearthly, it seems to howl and pluck at the ragged edges of reality. When DeeDee suddenly increases the volume the entire auditorium seems to disappear for several seconds, and I find myself looking at something a very long way off. Shapes twist and sway, dancing, I think. My eyes slip across them, finding it hard to focus, and then like a Rorschach image sudden springing out of the page I recognise them: they are Ilmatu.
Behind them are massive walls, and on it what I think is a design of some kind, spiderlike with tenuous limbs stretched impossibly far outwards. It moves. Again that mind-wrenching shock of recognising something that I hadn’t seen before, and I understand that it is an Ilmatu, far larger than any I have seen before. It lifts its head, and twists the faceless, hairless orb around, and then it seems to find me. The dancers shriek, their scream mixing with the violin’s tooth-hurting howl, and sticklike limbs lift from the wall and reach outwards, towards me.
The violin music changes slightly, a glissando of notes that are right on the edge of my hearing, and the otherworldly image disappears. I feel sweat spring out all over my body, a sudden cold sheen of water. Beneath it my face feels like it’s burning, as though I’ve been in strong sunlight for too long. My hands are gripping the edges of the my chair, and I force myself to relax my grip. A wetness alerts me that I’d gripped so hard I’ve cut my fingers.
The audience are almost all slumped over now. I am still resisting, and I know I’m not going to hold out much longer as the music hammers away at my mind. The head-teacher is collapsed on the floor, it looks like she tried to reach DeeDee and stop her. I see the last person in the front row slump, and now everyone ahead of me is gone. I want to turn my head, see if there’s anyone behind me who’s still resisting this, but DeeDee sways and bends, and pulls more notes from the violin that now seem to swarm and swirl in the air, angry notes that are ready to attack anyone who’s still resisting them. Then the fabric of reality is tugged again, and I can see the dancers again, superimposed on the auditorium, and at last I realise what the violin’s purpose is: to bring two localities together and allow the Ilmatu to come here.