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Barbara Garrett

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First Woman: The Piano Player
By Barbara Garrett
Sunday, March 18, 2007

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Barbara Garrett
· Third Woman: The Prayer
· Second Woman: The Witch
           >> View all 3

Inspired by my Mother's and Grandparents' internment in a concentration camp, this story reminds us that it is easy to be complacent about death.

The Piano Player

I know every piece that Chopin ever wrote. Some of them enjoy Debussy although I do not have all of his compositions committed to memory. My favorite is Rachmaninoff's Concerto in C minor.
Every transit system in the city goes straight to the Quadrant Building. Many passengers like to stop at my wing, the Tranquility Wing, where they line up and get their tickets. Ticket holders are escorted to their seats, and every seat is very comfortable and relaxing. Although the auditorium can hold about 200 people, each person has a great view of the stage and can hear each note with equal clarity.
Although no one returns to their family and friends after the concert – it seems that my reputation has already gained notoriety. I know that some day, it will be my turn to sit in the comfortable and relaxing chairs, so I play as if I were playing for myself.
I start off with each note saying goodbye to what I love most – my apartment, the scent from my candles, the feel of the ivory under my fingers. I play a musical goodbye to each of my favorite things with a special chord or note. Then, in between the notes, I play the silence. It is always more important to play the silence between the notes than it is to play the notes. I play the silence as I imagine the peace that my audience will experience. Such peace only can exist in the moment – with no worries, no stress, and no thoughts for the future. I finish with saying goodbye to each and every one of my listeners in a musical chord that is dedicated to only them. I imagine sending out a musical muse to give them a hug and a warm kiss on their foreheads or cheeks. As they finish their drinks and their heads begin to droop, I think about those that are left behind. It is just a matter of time. I always finish at the exact moment that the last head droops. I always let a tear fall when I finally lift my hands and my feet up and away from the piano. I close the keyboard cover and rest my arms and head on it. I wait for them to clear the auditorium, and I prepare for the next group.
There are hundreds of these Quadrant Buildings all over the world. The main headquarters is in the North Pole. It is as far North on this Earth that you can possibly go. People used to think that a kind and benevolent man by the name of Santa Clause lived there, but this is no longer true . One of the most evil men in the history of the world now lives there. I am the only one who has seen him and lived. I am the only one who has ever married him.
There are three other wings to the Quadrant Buildings besides the Tranquility Wing. The other quadrants are known as the X, Pink, and Workers’ quadrants.
The X Quadrant is where they do the experimentation. Experiments allow us to discover ways to use more with less and to see how we can live longer – just the special ones, of course. We love to advance ourselves. We want life to be better and longer.
Those in the X Quadrant rarely survive because they usually want to perform an autopsy after the experiments. Autopsies can be performed while the victim is still alive, but there is usually no reason to spend the extra time putting that person back together so that they can live. Some people who are sentenced to the Pink Quadrant are given the choice to go to the X Quadrant instead. It usually is not much of a choice, and the X Quadrant is preferred to the Pink Quadrant.
The Pink Quadrant is really the “P” Quadrant or Pain Quadrant. Anyone that has been deemed a threat to society is immediately sent to the Pink quadrant. Like everything else, torture has been perfected. There is a chemical that can be injected, taken orally, applied as a patch, or even distributed as a gas, and it causes every nerve ending to send signals of pain regardless of whether there is a stimulant for it. It inhibits any thresholds for pain so that tolerances cannot be developed.
The Workers’ Quadrant has professionals of all types who come to work and sit in front of a computer screen to keep the entire world running efficiently. There is usually an area for artisans, but it is easy to create a machine to replicate the artisan’s talent, and they are rarely needed.
The Quadrant Executive Officer (QEO) has jurisdiction over his territory that usually has several million people. The DQEO (Director of the Quadrants Executive Officers) is my husband who lives at the North Pole.
All of us employed in the X, Pink, and Tranquility Quadrants are allowed to wear masks. After all, we are the executioners.
Tranquility Quadrants do not require a live piano player. Before I came here, they had music piped in for each individual to allow them to choose their preferred music. The program usually takes 1-2 hours with about 200 people in each program. On a good day, we process about 2500 people multiplied by the hundreds of quadrants located all over the world. Of course, disposing of the bodies must be done efficiently. The skin and muscles are processed for protein and food. Other minerals are extracted as needed, water is recycled, and the nutrients are used for medicinal purposes.
We are expected to mix the poisons required before people fill the auditorium. A special system allows people to choose whatever they want to eat or drink during the performance. If they choose not to eat or drink, the poison is absorbed into their skin through the armrests of the chairs.
Being the executioner in charge is considered to be a very boring job. It is the not the same for the Pink Quadrant executioners even though they do not personally inflict torture. They enjoy watching the different reactions of people to the inhuman pain.
The decline of our society from freedom to a world dictatorship started with the media. They could always be counted upon to point out the world’s injustices and woes. They can play a story on one country or problem over and over again until you are convinced that somebody or some law must solve the problem. Yet, they conveniently ignore other atrocities in other parts of the world. With each law enacted, a freedom was taken away. Law abiding citizens existed one day and were criminals the next at a mere stroke of a pen. Religions were outlawed. The world was not conquered with guns or bombs, it was destroyed by videos and print.
My father was a brilliant man. He worked in the X Quadrant and had a series of great inventions that improved life. He rarely used humans to experiment upon. He perfected hologram technology that duplicated the mass, color, and composition of inanimate objects. He was able to use air molecules to transmit various frequencies and essentially “tune into” a person’s thoughts. Often, his supervisors took credit for his work, but he did not mind. He enjoyed research and development. It was an escape for him.
There are three groups of people in this world. The first group craves power. The second group of people understands that the first group is a constant threat and prefer to stay as anonymous as possible. The third group has accepted the futility of this life and either end up dead trying to resist, or they end up dead by quitting.
The first two groups are often careful to protect themselves from the one thing that makes them the most vulnerable – love. My father knew that he should not fall in love, yet it was difficult to not feel something for a beautiful woman who was passionately in love with him, my mother. Then, I came into the world and his liability increased exponentially.
I inherited my parents’ natural beauty and started to get marriage proposals by the age of 10. By 16, QEO’s were threatening my parents in order to marry me. Of course, the marriage proposals were not for love. Instead, I could be used as a possession, something that QEO’s could use to cause envy and desire in others. Envy and desire are vulnerabilities that can be exploited in the acquisition of more power.
My parents managed to escape the threats and advances until I became eighteen. I remember that I was given a choice, either I give the DQEO whatever he wants or he executes my family. This was the first disagreement in the relationship between the DQEO and myself. I did not think it was a choice. Regardless, I succumbed to his wishes and managed to see my parents to safety.
I knew that the DQEO did not love me. I was a possession that he could use to keep other QEO’s in line. He loved to set them up by using me as bait. If they made any advances to me, an elaborate trap would already be laid to terminate them. The DQEO loved thinking of how to construct the trap and ensnare his victims.
One day, I managed to escape. I searched for my parents while attempting to allude capture. The DQEO was very upset that I had gone, and I was never more than two steps ahead of my pursuers. It was just a matter of time. I was finally captured by none other than the QEO of the quadrant where my father had worked. He had an uncanny memory and knew every worker in his quadrant. He personally knew the face, name, and habits of literally millions of people who lived in his jurisdiction.
He had me escorted to his office. He told me that he knew my parents for he was the one who had to execute them when I escaped. He stood looking at me for a long time. Finally, he said that I was very beautiful, just like my mother. He then sighed and said that I must have inherited my fathers’ brains because no one could have alluded the DQEO for as long as I had.
He then told me that he would like me to be the tranquility executioner. I told him that if he did not return me to the DQEO, he would be signing his own death certificate. He smiled, came towards me, and whispered in my ear, “I couldn’t save your parents, but I do have a chance to save my granddaughter.”
I had been the tranquility executioner for a few years using piped music. Often, at the end of the day, I went up to the QEO’s office and played his piano. It seems that I was a prodigy on the piano. My grandfather would often sit and listen to the haunting melodies that I composed only for him. One day, the machine that played the piped music in the Tranquility Quadrant had a malfunction. My grandfather had a quota to maintain, and this malfunction would have meant his job. I asked him to bring down the piano and place it in the auditorium. That was how it all began.
The allure and mystery made the numbers increase. They even built a larger auditorium for me. People from other quadrants traveled thousands of miles to die listening to my music. It was inevitable, though, that someone would point out how no one alive had ever heard me in person. (Of course, no one knew about my performances just for my grandfather).
To make matters worse, this phenomenon was not planned nor orchestrated by the media. If word of mouth was this effective, it would undermine the media and control of the world. Of course, this got back to the DQEO. He was impressed that productivity had increased so dramatically by using an artisan. He was upset when machines could not duplicate the connection that I had with the audience, but he believed that there still had to be a way to make this more efficient.
The DQEO decided that he would be the one to hear me outside of the Tranquility Quadrant. He would record the performance on special machines and would then decide whether or not a machine could replicate my performance. He had the piano and me shipped to the North Pole.
I arrived wearing my executioner’s mask. He told me that I only needed to wear the mask if someone was going to die. Since he had no plans of dying, I should remove the mask. I took off the mask, and he almost fell on the floor laughing.
“How delightful that my wife has been returned to me as an effective and efficient executioner,” he snickered with a low, evil laugh. “How did you manage to dupe my brilliant QEO for so long?”
I said nothing.
He walked behind me and put his cheek next to mine. “I am so glad you are back. I will even let you do the honors of executing my brilliant QEO who has such a great memory, but was unable to remember the face of my wife.”
He then sat down, and I began to play. The minor chords seemed to be harmonious with each of his heartbeats. I could tell that his breaths became more dependent on my rhythms and chords. I played Chopin and Debussy and Rachmoninoff, but this called for a special occasion. My final selection was my own composition.

My grandfather knew that as the new DQEO, he would not be able to undo all the wrongs of the world in a short time. Change has to always be done slowly, otherwise, you will have too many fight the change even if it is for the best.
He started with the media and slowly began to destroy the laws and increase the freedoms. He worked toward a system of government with checks and balances by pulling out some old books on the Constitution of the United States.
Many people wondered what happened at that concert that caused my husband, the first DQEO, to suddenly die. I just tell them, “My father was a brilliant man.”
Many people believe that poisons can only be taken orally, inhaled, absorbed, or injected, but my father was able to distribute poisons by sound waves through a musical instrument. It was very effective and efficient.

       Web Site: The 13th Woman - 1st Woman: The Piano Player

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