Consequences Part 12

November 11th, 2011 by Wordsman

Around them the daily routine of Simon Park Station continued as ever before.  The regular passengers had gotten used to the old woman and her bizarre habits a long time ago.  She sat on the floor, and sometimes she talked to people.  Sometimes the people talked back—both in the neutral sense of “talk back” and the negative sense.  They always walked away in the end.  From their point of view there was nothing new going on.

But the woman saw something different.  She saw a person who listened to her proposal, considered it, and then gave an answer that proved he had actually been paying attention.  She saw a man who chose to fight the Beherrschunglied because the alternative went against his principles.  It was kind of heroic, when she thought about it.

Of course, she might have only seen these qualities because the alternative was watching the best chance of getting out she had found in eight months of searching walk away.

“And what about after that?” she shouted.

The angry approach hadn’t worked—well, technically it had, but not in a way that seemed possible to duplicate.  So she fell back on the usual.  It had never worked before, but there’s a first time for everything.

“You want to go home and forget about everything that happened today?  After the way you described it, I suppose you probably would.  And maybe you’d be happy, for a while.  You’d get back in your routine, go to work every day—you look like someone whose job doesn’t change much.  You could live a life without risking being arrested, without crazy old women telling you what to do, without angry German music stuck in your head.  But what would you have instead?”

Peter stopped.  He couldn’t tell you exactly why (then again, considering the day he’d had, you’d be lucky if he could tell you his own address or phone number).  Maybe the woman’s words struck home; maybe he couldn’t stand the thought of spending the whole rest of the summer killing time in the Clerk Cage knowing that he gave up the chance to do something else.  It could be that he remembered that the reason he wanted to be a lawyer was not simply to show off his speaking skills but also to help others.  Of course, it’s also possible that, as he approached the exit, the faintest hint of the tune began to reverberate at the back of his mind again.

He walked back to where the woman was seated and squatted down, trying to ignore the smell of the garbage can.  “Look, I’d like to help you.  I don’t know what you did to get in trouble with the police, but whatever it is, I’m sure you don’t deserve to be locked up and then abandoned here.  But you’re asking me to go into a building full of cops and steal something that belongs to them.  I don’t think you’ve got the right man for the job.”

We’ll find out for sure in a minute, the woman thought.  “And if you could get someone else to do it for you?”

“I don’t see how that’s any better.  You’re just adding a conspiracy charge on top of things.”  Still, his curiosity could not be denied.  “What are you talking about?”

“The Beherrschunglied.”

“Can’t we just call it by the English name?”

“Fine.  The Song of Mastery.”

“The song that you used on me—”

“Not intentionally!”

“—to force me to do what you want.”

“Right.”

“But I don’t know it.”  This was only one of many problems with her suggestion.  It was the most obvious, however, so he felt he might as well start with it.

“I can teach it to you.”  She took a deep breath.  This was it.  “Can you play a musical instrument?”

“No.”  But, on this one occasion, as he watched her head sink gloomily onto her chest, he felt compelled to tell the whole truth.  “I mean, not anymore.”

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