Sunday, 4 February 2018

Nebenstimme - Flash Fiction

At night he composed his musical scores amid the discomposed and the decomposing. That mound of bodies heaped in the camp’s “Pathology Department”. Where the deceased were harvested for chimerical medical trials, their flesh sown for decorative ornaments to give as gifts to Nazi Frauen. Even the Germans didn’t dare enter this human tannery past sunset. For fear of ghosts. Though he took up residence there, precisely because all was unutterably still for him to pen his movements. For he couldn't concentrate in this concentration camp. To hear the music in his head, he needed to be away from the diminuendo outside. Of groans, gurgling stomachs consuming their hosts and relentless recitations of the mourners’ Kaddish. The only ghosts to be had, were the shuffling wraiths of the still living skeletons. 

Emerging from the charnel room with the dawn, he would clutch a new tune inscribed on the toilet sheets he’d solemnised from the dysentery sufferers. Dodging the sleepy sentries, he slipped his latest opus to the conductor of the camp orchestra during the shambling gathering for roll call and any unused candle tallow. Their neighbours in the file rounded on them both. 

- In this place music is an affront. Your orchestra an abomination - My friend, music lifts the spirit. It offers hope there is still beauty and refinement in the world - Modest ain't he? You’re no better than parasites. Like our Rabbis, you were only ever provided any means through the generosity of patrons, people who toiled for their money and who you cozened funds from, in the myth it would redeem their souls - Ah, good to see the art versus business dichotomy still rages on in a place where neither hold much in the way of currency - So you admit it? Besides, how can your music have anything to do with refinement, when you lock yourself up in that heinous room of all rooms to write your notes? It can only but be permeated with the benighted spirits of the departed there. Your dead muses. I bet they light your way at night, it’s their fat you use for those candles isn’t it? - No sir, absolutely not. How could something so profane be associated with the making of noble art? - You are still nothing but a ghoul - No sir, a golem. To uplift our hearts in order to conduct us into survival - To conduct us into the afterlife more like. Die Totentänze. Do you expect us to dance a muzurka as we work in the quarries? Or perhaps demand that we waltz on into the ovens to your accompaniment? A little chamber music as tribute to our three-to-a-bunk barracks? Or maybe you have written a march for our victorious host to parade triumphantly out of this camp as we overthrow our captors? - Those with art and beauty in their hearts will stand more chance of enduring through the greatest hardship than those without - Oh really, will your uplifted soul float above the gas in the chambers and preserve you pure air to breathe? - No, but it will help preserve pure air for those that come after us to breathe. To know that from such an abyss, the human spirit could still soar. 

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