Sounds of the Heart

by Janet Lin
San Francisco, California, USA

BANG! Jennifer slammed her hand onto the keyboard as hard as she can. As she stood there, trying her best to gaze at the piano, she felt burning tears sliding down her cheeks, and landing with a tiny splash onto the keyboard. She still remembered the hot sensation she felt when she had the high fever, could still taste the bitterness when the heat seemed to engulf her whole body, slowly dragging her into the darkness. She remembered hearing the piano piece she last played before giving in and letting the darkness carry her away. She could still feel the horrible moment when she knew the fever had taken away her sight. She remembered stretching her hands to reach the piano, but can only see the darkness ahead, and everything seemed out of reach. When she finally recovered enough to touch the piano again, she could not figure out where the keys are, and the she panicked when the endless darkness seemed to be reaching for her again, trying to crush the 16-year-old girl. Sobbing, she slowly sank down on the chair, and let exhaustion wash over her.

A red crescent moon hung low on a nearby dead tree branch, coloring the dark sky with a layer of blood red. Dry, cracked Earth stretched beyond view, finally getting devoured by the darkness ahead. Shivering, Jennifer stepped into this dark world. Where am I? She wondered. Looking down, she saw herself wearing a pale white dress, it was so bright against the darkness; it looked as if it was glowing. I can see! Jennifer thought. As she walked further and further, the dead branches seemed to stretch, and when she stopped again, the branches had formed a glistening black piano. Narrowing her eyes, Jennifer saw a little girl sitting in front of the piano, her fingers moving furiously across the keyboard, lines and lines of music came pouring out of the piano, but not a single sound came out. Finally, the girl stopped playing, and sighed. She slowly turned around and faced Jennifer. Jennifer gasped as she saw the little girl’s face. She had the same black, curly hair, the same high nose, the same slim body, and the same clear, blue eyes as Jennifer. The younger Jennifer spoke: “I am your younger version from your sweetest memories, and I am living in your consciousness.” She slowly raised a hand and pointed it at Jennifer, “Your despair has brought disaster upon this world, and I am the one who has to keep playing the piano to stop this land from disappearing, and along with it, the Piano. But I cannot go on for much longer, the piano has already lost its sound, before long, it will completely disappear. Please learn to love the piano again, and bring spring back to this land.” She twisted her raised hand and flicked it at Jennifer, and the air around her began to ripple. “I will send you back in time. Whether or not you will find your own happy memories and your own sound back, will be decided by fate.” As the little girl’s voice echoed in the space, Jennifer felt a drifting sensation that brought her to another place.

“Hmmm… hmmm.” A soft humming sound broke the silence. Jennifer slowly opened her eyes. A small lantern caught her attention. The little red fireball glowed, making out two silhouettes. “I don’t want to play the Piano anymore, Granny.” A little girl sobbed. The bigger figure gently brushed the little girl’s hair. “Oh. And why is that, my dear?” To Jennifer’s surprise, it was the voice of her grandmother, who died two years ago. “Because my classmates always call me a music freak and said all I ever do is play the Piano! I don’t want to be called that anymore!” The fire in the lantern flashed, and Jennifer saw the soft light in her grandmother’s eyes. “Look, my little Jenny, look at that black bird up in the trees!” Little Jennifer raised her head to look at where her grandmother pointed. It fluttered its wings, and flew out of its nest. But once it’s out of the nest, one of the wings gave away and the little bird fell. It struggled and stood up. It tried again and again, reaching for the dark sky. “Look at how it struggles to fly, even if one of its wings is broken. Look at the bird with that spirit! Don’t you want to be just like it, my little Jenny?” The voice was gentle, despite the fact that it was cracked with age. The little Jennifer managed to stop sobbing and rubbed her eyes. “I want to be as strong as that little birdie, but how do I stop my classmates from making fun of me?” “That, my dear, will have to be figured out by you, and you alone. How would you solve your own problems and stand on your own two feet again?” The little figure stood, and said loudly: “I will try harder and harder! I will become like that little birdie! Right Granny?” The two figures laughed. None of them noticed the little winged figure by the tree stiffly stood up, struggled again, and flew for the sky, its jet-black feathers shining in the night. And behind this heart-warming scene, Jennifer has already soaked the front of her dress in tears.

In the blink of an eye, Jennifer was back in the world of her consciousness. “I hope you have found the answer. And I also hope that you will love the piano again.” The little Jennifer said, “I do not know if you will ever play the piano again, but I will wait here, for as long as it takes, for you to bring spring and life back to this land.” As she turned away, Jennifer yelled: “I will! I will definitely bring spring back to this land. I will….”

“I will learn to love the piano again!” Jennifer whispered. For a moment, nothing happened. Suddenly, the sound of the night drowned her again. The softened chirping of the birds, the soothing rustle of the grass, everything sounded so peaceful. Jennifer stood up. It was just a dream. She thought. The darkness in front of her eyes began to expand again, and attempted to drag her. She used all her might to push it away, and stumbled to the piano. She slowly sat down on the chair, and put her hands on the keyboard, the cold touch sent a tingle down her arms. She pressed down one key. The note sounded and echoed in the night. She played one more note, and another, and a song began to form. She could not see the keys, but her fingers felt like they were alive and knew where the keys were all along. They moved gracefully, and let the music pour out. The music was like a stone dropped in water, the ripples made everything around Jennifer come alive. Suddenly, all the birds seemed to start singing, the trees waved in the cool breeze. The whole world was drowned in music, and even though her eyes can see only darkness, Jennifer thought she could make out her grandmother’s face, smiling proudly at her. That night was filled with music, and for the first time in what seemed like such a long time, Jennifer felt so happy playing the piano, listening to the graceful music bringing everything to life. But what she could not know, was the world of her own consciousness blooming from one place then the other, and finally filled with greens and yellows and reds, and the little Jennifer was playing so happily on the field; what she could not see, was herself by the piano, smiling happily, remembering the time when her Grandmother sang her favorite song:

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night; Take its broken wings and learn to fly; all your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise…”

“My name is Yingxi, Lin, although I prefer the name Janet. I currently live in San Francisco, CA, and I came from China during January in 2011. I have many, many hobbies. one of my favorite ones is Piano. I started piano when I was 4 years old, and I’m pretty good at it. I also play the violin, the Chinese Bamboo flute, and the Gu Zheng. Music has always been my friend, and I intend to let it be my friend forever. When I started the Piano, I made a difficult decision between choosing playing the piano or playing the Gu Zheng, but years after, I found out that choosing the Piano was the right choice, and it perfected my skills as a musician.”
— Janet Lin (age 13)