He floats on the edge of consciousness, fighting to stay in that state, touching the oily filament that separated the waking world from the dream world. The lead in his hand feels like a distant memory. His eyelids close without him realizing it, and sleep takes him swiftly. His mind is weightless, and he hears the distant chimes, the plucking of the harp, the wonderful harmony of a thousand string instruments-
He is jolted awake when is hand drops to his side, still clutching the lead weight.
The musician douses his face with cold water that bites at his skin like a thousand frosty ants. He is awake – and already the music has begun to fade from his memory. He reaches for the pen and writes furiously. Precision isn’t important, not as much as speed. He had to write as much as he could before the logical mind wiped his dream-memory clean away. He had managed about two and a half bars before the melody fled like a flight of doves, and was lost forever.
He had first encountered the melody when he was four or five, in that same state of wakeful dreaminess. It had come to visit him first once a year, like a visiting distant relative; then once every few months, like an old friend; and when he was old enough to graduate from school, it came to him almost nightly, like a mistress.
And like a mistress, she was crafty enough to elude him, to keep him in wonderment, never revealing herself fully or plainly to him. Every night, she teases him to the brink of madness – I want more, he would beg; and she would slip away from his grasp, fading into the shadows.
Then in the morning, she would be gone – like she was never there. Only leaving behind a memory strong enough to remind him of her beauty, but never vivid enough to recall the details of it.
The musician picks up the lead weight and sits himself into his armchair, holding the weight up against his chin. If fleeting glimpses and distant sounds were all that he could perceive, then let it be so – for even then, the music in his dream was infinitely more wonderful and indescribably more beautiful than anything the waking world could ever offer. Where the waking world could only hold twelve notes in its octave, in his dream he had heard the thirteenth note that has been hidden from man – the note of God and all His angels. The music of creation. The sound of heaven.
If he could see enough, hear enough – maybe, just maybe, one day he would be able to capture just an echo of this dream-music, and just an echo would be enough. But until that day, he must continue to work. He must continue chasing rainbows and counting stars. He must find the thirteenth note.
Even as he still held his eyes open, his vision of the world had faded away, and the dream world came rushing in to fill the empty spaces that his consciousness had left behind. Strange sounds of dead relatives, forgotten friends, of angels and demons filled his ears, but he wasn’t listening.
In the distance, the chimes started anew.