Aphelion Issue 296, Volume 28
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Death Song

by T.S. Kay

"Is this Jin Woo?" An English-speaking voice with an American accent asked me when I answered my cell phone.

"This is she," I replied, curious. It wasn't often I spoke to anyone not Chinese. "How may I help you?"

"I would like to hire your services," he said. I've never had a request from a foreigner before.

"I am flattered by your consideration," I told him, going into business mode. "What date and time? I will need to check my calendar. This week is very busy for me," I explained. This was only a partial truth. I was only marginally busy this week and next week was looking worse. Part of me didn't care, I didn't like what I did but at least it kept me and my mother fed, clothed, and sheltered.

"It hasn't been set yet," he answered, "and I want to make sure you are available."

"I can't guarantee I will be free without a non-refundable fee."

"I will pay what you ask. The arrangements are likely to be complicated," he warned me. Complicated was good, I could charge more. "The travel arrangements will likely take time as well," he added.

"Travel to where?" I asked, dreading traveling to the other side of Hong Kong which was always difficult.

"The United States. New York," he said, stunning me. "I will have my lawyer call you to see to the arrangements and payment." Then he hung up.

* * *

Mr. Langenthorpe, a lawyer from New York called two days later. My services wouldn't be needed for another month but that it would take that long for arrange the necessary paperwork. I would be traveling on a temporary visa given to entertainers. All travel expenses and a daily per diem rate would be covered. It added up to more than I would have made in five years.

Mother didn't want me to go when I first told her. She was afraid of what could happen to a woman alone in the United States. Her objections faded when the advance payment arrived. I mentioned Mother's concerns to Mr. Langenthorpe. Two days later a Hong Kong law firm contacted me to make arrangements for a home aid to check on Mother while I was gone. Mr. Langenthorpe would also provide me with a female traveling companion while I was actually traveling.

"When will you leave?" Mother asked me fearfully when I hung up the phone. She didn't like this attention, afraid it would lead to something bad. To mother, everything new or different was dangerous, to be feared, and shunned. If I listened to her I would still be waiting tables full-time rather than using my gift to perform.

"Any day now. Mr. Langenthorpe will let me know.

"Who will you be singing for, have they told you yet?"

"No, they will provide me with all the details I will need once I arrive." She frowned as dissatisfied with the answer as I was. She continued on complaining about the mysteriousness of it all but I tuned her out as I prepared my garments for a performance I was to do the next day for a local merchant.

The call came three days later. Apparently, things had progressed enough in the United States that my services would be needed within the next few weeks. It would take three days to get to the client's estate outside of Rochester, New York.

A car service came and two young, professionally dressed women knocked on the door. I pretended I didn't notice their disdain when I invited them into our two room home and asked if they would like tea. They declined, as I would need to leave very soon. One of them would be staying with my mother while I was gone, the other would travel with me to the Chek Lap Kok airport and boarding gate. I faked being calm and serene about the trip but my mask slipped when I brought out my performance garments covered in a plastic bag and a large pocket book that contained another change of clothes. The two women burst into titters; shaming me and making me feel stupid.

"Is that all the clothes you are bringing?" The younger, prettier one asked with an incredulous laugh.

I started humming, warming my voice up. I watched their faces as they flushed, unexpectedly overcome with sadness. My mother, used to my gift and able to withstand it, put her hand on mine, warning me to keep my temper in check. Realizing they could jeopardize my trip and paycheck, I quieted my anger. The women exchanged puzzled glances with one another but then shrugged, not really able to understand what happened.

"These are all the clothes I own," I glared, daring them to laugh again. They had the decency to be embarrassed and nodded an apology to my mother.

"Very well. We should leave now to ensure you are on time," the older of the two women told me. I said my good-byes to my mother, aware of the necessity to show respect in front of these strangers. The younger woman gave me her business card and assured me that I could call her at any time for her to check on to my mother.

A luxury limousine waited outside the apartment building, looking very out of place in our poverty-stricken block. Neighbors were peering out of their windows and stopping to watch as I got into the car. A driver held the door open for us but the woman got into the front as if she were my servant. I kept my head down to hide my prideful smile from my neighbors. The ride to the airport was long but more comfortable than any other trip I'd made in Hong Kong. It was also the most quiet with the driver and woman hidden behind a darkened glass partition.

When we arrived at the airport, the woman opened the door for me and handed me a black binder containing my itinerary, passport, and travel visa. She escorted me to the first class counter.

"I have spoken to Mr. Langenthorpe and explained that you do not have a wardrobe that would be suitable to the climate in New York. He has authorized me to assist you in the selection of additional clothing. Once we pass through security, we will have a short time to shop, so please allow me to make the majority the decisions." Her tone was sour with jealousy. I nodded at her, dazed at the generosity of my unknown patron.

* * *

The long trip to Los Angeles, then New York City, then a small regional airport in upstate in New York, seemed to take forever. I was as comfortable as I had ever been flying business class but the last plane to central New York was small with no first class section.

When I finally arrived in Rochester, I made my way to the baggage claim area where I was to meet Mr. Langenthorpe. Instead, I noticed my name on a placard carried by a limousine driver.

"I am Jin Woo," I told him wondering if I would need to show him my passport.

"Hello Ms. Woo, which bags are yours?" He nodded at the carrousel behind me. I pointed to my new suitcases full of two business suites, two dresses that would serve as evening attire, sleep wear, undergarments, and two pairs of shoes. It had taken all my reserve not to jump up and down in excitement in front of the smarmy young lawyer.

"Is that all?" the driver asked.

"No, there is one more bag, a garment bag." I peered anxiously at the other articles as they came out on the belt. "There it is," I pointed it out to him. I hated it, wishing I could do something more meaningful with my gift than wear funeral garb.

"The car is this way," the driver told me and wheeled my bags toward the doors leading to a parking lot full of cars. He turned to see me standing still, hesitating.

"I thought Mr. Langenthorpe would meet me at the airport." I said, realizing for I was alone in a strange country about to get into a car with a total stranger.

"Yes, Ms. Woo, he's waiting in the car. He is an elderly man. He didn't want to stand and wait for you." He gave me a reassuring smile.

"Of course, I should have realized that," I answered him with a false smile. I would check to see if Mr. Langenthorpe was in the car before I got in. I followed the driver out into the parking lot, blinking at the sunshine.

"Ms. Woo?" I heard and looked to see an elderly, bald man leaning out of an open window in the back of a limousine. I recognized his voice immediately.

"Mr. Langenthorpe! It's a pleasure to finally meet you in person." I said with a genuine smile. I hadn't realized how much I missed familiar surroundings, even my mother. I'd never been away from home before.

"Yes, it is good to meet you as well. Please get in the car where it's warm. I'm sure you're tired and cold after your long trip." The driver hurried over to hand me into the car and close the door behind me. As I sat down, I tried not to stare.

"Never met a black lawyer before, Ms. Woo?"

"No, I'd seen them, I mean Africans, on television and a few on the planes these past days but I'd never sat next to one before," I admitted. Mr. Langenthorpe laughed. "My mother told me I was too curious for my own good," I added with a small laugh.

"Well, stare all you like for now but I suggest you avoid staring at Mr. Robinson, his son, or the people at the service."

"Mr. Robinson? Is still alive? Is he... my client?" I asked, not sure if that was the right term. He nodded. "Usually it was the bereaved relatives that hired me, not the soon-to-be-dearly-departed." He laughed at my choice of words, and then sobered.

"Yes, Mr. Robinson is your client. You will be performing at his funeral. He is not likely to last more than a few days, but he is coherent and looking forward to meeting you."

"I see," I said, uncomfortably. I'd never actually met the subject of my performance before.

"Does he have a wife?"

"She passed away some years ago."

"So it is only his son and his family?" Mr. Langenthorpe looked at me.

"There is only his son. He is," he paused, searching for words, "different." I waited for more but he stopped there.

"Different, how?" I prompted, definitely curious now.

"You are not what I expected," he said surprising me.

"Really? What were you expecting?" I asked, nervously. I hoped he wouldn't send me back home because he found me lacking.

"Don't be worried. I expected you to be dour and morose. Not young and... curious." He smiled at me. I smiled back, this was familiar territory.

"I understand. Many people think that my profession would dominate my life and my perspective. At home I am avoided. But I am proud of what I do. I help people." But I wasn't really sure if that was true and wished again for something more definitive to do with my gift.

"What is it exactly that you do, Miss Woo?"

"Mr. Robinson didn't tell you?" I asked, surprised.

"No, he did not," he answered tersely. Apparently he was not used to being uninformed.

"I am a professional mourner. I shed the tears that others cannot or dare not." I left out that my crying and wailing often caused others to cry, despite their desire not to do so. I could do it anywhere and anytime but only at funeral services was I able to make money from such an odd gift.

"Ha! That man never ceases to amaze me!" Mr. Langenthorpe said, slapping his thigh.

"How so?"

"I told you Mr. Robinson's son, Christopher, is different. He has Asperger's Syndrome; a form of autism. Christopher is brilliant but isn't able to show his emotions. Mr. Robinson hired you to cry for his son."

"Apparently so," I said agreeing with him but hiding my fears. I didn't know what impact my gift would have on such a person.

"We are almost there," Mr. Langenthorpe said, looking out the window. "I know you must be tired from your travels but if Mr. Robinson is awake, he will want to meet you but he sleeps more than he is awake now." I nodded my understanding.

We turned into a gated driveway from a two-lane highway. The driveway and home were surrounded by woods. The estate, a mansion, was enormous. Mr. Langenthorpe told me it was forty thousand square foot. It was larger than my entire apartment building.

"What does Mr. Robinson do that he has such wealth?" I asked.

"He is a businessman. His son, Christopher, although he has limits, also has great capabilities. Christopher develops algorithms. Mr. Robinson sells them. Together they have made a fortune."

"What will happen to Christopher when Mr. Robinson dies?"

"I will take care of him for as long as I live and my firm will do so afterwards."

"That sounds very lonely," I said, feeling a pang of sympathy for Christopher.

"I don't think he'll notice. As I said, he has his limitations."

By this point, we had reached the front entrance. A woman was waiting for us when we got out of the car. The driver took my bags and disappeared with them into the oversized front door.

"Ms. Woo, this is Ms. Lee," Mr. Langenthorpe introduced us. She looked Chinese. "She will be your companion while you are here. If you have questions or need anything, ask her for assistance." She smiled woodenly and I nodded to her, not really sure of the proper response.

"Mr. Robinson is too ill to meet with Ms. Woo. He asked that we have dinner without him," Ms. Lee told us.

"That is unfortunate. How bad is he and how is Christopher?" Mr. Langenthorpe asked her.

"Dr. Oliver believes Mr. Robinson has only days left. He told this to Christopher who is understandably distressed. I wish I could comfort him." I heard a predatory tone in her voice.

"Has the doctor prescribed anything to calm Christopher's nerves?" Mr. Langenthorpe asked, frowning at her.

"He yelled at me when I offered them to him," Ms. Lee answered. I decided I liked Christopher no matter how odd he might be.

"I would like to shower and change before dinner," I said, reminding them I was there.

"Certainly. I am sure you are tired after such a long trip. Follow me and I'll show you to your room," Ms. Lee said to me after a glance at Mr. Langenthorpe. He nodded slightly.

"I will see you later at dinner," Mr. Langenthorpe said with a smile as I walked up the steps and through the front door.

As we made our way up the sweeping marble stairway and past a grand piano, Ms. Lee pointed out beautiful works of art. I nodded politely and made appreciative noises but I found my thoughts focused on how much better these strangers' livers were compared to mine. They had found a way to make use of Christopher's uniqueness; I wished I could find such a way to make use of mine. I knew better than to expect I would find other opportunities like this one.

I stopped to look at a life-sized portrait of Mr. Robinson, his wife, and Christopher hanging at the top of the stairs. Mr. Robinson was large and muscular in a sweater and dress slacks. He was standing beside a chair in which a beautiful woman in a deep blue, long gown was seated. They were gazing at one another with loving looks. A young man in a light blue dress shirt, dress slacks and dark tie stood beside them.

"He is an attractive man, isn't he?" Ms. Lee asked.

"They both are," I responded truthfully, not sure which man she referred to.

"It's such a shame, the son is so strange," she whispered to me, looking around to be sure she wasn't overheard. I was sure she was trying to discourage me from pursuing him. "He is like a robot, never smiles or frowns. I don't he even likes sex with women or even men."

"That is unfortunate, but at least they have enough money to take care of him." She nodded her agreement.

"Here is your room," she told me, opening a door that lead to a suite that was easily three times the size of the apartment my mother and I shared. It was luxuriously appointed with a four poster bed, huge closets, and a media center. My longing for the bed must have shown on my face as Ms. Lee said, "You'll have time to take a nap before dinner."

"That would be wonderful." I looked around for my bags and realized that they were in the closet. "I'll just need thirty minutes to get ready before dinner."

"I'll call you in time. If you have any questions or need anything, just hit the intercom button and someone will pick up," Ms. Lee told me, pointed to the intercom, and let herself out of the room.

It was midday here. I wouldn't get through the remainder of the day without a nap of some kind. I quickly unpacked, sat down on the bed, and was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

* * *

"Wake up. I want to talk to you," a voice said and the bed moved as if someone banged into it with their hip. I opened my eyes to see a tall, thin African American man standing at my feet. It was the young man from the portrait, several years older, Christopher.

"How did you get in here? I locked the door behind Ms. Lee." I was surprised I wasn't afraid.

"The door in the clothes closet," he answered in a monotone voice free of inflection. I ignored his odd response, fascinated to meet someone that might actually be a challenge to reach. I couldn't help but notice despite his odd affect; he was an attractive man, much like his father but thinner.

"You shouldn't be in my room, it isn't appropriate," I told him, sitting up and straightening my clothes and hair.

"I wanted to talk to you without Mr. Langenthorpe around. He treats me like a child." While Christopher's voice lacked inflection, I didn't doubt he wasn't fond of Mr. Langenthorpe. "I know why my father brought you here. I don't want you to make me cry. I don't care what my father says."

"It's good to cry, especially when something sad happens. You'll feel better afterwards."

"I'll pay you twice whatever my father is paying you," his eyes were wide. Clearly he could feel fear.

"I can't do that. I won't go back on my word to your father." He turned away, frustrated. "But I may be able to compromise." He faced me again. "What if everyone else is crying as well?" It would dilute the impact of my gift but, given his condition, I was more comfortable with the idea.

"What do you want for it?" he asked. I blinked in surprise.

"Nothing, your father is paying me to perform but you will be my audience. I will do what I can to please you," I answered.

"That doesn't make sense to me. I'd rather trade than owe you something," again taking me by surprise. "What do you want?"

"I don't know, I haven't thought about it. How about you give me help or advice when I need it?"

"I suppose that will work," he said dubiously. He was about to say more when there was a knock at the door.

"Ms. Woo," it was Ms. Lee. I got up from the bed.

"Here's your first advice. Don't let them treat you like a servant," Christopher whispered to me as I moved to the door.

"Dinner will be served in about an hour." She said and tried to peer around me into the room. She must have heard us talking.

"Thank you. I'll be down shortly," I told her and shut the door firmly. When I turned back to the room, it was empty. I shrugged and went into the bathroom shower, locking the door behind me.

I put on an outfit from the Hong Kong airport. It was a black pencil skirt, a red silk blouse with a small abstract pattern on it, and a black jacket with hints of red on the trim and buttons. After I put on the makeup and high-heel shoes, I admired myself in the mirror, liking what I saw. Definitely not a poor girl from the slums. Such cloths and fine make up would help me make more sales back home but I was beginning to wonder if there was a bigger world than Hong Kong offered me.

Walking down the staircase, I felt I was in a Hollywood movie as all eyes in hall turned to watch my descent. I smiled demurely and felt a flush come over my face when Mr. Langenthorpe welcomed me, clearly admiring my figure. Like any girl, men had ogled me and made lewd comments but never had I had a rich, powerful man pay me such attention. It made me believe there was so much more in store for me.

I smiled icily at Ms. Lee who was clearly annoyed she was no longer the center of male attention.

"Good evening, Mr. Langenthorpe, Ms. Lee." I turned to the heavy set white man, standing by the front door and taking off a dress overcoat. I pretended I didn't see him looking at my legs.

"I don't believe we've met. I'm Jin Woo," I said to him with a smile and offered him my hand.

"John Moore, a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Woo," he said, taking my hand in a firm yet gentle grip. We followed the others into a living room area with several couches, a large, lit fireplace and bar.

"Is everyone so formal here?" I asked, looking first at Mr. Moore then Mr. Langenthorpe with what I hoped was a coy smile and remembering Christopher's advice.

"No. We thought you would be. Please call me Les," Mr. Langenthorpe said.


"Annette," she said sourly.

"Then please call me Jinny. It's what my friends call me." I looked at the glass of wine in Annette's hand and waited for Les to offer me a drink. It worked and the four of us spent the next few minutes exchanging small talk about life in Hong Kong and long cold winters in Central New York.

"And this is Christopher," Les said unexpectedly as Christopher entered the living room. I stood, deciding to pretend our earlier conversation hadn't occurred.

"We've met," Christopher said bluntly. Mr. Less looked expectantly from me to Christopher waiting for an explanation. I smiled mysteriously when Christopher remained silent. I wasn't about to tell them that he showed up in my room using a secret passage. Annette's unhappy, predatory look returned. She either had feelings for Christopher or thought he was a ticket to an easy life. I looked at Christopher curiously but he was silently staring at the space between Les and the couch.

"Will Mr. Robinson be joining us for dinner?" I asked, changing the subject.

"No, he is still sleeping." Even though Les was Mr. Robinson's lawyer, it was obvious they were friends. Christopher, despite what Les had told me about him not expressing feelings, appeared upset at Les' words.

"Christopher, would you like a drink?" I asked. Les and John looked at me in surprise. I looked again at Christopher; he was definitely over the drinking age in either the United States or Hong Kong.

"I would like a beer," Christopher answered.

"We didn't know you liked beer," John said, getting up from his perch on a bar stool and getting a beer from the refrigerator. He opened it and handed the bottle to Christopher.

"You never asked," Christopher replied and sat down next to me, opposite from Les and Annette. Les was frowning at me.

"Point to you," John said with a laugh, sitting back down on a barstool.

Feeling somewhat awkward over the exchange, I changed subject. "How does everyone here know Mr. Robinson, besides Christopher of course?" I looked at Les.

"Don, that's his first name, and I met in graduate school. He was going for a master's degree. I was a much older student, returning to get my law degree. We were part of a small handful of black students at the school at that time. We've been friends since long before Christopher was born, more than thirty years." I smiled in appreciation at him and looked next at John.

"Matt and I met at a software development conference twelve years ago. He knew Christopher's work had tremendous application in the business world. I had the connections they needed. Christopher has made us all wealthy men," John said, getting up and putting his hand on Christopher's shoulder. Christopher grimaced and leaned forward, forcing John to drop his hand. John sighed and went back to his bar stool.

"I've worked with Les' firm for three years now. I do the administrative work associated with Mr. Robinson's cases. I've gotten to know the family because of that," Annette answered, with a calculating look at Christopher. I didn't think she had true feelings for him.

"And what about you, Jinny? How do you know Matt?" John asked me.

"He hired her to perform at his," Annette answered for me and paused awkwardly in mid-sentence to look at Christopher.

"He asked her to perform at his funeral services," Christopher said impatiently and giving me annoyed look.

"I'm sorry, I didn't want to be insensitive," Annette answered with a pout.

"I know my father is dying. Having Asperger's doesn't make me an idiot, you know." I felt my face flush at the same time Annette's embarrassed titter filled the room.

"Christopher, don't be rude. We know you're upset but you know Annette meant no disrespect," Les said.

"Yes, I know. I'm sorry," he told her perfunctorily. He seemed to be easily controlled.

"I'd be interested in a preview performance," Les told me, a challenge in his voice. I looked at him, then the others. Clearly he was the man in charge in Mr. Robinson's absence. I gave him a small smile of acquiescence and stood up.

I looked first at Annette and then each of them in turn; as I began to sing one of the ancient Chinese laments I had learned. By the tenth note there were tears in Annette's eyes, after thirty seconds, John and Less were wiping their cheeks. Christopher showed no response but he looked uncomfortable. I was sure if I sang longer and focused my gift on him, I would achieve what I was being paid for. I sang a few more notes and looked at Les. He nodded and I stopped singing.

"That was beautiful. I haven't felt so deeply since I was a teenager," Les said with appreciation in his eyes. "It was nice to let go like that," Annette added, smiling coyly at first John then Christopher. As if she had a choice, I thought silently.

"What other feelings can you evoke, Jinny?" Les asked.

"I feel blessed that I can help people express grief and sadness. That is enough for me," I answered him. By the sly look he gave me, I knew he caught my evasion. My mother constantly warned me not to try new things with my gift for fear of what I might learn.

John gave me a speculative look as well, although his held a touch of heat. Les' was more like greed. Annette just looked annoyed at the additional attention I was getting.

A woman, wearing a chef's coat, came to the living room and announced that dinner was ready. We followed her to a beautifully set table covered with an array of fish and meat entrees. Everything was delicious. We spent the rest of the evening, sampling the dishes and wines. John flirted with me throughout the evening and took every opportunity to brush against me, touch my hand, or compliment me. Les looked amused, Annette irritated, Christopher indifferent. After the filling meal, the wine, and the long trip, I was ready for bed and a good night's sleep. I excused myself, claiming fatigue, before dessert could be brought out.

Once in my room, I locked the door and blocked the closet with a chair. Then I went into the bathroom to freshen up and change into my nightgown, also purchased in the Hong Kong airport. When I came out I found John sitting on my bed.

"What are you doing here?" I asked, looking at the door, wondering how he got in. Holding up a key in response to my unasked question, he answered me.

"You interest me."

"I appreciate that," I told him honestly, "but that doesn't explain what you're doing here now.

"Your power, the idea of it, excites me," he said and leaned back revealing the truth of his statement by the bulge in his dress slacks.

"John, you flatter me. Under different circumstances, or perhaps when I'm not so exhausted, we can talk about it. Right now, I can hardly keep my eyes open, let alone do anything else." I told him, hoping to put him off. This had happened twice before after my performances when one of the men present wanted to bed me. I thought it had to do with fear of death and the odd way some people react to it but perhaps my gift was more nuanced than I thought.

"Please sing for me once more tonight? That's all I ask, nothing more," John pleaded. Pleased and intrigued despite my need for sleep, I decided to test just how much he really wanted this.

"John, I only have my gift to make my way in this world. Les has done much for me beyond what any contract would call for so I sang for him this evening. Performing for you..." I said and let the sentence trail off.

"Sing for me now and I will set you up with an agent. You'll be famous and the world will fall in love you those beautiful dark eyes." Smiling at the compliment and at my own new found audacity, I nodded and closed my eyes, thinking of an appropriate song.

I opened my eyes and quietly sang a song about a woman's longing for her husband, a solider, who had been taken from her too soon. She missed his arms, warmth, and tender kisses. I experimented as I sang, focusing my attention on the unspoken sexual longing in the words. John closed his eyes, his hand sliding downwards from his chest. I turned away, singing louder, not interested in seeing or hearing his actions. Inwardly, I reveled in my ability to make him feel that way but knowing I wouldn't pursue this newfound facet of my gift, I wasn't raised to be a prostitute.

The song finished, as did John. He stood from the bed, red faced and panting but in no way ashamed. He nodded at me as if nothing had happened and left the room. As I blocked the door to my bedroom with another chair, I hoped he remembered his promise.

* * *

I slept well and deeply that night and didn't wake up until sometime after the sun rose. Again I woke to Christopher standing at the foot of my bed. I rolled my eyes as I sat up.

"Christopher, you have to stop invading my bedroom."

"My father is dying," he said, looking like a lost little boy.

"I know, that's why I'm here."

"He's dying right now," he told me, panic showing in his eyes. He began rocking back and forth. I used to do the same thing when I was scared as a girl.

"I'm so sorry, Christopher," I leaned forward but stopped myself from touching him, remembering his reaction to John the night before.

"Will you come with me to his room? I want you to sing happy songs at him like you did to John last night." I blinked, surprised and intrigued by his request. I'd not thought of such a thing before. If I could sing sexual thoughts, I was sure I could sing happy thoughts as well.

"Yes. Just let me get dressed," I told him getting up from the bed, covering my body with the sheet. Christopher continued to look at me. "Wait outside the room," I told him.

"I want to watch."

"That will cost extra," I told him with a smile.

"How much?" Christopher asked seriously.

"Turn around!" I yelled and reached for the jeans and shirt I put out the night before. He complied with a frown. I dressed quickly and ran to the bathroom to relieve myself, clean my teeth, and comb my hair.

"Follow me," Christopher said when I came out. He turned and walked to wall lined with book shelves. He reached out and pulled a book that was actually a lever, down. There was a "click" and the wall swung inwards revealing a small hallway that lead to a narrow stairway leading upwards. I followed Christopher, idly noticing the lines of his briefs showing through his pants.

"Why are there so many secret passages in this house?" I asked him to distract my thoughts.

"I like them. My father and I designed the house. He let me put them in most of the rooms as a birthday present," he said as we reached the top of the stairway. He pushed a level and a door opened into a hallway. "My father's room is right there," he said, pointing at the door opposite us. I could tell it took all his courage to open it and go through.

I followed and began humming quietly, warming up my voice. A nurse stood beside the bed. Next to her, Les Langenthorpe sat in a chair, his face grave. It took me a moment to spot Christopher's father among all the blankets that covered him. His eyes were closed, protruding from his skull, the skin on his face paper-thin barely covering his skull. His breath came in uneven gasps. Christopher turned, the look on his face prompting me. I took his hand, ignoring his squirming and walked to the edge of the bed.

I closed my eyes and started singing the first song that came to me, a song made famous in the U.S. and around the world about a woman always loving someone. It was a song I often sang to myself. I focused first on the dying man, watching intently as the muscles of his face, frozen in a rictus, relaxed. I sang louder, trying to include Christopher, then Les, and even the nurse. Though his breath was ragged, I thought I saw a slight smile form on Mr. Robinson's face. Then, with a final gasp, his chest sagged. Christopher's hand tightened around mine.

I smiled, despite the sadness of the situation; I knew I had found my true calling.


2014 T.S. Kay

Bio: Mr. Kay was recently been published as a part of an anthology, Pen-Ultimate: A Speculative Fiction Anthology by Interrobang Books.

E-mail: T.S. Kay

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