by Harrison Kim
Logan held the blue guitar neck, and stroked the strings. Or did the
neck rub against him, and the strings pull his fingers? Logan didn’t
care, he simply played. Whatever music he thought up sourced out of the
sound hole, guided by his fingers on the strings. No need to sleep, or
eat, only necessary to hum a tune and press upon the frets.
The tops of his fingers sometimes bled, but they healed impossibly
fast. The slinky strings seemed to salve the cuts. The playing sounded
close to perfection. He stroked harmony, togetherness, love. He would
let no one else touch this instrument. He called the guitar “Windega”
after the way its sound blew through him like the wind.
He found the guitar up on fire burned Mt. Snauq. At 32 he hiked each
summer through burned over lands, in search of pine and morel
mushrooms, expensive delicacies which only feed on the ashes of fire
destroyed mountains the first spring after a blaze. They’re the first
new organisms to grow. The dirty, back breaking summer work gave Logan
enough to live on for the rest of each year. His real passion was
music, all winter he practiced and played at coffee houses and talent
He found Windega by what seemed like random chance,. On Mt. Snauq,
everything was black and burned over, covered with ash and charcoal.
Logan walked alone up a ridge, thinking about fame. He hummed one of
his original tunes “My Only One.” He lived in his imaginary world as he
hiked, daydreaming what it would be like to play music in front of
thousands. He glanced up and saw the outline of a man with long black
hair standing on the next hill. Then he peered closer at the bare patch
directly in front of him.
He perceived two concentric rings of morels, one within the other, the
rings almost perfect circles. He crunched over the ashes in his big
boots, squatted to pick up the mushrooms then noticed a flash of blue
at one corner of his eye. He turned his long haired head and there it
was, a turquoise and indigo guitar, lying against an absolutely white
stump, unique among all the black charcoal ones around it.
Painted on the guitar front, on either side of the bridge, were two
matching green eyes, looming over the blues that dominated the rest of
the instrument. The eyes appeared slanted and brilliant in the
afternoon sun. They stared out at the sky and when Logan approached
they seemed to follow him, ‘an illusion,” he thought. “This whole
guitar is an illusion.”
Then he picked it up, felt it. Solid maple wood, custom constructed.
“Wonder who left it here?” He felt heat, and sun warmed veneer. The
heat penetrated from the guitar into his hands. The green painted eyes
shone in the sun, the turquoise and indigo swirled. He sat on the
stump, lifted the guitar to his knee. As he touched the neck, a
stroking went down the back of his own, like being touched by a giant
hand. He gave the instrument one strum, and the tone penetrated,
He played a few notes, hummed them in his head, leaned over and
breathed in a smoke like cedar scent. “I’m going to get a good case for
this thing,” he said, strumming, watching the valley view below,
holding the guitar, its curves under his chest, feeling warmth and
belonging, rooted to that place by the music.
“This is harmony,” he said to himself, “the nature, the music, and the dragonflies buzzing by.”
After a while, he picked up his sack of morels and the guitar and hiked
down the mountain to his old van, lifting the instrument high to avoid
scraping or bumping.
At the van he saw his girlfriend Laura already there, willowy and tall,
black bangs all down in front of her eyes “Where have you been, it’s
almost eight o clock?” Logan hadn’t realized he’d been playing for five
hours. It seemed like minutes.
Laura examined the guitar, “where did you find it?”
“It’s got to be coincidence,” Logan drove down the mountain, trying to
explain everything. “It appeared just when I thought of performing.”
“You always think of performing,” said Laura. “You’re obsessed with becoming famous.”
“I’d give anything to have the world hear my songs,” he nodded.
“You’ve written some good ones,” Laura said. She reached round the back seat to feel the guitar, accidentally pushed it over.
“Don’t do that,” Logan braked and stopped, checked the instrument for nicks. “It’s very fragile.”
Logan stayed in Laura’s backyard, in the van, playing the blue guitar.
New chords came to him right away, original note combinations, they
flowed out of his mind through his fingers and into the instrument.
Then, from the instrument out into the world, fast as the wind,
“Windega,” he said the word for the first time. He’d never picked up
music so fast. Before, his fingers rarely found the right notes playing
in his head. Now he thought of an instrumental and picked up the
fingering after a couple of tries The more he played, the faster he
learned. He watched the sun go down in what seemed like seconds, then
walked into the house.
“Maybe it’s a gift,” he told Laura.
“Gifts aren’t given for nothing,” she said. “Have you eaten anything today?”
“I’m not hungry.”
Laura shook her head. “You can’t live on music.”
The next morning Logan went down to a music store and bought a guitar
case, an electric pickup and an amplifier. Then he set up near the city
park and began playing for passers by. He’d never had this confidence
before, but every note felt sure. Every note he held in his head, he
was able to express. He sang, the intensity of the vocals matching that
of the guitar, his chest and arm hugged the instrument close, at the
end of the seven minutes of the Led Zeppelin chestnut “Stairway to
Heaven” the gathered crowd gave him a standing ovation. He collected
almost eighty dollars in his empty case.
That night he went up to Laura’s, took the guitar with him to serenade
her. The curves of the instrument fit snugly, the harmony exact. “Come
on over here,” said Laura. With reluctance, Logan left the guitar on
the couch. Over with Laura, in the dark, he could still sense those
green eyes watching. He touched Laura, kissed her and it felt distant,
he couldn’t caress through to the harmony. It wasn’t like true music.
The guitar took what he sang inside and sent it out into the world and
back to his ears again, perfectly.
“I need to go back to the van,” Logan said.
“What makes your guitar more important than us?” said Laura. She’d
known him a month, she liked his easy going manner and physical form.
She fit him in as a summer partner, til she returned to college in the
fall for the last year of a fine arts degree. “Those painted eyes are
creepy” she said. “Like they’re watching.”
Logan jumped out of the bed. “I’ve got to go, Laura. Sorry. I’ve got a tune I’m working on.”
It was a tune with one big rhythm, about his relationship with the
guitar, how he found it and first held it, and felt its curves and
played it there on the mountain. He stayed in the van all night working
on it, a long changing piece of many parts. As he played he tried to
understand the instrument, tried to pull out what was at its centre,
because for now it was the guitar taking from him and sounding out his
What would it be like to reverse that, to discover what was inside the
wood, what made it so resonant of his thoughts? “Because I’m not a
selfish person,” he told himself “I want to know where it’s coming
from, how it was born.” As he played he sensed fire and the bush and
forest burning, he smelled the cedars flaming but couldn’t go any
further back than that.
He didn’t go to work the next day, he threw Laura the keys to the van
as she stumbled out the front door. “I never got any sleep,” she said.
“I felt stressed out all night.”
Logan nodded and went back to his strumming. He wanted to know so much.
What was the history of this guitar? Who left it sitting on that white
stump? Why hadn’t anyone else seen it? Laura walked away without
speaking, her mouth tight and thin. After she slammed the van door and
drove off he moved the guitar and himself to her living room.
He played all day absorbed with slides and arpeggios sounding within
and without, writing the song of his life, moving backwards in time and
memory, spinning through the teenage years. He reached age ten. That
alone took two hours. He told the guitar childhood stories through his
thoughts, and felt his fingers play them. From a childhood he barely
knew well, an infancy he’d forgotten, he transferred the memories to
his fingers and to the guitar and out came the sound of it. As he heard
the music, Logan understood how he became the way he was. He knew the
unfolding song of his life.
He didn’t even hear the front door open. Laura stepped into the living
room “Can you stop for a moment, I bought a visitor,” she said, and an
old man strode in. Logan had seen a figure like him before, hiking on
the mountain just before he found the guitar. This squat and solid
fellow had the same long black hair and bright orange shirt.
“You play real good, real good,” said the visitor. He held out his huge veiny hand. “I’m Jesse. Jesse Purdaby.”
Logan reluctantly stopped playing. He clasped the guy’s offered fingers for a second, they felt cold and dry.
“Jesse has some interesting things to say about your guitar,” said
Laura. “He’s one of the indigenous Salish people, and he’s got a theory
about where it came from. I met him up on the mountain today and told
him your story.”
“Yeah,” said Logan. “I think I saw Jesse up there myself.”
“I’m always wandering around,” said the Salish man. “Picking a few morels.”
The squat elder leaned over, peered closely at the guitar’s green eyes.
Logan looked into Jesse’s face, then covered the front of his guitar
with both hands.
“No need to be possessive,” the old man said. “My family’s lived here
for thousands of years. We’ve seen the land and the spirits within it
change shape many times.”
“What do you mean?” said Logan.
“I mean that’s not really a guitar,” Jesse said. “It only looks like a guitar because that’s what you want it to be.”
“No, it’s real,” Logan laughed. “Can’t you hear the music?” He gave the strings a strum.
“Yes, we can all hear the music,” Jesse nodded.
“Jesse says the forest fire set a lot of hidden forces free,” Laura
talked excitedly. “He says the mountain spirits take the form of our
desires and lead us towards them.”
Logan thought about that. Laura was really into the indigenous culture.
She’d told him these people had all sorts of legends about changelings
and transformations. But that’s what they were. Legends. “Well, I
respect your point of view, Jesse.” he said, “But If your idea is true,
what’s the point?”
“Eventually, our desires absorb us, and then the spirits return to the
mountain.” Jesse traced his finger through the air. “But this time,
they have our souls in their possession. They need our souls to
rejuvenate, to spread their essence into the grasses and the berry
bushes and the trees.” He paused for a moment. “What do you call your
“I call it Windega,” Logan said.
“Windega means cannibal in our language.” Jesse grabbed the glass of
water Laura offered him. “Don’t you think that’s more than coincidence?”
“He thinks you’re in danger, Logan,” Laura said. “He thinks that guitar’s going to consume you.”
Logan grinned. “So you bought this guy all the way down the mountain to tell me my musical instrument is a man munching demon?”
“The spirits are not unkind,” said Jesse. “They’re doing their duty as
caretakers of the mountain. When your soul and desire are absorbed into
the rocks, they use their essence to grow the land again.” He looked at
Logan. “I can burn some sacred sage here to help free you, You seem
very caught up.”
“Yes, you’ve been playing almost straight for three days now,” said
Laura. “The music’s starting to bug me. I can hear it going round and
round in my head all day.”
“I’m fine,” said Logan. “I’ve never felt so fine.” He hugged the guitar
to his side. “I’m not big on the sacred sage. I just want to play an
hour or two more. Can you give me some space?”
“I’ve never seen you so involved with anything,” Laura said. “I sure wish I could be as involved with my art.”
“Please,” Logan repeated. “I need some space.”
That night in the van, he played back further in his life, back til age
five, then age two, the whirling memories sounding out through the
guitar. He understood the melody now and the rhythm of time. His life
was just a drop, a crumb, a grain, in the vastness of what came before,
and what would come after. The thought of it swallowed him up. To be
able to explore that vastness through the music, that’s what came next.
He sat the guitar across from him in the opposite chair and looked into
its painted green eyes. He could see further and further in the more he
looked. The more he looked in, the more he understood his own fleeting
time on earth.
“We’re so alone here,” He said to the guitar. “The music we make brings us together, through time and space.”
The next day, he drove the van back up Mt. Snauq, the guitar beside him
on the passenger seat. It was near sunset in the valley but as he
ascended the logging road the light became brighter, and as he reached
the level where he found the guitar the sun was only beginning to fall
behind the Fly Hill Mountain beyond. Sunset light reflected off the
painted eyes and the turquoise and indigo swirls of the guitar beside
him. He parked the van at a clearing by the side of the road, took his
instrument and began to walk, charcoal crunching beneath his feet, dust
rising, covering his runners with fine ash. He scanned around,
searching for the white stump. He kept the guitar in its case. He
wanted it clean and perfect.
He passed the sticklike remains of forest burned trees, branches all
burned off, bark black and crumbling. On the ground, the spark of new
life, grass and morels here and there. He forgot about the stump for a
moment as he spotted another circular ring of mushrooms. As he glanced
up from this circle he saw the thick white wood jutting out halfway up
the hill. He hiked up to the stump, sat on it and took the blue guitar
from its case.
He began to play a reprise of the life song that he sounded out in
Laura’s living room. He tried again as he played to feel where the
guitar and its sound were coming from. Jesse Purdaby could be right, it
could be linked to a spirit because again Logan sensed heat and
burning, he felt cast back to a year ago, to the heart of the forest
fire. He tried not to think, to allow the music spirit in. That
connection, that unity, is what he always wanted.
Sure, he desired to play in front of crowds, and feed off their energy
and cheers, but this wish was deeper and more subtle. It would be a
unity soul to soul, his own individual one side by side with that of
the mountain. He felt penetration straight through the guitar body into
the burned over land beneath him, and below that land into the rocks,
hard and unyielding underneath, he let his fingers move and draw up the
hum from below, a low growl, that became louder as he listened.
He sent his life story to the guitar, for the service of harmony and
connection and now something sounded back. He felt vibrations pour out
of the painted eyes up into his fingers through his arms and into his
mind. He let himself go, into the immersion, he let it all go, and rose
up with the rhythm, gazed down upon his own body clutching the guitar,
observed it alone on the mountain ridge.
He floated up above his physical self. Around him he sensed others
rising too, many spirits released from the ground, as the sun entered
its golden time, the shimmering yellow and red circle halfway behind
the mountain range beyond pouring its last rays upon the burned over
hill where Logan’s body sat clutching WIndega.
Night would arrive soon. Time to work and accomplish, rebuild the
forest, be part of something bigger, something necessary. In the coming
dark, morels would begin to burst through the ashes. They would
flourish with his essence and his tending. As Logan flew along the
mountain ground with the spirits, he watched his own body disappear
into the earth, along with the blue guitar, its painted eyes open wide,
pouring out vibrations of unity as they melted through the surface of
Laura and Pete hiked up the mountain the next day, searched all over
for Logan. They found the van, its door still open, off a side road.
“How much did he care for you?” Jesse asked.
“He liked me,” Laura bent down to pick up some new morels. “But he
didn’t love. He was too much into his music, into his own ambition. He
talked about being a rock star all the time.” She carefully placed the
morels into her burlap sack. “There’s a huge patch of these shrooms
over here. Must be a couple of hundred dollars’ worth. I know it seems
callous, but I need to make my quota. It costs one hell of a lot to
“I guess we’ll have to let his parents know he’s missing,” Jesse gazed
out at the black sticklike trees all over the hill. “We’ll have to call
search and rescue.”
“I think he decided to stay up here overnight and play that creepy
guitar,” said Laura. “But I’ll phone if we don’t find him soon.”
Pete scuffed up some ash, looked to one side and noticed an open guitar
case next to a burned out black hole in the ground. “I think I found
what he left behind!” He yelled, and loped up to grab it.
Laura had found something else, too, just as she finished picking the
circle of morels. A very small turquoise painted object. As she rolled
it between her fingers, she felt an odd warmth. She’d always wanted to
be a writer, and it was quite a coincidence to discover such an
expensive pen out here in the middle of a forest fire’s destruction.
She ran over and showed Jesse. He lifted up the writing instrument,
took a very close look and said, “Well, sometimes a pen is just a pen.”
Then he threw it into the distance, and closed Logan’s guitar case.
“And sometimes it’s not,” he concluded.
“Why did you do that?” Laura yelled. She dropped her morel sack and ran
across the burned logs and the fingers of reappearing grass,
frantically searching for the object of her desire.
© 2019 Harrison Kim
Bio: Harrison Kim lives and writes in Victoria, Canada, and is on
a five year writing plan. This is year one. He's had stories published
or upcoming in "Bewildering Stories," "Literally Stories," "Fiction on
the Web U. K," "Gone Lawn" and others.
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