Saturday Storytime: The Lure of Devouring Light


Sometimes dark fantasy gets quite dark. This story by Michael Griffin is on the dark end. Those of you who don’t want to read about sexual or emotional abuse will want to skip this one.

The door to the cabin stands open. No music, for once. Part of her dares hope he’s gone, though her reason for coming is to bring him back. Lia absently kisses the crescent moon tattoo on her bow-hand index finger, a habitual good luck gesture.

Inside, the cabin’s a wreck, not just the door open but every window, too. A tornado of strewn clothing, empty champagne bottles. An exquisite cello lies before road cases containing Mészáros’s electronics gear. Microphones, PA speakers. A tangle of cables converge on a portable mixer and audio interface attached to a scuffed silver laptop. Beside that, an injection kit. Syringes, rubber tie-offs, glass vials of clear liquid.

“Great,” Lia mutters.

Mészáros arrived in Oregon seemingly clear-headed. His early lectures were brilliant, but those weren’t why the Dean had brought him in. The point of his visit, the capper, is supposed to be tomorrow’s performance of Stockhausen’s twenty-nine-hour opera cycle. The university is billing it as the first complete, continuous performance of Licht in North America.

Since Mészáros started missing commitments this week, the music department’s built into a cacophony of rumor. Then his no-show at this morning’s media sessions sent everyone into full panic. Had Mészáros fled the day before the show?

Finally, Lia told the dean she had some idea where the man might be hiding.

On the kitchen counter rests a drinking glass half-full of what can only be blood. In the sink, a spray of red, as if someone’s been sick. Liquid only, no trace of food. The place smells toxic, a mood of degeneracy looming heavily. Her quiet getaway, now repository for the grim karma of a madman.

At the table Lia reads Mészáros’s notes. Mostly music transcription, including cello parts Lia herself will play, if the show happens. Interspersed are dated, diary-like entries. One outlines Stockhausen’s ritual prescriptions for Goldstaub, not part of Licht, but a notorious bit of the composer’s real-life craziness. Isolation, fasting and sleep deprivation as preparation for a music performance. A kind of “summoning the muse,” a phrase Mészáros repeated and underlined.

The final page addresses meditation, which triggers a memory of Lia’s time here with him. He loved the forest, especially Monk Point overlook, where he meditated in the mornings. She remembered those days, a giddy rush of possibilities. What doors seemed about to open?

So eager, then. So trusting.

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