Piano Man
By Blackjack [Blackjack's Shadowrun Page: www.BlackjackSR.com] [BlackjackSRx@gmail.com] [@BlackjackSRx]

Posted: 1996-07-15

When the synth instruments started to rise in popularity I figured I'd be out of a job. At the ripe old age of eleven I vowed never to touch one and, despite the firings and the hunger and the one bedroom apartments infested with cockroaches the side of kittens, I've held onto this conviction. I never expected it to pay off in any conventional way. I just figured somebody had to keep the more human aspects of music alive and that this somebody might as well be me.

Ironically my current gig, the duration of which has now entered its forth year, is playing a small runner bar in I won't tell you where Seattle, the type of location not known for providing my type of entertainment. It didn't start out a runner hangout, however. For the most part it still officially isn't. Four years ago I dashed into the small establishment, attempting to escape the worst red rain storm I've ever experienced, and wearily trudged up to a bar lined with ageing factory workers and the occasional corp looking for a place to drown his monotonous existence in alcohol and music. Yes, the music.

Her name was Tyler, a young but tough survivor of the barrens, who had the look of a thousand life and death struggles blazing from her determined and pained green eyes. She played with a degree of style and grace I had never encountered, her fingers dancing across the keys of that old, vaguely out of tune, piano like beauty itself. As the bar began to close and the regulars filed out into the downpour like zombies on parade I cautiously introduced myself, receiving an unexpectedly warm response and a friendly, yet reserved, smile. We played until dawn, the first of many such sessions, and eventually, gradually, we joined our style and skills into a mesh of musical glory. I wish I could say I never loved her. I wish I had never loved her. Something kept her from loving me back. There was a wall, tougher than steel, built into her soul, a wall I could never breach. Perhaps it was better that way.

When the tall, well dressed, man approached I though nothing of it. I thought she didn't either. But there was something different about that last song. The power and beauty exceeded that of anything else we had ever achieved in our two years playing together. When the song ended I caught only a momentary glimpse of the tear falling from her right eye before it was pierced by a bullet from the man's gun. I didn't see him leave. I didn't see the four others who died trying to prevent his exit. All I saw was her gentle, angelic hands slip from the keys like a feather falling from a clear winter sky.

Through a tangled web of restitution and revenge the small bar began to change. I never tried to fully understand the forces which led to Tyler's murder and the many people who died as a result. All I knew is that the workers, and the corps, and the everyday street dwellers who used to frequent this small corner of the city slowly vanished. They were replaced by people who spoke very little, kept almost entirely to themselves, and had a aura of mysterious, almost frightening, urgency I could never fathom. Some occasionally shoot a glance of distaste in my direction as I timidly tap out a melody they had never heard and would never enjoy. But others look on my frail silhouette merged with the form of an instrument many have never seen before with a sort of awe. And envy. Maybe it's the purity. Or simply the music. Or, perhaps, the notion that somebody can exist with such simplicity, despite all the complex pain and suffering poured upon them by a reality that spares nobody. I don't know. I don't think I want to.