It was probably past midnight now, for she had been walking for a long time. The music swirling around in her head had quietened her down a little. She could barely remember what had caused her to stomp out of home vowing never to come back. But even as she had run down the front steps, calling upon the heavens to help her, the trumpet had played its first blast, continuing on to ripple music through her nerves and transporting her into another world. It had always kept her sane and safe. The trumpet in her head.
She had often tried to write down this music which played in her head, but it defied transcription. None of her own compositions matched what she heard either. Very often she would feel disgusted that through all her years of learning, practising, writing music, she had never learnt to put down on paper, nor play, the music that filled her non musical hours. It crashed around inside her, or enveloped her in a playful embrace, or soothed her into a trance, always just a note beyond what she could bring forth into the daily world she inhabited.
Now that she felt calmer, she realised that walking for so long had made her thirsty. She dug her hands inside her pants and found, luckily, a couple of coins which would add up to buy her a drink. Very luckily, she realised, as she hunted in her other pockets and found that she neither had her phone nor her wallet. She was used to such small bits of luck. A coin in a pocket where she couldn’t remember ever having put anything. A sudden gap in traffic when she was almost late for rehearsal. Just enough charge left in her phone to ring her mum and let her know that the show was over and she was waiting at the appointed corner. The music had slowed to a lilting waltz, and she slowed down further looking around for a late night petrol station, or convenience store.
Before long she saw the garish lights of a petrol station declaring its pledge to remain open all day and night. She quickened her steps again and went in, straight to the fridge at the rear end of the shop, which had been laid out identically to all the others others of the same franchise. She found her sparkling water, and walked over to the counter, her eyes lowered to bring her coins out again. She lifted her eyes and froze.
She had just walked into a tableau of horror. The young immigrant male who had drawn the graveyard shift standing behind the counter with a small roll of cash in one arm, tears slid to a standstill on his stubble. The balaclava on one male drawn half way up revealing a pale, thunderstruck face with swollen red rimmed eyes. The balaclava on the other male firm in place, but a gun whic
h had been pointing towards the unhappy young man now swung towards her, directed at her head.
The scene unfroze, and several things seemed to happen at once.
She let out a startled yelp “Tony!”
The man behind the counter cried out, “Please, I have kids! There is no more cash!”
Tony yelled out, “Shut UP! I am NOT Tony, you idiot!”
The man with the gun pounced on her, pushed her onto the floor and stuck it into her throat. “Do not even think of reaching for your phone”! He barked at her, and then flung over his shoulder, “Put your balaclava back on properly, you …!!!!”
Expletives hit the walls and disintegrated all around her. The jumble of words thrown maniacally amongst the men mashed into one repeated thought in her head. “Zero-Zero-Zero”. “Zero-Zero-Zero”. It was all she could think of, curled up on the ground her hands flailing at the man’s hand trying to get him to point the gun away from her. “Zero-Zero-Zero”. “Zero-Zero-Zero”.
Tony had lunged on top of them, too, yelling out madly about her being his best friend’s little sister. The gun was no longer visible but there was a knife flashing around. She grit her teeth and tried to keep out of its way, heart bumping against her chattering teeth. Tony and the balaclava guy were swaying above her, their knees, legs and elbows tripping over her, jabbing her as she tried to roll out of their way. She had to stop trying. All she could do was curl up tight and scream “Zero-Zero-Zero… HELLLLPPPPP”.
She felt the trumpets pound in her head like a thousand cymbals, or a thousand organs. The air around her exploded into white and blue flames, and in that heat the two fighting figures parted and fell away from each other. They fell onto the shelves behind each one of them, still screaming abuse at each other about insanity, stupidity, incest, and worse. She scrambled to her feet, dry sobs racking her chest,
miraculously still in one piece, and seemingly unhurt. The two would be robbers were still on their backs, apparently unable to get up. She spotted the door closing behind the man who had been behind the counter and made a bolt for it. The blue and white flame still enveloped her. It felt warm, not hot, but before she could find time to wonder about it, she had fallen out of the door into the arms of a policeman who was running to the scene.
She became dimly aware of a number of police cars with lights flashing, sirens blaring. A woman in uniform came up to her and wrapped a blanket around her. They led her to a waiting ambulance and then there were a hundred people around her talking to her softly, giving her coffee, telling her to settle, that there would be questions but later, and congratulating her on having the nerve to dial the emergency number and keep the phone on for as long as it took for the police and other emergency services to get here. There was a fallacy there somewhere but she was too drained to identify it.
Then she was home, her mother was hugging her. Her brother was bringing her more coffee. Her father was telling the police how worried they had been because she had left her phone at home. Her mother was saying that she often took walks at night but they were about to call the police, since they had noticed that her phone was at home.
“Are you sure, sir, ma’am”? The police looked startled. “We got a call from her phone, and we were able to pinpoint where she was, because the GPS on it was turned on, and she left the call live, even though she could not speak. We could hear the altercation.”
Her brother got up and went out of the room. He came back with a white phone with blue flowers on its case. “Here, it was on her bed the whole time.”
She watched as a look of awe mixed with puzzlement came over the face of the police woman. “Look, sir, the number “000” was dialled at eleven minutes after midnight, and the phone was hung up at around 23 minutes after midnight, which is when your daughter came out of the petrol station.”
“But it was here, how would it have been dialled? How on earth would you get the location of a petrol station more than five kilometres away?”
Everyone turned around to look at her, as if expecting her to answer. The trumpets were playing a lullaby. She got up, yawned and said, “Goodnight. I will see you in the morning”, and trailed away.