David Weller hated the silence induced by the pills. Here he was in seventh grade, a child who loved music, and they had given him pills that created silence. It was a silence that David's imagination compared to what he imagined atheists felt death was like.
Silence was not golden, it was hell.
He dropped the pills down the sink. Running water quickly washed them down the drain. Ever so slowly, the bass drum began to beat against his spine more regularly than the rhythm of his heart.
The bass came in slowly, pulsing from each joint, up and down every bone in his body. David felt the deep pulse tie and bind the music together, even when it lay so far in the background that most people wouldn’t know it was there. He just continued brushing his teeth, trying to ignore it.
The doctors told him that he had a thing called synesthesia. Something wrong with his head that made his sense of sight and his sense of hearing combine in a weird way.
It didn't make any sense that his senses didn’t divide the way that everyone else’s did. If anything, his gift only served to expose reality for the fraud that it is. He didn’t really care that other people couldn’t understand him. He was just so very used to it. The doctors still made him take the pills.
27 January 2000
The last tender notes of the tenor bassoon faded as David Weller watched the setting sun sink below the West Virginia hills and take on a reedy kind of color. As the darkness of night slowly crept into the sky, he decided to add a full measure of rest. He didn’t want his final work of music to end so abruptly. David looked over at the pages of notes and heard the harmony in his brain. It was written on staff paper, normal for written music, but it was written unlike any kind of music anyone else would probably see. Each note was represented by a line of a specific color for the duration of the note. Whole notes were lines that took up the whole measure, while sixteenth notes were like dots.
He knew he was probably taking a risk with the bassoon, but that was what that specific color sounded like to him. He remembered hearing during music class, that when “The Rite of Spring” opened, and people realized that the high notes belonged to a bassoon, actual riots broke out. Full blown riots, simply because of the people’s misconceptions of what range a bassoon was supposed to have.
Music that didn’t quite fit, by a person that didn’t quite fit. Finished, he carefully placed it in the pocket of his backpack. With the world growing dark and quiet in his bedroom, he went to bed, steeling himself for what he had decided to do the next day.
In seventh grade, the bullying was even worse than it had been in sixth grade. Telling the teachers only made it worse, because then his tormenters called him a snitch. It would probably be better if he was dead. Then there wouldn’t be any more bullies, no more trouble in school, no problems that he would have to worry about at all. Death seemed like the final rest at the end of a long musical work. It was the most beautiful sound a person could hear.
Today was his last day in eighth grade. It also happened to be the anniversary of Mozart’s birth, but not many people would know that. He had picked this day because of its connection with music. Sitting in the back of the bus, he silently hummed his final symphony.
The opening: a French horn sounds, containing the very majesty of the first red, then orange, and finally yellow, sun. Then other instruments joined in; first the flutes, and the other wind instruments, like the singing birds of the morning. The strings began slowly and were ever changing like clouds being blown in the wind. A crescendo and the discord among the strings and reed instruments signaled a storm cloud arising. You could almost feel the cold air right before a storm.
The bus stopped and jerked David forward in the seat, jarring him back to reality. Outside, real thunder sounded. The dull-red brick of the school made a faint note in the back of his head as he headed inside. Grantville Middle School, home of the Fighting Gators. He breathed a sigh of relief, and put the symphony that he was going over in his head on hold. His first class was music.
“All right, class,” Ms. Morat said, turning down the lights. “Today we’ll be finishing up with this week’s theme of music in film.”
Small cheers broke from all around the classroom like metal bearings used on a timpani. “Remember that at the beginning of the week we watched The Sound of Music, learning about the scale. Then yesterday we watched Disney’s Music Land, and the idea of discord and harmony. Today we’ll watch Peter and the Wolf.”
David had already seen it a few times on his own, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want to watch it again. He loved the duck, Sonya, represented by an oboe, and had adapted her melody for a special part in his symphony. He always wondered exactly how many musicians were in some way synesthetic. Meanwhile, the symphony in his head continued, with a soft percussion resembling the sound of a rainstorm.
What the cafeteria was serving was hardly worth considering being called a last meal, a choice of pizza or tacos, with tater tots on the side. What a last meal, he thought. It's not fish and wine, but I guess it will have to do. Solemnly, he finished and took his tray to the cleaning area.
Outside the cafeteria he placed his symphony in his locker with his other music. It rested next to a finished requiem and a rhapsody he had written.
Notes quivered through the air as he slowly walked down the hallway. He listened to the ending of his symphony, drowning out the loudness of the brightly polished floor. It started with a crescendo of the strings, like a sudden wind heralding the storm clouds being blown away, and the restoration of calm.
When he opened the bathroom door, the oboe melody began. It was life, peaking its head out of its shelter from the storm. Making sure nobody else was inside the bathroom, he entered one of the stalls. He took off his belt, and after making a loop, he tied it to the rail above the stall.
Standing on top of the toilet, the final notes of his symphony were approaching. David waited, listening to the final notes of the French horn, signaling the sunset, and echoing the opening theme of the bassoon. His heart beat calmly as he slowed his breathing. He fit his head through the loop in his belt, and stepped off the toilet.
The music shifted and became softer and softer. David’s heart began beating faster, throbbing like a timpani drum. This was not at all a part of his symphony, he thought, straining to hear the final notes, while the beating of his heart pounded furiously. The music died into an impenetrable silence as David’s heart stopped beating.
Archie Clinter was in his office, doing the normal things that principals do. In the outer office, the secretaries took calls and redirected some calls. Archie sat behind his desk and looked out into the lobby. It was a good day. Not one student had gone to the office for disciplinary reasons.
Allan Sebastian, who taught math walked into the office and up to one of the secretaries. “Has David Weller been checked out?”
“No, he hasn't.”
Archie walked out into the lobby. “Something wrong?”
“Well, Archie, one of my kids seems to be missing. He was in class before lunch, but didn't come back. My other kids say that they saw him leaving the cafeteria.”
“We should check the bathrooms, in case he got sick or something.” This type of thing wasn't rare. Occasionally, a kid might get sick, or maybe even come to school with a small case of diarrhea.
Archie remembered David. David was one of those kids that were picked on often enough. It didn't help that David was mildly autistic as well.
Their search didn't last long. He was in the first boy's bathroom they looked in.
The stench of the place pestered Archie to no end. A school shouldn’t smell, not like that. He knocked on the stall door. “David, you in there?” he called out. That was when he saw the belt tied around the railing above the end stall.
Slowly he opened the stall door, not wanting what he thought to be real.
David was hanging limply along the wall. His arms and hands were slightly reddened. His eyes were open, and seemed to stare completely through him.
“Get back to the office and call 911,” Archie told Allan, rushing to the sink, vomiting.
“Grantville Middle School, how may I help you?”
“Yes, I'd like to speak to Principal Clinter. This is Mrs. Weller,” she said, holding back the angry, tearful rage eating away at her.
“One moment, please.”
“Hello, murderer,” she said.
“You killed my son,” she said. Her voice was rasped with anger and grief.
“What are you talking about? He committed suicide.”
“You killed him. My son wasn't autistic. He was gifted. He didn't need those pills. Those pills ruined his life. You ruined his life. You were the one that told me that he needed a doctor, that he was probably autistic. And all the doctors want is to say that a kid needs those pills so they can lead a ‘normal’ life.”
That damned man on the other side of the phone remained silent.
“I hope you rot in hell,” she said, immediately hanging up the phone and breaking down in tears.
8 February 2000
David Weller’s dark oak coffin rested in the front of the church. His entire family sat in the front row, all adorned in black, matching the coffin.
Mary Weller fought back her tears as the music slowly began. The basset horn opened in a slow funeral march. Outside the clouds passed and sunlight broke through to the ground. Light passed through the windows, illuminating the coffin.
Every eye in the church was moved to tears at the beauty of the sound, most of all, hers. She could no longer hold them back. He had specifically requested that Mozart’s Requiem be played at his funeral, but she hadn’t expected it to be so soon.
The people in the church rose. Mary held a white rose tightly in her hand as her family was the first to pass in front of the coffin.
Placing the white rose along the side, she reached over and gently brushed the cold, dark wood of the coffin.
Archie Clinter didn't know the Weller family too well, but he had decided to go to David Weller’s funeral. It just felt like it was the right thing to do. He silently hid himself in the back of the church. The music slowly progressed and more than half of the people had already sat back down.
“Mr. Clinter, wait!”
Turning around, he saw a girl heading toward him from across the parking lot. As she approached, he recognized her as David’s older sister.
“The police found David’s suicide note along with a few other things of David’s. I think David would want you to keep this,” she said, handing him a ringed binder. “Mom says she needs to be away from here for a while, so we’re moving to her parent’s place in Belmont, Ohio.”
Archie didn’t even want to look at the binder in his hands.
Late Fall, 1633
The first rays of sunshine broke through the West Virginia hills. The hills were out of place in Southern Germany, and it showed, especially in the disharmony during sunrise near the edge of the Ring of Fire. Meanwhile, dewdrops glistened in the small graveyard outside of town, twinkling like triangles. Archie looked at the grave again.
Every year he came here, to pay his respects. Every year, the reminder of the look in Mrs. Weller’s flaming eyes, condemning him to the burning fires of hell. It still haunted him, even though the family had moved out of town and were left up-time. It was almost like demons were torturing him for convincing her that her son was a normal ten-year-old boy. When David had died, she had placed the blame on the men who had made her son “normal.”
Now, Allan’s words from the previous day rattled him as well.
“He didn’t get his name in an encyclopedia. He didn’t have a chance. We didn’t give him a chance.”
Archie’s tears fell onto the already moist ground in front of the headstone. Allan was right. We never gave him a chance to make history.
As the first sounds of morning were coming from town, Archie looked back at the headstone once, and walked slowly back to town.
The binder David's sister had given Archie shortly after the funeral sat in a box in his office. Archie hadn’t had the courage to look inside then. It simply couldn’t remain unopened any longer, though. It had already been years since the boy’s death. Maybe it’s time to start the process of moving on, Archie thought.
Inside the binder were yellowed stacks of paper. Staffed paper, like those made specifically for a music class.
Gingerly, he picked them up. A few small pieces of paper, along the edges, fell to the floor. The staffed paper was littered with a coloring box worth of colors, drawn out in lines along the measures. He had absolutely no idea what this was supposed to be. Looking at the title on the top piece of paper he nearly dropped the entire stack. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. But why all the colors?
Archie glanced back to the colorful notes. Yes, there it was, but not in black and white. The classical rhythm echoed in Archie’s head. He was able to follow the familiar notes along with the colors, and became even more amazed. Synesthesia. The senses got mixed up. People tasted sounds, and apparently, even heard colors. That’s what they said David had. But Archie didn’t believe it, not back then. He’d thought David was just, well, lazy. Not trying.
Here, from what he could read of the titles, was some of the best music ever written. All written down by David. After a few minutes he realized that he should get a music teacher to help.
There are some things here I barely recognize, Archie thought. “I’m going to need somebody who really knows music.” Back when David was alive, Mrs. Morat was a teacher-in training. David’s death had really shaken her, and she moved out of town shortly after the funeral. So, he dialed the high school. and asked to speak to Marcus Wendell.
While waiting, he made a short list of the titles that he could read, even if he couldn't follow along with the colors. Beethoven’s Fifth, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, and something called “The March of the Danish Prince,” just to name a few. There were also three original works of David's: “Rhapsody in Orange,” “Requiem in Blue,” and “Symphony in Plaid,” along with dozens of partial pages of scattered notes.
“But why plaid I wonder. I hate plaid.”
Plaid or not, maybe, just maybe, David Weller would be remembered after all.