Octave is a collection of bits and pieces that  I wrote at an evening writers’ club meeting.  The leader of the session played eight short excerpts of music and we then had about ten minutes to write about whatever the music inspired us to write.  Unfortunately I did not write down what the pieces of music actually were so you have to see whether it works in reverse.  What piece of music is inspired by the following snippets?


Eight episodes inspired by musical excerpts written in the brief interludes between them; lightly revised and edited.


He looked at her from the side of the ball room. She took small precise steps towards and away from her partner then turned graciously.  She caught his gaze and a glimpse of a smile played across her lips.  He stood stiffly in his dress uniform wishing they were anywhere but here.

The couples processed up and down and around the room, smiling to each other and nodding greetings to the other guests.  Her partner dipped his head in his direction.  Old friends they were but did he know that they were rivals for her affection?

The music moved to a faster tempo and the couples began to skip and swing.  He envied him for each touch of her pretty white hands as he spun her around. Her dress billowed out.  He edged forward so that as she passed her hem brushed his shining black boots.  That was the limit of their contact tonight it seemed.


They trudged through the dark, dank undergrowth.  Hanging branches dripping tepid water slapped at their faces.  Woody roots grabbed at their ankles.  They stumbled and staggered, defeated but not yet beaten.  Each step felt that it should be the last, their loads, the weight of the stretchers, impeding their slow progress.

Suddenly they burst into sunlight.  They felt sand under their feet. The beach.  They were back.  Hearts lifted and eyes rose to the sea.  There was the ship at anchor.  Joy and gladness filled them and they hurried forward only to halt in a bunch.

A sorry sight met their eyes.  There, in the shallows, the waves lapping gently, were the bodies of their fellows; those left behind to await their return.  They looked again at the ship and saw that, contrary to their first joyful view, the ship was a wreck – aground, listing, holed.  They were trapped.


The guitar player plucked at his strings and sang his words that we could not understand.  But they added to our idyllic evening.  We sipped our wine and gazed into the sunset across the water.  I rested my head on his chest and gently slid my hand up his bare thigh.  The skin was smooth and almost hairless and there was strength in the muscles beneath.  His arm was around my shoulders and his fingers gently caressed my arm.  He was playing me in time with the guitarist and I hummed along with the music.  Oh for this evening to last forever, but we both knew that it couldn’t; that soon, once the Sun had sunk beneath the waves we would have to part.


Art sucked his cigarette and pressed himself further into the doorway of the boarded up liquor store.  Across the deserted street, jazz could be heard in the nightclub, increasing in volume each time the door opened.

Art breathed out slowly allowing a ribbon of smoke to emerge from between his lips.  A large sedan approached and stopped opposite.  Art pulled his hat lower on his forehead and watched as the driver opened the rear door.  A young woman stepped onto the sidewalk.  She wore a silver dress and had a beehive of white hair.  She stood erect, a head taller than the chauffeur.

“What are you gazing at Payne?”  Art felt the cold muzzle of an automatic pressed against his cheek.

“Well good evening, Fingers.  I might have guessed that you would be around when Lady Jayne showed up.”

“What’s it to you when she shows up?”

“Can’t a guy pause for a smoke, these days?”

“You don’t pause for anything Art Payne.  What’s your interest in Lady Jayne?”

“Who says it’s Lady Jayne I’m interested in?”

“Well there’s no one else of note in that dive tonight.  Don’t you think you’d better be making dust?”  The gun pressed harder against Art’s cheek bone.


The single lamp carried aloft at the head of the procession did nothing to banish the darkness from the nave of the great cathedral.  It merely provided a sphere of light in which walked the girl in the white dress. Behind and beside her the black habits of the accompanying monks were part of the enveloping night.  Step after small, slow step she followed the lampholder.  Beneath her bare feet she felt the carvings in the grave stones worn smooth by generations of worshippers.  She flexed her wrists bound tightly behind her back by a silk rope and raised her head of jet black hair to follow the lamp.  The monks shuffled along humming to the slow repetitive tune of the distant harpsichord.

At last they reached the steps up to the quire.  She glanced down careful not to miss her footing in the gloom.  The gates in the rood screen opened to allow the party to enter.  Now the sound of the harpsichord was closer.  The columns of processing monks closed in around her.


Loop round the Sun. Skim over Mercury. Spin passed Venus. Harcourt’s back!

With a burst of violet, fusion light he reverses into a parking orbit and unfurls his molecular skin calling card, its letters a hundred miles across that all the night-time population of Earth can see.

“Interstellar traveller seeks company!”

In moments hundreds of comm. lasers seek out the small craft with joyful answers to Harcourt’s request.

“My luck’s in tonight,” he calls to the mirror face of the navcomp, “All the Universe loves a starman!”


Beyond the flat grey rocks, at the western horizon the sky began to change from black to deep violet.  A red glow heralded the rising of the first sun – a red giant.  Before it showed its complete disc, its small, bright, blue companion appeared to finally dispel the darkness of night and signal the start of a new day.  The lone spaceship acquired two shadows at an acute angle to each other which slowly shortened.

Blue spread across the sky and the grey landscape began to sparkle as the crystalline fragments in the rocks revealed themselves.


Art crushed the stub of his lastMarlboroughbeneath his heel and took the packet of Gitanes from the pocket of his mac.  He carefully tore off the cellophane, crushing it and returning it to the pocket.  He watched the entrance to the four storey apartment block opposite.  He placed the French cigarette between his lips and flicked his lighter.  The different flavour of the smoke signified how far he was from home.

An old Citroen taxi drew up and the white haired young woman emerged.  She stooped to speak to the driver then stood elegantly.  The taxi drove away leaving the woman standing at the entrance to the block.  She looked up and down the street then seemed to make up her mind and stepped through the door.

Art drew on his cigarette and crossed the road.



One thought on “Octave

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