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Higher Fidelity

by Edd Vick

Benedikt Tarr picked up the used CD at a garage sale. It was an act of desperation prompted by his seeing it had been released in 1984, quite likely seriously out of print. The morning's pickings had been nonexistent so far, and for someone who made a living on eBay that was tantamount to disaster. He repressed the urge to try talking the seller down from fifty cents.

On his way home he popped the CD in the car's player, to make sure it was as pristine as it looked and so he could, "in truth", declare that it had been played only once. The strains of Saint-Saens' Piano Concerto Number Four bloomed from his speakers. At a stoplight he looked over the case carefully, finding it free of scratches. The thin insert showed a white-haired man in profile at a piano, behind him a full orchestra in tuxedos except for a woman in an evening gown sitting at a harp.

Someone coughed. Then someone walked by, from the left speaker to the right. Both sounds were faint, but audible. Benedikt turned his head so he could hear better, eyes still on the road. Just when he thought he'd imagined them, someone's chair creaked a bit and someone else sniffed. "Crap," said Benedikt. He'd read about this problem with early CDs; nobody expected them to pick up so much more than the music.

Four minutes, fifty seconds in, he heard the music from a new angle, one too heavy on the woodwinds. Shaking his head at the slipshod production, he gripped the wheel and vowed to research the better CD labels. Then the audio changed; it sounded like he was in the timpani section. Again, and he was in strings. Then he seemed to be in all three places at once, then more.

Vision came next, of a score, the back of a flautist's head, nimble fingers on a violin's neck.

Smells: sweat, dust, and polished wood.

Fingers shifting up and down on cello strings.

Fingers impacting on piano keys.

Fingers strumming the harp.

Benedikt's brain splintered into a hundred tracks. He heard felt saw the concerto from the inside, sitting in each seat and playing each instrument.

Then his car ran into a tree at thirty-eight miles per hour.


Benedikt Tarr skidded down the aisle and slammed into the side of the stage. He lay there for a time, then ran his hands down his chest. He appeared to be in one piece. He looked around. No car. He was in a theatre. Finally, he stood, and saw the orchestra conductor, then the orchestra. They all stared back at him. "Tell me," the conductor finally said. "Do you play French horn?"

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