SONATA by Daisuke Shen

SONATA by Daisuke Shen

For a long time now, all sound has been damp. Wrapped in mildew, white-fleeced, everyone’s voices turned to mist. I am the only one not contained within this quiet—me, who has always wished to be, more so than anyone else; me, the girl who could never stop singing.

I had tried all of the tricks, of course: stuffed my mouth with lagan scrounged from sea beds, weaned off of proteins and greens, hoping to become weaker. Yet the avalanche of notes poured out of my mouth like sludge; my crazed melodies frenetic and pinched as sand fleas.

The silence started two years ago at that strange rehearsal, where a man wearing a blue silk scarf played a piece on the piano outside of M. Franco’s cake shop. None of us had ever seen him before, nor seen a piano that size. We held our breath as he positioned himself on the bench, his fingers stretched and hovering above the keys. Perhaps this was the one we had been waiting for. Because of my incessant singing, I stood toward the back of the audience as I always did. 

He began to play a symphony familiar to all of us, though there was something sinister to it, I realized—he had ripped away its flesh, plunged his fingers into its insides to rearrange the notes. Why did no one else think the mastication of this piece to be sinister? But everyone was amazed, unable to look away. 

Even through my warbling, I heard the piano cry out as the man wrung its felt throat dry; its strained screams contorted in his hands into the softest lavender.

Long after he had strapped the piano onto his back and taken his leave, everyone continued clapping until the world was wrapped in static. Even their bodies became muffled, less opaque, dipping into one another’s on the street.

I, however, absorbed the piano’s grief. If people regarded me with contempt before, they now term me traitor to this town and its silence. I reside in a grey room in a grey building they have built underneath the ground, with just enough light that I can see the pen with which I write this letter, the only comfort that damned sonata that I sing again and again, as if I can be the one to save it.

Daisuke Shen (he/they) is originally from Greenville, South Carolina and Kitahiroshima, Japan. Their work has previously been published in The Asian American Literary Review, Maudlin House, The Nervous Breakdown, Autostraddle, Joyland Magazine, and more. They are currently working on a short story collection. You can visit their website at or follow them on Twitter @dai__joubu.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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