Another Mondays Finish the Story challenge, based on this image–
and the initial sentence–
“Little did they know when the photographer took their picture that they would find themselves trapped in a painting.”
Well, I followed the prompt for the most part, but I completely blew away the word count limit, so I won’t be adding my link to Barbara’s page. As usual, I’m not sure this works, but I’ll go with it for now.
Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
Little did they know when the photographer took their picture that they would find themselves trapped in a painting. The photographer was a Derinti cross-dimensional Preserver in disguise. He was so taken with their performance that he felt compelled, in the whimsical way of his race, to preserve it, and the performers.
In doing so, he created the first immortals of the human species—Jimmy, Blake, Lawrence and Steve. The living image in which the four found themselves was now a part of the back wall of the First Mercantile Bank. In this state they knew neither age nor decay. They merely played on and on, and anyone who had the ears to hear could detect their sweet brand of jazz, and, for a moment, feel their hearts lift.
The four musicians saw the building up of the city, in the years of the Great Warming, with massive towers two and three miles high rising to blot out the sun. They saw the towers fall into ruin, during the dark years that followed, and witnessed the savagery of men and women who had forgotten their heritage.
They saw the rise of the New Men, and glimpsed their silver ships rising into the sky as they abandoned the Earth forever.
They saw the return of the ice, and the long frozen wildness that embraced the forgotten husk of the city. They played on when only strange, mutated beasts in their dens of ice were there to hear them.
They beheld the rise of the seas, and for millennia played only for the sea beasts, the great porpoise-whales, the sapient squid and the terrible thalassadonts.
They were buried in sediment, and for ages played on for the secret beings of the deepest earth.
The sediment hardened into rock; in the fullness of time, as the seas receded, and erosion wore away at the rock, they saw the sun once more. The ice returned, encasing the world in glittering armor, and then melted again as the Sun flared and scorched the Earth.
They saw the Sun return to its quiet, ordinary ways, and the Earth grow green once more.
They saw the rise of the Silenidons, who heard their music and worshipped them for millennia. They found this distressing, as Jimmy and Blake were Catholic, Lawrence was a Presbyterian, and Steve, the tuba player, did not believe in God at all. They could do nothing, however, but continue playing. The four saw the Silenidons rise to mastery over the Earth, achieve great heights of intellect, and then fall into war with themselves. Rites of blood were performed before the ruined wall of the First Mercantile Bank, while the four played on. They played on while the Silenidons faded and dwindled away, until there was nothing left but their empty halls.
The four saw more inundations, more burials, the rise of mountains and the delving of seas, more ice and flaring sun, over and over across periods and eras and eons.
At last, they saw the Sun, swollen and dying, rising on the last day over the worn-out and weary Earth, and they played for it. They thought, perhaps, this would be the end, at last.
It was then, following up on a review of the files of the Preserver Corps, a Derinti scout appeared. He beheld the shattered remnant of the back wall of the First Mercantile Bank, saw the faded images of the four musicians, heard their music, and said, “Oh, dear,” which is a very loose translation of the Derintinese, and in no way, shape or form captures the profound dismay of the original.
Even as the bloated Sun reached out tendrils of fire to engulf the Earth, the scout erected a temporal realignment-decoder. With swift commands to his machine, he lifted the four from the wall and transported them back to the sidewalk on which they had been playing, on that one summer day, mere moments after the Preserver had departed, feeling pleased with himself.
For several minutes the four of them stood there, not speaking, not meeting each other’s eyes, while pedestrians streamed around them and traffic passed by. Then, still not speaking, they packed away their instruments and left, each their several ways.
Lawrence caught the Number Five bus across town, to the quiet street where his house stood. He went in, and put his trumpet case down inside the door.
“Lawrence? Is that you?” Millie peeked into the living room from the kitchen. Her apron was stretched over her bulging belly. “Your timing is good—I’m just starting dinner.”
Lawrence went over to her. He peered into her puzzled face for a moment; then he went down to his knees. He embraced her, ignoring her startled protest. He put his ear to her abdomen, listening for the heartbeat of their unborn child.