The height of the
golden hall that does not belong in any capacity to Robin K. Vandermeer is
impossible to measure from the inside, for none in the kingdom are willing to
climb a stepladder tall enough to measure the space. Everyone says it is one hundred feet tall, and leaves it at that.
The width of the
hall that does not belong in any capacity to Robin K. Vandermeer is
approximately the width of forty horses if you squeeze them in close. This has
only been attempted once. Robin lost a good guitar in the resulting stampede.
The length of the
hall that does not belong in any way to Robin K. Vandermeer is the amount of
distance a prize racing horse can cover in one hundred seconds, plus one hundred
Robin stands in a
long, trailing red gown at one end of the hall, in the summer sunlight, and
hears the strains of a familiar electric guitar from the other end.
And so Robin
glides down the hallway, quite unable to see the mysterious figure at the other
end. Robin could turn away at any point, for none have made a command to meet
the hall’s new owner, and indeed none would bother, and indeed none would even
think of it, for now that the guitar is lost, the gown is the only thing that
Robin has left, and these were the only two things that Robin ever really had besides
a mother. In this land there are very few people able to buy land, and Robin
was never one of them.
Robin reaches the
source of the music at last.
It is a woman,
clad in a drab green coat and black trousers, holding the very electric guitar
that Robin had lost so long ago.
“Here, now,” says
the woman, “it seems you are going to your wedding.”
am afraid not,” says Robin. “It is only that I thought I ought to hold onto the
one thing left to my name.”
did the rest go?”
holding it. Where did you get it? Who are you?”
should ask you the same question. Indeed, I ought to have the guards take you
away for daring to approach me without bowing three times.”
says Robin, “Just let me play my guitar one last time.”
woman tilts her head. “Why should I let a peasant do anything at all?”
if nothing else, I can please you with my song.”
well then.” She takes the guitar off from around her neck, and drapes the strap
around Robin. “Play me a little tune, court jester.”
Robin plays a slow, haunting melody.
“Play me a tune,
court jester,” says the woman who employs Robin K Vandermeer, sitting in the weak winter sunlight amidst the
hall. They’ve added central heating since Robin knew the place better. It
is enough for the innumerable guests come for the January festivities. Well,
not enough. They cannot go a month without hearing Robin K Vandermeer play.
The woman commands
Robin to play a jaunty little tune. Nothing with too much reverb, that would
put the guests off their dinner. Robin would prefer to put the guests off their
dinner, because that means more scraps for the kitchen staff and the court
jester to eat. But there is something else in mind that will put everyone off
everything, for a while. Not yet, mind. The guests deserve a little fun at
this involves throwing food at Robin when they don’t like the music, which is
not too much trouble, as it stains the hideous jester costume, while the gown
is stored safely away.
"I want that lovely red gown," says the woman.
"You shall not have it."
"I have your guitar, don't I?"
"It is in my hands."
"I have your hall."
"It was never mine nor anyone's. We just lived here."
"Pity you all had to run away. But I want the lovely red gown."
"It is stored away for now."
“You say you got
the gown from your mother,” says the woman who employs Robin K Vandermeer.
“Tell me about her.”
“The one thing to
know about my mother,” says Robin, “is that she knew how to sing in a way that
could shatter glass. She tried to teach me the trick, and oh, how I tried to
sing like her, but I could never do it. More’s the pity. There are none in the
kingdom I know of who can sing like her.”
"if you play like her," says the woman who employs Robin K Vandermeer, "I shall let you keep the gown. Can you play like
“Can I just,” says
Robin, and this request will be ever known as the one that brought down the
Robin turns up the
reverb slightly, and plays. Plays the high notes like a bird, at first, and
then the lowest notes possible, like a growling dog, just like mother used to
The winter scene
outside the windows wobbles a bit as the windows begin to vibrate.
Robin eases off
the growling notes and launches into a rather long cadenza, one that swoops up
and down the scale. Gradually the music gets louder, and louder, and louder,
until the guests are all holding their ears.
The first thing
that shatters is the windows, their glass falling with a deafening crash. Cold
winter air whips into the room and knocks over candles, which set the
tablecloths on fire and quickly fan the flames. The guests pour out of the hall
through the broken windows and into the snow.
The next thing
that shatters is the roof, and great pieces of stone begin to fall.
Robin unplugs the
guitar, steps outside, and continues playing. The sound from the guitar does
The third thing
that shatters is the wall supports, and at last the last part of the hall comes
“What on earth was
that about?” says the chief cook.
“How are you going
to stop me from executing you?” says the woman who formerly employed Robin K
In that moment the jester outfit disappears, to reveal the red gown, clad upon the person of Robin K Vandermeer. “There would be no point,” says
Robin. “The difference is whether I wander the country with my head attached,
or carrying it.”
The guests watch
in stunned silence as Robin walks off into the snow, long train of a red gown
trailing behind, electric guitar resting over a shoulder.