He sat at the piano, playing quietly and avoiding the black keys. A spotlight caused sweat to build up along his neck and drip into the back of his suit. His lips stretched into a smile, secret and serene.
Another tune fluttered into the air, just as quiet. The second pianist appeared out of the dark, on a ledge above. Her soft yellow dress stuck out in the montage of whites, blacks, reddish browns, and brownish reds that filled the auditorium.
His eyes closed and he tilted his head back, listening to the separate notes. They met gracefully, again and again, becoming louder as fingers applied more pressure. At the volume’s peak, the notes bounced off each other, filling the room’s every crack with sound.
The music became hushed once more and he allowed it to drift into silence, his hands falling into his lap. He waited for the applause.
Another song met his ears, young and high-spirited. His eyebrows came together and he twisted to look at the other pianist. She sat back, lips upturned, as her fingers danced across the keys.
His muscles stiffened as, over the pulse in his ears, he tried to recognize a measure, a note, something. The piano continued to spew out an indistinguishable melody.
Her eyes reached down and touched his.
Soft laughter clogged his ears and the wooden bench turned to leather. Flowery perfume tickled his nose and he found that he was laughing, too.
The eyes across from him were the same. They closed as she laid her head back against the window, laughing with her whole chest.
And then the seat belt was digging into his chest as he hung suspended, staring down at her, eyes frozen and mouth still open in a scream.
She turned back to her piano after flashing the audience a smile. Her face morphed to one of deep concentration and her fingers flew as the song became more complicated.
He wrenched himself away, letting his eyes fall on the faces below. Bright lights obscured their features, but every head craned back, enchanted. Except one.
The man shuffled down the aisle, pulling his jacket closer. He stared at the floor, stopping next to a row of seats close to the stage. He turned and looked over his shoulder, his eyes unwavering as they took in his expression.
“I just can’t believe it,” He stood with his hands light on his hips, gazing at her through the glass. “I’m looking at her and I can’t believe it.”
“It’s what you paid me for,” the scientist’s voice was dry as he leaned over, inserting a code, and another, to unlock the storage pod.
The taller man shook his head, but he glowed as steam from the pod rolled over him, dissipating in seconds.
She lay frozen as the wires were extracted from her body, the doctor giving him instructions, “Don’t expect her to be exactly the same. Experiences, not DNA, make up a big part of character. She won’t have the same memories as before. She’s like a clean slate.”
His precautionary words became white noise. The clone’s eyes were opening.
The researcher pulled his jacket close, shrugged, and scooted down to his seat. The pianist stared at him, but he stubbornly avoided his eyes.
Ringing silence pressed in, packed with the sound of breathing. The clapping started as a straight roar, chairs squeaking as people rose.
Horror sprawled across his face as he glanced up and saw her rising from her seat. Her bow was smooth and refined and solitary.
The crowd ran over the sound of his scream.