The Ghost in the Machine

by Rosaleen Love

First Published in Aedon 3.1 (1995-6)

First I read the program notes, then I heard the music. ‘She has joined herself to death’. I knew the music was meant for me.

The musician sits in his garden shed, deeply engrossed in what he is playing. Pierre de St Colombe, Master musician, virtuoso of his instrument, the basse de viole. He balances the viole between his legs. From its six strings and the warm gold wood of its belly flows plangent sighing, musical lamenting. A woman comes into the room and nods to the musician. She says nothing and sits down. After he has finished she rises to her feet, smiles, smooths her dark hair from her face, frowns, and leaves the room.

‘She has joined herself to death’, that’s what the words said on the program notes, words in odd translation from the French. I consult the dictionary. My French is far from perfect. ‘She has joined herself to death’. Passed away, journeyed on. She has gone before. She is not lost, but sleeping. Her soul rests in peace, in music, in the grave, in the room where St Colombe is playing, master of his music.

She has joined herself to death, but may rejoin for the purposes of haunting, though this is more a friendly visit home to keep an eye on things. She has joined herself to death, but chooses not to pass on, fall asleep, reach journey’s end. She stays to hear the music.

Se rejoindre a la mort. She has joined herself again? Again? This is not the first time, then? There is another death and she has died before? Again?

The room is cold. The frost is on the window. The musician crouches over his instrument. In the film, Tous led Matins du Monde, the actor crouches over an instrument he cannot play. The woman enters the room. She smiles. The man pretends to play. His face contorts with grief. The music swells from the instrument, from the soundtrack of the film, the record, from the recording studio, from the basse de viole of Jordi Savall, master of his instrument, master interpreter of the music of St Colombe and Marian Marais, St Colombe and Marian Marais have long since joined themselves with death, passed on, reached journey’s end, gone but not forgotten.

The woman in the room is the ghost of the wife of St Colombe. She never speaks.

The music lives. Listen. Enter that world. Find great love. Suffer great sorrow. Live, and love and suffer and die, and live and die again. Again, again, again.

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About the Author

Rosaleen Love grew up in sub-tropical Queensland surrounded by science and writing. She attended Ipswich Girls’ Grammar prior to studying science at the University of Queensland and at Cambridge University. Love undertook her PhD studies at the University of Melbourne during the 1970s. She has lectured in the history and philosophy of science and in professional writing, teaching at the Swinburne University of Technology and the Victoria University of Technology. She is the author of Reefscape: Reflections of the Great Barrier Reef, published by National Academies Press. Rosaleen Love’s previously collected stories have been published in The Total Devotion Machine and Other Stories (1989), Evolution Annie and Other Stories (1993) and The Travelling Tide (2005). In 2009, Love was awarded the A Bertram Chandler Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Australian Science Fiction Foundation.

Her latest collection, Secret Lives of Books was released as part of the Twelve Planets series in June. Forthcoming from Twelfth Planet Press are electronic reprintings of her collections The Total Devotion Machine and Other Stories and Evolution Annie and Other Stories.