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A music box

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Posted 24 February 2017 - 10:39 PM

A music box
Submitted by Ken Dasilva~Hill

When I was a small child, barely able to walk, I was given a musical box by an aged friend of my aunt. It was made from a dark brown wood and, painted on the top, was a colourful picture of a carousel with white horses and a red striped top. I remember to this day the strange metallic sound of the tune that it played, tinkling above the whirl of the clockwork motor, which was wound by a lever fixed within a slot in the side. Although I remember the tune clearly, and can hum it, I have never been able to identify the title of the music. It has just fourteen notes, and plays for less than a half minute before repeating itself over and over again until the spring is unwound.


The tune has haunted me for all of my life, but now it is worming its way into my very soul, and destroying me. The box had dissapeared from my life well before I started school. Where it went and why, remains a mystery. Perhaps it was lost or broken, or maybe given away to another small child, but I hope not. I do not know, and I do not care. It is still in my life though, and I will never be free of it. The curious tune is both simple and persistent. It starts on a high note and drops in key before rising again. The music seems familiar, but is not recognisable as any popular or common tune. I have not heard any other musical box with the same song, for a song, for me, is what it is. I can put words to it, but the words are mine, and have an evil aspect to them, as though the box is revealing a secret from the past in notes of music, straight into my head. I now have knowledge of how these devices work, but still cannot comprehend why this tune affects me so. The mechanics of the box are simple but the structure of them is complicated. The musical notes are made by the vibrations of the teeth of a brass comb. Each tooth is plucked by a tiny pin set into a revolving cylinder. There are many pins on the cylinder and these are arranged to play the notes in the order of the tune. A clockwork motor drives the cylinder, the speed controlled by a fan attached to a continuous worm drive, which ensures the rhythm of the music is maintained. The sound is amplified through the wooden box, it is a simple but sophisticated device. But why am I affected so?


For seventy years it has ruled my mind. My very being is swamped in the sounds and the music of the box. For some years now, the sound of the box has been heard from time to time, softly tinkling its unknown melody in the darkness of the night. I wake in the close pitch black, the sound enveloping me but seeming to come from far away. From time to time I rise from my warm bed and roam the house in the swamp of night trying desperately to locate its source. And, in the bright daylight, I search again in places so familiar that they need no search, it is not there and never has been. What does this mean? Am I haunted? Can I never be free of the music of my life?


On holiday many years ago, I passed through a mountain village in Switzerland, traveling back to England from Italy by coach. As we dropped down the steep twisting road into the village, a vision through the tall pine trees caught my attention for a moment or two. I saw the red striped roof of a carousel below, the white horses impaled by twisted golden shafts, set off by a dark wooden floor. The carousel was revolving slowly and the faint strains of the strange music reached out to me. We passed by closely as the road leveled out, and my attention was taken by a small child standing alone and staring intently at me as we rushed by in the coach. Some few minutes later the coach pulled into a hotel car park, a stop for refreshments and lunch. I felt that I just had to see the carousel and forgoing food I made my way back along the road in the direction in which we had come. I found the pine trees and the gap between them. The carousel had gone, or maybe had not been there at all, but I still swear I had seen it clearly to this day. Retracing my steps to the hotel, I looked about me, and on reaching the level area, noticed a small black memorial stone set close against an old flint wall. Decorated with a single pink rose, it was the memorial to a child of four years old. The gold leafed letters carved into the cold stone told the story. He had died after falling from a carousel horse, crushed by the iron wheels beneath the revolving deck. He had died on the day that I was born, seventy five years before, and strangely, we share the very same name. I asked the others on the coach about the carousel, but nobody else had noticed it as the bus passed by.


I am now entering my hundredth year, and still the mystic music plays, it worries me, and I rarely sleep through the nights, will I ever find real peace in my life before I die? What does this all mean, or, am I the child in this story, still dying a living death ?


Copyright & intellectual rights retained by Ken Dasilva~Hill 2017

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