by Quentin 'Cubist' Long
part 2

  The silence lasts many seconds. I'm the one who finally breaks it: "I don't suppose you'd be willing to forget what you just heard?"
  Wanderer shakes his head. "No. If you are willing to speak further on 't, however, I should be curious to follow your reasoning. Surely you don't believe that lack of singing ability ought automatically brand one as subhuman?"
  I stare up at the ceiling. If I'm willing to speak on it, he says. Suurrre I'm willing to talk about it. Golly gee whiz, who wouldn't jump at the chance to put their vulnerable points on public display? Oh yeah, sure thing, you betcha.
  But... this is Wanderer. He doesn't behave like a real human being. Maybe...
  "Alright. You want it, you got it. On one condition: You don't talk. Whatever you see or hear, none of it leaves the room. You ever repeat any of this, and I swear by Tyr and Themis, your next role is Cream of Wolf on Toast. Capische?"
  I think he got the message. He's uncharacteristically serious: "My lips are sealed. I promise you, I shall be the very soul of discretion."
  "You'd better."
  I move the blanket aside, then sit up, ignoring all the complaints from the muscles involved. Ordinarily I'd just do it, from thought to act in one smooth, electric sweep. But now, doing anything feels... 'laborious' isn't the right word. The best description I can think of at the moment, is that I'm aware of the effort I'm expending. It's almost as if a utility company had just started metering my muscle-power. Slowly, so very slowly, I stand, revealing the full extent of what SCABS did to me. I used to be human, surely I should be able to remember if this is what it felt like to move the body around?
  "Here I am. Take a good look." I turn around twice, clockwise first and then widdershins. It's been such a long time since I lived at the normal tempo... I move ponderously, not just because of low energy or the all-over ache, but also because of the tubes running into my arms. Wouldn't want to tangle them up or pull one out.
  I lower myself back down onto the mattress. Gravity is more insistent than I'm used to, I must continually expend more of that metered power lest I collapse in an untidy heap. It feels so good to just lie in bed and let the pain diminish to a weak background sensation.
  "That's me all over, Wanderer. Derksen tells me my body is pure cheetah, except for a 5% intrusion of human traits. So the body isn't human, but that's just the physical instrument, isn't it? You're only as human as you think, right?"
  I've gone this far, may as well give him the whole package. No matter how nervous it makes me. I swallow. "Okay, fine. But. My mind isn't human. Not completely. Got a choice collection of brand-new personality quirks when I SCABbed over. And. Some of 'em scare the living shit out of me." If you're gonna go for the whole package, Jube old son, go for the whole package. I scan Wanderer with my eyes; this time, breaking a solemn promise I made to myself years ago, I let the beast in my hindbrain get a look in. "25 MPH tops. Time to intercept, no more than 15 seconds. Maximum chance of escape, 5%. Healthy; lots of good meat on the bones. Keep me going 2 days easy, less if a scavenger finds you before I'm done with you."
  The wolf is silent, and I can't blame him. Not only have I just pronounced him easy prey, I've coldly quantified exactly how easy...
  "And if that kind of crap weren't bad enough, there's the mental changes which might be SCABS-related. Personality traits I had before, but they're a Hell of a lot stronger now. Short-tempered, antisocial, et cetera ad nauseum. Maybe I would've gotten that way without the Martian Flu; then again, maybe I wouldn't. Bottom line is, I've got no way to know how much of my mind survived the fur coat!
  "So. My body surely isn't human, and God only knows how much of my mind still is. Which begs the question: What's left of me? What percentage didn't get over-written by the beast? All I really know is... however much humanity I had before, I've got one Hell of a lot less of it now."
  I swallow again, and my next words are quiet, perhaps below the threshhold of human hearing: "I can't afford to lose any more."
  Swallow. Deep breath, exhale. Back to a normal volume level: "Does that answer your question?"
  The wolf nods. "I believe so, yes. Now it's your turn." So saying, he disrobes completely, one article of clothing at a time, starting with his cape and working his way down to the bare fur. Then he turns around, aping my earlier action; on him, it looks like a pirouette. "Here am I! Only one small bonus away from being as much a wolf as you are a cat, and damn lucky to be here. When I get tired, or sick, or drunk, I'm not even this well off. You could say I go to the dogs. Or haven't you heard about that little trick yet?"
  "No." I shake my head. "Four on the floor, is that it? 'Look, Ma, no hands'? Strong and silent type?" The wolf confirms all three with a nod and a "Yes."
  I say nothing for a moment, then chuckle. It's a genuinely healthy laugh, very unlike the noise I made last night. "Just can't stop yourself slumming among the voiceless, is that it?" I ask, a sardonic smile on my face.
  Wanderer sighs and shakes his head. "You, sir, are incorrigible."
  "So don't incorrige me."
  He looks exasperated. "As if I ever have! Well. If you will be so kind as to excuse me, I do have other business to attend to. Good day, Jubatus."
  "Be seeing you, Wanderer."
  Suddenly, neither he nor his clothes are in the room. And I didn't notice him leaving... right, I took a catnap. Fell asleep without even realizing it. For some reason, this doesn't particularly bother me; must be good drugs Derksen's got me on.
  Speaking of the doc-roach, he drops in to chew me out. There's a reason he put me on a metabolic depressant: I was running on empty. When the blast furnace I call a metabolism ran out of loose protein and nutrients to burn, it moved on to the next available source of fuel. Namely, my own muscle and connective tissues. Self-inflicted tissue damage, anyone?
  No wonder I ache all over. No wonder Derksen wants my metabolic activity throttled back to where the body's got half a chance of healing. And finally, no wonder he's not happy about my vital signs spiking up to near my normal levels. He does something to the mix being fed into my veins, and I'm gone, Jack. Within seconds I can feel random pieces of my brain shutting down.
  I spend the next week as a semi-intelligent meat puppet -- or, if you like, Derksen's prescription keeps me mellowed out on a scale unseen since the 1960s. I'm pretty sure I had at least one more visitor, but I'll be damned if I can remember any specifics. Wonder what sort of conversationalist I was.
  Seven interminable days. That's how long it takes the doc-roach to pronounce me healthy enough to release, if that's what I want -- and want, I most definitely do. Inactivity grates on us cheetahs, medically-enforced or no. If it weren't for my status as a drug-induced zombie, I'd be leaving footprints on the goddamn walls and ceiling; as it is, I'm only a little annoyed.
  I'm on the street three hours after I tell Derksen I want out, what with paperwork and reclaiming my stuff and other flavors of bureaucratic nonsense. Somewhere along the way, I pick up a week's supply of some fluid that's polysyllabic and hard to pronounce. I dub it Prozac Plus, the post-industrial strength pain reliever.
  So I'm looking over the parking lot, and where the hell is my Ford Extremis? Think, cat! Alright, I remember pulling up at the Blind Pig, and then -- oh, shit. I sure as Elysium didn't lock the car! God only knows what's left of it now...
  I'm back in the lobby at time T plus 3 hours 45 seconds, calling the 'Pig.
  A female human answers. "Blind Pig Gin Mill. Susan speaking, how can I help you?" I think I recognize the voice; it's Donnie's daughter.
  "Hi there. This is Jubatus. Could someone look out the window and tell me how bad the damage is?"
  "Ah... hold on," she says uncertainly. I hear indistinct conversation-type noises. It occurs to me, belatedly, that I really ought to have explained the situation to her. Less than a minute later (and for once, my minutes and clock-minutes match up with each other), Susan's back on the line: "Mr. Jubatus? We had your vehicle towed to the West Street Shelter, and you'll find it to be completely intact."
  Praise Hermes, I think to myself. "Thanks for the update," I say, punctuating this remark by hanging up. My next call is for a taxi.
  The cabbie wakes me up outside the Shelter. I must've lapsed into unconsciousness again -- gotta watch that. I pay the man, and it doesn't even cross my mind that I might have been overcharged. I make sure I don't leave anything in the cab before I disembark.
  I trudge on up to the front door... so damned slow... and then inside. I can't recall the Shelter ever being this busy. Then again, I am stuck at their tempo for the duration -- maybe it's always looked this way to slow eyes?
  A human-seeming woman with a snake-cold manner about her interrupts my rubbernecking. "You would be Jubatus, correct?"
  Her voice is cool and cultured. She looks important, maybe I've seen her before, but I'll be damned if I can remember where or when. "That's me. You mean there are other cheetahs in this town?"
  A smile floats briefly across her lips. "You'd be surprised. Have you any business here besides reclaiming your vehicle?"
  "Not really. If Phil was around I'd say hello, but I guess he's not here."
  "Mr. Geusz is unavailable," she confirms. "However, I will pass the sentiment along to him. As for your car, follow me." So saying, she leads the way through corridors I'd get lost in without a guide. I laugh a little when it hits me that I actually have to hurry up to keep pace with her -- who'd'a thunk it? I just smile and shake my head when she looks quizzically back at me.
  We arrive at the Shelter's garage. Even to my drug-bedimmed faculties, it's obvious that they had to rearrange the place to make room for my Extremis. I wonder how many man-hours went into this unscheduled remodeling.
  I get my checkbook out of my vest. "Look, you don't strike me as the kind that goes for senseless acts of random kindness," I say, and then I retrieve a pen. "How much do I owe you?"
  "Fifty thousand dollars." If I had any eyebrows to raise, I would. I could buy another Extremis for that kind of money. Of course, it wouldn't cover a tenth of the modifications I've installed... I look at her. I think she's serious. What the hell, non-profits got to get their income where they can.
  I nod. "Fifty grand. Isn't that a bit steep for parking?" I ask with a smile. I can afford it, I don't feel like arguing, I write the check.
  She looks at the numbers as I write them. She says her next line with a deadpan delivery: "Did I mention the handling charges?"
  "What?" I ask. "No, you..." That's when a neural impulse finally makes it across the lone synapse between my two functioning brain cells. "Oh. That was a joke, wasn't it. The 50 thousand, I mean."
  "I'm afraid it was. But since you did ask..." She goes on; I tune out her voice and think about what I've just written. I realize that it's the literal truth: I do have more money than I know what to do with. I could let this check stand, and never notice or care. Hell, it's even drawn on my Petty Cash account!
  I hand the check to her. "Here. Have a donation." After all, the Shelter did keep my car safe while I went AWOL. Value given for value received. Anyway, it'll be... hmm. "It's tax-deductible, right?"
  Suddenly I'm in the driver's seat. Must've fallen asleep. Again. This is getting ridiculous -- whoever heard of a narcoleptic cheetah? Thinking back, motion seems to be the key; my brain is active when, and only when, my body is. I call the hospital. Anyone think I hadn't installed a cel-phone in the car? Good.
  Derksen must have anticipated me. The flunkie who answers is well-informed, says I can cut 15% off the dosage, and a like amount more if the spontaneous episodes continue. Praise the Lord, any Lord, any Lord at all.
  Speaking of which: The dashboard clock says it's been more than four hours since I last ate, and I'm not hungry. I repeat: I am not hungry! Just a touch of appetite, I have to make a special effort to even notice it, nothing like the insatiable, bottomless vacuum that's inhabited my gut ever since I SCABbed over. God, it's been so bloody long...
  I think I could get used to this. I even sustain that fantasy for a few seconds, until reality intrudes. You can't go home again, and I can't live at the normal tempo. Right now, moving the body feels like telepresence across orbital distances: My brain issues the command to do something, and there's a lag between thought and deed. A tiny delay, a mere fraction of a second, nothing big... but it's driving me bugfuck, because it's always there for everything I do!
  And the lag is only the beginning; the body is slow, it moves at a snail's pace by comparison to what I've grown accustomed to. And on top of everything else, I'm so damned heavy -- 32 feet per second per second, by slow standards, is only 5 plus change, by mine. You try living with a fraction of your normal energy level and lead weights hanging off of every joint. Me, I'm pretty sure I can stick it out for a week. Anything much longer, and all bets are off.
  Enough. Gotta keep my mind on something else; Wanderer's offer is a suitable topic. He means well, but he's such a bloody optimist, I'd want a second opinion if he told me the Sun was shining. I think he really does believe his kids would be willing to work with me, I just can't buy into it on his say-so alone. I need hard evidence. Me sitting in with 'em on a song, now that I could believe, for good or ill. Ideally I'd want a song that plays to my strengths as a vocalist, but I haven't got any, damn it!
  Pitch range? I can handle an augmented third, D to G in the bass clef. On those occasions when Apollo feels well-disposed towards me, I'm good for maybe 1 or 2 semitones more on either end. Anything beyond that, and you can start a betting pool on where my voice craps out first -- tone, timbre, volume, or pitch.
  Dynamic range? I'm good to go if and only if it's mezzo-forte. Louder or softer, and it's anybody's guess whether my volume level matches the composer's notation. Having spent a number of years (my years) trying to make it do what it won't, it's my considered opinion that my current vocal apparatus just plain doesn't have the precision of the human version.
  Tone and timbre? Forget it. You'd get just as good results trying to use a sound effects module as a voder. I should know, I arm-wrestle intelligible speech out of a completely non-human vocal tract. You may have wondered why I talk so much if I can't stand what I sound like? I need to keep in practice, that's why. It's not easy, and I really don't want to lose it again.
  Endurance? Hmmm... maybe I spoke too soon. My human voicebox got replaced by a feline purr-box, and when's the last time any cat stopped purring to inhale? Yeah, I can keep a note going indefinitely. Give me one in my D-to-G range, and I'll do you proud... wait a minute...
  God's teeth and gums! There is a vocal piece, I did it in college with that madrigal group, the entire bass line consists of a few quarter-notes at either end of an organ point -- that's one continuous note, held until you keel over dead or the composer tells you different, whichever comes first -- and it's an E-flat organ point! I can hit it as is, no need to even transpose the damn thing!
  This is the kind of good fortune that leads some people to conclude there is a God. Me, I ask inconvenient questions, like where the hell was God when my voice died?
  I break out a disc I couldn't bring myself to dispose of, even though I believed I'd never use it again. It's the old 4.7-gigabyte DVD format. Among other things, it contains my complete collection of multi-part vocal arrangements -- including an early 20th-Century piece called Balulalow, by a guy named Peter Warlock. Balulalow. Stupid name, exquisite music.
  I bring it up on my laptop's screen. Oh yes, I remember it well... The lyrics are English, just not contemporary English. Not good. Rather than force the group to wrestle with the likes of "with sangis sweit unto thy gloir", I spend a few minutes sandblasting the language down to modern specifications:
     O my dear heart, young Jesus kind,
      Prepare thy cradle in my mind,
       And I shall rock thee in my heart
        And never more from thee depart.
     But I shall praise eternally
      With song sung sweet to glory thee;
       The knees of my heart shall I bow,
        And, artful, sing Balulalow!
  Could be better, I suppose... Hell, nobody really listens to the words of these things anyway. Close enough for government work; it'll serve.
  That problem solved, I move on to the question of assigning parts. It's SATB (soprano-alto-tenor-bass) with a soprano solo on the side, and the glee club does have enough warm bodies to pull it off even without me. Too bad they've only got 1 (one) soprano to work with. Okay... I give the soprano accompaniment to the tenor, Ringwolf, and bump Wanderer up from his usual baritone to the tenor line.
  I print out seven copies of the sheet music, one for each of the vocalists who'll perform the damn thing -- Wanderer, the five other members of his group, and me.
  It's 11 PM. Time enough to lapse into a coma.
  Next morning I wake up, thaw and devour breakfast, take the reduced dose of Prozac Plus. Much, much better than yesterday. I feel within arm's reach of normal, or at least what passes for normal in my life. Looks like I'm running at a tempo of 2, or thereabouts. Still a fraction of my usual tempo, still going easy on my overstressed body.
  It's 7 AM on Wednesday. They'll rehearse tonight, starting maybe 8 PM? I've got time, and I spend it catching up on business I let slide during my unscheduled vacation. A lot more of it than I was expecting -- no, it just seems that way because I'm not up to speed. Lots of e-mails, a fair number of "where's the work I hired you to do?" complaints. I send a mass e-mail to all my clients explaining that I had an unexpected medical emergency, that I won't be fully recovered for another few days yet, and that this is the first opportunity I've had to make contact with them. Clients whose deadlines I've blown get extra verbiage; I won't object if they invoke the penalty clause for non-performance, apologize for the necessity of even discussing it, and give 'em pointers to people who can finish the job if they decide to terminate their contract with me.
  I spend the next hour conducting triage, deciding what jobs get which priority, then have brunch. Or at least that's the plan; my appetite isn't playing along. Of course -- I ate for my usual hunger, not what I'm enjoying now. It's been so very long since my stomach stayed full for more than a couple of minutes! I don't miss the sensation. I feel bloated. Gotta burn calories, and then some.
  My Extremis has a royal mess of crap stacked around and over and under it. I don't bother summoning help from the Shelter offices; I just upshift and clear a path by myself, moving crates and machine parts out of the way, so I can drive out. I punch my tempo up to 10, as high as I can comfortably go right now, so it takes less than four clock-minutes. I then downshift, drive the car out to the curbside, park, upshift back to 10, and re-organize the Shelter's garage. This final task takes an hour of my time, including frequent curbside jaunts to make sure the Extremis is still in one piece. Only after the garage is ship-shape do I lock down my car. Then I take a nice, leisurely jog around the city at the default tempo, not bothering to shift up or down.
  I said "around the city", and I mean that literally. Total circumnavigation of the greater metropolitan area. I move along the shoulder of the road when I can, cut through private property when necessary, use bike lanes and pedestrian paths when possible. Feels damn good... right, my glands are cheetah enough for the endorphins to really kick in, and my brain is human enough to enjoy the hell out of it.
  I'll have to try this again sometime.
  I'm back at the Shelter before 10 AM. The Extremis is still untouched. I drive the few blocks over to the Blind Pig, park, set an alarm, go back to work at a tempo of 8. I cube a slab of turkey breast, nibble on the resulting snack at random intervals. 7 PM is when I call it a day. Still got time to kill before the glee club shows; I go jogging again. If Derksen had known how it makes me feel, he would've prescribed 75 miles a day.
  Back at the 'Pig once more, and it's 8:10. I make sure I've got the sheet music in my shoulder bag, then breeze on inside. They've just started Ado Annie's song from Oklahoma, and damn they're good. Donnie's got fresh oranges today; I get a screwdriver, sidle over to them unnoticed, sit down and enjoy.
  It's done too soon: "-- caaaaan't saaaaaay noooooo!" they conclude, and the applause is why they rehearse here instead of some place with better acoustics. I make with a lupine howl instead of clapping -- we cheetahs ain't half bad at sound effects. Good enough to fool Wanderer, who comes up empty looking for the new wolf. Heh. He does a doubletake when he sees me.
  "Ah, Jubatus. It pleases me that --" He breaks off, puzzled. Now that I think of it, I don't believe he's ever seen me in this good a mood before. "You?"
  "I went jogging. Runner's high," I tell him. "What's the matter, never seen a cheetah smile?"
  He's speechless. I make a mental note of the occasion.
  What the hell, that's as good a cue as any. I catch the glee club's collective attention by standing up. "Hello. I suppose you're wondering why I've called you all here today..." Well, that joke fell flat. Wanderer manages to crack a smile, but then he would, wouldn't he? Gesturing at him, I continue: "Benji here tells me you people are in the market for a pain in the ass who does vocal training on the side, and I'm number one on your short list. Fine by me, but first, I got two words for you all," I say, inserting a dramatic pause before my next words.
  "I apologize."
  Dead silence from the club. It's the tenor who is first to reply: "Who are you, and what have you done with that cocksucker of a cheetah?"
  I smile. Familiar ground at last. "I love you, too, Ringwolf. Don't worry, the Jubatus you know and loathe will return as soon as the drugs wear off. In the meantime, I brought a peace offering with me."
  I extract the music from my shoulder bag. First copy goes to Sunya, who isn't a centaur because her below-the-waist bits are pure jaguar. She's got these amazing green eyes, a more than decent soprano voice, and an attitude best described as prima donna with a feline accent. "Here you go, sweetness. Enjoy." She raises one eyebrow, affects that superior catlike expression, accepts the solo part as her due.
  Next is the alto, Constance. She's part bumblebee; SCABS gave up on her after bestowing those distinctive markings up and down her torso, plus oversized compound eyes that have got to give her a very strange worldview. No idea how much internal remodeling she got, of course. Quiet girl, not all there. She nods and smiles her quirky smile, just like always.
  Third in line is Ringwolf, tenor and Lupine Boy both, who gets along with me as smoothly as #5 sandpaper. He's better than he thinks he is, when he forgets the damn self-consciousness. He snatches his copy out of my hand before I can give it to him. "You write this?" he asks.
  "Nope, it's a little before my time," I reply. "Who knows, you might like it." Ringwolf snorts by way of response.
  On to the two baritones. I hit Wolfshead first, he's another Lupine Boy. He's easy to overlook; he's so bloody retiring a soul that I can't figure out how, or why, he ever hooked up with the Boys in the first place. Keeps to himself. I have no idea what he does when he's not at the Pig. "Thank you, sir," he says when I hand him his music.
  "My pleasure," I say.
  The second baritone is actually a first baritone, oddly enough -- it's Wanderer. "Thanks indeed!" he says when he gets his copy. He freezes almost immediately when he sees what he's got, looks at me as though I suddenly turned into Richard M. Nixon, then shakes his head and blinks and focuses on the music. The rest of the crew started in scanning their own specific parts as soon as their music was in hand; Wanderer's looking over the whole thing. I can practically hear him working out the harmonic relationships in his mind, the dynamics, the overall tonal quality of the piece. And yes, he does mess with my part assignments. Heh. Amused, I think to myself, "Never be a choir leader" my ass, you melodramatic scenery-chewer!
  He focuses on something at the bottom of the first page. "''The basses are instructed to stagger their breathing, so as not to interrupt the smooth flow of sound,'" he says, quoting the performance note that caught his attention. His eyes hold a question that I ignore.
  "That's right," I say. "Composer's orders."
  The last handout goes to Eltro Gannet, the glee club's basso absurdly profundo. He's got some bison in him; he's solid muscle, about two-and-a-third men wide, and with 15 men's dignity. I'd bet he's seriously annoyed at being stuck with a one-note harmony line (I wasn't happy about it myself when first I performed it, as I recall), but that kind of complaint would be beneath him, so he only says, "Mr. Jubatus? The bass line is... unusual."
  "Sure is," I agree. "But the end result's gonna be worth it. Think of it as one of those sacrifices people make for their art."
  So now everybody's got their melodic line, and Wanderer plays the various parts out on the piano, and it's not long before the whole group's prepped and ready for the first trial run. Before they do, I make my move.
  I've got one final copy of the music. I take it out, move up next to Gannet. I ignore my elevated pulse rate as best I can. "Awwrrrhhh --" I begin abortively, clear my throat, try again. "I thought I'd sit in with you. Tonight. Unless anyone has any objections?"
  Ringwolf looks like he does, but one look from Wanderer shuts him up. The not-a-leader asks, "So I am to presume that this is in the way of a trial run, then."
  I nod. "Yep. And if you're wondering, I do know my part."
  He doesn't even glance at the sheet music, just looks me in the eye. "Well, I am told that preparedness is a virtue. Very well." We get our starting notes from the piano, and we begin.
  I let Gannet do the heavy lifting for those of the initial notes I can't hit worth a damn, but I'm right there when that big, beautiful E-flat organ point starts rolling...
  For those of you who haven't heard Balulalow: It's an etherial soprano solo floating over a continuous, gradually-shifting chord structure. And it's beautiful. By all the gods that never were... it's one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard.
  There's a difference between just hearing the music, and making it. And I've been on the short end of that difference for so damnably long a time... My cheeks are damp and getting more so. I don't care, it's not affecting my voice.
  "My voice", now there's a joke. Christ almighty, what right have I to apply that term to the noise that comes out of my mouth! None at all, no right whatsoever. Not when I've spent years of my time desperately trying to smash a square peg into a round hole, sweating blood just to achieve a minimal degree of intelligibility, working my ass off simply to be understood, and any one of these people can blow me completely out of the water on their worst day.
  So here I am with a song hand-picked to afford me every possible advantage, a piece that might as well have been commissioned especially for me... and I'm still a seventh-rater. Compared to real singers I simply don't measure up any more, and I never will.
  Alright, that affected my sound; I hope nobody else noticed. Keep your flipping mind on your part, Jube old boy. I manage to hold it together for the duration of the organ point, and let Gannet handle the notes I can't at the end. Pan and Apollo, the difference between me and them... I'm sorely tempted to swiftly and silently vanish away, but that would make this whole exercise a waste of time.
  Now comes the hard part...
  "What do you think?" I ask, and behind my poker-face, I am sweating bricks. The 2-meter concrete kind, that they build skyscraper foundations out of. I remember Ringwolf gleefully pointing out every last mistake he noticed in my performance, which is about 50% more than I actually made; Wanderer complimenting my taste in music; everything else they said might as well be white noise, for all I can remember of it. And then I'm walking calmly over to the counter for straight bourbon. No blood was spilled at the piano, so I guess it went well, and that brings us up to date.
  Okay... so I can't sing worth a damn. Big deal. Lots of people can't. My vocalist days are done.
  t't't'rat tat tat, t't't'rat tat tat, t't't'rat tat ta-tat -- ta-tat tat tat
  It still hurts, and I don't know if I'd ever want the pain to go away entirely, but... Somehow, it just isn't as bad any more. I think the wound is finally starting to heal.
  t't't'rat tat tat, t't't'rat tat tat, t't't'rat tat ta-tat -- ta-tat tat tat
  Bit of an anticlimax, really. Especially after all that weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth I've been doing all this time. Whatever.
  t't't'rat tat tat, t't't'rat tat tat, t't't'rat tat ta-tat -- ta-tat tat tat
  Like I've always said, life is better when you accept Reality for what it is. No matter how hard it may be, accepting Reality is better than the alternative.
  t't't'rat, t't't'rat, tat tat t't't'rat, tat, tat, t't't'rat-t't't'rat
  That's interesting... haven't done that for a while; I'm tapping out rhythms on the table. I try varying between clawtips and finger pads.
  t't't'rat tyt tyt, t't't'rat tyt tyt, t't't'rat tyt ta-tyt -- ti-tat tyt tyt
  I'm done with singing... but maybe I'm not done with music?
  t't't'rat tyt tyt, t't't'rat tyt tyt, t't't'rytta-tytta-tytta-tyt
  I walk over towards the piano, tap Wanderer on the shoulder.
  "Yes, Jubatus?"
  "You think you guys could use a little percussion?"

part 2