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frame of my skull, and my eyes......Jesus, my eyes are like shiny pools of blood.' In his head his voice sounded like an old woman gurgling her last dying wish. He ran a slender, veined hand through the wisps of his white hair, "I look like Conrad Veidt in that damned film," he muttered and his voice sounded just like the one in his head.

Through the window he watched salty rain lift off the lamp black sea, listening to its tap tapping on the rectangular pane, like the impatient fingers of a so-called friend paying a surprise visit. Bruckner's Ave Maria replaced Bach on the tape deck and the lights of Whitley Bay stippled the sky like a hundred tempting cigarette embers. Mendler shivered. It was night time again. Soon the voices would come, the voices that had followed him here from London; a malevolent phlegm coated critique barely muffled by the velvet cloak of darkness. He glanced nervously at the expectant sheets of manuscript paper scattered erratically across his bureau.

When he was a child, the pier was a promising place. In the days before e-mails, when cigarettes were a tickertape of bonfire leaves floating on rizla wings, he had been brought up by this same North Sea coast, but further south. That earlier place was famous for its pleasure pier, stuck out on boardwalks and stanchions beyond bathers' reach, beyond the grim grey out-of-season waves. The lighthouse he now inhabited was becoming, in his mind, his childhood's pier upended, made vertical to act as some unforgettable map-marker in his life. Mendler Tower he quaintly called it as if it were a gothic monument on some land-locked moor. A landmark, true, but also a warning.

Faure's Requiem replaced Bruckner followed by nameless Pavanes and Sarabandes. Music for him provided the ghosts which ghost-hunters sought as evidence to help ear-mark life-belts for later death. The bars and staves were tangling into cobwebs for companies of notes to perch and incubate like bloated insects.

Earlier, he had watched someone wandering along the sands. A shape that kicked around in blunt gumboots, the genderless form casting no shadow in the dusk's gloom. The words Mendler voiced were his own, a composer's rather than a writer's, but at least they served their purpose. Music was his forté after all, in the soft dying light of things and the words became staccato, almost pizzicato, as he released them, spooled them out beyond the flowing narrative in which his life was often portrayed by others.

The sea was stirring up winds which he knew would keep him awake. He feared the waking dreams he would undergo, dreams of the dusky silhouette on the sands. He drew a veil and vowed to forget what wasn't probably there at all. For whatever reason, Mendler had come to this hoped-for sanctuary, to ease the torments that were ill-suiting his soul back home. A place to iron out the castrato homunculi that he visualised his scores beginning to bear. At least no ready-manuscripted computer assistance here to reduce his work to mathematical, minimalist rhythms. Here, at Mendler Tower, he'd really have to get his hands ink-blotted as he poured over honest manuscript paper. But, equally, he hoped that the sounds that any symphony orchestra eventually produced from his craft would bear the clean-cut, unemotional lines that had been his trade-mark before


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