A whisper challenging
Olivia said uncertainly: ‘What’s happening?’
I said: ‘It’s quite simple, Livia. There’s a very little man in the middle of the trumpet blowing air two ways at once. He must be double-headed.’
The last record of ‘Scheherazade’ clicked to its end and my voice sounded louder in the silence than I had meant it to be.
Piers said: ‘Want to try it, Tenn?’
I had to hold the large end of the trumpet to prevent it from swinging away from us. I held it against my cheek conscientiously. Nothing happened. Olivia said:
‘Anything at your end?’
I pursed my lips and puffed a breath of air towards her. She gave a little cry.
‘That was me,’ I said. ‘I was just seeing if the little man was in the way.’
Piers said: ‘Try it alone, Tenn. Sit down, Livia.’
I heard her sit down and stood, for some reason obedient to Piers’s command, holding the trumpet’s edge. Almost at once I felt the pulse of warm air against my face. It came in gusts as though from lungs racked by the unaccustomed effort of breathing. In a lull Piers said:
‘Something,’ I said. ‘Certainly something.’
I felt the gust again and heard it expand into the sharper edge of speech: barely audible, barely intelligible, a whisper challenging. A call: ‘Tenn!’
I lunged as sharply as I could, feeling with my hands for the other end of the trumpet. They closed on vacancy. There was nothing there; nothing anywhere.
Nothing but the memory of a whisper in a voice I thought was dead.