The Piper sits on a wooden chair in a dim corner of a church. He has always used wood, believing music flows from Earth itself, that a chair of metal or worse, plastic, is an unworthy conduit. And he always chooses a corner, where the sound can dance off the angles and fill the souls of mourners who know an ache that only music can feed. He aches too.
The Piper has been piping for what seems to him the whole of time, learning at the knee of his grandfather and then his father, playing every last day of his three-score and nineteen years, either for practice, pleasure, or money. He has played ‘Amazing Grace’ nearly five thousand times if he were to count, and today he tries to make it sound like he composed it himself for this very occasion.
He tries not to dwell on certain things: He has had to start earlier these days, to allow himself more time for traveling and warming up. And while his fingers still know where to find each note, they make more of a fuss about getting there. And when the drones and regulators are going full out, pulling air from the bag in hungry swallows, he works the bellows with long, steady pumps, and the effort makes him winded to the point of concern. He has thought once or twice that there could be worse ways to spend his last heartbeats.