Think of this as a fable or a fairy tale, but whatever you do, don’t think this could possibly be true.
Diego Kelly is sixty-four. He has an older sister Luisa and a younger brother Juan. Their mother Maria was a hairdresser, their father Jerome a forklift operator. Diego and his siblings were born in Gilroy, California and called Gilroy home until their parents divorced when Luisa was twenty-five, Diego twenty-three, and Juan twenty. After the divorce, their mother moved to Fort Bragg, California while their father stayed in Gilroy.
Diego learned to play the guitar when he was six. From then on, until four months ago, writing songs was the central focus of his life. He dropped out of college after two years and moved to Los Angeles where he pursued a music career until he was thirty-three and discovered that several of his songs had been recorded by other recording artists claiming to have written his songs. Four of those stolen songs became huge hits, and when Diego’s many attempts to prove he’d been ripped off came to naught, he had a nervous breakdown.
Thereafter he lived with his mother in Fort Bragg until she died when Diego was forty-seven. She left him her little house and that’s where he lives today with his brown mutt Zero, his orange tabby Twyla, and his black tabby Magdalena. He makes his minimal living as a counterperson in a coffee house and until four months ago he had never in his life stopped playing his guitar and writing songs.
Important things to know about Diego are that he is kind and generous and friendly and fully recovered from his nervous breakdown, though he still sometimes feels mighty sad about having his songs and a successful career as a musician stolen from him.
On a cold October evening after a long day behind the coffee house counter, Diego is in the kitchen of his commodious little house making quesadillas and guacamole and drinking a beer when someone knocks on his front door. Thinking the knocker must be Stella, a lovely woman he’s been courting for six months now without much success, Diego calls, “Come in” and the door opens admitting a most unusual person who is not Stella.
We will use the pronoun she when referring to the unusual person, though she is not obviously male or female. She is tall and strikingly beautiful, entirely bald, the dome of her skull perfectly round, her sparkling blue eyes enormous. She is wearing a gray tunic giving no hint of breasts, and black jeans giving little hint of hips, yet her facial features and the graceful way she moves makes Diego think she is a woman.
“Hello,” says Diego, hoping his visitor isn’t crazy. “May I help you?”
“Diego Kelly?” says the unusual person, her voice deep and giving no hint of gender.
“Yes?” says Diego, using the gentle tone of voice he uses when dealing with unhinged customers he occasionally encounters in the coffee house. “Who are you?”
The unusual person blinks three times and says, “Zah.”
At which moment Diego’s dog Zero enters from the backyard through his dog door, looks at Zah, and quite uncharacteristically does not bark or growl.
Zah smiles at Zero and says, “Dog.”
“You got that right,” says Diego, smiling curiously at his unusual visitor. “Here’s the situation, Zah. I’m in the middle of making supper and expecting a friend to arrive any minute, so…”
“No one will arrive,” says Zah, gazing intently at Diego. “Your time is suspended.”
“Okay,” says Diego, now convinced his visitor is a bit off kilter. “What can I do for you, Zah?”
She gestures to Diego’s sofa. “Join me on your cushion and I will explain.”
Diego takes a moment to assess Zah, and feeling no threat from her says, “Would you care for a beer?”
Zah blinks three times. “No thank you. Join me on your cushion and I will explain.”
Diego carries his beer to the sofa and sits down.
Zah crosses the room and sits next to Diego.
Diego waits for Zah to speak.
“You have not played your guitar in four of your moon cycles,” says Zah, gazing at the fire crackling in Diego’s fireplace. “You were writing a new song and stopped playing.”
Diego freezes. No one in the world knows he stopped playing the guitar four months ago, and no one in the world knows he stopped writing a new song.
“How do you know that?” he asks with a tremble in his voice.
“All is known,” says Zah, nodding. “Every sound is heard. Why did you stop writing your song?”
“Well…” says Diego, remembering the precise moment he put down his guitar and gave up on that oh so beautiful song. “I didn’t see the point in writing yet another song no one will hear. Or another song only a few people will hear because I force them to listen to me. I’m done with that. I’ve written hundreds of good songs. All for nothing. Why write another?”
“Your new song will be a vital thread,” says Zah, her voice full of urgency. “Your one hundred and sixty-seven songs are each vital threads. You are heard throughout the universe. Please resume writing your songs.”
Diego laughs. “Oh I get it now. I’m dreaming. A lucid dream. I love these. Excuse me while I make love with Stella and she won’t care I’m a pauper.”
Zah blinks three times. “You are not dreaming. Your song is a vital thread. Please resume writing your song. I will give you…” She blinks three more times. “What do you want, Diego Kelly? Tell me what you want and I will give it to you and you will resume writing your song.”
Diego places a hand on his heart and says sincerely, “All I ever wanted was for people to hear my music and… love me.”
“Your music is heard throughout the universe,” says Zah, nodding. “Your music provides vital threads in the Zantar Dimension, the Gorzoi Complex, the Zintaphor Range, and the Rezmigal Vortex. Without your vital threads the Borzon Cascade cannot…” She blinks. “Function.”
“Oh gimme a break,” says Diego, hot with anger. “I’m heard throughout the universe but not here on earth?” He glares at Zah. “I don’t know who you are or how you knew I gave up on that song, but I’m done writing songs nobody hears. Now get out of my house.”
Zah rises. “I will go now. You cannot be replaced, but if you will not resume writing your songs we will find other ways to continue. Know this, Diego Kelly. Universe created you to write songs to be vital threads. That is why you are here now in your body. Goodbye.”
And Zah disappears.
“Wow,” says Diego, getting up from his sofa and returning to the kitchen. “Doesn’t get much weirder than that.”
Now Stella arrives and gives Diego an unexpectedly long and loving hug followed by a tender kiss.
“To what do I owe…” begins Diego.
“You’re just the greatest,” says Stella, kissing him again. “Why I didn’t kiss you four months ago, I’ll never know.”