The Xenophone

“I beg your pardon sir, but could you do me the favor of drawing back the veil of darkness enshrouding this odd contraption?” asked the man.

“The light switch is behind you, my good man, and it is, in fact, already engaged,” grumbled the wizard.

“I suppose I meant if you could tell me what it is.”

“Then I suppose you should learn how to properly ask a question, but very well. That is a xenophone, a rather curious musical instrument.”

“How does it work?”

“That is a very good question. No one knows.”

“What does it do?”

“Why, nearly everything you want it to do.”

“I would very much like to hear it play music then!” exclaimed the man.

“Oh. It doesn’t do that. Not normally, in any case.”

“Can you play it?”

“Anyone can play it! However, like all instruments, getting it to do what you want requires a man trained in its nuance. It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that the only man in this world that could play it is now deceased. Only a quantum musician may master its music, and ours has passed. Alas!”

“So there was only one quantum musician? How did he learn to play it, if there were no others? It takes two to learn a lesson; one to give, one to take.”

“Quite wrong. There are trillions of quantum musicians at the very least. And a quantum musician, being of both all musical possibilities and impossibilities, needs no introduction to the xenophone, an instrument that both is and isn’t.” The wizard paused a moment. ”It also helps that he invented it.”

Another pause.

“I often suspect that the xenophone also invented him.”

The man opened his mouth to speak, but the wizard help up a single, crooked finger. The man seemed incapable of uttering anything other than a question, and the wizard had detected this pattern.

“There is a quantum musician in all realities, of which there are as many as there are stars in the sky. Ours has passed away, but there are many, many more still alive and kicking. I know this because a fellow xenophonist from a neighboring dimension stopped by to have coffee while I visited our dimension’s maestro some years ago.”

“I believe you’re pulling my leg, sir. First an instrument that plays no music, and now you say there are millions of dimensions. Not only do they exist, but you’ve met a man that’s traveled from another! Come now, this is poppydash.”

“Forgive me, for I was not clear on one point. There are an infinite number of realities, and my comparison to the skies was merely for poetic effect.”

“I find this preposterous, but my curiosity is piqued. May I try to play it?” asked the man.

“Certainly. Might I suggest that you do not put it in your mouth? My lab assistant, Wilfred, tried that yesterday with a rather unfortunate result.”

“What happened?”

The wizard pointed at a bar of soap on the table.

“He… cleaned himself? I don’t understand.”

“This is Wilfred. He used to be six feet tall.” The wizard scratched his beard. “And not a bar of soap.”

The man simply shook his head in disbelief and leaned over to inspect the xenophone. It is impossible to describe the instrument for you, the reader, because as it is infinitely probably and improbable, its status of pure being is questionable at best. Imagine a toy piano that is simultaneously the size and shape of a basketball as well as a harp the size and shape of your mouth, teeth included. The man, understandably perplexed, merely tapped the nearest metal protuberance with a fingernail.

It emitted no sound, and the man remained quite unsoap-like.

“Well, sir, I must confess I am somewhat disappointed. After all your wild and fanciful stories, I was beginning to believe that something mysterious might actually happen. I was only being foolish, of course… What? What is it?”

The wizard was staring at the man with a playful grin.

“Were you married when you came in this evening?” asked the wizard.

“Married? No. Why?”

“Look at your hands.”

The man looked at his hands. On his left ring finger sat a plain, gold band. He gasped.

“This…. This isn’t mine! Where did it come from?”

The wizard’s smile grew wider. “Perhaps you should check your cellular speaking device for recent activity?”

The man thrust his hand into his pocket and yanked out his cell phone. He nearly snapped the screen off when he flipped open the phone, and his fingers frantically stabbed at the buttons. He let out a sound that, to the wizard, was remarkably similar to a mouse’s squeak.

“’Wifey?’ ‘Wifey?’ Who the hell is ‘Wifey?’”

The man sobbed.

“Congratulations, my good man!” said the wizard, positively beaming. “I’m sure you’ll both be very happy!”

The man looked at the wizard with a face best described as utterly terrified.

“What? How? This can’t be real,” he stammered. “I’m in some absurd dream.”

“I’m sure your bride is waiting for you at home, and all by her lonesome!” chided the wizard. “You best be getting home before she starts to worry.”

The man, eyes wide in confusion and disbelief, left through the front door. He didn’t even bother to shut it. The wizard closed the door and turned his gaze on the xenophone.

“A wife, huh?” he mused. “I wouldn’t mind having some more help around here!”

He approached the instrument. He paused a moment to replay the man’s interaction with the device, hoping to reproduce his exact movement. Once satisfied with the mental game plan, he bent over and tapped a metal protuberance. No ring appeared on his finger. With a dissatisfied grunt, the wizard turned away from the xenophone, only to find Wilfred sitting on the table with a dazed look in his eyes.

“Oh! Wilfred, you’ve returned. How are you feeling?”

The tall, lanky lab assistant shook his head about for a few seconds. He stopped and attempted to speak. However, when he opened his mouth, an orange kitten fell out and landed in his open hands.

“I see! Well, good to have you back, Wilfred.”

The kitten mewed.