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Bethovens Last Night Story

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by Paul O'Neill
Music By Paul O'Neill, Robert Kinkel, & Jon Oliva

On a late night in the spring of 1827 the city of Vienna is experiencing the largest lightning storm in its long history. Within a large disheveled room, Ludwig Von Beethoven is slumped over his piano and on the piano sits the just completed manuscript for his Tenth Symphony. It is his final, and he is certain, his greatest work.

From the shadows a beautiful spirit, Fate, and her deformed dwarf son, Twist, emerge to inform Beethoven that this is to be his last night on earth. They are accompanied by numerous spirits and ghosts from his past, and he finds their babbling unbearable. He begs them to leave, but Twist tells him that as shadows they only exist by the light that Beethoven's life has cast and that light is slowly dimming. With each successive crack of lightning the spirits all draw closer.

At the stroke of midnight, Mephistopheles suddenly appears and informs Beethoven that he is there to collect the composer's soul. Beethoven, faced with eternal damnation, is terrified and claims that it cannot be his time, that he has yet to complete his Tenth Symphony. Mephistopheles looks at the manuscript and then, with seemingly uncharacteristic generosity, offers to give him as much additional time as he needs as long as he will tell him now what parts he plans to add or change. His bluff called, Beethoven is forced to admit that he would not change a single note.

The Devil nods thoughtfully and then makes the composer another offer. If Beethoven will give him all his music, allowing Mephistopheles to wipe it from the memory of man, he will return his soul to him. Beethoven is overwhelmed by the situation. Fearing an eternity of damnation and torment he is desperate to reclaim his soul, but the thought of losing his music, his life's work, causes him to hesitate.

Mephistopheles, sensing his confusion, offers to leave for one hour before returning for Beethoven's answer. As the devil is turning to leave Beethoven notices that the hands of the clock are moving faster than normal. When he points this out to Mephistopheles, the devil replies that the maestro should consider it a final favor because where Beethoven is going, they never turn at all.

Crushed by the dilemma he finds himself in, Beethoven tries to recall the particular actions in his life that have led to his damnation. In anger, he confronts Fate for having dealt him such a cruel hand. Taken aback, she asks what he would have her change. Forced to review his life, he discovers that the removal of what he considers the most painful moments of his life would also remove the inspiration for what he considers his finest works. He also realizes that his music is who he is, the reason for his existence, and decides that he would rather suffer for eternity than have it destroyed. He cannot remove this music that he has seen bring so much joy to so many.

When Mephistopheles returns to find his offer refused, he quickly replaces it with another. If Beethoven will only give him the un-released Tenth Symphony (which no one else has heard, so he reasons it will never be missed) he will return the maestro's soul. Beethoven agonizes once more and after conferring with the ghost of Mozart, again decides that he is unable to destroy his music.

In a final desperate attempt to obtain the Tenth Symphony, Mephistopheles points out through a window to a child sleeping in the gutter. He tells the old man that he, Mephistopheles, owns this child's life and in great detail lists all the horrors and suffering that she will experience in her short existence. If Beethoven will release to him this final musical creation, then Mephistopheles will give up all claims on the child, irrevocably removing himself, all his evil and unhappiness from the child's life.

Beethoven turns away from the sight of the little girl, determined to pronounce a firm and final no. But before the words can leave his mouth he finds himself once more looking towards the child. He desperately tries to convince himself that she means nothing to him. Besides, she is not his responsibility and even if he does save her there are millions more like her. This single life will make no difference while his symphony will bring joy to countless generations.

Despite his best efforts he can not bring himself to leave the child to this evil and collapsing on the piano bench, he tells the devil that he has a deal.

Mephistopheles dances with delight as he picks up the manuscript never noticing Twist who sneaks over and whispers in Ludwig's ear, "How do you know that Mephistopheles will keep his word?" Beethoven sits up and repeats the question aloud. Mephistopheles, never looking up from examining his prize, replies that Beethoven can draw up his own wording for a contract that they will write on the back of a page torn from a bible. Beethoven glances questioningly towards Fate who is still watching from the background. She nods her head for even the shadows know that a contract written on such sacred paper is unbreakable, even by the devil himself.

Beethoven, totally exhausted, mutters his consent but is unable to write the words that will bring about the destruction of his beloved Tenth. Fate, seeing his dilemma, offers to write down the agreement for him and he hands the paper to her. As he stares out the window Fate writes,

It is agreed upon this night, March 26, 1827, between the undersigned, that the music of the Tenth Symphony, composed by Ludwig von Beethoven, first born son of Johann and Maria von Beethoven, in the city of Bonn, shall henceforth be the property of Mephistopheles, Lord of Darkness and first fallen from the grace of God. It is also understood that it is his intention to remove any signs of this music from the memory of man for all eternity. In exchange for the destruction of the aforementioned music it is also agreed that Mephistopheles and all his minions will remove themselves from the life of the child presently sleeping in the gutter directly across from the window of this room. This removal of influence is to be commenced immediately upon signing and to be enforced for all eternity.

_________________________
Ludwig Von Beethoven

_____________________
Mephistopheles



Mephistopheles reads the paper, signs it and pushes it in front of Beethoven. Without even looking at the document the composer signs the paper. Immediately, Mephistopheles reaches over the piano, seizes the Tenth's manuscript and thrusts it over a lit candle. It is engulfed in a wall of flames. But when the flames have died down the devil is stunned to find that not only does the manuscript still exist, but it is not even singed. Thrusting it back over the candle it is once again engulfed in flames only to emerge unscathed.

Sensing that he has been tricked, he screams for an explanation but Beethoven's expression tells him that he is as shocked at the turn of events as the devil himself. As Mephistopheles is glancing once more at the manuscript he hears a giggling from the darkness. There he sees Twist who is poorly concealing his delight.

"What are you laughing at you wretched troll?"

"The composer's parents gave birth to a son prior to the maestro's birth. They named him Ludwig von Beethoven but he died within the year. The man before you is Ludwig Von Beethoven, second born of Johann & Maria. You have purchased the Tenth Symphony of Ludwig Von Beethoven, first born of Johann & Maria, if he ever writes one." Mephistopheles glares at Fate, who smiles back at him demurely. Then, throwing the music back at Beethoven, he screams in frustration and disappears in an explosion of smoke and flame.

Beethoven is surprised by Mephistopheles' rapid departure and asks if he is not coming back to collect his soul. To which Fate replies that he never had any claim to his soul.

"But Mephistopheles said..."

"He is the devil," Fate replies, "He lies." And with those words a warm feeling of peace spreads throughout Beethoven's body and across his soul.

When he asks Fate what is to happen next, she tells him that it is time for him to rest, for tonight he will dream a new dream within the gates of paradise. As the words weave their way into his soul, Beethoven lies down on the couch near his piano and begins a new dream.

With the departure of his soul the storm begins to break and a stillness settles over the room as one by one the ghosts and shadows fade away. All seems at peace until the sudden re-appearance of Twist returning through a window. He gazes about the room, a look of mischievous delight spread across his face. Scampering over to the piano, he takes the manuscript for the Tenth Symphony and then climbing up a bookcase, carefully slips it behind a wall. Here it will remain hidden, the world blissfully unaware of its existence, until that one day in the future when it will be discovered and it will once more live again.

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