"The most incredible thing happened to me today," we both said, not quite in unison, and then I gestured for her to please go ahead, and so did she, but she started her story first.
"Okay, so I was heading home, to my new place," she said, excited, "not the new new place -- I decided not to buy, because it was too expensive -- but the old new place, the one where I've been staying two months now. Wait, did that make sense?"
"Yes, totally," I said, "the one in Sunnyvale, not the house off Almaden in San Jose. Too bad you decided not to get it, though; that neighborhood is cool stuff. Like the music store I went to today."
"Yeah, but the commute's forever," she said, "and my commute's slow enough already, with how lost I get."
"Oh, you don't get too lost now that you have your GPS," I replied, "and this music store is so amazing."
"Yeah? I'll have to check it out sometime. Anyway, yeah, the GPS is just what I --"
"They had sheet music for lullabies. Like this whole section of lullabies."
"Yeah? That sounds nice. Relaxing, like being at home. Or like being in a True Home," she said, gesturing to see if I knew what she meant.
I sipped cappuccino and wiped off a foam moustache, and she started to explain.
"I set my GPS to drive me home," she said, "but when I got there, I hit home again by accident, and the GPS started giving me more directions."
"Wow, that is weird!" I said, "So, anyway, these lullabies. They had one there labeled The Lullaby of Empires, and it was under lock and key. I asked -- oh, I'm sorry."
"No, it's okay," she said, "I just was going to say that the directions of the GPS were crazy. Like, it told me to get out of the car and walk two blocks away, then walk around the block with the big church, then walk back."
"Was it broken?"
"Maybe, but - oh, sorry, I interrupted your story," she said.
"It's okay. I was just getting started anyway."
"Go ahead," she urged me.
"Well, so I asked them what the Lullaby of Nations was."
"Nations, or Empires?" she asked.
"Sorry, Empires, you're right. I should listen to you more often," I said.
"I'm pretty spacy too, after what happened to me," she replied, "I mean, once I got back into my apartment, the GPS kept giving directions, like to circle around my couch and then look behind it for a key."
"How did the GPS even know?"
"I know, seriously! But then when I got the key, it said to go to the water heater door. You know the one in the hallway?"
I shook my head, "I must have never paid attention."
"Me neither, but it's like, okay, if you open the hallway bathroom door -- Laurie's old bathroom door, you know, when she lived there?"
"Right, the guest bathroom."
"Well, I guess."
"How is she doing, by the way?" I asked.
"Good," she said, "She's in Japan now."
"That might be for the best, after what I found out today?" I said.
She sipped her cappuccino and looked confused.
"Oh, um, the Lullaby of Empires. They explained it to me. It's this song that, well, ends empires peacefully. Like, when a nation rises to worldwide power, and then starts to decay, it can either disappear quickly, or it can hold on tight and try to maintain its glory, but the longer the death throes of empire, the longer the dark age afterward. Or Interregnum, or whatever."
"Weird," she said curtly, "Um, so anyway, that's the water heater door, behind the bathroom door, but I had never really paid attention either. But check this out, the GPS told me to use this key and the door opened to a little passageway, with this really hypnotic floral wallpaper. It was so peaceful."
"Peaceful?" I asked.
"Yeah," she said, "like... I don't know."
"Like a lullaby?" I suggested.
"Yeah, kind of. I mean, yeah, like home."
"Lullabies are like home," I said.
"Yeah," she said, "I guess they are."
"Except the Lullaby of Empires," I said quickly.
"It ends Empires," I proclaimed, "Like, I was written to finally end the Roman Empire. And then it got used just a handful of times since. But you can't sing it except when an empire is already certainly doomed. If the empire might survive and rise again, the lullaby won't work."
"Why not? Did they say?" she asked.
"The lullaby singer dies if the world isn't ready for the lullaby. It's world-shaping music. Dangerous stuff."
"Wow," she said.
"Yeah, it's pretty awesome," I said.
"No, no, I was actually wowing about something else. The hole and the GPS and everything was really weird, now that I think about it. I mean, I thought it was just a secret tunnel, but the GPS said to go in, and it was like this womb or something in there. But it was really just a little parlor, with a fountain in the middle. A weird indoor stone fountain, but while I was in there, I was floating. I knew that was my True Home."
"You just knew?" I said.
"I just knew."
"Yeah, I guess I just knew myself."
"What? But you weren't there," she protested, "I don't think it would work for anyone but me."
"No, I mean I know that they were telling the truth about the Lullaby of Empires. And get this -- they said that it was probably about time to use it again!"
"To end America's rule?" she asked, surprised.
"No!" I laughed, picking up my coffee to sip it but setting it down before I could, to tell my story, "I thought the same thing, but they said no."
"Creepy," she said, "I'm glad that my weird experience was more positive than that. And check this out: I knew French in there. And Japanese. And vector calculus and I think surgery too, and how to play the piano and write a villanelle and wrestle an alligator and hotwire a car."
"But there wasn't a car in there, was there?" I asked.
"No, or a piano either. But when I'm down there, I knew how, anyway. When I left, I forgot, but I wrote some notes about Japanese and I checked them online and they were all correct."
"Are you sure this wasn't some kind of thing?"
"It was totally some kind of thing," she said, "And I can go back. You know?"
"Oh, I haven't gotten to the best part yet," I said, "they said no, not America. The reptile monarchy, they said. The, wait, no, the dinosaur sorcerer-kings, the secret masters in decline."
"They sound crazy," she said disapprovingly.
"I know! But here's the thing! They took it out and started to sing the Lullaby. The Lullaby of Empires! And then, just as the soprano was like--"
And with a wide sweeping gesture, I knocked both of our drinks over by accident. Drat.
While we were cleaning up, she got an emergency phone call and had to go, so we said goodbye and made plans to hang out again.
I never did get to finish my story.