This week I want back and fixed up one of my favorite short stories a bit. I hope you enjoy it.
Amanda's Crescendo OR
A Hammer Heard Ringing From the Void
Puppet strings pull leaves in front of my eyes, blinding me momentarily. I shield my eyes, but let my arms fall down. If I let the wind realize I know it doesn’t really exist, I could damage its pride. Or even worse, it may stop even trying. Such a reaction could ruin everything the wind has tried so hard to prove to the world. I slowly brush the leaves away from me, my deft fingers making sure to not pluck any of the strings.
I press forward, seeing as how I could never forgive myself if I went back now. The trees are all starting to line up with mannequins. They stare at me through dark slits accusingly, but I won’t be hurt by their gazes. They're too afraid to even come down from their branches, so why worry what they think. I slowly brush away the feelings, my deft brain making sure not to let in any of my fears.
My path grows darker, as the leaves drift back to their respective branches and form above me. The disgusting trees start to grow a dull brown, and their shapes weep like twisted power lines. I start to feel sorry for them, sorry that this is what has happened after all these years. No one to care for them. No one to care at all. Their splintery fingers reach out to me for help. But I’ve been here before, I just keep walking. They grow desperate; they start to dig into my skin. Blood runs from a cut on my cheekbone down my face, losing it’s warmth by the time it gets to my chin. Focusing, I losing peripheral vision, my deft eyes making sure not to weep.
It’s much darker now, only small amounts of sunlight break into this world. As I stare at the ground, thinking of what I have to do, I become startled as I bump into an object in front of me. As I look at the object, it appears to be a rabbit, hanging from the trees by a rusty uncoiled coat hanger. Old skin is spilling over the sides of the metal necklace. Pushing it aside, I keep on going, ignoring the growing collection of ornaments in this foul place.
I keep looking straight ahead, avoiding as many of the animals as possible, when my foot strikes something fleshy. I give myself a moment to collect myself, and look down. Laying in front of me is a small child; its arms and head nailed to the ground. I turn around and have to stop myself from running. “This is all because of you, don’t you dare turn away”. I brush away the boys shaggy hair to see his face, and am now five inches away from a yellow toothed grin.
I hear a sickening snap as the boys back folds over on itself, and his little legs are pushing the ground, trying to tear his hands and head from the forest floor. I hear a mix of howling and laughter from the child, seemingly focused on me. I know I have feet, but why won’t they walk? I slowly push myself to step around the boy, and try to continue walking; my stomach making noises to match the boys shrieking. I continue forward slightly swaying, my deft stomach making sure to keep down anything that may want to escape.
The haunting sounds of the boy turns into echoes as I walk through the forest, now completely black. My feet gracefully testing each step before hand. I lightly tap hundreds of nails, and there is no need to wonder what they are. The smell confirms that these are more bodies. Some large, and some small. Some fresh, and others nothing more than bone. Nothing will wake these bodies though. This place is dead set on being known as a graveyard, regardless of the lack of tombstones and mourners.
“Why do you leave your bodies in plain sight?” I whisper to myself. My grace starts to fail me. The stench is making me lose my balance, and no amount of practice could get me through this. Bodies make up more of the forest floor than dirt does anymore. I realize I have to keep moving though. I put these bodies here. I am a very bad person, but I will fix this place. I know what has to be done here. I force myself to ignore the stench, my deft nose making sure not to let in any reminders of what I have done here.
The tunnel breaks into open woods, but the light doesn’t return. I can’t see anything. I can’t smell, or taste, or hear anything. I blindly fumble through the dark, using trees for stability. The bark shivers at my touch, its been so long since they have felt me here. “Don’t worry my children, everything is going to change soon enough”. I wonder how sad a clock might be here, seeing as how time no longer feels like it’s moving.
Suddenly, ahead of me, I see a bright light appear. It starts to grow a more brilliant white, as I desperately bound towards it. I get close enough to tell details, and trip on a wild root, crashing into the cold soil. When my head stops spinning, I weakly lift it up, and the light is gone. When I finally rise, I start to hesitantly walk forward again, when I feel hands on my shoulders. I freeze, and although I should be terrified, I feel calm. The hands slowly trace along my back, and the light appears into my view.
It’s a woman, a woman I didn’t think I’d ever see again. “Amanda, you shouldn’t be here. You can‘t be here”. She chuckles to herself, and glides up to me, and plants a kiss on my cheek. “I didn’t know you were still here, If I would of known…” my voice trails off as I raise my hands to her cheek, and pass right through. Her smile starts to weaken, and her eyes lose their brilliance for a beat.
“How I’ve longed to see you again my dear” she says with a defeated smile, “but I know why you are here”. My body shakes as I try to turn my body to go back. “I can’t lose you again Amanda. I can still feel your arms going as the consumption took you, but I won’t feel that again”. She dances back behind me, and leans over my shoulder. “We both know it’s too late to turn around now”. She kisses me of the cheek, and I try to hold her arm one last time, but she’s gone again. I put one foot in front of the other, my deft heart making sure to keep on weakly beating.
Would you laugh at me if I said I came to a light at the end of tunnel? The dark is pierced by a clearing, growing a sickly green glow. A dark piano sits on top of a mound of dieing earth, void of grass, holes forming and quivering in the soil. Two rag-dolls sit on the seat, playing a sad melody on the piano.
One of the dolls is a white, with a black dress with the letter A written upside down on it. The dress is well sewn, and averted my eyes from the jewelry decorating the length of its arms. The doll has no eyes, but a mouth full of rotting teeth. The second doll is a black doll, wearing a white, longer dress, with the letter P written on it. The doll has no mouth, but holes burned into it’s face for where eyes should be. Paint cracks and falls away from its hands and legs, as though some disease were devouring the material. Avarice and Pestilence, my old friends.
As I approach, their hands free fall onto the keys, creating the sort of discord that could make your skin want to crawl, but too afraid to try. I sit, and slip into thought, but am drawn out again by the tugging on my pant legs by a small hand. I look down, and Pestilence’s hollow sockets are staring up at me. I reach down to hold her, but she shies away from me. “What did you expect to happen boy?” Avarice shouts from up on the piano. “That we need you in anyway? That we've sat by watching our world eat itself alive, hoping you'd show up again and save us?” With that, Avarice threw himself down from the chair, and started to run full speed at me.
I throw open my arms, and accept whatever happens, but before I found out what would happen, Pestilence stepped in and took him in her arms. She picks up a stick, and pokes a few words into the dieing dirt for me to see. “Forgive him. It hurts so bad” looks up at me from the dirt. I hold back tears as I nod my head, and reach out once more for them, but stop halfway there. “This isn’t fair, leave them alone” I tell myself. I sit down on the piano, and just stare for awhile.
Everything so far has come to this. I swallow hard, and look around and realize that not only are Avarice and Pestilence both gone, but so has the land. The only thing left is me and this piano, floating around the darkness with this gloomy light above us. I close my eyes, smile, and take a deep breath. I know what has to be done now. My fingers make a muted popping noise as I flex them together, and start to play the piano.
The song quickly loses it’s tune as the piano starts to contort, and arms sprout out in every which direction. Piano key teeth split apart, and start to pull me in. I can hear the piano's heart pounding as its head rushes with the ecstasy of what’s happening. I close my eyes again – still smiling - and keep playing my song. I know you wouldn’t be able to tell by listening, but it was the most gorgeous song I’ve ever heard. The hundreds of hands grip my throat, and start to pull me in. My mind flashes back to the way things used to be, and Amanda drifts into my thoughts. “I’m close darling. I’m so damn close to you”. The lights flickers out, and the last thing I remember are her arms draped around my neck, the teeth of the piano tearing my skin off, the sound of my world crashing around me.
And of course, my merry laughter echoing into the darkness for miles.