Short Story: …the ones who love to dance with light.

The movements of the world appear strange and chaotic, but beneath flows a clockwork mechanism. Each person, a participant. From the starting point of birth to definitive death, we go about our day, a cog. Most of us are but little gears, spinning with those around us, transferring the movement that is passed to us to those we are connected to. The mechanism flows in certain ways, regiments and movements. These paths become so familiar, they are no longer seen. They are the unchanging guide of our lives, an unstoppable force. With practice we learn to bend ourselves to the routines.  This is a homage that must be paid. We all must follow, there is no other choice.

The Doctor saw the mother, as he stepped out into the hall.  Her worried look spilled off her face onto her rest of her appearance.

“He’s going to be ok.” The doctor said softly. “He finally decided to come back.” It was three hours before when the kid in the next room stop breathing. Relief broke across the mother’s countenance.

“Do you know what happened?” She asked.

“No I don’t,” the doctor replied in a quiet voice, exhaustion filling him from the last few hours.  “we were lucky the child’s nanny realized that something was wrong. Her actions saved his life.”

The mother was still silent from the drama of the last hours, the arrival of  the paramedics, the furry of CPR  the relief when the pulse was restored, but it was another two long hours before Jacob became responsive.

“Have you heard of something like this? Asked the mother.

“No.” the doctor said. “It was as he just left” he said his word slowly ending in silence. “but he’s back now and I think he’ll be ok.”

The mother shuffled concerned at the lack of answers. Seeing he had done all he could, the doctor prepared to leave.

“Call me if you need anything,” he said. “or if anything changes” he added, Then he bid farewell and left.

The lines of concern filled the mothers face. Jacob was only four years old, and he had not been an easy one, he was quiet from the start, and now this. She left the hallway and entered the little room where the now sleeping child lay. Beside the bed stead were the notes from the doctor.  She sat on the side of the bed and stoked the little boys head, the little one was silent, exhaust from the events of the day.

The mother’s touch was gentle as she stroked the sleeping child. “Sleep sweet little one,” she whispered softly almost in a quiet lullaby. “Please sleep and stay, and don’t leave. May you dream of happy places, and little fear.”
Jacob sat in the large empty hall, his tutor was pacing again. The speed of her pacing quickened with her exacerbation, and now she was speed walking back and forth. At least, that’s what it seemed to him. In front of him lay stacks of papers, assignments and text from school. His head his brain ached from his repeated attacks on the homework, but though he tried, he couldn’t comprehend them. His grades reflected this, and at his teacher’s recommendation, he parents brought in the tutor, and it was her that was now pacing back and forth.

After a few minutes the tutor returned to the table and sat down.

“Jacob,” she said with a sigh, “what are you going to do?  You’re lucky you know, you’ve got parents that can take care of you, because your academics are not going to cut it.”

Miriam sighed, and crumpled up her own paper in resignation and tossed it to the trash can in the corner, which was overflowing with similar pieces of paper with half finished problems on them.  The piles of homework still on the table stood ominously. They would have to wait for another day.

“Why is it so hard for you to get?” Merriam asked, in almost wits end exhaustion.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said Jacob. “I just can’t get it.” I honesty, he didn’t know why he couldn’t absorbed the information. However other people seemed to absorb the information well enough, so he sat in silence, staring down at his hands.

“Nonsense, we all feel like that, she replied, we need to just learn to change,” she said absolutely.

Perhaps she should go to the backup measures, she thought. A twinge of fear went through her. If her other clients heard she was giving medication to her pupils.  Maybe just a little bit she thought. In the end, who cared how they learned, as long as the grades improved. “you know she said, in a smooth tone, maybe I can help, she pulled a little pill bottle from her bag, here try one of these, she said as she removed one small pill. This should help with your concentration.

Hesitantly Jacob took the pill. He had a moment of doubt, but then swallowed. He knew the effects would take a while, but then all of a sudden, he knew it was working. It was like a pin as inserted far inside his brain.  And the thoughts that moved around were suddenly captured and pinned to the back of his skull. His mind slowly focused. Slowly the ideas on the paper In front of him started to connect with a logic invisible until then.  The assignments, though seaming in a foreign language, now was understandable, he moved his pencil across the paper. Merriam sat beside him in smug satisfaction. They could throw all they could at her, she thought. She would find a way, get them taught, that was her job, no matter how hard, she could get them done.”

With the day’s study done, she packed up her things to leave. She had two more appointments that night and needed to stop by the store on the way back, and her dissertation was still waiting on her that night. She packed up her things and left.

Jacob was hardly sad to see her go. The day was done, and slowly his mind came down from the effects of the pill. The pin prick of was removed, and his mind turned back to normal.

Jacob got up to clear himself from the day. It was a large room where Jacob was studying, lined with bookshelf and along one part of the wall a side table. On the side table lay a violin. Jacob came upon the instruments, but his boredom turned to curiosity. It was an old violin, but not of any historical value, found at an antique market somewhere and brought in as decoration. The strings were a dull brown with their age. It sat there long unused. A few scratches and dents in the body, not the kind that show maturity, but those of neglect. Still something made him pick up the instrument, he plucked at the strings. The badly tuned instrument replied in a sad tune. He tightened one, loosened another, until they sounded better. He plucked a little more, and the violin gave out a little tone in a warm wave. He picked up the old bow and gave the violin a try, pulling back in forth.

It was like the notes from beat up violin came like a thread, and with the bow, he was pulling at it to see where it went. The small instrument gave a long clear note. He pushed then pulled again, the tone changed. The little wood body of the violin trembled in his hands, then the instrument started to sing, the music came slowly, then flowed into the room.

The tutor was kicking herself for leaving her brief case. This delay would throw everything else off for the day, she moved quickly to through the hall, where she had accidently left, Merriam froze as she picked it up.  The apartment was large, but still she could hear the music from the large hall beyond the door. She opened it slowly to see Jacob slowly playing the instrument. The tune glowed in the large parlor, flowed pass her into the hall, and filled the whole apartment. Slowly she closed the door as to not disturb Jacob. This is good she though, very good.

“Hello, this is Merriam,” Merriam said leaving a voice mail for Jacobs’s mother. ”Yes well Jacob and I were able to make a break through today, I think I may fixed his problem with his studies, though I need to discuss it more with you,  and also I think we discovered something exciting…”

———-

Jacob could feel the stiff collar around his neck as he waited on the edge of the brightly lit stage. He could hear the murmurs of the audience, thought he could barely behind the bright stage lights.

After Merriam discovered his talent with the violin, Life turned into a whirl wind.  A music professor was called to instruct him on the classics and music theory. The density of the subject was over whelming. The days flew by in a mess of music theory, history, and notable persons. But with Merriam’s secret little pills, he grasped most of the major concepts. And while his other academics were not impressive the mediocre grades were over looked by his dispensation towards music.

Life for the last year and a half was a blur of people: instructors, professors, all working on his talent moving in and out of his focus.  Jacob was ambivalent towards the music, as though a friendly acquaintance. It wasn’t a seen as something crazy the tune was there, he just moved the instrument and out of it the sound flowed.  It was warm melodies.

The information he learned was interesting, parts of it came easy like playing the music, it was with every new turn he met was a silent individual, and he just communicated their conversation to others. Trouble came when the conversation would turn a little different then what was on the sheet music.

“No, no, no” the professor would say. “You see this series comes back and completes this thought here,” It’s symmetry! You must play exactly, no changes”

It took a lot of concentration for Jacob to play “perfectly” each tune seemed to have a personality, wanting to interaction a little here or there. Other parts of his education music theory made no sense, no matter how hard he tried.

It all came fast, like the end of a fire hose pouring forth information. He adapted quickly with the violin, but in all the structure and it was if something was missing. Like a place that didn’t match up. The time pass fast he absorbed the information as quickly as he could, and when he couldn’t he had the little pills to help.

He spent less and less time as school. The hype of his music dominated his time, the musical savant was what he was called, it was the music of Hyden, Mozart, Beethoven that he played, slowly the novelty wore off, and the new tunes became less conversation, and more hard masters to follow. There were strangers all around: other musicians, event coordinators, all times with other people, but beside his violin for companionship, they were alone.

He passed through the curtain onto the stage, moving to his seat beside the grumpy first violinist who was still moody at being displaced by the young violinist.  The applause died out from the dark expanse from beyond the stage.  He sat down, and at the conductors bidding, started to play. At their time the rest of the orchestra accompanied him.

Lonely on the stage, the music flowed out of the violin into the room, moving around his fingers, from the instruments, he played the piece, but for a second, it was as if the piece played its self.   He teacher had said the piece was difficult, but for some reason his fingers didn’t feel that way, Even the most complex cord structures pour out of the violin as his fingers trotted up and down the strings. For a moment Jacob forgot about the audience, the conductor, the stage, there was only the melody.

The piece finally came to an end, and he stopped. He lowered the instrument from his shoulder, facing the large black abysses of the faceless audience.  Silence filled the great hall, and then a wave of applause across the audience. The orchestra stood with the crowd in their applause.

The concert ended, people moved to congratulate him, strangers clapped him on the shoulder. He moved out from the crowd his back to the dressing room, the new large jovial manager came into the room.

“They love you.” he said, “you have a list of people wanting to meet you, you concurred this city man, the will lay at your feet.”

“Did it sound ok?” Jacob asked.

“Ok?” the manager replied, “It was fantastic! Now don’t worry he said there is much to be done, but don’t your worry about it. I’ll take care of it all, we are going to need a bigger venue, and I must extend your contract, and then there will be the tour,”

“Tour?” Jacob asked.

“Yes” said the manager. “Of course there will be a tour, the world is yours and will lie at your feet. but that will but don’t worry I will take care of all that.  Just you keep that fine violin in tuned and everything will work out.”

The big manager left the dressing room out into the crowd of people still lingering form the concert. Jacob felt a little wave of apprehension. But there were many people left to greet, and he would have to wait to think about it over.

————

The smell of the hotel room filled his nostrils, Jacob couldn’t decide whether it was the lingering perfume of the cleaning soap, or some type of antiseptic.  It was part hospital, part cleaning supplies.  The room was different, but just like all the other hotel rooms he had slept in the previous months. Time flew by after the first concert. He completed a series with the orchestra then, started to tour the country, then he was in such demand, they went international. He was swept from the from country to country: London, then Brussels, Shang hi, Tokyo. The insides of airplanes and anesthetic hotel rooms, like the one he was trying to sleep in right now.  The routine had become the same: jet lag, waking early, drilling with the violin that sat in the case next to his bed.   A lunch at one of the tourist cafés near the venue, then a rehearsal with the orchestra, return for the concert, then off to the next city.

He needed to sleep, but he couldn’t rest. He needed to get away from the anesthetic smell that filled the hotel and smothered his mind. He got up and grabbed a quick change of clothes. He left the room and exited the hotel.  He walked along the cobble stone street’ trying to escape the “clean” smell.  The dark coble stone glowed from the streets lights in the old town, a light passing rain dropped on the pavement. The cool air brushed by him, his mind slowly cleared was recovering from all the movement and concentration and the smell from the hotel. Soon he would be popping another pill, in a few hours to get him through the next day, but for now he strung wearily along.

The rain plunked on the side walk and a light mist filled the air, he walked the quiet streets trying settle his mind. How many venues did the have left? The same crowd, the same music, they were already talking of extending to a couple more dates.  He walked the silent streets his head a wrestle of thoughts and emotions, he divided them and hashed them out, moved them around and put them back to gatherer again, but still came to no conclusions.  They only sat heavily on his mind.

The silence was interrupted by some rabbles raisers at near the end of the street. A shop owner of a night bar was kicking out some patrons. One of the more vocal ones was a girl, she looked like it was a week since she had showered and at that moment was in a heated discussion with the café owner.

“You can’t do your voodoo here” the shop owner said.

“It’s not voodoo, you idiot.”  She replied her wily Australian accent cutting the air, “its art.”

“You emptied the salt shakers and covered a table with condiments” the owner replied.  Her companions laughed at the chaotic situation of it all.

“Oiu!”   She shouted back, from under here dreadlocks.  “We’ve graced this place with our presence long enough.”  She replied in false dignity “I will take my leave.”

“You will leave!” the shop owner shouted

The girl gave a mock curtsey.  Turned and locked arms with Jacob who trying to make his way around the scene.  He was initially startled, but she looked at him and kept his pace like the whole thing was planned all along.

“If you’re looking for some food don’t try this place.” She said matter a fact tone. There are much better cafes elsewhere.  Where Are you going?” She suddenly asked as if coming to the sudden realization she didn’t actually know this guy she was still holding arms with.

“Nowhere in particular” he replied.“I’m just walking.”

“So are we!” she replied. “We were enjoying this place, but this owner is an oaf.”

One of the girl’s companions glanced down at his phone.   “Jack just messaged me, they are going to set up at the master in 35 min.”

“Fantastic.” the girl exclaimed.  “Tell him we are on the way, and tell him we have an extra coming.”

A tinge of anxiety went through Jacob, not only was the girl still in lock step with him down the sidewalk, but now he felt like he had been invited to else, and not only invited, but someone had accept the invitation on his behalf without his notification. The whole thing intruded on his solitary walk.

“You’re going to love it.” She said. It’s the most amazing thing”

One of the guys had hailed a cab, gave an address to the driver then jumped in. The girl let go of Jacobs arm to and jumped into the back seat.

“We’ll are you coming?”She inquired. For a second Jacob hesitated on the edge of the dark road facing the open cab door and the pile of people inside. The yellow light that filled the cab spilled out onto the wet side walk, it shone portal to somewhere mysterios, for some reason it caught Jacobs attention. For a second he hesitated, ready to continue his walk, but there was something about these persons. So, for some odd reason, he jumped in.  One of them shouted “go” to the driver and the cab shot down the dark streets.

Through maze of streets, the cab drove, leaving the well lit cobble stone drives behind, moving from the historic, to the new, then to industrial. Moving deeper into the industrial district, Old buildings and warehouses lined the way in different stages of decay. Formally useful, but left abandoned by turns of economic and financial cycles.

The cab came to a stop in front of one especially large decrepit structure.  As he exited the cramped cap with his newly formed acquaintances, he looked up at the large brick facade, a logo, an undecipherable manufacture; only the faint letters that spelled “Master” were still legible. They crept passed the barrier fencing and entered deeper into the old building. It was a former factory or warehouse, Jacob couldn’t tell.  Through the large dirty windows moon light streamed into the misty interior, and further in Jacob hear something that sounded like music.

They emerged on the second level of the structure. Jacob found himself in a group of about twenty people. Someone had made a fire in a metal bucket and the group sat around.  It was an eclectic group, a man with in slacks and a jacket, the tie already removed from the day’s work.  College students, costumed street performers breaking character.  They stood and sat on empty bins, others were sitting on the ground the dust were dressed in bohemian wardrobes of rags and felt.  Others in the  outdoor attire of hikers and outdoor enthusiast.

They were the ones of the last to gather of this impromptu meeting, they joined the group who were already in the middle of a song, ones started the tune and some other joined in, the tune was an obvious an improvisation, but the members joined  his melody. The voices echoed inside the large expanse.  Filling the acoustic palace, mixing an improvised movement, the sound didn’t flow complete. It moved out from the place jumbled and settled. One of the group improvised a vocal track to accompanied the music. One of the street performers twirled two torches from the fire. The flames danced in the darkness.

His safety seemed little importance to Jacob at this moment. It was the expressions that these people were showing, it an echo of the art inside him. The art that does not come easy, or is understand simply or fit common rules. The silence of the warehouse was filled with the laughter and stories and songs and beat.  They didn’t try to eliminate the silence, it was as the silence moved with them.

“Where do these people come from?” Jacob asked the girl.

“They are the ones that matter,” she said, “The crazies, who dance, but cant. The businessman who loves light, but must work. We are the broken ones.”   She gave him a smile and laugh and turned back to the firelight.

Do you gather here often?

“Ever now and then”

“Are why have I never heard of this?”

“It doesn’t fit well out there,” she said gesturing to the way they came into the building

“It’s weird” he said “it’s like it almost makes senses.”

“But doesn’t” she replied.

Jacob could feel a slight shift inside him. In this broad place where in the decaying remnants of brick and steel and rough dusty wood floors, a new life seemed to burn. It was a stirring break in the logic, a corner or edge where life did not meet up, the margins is where they danced, a contradiction of life, and of laughter.

It was late in the evening when Jacob stepped out of the cab in front of his hotel, his companions and the girl bid him Farwell. The cab sped off, and Jacob was once again alone.  He entered the hotel exhausted, and yet the notes of the song played in his head.

Dawn broke slowly the next morning. As Jacob woke the memories were chased away by the sunrays. Was that all a dream? He thought but the dirt on his slacks told a different story. While he went back to playing the violin, a new set of ideas of moved in his head the music he went back to sounded different, thou it didn’t’ line up completely with the melody on the page, he thought they were more fitting.  He played the last of the concerts but by the time the tour finished his manager already had a new series lined up for him to play.

“Solo project.” His manager roared.  “Great idea, a selection of music, we can build a show around you throw in some back ground singers and we got a show.”

“Not a music project” Jacob said.

“What do you mean not a musical project?” the big manager said feeling this was already not the great idea he was ready for.

“An eclectic art exhibit. He said. An exhibit with water colors, sculpture, I provide some improve pieces and we bring it together.”

“water colors are great said the large manager,  it’s  what people want to see.“

“But what if that’s not what I want to do anymore.”

“What do you mean?” his manager asked, his tone suddenly turning serious.

“Maybe I’m tire of the music, maybe I want to try something else”

“Kid, music been good to you, it’s given you everything, what do you think pays for the trips and clothes. Hundreds of people would give everything to have the musical career you have.  You’re magic with that violin.  The round manager said. The conversation went silent. As the manager waited for a respond. But when none came, he realized that Jacob wasn’t budging. Suddenly he let out a sigh, as if finally coming to terms with the idea. “I have a friend who runs a gallery who’s owed me a favor for a while . And I can get a call out and an article in the art section, and I wonder if Shelda has changed her number?” Said the manager as he started to run through the details for the event out loud.

Jacob felt a slight wave of relief as the manager came on board with the project.

“We will need time.” the manager said. “eight months, will that be enough time for you to get a collection together.”

“That should be enough time.” Jacob replied

“Fame is unforgiving,” the manger said seriously. “Everyone loves a success. But it’s a dance on a tight wire.  Fall off.” The manager trailed off.” Well,” he continued “no one wants to be associated with a failure.” “But then again,” he said, almost to himself. “Maybe you can pull this one off.”

It was a furious eight months that followed. The manager was able to secure a deal with a gallery owner for a 2 month display; he got promotion from a couple of connections to the art community.

Sketches and painting s surrounded the Jacobs apartments, coving most surfaces. Jacob worked with a young set of artist, and sculptures, working to bring together the mix bag of expression.

Excitement filled Jacob, as he worked to organize the exhibit. It was a sudden happy moment when one’s connects with people and interact. As if after so long of playing before people like a martinet, he at last was coming alive, the little statue of Jacob, interjecting his tune into the world.

———-

The clock on the wall read 7pm, and the gallery was empty well not entirely there was Jacob standing in the quite halls, and towards the rear of the gallery a janitor cleaned the hard wood floors.  It was a quiet evening with very little humidity. The janitor, whose name on his shirt read “George”, swept the gallery floor. Jacob could not think of a more stereo typical name for a janitor.

The last couple of days were a whirled wind the days leading up to the opening were fill with last minute details, RSVPs , and a list to of last minute guest who came to see the savant violinist take on the art world.  A modern day Da vinci his manager promoted him.  A master of different art forms.  The visitors were  all very kind. Most, Jacob decided, were there to for a chance to meet him the young violinist. the art was greeted with less enthusiasm.  All very polite, he got the sense that they were not extreme impressed with the work. A couple pieces sold and had a few requested information on possible commissions. The excitement lasted through the Sunday, until the review from the art section on the gallery come out.

“On a whole the exhibit demonstrates a certain level of introspective, which reeks of narcissism” the review started, “ lacking the technically skill his fans are used to in his music, his talents are much more suited to the violin that the art community,”

His manager advised him to not to worry about the bad review.

“He’s just an old stuffer.” he said “you’d think after all these year of friend ship he would have given you a softer review,” he said softly. “but then again, there was that one time when I… “He trail off. “No matter,” he continued. It probably won’t make a difference. The child savant who took on the art world, people love a good underdog story.”

His prediction did not turn out to be true. The crowd that filled the gallery disappeared over night.  The gallery owner, in passing, commented on cutting the exhibit short. And the as George finished cleaning up, Jacob gathered his things and headed back to his apartment.

The apartment was lightly finished and empty. It still bore the signs of the craziness of the opening of the exhibit. Sparse minimally furnished it bore the marks of lead up to the exhibit. On the counter lay a stack of bills he plugged in his phone. The voice mail icon was lit, so he put the phone on speaker, then hit the play back button as he moved to clean up the little place.

“Jacob It’s your manager, we need to talk money.  Don’t mean to bother you but it looks like everything is coming down if we don’t figure something out, give a shout back and we’ll talk.”

Jacob knew the conversation was coming. He wasn’t rolling in cash to begin with, and the exhibit had been a gamble. Gamble he thought to himself, the financial risk of self expression, what a crazy world this was. Fortunately he had a few commissions to hold him over until he figured out everything.

The next message pause then

“Hello Jacob” the machine spoke with the voice of a young professional. “I calling on behalf of Mrs. Lombardi, I’m sorry to we will not be needing those pieces we talked about. We wish  you the best of luck, good bye.”

We that was it then. So much for the commissions, he really was broke. The other messages continued on, but none were of much importance.

Jacob was lost in thought he gathered up the stacks of paper that littered the counter, a stack and placed them in a drawer. The drawer closed with a certain definitiveness, with almost the silencing of a thought.

The last message come on, “hey Jacob” it was his manager again. “ I might have a something for you, the philharmonic has a spot open up last minute, I can get you in. it’s six weeks series with some travel. They start this week end so get back to me and let me know. Get that violin back in shape man. You’re back on track dude.”

Jacob went over to the sideboard where the leather violin case sat.

——–

The opening night of the philharmonic, conductor strode onto the stage before the audience. The audience erupted in applause. The conductor gave a short bow then turned to the orchestra.  The orchestra on his command played through a beautifully set, and just before the intermission, the conductor turned to the audience.

“We have a treat for this season. a new member of our orchestra  who’s’ with us this season. The great violinist Jacob.” The crowd bellowed in applause. When in died down the conductor continued. “ And for tonight he’s agreed to play us a solo, of interpretation, of his own.”

The crowd applauded as Jacob got to his feet, then room went silent as he started to play. The music started slowly but soon poured out violin. It came from his finger, dripping from his soul. The sound filled the hall as the four strings sung together. Jacob could feel the music, It sang of time alone, of moving to bring. His fingers moved up and down the finger board magically, like they always had.

As the piece came to an end, for a moment the room was filled with silenced as if the audience was in a trans and then applause broke over the stage. Jacob returned to his place and the concert continued. One of the violinist next to him nudged him and quietly commented

“Good idea, do something dramatic like that. They always love the pop classical, those uneducated people wouldn’t recognize a good violinist if he stood before them.” Jacob sat in silence, having nothing to say in reply.

The evening finally came to a close and Jacob returned to his apartment. He changed out of his tux, the night was quiet and cool, so he opened a window to let the air in. His mind was a swirl; he couldn’t quite concentrate on anything. He needed to relax. His finger tips were raw from the concert. He the concert went well and the direct assured him he was in. It would be a full schedule ahead, playing three times week. He would travel and play a few places abroad, hotels and taxi cabs. He remembered the anesthetic smell.  He had played well, but he knew he was far from perfect, the reaction was well, but he knew he wasn’t what they expected. He would have to concentrate hard to keep it up, to play at the level he needed to be.

He walked over to the bed side drawer and pulled out the pill bottle, he removed one pill, and held it in his raw finger tips. He knew the feeling the pill would bring, the slow pin prick in his mind, pull together his thoughts.  Just pin himself in place long enough to be the success everyone wanted to be. Take off some of his edge. And bring out the side that let him do what everyone wanted him to be. But then the tune from the concert hall moved through his head. The one the other musicians didn’t understand.

On the counter top was a schedule for the orchestra of times and dates, his mind scanned them. The violin case sat on the counter where he placed it when he arrived back at the apartment. He picked and held it thin his hands his finger tips, still raw opened up the case the golden instrument lay, lay nestled in the shell. He removed and played a few notes, the tune from the concert, his fingers moved instinctively on the instrument. And notes slowly came out, the ideas, were not what others would want, but they were his, the stream came, the little funny melodies purred out. Tune and time, it all came in a flow. He tried to play something else something structured. But his fingers wouldn’t do it. He changed tunes again trying to hit the beats and string the notes together.  He knew the music in his mind by heart. And they stood like judges, staring down from their bench, at his music. Tune he played was not theirs.

Maybe it was best if he stopped, let it go, take a pill and break his fingers from the silly melodies they wanted to play.

No. His fingers stopped on the hard fret board. The music stopped slowly he put the golden instrument back into the case.  Jacob could feel his hands trembling as he put the violin back in its case. His heart was beating hard in his chest. The tune inside was what he wanted. It was burning split that filled him.

His hands trembled as he reached the pill bottle. He a pill dropped into his hand. Held it silent for a moment and then slowly poured a handful. He could feel his pulse rise.

——

There’s a way the world works, a rhythm that moves the pieces into place. It moves like an invisible current, you can cross it or move with it, but only the insane fight it. But if one finds their destiny lies up this stream…. If one finds they’re rhythm inverse those around the them.

——

It was three days later that the large manager ended at Jacobs apartment. He was in a disgruntle mood.  After Jacob did not return his calls, the conductor, called him up. He tried to reach Jacob himself, but all his calls went straight to voice mail. He knocked on the door of the apartment, but only silence answered. After several volleys, he finally went worriedly for the building manager.

The apartment door opened slowly. Everything seemed in its place. Jacob’s tuxedo hung in the open closet, on the countertop was a pill bottle and a note.

“Dear Pete,” the note read. “I’ve gone, and I don’t think I’ll be back.  I’m sorry for leaving like this, but I had to. Please give my apologies to the maestro.  Best of luck –Jacob”

That was the last time people heard of Jacob the savant violinist. The sudden disappearance baffled the art community.

“He was very different” they said, “I always thought he was a bit peculiar.”

They talked over it for weeks, until a new concert series started and with the latest galleries opening the matter was forgotten.  In fact, it was less than a year, if you mentioned it; people barely remembered who you were talking about.

“Jacob?” They would say, “oh yeah he was a violinist or something.”

But in a city far away, among old boulevards between the industrial facades, there was a young street performer with a violin. And if you followed him, you could see him play on the street with a few other people. They would be here for a while, and then gone to some other place. The music he played was a little odd and made children laugh with amusement. For it came for one who no longer lived in the system, but dwelled outside, on the edge, between the breaks of logic and rationale. With the other little cogs that didn’t fit in, the ones who love to sing and dance with light.

Short Story: …And Over Head The Stars Danced

The old man sat hunched at the fire, his tatter fur robe draped over his thin shoulders. The dark fur worn, and now thin, blew loosely in the breeze. The old man’s walking staff rested against his shoulder. The old man’s skin, like vegetal cured leather, gathered in deep furrows, weathered by the long years of hot and cold. The wisps of light hair, gray and silver, gently ripple in the cool night breeze. The fire burns low, its yellow fingers dancing with the wind.  From the shadows sneak children, having tiptoed away from the shelters and cooking fires of their families. They seek the worm light of the flame, venturing out to the stone fire ring of the wispy old man.

“Gather round.” Says the old man. “Gather round and I will tell you a story that you think you know.”

The young kids find a place tight around the fire, hunched close to the worm radiant heat.

“You’ve heard the tale of ancients past, about the one who smote the dark lord on these very mountains. You’ve sung the poems of the gallant hero. But listen to me now,” spoke the old man as he hunched forward, his eyes peering bellow his silver hair like piercing stars. “I will tell you the true story.  Listen to me, for I know the truth, and not from poem or the lullabies of your mothers.  Hear me now as I speak it, and listen hard.  For I will tell the tale of hero, and the dark one he fought. But be warned this tale may seem like a story from your dreams, for it happened in a time between what was, and what is.  When the earth was still new, the forms were just beginning. Not all was complete and set like it is today. The earth was still learning to breath. But listen close,” said the old man. “For what I tell you is true, for I have seen it with my own eyes.”

This story starts long ago before the foundation stones of the great council houses were set. Long ago when the world as we know it was just beginning, and when the thick grasses on the mountains were a mere green dusting, and the breezed ran wild and warm. Man and mortals were just coming into this land. Settling the great plains and hills, building longhouses of thatch and stone. The kings of men had not yet been called. Only elders and chiefs led their members, planting sustenance on the hills.

“It was a world ripe for change… when he came. Actually not a “he”’, the old man corrected himself, “but an it. Where he came from, I do not know. He seeped from the dark places. From chasms far below, where he was cast by the accents. But the world was shifting and the magic which held him for so long, weakened.

The ancients who protected and tended the world were long gone away, so he made his move. In this opportunity  from the depts. He pulled himself, like wisps of dark smoke, of ash and tar.  He didn’t flow, but almost seeped from the dark. Emerging slowly on the surface, in the clean light of day.  He saw the world in its young beauty.  A passing breeze, caught, if almost by accident, a little of the mist that surrounded him.  Tainted, it scatted in fear, the mist spreading with it.  The darkness hit the clouds over head, turning them from clean white to ominously dark. The clean breeze turned musk and rotten. The ancient foe could feel the freshness of the place he stood, and in this place, the dark being laughed. Not a happy laugh, but one dark twisted.

“Be gone hearts of man.” he spoke in mirth and chuckle. “Let fear enter in. Who will shelter you from my darkness? Speed oh winds, carry my words to the far tribes. For this place is no longer free. Hide and run, quake and fear, kneel and submit, but know this it’s all in vain. Run wind run, for I am here.”

The children huddle closer around the fire, all eyes on the old man who had paused. The silence was only defiled by the low howl of the wind, as it flowed over the mountains. The old man had paused, his mind seeing the memories from a time past. Memories that had once been bright, now faded with time.  Emotions mixed with faces and images, linked together a filament worn thin, yet they still held togeather. It was a long silence before the old man continued.

“It was long ago that the world was formed, molded out of clay, and stone, and iron. That was long before the first man, a mysterious time. But even then the world was not empty. Before man, immortals walked the earth, warriors who were the first to live here. They fought the first of the great battles. They danced with the light turning the world from the dark. The tended and guarded the world, molding it, as it was born. Where the darkness was they fought, they beating it. They were giant and huge, big and small. It was before things like size and time were settled, both magic and real. But as with anything that has a beginning and an end, so was it with these.  And as the world finally settled, the immortals went  away. Some say their magic weakened and they could not exist.  Some say they went on out of this universe, to other worlds among the stars. What happened to them I do not know, only that they were gone,” said the old man with a moment of silence. Then he spoke quietly again, in almost a whisper. “They were all gone. All, but two.”

The air was still in the little valley, high up in the mountains. It felt smooth and crisp. Along the floor of the valley, tall pines, grew.  Their thick trunks standing straight. In the center of the stand of trees, lay a small clearing, and under the boughs the great pines knelt a form. He resembled a man though he stood taller than any man. He was cloaked in a dark fur robe. On his hands and arms lay the scars from past battles.  He knelt beside the smoldering coals of a fire.  It was the lonely mountain pass where he rested. It was his wanderings that he called his home. The cool air sent a shiver across his shoulders. The wind blew against the robe, But though it did battle with the fur, it didn’t make it through the thick pelt. He wore a simple robe and tunic of a thick weave. Its simplicity lied of its quality. Around his waist a tooled leather belt with flowing patterns, dancing around his waist.  And on his back the thick black robe, the animal whose sacrificed for its use, could not be placed, but the sheer size told that its didn’t die easy.

The man was simple enough, and if viewed from afar one could easily mistake him for an ordinary man. But his easy movements betrayed his sheer size.

He hovered over the ashes of the fire, their dying coals giving off the last of their light. “It was good enough”, He thought. He was moving on from the quiet valley. His eyes surveyed the clearing. His camp was almost struck. His roll of supplies sat by the base of one of the great pines, near where he picketed his horse.

It was a horse, in the sense of what you and I would call a horse. But in truth It was decedent from the wild animals who became the horse.

He surveyed the mountains, but his mind wasn’t there entirely. It was long ago when he and his compatriots first came to this place. The first had carved out the land, battling the ancient forces that ruled. The battles had been epic. Horse and steed charged into battle, comrade and friend fought together. Arriving in this dark place, they fought the darkness back with sword and spears. Axe and shield sparked against each other, littered the dark sky with their sparks. and though the hot metal gave way each day, they still burned bright in the sky at night. In his mind he could still feel the pounding of the hoof beets. The rumble rippled the earth, tossing up mountains. It stretched and ripped the earth, forming ravines. But like a flash he was back in the lonely valley. It was here that they had won and victories, and where his friends had moved on, but here he remained. The breeze swarmed gently around him. He pulled his robe closed around him. He looked down at the small fire. The last puff of smoke rose, as the fire exhaled its last breath.  Quietly he smothered what remained, and gathered his pack.

He moved back to his old steed the large back horse stood at the shoulder as taller as most men. His long main and tail tossed in the morning. As he his ride drew near. The lone stranger rubbed down the stallion with a handful of green grass.  “Ready to move?” he asked the large beast. The giant animal snorted in short in response to the question. “Me too” he replied, Loading up the pack, he mounted and road on.

The rider followed the lay of the land, with no particular path, just the rises and fallings of the earth. Moving up the ridges of the mountain, drifting like the morning midst. On an open ridge, he stopped and surveying the view around him. The long slopes of the mountain roped down to the green planes.

He could feel her coming before he saw her. Her white horse moving like fresh snow along the mountain. There used to be many of them at one time, but now here we’re the last. Two in the entire world each with their own wanderings, it was not usual for them to cross paths. In fact they had not seen each other for a very long time.

She drew up near to her old friend. Her cape was a dark red embroidered with gold thread On her forearms sat silver bucklers etched with patterns and floral reliefs. The grey varnished hinted at their age.

“It’s been some time she greeted him.” “It has”, he replied. “I come from the planes, from the villages” she spoke. “They are learning fast, making their mark. The old magic fades. The new things are taking over, and trees are growing in the upper meadows.”

“The times have changed,” he replied, “but you have not. always the caretaker. Though It’s not often you come to the mountains” he said.

Here expression turned grim. ”The darkness has come again,” she said.

His eyes didn’t flutter as he heard the news, but inside images of past battles flooded his mind. He knew the vast darkness the work it had taken to defeat it. She spoke as if say in a fact, he knew what she was asking, it was a call to action, to return to battle again.

“I go to the villages and summon the tribe leaders.” She continued. “The earth is no longer ours, she has taken a life of her own, the ways of men are cultivating it, as she grows, he (the darkness) threatens to destroy her.”  She spoke as if stating a fact as if something were already done.”

“Will they listen?” He ask.

“They may, she replied. But men stand no chance alone.”

“Our time here has been done here for some time. If the time of man is now” he stated, “they must defeat this evil This is not our battle he said.”

“Our time is done, she countered, “but yet we remain.  She said with a pause. The chiefs are gathered to meet in two days,” she replied, “it’s different, I do not know how this battle will end, if we cannot stop him…” She said quietly her words fading into silence.

She could see her words had no outward effect on her old friend.  Gone was the energy, of times past, when determination of battle came easy and the high price for victory was eagerly paid.

“If you won’t come with me, then I bid you “Till later”.  She said as she turned her mount down the ridge. “I hope to see you again,” she said. “And if not, then maybe beyond the stars.”  She said in farewell to her companion. Turning her steed, she crossed the mountain spur, down toward the villages of men.

He sat for a moment. This was not his battle, he had paid his dues to this place long before, faced the terrors of the dark. This place no longer belonged to him. Indifferent, he turned his steed, to climb higher up the mountains.

Circling around a peak, he followed the range as it ran north. The young forest thinned, until only a thin grass dusted the high hills. Large peaks broke upward; their black stone standing like dark monuments.

It was long ago when he first arrived here, and the  scars on his body told the tail of his life. And when the last of the battle was done and his friends had left, He had stayed. Why he didn’t know. It was as if in the battles, part of this place had grown deeper inside him. But this place was changing and as a creature from a different time, he rode, almost visitor to the place he had conquered.

On the top of the hills a breeze blew, cool and moist. Mounting a ridge, the hero rode ever northward. He came to a stop on the crest of a ridge. The mountain dropped off in front of him, the wild mountains spread onward. Dark green meadows ran up the mountain slopes. The mountains cut the fabric of the earth with their sharp bladed peaks.

The light sky stretched over and around the hero, tufted only with a few clouds.  He sat on his mount surveying the horizon, the hidden valleys, rolled past the horizon.

The world lay before him, its rugged wildness singing the ancient song. He and the ones before him had heard that tune, written in the world, made of deep magic that never fades. Deep in his heart he heard the melody play its beat, a dance old and new, one that joins the soul, the song that one can only sing without words. He felt the wild dance inside, its tempo slow building in him.

It was then he noticed the dark midst. Far off, like a low hovering cloud, it moved slowly through the valleys. Its polluting darkness, slowly seeped up the low hills. It was moving slowly, but ever moving in a never ceasing torrent.

The darkness moved was like the thunder clouds, but he could see, that like the dark ash clouds of a volcano, they didn’t bring life giving rain, or to clean the earth.  Lightning flashed inside them here and there, but they spread only darkness.

It was then the he felt it, the cool moist breeze that had been at his back change. The shift was slight, but it turned ever so slightly to pushing towards him, and on the darks currents he could smell the stench. Although so far away, and so minute it would be easy to overlook, yet he could smell it, the stench of sulfur and ash.  The song of the earth had gone silent and in his heart he heard no music.  His dark steed stamped restlessly to move from the smell of the dark midst.

Hero’s eyes gazed at the midst but not the look of observation or concern. The corners of his eyes tightened and his jaws set.  His hand reached unconsciously to his roll, to the familiar shape felt through the wrappings.

T’was another fight, a massive foe from times past, but unlike then, there were only two of them.  Two… he thought, and the sons of men.

With a flick of his wrist, he wheeled his mount around moving off the high ridge. The large beast moved a fast trot, heading back across the mountain, to the villages of man.

 

The village of Gur lay in the low foot hills of the mountain, surrounded by rolling greens hills. It was a small collection of low houses on stacked rock bases. They sat nestled beside a small clear river.  In the center of the village, stood a large round house.  Rutted paths cut in and between the little structures.  Outside the town, small pens and  fences held small livestock, and outlined garden plots. A few lean to structures provided shelter for larger live stock.  It was late morning when the young lad saw the large being approach. The small boy was cleaning of one of the animal shelters. But when he saw the strange rider he immediately lost track of his task. The large stranger rode slowly on his large dark horse, coming over the hills like as if pushed by an unseen current.

His horse larger than any he had ever seen, it’s long mane reminded him of the wild creatures from of the dark night time stories. The rider was dressed similar to the lady who had come to the village a day before. The man had a long black skin robe draped around his shoulders, he rode straight and like a chief would ride, but unlike the chiefs, he did not have a procession following him, nor banners or procession. If any of the villagers tried to ride as this man they would have been mocked, but no one spoke as the stranger entered.  He rode straight into the village. The young lad dropped the pitchfork, and chased down a side alley, following the stranger into the village.

Hero walked his mount into the small town, passing by the low houses. Smoke of cooking fires drifted from their chimneys and the sounds of the village punctuated the quiet morning.  The smell of cut earth and farm animals filled the air.  The villagers looked up from their morning routing to study this stranger.

Hero could see the village was small, and the little huts had not seen three cycles of the seasons.  But here and there was evidence of the villagers resolve: A carved lentil over a door, a bouquet of wildflowers, sitting in a window sill.  The village was young, but the ones who made it were planning to stay.

Hero saw the little lad he’d seen outside of the village, standing beside a hut in his dirty clothing.  The young lad peered at him with deep blue eyes.  He dismounted and tied his mount to a post then motioned for the boy to come near.  Loosening the cinch strap on his steed he asked the kid “could you bring him some water?” he asked beckoning to his mount.  The little kid nodded in reply. “He likes oats if you have them,” hero added. The little kid ran off for provisions.

 

Hero watched go for a second then turned and entered the large round house.  The dark smells of a extinguished fires and musty thatch and stone. The large structure was a large single room. A low stone wall held up the roof timbers which met in the middle, forming the circular pavilion. A small hole allowed smoke from the central fire ring to escape.  As he entered the group was already formed, debating with the female hero, the chieftains from villages arguing of what to do.

The chiefs gathered in a circle, their heavy wool robes wrapped around their shoulders. Heads of the clans from far up the valley where they herded sheep, the chieftains of the forest, and the ruddy chieftain whose village mined at the base of the mountain.  In the middle these large men stood the heroine draped in here white fur robe.

“We will move our herds down the valley, leave here, and move south,” said Aedan, a chieftain in the high valleys. “Let whatever lives here have his way.”

“The darkness will not stay in the mountains,” said the heroine. “It will not be contained to this place.”

“Perhaps we should joint this new power,” said the one called Brennen, elder from the base of the mountain.  “We may form a treaty, and stay on our land without a war.”

“He isn’t a king who will demand tribute.” She replied. “He comes to consume, this is the time of war.”

“Who will compensate us for our fight?” asked Seisyll, a lower chieftain. “How will we split the spoils?”

The evidence of fracturing showed in the group, the unease of rulers who days before where competing against each other, now called to bind as a group, despite their fear and distrust.

Hero moved towards the group.

“This darkness does not come for your land or herds.” His words moved like slow thunder across the room. The room fell silent. “He doesn’t care for your herds or crops.  He comes for the light of day, the clean air you breath, the smile of your children. If you wish to make your peace with the darkness then go, but the sun will blot out, and your people will die. He brings the dark power.  And those who fight with him are dark and twisted.

“Then we will leave here and go and somewhere else.” spoke one of the chiefs.

“You can leave but he is ever moving. You could leave to the far off lands, and though you might escape. You leave it to your children or your children’s children to face him.”  There was something in the way this stranger spoke his words didn’t just pierce the ear, but it was as he spoke to the very matter they were made of. The call to fight was not just to them but to the rocks of the building the wood rafters. The call was to the world matter to fight.

“Me and my companions fought the darkness long ago, long before the first,” hero continued. “But now is the time of men. You do not fight for your lands, but for the ground it’s self. Are worthy to stay? Will you pay your tribute to the earth? ”

Hero’s words finished, leaving silence in their place. All was quiet.

“we will fight.”  It was Cadeyrn, The chief of the stone cutters, whose hard axes broke stone and skin was stained by dirt.

“And us too,” Said Elisedd, chief of the lowlands.

“Our men will fight” said Dustan chief of the forest,

The lodge was filled with noise as others joined the fight.

“He will be here tomorrow, hero spoke, “Prepare.” And with this last line he turned and exited the lodge.

The silence was broken by a sudden flurry of movement. Chief and Elder moved fast to rally their troops. Provisions were needed. Battle plans, a mere idea a moment ago, was suddenly brutal reality.

Hero moved out of the building and gathered his steed from the lad.  The quiet village was now transformed into a flurry of action.

“Find your parents,” here staid to the little child.

“I don’t have any, the kid replied. “I live with my aunt.”

“Then go to her,” hero said. “She will be looking for you.”

Hero talked in brief with the heroine, they decided she would remain in the village and help organize the leaders. With preparations beginning, hero rode out of the village, out to a small hill, where the grass was dark and thick. He had a view of the long valley. The village lay roughly centered in the long valley, along a little river. It was here on the hill he dismounted and made his camp.

The air was once again silent. He could feel the little breezes from the mountain. Here he would wait. The late afternoon sun was on its decline, it’s rays broke yellow and gold across the valley.

The little lad moved out of the village towards the hill where he saw the tall warrior go. It was a hefty walk up the steep rise. After his encounter with the stranger, he ran back to his aunt, telling of the events of the morning, and what he overheard inside the roundhouse. At the news his aunt had immediately began preparation. She added wood to the cooking fire and swung a large pot over it, starting a stew for the warriors who would arrive. She added sweet dark flavors of root vegetables and salted seared meat.

She moved in a flurry of movement, setting out food in preparation. She grabbed a little pale, poured in a healthy portion of the stew, added a half loaf of bread, then gave it to the little lad.

“Take this to the stranger,” she said. “We must see he doesn’t go hungry while he is here with us.”

So the little lad gathered the bundle and moved along the little path, exiting the village into the evening night. Slowly he made his way to where the hero had set up his camp.  It was when he was almost at the top, when he saw the hero’s fire. A small affair, he could make out the large form near the flames. The hero did look at the flames, but up at the stars. The large beast of a horse was picketed a few yards away.  The animal raised its head as he approached.

 

The little lad walked towards the fire.  As he neared the large man moved to look at the young lad.

“I brought some food,” the young boy announced himself. “My aunt sent this for you.”

The large form looked at him form a moment, and then waved him to come closer.  The boy approached the fire, and handed the bundle to hero.

“When will it arrive?” The little child asked, budding with curiosity.

“Tomorrow,” Hero said in his deep voice.

“Will we win?” the little lad asked.  The hero paused from eating, and looked at the child.

“Long before you were born, there were many of us, and there were many battles. We fought for the light of this place, for each other, for the joy of the fight. We moved against the dark beings, on the great mountains in the south, one brother, caught the dark monster who ruled those mountains. We were engaged lower down in battle, but he and the evil one, moved higher. The monster backed down into his refuge in the crater of the tallest of those mountains, seeking refuge in the molten heat.  But our comrade didn’t stop, but plunged in after him. Inside of the dark crater, fire and ash erupted as they fought. The ground trembled with their dual. Molten rock and steel rained from the crater, then all was silent. I found the worrier he was just coming out of that pit. His sword glowed red from the heat.  He conquered the monster of that mountain.  We went to congratulate him and celebrate the victory, but he could barely move. his sword seared to his hand. veins of burnt skin and ash ran along his arms and back.”  Hero let the story slide off.   “That battle ended the great foe among these mountains, but also the warrior who fought without fear. It wasn’t long after he left this place.”

Hero looked wishfully at the stars above, then at the small boy.

“The battle can always be won,” he said softly. “The only question is if you are willing to pay the price.”

The little boy knelt close to the fire, warming in its little light, the air was quiet. The fires rustled, and the stars to the east were starting to fade. The dawn approached and the stillness of anticipation grew heavy in the air.  The words echoed inside the child’s mind “Victory is possible, but are you willing to pay the price?”

The light of dawn pierced the valley, moving the long shadows with its streams of light. The little child watched the scene, from the village below smoke rose from the kitchen fires.

The little village was now packed with people, a hub for the engagement to come.  Some of the residents had fled during the night and a few late stragglers were still moving out. But those who had left were replaced by others: the few who had answered the call to battle.  They came in by ones and twos. Here and there a group of five or seven slowly made their way into the town. And though the day before the town only held few score, it now overflowed with occupants.

Large copper pots hung over fires. Balls of dough sat on cooking boards facing the hot flames. The heat rose the bread, then seared the crust.  The fighters came with a ragged mixture of weapons. Here a cudgel, a spear, repurposed axes which the day before were cutting oaks on the hill side, now were instruments of battle, here and there a bronze sword. The chieftains stood ready for the engagement in a mixture of bronze and leather armor.  Directing the men the heroine helped organizing the chieftains. She was changed for battle, she wore a silver breast plate and shin guards. Her white fur robe flowed behind her. At her hip she had a long thin sword, and at her hand a spear.

Though she was larger than the tallest man, she moved among and between them helping here, giving direction and organization. And though her very presence brought one could feel a connection, almost a passage to an unlocked place deep in the world.

The little boy looked over the town, the final preparations were being made and the chiefs readied there troops to move out.  The boy turned to the hero. The large form had moved and smothered out the fire. He locked eyes with the lad, then motioned to the far end of the valley.

“He’s here”.

The little child looked down the long valley towards the mountains, the morning light pushed the darkness of night back to the deep recesses, but in the far end of the valley, the light wavered, faltering against the darkness there. It was then that the child could see the seeping cloud, moving slowly into the valley. A chill went up the child’s spine.

“Come”, said the hero. “We go to higher ground”.

Hero mounted the giant animal, then reached a hand down to the little lad. The lad stood paused for only a moment before grasping the hero’s hand and swung up behind him. The hero turned the steed and cantered up the hills.

They stopped on a high ridge. Dismounting, hero took pack roll, unrolling on the ground. From the pack he took two forearm guards of dark metal and donned them. He removed a few pieces of armor for the wild steed, mounting as he removed them from the pack.

Then from deep in the roll he took one last piece: a sword. The lad starred at the old instrument, the metal radiated the morning light, and it was a long plain blade that shone like silver in the morning light. A leather grip wrapped the handle, and it bore only a simple guard. It bore the markings of an experienced tool.  It had been a long time since it was necessary to use, but it was carefully kept.  Hero removed the instrument. He balanced it in his hand, like one catching up with an old friend.

The mist was prevalent in the valley now, and with it, it’s stench.  The boy could see it building up as a wall as it poured in, but as the child turned to the hero he thought he felt light movement of air from the hero, a little breeze, fresh and cool.  Hero unclipped his heavy thick black animal robe, and laid it down on the ground next to the pack.  The steed pawed at the grass in anticipation, ready again for the fight. Hero caught up the steed, and mounted.

“Stay here.” Hero spoke to the little child. “You will be safe here.”

The little lad nodded in response. Hero turned towards the darkness, and started down the hill. Bellow the men formed up in the bottom of the valley, abreast the darkness. The one’s who answered the call gathered in now a large forces, they were dressed in all manner of uniform but stood as one long line, a bulwark against the midst.  It was more men than the you boy had ever seen before. The chieftains mounted on their horses stood out in front with the heroine. The child could see the mist darkening, gathering here, and spreading there. Down the hill towards the force hero road, moving at a slow trot, but gathering speed, down towards the engagement.  The line of forces drew up and paused.

From inside the midst came strange sounds and movements. Normal wild creatures changed by the darkness turned to monstrous forms.

For a moment it all was still, then the charge.

With a shout, the men moved forward, and with a roar of the demented monsters charged out at the men.

It was a collision of fang and spear, sword and claw. The chieftains led the charged on their mounts into the chaos of the battle.  The pounding of hoof beats and sickening sound of breaking bone filled the air. Screams of man and animal, shouts and battle cries echoed across the line, in and in they charged meeting the dark screams of the beasts.

From her mount the heroine moved back and forth in the battle line on her white steed, crossing in and out of the mist.  Transformed she moved in a fuse of light. Her lance flickering between the monstrous beasts, stained red with their blood.

The little child saw the battle unfolding, the initial charge had met the beast, and the battle raged in the center of the valley.  It was wild and crazy. He couldn’t tell who was winning. The men fought valiantly but the terrible things, monsters from a nightmare, kept coming from the dark.

The little child had lost sight of hero, but then he saw him. He was crossing the valley towards the battle line, the large horse animal moving at a full gallop. Hero rode tall in the saddle toward the darkness, sword in his hand. Even at a distance he thought he could feel the hoof beats of the steed as it charged.  They moved together as one. They reached the battle line charge through the chaos, into the midst and disappeared.

Hero could feel the darkness closed in around him. The acidic smoke burned his lungs, gritty hot ash scratched at his skin.  He charged into the darkness through the torrents of hot wind that pushed at him. He moved towards their source. It was there he found the dark being. The dark one stood in form of a hideous man, the swirling soot outlined him.  As he caught glimpse of the hero he began to laugh.

“Is this all that is left? There were many of you once and this is all that remains?” He said in dark mirth.

Hero did not answer but simply charged. The dark one formed a sharp cudgel out of the torrent of ash that swirled around him. In the darkness of the storm, hero’s sword radiated the little light that penetrated the midst; the strobeing reflections cast the hero and dark being on in sharp relief.  Hero swung as he charged, and the dark one swung also to meet him. The collision of the two immortals broke like thunder in the darkness.

From the battle line where the chiefs and the heroine fought they could hear the booming inside the darkness. The demented beast tore through their battle line in volley after volley. Slowly the men were beaten back, until they were backed the side of the valley all the way to the tree line. The men fought in desperation, blow by blow, step by step, beast against man, they fought in increments of breaths. Those warriors who had lost their weapons in the fray, tore clubs from the trees.  The heroine moved back and forth like a warm melody among the men. Fast in movement, her lance and sword cut like razors  on the charging beasts.

From inside the cloud hero circled the dark one, he kept his distance, for what the dark ones touch polluted and soiled.  In he charged, swinging and slashing then moving back out.  Hot sweat mixed with the dark ash and burnt his skin.  The nauseating smell filled his mouth and lungs. Heroes’ blade met his mark, cutting the darkness, but his own body showed wounds. Each blow that reached his mark came at a cost.

Pulling ash and matted to himself, the dark one grew, turning almost into part man, part dragon, part monster. Up and up it rose height. Hero moved to match the dark, he and his steed moving up the mountains.  Foot falls shook the earth as he and the dark circled in fight.

From the low rise where the little boy stood he could see the two the battle lines bellow the clash of men, and looming above, the dark mist like a great cloud swirled an billow. The two great forms split the midst, rising above the clouds hero mounted on his wild steed and the hideous form of a monster. Lightning flashed from cloud to cloud, as the giant forms battled.

He could see the hero sword flashing cutting here and there and the darkness.  The thunderous roar of the dark being echoed across the mountains.  Feet of the hero and dark one cut through the ridges, breaking the mountain ranges as they fought. The heat from the monster seared the top of the mountains black.   While the rest of the men were busy fighting in the valley, the two immortals fought among the mountains, transformed   into full size.

Further back into the mountains, the hero pushed the beast, striking it with blows . In a final act of desperation, the creature lunged and wrapped around the hero trying to break him. The putrid scent burned hero’s lungs the rough scales of flesh, cut like sharp pieces of obsidian. The dark being tighten to crush the hero.

In and out, hero cut with his blade, each time deeper and deeper.  Until at last the beast started to weaken, then fell off.  The bright sword flicked one final time.  And the beast dropped down across a ridge.

Slowly it became quiet, the loud roar of battle started to fade.  Back in the valley, the chieftains had rallied their men against the monsters. Pushing back the beast until they had destroyed all of them, except for a few, who fled snarling into the deep recess of the mountains.

The men gathered their injured and headed back to the village. One of the chieftains went to seek advice from the heroine but he couldn’t find her. The battle had been won, but the cost was high. Many fell before the monsters. The floor of the little valley was torn with deep cuts from the battle. And the stench of the mist was still in the still air.

It was in a valley far in the mountains where heroine found the hero.  He was dismounted; his tired steed grazed on a patch of thin grass, its coat was soaked with sweat from the battle.  As she moved towards the hero, she could see him he was sitting, but it wasn’t until as she got closer that she could see wounds from the battle. His skin was stained dark, burns and cuts cover this arms and face. Ash and sweat caked his hair.   His breath came labored and hard.

Beside him lay the sword still gleaming from the engagement, white hot from the friction of dust and speed.

“Another battle done,” hero said in a low quiet voice. “Should we celebrate?” He asked almost mockingly.   “Do we rejoice in this destruction?”  He said in to silence.  “have we paid enough homage to this place?” he said motioning to the dark high hills. “I can still smell his stench. Is this victory?” he asked, but the heroine did not reply.

 

Hero laboriously rose. His steps crunched on the thick coat of ash that covered the ground.  The heroine looked on. It seemed as if his magic was played out. The little quiet harmony that had come from him was silent. Hero tiredly mounted the stead and slowly turned away.  The heroine watch him go, disappearing in the fog that had begun settle on the mountain. For a long moment she stayed there, before moving her mount to cross back towards the village of men.  As she topped the last ridge to the valley, She paused for a moment looking over the scarred little valley.  The chiefs had returned to the village and a feast was being held. She could see the light in windows where the wounded lay tended, waiting for healing to come. The sound of song and music came from the village, as newly written victory poems, repeated the gallant action of the day, when men had concurred the last of the darkness that ruled the world.

From her mount she could see the wild mountains stained black by the darkness.

The heroine paused for a moment then sang her own victory song.

“Rise up hero, who rides the wild way.  May the mountains sing the name of who broke them with his feet.  Sing winds of the one wears the cuts of his enemy.  Each wound he carries, he kept them from those he did not know. Sing hills the tune his sword made as it cut the dark one. Rise up o’ victor! The earth breaths in thanks. Victory is yours, for you have won!”

Her words danced thought the air, caught by a mountain, and echoed on……

The old man, paused his story for a moment. The fire was now a low pile of coals. He sat quiet in the stillness of the night.

“We never saw the Hero again. Some say he died from his wounds. Others say left for beyond the stars, to join his fellow immortals.  But some say he still rides the mountains, in the deep places among the hills, tending the high meadows and seeking out the dark creatures that hide there.”

“But if you go up the mountains and listen carefully, children. You can hear his tune on the fresh new breezes of the mountains, as they sing the tale of the one who stopped the last darkness, the last of the great immortals, who lived here long ago.”

The fire dimmed as the old man finished his story, and sat in silence. His mind filled with images far away, his deep blue eyes lost in thought. Slowly the children got up one by one, and made their way back to their homes. Called by the late hour, and the warmth of their beds.

But the old man stayed high on the on the shelf of the mountain, draped by a tattered dark animal robe whose origin no one knew.  From the mountain a light cool wind blew and over head the stars danced.