Tag Archives: modern mythology

Keys to the Forgotten Song #writephoto

In the beginning the keys were known. Their place and purpose was common knowledge. They were discussed in passing as we might talk about the weather, the planning of meals, or the news. The keys made life what it was: they unlocked the people’s joys and sorrows, they opened new spaces within which to begin, become and belong. They gave them access to adventure, growth, grieving and love, finding and leaving, succeeding and failing, wanting and being enough.
The keys kept the song of the world in tune, according each the measure of who they were, each knowing the reasons for the bars in the way, each aware of the immense value of the rests and how the melody could not proceed where silence was not allowed.

And then, gradually, the keys were forgotten, lost. No one could say what or where they were. No children were taught their purpose and meaning. No elders wove stories of love and belonging, grief and mending. Soon enough, such neglect took its toll.

First, the threads, soft strings that kept the world in tune, in resonant resilience, began to unravel. For the most part this unraveling went unnoticed. Only the composers among the people, trained to listen deeply to the ever present song, heard the dissolution into discord. They would often give voice to the unstable harmonies, the discordant measures, trying desperately to change the way notes were conducted over and over again long after their time had passed. Most of their warnings fell on deaf ears. Sometimes people merely increased the volume of their own individual melodies in order to drown everything else out; sometimes the composers new and disturbing melodies would abruptly be brought to an end. These latter reactions made the music of the world more and more unbearable. The strings screeched and snagged, scratched and snapped. And this calamitous clamor only amplified, increasing in tempo and pitch.

People grew frantic and desperate. They no longer could remember what the song was for, or why it existed at all. In their forgetting, they began to no longer value individual melodies. In the forgetting, they lost their threads of their stories. In their forgetting, they no longer understood the necessity of rests, that music needed not only sound but its absence to survive.

So the people found it normal to insist that the best melodies were those which never had pauses, but went on and on without ceasing. They invented ways to play ever longer series of notes without ceasing. One of the fastest ways to do this was to play the same notes over and over again without ceasing. Eventually, generations of people never rested, but lived and died without ceasing, in ignorance of the sound of silence.

Finally the time came when this arrangement was no longer a sustainable option for anyone. The din was chaotic, catastrophically cacophonous. No one wanted to part with their many unmusical creations which they valued so dearly. And so it was decided that the song should be shut away. For so long the people had shut out the silence, confining it to emptiness the way one might drive light into its shadow. In a strange twist of fate, the land ceased its singing, and the shadow was all that remained.

The people needed a way to contain such a vastly woven web of song which for so long had throbbed at the center of life like the heart and soul of the world. At once the greatest engineers of the land held a great convention at which it was decided that they should forge an iron chest and that the song should be confined to it, instead of being allowed as it was to flow and flood everyone and everything, sending as it did so the pulse of itself everywhere.

The task was undertaken immediately, and people were congratulated on how much progress they made as they worked ceaselessly to finish, day and night. At its completion, they poured the song inside, slamming the heavy lid to seal it in with a clang. It is said that, though many lost their lives in the chest’s creation, once it had been buried no one could remember how to cry for their lost ones. They did not even know how to speak to one another. Now, even the song is lost, hidden in the land where it awaits the time when once again it is set free to restore balance to the earth and soften the hardened and harsh hearts of humankind.

I don’t know why I was the one to discover the chest these centuries later, its hinges twisted and rusted with time, its three locks mocking and massive, its contents as mysterious as the legend left to us in our fading memory.

Perhaps, as I have been told I came from a line of composers, I was simply blessed with the fortune: whether good or ill I cannot yet say. All I know is the all-consuming search for the keys. All I have to follow is this single stray note according to which I can discover them. It reads: “Compassion, Gentleness, Division: at their beginning, these words hold the keys. For these are all that is needed to set singing a changing, growing, turning world. Each breaks the heavy heart of silence. Each turns a lock in the chest. When each is placed where it belongs and all three are held equally together, the song will return.”

The first part is easy enough to figure out. The beginning letters of the words are C, G, and D. But as to how and in what way these could be keys, I cannot say. Perhaps you remember?

In response to Sue’s photo prompt, The Chest.

The Mill

Mill Photo

Lugach fixed his son with a soul-piercing stare. “I entrusted her to you for no more than half a sun’s climb, Cormac. Where is she!” Seeing the pain threatening to engulf his fathers face was almost worse than the hot waves of shame, flooding him with his countless failures. He felt like he had been a disappointment to his father from the day he was born. Now he would be hated. He shoved the clawing animal of guilt and grief back into its iron-barred cage in his heart. To his horror, he was not quite under control when he spoke. That was the way with him, good, but not good enough. “Lost.” It was a choked whisper. Dazed, he shook himself violently, as if from a nightmare that would not give him up.

“Lost?!” his father roared. “May you find her or die trying!”

Running … running … who had moved him? … When had the running begun? As if from a great distance, he watched his body run. Die trying… if only he could do that, it might make his father proud.

Now far from the roundhouse door, down the steep rugged path… he was headed toward the mill… the mill his father built along with his new life after he left the fianna. Cormac used to hate that mill. Now it was a refuge, one of the only places to be alone.

Today it was not his thoughts that sent him sprinting to the roar of the wheel and the grind of the stones. It was not even the resentment he had at not being given the same choice for a future that his father had. It was a dread, an unnamable loss that tore at him now.

Lost, she was lost…

He’d been playing “hide to find” with her when the runner arrived from a far off settlement, on the business of trade with his father. But his father wasn’t there, and so it was up to him to provide hospitality.

He’d left her for a moment among the clusters of trees with no concern. His sister knew the woods like the back of her hand. Besides, at five summers old, she shouldn’t always need to be supervised.

The last thing he had said to her was, “Don’t wander outside the trees.” The last thing he’d heard was her birdsong of laughter as she enacted some imaginary game.

The sound of pounding feet that were not his own brought Cormac unceremoniously back to the present. He thought that running full ahead might keep him from the pain, but now it sliced through him again, sharper than a spear.

The mill, he had to get to the mill. Tears threatened to fall, and crying was as good as forbidden. He was not so far now… but whoever was coming this way was having no trouble gaining on him. Had he been spotted? Quickly, he moved sideways, then dashed behind a thick clump of trees where he could remain hidden, while keeping an eye on the road.

Lost … she was lost …

“Mac Lugach!” the voice shouting his name too close to the sheltering trees provoked a cold panic, even while he recognized the speaker. It was Aodh, Caoilte’s eldest. . Since when did his friends provoke terror in him, he wondered? But he dare not question the extent of his ability to fall short of every social expectation. He held his silence close as death.

“Cormac,” Aodh questioned quietly, having soundlessly covered the space between them. He was too good. Of course he was.

They belonged to the same cohort, and yet Cormac could not meet Aodh’s searching eyes. He turned away in shame, but not before Aodh saw the tracks of tears on his face. He wished he could disappear. He prepared for the inevitable mocking that didn’t come. Instead, Aodh just stood there quietly, regarding him with a genuine concern.

“Something isn’t right with you. What is it, man?”

What was it. Cormac searched in the growing fog for the words that seemed to shrink into shadow, frightened by the glaring light of truth. “Lost … the mill … lost…”

“Look, man,” Aodh said after thinking for a while. “If it’s the mill you’re wanting to get to, let me come with you.”

“Why are you here?” the question was sudden, and Cormac immediately regretted its harshness.

“Your father sent for us to search for…”

That was enough. Could his father not trust his own son? Apparently not. And there were others?

he was back on the trail now, moving … parting the shadowed words and the fog, pounding the anger into the ground, aware only vaguely of Aodh’s presence beside him. He was too dazed to care, but not too numb to drown the panic rising in him like a tide. Lost … he had lost her.

***

They found the body floating near the mill. She had not yet learned to swim. Between them they carried her, back up the path from where they had come, to break the news no parent is ever prepared to hear.

Behind them, as the sky began to darken, one light could still be seen. It glowed soft and shimmering, just above the mill. It has never disappeared.

Sue’s Photo Challenge