This month's prompt:
As it turns out, this fits with a thing I wrote at the end of December, when my brother and I did a couple of music-based writing dares. For the first, we swapped instrumental pieces. For the second, songs with lyrics. He chose Owl City's "Lonely Lullaby" for me. Why, Josiah, whyyyy?
IT'S SAD, OKAY.
Anyway, it's probably bad form to bend a link-up's rules the first time you do it (seeing as it's not necessarily my favorite song, nor did I write it specifically for the prompt), but . . . here goes.
He stood in the pouring rain, left hand loose at his side and right hand clenched around something. His clothes had long ago soaked up as much rainwater as they could. Now they clung to his shoulders like a cloak of grief and wrapped his legs like chains. Evening darkness shrouded the forest clearing. He stood alone—a solitary pillar holding up the thundering sky.He turned a wet face to the heavens. The only way to tell the tears apart from the rain was the way they left salt on his lips. Raindrops spattered a silver symphony against the canopy of leaves.I sang my princess fast asleep . . .The tune played out for a bar or two before he even realized he was humming it again. He swallowed hard, then sang a phrase, the words coming as naturally as breath but as painfully as vinegar in a wound.She was my dream come true.He should have known better than to believe that anything from the Realm of Dreams could last here in the bitter world. Should have known better, and yet . . .And yet she had brimmed with such reckless life and warmth that this world had seemed transitory in comparison, a wisp of a ghost next to a flesh and blood body. He should have known. Dreams come true soon become dreams slain. Hadn’t they all warned him?The next lyric hitched in his throat. He swallowed a sob and lifted his right fist to his lips.Arms wide, he stood on the precipice. His song rolled out over the impenetrable mist below like river-rush and summer-sun. He laughed the lyrics, grinning so wide his face hurt. Somewhere down in the mist, a birdcall voice answered. He paused. She was down there. His princess. His dream. He sang again; she answered again. Beams of light shone up through the mist. He knelt on the edge and sang her up; her song entwined with his in perfect harmony until at last—The mist broke and she alighted on the cliff next to him. His princess. His dream, now true and present and finally here.The song with which he’d brought her into this world had become their song. Its melody wove its way into every conversation, every shared forest path, every adventure. It thrummed in their chests and when he held her hand, he could feel the pulse of it in her fingers. As the months spun lazily by, the lyrics had changed and lengthened, growing more and more beautiful with time. Just like his dream princess. Her laugh put all the forest songbirds to shame. Her eyes outshone the stars.But this world was too small to contain their love. By the time autumn settled in, they had explored every boundary more than once. She grew restless, as did he. This was not home for either of them. This was just in between, the little space dividing worlds. It was not meant to be a world of its own, not really. “Come with me,” he’d begged her. “To my home.”“Is it big?” she had asked. “Is it grand?”She had loved that word—grand. The way she used it dusted off its stuffy connotations and breathed a full, adventurous life into it. Grand. Blue mountains jagging up and falling into the sea—those were grand. Earthy hollows full of moss and musty leaves and shiny beetles—those were grand, too. So were spring rainstorms and pebbly beaches and swooping hawks and star lilies and good secrets and delightful contradictions and the way music was the voice of souls. Grand, every one of them.He had spun her around and grinned into her hazel eyes. “Very big. And very, very grand.”So it was decided. They would go home, where they would have years upon years’ worth of wide open spaces in which to live and love. She had never been beyond the Dream Realm until he’d sung her out. And she’d never been beyond the between. “That’s alright,” he said. “I will sing you there.”But winter arrived early. The portal he’d planned to take her to froze over, buried under four feet of snow. No matter, of course. There was another portal, an ancient one. Rickety with disuse, but just as good as any to be found, he’d told her. Besides, his song would carry her strong and safe.They sang together as they trekked the snowy plains toward that portal.Now, standing in the clearing under the weeping skies, he shivered in remembrance of that icy wind.His song had failed. Rather than singing her safely home, she slipped from his grasp—slipped from his song—and disappeared into oblivion. Her scream still rang in his ears. He swiped rainwater out of his eyes, hoping to erase the image of her terror-stricken face with it.I sang my princess fast asleep.Dreams always died, the others had said. And they were right. He had killed his dream, his princess from the Realm of Dreams. But in that ethereal world, dreams and nightmares were one and the same. Singing her out had rescued her from torment.Little good it had done.Dead dreams returned to the Realm. They fell so deep, no song could ever reach them again.The song stuck in his throat. He sank to his knees there on the soggy grass and let the sobs wrack him. If only he could dissolve in this rain. The wind howled along with his cries. He bowed so low his forehead touched the ground, and there his weeping turned to a scream: “Why?”He pounded the ground with his fist, still tightly wrapped around its precious object. He hunched there, broken, sure his heart would bleed out, until the cries subsided. “Believe me,” he whispered. “I loved you. I didn’t want this to happen.”Oh, Ann Marie, believe me. I loved you.He hauled himself to his feet. Steps heavy, he left the clearing and walked into the forest. The rain slackened to a drizzle as he wove between trees, and as the weather cleared, his pace quickened until he stood on the precipice to the Realm.There on the edge, mist swirling so far below, he finally raised his closed fist and opened his fingers. The pink star lily lay crumpled in his palm. The last thing she had called grand. One flower among a field of blooms, one flower with nothing to set it apart from the rest. Yet Ann Marie had set eyes on it, plucked it, and triumphantly pronounced it the grandest flower she’d ever seen.He could still feel her warm hands tucking the stem into his jacket’s breast pocket. Somehow the flower had lived on, its petals as lush as the day she’d picked it.Carefully, he slipped the flower into his pocket again. He stared down into the mist. Somewhere down there, she suffered a fate worse than death.“It’s a bitter world,” he murmured. “And I’d rather dream.”One step and he plummeted off the edge.I can’t forget you.Oh, Ann Marie, I’ll never forget you.
P.S. In favor of doing a quality Subplots and Storylines post on Sunday, I won't be posting on Saturday. S&S tends to get rather long anyway, so I'm sure you patient questers (who spend your days trekking mountain ranges and battling dragons and searching high and low for legendary objects of power) won't mind terribly.