Strings

by Darke Conteur


They shimmer with the brilliance of a rainbow!

Drawn to places where humans gather, Lyre was enthralled by the glow that emanated from the crowd in the clinic. Her ethereal body, masked from eyes that could not see beyond the veil, moved silently through the crowd, occasionally pausing to examine the multifaceted strings of light that traveled the length of their bodies and erupted in an explosion of radiance at the crown of their head. This was their energy, their life-force. It fed the universe and in return she would whisper words of inspiration that fuelled their passion for life.

A glow from the entrance caught her attention. A new aura entered the mix. A golden hue muted by a silver shimmer that indicated incredible talent. She recognized the aura immediately; it was one she’d placed there just after the child was born.

Energy radiated off the male human in waves. It had been over twenty years since she last saw John Dubois. A small child born to poor parents, he looked older than his twenty-odd years. Scruffy, with unkempt hair that hung down over a gaunt face. His deep-set blue eyes were careful not to look directly at anyone. Instead, they hid behind several strands of long stringy hair.

A nurse picked up a clipboard and pen and walked over to the waiting area as he rested a worn guitar case on the floor. He acknowledged her presence with a quick glance as she handed him forms to fill out. Lyre was curious. An out-patient clinic for recovering addicts was the last place she thought he’d come to. Especially with the talent she’d bestowed upon him.

“I don’t need to fill that out,” he said, picking at his fingers. “I was here the other day.”

Lyre noticed the nails on one hand were bitten close to the quick, while the other was carefully manicured. A tell-tale sign of a classical guitarist.

The nurse looked him over. “Oh, and what’s your name?”

“Ben. Ben Fleck.”

The aura around John shimmered brightly for a moment. He was being creative, but Lyre puzzled at why he would lie about his name. He pulled out a prescription and handed to her.

“You’re a patient of Dr. Collette?”

“Yeah, he said you could hook me up with some stuff?”

She walked back over behind the check-in counter, set the clipboard down next to a network computer, and sat down. Typing in the name BEN FLECK brought up his file with its history of addiction. “Ah, here you are, Mr. Fleck,” she said, pulling up his medical chart. “I see you’re a new outpatient.”

“Yeah.” He moved to the counter, glancing around nervously. “Like I said, I was here the other day.”

“Rules, Mr. Fleck,” she said, handing back the piece of paper. “I can’t just hand over morphine without checking the file first. And I’m going to need to see some picture ID.” She stood up walked away from the desk.

Lyre was disheartened. He had showed so much promise twenty years ago. His spirit felt so strong! She wondered what went wrong.

He watched nervously as the nurse removed the medication from a locked cabinet. Two vials of morphine and two syringes. At least he was getting treatment. Perhaps the drug helped him to create?

The nurse turned around and reached for a paper bag. “I need to see some picture ID.”

John kept his gaze low as he fumbled through his pockets. “I got it here, somewhere.”

Lyre knew being a musical genius would have its problems. The need to create could become an obsession. She remembered a young Amadeus and how much potential he held, but no matter how many times she whispered in his ear, he chose to ignore her.

As a Muse, she was forbidden to interfere directly with the lives of her charges. She had to respect their actions and decisions. Her job was to keep the creative energies of the universe flowing, to nourish the souls of Humans. It nearly destroyed her to watch Amadeus descended into madness and die.

“Mr. Fleck?”

A look of panic washed across John’s face as he ran his fingers through his hair. He turned and hurried to his guitar, hastily grabbing it before racing out the door.

Curiosity filled Lyre as images of her lost bard flashed through her mind. Whatever John was doing, she had to know.

She moved silently through the wall and out into the alley. A few coloured strings of other beings floated around her, but not a sign of John’s shimmering gold. Radiant glows from the main road tugged at her and she floated toward the busy street. If she were John, she’d want to disappear into fast-moving crowds.

All around her, auras from passing pedestrians glowed and mingled like colours of a rainbow, with John’s distinct golden aura shimmering several yards down the street.

She followed him and at the corner saw him strumming his guitar on the other side of the street. It was a familiar tune, one she hadn’t heard in many years. It called to her, as it did centuries ago in another land. He strummed his guitar with an almost prodigy sense. An uneasy feeling washed over Lyre as she watched him play. In the daylight he looked older than he should, sickly, pale, and she wondered if this was the result of his addiction.

Her worries melted as he continued to play. She watched his fingers gently caress the fret board, dashing up and down the neck of the guitar; barely playing one cord before repositioning themselves into another formation. He plucked the strings with a tenderness reserved for lovers, combining notes in ways they’d never been heard.

All around her, small fragments of coloured strings splintered off from their core and drifted away. A few came in contact with other strands and fused to create a new colour before fading, while others came into contact with people, and Lyre noted their own strands grew brighter and stronger from the encounter. His music fed their souls, and their souls fed the universe.

Lyre closed her eyes and listened to his music. When he finished, several people dropped coins and bills into a beat-up guitar case, the felt lining torn and stained, with a cardboard sign stating ‘Money 4 Food’.

Invisible to the crowds, Lyre crossed the street and stood next to a well-dressed man. She leaned close to his ear and whispered, then stepped back and watched as he removed a five-dollar bill from his pocket and put it in John’s guitar case. John nodded his appreciation and a fragment of a pale yellow string drifted off the man and was absorbed by Lyre.

Several of his audience stepped away as he began another song. The bitter-sweet melody carried on the wind, allowing Lyre to peer into his soul and feel the sadness he carried with him.

He is so talented. Why is he in pain?

When it was over, she watched him count the change at the bottom of his case, and then stuff it into his coat pocket. Lyre smiled at the tenderness as he gently placed the guitar back inside, tucking the shoulder strap along the one side of the case and placing picks and other assorted small items in pockets along the side.

He picked up the case and headed down the street and Lyre followed, pushed on by the curiosity of his sorrow. What drove him to play such sad melodies? What tormented his soul so that it reflected in his body?

He led her to a rough part of town, and down an ally Lyre knew all too well. More than once she’d witnessed the bodies of addicts removed from this place and seen their colours evaporate into the universe.

Several doors down the musician stopped. The transaction was brief; just long enough for the money from the guitar case change hands, exchanged for a small package that fit into the palm of his hand. John turned from the door and walked deeper into the alley, disappearing around a corner.

Lyre ventured into the alley and found him resting on the ground, his back against a dumpster. Already the nicotine yellow tubing was tied off around his upper left arm, the syringe filled with a brown substance, poised to jab into a vein already too weak from a line of punctures.

Her heart sank at the course John’s life had taken. Only now, in his calm state, could she see the grey of his life-force that lay hidden within his aura. It couldn’t happen again. She couldn’t lose another young bard.

Lyre stepped through the veil, the ethereal winds transforming her into the likeness of the nurse from the clinic. “You don’t have to do this.”

His glared came through greasy hair, until a glimmer of recognition lit up his face. “Hey, you’re the woman from the clinic.” His expression changed to concern. “Why did you follow me? Did you see?”

“Yes, I saw you buy the heroin.”

“Yeah?”

She nodded.

“Are you gonna rat me out?”

“I should.” Her tone was harsh, but she was concerned. “Then maybe you could get the help you need.” She stepped closer to him. “You don’t have to live like this. You’ve been given a wonderful gift. You just have to let it take hold and it will bring you rewards beyond your wildest dreams!”

“My wildest dreams?” he questioned, his hand visibly shaking as his eyes looked past her. “I don’t dream. Not anymore. Music is all I can think about. The notes, the rhythm. They fill my mind night and day. I can’t focus on anything. I can’t even hold down a job or go to school.” His eyes pleaded for understanding. “This is the only way I can find some peace from the noise in my head.”

Noise? How could he regard his beautiful music so harshly?

She bent down on one knee. “You need to control it. Tame the wild passion that is your creative soul. Don’t let it bend your will. Make it bend to yours!”

Her words fell away as the young man jabbed the syringe into his flesh, pushing the tip deep into his vein. Frantic, Lyre reached out to grab the needle, but ethereal winds rose up, transforming her arm into a non-corporeal limb that kept her from grabbing hold.

A euphoric expression washed over his face as the contents of the needle emptied into his body. He relaxed against the dumpster. Lyre saw the sliver shimmer begin to fade as twinkles of light broke free and drifted skyward.

A chill gripped the alley as all colour faded to grey. Lyre was still as shadows rose up from the ground, churning into billowing black clouds that blocked out any ray of light. A cloaked figure emerged. Wisps of black smoke trailed off from behind it. It glided toward her and she could feel the cold grip of death descend into the alley.

Tyre looked down at John, the light slowly fading from his eyes.

“I am in luck.” The raspy voice held an echo as though spoken in a tunnel. “It is a rare occurrence when I cross paths with a Muse.” The black hood slowly turned to face the musician. “I assume this creature was one of your charges?”

Lyre nodded, and lowered her head. “Aye, he was. His music was my gift for his soul. I thought he was strong enough to control it.”

“Do I detect a hint of remorse?”

“There is always regret when one passes from this life.”

“Regret nothing, Muse,” the Reaper said, as more of the shimmer vanished. “These creatures are frail and sometimes not meant to bear such a gift. Reclaim your offering, before it disappears into the fabric of the universe.”

Lyre nodded, her nursing uniform dissolved into a long white robe that flowed on the currents of an other-worldly breeze. She bent down and extended her index finger, placing it on the crown of the young man’s head. Slowly, she raised her arm; revealing a golden string attached to the tip of her finger. It pulsed to the rhythm of the faint sounds of a guitar, of a song she heard not that long ago.

She spun her finger in a clock-wise motion twisting the string into a corkscrew, as the last few notes disappeared on the breeze. With her free hand she removed a small knitted cap from a pocket and placed the thread gently inside, allowing it to coil at the bottom of the cap. She tucked the hat back inside her garment and the robe softened back into her uniform. She took one more look at the young man, staring into his lifeless eyes, and then turned and left the alley.

Hours later, Lyre stood next to the small bassinet in a maternity ward. The room hummed with machinery attached to a female child born too early. She smiled at the child’s determination to live; the tiny chest rose and fell with each shallow breath.

She reached into her pocket and removed the small knitted cap, gently placing it over the newborn’s head. At once the hat shone, its light spread down the length of the infant’s body, engulfing her in a golden hue. Lyre kissed her index finger and gently touched the centre of the baby’s forehead.

Instantly the light drew into the child, as Lyre bent down and whispered softly. “Follow your heart, young one. Tame my gift and follow the call of your destiny.”


Copyright © 2012 by Darke Conteur

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