An old story, one also published elsewhere on the web. I need time to think of what my next blog post will be about (suggestions most welcome). If you decide to read it, I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you might even spare the time to tell me what you think. 😉
The tall grass brushes against my skin; across my face and my bare limbs. The ground is cold and firm underneath me, and if I listen I can almost hear the little ants moving inside it, I can feel those that have surfaced crawling over the backs of my hands. The feeling sends small shocks shooting up the nerves of my arm. Crickets chirp around me. The grass whistles in the chilly wind and rustles at the movement of a small animal.
Not far away, I can hear the roar of the rushing river. I don’t know why I come here. It is over, finished. We are safe.
But I return every night. And when I stay and listen, listen hard, listen as if my life depended on it I hear not the night-birds chirping, not the gurgling of the river, not the life in the earth and air around me. Instead I hear that ghost-song, that beautiful music which filled my ears a fortnight ago and filled me with a longing I’d never known. I hear the loud sound of other children clapping in a rhythmic beat, I feel the shudder of the earth as they stamp their feet in a midnight dance. Their singing drowns out the other sounds as it reaches a height of perfect harmony, and then fades under the improved beat of the dancing, of the clapping. And they sing. They sing of the Piper, of the mountains. They sing of cold earth and white snow, of bare feet and the falling sun. They sing of Him, for Him.
And at times, when these memories return, I too want to sing. I want to clap, to dance. I want to throw away my life, my loves, and throw myself into the depths of the roaring water of the Weser, to join the beauty of the Piper’s song.
I’m not the only one. There’s the girl, too, the deaf girl. I know she is nearby, and I know she remembers the same as I do. That she wants the same as I do. Because neither of us will ever forget, not the events of that night. And neither of us will ever be the same.
I stand up, and amble over to where I know she is. With each step I dig my toes deep into the earth; I can feel it getting softer as I move closer to the roaring water. I feel how it shakes the Earth, but I feel too the girl’s agitation. Is the memory stronger for her? Maybe she dances already, losing the fight against temptation. And as she dances, she stares into the depths of the water…
Can she see the others?
I reach out for her hand, and when I find it, I feel its calluses, its wrinkles. Her mother is a milkmaid. She helps often.
Does she look at me, I wonder? Does she speak? But what would be the point, what would be the point when she cannot hear her own words?
She moves her hand, pulling mine down with it. She pulls so that I am kneeling, so that I know she is kneeling, and she moves our hands so that the spray of the water hits our bare skin like grains of sand.
We both long for that sweet, sweet music. And I know that if we waited, we would hear it again once more, one day when our bodies are hunched over and our bones brittle. But I can’t wait that long and, I think, neither can she.
I grip her hand too, and plunge the both of them in the water. The cold bites at my skin and cools my blood, but it refreshes me also as it rushes against my hand. It makes me alive, and I laugh even though my voice is lost in the wind and the roar of the river.
The girl doesn’t laugh, but she smiles; I feel the curve of her lips with my right hand. They are rough and cut in places, unlike her cheek which is smoother. Her forehead is bruised, and her hair—
She takes my hand, and replaces it on the ground.
My other hand is numb with the cold of the rushing water and the grasp of hers, and releasing it from the contact of both I stand up, wobbling only slightly. I also realise that I am still laughing, and something tells me that the girl is still smiling. She uses me to stand up and then we walk over the soft earth, hands wet and held together again.
And we dance. We stretch our toes and dig them into the cold ground, and then we start to skip to the left, to the right. I swing my free arm, and I sing a song that has no words. The both of us twist and we turn; she lets go of my hands and starts to clap to the beat of my song. With each thump my heart beats faster; with each twist my frenzy increases.
I think I can hear it. I think I can hear the sweet music, above my singing—almost screaming, now—and above the girl’s clapping; it floats to me on the wind, in the roar of the river. I can hear the calling. And I long for the Piper.
From nowhere, the voices of nightingales join mine, and the wind blows harsh, bringing the smells of jasmine and myrrh to my nose. From somewhere distant I hear the blare of trumpets, and the ground shudders with the stamping of a thousand ghostly feet.
And I run.
I run blind—I don’t let my toes feel the earth, but lightly skip over it. I don’t care for the grass against my feet, for the wind against my skin, for the biting cold. I care nothing for these things, and my only wish is to be free of them, to find the Piper. And yet, and yet—
Where is the girl?
The song of the nightingales, the scents of the wind, the trumpets and the stamping and clapping cease. The night is silent. But the river rushes and roars, and as I step closer, closer, I hear the gurgle of a break on its surface. And then nothing.
And then a hand is on my shoulder, and as the scents return, as the music resumes, as the ground shudders once more, I see the Piper’s face and hear his song, and the ground is no longer beneath my feet.
The water is cold as I shatter its surface, as I plunge into the icy depths below.