Unfinished Symphony, page 9
She watched him mouth the words; the sound was muted as if coming from a great distance.
“Don’t touch the wall” he said as he stepped towards her with his arms raised, ready to catch her.
Polly felt her body tense as a crescendo of voices, a crescendo of songs, assaulted her senses. She knew none of the voices but felt connected to them all and she listened as the songs of their lives echoed around her head. Each had a story to tell, each had a song to sing. They sang of their joy, of their pain, all of them in unison. A beautiful snow storm, each song a unique snowflake.
Polly tipped back into darkness as the flow of emotion overwhelmed her, a kaleidoscope of colours filled her vision and a rushing noise filled her ears. Then nothing.
"Polly. Miss Polly are you okays. Can you hear me young miss?"
Polly opened her eyes and found herself on the floor of the cavern gazing up the two ginormous black holes of Robin’s nose.
"I should have been warning you young miss. You can never be touching that wall, this here is purgatory’s cave."
"My head, what happened? Who is Purgatory? What were all those voices? They sounded so sad and so lost. They wanted me to know how sorry they all were." Polly sat up and rubbed the side of her head.
"Just rest here a minute young miss” Robin said as he sat down opposite Polly on crossed legs. "This cave has always been Mr Purgatory's and I've a feeling it most likely always will be. I don't rightly know who he is but this here is the place where people's songs come when they have stuff to work out. You know how songs can become tainted, well, here they remove that taint. Take out the bad bits of their songs, gives them a chance to fill the silence with the sounds of those that be lovin' and missin' them. Sometimes you people can be so busy singin' and listenin' to your own music that you forget about the music you make in others. Miss Polly some songs can be so melancholic that just ‘earing them breaks your heart, but these people have good souls and they enrich the songs of those around them. They makes others tinkle, so, Mr Purgatory shows them these songs and the music they have left in others and he lets them borrow it back. Borrows it from their friends and their family and even sometimes from their pets and when their song is complete, well then they moves on."
"Move on where?"
"I don’t rightly know young miss. This is my home is all I know, once a song has stayed a while then they leaves. Goes a flutter. Look."
Robin pointed up to the top of the room. Wisps of colour floated out from the top of the wall. They twirled and danced, every time they crashed into each other a tiny symphony could be heard and then the colours would pop and vanish.
"Just like the well?" Polly asked.
"No miss, not like the well at all. People in the well aren't ready to leave. They use their song as a type of magic, a magic to keep their loved ones safe. No, the songs in here are just unfinished symphonies is all."
Polly stood up and his vision swam in front of her eyes. Robin, her friend, was there supporting here with his arms. Making sure she never fell.
"No wonder your head hurts young miss, all these questions leaking out of your mouth, you'll be havin' no brain left soon. Might be best-ways if you have one of these here worms. Hope you don't mind but I kept some hidden away for just such an emergency." Robin pulled the long rubbery insect from inside his pocket. "Full of protein you know, honey of the earth I calls them."
Polly shook her head as he dangled the worm in front of her. Robin shrugged his shoulders and then popped the worm into his mouth, chewing with obvious delight.
Polly began to walk on unsteady legs, her arm reached out and the wall glowed orange in anticipation of her touch. She decided against using that crutch, she swayed on her feet and Robin was their holding her wrist, she looked down at his huge grinning face.
"Come now miss, we be just takin' one step at a time." Robin guided her through Purgatory's cave. "It's not too far now young miss, not too far at all."
Each step he took was accompanied by the noise of the battle raging above. He left the bottom of the well by the only exit and felt himself picking up speed as the passageway angled downwards. He could taste the song on the air, the sweet notes of melancholy hung in the air, clotting the walls of the cave. He stopped and sampled their taste. The notes had changed, their sweetness even more pronounced as they were dappled with small bursts of hope. He licked his lips with relish, he was so close.
The passageway twisted and turned and rose and fell. There was no danger of him becoming lost, he could follow her now with his eyes closed. The tall unusual man began to dance, a strange sound come from his mouth. He skipped and clapped and laughed. There was no escape.
The air in the cave was stirring, the damp air pushed against him as he whooped and cheered, singing about songs he had stolen, tastes he had sampled. Abaddon could feel the temperature beginning to rise the further on he pushed. The passageway began to taper, forming a long thin cave. Abaddon found himself pausing on the threshold, suddenly afraid to cross. Heat was pulsing from the walls and he watched as green ghost lights pulsed, shimmering on the walls of the cave.
She had come this way, the air was thick with her taste. Abaddon peered around the room as confusion wrinkled his face. Never had he travelled so deep, his hands fidgeted and he paced back and forth. He leaned forward, something was wrong. Her song vanished, it was like the cave was masking her. She came this way, she must have. There was nowhere else to go. He gazed around, what was this magic?
Abaddon gritted his teeth, he had travelled much too far. He stepped into the room, a dry wind assaulted him as the colours on the wall changed from green to burnt orange. He pushed on into the wind as his hat became dislodged and flew out behind him. He turned his head to look over his shoulder and watched his clothes billowing out behind, his hat tumbling away and out of the room. He turned and forced himself against the wind, on and on he pushed as his skin began to become stretched. Folds of skin began to trail in his wake, elongating alongside his dark cloak.
He bowed his head and pushed on as colours began to stream away from his body finding a welcome in the sanctuary of the walls. The wind screamed in his ears as it buffeted his body. Mists of colour began to form ahead of him, they swooped and swarmed him, his insides pulled apart as the songs he had stolen forced their way out. He pushed on as the attack continued and a strange high pitch wailing accompanied the noise of the howling wind. His songs, his precious songs.
With one last final push he burst forth from the cave like a new born lamb spat into the world. His body hit the floor and in the silence he realised the strange high pitch wailing had originated from him. He turned and looked back at the cave, a blue mist swirled faster and faster dancing with the orange glow of the cave. In the shadows formed by the dancing colours he recognised his victim, they stood mocking him.
Abaddon stood and screamed and they laughed at his anger. Storming over to the cave he began to lash out, swinging his hands. The colours danced out of his way, twisting and twirling and changing their shape till they settled on a likeness of the beavers. The colony of beavers flew through the air mocking him, his arms propelled by anger swung and swung but the beavers continued to dance out of his way. They flew to the edge of the cave and then as one they turned and flew towards Abaddon.
Abaddon turned and tried to flee. He started to run but he felt himself lifted into the air as the beavers each grabbed a limb. They spun him through the air faster and faster and then tossed him out of the cave.
Abaddon felt all the wind leave his body as he hit the rocky floor. He looked back into the room, the beavers glided through the air, pulling tongues and blowing raspberries. His songs, collected over thousands of years, all gone.
Abaddon closed his eyes. She would pay. So would that creature she had befriended. Once his strength had returned he would come back here, he would teach them all a lesson. Abaddon stood and welcomed the return of an
This was it. This was hunting.
Finally, a prey worthy of his attention.
Polly's legs still felt heavy, with every step she felt her strength fading. A heavy weight had settled, even coming to rest on her heart. Robin did his best to support Polly and he guided her every step. She felt so weary, she had no energy, and each step was a personal battle to overcome. Her breath was coming in slow ragged gasps.
"Robin I don't think I can go on" her head turned to meet the eyes of her friend. Weariness making her speak slow and uncertain. “Just a minute for a rest. I just feel so tired."
"I know young miss but how's about we make a deal. When we gets to the room of reflection we can have a sits down and rest a good long while. I'll even go gets us some nice juicy fats worms. Now that sounds good don’t it?" Robin said as his hand rubbed over his small paunch. He looked at her, his friend, his brave friend. He feared she had given too much of herself to Mr Purgatory, listening to the songs, the woe they sang, it seemed to weary her.
"Ok" was all Polly could manage as a reply. She stumbled on, her friend Robin a crutch that guided her. She staggered as her foot caught on a sharp outcropping. Robin transformed himself and nuzzled her hand. He lay in front of her and Polly fell onto his back, her arms and legs angling down his flanks.
Robin felt her weight sink into his back and tiny snores began to tickle the back of his neck. He couldn't run, there was a chance Polly could fall off. He trotted on and let Polly sleep on his back. He knew the tall man would be catching them up. So be it, if it's a fight he be wanting, that's what he be getting.
The tunnel began to taper down until at the end Robin could see a wooden door. Strange hieroglyphs adorned the edges of the frame, vegetation sprouted out around the base and sides of the door like tiny green hairy orbs. Vines twisted over the face of the rock and tiny purple flowers blossomed. Life fighting back in the dark damp cave.
Robin trotted over to the door and as he approached the glyphs began to glow red. The room of reflection. With great care he placed Polly down onto the floor of the cave. Their journey was over, he lay down next to Polly and curled his body around her. Polly sank into his warm fur and he closed his eyes.
"Robin I am so tired."
"It’s okay Miss Polly, you sleeps now."
Polly welcomed sleep and with each breath her body became lighter and lighter. She started to lift off the floor, floating she gazed down at herself, at the giant dog curled around her sleeping body. She could hear music calling out to her. As light as the morning breeze she drifted down the passageway and watched with wonder as music seemed to be coming off the face of the rock. An ancient sound, a low reassuring rumble. She looked closely at the rock face, little songs erupted from the cracks in the rock. Tiny insects, their own individual melodies adding to the natural sound of the rock. Ugly insects transformed into virtuosos by the songs they were singing, the songs of their lives, of struggle and strife in the bowels of the earth.
Everything was transformed, the mundane became magical. A plain old rock face was lit up by the music as the sound became colours and filled the cave with pulsing light. The water dripping off the walls became a steady beat as it hit the floor and tricked away to re-join itself. Incandescent flashes.
Now, Polly understood. Even deep in the bowels of the earth beauty was everywhere and everything. All around her the song of life played. Songs of joy and sadness swirling together, complimenting each other. A patch of darkness, absence of all sound entered into the cavern. An empty vacuum. She saw him, no longer afraid. Polly knew what she must do.
His pace began to slow, his heavy breathing bounced off the walls of the cave and sounding like an angry dragon he entered the final chamber.
Abaddon gazed at the girl and the Pooka protecting her. They lay in front of an old wooden door, the only other way out of the cave. He spread his arms wide and breathed deep, drinking in her intoxicating song.
The Pooka raised his head and bared his teeth. Abaddon smiled and felt the crack spread across the dry parchment of his face.
Robin raised his head and bared his teeth. He watched the man spread his arms wide and smiled revealing his foul and rotted teeth.
"Polly, you must be waking now. He has found us." As he spoke he caressed Polly's face with his paw. She opened her eyes and smiled up at him, cupping his paw with her own hand.
"It's okay Robin, I'm not scared. I know now what needs to be done." She climbed to her feet and stretched her back. No longer the vulnerable child. "Thank you for everything you've done for me but you must go. I have to do this on my own."
"But Miss Polly I ..."
"Please Robin. I must enter the room on my own. Don't worry I will see you again" Polly said as she ruffled his fur.
"Miss Polly I swore to protect you." Robin hunched low and growled at Abaddon. The tall man spread his arms wide and beckoned him forward. Robin knew he was no match. He looked up at Polly who smiled a reply. Go she mouthed and he could see in her eyes she wasn't afraid.
Robin turned to face the tall man he felt the hackles on his back rise, charging forward he bared his teeth, a loud growl filling the silence. The tall man, with his arms outstretched revealed crooked teeth as he smiled and planted his feet ready to welcome the Pooka into his arms.
The gap between the two closed and the Pooka bounded into the air. Robin’s body began to shrink and change as he left the floor of the cave and wings sprouted from his side. The transformation complete he soared upwards to the top of the cave. He flew high above the outstretched arms of Abaddon who cursed loudly as he jumped, trying to snare his prey with his outstretched arms. While the tall man was distracted Polly turned and opened the old wooden door, without looking back she fled through the embossed doorway into the room of reflection.
Abaddon felt his fingers grasp at the empty air as he stretched, trying to take hold of the Pooka. His body juddered as he landed back on the cave floor and he turned, watching the Pooka flee down the passageway. The girl was trapped, there was nowhere else to go. He could catch that little Pooka first and make a meal of him, a fine starter he would make. No, he had come for the girl. He had delayed too long. If only he had caught her earlier he would still have all his precious songs.
Abaddon turned, the cave was empty and the door stood ajar. He tilted back his head to sample her song one last time before he claimed it. It was gone, not a trace of it lingered. His eyes darted around the cavern as he searched. Tricked by that filthy Pooka, wait, there was no way she could have passed him. He looked to at the ruins of the old door that swung on rusted hinges, filling the silence with a mournful song. The hieroglyphs glowed red and he realised that the magic was masking her song. Keeping it hidden. He walked forwards and entered into the room of reflection.
Blue mist swirled around, drips of water echoed and his eyes swam as he looked around the grotto. Stalagmites like giant jewels, adorned the room. It seemed impossibly large and small at the same time, he felt confined, he could no longer judge the distance. He tried to take a step forward but his foot seemed to dangle and sway about in the whole of eternity. He tried to steady himself with his arms, but they seemed to stretch on forever in either direction. He closed his eyes tight.
Abaddon opened his eyes and his vision still swam, he felt like he was underwater. He must have been holding his breath because his body shook and screamed as he took in a lungful of ragged air that was so sharp it hurt his teeth. He focused on his prey, the young girl seemed unaware of his presence as she knelt in front of a large stalagmite, and a fine mist swirled and clothed her in
Abaddon forced his jaws together and felt the top of his front tooth break as he gritted his teeth, he stepped forward, trusting his foot would find purchase on the floor. Left foot, breathe, right foot, breathe, left foot, breathe. His eyes watched his feet move over the rock floor as he advanced on his prey. He looked up. The girl was moving further and further away with each step. He took another step and further away she moved.
Abaddon started to run, each step taking him further and further away till the girl was a small spot in the distance. Sweat beaded on his head and his clothes clung to his moist back. Gasping he turned, looking for the wooden door. All he could see was the crystal structures jutting out from the cave floor and ceiling. He turned, more stalagmites. He turned, more crystals. He turned, faster and faster. Dizzy he reached out and his hand brushed against one of the crystal stalagmites. It began to hum in anticipation of his touch and he watched as visions began to coalesce onto the surface.
He watched his brother bring him a tiny wooden boat he had made. The delight on his face as they set off to sail it on the tiny river at the bottom of the hill.
Abaddon felt a heaviness, a stinging in his heart. An old emotion. What was it?
The proud faces of their parents as the two brothers tied a rag around the mast to act as a sail. Abaddon watched his little brother launch it out onto the small river. Felt his brother’s embrace and his love echoing down the ages.
"No" he whispered.
Abaddon picked up a rock and sent it hurtling through the sky to land with a splintering crash. Destroying the tiny vessel.
His brother’s pain wrenched at his heart, his parents disappointment twisting the wound. The tears of his brother stung more than a thousand lashes.
The vision swirled and was replaced by his first victim. He felt the child kings trust turn to fear.
The child king listened, trusting his every word as he spoke the incantation. The eyes of the child king dreamy as he swirled, the magic moving his body to the strange beat. His pupils grew wide as the music moved him faster and faster, his body screaming out in pain.