Nighttime Nightingale

Preface: Part of a collection of short stories revolving around a port town and a lighthouse. If you haven’t read the last one: http://wp.me/p6oCGV-pe

I pressed my ears against the wind to try and hear the song of the night that filled the air. I’d been chasing the song for the past week, trying to find the source of that lull-full melody. It was a short hum that sliced through the air, and reached into my ears as a blissful trance. It filled my senses just as much as the darkened sky and the street lights. I didn’t know why at the time I felt so adamant on chasing that sound, but I knew that if I didn’t I would be haunted.

I waited as I pressed my ears against the wind again. I listened for any semblance of that night time melody. I would hear the quiet lull of the ocean some place far beyond me. I would hear the sounds of night time construction. I would hear the shuffling of recent bar dwellers. If I looked far enough, I would see the faint light of the lighthouse that stood tall and firm on the edge of this island. I was jealous of that lighthouse. It stood with all its convictions, and fought against all that wanted it to be toppled. I wanted to find that melody.

When the sound of that melody would enter my ears, my entire body would spark. I would move my head instinctively towards the direction it came, and my feet would take a step. I would land on the concrete sidewalk, the coldness of it permeating through my shoes, and I would shuffle the hands in my pockets.

I began following that melody, brushing away strands of hair that threatened to throw me blind. I felt my breathing accelerate, my body warming up irregularly in the coming winter, and I would adjust my scarf. Once the humming ended I stopped. I took a few moments to survey my surroundings, but I knew that the port town I lived in wasn’t that big yet. I wouldn’t have to worry about getting lost.

Even if the melody of the night that I heard was a trick, I still pressed on. The thick of night, and the cold of winter wouldn’t stop me, and so I kept walking, following the faint melody that gave me my solemn enclave. Even if it was a trick, following that trick gave me some semblance of hope, and that hope carried me throughout the day.  It was the only thing on my mind, the only thing I could keep in my head as I watched the town around me revolt in the changing gears of the world. I wanted nothing of it, but I lived in it. I followed the melody until I found myself staring at the forest leading to the lighthouse.

It was a small forest that many held dear to them. The land beyond that point was a large patch of green that managed to avoid desecration. The sound seemed to ebb and flow from the entrance of the forest, and I waited with my ears open. The melody of the night erupted as I felt myself slip and I jolted myself awake. The sound emanated from some place beyond the forest, and I took a step in, adjusting my scarf. I felt my entrapped hair shift, and I watched my white breath dissipate. I took my hands out of my pockets, and brushed away branches as I stepped into the darkened forest.

The melody of the night seemed to reverberate in the forest, causing every sound to blend into the hum, turning itself into nature’s orchestra. I couldn’t tell which direction to walk, and so I followed the dirt road heading into the lighthouse. My eyes begun adjusting itself to the darkened forest in ways that I didn’t think was possible. I began seeing much more than the branches threatening my face, I could now see the rocks on the ground, the broken leaves and shattered nests that littered the forest. I tried to peer over the cover of the trees, only to find myself encased in this world. The hum continued as I walked closer to the end, and once I had stepped out of the forest, with the lighthouse in full view, the hum stopped. The sounds of the ocean replaced the night time melody and I looked ahead to the lighthouse, watching as its light beckoned to the past.

I wondered if the melody of the night had been the ocean all along, that the wind had drawn the salty currents towards my sullen ears. Even if it was, I wouldn’t have been sad, in fact, I would have been more grateful that I could meet the object of my hope. I would go on living with that in my head, cheerful of the mystery of the night time melody, and desolate that my mind would be free from that lull.

I walked towards the edge of the island, with the lighthouse to my side, and traced the crashing waves. The washing of the waves against the island reminded me of rice being washed in a bowl, and my stomach began grumbling in tandem. I smiled, leaned back, and planted myself into the ground of the lighthouse, wondering if my mother was waiting. I smiled when I thought about how mad I would make her, and I smiled knowing that she brought me into this town of revolving gears, of destroyed sanction, and of the coming grey smog. I pressed my hands towards the lighthouse, and watched as I was just a few inches away from touching its lonely base. I tried to stretch my arms outward, to push my body to touch the base of the lighthouse, but my body remained stagnant. The sounds of the ocean washed over me, and the sound of the hum resurfaced. I retracted my hand, and got up to brush the dirt on my clothes. I then turned, adjusted my scarf, and began walking home.

 

 

 

 

Construction

I went looking for my sister who hadn’t come back in two days. I knew she was a strong kid, but it didn’t discount the fact that she hadn’t told anyone, or even left a message of her disappearance. It took two days to convince my parents to let me out and to find her on my own. When I was out, I realized what they were doing, and why they wanted everyone to stay inside. It wasn’t like they could keep us from going anywhere, but that they really wanted to. When I stepped outside into the streets, I heard the sounds of  digging, and the sounds of mechanical arms all humming in unison. It filled the air, and every step I took, I could feel the weight of the noise drag me down. I felt like my head was going to fill and that I was going to scream to let all the noise out. My entire body was shaking to figure out what caused all this noise, and I wondered if my sister, who was filled with curiosity, may have wandered to find the source of this noise as well.

I began tracing the noise, taking steps towards the sounds that filled the streets. When I got close, the sound grew in intensity, and I had to trudge forward in hopes of finding my sister. The news came quickly one day, when they told everyone through a popular news station to stay inside for the next week. They didn’t give out much information as to why we should stay inside, nor did they really enforce that either. Most parents would be afraid with all of the flashing red and the fake urgency the news casters showed, and they would ground their kids for the remainder of the week. At least, that’s what I thought they were going for. People on the internet around my city had their own theories, but I couldn’t buy into any of them. I didn’t think there was an alien strike, nor did I think that we were heading into another world war. The thought of a nuclear bomb striking was frightening, but it was unlikely. I thought of taking my phone out to document what was actually happening outside, but I thought against it. As much as I didn’t believe them, they probably wouldn’t believe me, even if I did take pictures, even if I did record the noise that threatened to eat at my mind. They would simply tell me, that anyone could have did it.

I drew close, eventually wandering my way to the outskirts of the city, to what most would call the dregs of the land. It wasn’t such a long walk that I would tire from it, but it was definitely something to wonder about considering that the noise had still filled the street I lived on. The dregs were separated from the main city in two parts. There was the slums that sat to my left, where a bunch of outdated homes, bad sewage, and unbound hatred sifted in a pool to form an ocean. To my right was the junkyard, that was fenced off from the rest of the city. I would often see trucks filled with garbage be sent down my street heading into the dregs every week. The sound of the noise originated from the junkyard.

When I went to peek into the junkyard through the fence, I saw hundreds of mechanical towers line the dirt of the area. All of the junk was gone, and what remained were only rudimentary scraps buried in the dirt. The towers were hinged onto a metal base that lay beside pits scattered all across the junkyard. There wasn’t a single worker, but each tower held a drill that would lower itself, start digging, and then resurface. The drill would then detach from the bottom, revealing a scoop, and the tower would lower the mechanical scoop to gather from the hole. All of this amalgamated into a sea of noise, and now that I was closer to the source, I recognized a third sound that came to bleed into the pollution. It was a much higher pitched humming, a sound that none of the other towers made. It sounded like crying, and I scanned the junkyard to find the source. Some towers were beeping red, and they were stalled. The mechanical arm would be suspended in the air, and not until men wearing yellow suits and a yellow hat would appear that they would continue working. I couldn’t see where these men would come from, nor where they disappeared to.

I shook the situation out of my head, and began walking away from the noise, until I noticed in the dirt a red ribbon that was barely hanging for air. It was my sister’s. I knew for a fact that this ribbon was my sister since at the hem of the fabric was a small pin that she always wore with the ribbon. It was a pin that I gave her for her birthday, a pin of goodwill, and a pin to show good fortune. I clasped my hands onto the fence, and without thinking began climbing. I didn’t make much distance until a man in a yellow suit spotted me from someplace within the junkyard and ran over.

“I thought they sent out that message to keep you all in–” I looked down towards the man, who was scratching his head in disbelief.

“So why aren’t you in?” He asked. I sighed and planted myself back onto the sidewalk in front of the fence. I pointed towards the ribbon.

“My sister– No I mean, a little girl. Did you see a little girl come over here by any chance? She’s my sister. I’m looking for her.”

“A little girl? Can’t say I have. Can you?” He had a point. The entire junkyard was clean, and all that remained was the mechanical towers that burrowed into holes in the dirt. If my sister was somewhere in the junkyard, I would have spotted her by now.

“It’s dangerous you know–” he began, “There’s a reason why we wanted you to stay in.”

“Because of the noise?” I had gotten used to the noise, and although it was still irritating, it wasn’t such a nuisance that I would want to stay inside.

“That may be part of it, but saying anymore would go against my job.” He tipped his yellow hat.

“I don’t know what came of your sister, but I definitely haven’t seen anyone wander in, and even if they did, we would catch them. No one’s wandered in, I can tell you that.”

“I see.” I turned around, dejected, and ready to head home to tell my parents that I couldn’t find her. The ribbon may have been a mistake, or maybe, they were hiding something from me, I thought. Ideas of how my sister may have found her way into the junkyard and that they were keeping her sprung up within my mind. I casted those ideas aside.

“But since you’re out here, do you want to know?” The man asked. I turned back to face him. He was smiling, and he took off his yellow hat.

“I’m a worker here sure. But you came all the way here to find your sister right? You can’t go back without something now can you?”

“Even if it is your job?”

“Even if it’s my job. Plus, it’d probably be better to give you some semblance to the truth.”

“Even if people wouldn’t believe in the truth?” He laughed.

“You’re making it awfully hard to talk to, you know that?” I laughed as well.

“So? What’s the deal then?” He sighed, and looked towards the mechanical towers, a wistful longing in his eyes, and his hands formed into fists. The noise of the junkyard began thinning in my head, and I was able to filter all the sounds so that I could better hear his words.

“Why do you think we would want to dig holes?”

“To bury something, right?”

“Right. But that’s up to interpretation. You can bury a lot of things underground.” He crouched and began tracing the dirt with his fingers.

“You can’t plant things here. And if we were burying garbage, then where did it all go?” He stood back up and shook his head.

“If you need to dig a lot of holes and you don’t want people to know about it, then you’d assume we were keeping a secret. But why would we want to keep a secret?”

“It would cause panic if we knew what you were doing?” He nodded. I felt a chill trace my back to the nape of my neck, and I could feel a cold breeze wrap itself around my face. My hands began to slightly tremble, and the sounds of the noise began to resurface.

“But what if we weren’t burying something? What if we were keeping a secret because we weren’t burying something.” Things began falling to place in my mind. I smiled a weak smile, and I saw in his eyes the reflection of the grey sky above us.

“It’s not in my business to say whether what we are doing here is right or wrong. I just have to do it, after all it’s my–”

“Job. It’s your job. ” He smiled and nodded, his hands reaching over to rub his eyes.

“As much as its your job to find your sister and take care of your family. It’s my job to make sure that these things are running. ” A pang of anger welled up within me.

“Even if you don’t like your job?”

“Even if I don’t.” He placed his yellow cap back onto his head and waved. My body fell to pieces, its tension breaking, and the noise began to flood over all my senses. I looked at the red ribbon in the dirt, and clasped my hands onto the fence as if my skin would puncture the rusted metal.

“Also–” The man stopped, and without turning, said to me, “Your sister. She’ll be fine. Once this is all over, you’ll probably see her again. You know how kids are, curious bunch, right? She’ll find her way home, so tell your parents not to worry.” I couldn’t see him from the back, but I knew that he was smiling, and when I looked over to the mechanical towers that were drilling into the Earth, I could also see a smile form.

Northward

I’ve never looked back once ever since I was told to go northward. I carried with me two bags, one slung over my shoulder and one on my back. When I set out to venture north I never really understood why I did so. I simply adhered to the wishes of those who governed me. The greatest sin I have learned is that one should not be disingenuous towards one’s benefactors. Such is the ilk of those who have forsaken the greater beings that rule over this land of fortune. However, now upon my journey, I begin to realize why I was sent out here, and why I so vehemently accept their words as grace.

With my bag over my shoulder I pick up all the garbage I find on my journey. I traverse against walks made from human ingenuity and walks made from human turmoil. I’ve never really understood much of the greater world that still seems to evade my very being, and yet, now upon my journey, I begin to feel tinges of sanctum in this world that I never could before. With every piece of garbage that I carry within my bag, I wonder what had transpired to have caused it to belong where it is. Not everything in this world is preordained, and I question if anything at all is ever preordained. After all, when they tell you to find the red ribbon around your neck, you begin to trace it not realizing that you are making your own threads.  However, I can never formulate any satisfying narrative for why the garbage I pick up off the path I walk had arrived there. Those thoughts seemed to cloud my mind, and every so often I would have to stop in jest of conversation.

“Oh that? That is the product of a great mind that lived once long ago,” I remember one man telling me. I asked him, “What did this great mind do?” The man laughed at me, not in spite, but pure surprise in my unknowing. That only further increased my confusion and curiosity, and so I urged him to tell me what this person had done to warrant such seeming adulation.

“This great mind has done many things. He has shaped the laws of our world, created theorems in which all living things now tread, and popularized the world’s most common path for occupancy.”

“And what might those things be? Those laws and theorems, and what common path?” The man refused to answer me then, and simply told me to move on with my way. I urged him to explain, to implore with me the knowledge that is so seemingly missing from my repertoire, but no matter how much I pleaded, he simply walked away. I scoffed at the man, cursed him, but realized that such a notion was not so unlike what I was used to. Surely then I hadn’t been acculturated to all of the world yet, surely then I was being apoplectic.

With the bag on my back I store all my basic necessities. I consume the primordial amalgamation of human instincts and the amalgamation of nature. To sustain but a single life takes great loss from the world surrounding. I only now upon my journey realize that the more one continues to live on this planet the more one takes away to keep their livelihood. With every morsel and drip which proceeds to further the continuance of my journey I wonder what travesties had occurred in the creation of these conveniences.  Every so often I would stop within a settlement and participate in commerce to obtain the necessities that fill the bag on my back. Doing so in great successions has drawn me towards an appreciation for those that have inevitably been sacrosanct to isolation to create these conveniences. However, I do not know what exactly it is that I appreciate, and every so often I would have to stop within these settlements in jest of conversation.

“You’re asking me about that? Have you no commonality in you?” I remember one man telling me. I shook my head and told him that I had only left for this world recently, and that my journey had unveiled my mind towards the happenstance of everything around me.

“Those who do not know should remain that way. There is no room to teach those who are uninterested.”

“But I am interested. I wish to explore this world going north, and at the same time also learn about this beautiful world.”

“Those are shallow words. Those who seek to know, should seek it themselves.”

“And then what is the point of teachers, of people asking questions if they are condemned?” The man never answered me, told me to be on my way, and insisted that I no longer sully his presence. I never remained in that settlement for much longer, as for the proceeding night I heard whispers in the night, words of violent nature directed towards me. Although I had been treated as so, I still hold my appreciation with great pride.

The tales of my travels can be surmised among one of two situations, either that of interesting garbage that befalls my path, or an interesting morsel that befalls my consumption. Never once had I figured my journey as pertaining ennui. I had always been filled with alacrity to go out on such a venture, such is the reason why I had even left for the north in the first place. If not for my benefactors telling me to go northward, perhaps I would have went either way.

I remember this occasion vividly, the moment that epitomized my journey. I had stumbled upon a small settlement in the forest. It was hidden in an enclave, placed such that it was away from weary eyes. The only reason why I had stumbled upon it in the manner in which I did was pure coincidence. I remember stalking about the settlement, knowing full well that this particular encampment was not welcome to strangers. If it was, it would not be so well hidden in the forest, nor would the guards be actively roaming about in the perimeter. Though the guards who did circle the area didn’t seem like they were trying to keep things out, but rather, they seemed like they wanted to keep something within. I moved about in the bushes as quietly as I could, making great effort in keeping my strides solemn. Something in me sought out to enter the settlement. Whenever given the opportunity I had always enjoyed living among others even if it was only for a brief time. Despite the apparent hostility I sensed pervading the area, I still wanted to know why that had been, I still wanted to know more. It wasn’t until one of the guards left to what I had presumed to be his break that I found a pause in the repetition. I moved out of my hiding and slipped onto one of the nearby homes. I scaled the wall until I could peek out and get a view of the settlement. It was quite barren, but I knew that the settlement bolstered life. There were many homes scattered in the area seemingly at random. Though, one home did come out as more standoffish than the rest, having a barred fence surrounding it and two guards watching the entrance. That home was by the end of the settlement, much too far from the position I was in. I continued to watch until one guard strangely came into the settlement from some place in the forest. That notion piqued my interest, and after he had left my peripheral I followed him into the direction he came from.

I didn’t know what to expect when I followed the path ahead. I didn’t know what it meant to have an establishment detached from the main settlement, but something in me told me that it was nothing good. The very notion of having to be isolated from the main settlement registered in my head as nothing but egregious behaviour. I knew that I was nearing whatever it was that I was following when I heard short shouts come from in front of me. I put in the extra effort to stay quiet as I slowly stalked up through the bushes and peered out. I had never witnessed anything like what I had saw that day. It was a tiny settlement, except I knew that it’s purpose was not to house people, but rather keep them in confinement. There were fences and guards sprawled across the entire area, and from where I peered in, the entrance, was relatively unkempt. I decided to sneak in while I had the chance, and make my way to one of the nearby homes. There didn’t seem to be any one within the settlement other than the odd guard pouring in and out. Most of the action remained at the perimeter of the settlement, where the sounds of voices and shouts filled the area. I couldn’t see much of what was going on in those areas, and so I slowly encroached forward, passing by the home and taking a small peak. It was a minimalistic home, a bed with perhaps some basic standard of living, but nothing more. It was unlike the homes I’d had visited over my journey, and it was evidently unlike the home I used to live in before my ventures. I didn’t spend much time on it, but moved on towards where a contingency of people seemed to be. I watched by the side of a home as one of the guards yelled something in the forest and began running in. I slowly followed the path, trying to mask my own footsteps with his until he stopped.

“Is this the second time this week?” The guard said to a man groveling on the dirt. He was emaciated, and his clothes were ragged. His voice was gruff, and it seemed as if even the slightest breeze would have crumbled his bones to ash.

“I don’t see why you don’t just kill me already.”

“If I did that it would be way too easy.”

“You’d rather drag this on longer?” The guard picked the man up, and dragged him along on the dirt.

“We’re not in the business of murder.”

“Might as well be. I’m already dead.” The guard dragged the man away. I looked at where the man had fallen, and the path he took. There were sticks of firewood lining the area. I counted how much the wood would have amounted to in my head, and settled on three bundles. I heard cutting from nearby, and quietly sifted in to see another man, who was relatively well fed in juncture to the previous man, and was cutting away at a tree. I then focused for a brief second, and noticed that all around me were people cutting away at trees. I hadn’t a single clue as to why such a system was made, nor why these people who seem to be the working class were isolated from the main settlement. I left that settlement aptly after the encounter, and it is only now upon my journey that I understood the concept of humanistic encasement. It is with great fervor that I even refer to those people as man.

Now upon this journey, I feel as if I am attributing my entire experience to something akin to a birthright. I know that I was well kept in my own section of the world with my benefactors keeping me hidden underneath a veil of innocence and impunity. But that truth was not something that very often presided my mind, nor did I let it permeate my mind now that I understand. Going on this journey for me was the pinnacle of adoration for my benefactors. It was to put it short the best thing they have done for me, and in no manner or notion would I ever find resentment for them pushing me to go northward. In fact, the epiphany of this entire journey, and the journey to come as I have not finished my journey, is that the world is beautiful. On my back I carry with me a bag to carry all the basic necessities. On my shoulder I carry with me a bag to hold all the garbage I come along. I’ve never looked back once as I venture out on this journey northward, nor do I have a reason to.

One Last Time on the Edge of the World

I let my arms hang in the air as I stood at the edge of the world looking down into the horizon of clouds and sea that lay below me. A gust of air would climb the hill we stood upon, brush itself up against my body and nearly throw me back. I would stand my ground, standing tall like a statue overseeing the world and laugh as the wind subsided. I would hear the same laughter from Dayton who sat behind me, watching me as I let myself devour the sights of the world. Each cloud drifted slowly, and every wave ran up my ears as if I was swimming amongst its embrace. The grass beneath us tickled my legs and I couldn’t help but smile. I smiled so much that my cheeks were hurting. I began being lost in my elation, unable to remember that when the day ended, that when the sun finally hung below the horizon, that I would have to leave the edge of the world, and be buried in a coffin.

I was only reminded of this when I stared into the sun diving into dusk and when the edge of the world began losing its natural light. I noticed Dayton stand behind me, brushing himself off, and saying, “It’s almost time.” I smiled with my back towards him, let the air rush up against me again, and then turned my head to see him. He was wearing a white lab coat, his glasses missing, and his hands in his pockets, as the wind blew against him. He reminded me of my father, but he was nowhere as old as him. And I hadn’t seen my father when he was an adult, so Dayton only appeared to give off that fatherly vibe. I laughed at this. He would hit me if he knew I was thinking of him like that. I laughed, and I smiled, and I felt like crying, but the sun diving into dusk prevented me from so. It was illuminating from my back, and I smiled as I replied to Dayton, “I’ll wait until the end of the world.” He smiled back, let his hair hang in the wind, and walked to the edge of the world, peering over into the clouds without a care in the world, without fear that he would plunge into the ocean.

“It was scary at first huh?” He said, “You were shaking when you first came here. But look at you now.” I smiled.

“Were you afraid when you first came here?” I asked. He gave it some thought. I knew I wasn’t the first person Dayton was assigned to. Soon enough, he would take the role of the chief, he would oversee the operations and he would stop looking after patients like he had to me. He would stop being a caregiver, and that thought made me sad. But I was also happy knowing that I was his last patient, and I was happy that I got to see the edge of the world one last time.

“I think I was, actually. I think anyone would be. Being here, being in this world. It’s new, it’s different, you feel like you can do anything, and you can–” He said as he stood up. He sighed, and reached over to his face. I knew that it was his gesture of reminding himself that the body he wore in this world was not the same in the other. This was the only time he could have perfect eye sight. I told myself the same when I reached over to my legs and arms. My body felt light, it felt amazing. It felt alive.

“But the scariest part of this world,” Dayton said as he hung his head down into the ocean, “Is leaving it.” The wind brushed up again against me, sending me back and I let it this time. I laid on the grass with my arms outstretched as if I was painting a snow angel.

“When you bury me,” I began, “Will you be there? Until I’m all the way in the ground?”

“I will.”

“And when you’re done, you’ll finally be the chief right?”

“Only if you give me a good report,” he laughed. I laughed as well. The sun was finally setting over the horizon, and darkness pervaded us.

“It’s time,” he said. I nodded. There were no stars in this world. Even as darkness sunk all around us, there wasn’t a single light in the night sky. I didn’t want a star in this world. I asked them not to make one. I wanted this to be the edge of the world, and the end of the world. There was nothing more I wanted then just the hill we stood upon, the clouds and ocean below us, and the cool breeze.

“Can I have five more minutes?” I asked.

“One last time?” He said. I nodded. Dayton knew me well.

“Will you join me?” He reached over to his face again, and then laughed.

“Sure.” We set at the top of the edge of the world. I took a deep breath, began stretching my legs, and then planted myself facing down against the hill. Even though everything was dark, I knew that we would not fall, that we would not sink into a place we wouldn’t be able to find our way out of. I began counting down.

“Three.”

“Two.”

“One.” Then, I ran. I ran as fast as I could down the hill with Dayton to my side. I smiled and I laughed and although I felt my pulse racing, I knew that my real pulse was still. Although my legs were burning, I knew my real legs were broken. And although my chest was burning as I laughed my lungs down the hill, my real chest was frozen. My entire body was sinking into the clouds, and I ran as fast as I could, trying to run away from everything. But I was at the edge of the world, and no matter where I ran I would find myself back at the top. I counted five minutes in my head and stopped. It took a few moments for the system to recalibrate our positions, and  when I got my bearings again, I looked over to see that we were still at the top of the hill, overlooking a darkened valley of cloud and ocean. Dayton came over to me, behind my shoulder, and said, “We have to go.”

“I know.” I responded. Dayton left first. I planned to have them force the equipment off of me. I knew it was selfish, and I knew it was dangerous for me, but I wanted to let the world sink into my mind one last time. I began feeling them unplug every sensor from my body. My legs went numb, and I fell to the grass. My arms limped, and fell to my side. And then, my vision began blurring as they began taking off the sensors that lead to my brain. I was glad that I got to see the edge of the world one last time.