by Amanda M. Hayes
The river carried me away, but not in the way I'd expected when I threw myself in; its currents drew me farther down than should have been possible in those waters. The memories of him sloughed away as I sank. Grief drifted out of reach. Self-hatred departed in a thin stream of bubbles, and at last all that remained of me was awareness--a drifting presence in the dark that no longer knew care.
That was when I first heard them, all about me in that sea of wherever. A thousand voices sang me welcome. Light shone from somewhere below and by that I saw the singers as shapes of pale grey, none with a feature unique to itself. Their song promised calm and release from everything. I who had no voice in life felt a note in my throat break free that could not be told from the rest.
The glow came from a maze that lay in the depths, all translucent, pallid green; sea glass, which I'd only seen before in fragments. I discovered soon that its endless corridors could take me places: if I swam this way, the walls throwing my song back to me, I would rise up into warmth and masses of shifting fish; this other path and the waters were glacial, cut by blocks of blue. I sampled a thousand turns but retreated from all that led back to my river.
Once, though, while passing such a corridor my voice died utterly. I glided home despite my will, trying to raise a note and failing: some songs will not be forced.
The watered sunlight silhouetted a human shape. It twisted and struggled, the music of the drowned no lure to it. I circled until I could see its face--her face--the face of my mother, trying to follow me and unable. She couldn't or wouldn't give her despair to the water.
How had I forgotten her? She looked so very old.
I tried to cry out to her, but couldn't. The crowd of souls took no notice. She couldn't hear their song, was no concern of theirs. I resisted the current, I struggled to touch; I pushed against her body. I was so light. I had no weight, no mass. She didn't fight much anymore.
Pain and fear gave weight back to me. Somehow I shoved her up, back towards the living surface. Her eyes found my face. I shook my head, gave her another push, and she understood: she rolled up to face the light and together we saved her.
I, however, was long beyond saving. I fell.
The current exerted no pull. I heard nothing but silence--heavy again with love and regret, I was no longer one of the singers and they would not sing to me.
A new darkness claimed me beyond the river's floor and in its realm
I now abide. The black is absolute; no shining maze exists to break it,
and there is no distraction from memory. I no longer glide, but walk. I
taste the bitterness of earth. Yet I think that someday I will find my
mother here, with others I have loved, and we will have a different light
Amanda M. Hayes is a Midwesterner living for the first time on the east coast of the United States, and it remains to be seen whether seagulls will become her inspiration or her bane. She reads, writes, and breathes fantasy fiction. Occasionally she tries her hand at horror. Her credits include sales to Farthing, Allegory, Black Box, and Sporty Spec: Games of the Fantastic, among other publications. Her previous stories for Raven Electrick are Touch of Winter and Dream Weaver.
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"Singing Each to Each" © 2008 Amanda M. Hayes. Used
by permission of the author.
Raven Electrick © 2000-2008 Karen A. Romanko.