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Solo Symphony

by Malachi 

Posted: 06 February 2004
Word Count: 1580
Summary: An atmospheric ghost story

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Solo Symphony

The charcoal city stretched out below me in every direction as I was born once again, and the sun’s last golden shimmer disappeared below the horizon. There was always that last flash of colour to remind me of the day.

It started, as always, on the roof, the very spire, of the church in whose grounds I was buried. It was the pinnacle of the city, a point that could be seen from everywhere. It had once been the centre of my universe – my own and hers – and still was as the substance of my memory blinked into awareness there every night to begin its exploration of the world without me.

We never left the city after we got together, there was never any need; we had the universe of each other to explore, and the city gave us enough variety of places in which to do that: from parks to busy streets, rich districts to shanty towns, the luxury of our own lush garden or the dim lights of the bedroom. Love and happiness danced a colourful dance through our heads in an exuberant ballet, danced to the tune of the joy of life, until that tune stopped in my own head, along with life itself.

My roaming began across the rooftops of the city from which I had been exiled. With a swing and a flick of my ghostly limbs I launched into the evening air and landed delicately on the roof of a house across the street, and from there the only direction was onwards. I knew the journey so well I could do it with my lids closed, but that brought no darkness; the same view lay in front of me then as did when they were open.

Life ebbed below me in the streets like a thick flowing river of which I used to be a part, each individual in its flow going about their business.

My journey came to a point where the gap between the terraces was too big for even the agile wraith that I had become; life weighed too heavily within me still, and I sank slowly to the tumultuous river below. I landed next to a large woman with a basket of fresh bakes who was shouting, red faced, at a child and a dog who had dived through her skirts. Neither was more aware of me than a shared shudder between their shoulder blades. I could feel the warmth of their life swimming wastefully around them, and they chilled me as much as I did them.

I bounded a few steps, overtaking the crowds on foot and on wheel as they hurried home from work, before I could leap up out of them and back to the solitude of the roofs. There I sat, looking at the moon with my ragged limbs gathered into myself, recovering my composure, wishing for morning and the temporary end to this torture until it must begin again.

Then, from where I sat, I heard music, lifted on the breeze from an open window across town. It popped and fizzed around my spectral head like charcoal fireworks in the blackness of the night. Its tune was mournful and called to me; it sung for me, and I knew it was she.

I was moving before thought had a chance to form, like a hurricane across the rooftops. It reeled me in. Its passion and sorrow mimicked my dead soul, but it sang with the urgency of life.

My hurricane became a gale, and my gale became a wind, but I was a breeze as I settled down into our garden, which sprawled, dead, below her balcony, as much a ghost as I.

The light from her window spilled out onto the tattered limbs of the tallest trees. I sat for a time in a pool of moonlight, surrounded by the skeletal undergrowth, deprived of shadows in which to hide. The garden was Death’s garden now, with not even a memory of life, even the weeds had died.

Unable to look directly on her yet, to begin my torture in full, I watched the golden light in her window, and her flickering shadow cast on the wall, as it played its own fiddle in perfect time. The tune was angry now; chaos tugged at the notes as they rolled out of the window, and I worried about her state of mind. Did tears roll down her cheeks from red staring eyes? Her shadow offered no clues, but I could not yet bring myself to look upon her.

Was it me she still mourned? I wished that she had moved on, but I hoped that no other could draw such a tune from her. I knew that she had no other though. Her life had ended with mine, and I was relieved that she had not yet got over it, for I had not and never would, but with this relief I felt remorse and no end of shame.

Her overture to the night played on through the dark hours, unbroken music singing of sorrow and anguish. My suffering was doubled, but my ego was soothed by her sense of loss.

A year had passed since my clash with thieves, since my heart had been torn, beating, from my gaping chest, since I had purchased my death with the contents of my pockets and a pair of good boots. A year of nights with the memory of their laughter ringing in my ears, as I had blown bubbles in my own blood with my last breath. How many more until we could both rest in peace?

Towards the hour when the black sky became grey, the music came to an end. It was only moments before it started again, and a tune that I had never heard before rang true and familiar through my evening, and the world’s dawn.

A wild dance was how it began, sadness not even a memory to it, and I recognized a song of our love. The tune danced in the burning candlelight of her room, and bathed me in reminiscence, but then I heard my name, my name as I’d never heard it before, wept by a violin. It was cursed, and then begged for forgiveness, in a battle of tempos conducted by her bow’s dance across the strings. With every stroke it was drawn across the strings of my dead heart too. I tried to answer, to call out, but my voice was silence, as empty as an un-struck bell, so the questions soared, unanswered, like weeping angels on the back of her music in the dawn’s cold light.

In long drawn out notes the music contemplated my passing, punctuated by a staccato of sobs, and then told a little of the world without me with an empty, directionless composition whose play was more of a mumble than music. Then pain ignited in its midst, and rose like a fevered phoenix from the ashes, given life by tears, and blood.

Blood? Was she hurt? I rose from my folded position in the mud of the garden as my first ghostly tear rolled from my life starved eye, and fell, forgotten, toward the ground and through it, falling forever.

I began to rise from the floor and towards the light of her window, as her tune sang of me sitting in the dead garden crying the same tears that she did, and she told me not to fear, that we would be together again soon. Frantically the tune mourned the loss of life, but as it did the life bled from it too, and the soul of the song began to drift, distracted by the thought of death.

I was at the balcony’s edge when I got my first glimpse of her that night. Candles burned like the lights of heaven in every corner of the room, wax heaped carelessly to mark the passing of the night, and she stood playing in her best blue satin dress, her hands in glistening red gloves that had once been soft and white. Red spots surrounded her on the white pile rug like the discarded notes of the tune that she played. The blood flowed freely from her gaping wrists, and her face was pale, starved of its colour. Her violin was clutched tightly under her chin, her bow swaying to and fro over its glistening strings. Both were dripping with the rich red colour of her life as she sank to the chair behind her. Her glazed eyes were fixed on the window, outside which, I, a spectre, a thing of horror, stood horrified, as I watched her die before me. She smiled as the violin dropped, and the solo symphony of her life ended, but the music continued in my head.

I was cold, colder than death, but I could not feel what I would if I were still alive. Behind me a cock crowed, and I looked towards my spire in the east. Clinging to it was a thing of death, a shadow of what I had loved in life. She craned her neck and saw me, forlorn on her balcony.

A tidal wave of blue colour flooded the horizon behind her, chased by the rich golden colour of the morning, and she, a flaming silhouette on a darkened church spire, was stolen from me again with the passing of the night, and we slept.


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Comments by other Members

Nell at 15:36 on 06 February 2004  Report this post
Hi Alex,

This is indeed atmospheric, and the writing is haunting in itself. There are some evocative images in the piece - too many to pick some out over others - and it seemed almost as if the language was set in another time, which added to the mood. The only thing that occurred to me was that it would have worked just as well, if not better, if you'd allowed the readers to work out for themselves that the narrator is a ghost. I don't believe you need him to tell us at all. I think with this added mystery the story would be not only atmospheric but compelling.

Looking forward to seeing more of your work,

Best, Nell.

Becca at 16:42 on 06 February 2004  Report this post
Alex, hello and welcome to WW. This was both mournful and elegant. The voice of the spectre sounded very fitting with its strange old-fashioned phrases. I look forward to reading other works of yours. I'm going back to the forum to see if I misread what you wrote about your writing group and your language, must have been a different story.

Becca at 16:46 on 06 February 2004  Report this post
Alex, 'some of the descriptive language.' Well, it's quite flowery, but it does suit the piece,- not sure I'd like to see the same style with something less spiritual. But, as I said, I look forward to reading more of your work.

Malachi at 19:56 on 06 February 2004  Report this post
Nell, Becca,
Thaks a lot for both your comments.

That's an interesting idea about not making a point that he is a ghost - I'm gonna have a little tinker with that and see how it reads.

Thanks for the encouragement.

Account Closed at 21:41 on 06 February 2004  Report this post
Hey Alex,

This is f***in' good [so sue me, I swore!], so good you've got me swearing about it. This is not cliched writing, this is not tired writing, nor is it boring. It's evocative and atmospheric. It's writing at it's best. Like a rich tapestry of the supernatural tale that it is. M.R. James meets Edgar A. Poe with a little bit of Ambrose Bierce, maybe even a hint of Algernon Blackwood for good measure. It's very classy, and more than I expected. I like it, as you can probably tell. Keep writing, your horror is too good to miss.

The very best of everything,

Malachi at 12:56 on 07 February 2004  Report this post
Well there's my confidence boosted into orbit for a while - cheers buddy. You've given me some names to look out for too - an aim of this year is to widen my reading instead of my usual approach of finding an author I like and reading everything they've written.

Ta very much - Poe & Algernon here I come!

swandale at 12:15 on 08 February 2004  Report this post
Alex, I loved this. The inevitability of the journey, and the beautiful description of the music, it all paints such a vivid, ghostly picture. I could see the whole thing as I read it, and could hear the haunting violin in the background. Lovely stuff.


Ralph at 12:36 on 09 February 2004  Report this post
God this is beautiful. There's a timeless quality to the way you've written this; archaic in some places, but always vibrant. I don't know if you had a particular setting in mind, but it's good that it doesn't depict any particular era. Something about it transcends the need for time. And the way you've written makes all the combinations of words flow together as strangely and compellingly as the music you describe. Superb.
Hope you're posting more soon...



Ellenna at 12:48 on 09 February 2004  Report this post
Alex, what a wonderful dreamy quality. Gives the reader the feeling of astral projection... Beautifully captured.Lovely read.


Mrbyte at 21:58 on 02 March 2004  Report this post
Hi Alex,
I really enjoyed this, if i'm honest it took a while to get into, and I found the flowey language to detract from the story a little toward the end, but none the less I liked this a lot.
Look forward to more

ammonite at 17:34 on 19 March 2004  Report this post
great writing! I wonder if the piece she is playing is the Chaconne from Bach's great Sonata in D minor. That's what I heard, anyway. One pedantic point - the plural of tempo is tempi, although I tempos is probably fine if you prefer it.

Off to read more!


johngilbert at 14:39 on 20 April 2004  Report this post
This reminds me so much of the lyricism of those fabulous fantasists Tanith Lee and Mary Gentle. When I began I thought I might be overpowered by the imagery - you pack a real punch in many of those sentences - but it works. Off to read it again...


crowspark at 14:27 on 23 May 2004  Report this post
Well! What can add except to say, yes I agree with all of the above. I found the beginning and end very visual, it put me in mind of a Turner painting of London. Language was a tad flowery but nothing some pruning wouldn't put right.
Really enjoyed this.

Plagious at 19:11 on 31 October 2005  Report this post
Superb piece! Gentle, haunting, descriptive, evocative. Beautiful imagery - with lines such as;

"I heard music, lifted on the breeze from an open window across town. It popped and fizzed around my spectral head like charcoal fireworks in the blackness of the night."

Had to wonder if you planned more? Slightly confused with last lines;

"and she, a flaming silhouette on a darkened church spire, was stolen from me again with the passing of the night, and we slept."

Together in death or apart? Are we to get a spectral sequel of these dark lovers? Cannot wait!


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