I sing to fill spaces between hours of emptiness. I sing to the mirror on the wall and to its schism tearing my image apart. I sing to the company I never keep, to the vacancy in my sleep. Lyrics hang over the armchair that eases my cares. They linger over the sink with its crockery, and loiter by the bookshelf devoid of literature. My voice hurls them at the never-closed window to the empty world beyond. I sing because it’s all I can do.
Once I followed my haunted lyrics to the sill. By the sash I sang verses filled with love never found to the collage of trees and birds and bees. I sang with a heart blackened by pain, dripping with red rain from my solitude. But amid the verses of sorrow was a chorus of desire.
Below me, in the unvisited street, I spied her looking up, captivated by my song, my voice. In her longing she stared straight at me. I felt an invisible belt tighten about my chest. My heart raced as burning air caught in my throat. I fell away into the cold darkness of my cell. With my cheek against cold stone I began to relax.
Then I heard a voice, my voice, singing a sweet sonorous melody.
Outside I heard the rustling of branches being pulled this way and that. I peered out and could just see her fighting against dense, twisted brambles. But years of unkempt growth beat her attempts back. I watched her walk away then returned to the chair that comforts me in my winter. I felt the chasm inside me grow into a deep rift valley carved by ice. Then somewhere in the night sleep stole me from reality.
Next morning I was disturbed by an unfamiliar sound outside. It came in sporadic bursts and, filled with curiosity, I climbed from my armchair and went to the window. I could see her, machete in fists slashing at those stubborn boughs. Sweat wet her brow and clothes, and blood stained her fingers, but she pressed on. My spirits climbed as salvation seemed possible. I sang a joyous song of strength and of endless possibilities.
When at last she broke through, the matted machete slipped from her exhausted hands. Before her, I knew but could not see, stood solid oak door, locked and bolted from within. Rattling echoed up to me, and my words faltered. She retreated down the path she’d carved, back to the street to complete her retreat. I returned to my winter valley watching the warmth of the day climb from my stone cell while the last notes of my song faded on a gentle summer breeze.
As evening drew in I stared at the same page of the only book I possessed until quite suddenly peace was shattered by a vicious rumbling. My book crashed to the floor as I ran to the window. Outside I saw a van and trailer. The latter was a generator with yellow and red and black pipes twisting from it. She walked towards the door wearing goggles, an overall and hardhat, and carrying a pneumatic drill on her shoulder. A harmony of liberation and endeavour sprang from my breast but was instantly drowned under the swell of spitting splitting wood and sundered ironwork. In seconds the barrier that had held me fast for years was breached. Still my singing faltered in the failing light because I knew she would face another impediment: there were no stairs leading up to my chamber from where she stood.
Defeated, once more she retreated.
Forlornly, I conversed with my only friend, solitude.
Next day broke bright and cheerful, but I pulled myself from my armchair with a mournful heart. Sweet air drifted in and I drank deeply on it. Green leaves rippled the morning sun and music stirred within me. I knew the tune would be sad, but filled my lungs anyway and…
Before a note passed my lips I saw her. She strode towards my Tower carrying a ladder. Without willing it a melody of hope burst from me as she passed through the gap she’d made last night.
Beyond my sight, but not my ken, I knew she would climb to the next landing and find the stairs there were also absent. She would bring the ladder over and ascend further. On the second floor, though, she would find a much sterner barrier by far. My singing turned to sonorous succor for her valiant pursuit but this was curtailed when the crisp air was rent by a hideous, fearful scream.
Somewhere below she’d encountered the fearsome ghoulish goliath guarding me. A vile creature it was with green stained skin and grey blood-lust scimitar fangs. Murderous eyes glared from a wart-infested face stuck on top of an elongated body not unlike a warped potato. From its back four serpentine necks reached forward conveying a spade-shaped head with blind sockets and a lipless mouth. With the breath this creature’s five mouths belched came the aroma of stale cigarette ash, stagnant beer and fetid pizza.
From my window I watched her run back to the safety of morning-time reality and I sang another song of lamentable separation.
The afternoon’s heat was on the wane when I spied her again. She came towards my Tower cautiously. Another ladder rested on her shoulder and a canvass bag clenched in a fist. She entered through the door and ascended. Soon I could hear the guttural growl of my sweaty-toothed sentinel. I held my breath and feared the worst for the one dear to me, but beyond any assistance I could offer. I hoped her end would be quick and painless, that my wicked warden would not toy with her but slay her swiftly. But the Tower resounded with the repeated reports of a pump-action shotgun. Dust stirred and floorboards shook with the heavy thud of a collapsing corpse.
I sang of triumph and reverence as her feet hit the only set of stairs left in my Tower. In the growing twilight, she faced her last challenge. A sheer wall stood between her and my chamber. So I sang the sweetest song that ever passed my lips. I sang in the hope at last that she could breach the final impediment. She must have anticipated that final attempt to hinder her. From her bag she produced a mallet and chisel and carved footholds into the brickwork. Dust danced on my bookshelf and the sink’s crockery clattered with each clang and crash. Then she climbed through the rough gap in my floor and lifted herself into my cell.
Never before had anyone set foot there. Even though I’d encouraged her, her presence before me still felt alien. But there she stood, beaming and breathing heavily from physical exertion. I looked at her. My eyes fixed upon the visage of her smiling face, her heaving breast, her hands with blood-red stains. My mind swam with a million thoughts and a billion questions. I thought of what I could say, and how I should say it. My mouth opened. Then closed. But at last I said:
“Wha-What…? Look at the mess you’ve made. Me hedge… Me front door! You’ve knocked holes in me walls and left crap on the floor. Not to mention a thing bleedin’ dead…”
Her smile faded with each syllable I uttered, and silently she turned from me, from my cell, and left me standing in Hell.
She had broken into this Tower of my own creation holding me captive for as long as I could recall. She had torn down the walls of my prison. Liberation was mine to grab if only I possessed the wit to take it. Instead, I sat in the fear-filled comfort of my cosy armchair in my cell reflecting bitterly on my miserable, pitiful existence. My mind raced and cried, and ranted that what I am no-one ever cared or knew, how I was always alone here in my dark cold chamber, in my Tower of Hell.
So I sang. I sang to myself in my fractured mirror. I sang to the company I never keep, to the vacancy in my sleep. I sang to fill spaces between hours of emptiness.
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