Ode to Nothing Eric Lownes



Misty images and translucent worlds faded away as Lyre slipped deeper into sleep. Who could comprehend this realm of forgotten dreams? It is the silly dreams and the nightmares of light sleep that we remember, but perhaps the true reason man must sleep is in the dreams we forget. Something unobtainable, intangible, beyond our grasp. He witnessed the world fading away; all the sounds and smells and sights vanished into darkness. His body dissolved and his mind became a void. His soul scattered like dust in the wind, and in the end even the darkness had to pass. Nothingness. It was beautiful. If he had still a mind to perceive, he would have wondered why the world must suffer existence, with its constant, unending heaviness.

But the moment passed, and he went on to dream of other things. He saw his friends, his family, and the girl he loved. Of course, they were different, vague shadows of reality. After eternity and a moment, he begin to feel once more the weight of his body against his bed. The dreams grew fainter and more subject to his will. He perceived the light breaking through his window and lifted himself up. He had forgotten entirely the world he had just left behind, but it remained inside of him. Suddenly, he felt a strange feeling, a premonition.

"Hmmmmm…. Something is going to happen today… something wrong…"

And with that he forced himself out of bed, little knowing that in time he would unravel the fabric of the universe.



It was in a time other than this time and a place far from here. Not even I know if it is has passed or is still to come. Lyre lived in the small village of Malo near the sea. It was a sight unrivalled in all the world. The sky was a navy blue; pure, rich, and dark. The trees blossomed full of pink and yellow flowers. Little wooden houses fit snuggly into the woods, private under the shadows of the trees. The ground lay covered in fallen petals and a soft orange moss. And the ocean… many a man said it was the reason to live. The sunlight fell against the water like thousands of glowing diamonds. The perfect blue of the sky reflected back, distorted by the turbulence. And should the sun rise or set, it would become a pool of fiery colors, a sight no man or woman could resist.

To Lyre the sea had great meaning. His father had found him as a little boy, washed up against the shore so nearly dead. In the following days, much drift wood came up from the ocean. It was as if some kind of house had fallen into the ocean and been spit back out. So was Lyre from the sea? What did that mean? He knew of only three villages in the world. And on all sides the world was surrounded by water. Could people really exist beyond the sea? Was Lyre even a person? He noticed his hair and skin were so much lighter than the others. And his eyes were wide and blue like the sea; maybe it was his maker.

Whatever his origin, Lyre was now part of Malo life. He had won the love of all. He had great talent composing for the Malian string instruments. Every little boy and girl in the village knew and loved his tunes. His voice was rich and flawless, when he spoke and when he sang. His presence was hypnotic. He was strikingly handsome and much taller than the other Malians. His eyes were thoughtful and his countenance friendly. It seemed he was a great success in anything he put his mind to, and good at anything he didn't.

He was engaged to Lilia one of the daughters of King Lin, ruler of the northern village of Paco. The people of all three villages were in agreement that she was the most beautiful woman ever to live. It is easy to doubt the value of such a subjective judgment, but none who met her could deny it (save to please their wives). My words could never give her justice. She was short and slender as typical of Pacian women. Her eyes were good, intelligent, and kind. It seemed that all of the wisdom of the world lay behind these calm, dark, orbs. Her long black hair draped the perfect curves of her body. Her light brown skin was smooth, without blemish or defect. Every part of her from her soft lips, to her wonderful hands, to her very aroma was flawless. Her voice was clear, beautiful, calm, and mature. When she sang, the listener's heart would melt away, and fall into her spell. Lyre was in love, and she loved him back. But alas, destiny seems to decree that no man may be so happy.



Lyre pondered the foreboding feeling that had fallen upon him. He should have been so happy now; his wedding was only a week away, but this feeling consumed him.

"I am just nervous… that is all…"

What is the use of lying to oneself? Deep down you'll always know the truth. This was the case with Lyre. He plucked at his harp to calm himself. The melody was mysterious and strange. It seemed to speak of another world. Perhaps, the song was its own world, with enough depth, joy, and sorrow to match our own. The music relaxed him. Hmmm… it was strange what music could do for the mind and soul. If it was a substance, would we not call it a drug?

Music was a powerful force, central to Malian culture. Legends said that the gods crafted the earth and brought forth life by the power of sound. It was in Malo that music reached its greatest golden age in the history of man. He'd seen its power used for good and for evil. Malians possessed rhythms which put men into deep hypnosis, and melodies which entranced the mind in darkness. Its use in the religious temples was really a form of brainwashing. But Lyre's music was pure and good for the soul. As his harp calmed him he began push his dark thoughts aside. Today he would visit Lilia; that would certainly cheer him. He packed a bag full of food and set out the door.



A journey to Paco is a trek through such a lonely country. Grassy plains stretched as far as the eye could see. Life, movement, and sound seldom graced the daylight hours. But if one stayed until night, a cacophony of frogs calls and crickets chirps would erupt from the darkness. He walked through the forests of Malo, dreaming of Lilia. They had met on a starless night by the sea. He had heard a beautiful voice singing in the darkness and followed it to its source. Neither could see the other, but together they spoke and sang and laughed. By the time morning arose they were in love.

As Lyre walked, the forest began to disappear into the lonely plains of Paco. As he left the borders of Malo, a little boy ran after him.

"Lyre! Wow! My hero! You wrote my favorite song!"

The boy was chubby with a round face and short black hair. He probably wasn't older than six. Lyre seemed to have endless little fans, but he loved children and never grew impatient with them. Besides, it would be nice to see a friendly face before taking the long trek.

"Hey, what's your name, little boy?"

"Um… I dunno."

"No need to be so shy now. What song is it of mine that you like?"

"Turtle Shells… I like it. You are great Mr. Lyre."

Lyre laughed. Turtle Shells was such a simple, unsophisticated, little piece. It amused him that children would cling to such simple phrases, while rejecting truly great music. He pulled a flute from his bag and played the tune. The child's face filled with delight.

"So you like happy tunes, now don't you, little boy?"

"I hate sad music. Grandpa plays sad music," said the boy, suddenly turning somber.

"Now, sad music can be beautiful too. You'll learn to like it when you get older."

To his great surprise the boy began to break down and cry. Tears streamed down his reddened face; he was gasping for breath between wails.

Lyre was baffled, but spoke in a soothing voice, "Now what is the matter? Are you okay? Calm down, it's okay, it's okay."

"Grandpa doesn't eat."

Lyre was upset, what could he say to a boy whose loved one was about to die?

"Don't worry, your grandfather will be happy when he joins the gods in paradise. If death is sad, in the end it is for the best."

At that the boy's tears stopped. His face grew dark and his voice fell cold.

"But mother says grandpa hasn't eaten for ten years."

"What?"

"Grandfather never dies. He plays music forever. It never stops. I have nightmares of it."

Lyre was bewildered by the change that had taken place in the boy. It was as if the child had been possessed by some spirit of darkness. A deep, cold, chill ran through Lyre's chest. The painful, eerie sadness let him speechless. As his eyes watered and his breathing slowed, an overwhelming feeling of dread consumed him. But why? Surely this was nonsense.

"W…who is your grandfather?"

"The eldest man in Malo. You must help him! The music won't let him go!"

The boy began wailing again and darted away.

"Wait!"

But he was gone. Lyre was quite stunned. It must have been a joke; kids say silly things… yes, very silly things indeed…very silly things….



Lyre arrived at the gates of Paco, still visibly shaken. The guards saw his face and pitied him.

"So Lyre, I see by the look on your face that you've heard the dark news. I'm really terribly sorry."

"W…wait. What's happened? What's wrong?"

"Oh dear," the guard paused, "I can't be the one to tell you this… but Princess Lilia…" "Where is she? What's happened!?…" he shouted out his words. If anything were to happen to his love, it would be a pain he could never shoulder.

"Quick, go see the king. Hurry!"

The guards opened the gates, and he rushed in like a storm. His legs carried him with almost supernatural swiftness. The ground, the little Paco houses, and the crowds of people were a blur. His body had never undertaken such long run or reached such speeds, but he could not feel the pain; everything was drowned out by the feelings racing inside of him. As the reached the castle gates, the guards spotted him and let down the bridge.

"Lyre, you have come! Be quick, the king wishes to see you!"

The long corridors of the Pacian fortress passed in the blink of an eye. He landed in front of the monarch out of breath, but with undiminished passion. He fell to his knees.

"What's happened, my lord… what's happened?"

The king's face too burned with a pain and fervor.

"She has drowned."

For Lyre the world had stopped. A demonic heaviness fell over the room. It could not be… It could not be. Lyre found himself alone with the voice of the king, the words an enemy he could not overcome.

"This morning she went with her maids to bathe in the sea. They did not return for a long time and I began to worry. Finally, one of the girls returned, panicked and sobbing. My daughter was pulled out to sea by an undertow. Curse the gods!"

The king wept. Lyre burned with tears, sadness, and anger. Why her life? Why not his? He wanted to strike out against the forces that did this wrong. Alas, a man cannot fight forces which do not take form. What could he do, lash out at the sea, curse the gods, strike out at the winds? Icy chills raced through him as his heart burned with fiery pain. It was over.

"My lord. I request a sword."

The lord shook his head; blood would not be spilled in his court this day.

"No, leave this land, man of the sea. The ocean is now my foe. Never return to this place."

Yes, Lyre would return to the sea.



Lyre reached the eastern shore as night fell. There sharp cliffs leaned over an ocean full of jagged rocks. A fall would be the end of a man. He gazed at the moon. So beautiful, shining like the eyes of his fallen love. He lay down, looking into the starry night and pondered life. Surely it was a curse. Why did the creators love to torture man so? Life had no meaning. What was meaning anyway? Before he knew it, the sun began to rise. The water glowed red, clashing against the rocks. The water shined like fire. It was as if the inferno lay before him. The demons tore at his soul with madness. He jumped, falling through the sky to his destiny. For peace or for hell it mattered not, he could no longer live in this world. He struck rock and the world vanished.



All was black, but he felt presences moving by him, brushing against his soul. Was this death? So peaceful and yet so sad. Suddenly a song broke out of the darkness. The melody was painful, calling him back. He didn't want to return, but it called…it called and he had no choice. Thoughts returned to his empty mind and his senses returned one by one. Touching his hand to head, he felt blood. He opened his eyes. The ocean lay before him like a shining piece of glass in the morning light. An old man leaned over him, playing a flute. He was a bare skeleton, flesh barely clinging to his bones. With his spidery limbs and rotten skin, the man simply looked dead. His face was shriveled and his body lacked any hair whatsoever. It seemed every vein in his body showed, and his eyes were bloodshot. He began to speak in a weak, coarse voice.

"Young man, I am the eldest of Malo. I bring you from the dead."

"Let me die again," Lyre spoke coldly, not taking the old man's statement seriously.

"Fool, why do you say this? Why die when we can live forever?"

"My love…she is dead. And death is inevitable."

"I know who you are," the old man spoke eerily, "You are Lyre. You are a musician, are you not? And nonetheless you believe that death is inevitable?"

Lyre closed his eyes again and spoke in a weak voice, "Shut up, what does music have to do with it…"

Then he remembered the cries of the little boy.

"Wait old man… have you really brought me back from the dead…how? With music?"

At this the old man grinned.

"Yes, the ancient melodies passed down from my ancestors thousands of generations back. These melodies are as old as the earth, and by them the gods created the world. I have lived for ten years without food, water, or sleep. I live pure, on the sustaining power of music that nourishes the soul."

Remembering the terror of the boy, Lyre had his doubts that this way of life was wholesome as the man made it out to be.

"Old man, if such melodies exist, may I bring back my love?"

"Only if you find the melody by which the gods first called her soul into being."

Lyre was perplexed, but hope had returned to his heart.

"How then could you bring me back old man?"

At that the old man laughed. It was terrifying. The sickly figure grinned with a toothless smile and rotten gums.

"We share the same song. And perhaps the same destiny. Now listen. Remember every note, for this music holds your eternal life."

It began to rain, but the man played nonetheless. The melody rose and fell, crashing with the waves. It fell hopelessly through the sky like the raindrops and descended into the depths of the sea. For two hours, the man played. Of hope and death and life. When he finished he set down his flute and evaporated into the sky.



Lyre was left alone, cold and sad. He saw that the music was an evil, but he did not care. He would endure all to return to his love. He remembered every note, it was in his soul. He took the old man's flute and lifted it to his lips. He played and played. He played out the sorrows of his heart and the passions of his soul till he could play no more. He collapsed into the sand and fell to sleeping.



Nightmares consumed him. Demons clawed at his heart. Every night he slept less. The music possessed him. The melodies spoke of the depths of hell. Finally he could sleep no more. He would endure the pain and insanity of never sleeping for the rest of his life.



He searched endlessly for a melody that would bring back his love. He searched in the depths of his heart but it was of no use. He could no longer drink, the water burned him. It reminded him of the sea. He began to shrivel in the sun, his face sunk in, and his skin was scorched.



A year had passed, and he could no longer eat. He could not for one moment tear himself away. He was held forever. The music owned him.



A hundred years passed and his life lingered on. He searched the depths of his heart for the melody, the song to bring back his love. He had withered away. He was no longer human in form. Nonetheless, he could play on till the end of time.



Thousands of years passed and the age of man was over. The land was overcome by water and he was swept away. Still he could play.



His body had dissolved to a papery film wrapped around his soul, but still he could play.



It owned him.



It possessed him.



It was an eternity. The expanding sun, consumed the world in fire. Still he played on. It must be inside him.



The mind can not comprehend the time that had passed. Forever he played, and finally the moment came. He heard the melody calling from within. He played his notes and she appeared, beautiful as ever. She looked at Lyre and a tear rolled down her cheek.

"No, Lyre stop. You've destroyed yourself. This can't be. Let go, my love."

Could he speak he would have told her he loved her, but it was no use. She could not be with him. He would never make her endure the music. But he could no longer die, the immortality had set in.



And he knew what he must do. If music crafted the universe, music would unravel it. He witnessed the world fading away; all the sounds and smells and sights vanished into darkness. His body dissolved and his mind became a void. His soul scattered like dust in the wind, and in the end even the darkness had to pass. Nothingness. It was beautiful. If he had still a mind to perceive, he would have wondered why the world ever suffered existence, with its constant, unending heaviness. The sound of an old man's laugh burst through the darkness. In the end it too died away.