This was inspired by my own little piper.

The Piper

There was a time when man was still endeared to magic. When they told stories of fantastical things, and people, and those stories were not considered to be false. There was a time when man kind needed the mystical, and supernatural. There was a time that children truly believed that if you were good wonderful things happened to you. That time passed as man became more sensible and logical. It passed when science and philosophy took root, and everyone was more concerned about the how's then the why's.

The Piper remembered the times of old. He remembered being loved and feared. Humans were awestruck at the very existence of him and he rejoiced in that. But all of that was before television, and radio. Ah yes, radio, one of the cruelest inventions to the Piper in man's history.

Music was now more of a staple then a wonder. At one time you had to travel to hear a good tune, or be rich to have your own musicians. If you heard music anywhere but a social gathering, it was considered to be special or a warning. Now if anyone happened upon his music now, there natural assumption was that it was someone playing their radio too loud. No one was amazed, or enraptured by it. They were too busy being busy.

The Piper was one of the last. He was one of the last mystical beings that hadn't given in. The others had disappeared since man no longer needed them, shedding their immortal skins for those that the humans wore. From flower petals to business suit, as one fairy told him as she showed him her new mortal frame. He was disgusted and sad for her as he watched his last friend yield to the new mortal standard.

The Piper refused to yield. He wasn't outdated and useless. He was a person of divine spirit and powers and he planned to stay that way. If man-kind didn't want him it was their loss. He would play on, and if they thought it to be the radio, let them. Let them be fools of logic and reason. Let them miss one of the last magical things about this world, because they couldn't see it, or better yet hear it.

The Piper was now alone, or at least he thought that he was. He was almost sure that there were others out there, but he hadn't seen them for a long time. Not other Pipers. He was the only Piper. He was in the beginning of the world and he would be the only one the world would have. That was one reason he decided to not give in, the world had to have a Piper.

He was a drifter now, only staying for a decade or two in any given spot. He could never remember the names of the countries he crossed, nor did he feel inclined to. Water was water, sand was sand, trees were trees, and land was land, no matter what other name mortals summed them up under.

The place he was now wasn't the fairest of spots on Earth. Run down little shelters of poverty littered the street that he strode upon. Filth and rubbish lined the gutters of a very ill lit street, complete with the stink of humanity at its worst. He could smell alcohol, and smoke of tobacco in the air. He could hear the harsh words of the residents within the insulated shelters. Negativity was all around him, and the Piper sneered at them. They replaced him with this? One had to wonder.

At the end of the street was a very poorly lit park. It housed a few trees and a small set of open land. A steel swing set was set in the ground, small patches of mud underneath the swaying swings where a dozen feet had trampled the grass. A small plastic climbing structure was off in the distance, and on it foul language was scribbled in ink ruining it's innocence. Litter that consisted of beer bottles and butts of spent cigarettes, blanketed the park. It was a sad sight to behold, but he needed to play, and the abandoned park was the perfect place.

In a swift graceful jump, the Piper landed in a large tree ten feet away from the poor swings. He glanced up at the sky wishing that the lights of the city didn't block the stars. The Piper let out another snort at the foolishness of mortals. The stars weren't even good enough for them.

He leaned his tired body against the trunk of the tree, languidly stretching out his long legs on a branch and crossing them. He was tired and found comfort in the old tree, as he assumed the tree was comforted by actually being recognized. He felt around for the canteen that he kept dangling at his waist and opened it to drink the spirits that were within. He relished the taste of the grapes until a soft noise startled him out of is reverie.

Cautiously the Piper leaned forward on the branch bringing his legs up so that he could straddle it with ease. He looked around for the source of the noise until he saw it. A small little girl sat on the swing sniffling. Her evening gown was a pale lavender stopping short at her ankles. Her brown hair curled gently at the ends and cascaded down her back wildly tangled. She balanced her head on the chain of the swing her body trembling as she sniffled out.

The Piper now recognized what she was doing. The little girl was crying. He looked around for signs of the parents, wondering what foolish mortal let their child out at this time of night. When he saw no one he shrugged. It was none of his business. The mortal girl wasn't a problem, she probably wouldn't notice him.

He leaned back into the position he was before and put away the canteen. He then pulled forth his reed pipes, given to him by Pan himself, and sounded out a note. He heard a startled gasp and he shrugged again. The girl must have realized that her parents would probably look for her.

His song started off slow, the notes were long and low. Mimicking the sounds similar to one might find in a lullaby. He closed his eyes as he picked up the tempo, but not to much keeping the song a somber tune of beauty. He didn't know why he chose a sad song, maybe the tree was the inspiration, or was it the street? What ever had given him the cause, he was playing for it now. Just like he had always done, and always would do.

That was his purpose. To play the songs that were the emotions of the world around him. They were the songs that Pop artist couldn't ever write; they were songs of the souls of the world itself. A tree could own a song, as could a mountain or a lion. As long as they had a song that needed playing the Piper would play it for them. It didn't matter that no one now recognized them. The souls' songs were being played, and it was now the thought that counted.

At one time the songs he played, mortals would hear and take as a warning or as a blessing. If a forest felt as if the mortals living near it were taking too much, the Piper would play their fury to the villagers. The villagers would then take only what they needed, heeding the Pipers song in fear of the fairy folk. But now without the fairy folk around, the Pipers warnings were no longer heeded, but he played on for the sakes of the souls.

He finally pulled the reeds from his lips, ending the sad song. He breathed deep, thankful for the breath of semi-fresh air and then exhaled sharply at the startling sound. The sound that reached his ears was that of clapping. His heart stopped in his chest as hope entered it. Was someone clapping for him?

He leaned forward to view his audience, smiling as he saw the little girl. She was now out of the swing turning around looking for him. A small innocent smile played at her lips as she searched. His heart picked up, he had pegged the little girl wrong. She actually listened to the song. A thought struck him as her smile turned into a pout of confusion. She was the one that had called for him.

A mortal soul hadn't called for him in centuries. Pity filled his heart as he thought of the sad song he had just played. How could a child's soul posses such sadness. True, he didn't know much of children, but she was so young. What could possibly have happened to make her that sad?

Another thought crossed the Piper's mind, and he smiled wider. Taking his reeds back to his mouth he started playing. This time he watched the girl as he played. She smiled wide showing two front teeth missing when he started again. This time the music was more jovial, and light. He wanted to make her happy.

After a few bars the young girl started dancing. She wasn't trained in dance which pleased the Piper. It added to her innocence and youth. She wasn't worried about appearences or deadlines. She wasn't as caught up in the modern world as the other mortals were. She needed him, and the Piper as he played on was finding out, he needed her.

The tempo increased and the music was becoming harder to dance to. The girl missed a few steps in her twirling but laughed loudly as she fell. The Piper would almost stop, worried that she had hurt herself, but she would pick herself up and twirl again.

The song had reached its crescendo and was starting to fade down. The Piper wished that he didn't have to stop, that he and the little girl could play until dawn. But the Piper knew that the girls parents were bound to find her missing and he didn't want to be the cause for her troubles. No, he wanted to end them. This girl was special.

He ended the song, and sadly gazed down at the now exhausted little girl. She sat up with a large tooth-less smile and then rubbed her large brown eyes. He smiled at her as she stood looking for him again. He supposed realization dawned on her and she turned around to look down the street.

The Piper's chest hurt as she took off running. He didn't want her to leave, and he wished that he could tell her so. But with all of his music, the Piper lacked a voice of his own. He was there to play for the souls of the world, not for idol chit-chat. A fact that had never bothered him until that moment. The moment he thought he would never see her again.

The little girl suddenly stopped and turned around. She ran back to the spot she was before and breathed heavily for a moment. The Pipers heart was filled with joy and hope all over again.

"If I come back tomorrow, will you play for me?" She called out while looking around for him.

Oh yes he would play for her. He would wait for her every night in the tree, if it meant she would come and listen to the sounds of the world. He answered her the only way he knew how, sounding out a note for her. She smiled and took off back down the street and towards her regular life.

The Piper smiled after her, finding mortals less repugnant then before.

Days and nights passed and the little girl returned. So did the Piper. He played for her the whole world, and she would laugh, cry and dance. The Piper felt as if he had found his purpose once again. Annie, as he found out her name to be, needed him. He loved her as much as any mystical being could love. It not being a familiar emotion to them. They could feel it, but it wasn't the same type of love humans felt. No that was a gift that only humans could posses, a gift that they took for granted too often.

He soon took to following Annie in the daytime. He could render himself invisible, so she never knew that he was there. He watched her as she played at school, ate lunch with her friends, and passed her grades. That, he watched with joy.

He also watched how her parents constant fighting, wore her down. Her tears falling as her Mother and Father yelled and cursed each other from behind closed doors. He even watched her horror as one day her Father walked out the door and into the night air, never to return.

That night she didn't come to the park.

Time moved on, and Annie was getting bigger. He watched her as he did before. He even followed her when she went to visit her Father once every month. She stopped liking horses and stopped liking lavender, but she still came to the park to dance and listen. She was changing, but the Piper watched her with pride. She was his Annie, the one who would listen.

She grew even older, and her visits to the park slowed. She came once a week instead of nightly. The Piper missed her when she was gone, but he knew she would come again soon enough. He laughed at her middle school antics and the awkwardness that followed her with puberty. She was starting to become a young woman, and his heart was filled with joy for her.

She started to get interested in boys, a factor that the Piper wasn't necessarily pleased with, but accepted. He was with her when she received her first kiss. The way she glowed and sparkled made him love her even more, and that night he played a song for her to reminess to on her swing. With the boys came her lack in free time, so she came every other week. But the Piper didn't mind, she was his Annie, the one who listened, just as long as she came he would play.

High school came, and she found her first true love. The Piper watched as the boy held her and cooed at her, and he watched as she did the same. He played her love songs when she came and watched her as she pondered over her lover. She didn't come as often anymore but he understood.

Then things started to fall apart for the lovers. The Piper longed to comfort her when the boy would make her cry. He wished that the boy could hear his music and understand what he was doing to Annie. But the boy would have never understood, no, it was only Annie that understood the Piper now.

The visits became less and less, now only every once in a while. The Piper was vigilant though. He would wait for her anyway. He always did and always would. She was his Annie, and he would always be there to play for her.

One night Annie came to the park, but she was not alone. A small group of girls came with her. They sat under his tree and pulled out a small pipe. The Piper, was horrified when his Annie took the pipe to her lips. He would play his disappointment for her later.

Annie seemed so far away from the giggling girls that surrounded her. One of them caught on and asked her why she seemed so distant. Annie turned to face her friend and smiled a sentimental smile.

"Before my parents split, I used to come here when I was sad. I could hear music playing and it always made me feel better. It was like I had my own special musician to play for me. I still come here sometimes and I can still hear it." Annie answered dreamily.

The Piper felt his heart expand at Annie's sentiments. He made a hard time easier for her and it made him happy. His happy expression darkened as the other girls started to laugh. The Piper always liked laughter, but this laughter rang with the note of cruelty.

"Girl, I think you've smoked too much. Your own musician? It was probably somebody's radio turned up too loud at night. You should find out who's and get them to tell you the C.D. that their playing." Her friend chastised.

The Piper felt anger for the first time in a long time. He looked back towards Annie expecting her to shrug them off and change the subject. She often did that when she didn't agree with her friends. Often being one to not wish for argument.

"You know, Tiff, your probably right. I'll see if I can find out who's playing the C.D." Annie answered.

The Piper's heart died. Annie, didn't believe in him anymore. She had out grown the magic of their visits. Annie, his Annie, had fallen victim to the world of logic and reason. She had become like the rest of them. She thought that he was a C.D.

She didn't need him.

He climbed out of the tree hours after the girls had gone. The Piper didn't know what to do. Should he wander the world in search of another mortal to play for? What if he couldn't find one? No, no one could replace his Annie. He couldn't take the heartbreak of losing another one.

The Piper now understood why the others had given up. They served no purpose on the Earth anymore. Any time that they found a reason, their hearts were broken. They were useless, and outdated. The realization hit the Piper hard. He wasn't needed. The world didn't need a Piper.

The Piper glanced up at the stars for the answer, only to be greeted by blackness. Maybe being human would take away his longing. He reached into his breast pocket and found his reeds. He smiled at them and caressed them. He blew out a single note, before snapping the instrument in half. When the reeds were gone so was the magic. And the Piper was now human.

The Piper reached up to touch his cheek. Tears had left their trails upon his face. For the first time ever in existence the Piper cried.

Time passed again, and a woman of forty drove down her old street. She hadn't visited home in a long, long time. She smiled at the memories of the neighborhood in which she grew up. She found her old house with the green door that she remembered.

The woman known as Annie to her family, and Ann to her friends parked her car. It was kind of strange, but she didn't want to visit her old house. No, she parked there so that she could walk down to the park that she spent many a night in.

She had loved that place as a kid, and now in her midlife was just remembering it. She wondered briefly if the music still played there. She shook her head and chuckled to herself quietly. She was being silly, she never did find out who was playing the music that she based her childhood off of. She probably never would.

She stood in the park now looking it over. They had put in a sand box around the swing set. The tree that was near it was torn down to make room for newer playground equipment. She felt a ping of sadness at the loss of the tree; it almost felt like realizing that an old friend was dead.

The park was empty she assumed, as well it should be at this time of night. So for old time's sake she took off her pumps and twirled in the sand. She hummed a tune long forgotten, the same tune she dance feverishly to the first night she heard the music. She closed her eyes and jumped and spun caught up in the memory of youth and magic.

From a distance an old man was watching her. He smiled a sad smile as he watch the full grown image of his Annie, dancing again. He could hear her humming, and grew heavy with the memory in which it brought. He started to get closer to her and she was becoming quicker in her movements. He stood to the side waiting for the memory music to slow down, before he could interrupt her.

At the clearing of someone's throat Annie stopped all movement. She turned to face the ancient looking man standing near her. She immediately smoothed out her suit and regained her dignity.

"Can I help you?" She asked with a slight tone to her voice, embarrassed at being caught dancing.

The old man smiled, "At one point you did." He said in a scratchy voice that sounded older then he looked. "I had just wanted to tell you for some time that I enjoy you're dancing, and I'm glad that the magic of it won't die with me."

Annie's face furrowed in concentration, "What are you talking about?"

At that the old man headed for the edge of the park. Annie stood there confused and embarrassed beyond belief. Her confusion turned to panic when the old man called out.

"Tell your daughter that she's a wonderful musician. When she plays it's like you can hear all of the soul's of the world."

She didn't respond as she watched him enter his car and drive away. Part of her was confused and the other slightly angry. How did he know that her daughter was a musician? Her anger slipped away, and her confusion got worse. She was certain that she had never met the man before, but he seemed so familiar. So incredibly safe. She smiled.

"Maybe you were my secret musician." She stated with a laugh, not believing a word of it.