They say that when you hear him sing he can take all the sadness out of your heart and turn it into music. That he can stop a waterfall with the sound of his voice. That every sentence he speaks, every word he utters, seems like part of a song.
But no one hears him sing anymore. He slinks through the trees at night, silent tears running down his cheeks. He's screaming on the inside. Shrieking, sobbing, wishing he could cease living. Any form of death sounds like heaven to him. He's even tried suicide. He gave up on life awhile ago. It's life that hasn't yet given up on him.
He's grieved like this since her death. He rarely opens his mouth to sing, let alone smile. And when he does sing, his music brings a cold rain, as if the sky can't help but to cry with him. Now, the only songs he sings are the kind that belong to long forgotten souls. The kind that lie restless in an abandoned cemetery, where he sits now.
He ran his trembling fingers over the carefully engraved tombstone. While everyone else was out celebrating the end of the war, he had been here, trying to bury the love of his life.
He remembered those dead green eyes staring back at him. The shocking realization that he'd never again wake to see her beside him, or that he'd never kiss her before she went to sleep. Because she wasn't waking up this time. Sobbing, he had laid her down gently in her grave, and had given her one last soft kiss.
Ammon remembered how he'd held her as she died. She'd been left in the snow, wounded after a battle. The silly girl had disguised herself as a man so she could fight. And she didn't even die from the wound. It was the cold that had robbed the last breath from her. The goddamn winter had stolen his love away from him.
Ammon had scrambled through the array of dead bodies, flipping over the corpses, carelessly tossing them aside, and demanding the wounded to tell him if they'd seen her. Hours later, he had finally found her, face down, her skin as white as the snow, and the snow as red as her blood. There are no words to describe the guilt, the horror, he felt in that moment.
He was only able to hold her for about two minutes before she died. She had just lied there, curled up in his warm arms, shivering violently, her teeth chattering so hard he feared they'd break. They both knew she wouldn't last long. Her lips were already pale blue, almost white. Even her eyes, usually so bright, so full of energy and love, were dulled. The whole time, neither of them spoke. Neither of them could have.
She closed her eyes when she died. Ammon felt her pulse slowly cease, like an hour glass slipping away the last few grains of sand, and letting them settle on the bottom. He too had closed his eyes. He pressed a firm hand over his mouth, as if it could hold his grief inside. Ammon no longer had any concept of time. He just sat there, sunken down into the bloodied snow, unable to take in the scene that lie before him. It wasn't until Ammon himself began to shiver, that he spoke.
"That's okay," he had whispered hoarsely, "This world didn't deserve someone as beautiful as you anyway." Ammon let his curly dark hair fall into his face. He couldn't bear to look at her dead face directly.
He took off his heavy green cloak and draped it around Zoe's lifeless form. He had lost his brother to this war. And now, he had lost Zoe too. But losing Zoe hurt much more, so much, in fact, that he even felt ashamed of it. You love a brother by default. But you love a partner because fate handpicks them for you, and gives them to you to love and adore forever.
As the evening aged into night, the temperature continued to drop. But still, Ammon sat motionless in the snow, his cloak wrapped snuggly around someone who couldn't even feel.
He had lied back in the snow, and gazed up into the stars. He remembered how he and Zoe used to watch the stars. They would lie together for hours, just staring into infinity, wondering what mysteries the night sky held. He sighed, and watched as his breath turned into whimsical tendrils of white air.
Then, in the midst of the bitter night, Ammon had abruptly felt warm. A satisfied smile spread across his blue lips. He'd heard somewhere, perhaps from his grandfather, that you felt this way right before you froze to death.
The nineteen year old allowed himself to sink deeper into the snow. He closed his eyes, and listened to his shallow breathing. The cold slowly lulled him into a peaceful unconsciousness, and Ammon hoped that when he awoke, he'd be somewhere entirely different.
The next morning, when he finally did come around, he was shocked that he didn't see Zoe. He was also shocked that he recognized the room where he lied. This was Rori's place. "No," he had whispered, furiously. "No! Rori! Rori!" he shouted, jumping off the cot, and stumbling onto the ground.
He saw the girl dart into the room, her long ginger mane swinging from side to side behind her. This had been the first time he'd seen her dressed like a girl in four years. Like Zoe, she too had dressed as a man so she could fight. For nearly half a decade, she had worn the same boots, pants, and shirts as he had. But Rori had refused to cut her hair, so she would always twist it up into a snug bun under her cap. Almost all of the soldiers had known her real identity, and almost none of them had cared.
The redhead knelt down next to Ammon and helped him up onto the tiny cot. "It's okay, Ammon," she had whispered, her voice soft and motherly as usual, "the war's over."
The boy however, heard nothing. "Can't be here," he gasped, struggling to get away from her. "Why? Why aren't I dead! Rori!" He pushed her hands away and tried to stand up, only to tumble back onto the wooden floor boards once again. "No," he mumbled again. Rori sat down beside him and draped a blanket around his scrawny shoulders. "Where's Zoe?" he demanded suddenly.
Rori smiled a sad smile. "She didn't make it," she whispered. "I found the two of you together, huddled up in the snow. You almost didn't make it either, but we were able to save you." She gave him a sympathetic smile. "I'm so sorry 'bout Zoe."
Ammon shook his head, understanding. "No, why did you save me?" he hollered. "She was already dead, I was trying to follow her! Why didn't you let me?" There were tears spilling down his russet cheeks. "Why didn't you let me?" He pulled his knees to his chest and hung his head, sobbing. "Where is she now?"
"Over there, under the blanket," huffed the redhead. He infuriated her. After she and some other soldiers had spent hours searching for them, this is how he thanked her? By making her feel guilty for saving him? She stomped out of the room, her red locks tumbling down her back.
Ignoring Rori, Ammon crawled over to the couch where Zoe lay under the blanket. With trembling fingers, he pulled back the sheet so her freckled face was uncovered. A whimper escaped his throat and he buried his face in the side of the couch. He stayed there, his shoulders shaking with sobs, until he fell asleep.
The next day they prepared for Zoe's funeral. Sidony, Rori's older sister, had suggested they bury her in her wedding gown. Ammon violently refused the suggestion. He wouldn't be able to stand that, to bury his fiancé in her wedding dress.
In the end, they decided the bury Zoe in her favorite green blouse and her faded blue jeans with the patched knees. Ammon knew that she would approve of that. She hated fancy clothes in life, so he assumed that it would be nothing different in death.
Everyone was worse than dirt poor, so no one could afford a casket. Zoe was to be wrapped up neatly in a blanket and put in the ground. Ammon had found a well-shaped piece of granite to use as a tombstone. For two days, and two nights, all that could be heard in the tiny house was the clinking of metal against stone, as Ammon carefully carved the letters into the piece of granite. Sores and blisters developed on his slender, skilled hands, but he couldn't feel them. The only thing he felt was numbness.
He put his heart into making that tombstone for her. He was upset that they couldn't buy her a casket, so he felt she should at least have a grave. It felt oddly comforting that her name was carved into stone, as if she wouldn't be forgotten this way.
Rori checked on him a few times a day. Ammon knew she didn't trust him in a workshop full of sharp tools. But everyone knew that if he was going to end his life, he wouldn't do it until after the funeral. Each time the tiny hammer hit the granite, it seemed like his end was growing nearer and nearer. Every time he added another engraved word, he lost a little bit of his sanity. It was as if all of his sense was leaving him, and dissolving into that tombstone.
Ammon only left the shed a few times before the funeral. The first time was to apologize to Rori. It was true, she had been brave and loyal to look for him after the battle. And she was right to save him. He shouldn't have snapped at her like that, but it had been the grief talking. But then again, Ammon supposed that grief was the only one talking these days.
The second time he left was to find some lilacs for Zoe's funeral. He had no money to buy any, so he had crept around the neighborhood, until he reached Ms. Mallery's property gates. Everyone went poor during the war, but of the poor Ms. Mallery had always been the richest. Everyday, she could be seen tending to her voluptuous pastel lilacs. Years ago she had hired a gardener to water and trim them for her, but she no longer had the money. Besides, Ms. Mallery claimed that even if she got her fortune back, she'd never hire a gardener again, even with her old hands twisted by arthritis.
Cautiously, Ammon had approached the iron gates, where Ms. Mallery stood, busily trimming and watering her lilacs. Her wrinkled face, aged with many years of frowning, showed no signs that she noticed the boy who stood before her. She kept her head bent with her stringy white hair dangling in front of her face. Several minutes of silence went by. Reluctantly, Ammon opened his mouth to speak, but the old woman parted her lips.
"Hello, Ammon." Her voice was monotonous, lacking any emotion that it might have once held. Ms. Mallery kept her head down, still clipping the purple flowers. "What brings you to my gates this morning?" she asked.
Ammon put his hands against the black bars of the gates. Little pieces of rust flaked off and landed in the grass by his feet. He tried to meet the old woman's eyes, but she made no attempt to look at him. None of the younger generations had seen her eyes.
"I was wondering if you'd let me take some of your lilacs," he whispered. He wasn't sure whether his voice was hoarse from crying, or if it was from the lack of use.
The woman considered this a moment. "And why, would a young man such as yourself, want some of my lilacs?" she inquired curiously.
Ammon turned his eyes down, hoping she wouldn't see the tears that had suddenly gathered there. He took a shaky breath. "They're Zoe's favorite." A tear leaked from the corner of his eye and landed on the tip of his shoe.
"Zoe's welcome to take any of my flowers whenever she likes," replied Ms. Mallery with a nod. She resumed snipping at her garden.
Ammon swallowed. "Ms. Mallery," he whispered, "Zoe's dead." He closed his long lashed eyes. He hated the way those two words came together, never mind having to say them out loud. "I'd like some flowers for her gravestone."
When his only answer was silence, he slowly raised his head to make sure the old woman had heard him. What he saw caused him to step backwards involuntarily and gasp. Mrs. Mallery was staring back at him with huge, brown, liquid eyes. They were bloodshot, with big dark circles hung around each. They were the kind of eyes that saw countless nights of restless sleeping, and when they weren't suffering from the insomnia, they were remembering last night's nightmares. They were the same eyes he saw in the mirror each morning.
He saw a difference though, as he stared into the strange depths of the old woman's irises. Her eyes showed decades worth of suffering. They showed ten years worth of restless nights, and ten more worth of helpless, heartbroken crying.
"Do you ever wonder why I garden so much?" she asked suddenly, pulling him from his thoughts.
Ammon blinked. It scared him, seeing Ms. Mallery's eyes. This was the first time she'd made eye contact with anyone in twenty lonely years. "No, why?" It was also the first time he had looked up since Zoe's death.
"Jonathan died two decades ago," she whispered. "That's longer than you've been alive. He would always bring me home lilacs." Her eyes began to water. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but shook her head and looked down again. Ms. Mallery took her scissors and gently snipped off a generous number of lilacs. She placed them in a basket, opened the gate, and beckoned Ammon in. No one had been invited inside the property gates since her husband had died. Perhaps she let Ammon in because she had seen her own pain reflected in his eyes. Whatever the reason, Ammon had gingerly taken the basket and thanked her.
"I won't be seeing you again, willI?" she called after him as he turned to leave. The question caught him off guard. Ammon shifted uncomfortably and kept his back to her. No one would be seeing him after the funeral.
"No," he whispered softly, "probably not." It was one thing to think about death. But it was another thing entirely to talk about it aloud. It just added to his agony.
Ms. Mallery sighed. "Have you ever considered that she wouldn't want you to do that?" she asked. He could feel her gaze lingering on the back of his head. Defeated, he turned around.
"Of course I have," he breathed. "But she'd want me with her, even in death." Ms. Mallery let out a sigh. She wished the same could be said about her husband.
"And if there's no afterlife?" she asked.
His reply was barely audible. "At least I'll be in peace again." With that, Ammon stepped out of her garden and walked home, tears spilling from his eyes once again.
At dusk Ammon headed towards the cemetery. The town's streets seemed to mock him, so full of frivolous excitement and color. A fire juggler twirled past him, flames dancing and hissing in his fingertips. Children frolicked past him with grins tacked upon their tiny faces as they hurried to welcome home their fathers. Ever since yesterday, soldiers had burst through the streets, rushing to find their wives, mothers, and friends. The whole country seemed to be united under a common emotion. All except for Ammon who stood trembling amongst the festivities, tears sliding down his cheeks as he fought his way towards the cemetery.
It was nearly an hour later when Ammon finally reached his destination. Even miles away, he could still hear the joyous clamor from town. He wiped his eyes and plopped down next to Rori. Earlier, they had dug a hole to place Zoe in, and Ammon had lined the inside and the outside with lilacs.
Rori looked at Ammon with sad eyes. He was staring down at Zoe, cradling her in his arms. He might as well be dead too. He scarcely parted his lips to speak. He gave up eating, and he barely drank anything, only the tea that she brought him in the morning and at night. He'd rather cry than sleep. Sleep just brought him nightmares anyway. But what Rori missed most was his song. There was no sound on this earth that would do justice to the sound of Ammon's voice. But he claimed he'd forgotten how to sing, as if the knowledge had simply left him, or maybe left with Zoe. He was like a ghost now. The shed skin of what he used to be.
She crouched down before the tombstone and began to read. Ammon had practically engraved a eulogy into it. She supposed it was because it was too painful for him to talk of Zoe's death aloud. At the top of the stone in large careful letters were two names, Zoe Athens and Ammon Aguamari. Rori blinked and glanced at Ammon.
"Why are both your names on here?" she asked as Ammon gently laid Zoe in the earth. He bent down and kissed her on the forehead, caressing the side of her pale, lifeless face. Then he moved next to the tombstone and ran his fingers over their names.
"Ammon?" she asked again.
The curly haired boy turned to look at her. "I want you to bury both of us," he whispered calmly. He went back to staring at Zoe with a strange fascination.
Rori's bright eyes darkened with horror. She moved back from him, her tiny fingers shaking involuntarily. "No! I absolutely refuse to do something so horrific! I have morals you know! No!" she snarled at him, mad with terror and disgust. "I will not bury you alive!"
"You won't have to." His calm, monotonous voice scared her beyond rational thought. She knew Zoe's death hit him hard, but the look in his eye was the look of a madman. Slowly, he reached into his pocket and produced a dagger. He looked at it as though it were something precious.
The weapon had an ancient look to it, and from the intricate silver and black designs, Rori had a feeling it was hand made. She could see the elaborate detail of the handle, and couldn't help herself from appreciating the handiwork of the Celtic designs. Rori had always held a certain admiration for antique weapons, but this particular one frightened her. She had a sinking feeling she had laid eyes on it before: the multifarious patterns, the slender obsidian blade, and the silver on ebony that gave the illusion of moonlight seeping relentlessly through the night sky.
"This is the dagger that took Zoe away from me." Ammon spoke as though he was in a trance, his brown eyes fixed upon the weapon. "And now," he whispered, stroking the sharp blade, "it shall take me too."
Rori scrambled away from him, gasping. "No, Ammon, please! Please, don't do that!" she shrieked. She covered her face with her hands. Her whole body was trembling. "Please…please…no…" she sobbed. She didn't know how long she had sat there, curled up beside a gravestone with her face buried in her hands. But when she opened her eyes, she realized that she must have been pleading to a dead man for hours.
Ammon was lying motionless in the earth, his arms around Zoe. A scornful ray of sunshine came down, catching on the blade. Rori sobbed and bent over the hole in the earth. With quivering fingers, she pulled the knife from his chest, and it slid out with a resounding pop. She dropped the blade, disgusted.
Rori took a deep breath and covered Ammon's chest with the blanket. She watched, sickened, as the blood seeped through the fabric, creating a deep red blotch. She shuddered and began to quickly fill in the hole. The last thing she saw before she finished was an expression of true peace upon Ammon's dark face.
The redhead smoothed the earth with her shovel and glanced at the gravestone. "Rest in peace," she murmured, and darted out of the cemetery.
Ammon found himself standing in the midst of darkness. The only source of light came from the sky, where a thin crescent moon hung above him like a crooked grin. He gazed up into the darkness, and fixed his eyes upon the constellations, unlike any he'd ever seen on earth. A morning dove cooed somewhere, its voice soft and soothing. It almost made Ammon want to sing again. He heard the bird whistle once more and figured it must be a few hours before dawn.
The young man reached into his pocket and produced a book of matches. He had died prepared. Carefully, he felt the ground until his fingers met a fallen branch. He struck the match against the wood, and proceeded down a small dirt path with his torch.
He walked and walked until his feet could carry him no longer. And then he crawled. He had to find Zoe. This was his only purpose in death. To find her. And once he found her, they would build the life they had tried to start before that goddamn war was declared. Before it had killed the both of them.
Gasping with exhaustion, he stumbled down the path towards a small orange light. He had met many a fork in the road, but relied on fate to lead him down the correct path. Dawn was brewing into morning, with a soft pink light seeping onto the horizon. The morning brought forth cool gentle breezes and the songs of various spring birds. Ammon breathed in the scent of the fresh morning air, and closed his eyes, remembering the times before war. They had been much like this.
By the time Ammon reached the dull light, it was barely visible, having been drowned out by the morning star. The tiny light had come from a pale pink candle, still flickering faintly on the windowsill of an old cabin. Vines slithered up the sides of the crumbling stone walls, with the occasional purple flower ornamenting a thick green stem.
Ammon pulled himself up against the door and silently entered the tiny, one room house. His knees buckled, but not with exhaustion. He made his way across the room, trying not to wake the sleeping girl, who lie curled up under a thick wool blanket.
Ammon smiled. His heart felt so light it could have simply floated right out of his chest. He gingerly laid down beside the girl, and took her in his arms. He saw dried tears against her pale pink cheeks. She squirmed and whimpered in her sleep, as if she was having a nightmare.
Ammon took her face between his hands and kissed her softly on the nose. Then he took a deep breath, and began to sing.
His voice filled the room, then danced out through the tiny window and into the morning air. A soft breeze whispered his music into the woods, and the birds stopped singing, as if their voices had failed in the presence of one so beautiful. Ammon had the kind of voice that ran shivers up your arms. The kind that made you stop, and really listen, as he painted the silence with his music.
At last, Zoe's eyes fluttered open. She sighed, as if all her grief and pain had suddenly come rushing out. She curled up against his chest, and nestled her head on his collarbone. Her soft pale lips produced a tiny smile and she looked up at him timidly, with more joy than a face had ever held.
They say that when you hear him sing, he can take all the sadness out of your heart, and turn it into music.
I wrote this piece awhile ago for a creative writing assignment in my english class. Reviews loved.