Friday, January 16, 2009

The Drums... (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday fiction is hosted by: Lynn at her blog, Faith, Fiction, Fun and Fanciful. Click here to read and share more great fiction.

Author's Note: I realize this piece is somewhat darker than some of you may be expecting. If you'd rather read someting lighter, click here for a cute, short mystery! Strawberry Surprise



“She’s like, so stuck up, Liz!” Jen rolled her eyes. “How can you even think about inviting her to our party?”

Liz rolled her eyes. “Quit the drama, she has an awesome boyfriend, who has an awesome sound system.”

“Oh.” Jen sighed. “Right. I forgot. Who else are we inviting?”

“Your neighbor across the street.”

“Aww, man! We have to?”

“If we don’t, your mom will bust us.” Liz snapped her grape bubblegum. “The way I see it, this will be a total blast! I mean, like, nothing could go wrong now.”

“Oh hush up. You’ll jinx it.”

“You believe in jinxes?”

“Does it matter?”“Uh, yeah!” Liz’s fingers traveled along the bed, searching for a pillow to whack her best friend. “You’re like so-” She waved one hand around.

Jen softened. “I just don’t care to ‘tempt providence’ then, that sound better?”

“Hardly. We still have a million things to do…the party’s just tomorrow!”

“I know, I know…but don’t worry as soon as I get back from music practice.”

“Music?” Liz frowned. “Oh right, I forgot, sorry. You have that choir thing, right?”

“You make it sound like a plague.” Jen rolled her eyes. “And that, dahling, is what I plan to launch my career from.”

“You’re going to launch your famous singing career…in church?” Liz’s voice dangerously lowered several tones.

Jen tried to sort it into something her friend would understand. “Liz! You just…oh shut up! It’s not like your band is doing any better!”

“Well what’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing…really, just that if a band was the way to go, to get all recognized and everything? How come I’m the one being asked across the country to sing at other churches and asked to contribute to benefit concerts, hmm? I mean, face it…I’m going to be something.”

“Something in need of an attitude adjustment.” Liz glared at her from the bed. “Fine. Go ahead. Have fun. Be famous.”

“I will. Thank you.” Jen offered an exaggerated bow. “So glad I have your permission.”

Liz scowled. “Just so you know, we’ve been asked to take the gig at the Friday café in Doonesborough. Happy Choir practice.”

Jen flushed a deep red. “The Friday café?” She licked her lips. “For real?”

“Yeah. The manager said we had style. And class. And interacted really nice with all the important customers. He said we had the best manners, but I guess that’s something you wouldn’t know about, Miss high-and-mighty-I’m-all-that.” Liz surged upwards from the bed and stalked to the bedroom door. “FYI, Jen. One of these days, you’re going to realize that you’re not all you think you’re cooked up to be.”

“Goodbye Liz.” Jen said, icily. “Have a nice practice.”

“Oh sure. Right.” One hand clenched into a fist. “One of these days, someone’s going to take you at face value and what a disappointment that will be. I can’t say I’ll mourn when they play your death drums. Do you know what those are? You should, it might actually matter-”

“Go Liz. Go. Now.” Jen was nearly shaking with anger.

Liz bowed with a flourish. “As her lowly highness wishes.” She whirled on one skinny leg and blew through the door with a bang.

An awkward emptiness hung the bedroom.

Jen trembled for a moment, before she shifted herself from the desk chair to the bed. “Oh that was bad.” She told her valentine teddy bear. “Very, very bad. I don’t think we’ve ever…argued like that before.”

She traced the velvet heart sewed to the bear’s tummy. “She didn’t have to be so rude about it. It’s just that she’s always…I don’t know, she always makes me….always makes it sound as if I’m so stupid. Ugh…why do I have to have the best friend with issues? No, wait, correction, I don’t have a best friend!”

Her mind replayed the incidents where this very same argument had almost happened. It was usually some sort of war between her singing and Liz’s drumming. “Death drums, my foot. How stupid does she think I am? Besides...a drum’s not that hard to play.” Jen scowled. “I mean, really, how hard can it be? Anyone could play it. You have two sticks and beat here and there. Carry rhythm. I could probably do it. Really. She so gets on my nerves.”

Her cellphone rang and she reluctantly slid off the bed to answer it. “Mrs. Colsten? Oh no, I’m ready for practice…I’m still home, I’ll be leaving in a few. No…I have to ask Mom to drop me. Sure. Thanks. Bye.”

The phone folded shut and Jen stared at the perfect silver square. An uneasy feeling had slipped over her at Liz’s mention of ‘death drums’. The feeling passed with a slight shiver and Jen grabbed a jacket and hurried out the door.

Choir practice went well in spite of the other things happening in her personal life. Jen thought about calling her friend back, but distracted herself every time she came close enough to actually calling.

It’s her fault. She should call first. Jen jammed the phone into her jacket pocket and exited the church foyer. Her mom would be by to pick her up in about five minutes. She checked her watch. She was early. Mom was usually punctual though, the opposite of her late father. It would only be a few minutes.

The minutes ticked by and then she saw the familiar black Lexus pulling up to the curb on the opposite side of the road. She sighed. All the other parking lots were full, so she’d picked the next logical choice…across the road.

I hate crossing the road.

The thought flashed through her mind as she stepped off the curb and darted a glance in both directions. The street was deserted and she gathered her energy reserves for a quick sprint across.

In the back of her mind, she heard the tires squeal, heard the broken chug-a-lug of a disjointed motor, felt the wind coming, felt a wave of panic.

The out of control car slammed into her with a sickening crunch. Jen felt the pavement beneath her and a then shock at how cold it was. The thought hovered, then faded and a blackness deeper than she’d ever known, claimed her at last.


* * * * *


I watched her as she died, the last few moments of terror and pain. There was nothing I could do for her, at least not until she entered my dimension and even so, it would take more than time for her to adjust.

The battered body materialized on the floor of the transportation room. I marveled at her appearance, how white and lifeless, a stark contrast to the deep blue walls of the circular room.

“You poor child.” I couldn’t help saying as I crouched beside her. I went to work, wiping away the bumps and bruises. A rather vain set of emotions swirled through me at the fact that I was able to heal her with little to no effort at all. She was definitely better off physically for it.

She stirred and I mentally reminded myself to remain as friendly as possible, no matter how annoying she was.

The confusion was instant.

Her eyes opened and she tried to talk, choked and quite nearly passed out.

I spiked her with two low jolts of healing energy and winced when the audible gasp escaped. “Sorry…but you didn’t really leave me with much of a choice. I can’t be away from my station for too long and your coordinations are going to take longer than I thought.”

Frightened eyes stared up at me. “A-am I dead?”

Oh lovely. Here we go. “No.” I waited for that to sink it. “Come along, please. Haven’t got time to spare now.”

“Where am I?”

“Come, child.” I held out one hand and wiggled my fingers. She reluctantly touched my hand, then jerked back. “What?”

She rubbed one hand.

“Oh. Sorry. Can’t help that. Unwanted side effect. Come along, you’ll need to start playing the drums as soon as possible.”

“Drums?” Her tiny voice faltered.

“Yes. We heard you this morning…what you said, you know.” I couldn’t help throwing the words back at her. “Anyone can play drums…how hard can it be?” You’ve got rhythm though, haven’t you?”

“M-maybe.”

“Then come along.”

I led her through the halls, taking the long way around on purpose. She was certainly a slow one, most started ranting and raving the moment they regained consciousness.

We walked halfway down the hall before it clicked. She began asking questions I couldn’t answer and when I didn’t, her temper sparked, erupting in a passionate display of uncontrolled anger.
I listened to her rather half-heartedly, knowing it was only a matter of minutes before the silence would start.

The heavy, pounding beat began to resonate through the tall, chapel-like halls. Her screams halted. “What’s that?”

I smiled.

“Stop smiling!” She grabbed my hand. “What is that? What’s going on? Why am I here? Who are you! Help me, somebody help me!”

“Hush your mouth.” The words hissed through my teeth as I turned on her fiercely. “And show some respect! You’re barely an hour old over here…no one cares about you…yet.”

“W-what’s that supposed to mean?” Her hand dropped at once, but she inched closer.

“It means we’re almost there.”

“Almost where?” The frantic note returned to her voice.

“Can’t you hear them?” I asked serenely, wanting so desperately to lose myself in the powerful mix.

“Hear what?” She shrieked. “Oh that sounds horrible. What is it? Make it stop!”

I sighed. “You’ll grow used to it, love.”

“I don’t want to grow used to it.” She whimpered. “I wanta go home. Take me back home.”

“Can’t do that, love.” I rounded the corner and threw out an arm to keep her from slamming into the procession turning into the hallway.

Tall men and women in dreamy white robes with armfuls of bracelets and fat golden anklets. Each of them carried a drum of some sort and they pounded out the sorrowful rhythm in perfect synchronization.

The ache in my heart restated itself. I struggled to fight the pain that wished to escape. Now was not the time, yet.

“Walk faster.” I caught her wrist and pulled her along with me. We flew down the darkened halls and shadowy corridors until we reached the giant coliseum. “Want to hear yours?” I paused, hesitating. “I shouldn’t even offer, but if you’d like…you could.”

“I could what?”

“Your song. The drums. Every person, whoever they are, wherever they are, there is a rhythm to their life, to their soul. It is played by these drums. You’re new. So there’s an old drummer, playing a new song.” I had to smile, remembering when I’d heard those very words myself, only a few years ago. “If you wish to hear your melody, you may.”

“My what?”

“The drums, love. The drums.” I stopped, waiting for her thoughts to catch up. It did.

“Okay.”

Her eyes grew wide as I escorted her past white marble pillars and across plush burgundy carpets. Tears brimmed in her eyes, whether from the beauty or some other pain, I could not know.

But when we reached the ground floor, I knew the outcome couldn’t be good. The old drummer assigned to her song was Zapatkea.

Her evil smile curved upwards upon sight. “Hello sweetlings!” She purred. “Come to hear my new song?”

Jen nodded. I shook my head.

Zapatkea laughed. “You poor misguided creature.” She clucked her tongue in false sympathy. “You are what? An hour old? Or not even that far?”

“What does she mean?” Jen had gone whiter than I’d even thought possible.

I made a note to skip a beat the next chance I had. “She dinna needed to know yet.” I glared at Zapatkea. She smirked. “She means you’re in another dimension. You only get here…when you almost die. You’re still alive…but not on…earth, any more.” I gauged her reaction. It was telling. She was slipping off the precarious mount of sanity she’d built. “You laughed at the drums, so you had to come here.”

“What drums?” Jen asked, too calmly.

“The death drums.” Zapatkea filled in. Her eyes flashed wickedly. “Didn’t she tell you? To live in this realm…someone must play the drums for you. Always, or else you die. For the beat of the drum is the beat of your heart, which is the song of your life…”

Her voice trailed off, beautiful words…out of a fanged mouth. I shuddered. “We’re leaving now…so play.” It was required for every new recruit to hear their own song, but I didn’t dare mention that. Not now.

Zapatkea glared at me. “I will play when I am ready.” She half-snarled.

Jen took a step back.

I shifted in front of her. “You will play when I say so if you wish to live, oh queen of arrogance.”

Her mood shifted at once. “No need for sarcasm…friend. Twas’ only teasing…”

“Teasing a young girl, one word too far.” I measured the weight with my words. “Play!” I thundered.

Her eyes flashed a brilliant purple and her arms lifted of their own accord.

I pulled Jen back, knowing what would come next.

One skinny, bedecked arm rose up and dropped the first beat on the drum. A moan left her lips. The song began. Harsh, stiff beats, disjointed music, a symphony of disaster.

Horror showed plainly on Jen’s face. “That can’t be my song.” She backed away. “It can’t be. I’m pretty. I live a good life. I believe in God. I-I even sing. I have a beautiful voice…that…that can’t be my song!” Her voice was shrill.

I silently moved between her and Zapatkea, gently herding her towards the door. “Time to find your own drums.” I murmured, leading her out and then to my original destination.

The tiny miniscule room was painted in angry swirls of gray and orange. I winced again as another pang passed through me. “Your drums.” I said faintly, pointing to the darkest corner. “You will know how to play…do not worry, but do not stop either. Not unless someone takes over for you.”

“What do you mean?”

“You have to play the drums if you want your mother to live.” I cringed inwardly as the words passed through my lips. “Because you’re her daughter, you’re required to play her song. Your father played your own.”

“My father?” She exclaimed, incredulous. “That can’t be true.”

“It can and it is.” I said quietly. “and when he died here…you died…over there…play the drums, my darling Jen. A life depends on you.”

The drumsticks in the corner glowed to life, a pure, white-gold. Jen stared in awe as they floated over to rest in her hands.

I turned and left the room.

Her scream echoed behind me.

I paused, briefly to look over my shoulder. The first set of bracelets had formed around her wrists and the will was no longer hers as skinny arms raised up and fell in perfect rhythm with on her new drums. If she was a quick learner...perhaps there would be hope for her...

The noise faded as I crossed the hall to my own studio. The walls were purple and black here. I reached for the sticks and they glowed to life, but I did not refuse their pull, their work. I gave in as fully and deeply as I could.

The music rose up and wrapped around me in a solemn cloak to the tribal beat. I knew Jen’s kind. They would blubber and bawl half of their lives away, begging for a second chance.

“Poor misguided creature.” I whispered, echoing Zapatkea’s words. “They never even think that this is their second chance…”

Copyright 2009 Sara Harricharan

3 comments:

Yvonne said...

Interesting story, Sawa...a little off theologically, but interesting. *smile*

Joanne Sher said...

Oh WOW. Sooo intense!I was completely engrossed. Great characterization (and I WILL come back to read the strawberry one.). You're amazing.

Hoomi said...

I always enjoy your fascinating twists. A nice alternative take on the theme of being careful with our words.