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Midnight Music

I've always enjoyed the night. It's simpler than the day. When the sun goes down, the stress and confusion of normal human interaction goes with it. A person can be alone. They can think. The night doesn't judge.

When the stars come out and the moon shines big and bright over the tree tops like a giant bowl of milk, I feel strong. I feel sure of myself in a way I never am during the day. The night brings out the intangible. It brings things to life that normally lay dead and buried in our souls. Or the ground. You see I'm special. I can see ghosts.

Vampires and zombies and crap like that aren't real, so don't ask me about them. But ghosts? They're something else entirely. I've been able to see them all my life, and not in some insubstantial, partly imaginative fashion either. To me they're as real as another person in the light of day. At night, they're more real.

It used to scare me as a kid. Seeing things my parents couldn't see. A ghost would peer in at my window and I'd scream. My parents never saw anything. "There's nothing out there," they'd say. "Face your fears."

So one night I did. I opened my second floor window and sat on the roof with my blanket, waiting for the ghost to come. When it did, the ghost didn't say anything and I didn't either. Speaking would be inadequate when a look would do. In the night, speech is pointless.

The ghost was a young man, dressed in the clothes of a farm boy. He kind of floated up onto the roof and sat down beside me, looking out over the darkness without a word. A tingle went up my spine, but I forced myself to stay calm. After awhile, I realized it was peaceful here on the roof with the long dead farm boy, so I stayed, silently communicating with the subtlest of thoughts.

I woke up on the roof the next morning. After that, I went out on the roof every night and every night the ghost would silently join me. It became a routine that defined my existence. That quiet friendship, governed by a look and the peaceful background of crickets and owls was a thousand times more important to me than any friendship with the living. Did I say the night brings out feelings?

One night, several months later when the farm boy came, he was holding something. It was a skull. I cringed and leaned back, giving my friend a nervous look. He nodded reassuringly and drifted back towards the ground. I understood this tacit request like a dog reads the emotions of his master. Quickly, I slipped back inside through my open window and hurried downstairs where I crept outside. The ghost was waiting for me. He led me away from house into the woods in my backyard. We went in deeper and deeper, but I wasn't afraid.

At last, he stopped beneath an old, gnarled tree, and handed me the skull. I looked into his deep brown eyes and I understood. I took the skull gently from his hands, and when I did we touched. His skin was cold, but firm and we both flinched, but as always we kept our silence.

Then I bent down and scraped a small hole in the soft dirt with my fingers. The soil was moist, but it still took an hour or so before I was sure the hole was deep enough. Carefully, like a mother holds I child, I placed the skull into the hole I had dug and covered it up. Then the ghost led me home.

He never returned.

I cried that first night on the roof alone, but I knew in my heart of hearts when I buried the skull that he wouldn't come back. I had laid more than a physical thing to rest. I had sent my friend to an eternal night with peace beyond my comprehension. And so I consoled myself and headed out into the forest alone. It wasn't long before I met new ghosts, new friends, with whom I silently enjoyed the secret beauty of the night for awhile. Sometimes for years, sometimes only for days I enjoyed their tacit company; then they would bring a skull and I would lay them to rest. I gave them a person with whom to silently share their life before they moved on.

And so it went on for years. I grew used to lack of sleep. My midnight rambles through the woods were much more rejuvenating than my bed. I did well in school and I made other living acquaintances, but when the darkness came down on the world like a blanket, I came alive. I wanted it never to change. Then it did.
#

It was a warm summer's night, only several days after my fifteenth birthday when it happened. The night before I had buried the cracked skull of an old man, so I wandered the woods alone, seeking the company of someone new. The forest was black as tar, as the canopy was in full growth, so I was practically on top of the girl before I saw her.

She was pale, with wispy blond hair and a delicate face and neck. The small shafts of moonlight that penetrated the gloom livened her thin red lips. She looked up curiously at my approach.

As usual, I silently moved closer and sat down on the log next to her. She smiled at me and her teeth glowed white, like the lacy dress she wore. I smiled back and stared into the darkness, enjoying her presence. Then the unprecedented happened. She spoke. Her voice was soft and light, and it tinkled with a subtle merriment that made me smile. Even so, I jumped up in surprise when she said, "I'm Eva. Who are you?"

I had never been spoken to in the night, and it took a minute to find my voice. When I did, my voice was raspy, and I was suddenly self-conscious of its harsh tone when compared to her delicate, beautiful voice. "Are you a ghost?" I asked. "I've never been spoken to before."

The resulting laugh was like a bubbling stream. It was filled with a pure, innocent joy that sent tingles running up and down my spine. "I asked you a question first," she said, pursing her lips impetuously.

"I'm Sam," I said, laughing back, wondering suddenly why I had never spoken before this night.

Eva nodded slowly and licked her lips, as if tasting the name on her tongue. "Sam," she repeated. "It's a good name."

"I like Eva too," I said.

She smiled again and I smiled back.

Then it was as before. We sat there quietly, relishing the stillness of the night in silent companionship. Still, the memory of her voice played around in my brain in a repetitive cycle, like a tape on rerun.
#

The next night I returned, and once again she was seated on the log, barefoot and smiling. "Sam," she said happily.

"Eva."

"What do you think about feet?" she said, peering down at her own smooth, pale ones.

I laughed and sat down. "I don't know," I said. "I've never really thought about them."

She nodded seriously and flashed me a grin, but didn't elaborate. We spent the rest of the night in silence. But as the sun began to rise, heralding the time for my departure she spoke again. "You know what I think?" she said.

"What?" I asked.

"I think it's silly to talk about feet by themselves. What are they really except flesh? They're pointless without the rest of the body."

I nodded. "I suppose you're right," I said.
#

"I was thinking about the feet," she said when I arrived.

"Me too," I admitted.

"Our body is just like the feet," she said. "I mean it's just a hunk of flesh by itself too."

"True," I said. "Maybe there's something more."

She nodded. I sat down. "Wait," she said, suddenly. "Do you want to dance?"

I grinned at the randomness of it all. "I'd love to," I said, standing back up.

"Take off your shoes," she said. "How do you expect to feel the music without your feet?"

"What music?"

"The music of the Earth."

I complied. Only when I was standing barefoot on the mossy carpet did she rise. A half-grin on her face, she took slow, delicate strides towards me. I put a hand around her supple waist; the thin white silk of her dress felt cool and smooth on my hand. With my other hand I clasped her hand. It too was smooth and cool.

I looked into her eyes. They're blue I thought. Blue like the ocean, and just as deep. Suddenly, I was aware that my heart was beating quickly, drumming out a nervous beat like a drip on a metal roof.

"What are you waiting for?" Eva asked, laughing that beautiful, innocent laugh of hers.

And so we danced. I had rarely danced before, but Eva was amazing. Her gracefulness and gentle enthusiasm were contagious, and slowly I began to match her wild spins and graceful dips. The moss and leaves were cool and damp beneath our feet, and as the night grew darker I started to feel the music Eva was talking about. It was as if the Earth was the conductor and Eva's and my bodies were simply instruments, obediently playing out the song.

We danced slowly and quietly in each others arms, and then more fervently, whirling around wildly like tornadoes. The hours ticked by, but I didn't grow tired. The touch of Eva's hand, the silk of her white dress gave me energy and the more we danced, the more energized and delighted I became.

At last, the darkness began to lift and the faint colored hews of the sunrise began to filter through the trees. Reluctantly, we slowed to a stop. Eva's cheeks were flushed bright red and her face was lit up with a smile. My eyes traced the gentle curve of her neck. "I think bodies are pointless without other bodies, other people," I said, as I turned to go. "Like feet."

She grinned and waved goodbye.
#

Before leaving the house the next night I took care to dress nicely. I didn't know why, but I suddenly felt strongly that my appearance should be as good as I could make it. I left without shoes though. I wanted to feel the music.

When I arrived at the normal spot, Eva wasn't there. I felt a surge of panic. Where could she be? Had she left me? I looked wildly around in time to see her come out from between two trees, the moon leaving beautiful shadows on her skin. I took a deep breath to cool my pounding heart.

"Have you ever seen love?" Eva asked.

"What do you mean?" I said.

"I mean what I said," Eva said smugly. "Have you seen love?"

"Like the feeling?" I asked. "Of course not."

"You see ghosts," she said.

"So?"

"Love's the same way. Here I'll show you."

She came closer, gliding towards me like an angel. "What?" I asked.

She put a finger to my lips. "Shhh," she said.

Then she kissed me. My eyes opened wide in surprise, then I relaxed, placing my hands around her waist and kissing her back. The kiss ended way too quickly. "Did you see it?" she asked, her hands still around my neck.

"No," I admitted. "My eyes were closed. Maybe we could try it again."

She laughed at that. "Only one kiss per night," she said.

"Says who?"

"Me."

I grinned at the self-righteous look on her face. "Ok then," I said. "What are we going to do?"

"I have something to show you," she said, taking my hand.

She led me gently deeper into the forest. Deeper than I had ever gone before, but just like the first night I had come here I felt no fear. Eva had my complete and total trust.

At last, we reached a giant tree so big around that it would take four or five pairs of Eva and I to reach all the way around. "Do you see what's wrong?" she said.

"It's dying," I said, aghast.

I could only make out one living limb with a few limp leaves. "Exactly," she said. "Do you believe in souls?"

"Of course," I said. "That's why there are ghosts."

"Plants have souls too," she said.

I nodded. "When you bury a skull you help free that last bit of remaining soul so the ghost can move on," she said. "That's what's going to happen to this tree. It's moving on. Look."

She placed a hand on my shoulder and pointed up to the last living branch. I followed her finger and watched in awe as a faint greenish, silvery substance rose slowly out of the branch like mist. It snaked upward slowly, growing fainter and fainter until it disappeared. I let out a sigh of awe. The last few leaves floated slowly to the ground. I caught one and handed it to Eva.

She smiled gently at me and tucked it into her dress. Then she led me back to the clearing.
#

Eva greeted me the following night with a kiss. I still didn't see any love.

Then I saw something else by the log. A gleaming white skull. My heart plummeted and I bit back a sob. I gestured to it. "You're not real?" I asked, praying it was not so.

Her fingers trailed through my hair. "Isn't love real?" she said.

"I don't know," I said, my back shaking in silent tears.

A single tear slid out of her blue eyes and ran down her cheek. I brushed it away. "It is," she said. "Look. Look."

She kissed me again and we sunk to the ground in each other's arms. "Don't go," I begged.

"I must. I must go on. Like the tree."

"What about feet?" I said. "I need you. I'm not complete without you. I'm just a hunk of flesh."

Eva smiled through tear stained eyes. "Love doesn't have to go on," she said. "It stays. Just look for it. Look."

She kissed me again, our tears mingling on our cheeks. "I can't," I said desperately. "I can't see it."

She held my hand and pushed it against her chest. Her heart was beating wildly. "Do you feel it?" she asked.

I nodded.

"Now see it," she insisted, kissing me one more time.

Then I saw it. It surrounded us like a warm bed, like a child in the womb. It was beautiful and wonderful and good and completely indescribable. I shivered. "I see it," I said. "I see it."

"Good," she said, leading me to the skull.

With a heavy heart, I began to dig, the aura of love surrounding us the only thing that allowed me to continue. Eva had to go on. I loved her and she had to go. These thoughts swirled wildly through my head as I dug deeper and deeper, my hands covered with soil. "I feel the music," I said.

She laughed and the sound of it brought up fresh tears and caused the aura of love to grow brighter.

At last, the hole was deep enough. I sighed and turned towards her, taking her in one last time. Her blue eyes, glistening with tears. Her smooth cheeks. The way her hair curled around her face. The gentle curve of her neck. The love around us. Her feet. "I love you," I said, picking up the skull. "I love you."

"I love you, too," she said.

With one hand I brushed the hair back from her eyes; with the other I lowered the skull into the ground. My eyes still fixed on hers, I slowly covered it with dirt, with music.

When it was done, I put my arm around her shoulders and we leaned back against the log. It ended as it always did. With silence. Some things cannot be said.

I woke up with the sun filtering through the trees. I was alone. But the love was still there.



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This article has 10 comments. Post your own!

Mr.packerbacker12This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Oct. 27, 2013 at 4:56 pm:
Wow, simply amazing. This was beautiful, and well thought out. I love your imagery, and style of writing, and the ability to really "think out side of the box", you should write more:) my only story on my profile is bleh. Though i have 9 anonomouys(sp) ones:p
 
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stuntddudeThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jul. 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm:
Excellently styled and craftily written, if a bit pointless in terms of the overall story arc.
 
Quantum1.0This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Jul. 8, 2013 at 3:50 pm :
Thanks for reading it. I wrote it about a year ago, so parts of it definitely seem flawed to me now, however I'm unsure what you mean by it being "pointless". I mean obviously the whole thing isn't realistic...   Do you mean the main character doesn't change enough because of the experience, or what?
 
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KatsK This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 28, 2013 at 9:59 pm:
This is really good, Quantum. I must say, I wasn't expecting this... But I liked it. Your descriptions were entrancing.
 
Quantum1.0This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Apr. 29, 2013 at 10:55 pm :
Thanks! You're right though - it is a kind of different topic/writing style for me. I'm glad you liked it though.
 
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Randomscreennamelalalala said...
Dec. 12, 2012 at 6:15 pm:
Oh my gosh! You are awesome! It was like your writing cast a spell. Keep it up!
 
Quantum1.0This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Dec. 12, 2012 at 8:19 pm :
Thank you for the positive feedback. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
 
Quantum1.0This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Dec. 12, 2012 at 8:21 pm :
Also, I saw on your profile that you read college level physics books for fun and I just wanted to say that's awesome. As you can probably tell from my profile name I'm a big physics buff myself. 
 
im_gailThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Nov. 11, 2013 at 5:03 pm :
This was phenomenal. I havent read anything like it
 
Quantum1.0This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Jan. 20 at 12:50 am :
Thanks!  
 
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