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Everything was a dull, ashen charcoal. The air was heavy with bone-deep exhaustion and all was silent except for the shuffling of defeated footsteps. Everyone walked with their heads down; empty, uninterested gazes setting their faces in stone. A sickening grime clung to every surface of the city and a chill seeped through walls and the coats of every person who lived there. This was normal for the town of Nacordé. Nobody questioned if there was anything more to life. Nobody, that is, except little Thea VanDyck.
Thea was a bright, rambunctious 12 year old and a marvel to everyone who saw her. Now, to understand why, you need to know a few things about Nacordé if you hadn’t already guessed. No matter where you went, whether to a garden or a bakery, you couldn’t smell anything. These poor people didn’t even know what smell was! Nor did they know about sunshine, or music, or even color. Everything was bleak and empty --until the heroine of our story came along of course. Thea’s skin, like everyone else’s, was a shade of slate and she had dappled, smoky-gray hair. However, her eyes were the color of tropical waters on a clear day, brilliant and piercing. Nobody knew how to characterize her eyes, so they just explained this unnatural phenomenon by saying that she had been touched by heaven. That was not the only striking thing about Thea though, for she was always laughing and smiling, and could make even the most melancholy person feel a spark of joy.
Of course, with her strange eyes, she saw strange things. She saw flashes of more… of things as they could be.
Thea was walking home from school, grinning from ear to ear in remembrance of a stupid joke her friend Dexton had told to try to make her laugh when she heard a something. Pausing, she cocked her head. There! Twirling to look around, she almost tumbled to the ground when her senses exploded, being woven through with wisps of the world unrestricted by its monochrome prison. Vibrant colors unfurled, releasing aromas that made Thea’s nose tingle, and there it was again. The most beautiful and captivating sound she had ever heard. What held her in its power was music, but of course, she didn’t know that. All she could compare it to was the plinking of fresh rain and little children’s laughter. It started to recede, bringing Thea back to her senses, and she chased after it. She ran until she tripped and hit her head. Sharp pains needled through her skull and the world descended into darkness.
Blinking, Thea sat up and was taken aback. In front of her face was a boy, but unlike any she had ever seen. He was like her, except there was color all over him! He had tousled hair of ink, violet eyes that sparkled with mischief, and pointed ears, long and delicate.
“Who are you? Where am I?” Questions tumbled out of her and he laughed. Thea’s breath caught. It was almost like that glorious sound she had heard before. He took her hand and led her to a giant palace with grand arches and an explosion of gorgeous flowers and plants that were being tended to by little people flying about and… that sound! It was beautiful. She smiled and twirled with exuberance as the boy watched on with wonder.
Thea spun to face him, fairies flitting through her hair. “What?”
“That’s my name. Caleb.”
Thea grinned but then a thought hit her. Here she was enjoying all this glory and magnificence while at home, no one smiled or laughed. There was no sunshine, no rainbows, no song, and no astounding creatures. Her grin faded and was replaced with determination.
“Tell me how to make that noise.” she begged.
“You mean the music?”
Thea nodded. He looked at her with sad eyes. “You have to ask the music weaver.”
“Who’s that?” Thea cocked her head at him inquiringly. Caleb motioned to the gaping entryway. She gulped and went in, the fairies in her hair scattering. Turning her head left and right, she followed the string of music leaking through the air and came upon an attractive young woman who was grabbing sounds from the air and, with her quick, slender fingers, wove them into a soft and alluring blanket of song. Giant, feathered wings unfurled from her back and upon her burning red curls sat a crown of snowdrops. Her face was lit with joy and Thea approached timidly. Without turning towards her, the music weaver started talking to Thea.
“You want to learn to make music and share it?” Thea startled. How did she- “You need to go find your own music. I can not help you.” Stunned and crestfallen, with her quest cut short before it even began, Thea trudged back out. Caleb was waiting for her underneath a tree and beckoned to her. She laid beside him and sighed, gently stroking a sleek, scaled animal of some kind that had crawled up beside her, warmth radiating from its center. Caleb seemed to know she didn’t want to talk, so he stayed silent, instead taping his fingers on his leg. Find my own music… Tip tap. Find my own music? Tippity tap tat. Thea pressed a hand to her heart. Tip tat. Thump. Thea thought of how the music weaver took sounds and made them into something beautiful. Tap thump tit. She closed her eyes and felt her throat thrum. A whisper of music floated through the air before Caleb stopped tapping and looked at her, his eyes wide as the baby dragon arched across her chest. Thea touched her neck with the tips of her fingers. She tried again and another hum came out, this time lower. Thea tried and tried until she created a short melody and dissolved into laughter.
“Create my own music.” she whispered. She looked up at Caleb who was grinning at her and said, “I need to go home, Caleb,” Caleb’s shoulders slumped. “But first, let’s weave some music!”
Thea took a breath and looked at the drop before her. “Are you sure this is the only way to get back home?”
Caleb nodded then looked hesitantly at Thea. “Will I see you again?”
Thea looked at him dejectedly and clutched the cloak of music they had woven together. “I don’t know.”
Caleb stared at her intently. “Then I will come find you.”
Thea felt her cheeks glow. “Alright.” She looked back down at the drop into darkness. “Here I go!” And she jumped. She hit the darkness as if it was a lake and shimmering threads of stardust spiraled into the air, pale and bright. They caught on her cloak, lacing the edges like gems. She broke through the soft darkness and fell towards her sullen town, wind whipping her hair into her face. Her descent slowed to the point where she was floating gently downward. Thea craned her head and saw her cloak spreading out endlessly behind her, painting the dreary, lead sky an electric blue alive with sunbeams that spread warmth and color to the gloomy houses below. She saw faces turned upwards in awe and rapture and was overcome with euphoria. She poured out the song that was bursting from her heart and swelling from her vocal cords. Thea sang with all her soul and power, never having felt so full of promise in her entire life. She felt more, she was more, and her voice moved every heart that heard her with the knowledge that there was indeed more.
As Thea’s feet brushed the ground, she heard exhilarated shouts as people saw fairies fluttering through the air and knew that there were new challenges and hopes on the horizon. With her throat still thick with song, Thea released the last bit of her cloak and sighed contentedly. She was ready to go home and be with her family again. To be wrapped in their arms before standing together to face the unknown and spectacular world before them. And that is how our little Thea brought joy to the earth.