Carry On Tuesday used an excerpt from Keats’ Ode to A Nightingale this week as their writing prompt..
My heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains my senses
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Keats and that I would never even dream to include words written by such a great man in any of my lowly pieces. But the quote stuck in my head and a little story formed.
If they have the internet in heaven, I hope Keats will forgive me….
It still may be a dream. This pain. I still might be about to wake and be able to rejoice in the knowledge that the pain occurred in my dream and not in my waking life. Only in my dream.
The leaves of the great oaks in the woods brush my window. They are paring down the glass. Soon it will shatter and they will intrude into the house. There is already a sliver on my eiderdown, shining like a fragment of the moon.
My mother thinks me insolent. A fool. She chides me for my weakness. I am one of the lucky ones, due to inherit the riches of family tradition; the power of foresight and wisdom and grace. She will not let me cast those jewels aside like vegetable scrapings from the kitchens.
Keep up your studies, Cerise, she says.
Fine tune your magic.
Open your mind.
I did what she said. I opened my mind and in walked Armel.
Armel had no magic. Only the power of his smile and his heart. And, of course, his voice. The sound of his voice in song was like the cleansing wind coming in from the sea when it is still early morning and the webs of sleep cling.
His voice was laughter, a caress, a kiss. I could have walked the world from end to end without complaint as long as I could hear his voice. I could have forgotten terror and hatred and pain. When I heard Armel’s voice I knew the answer to the question of my life. So this is love, I realised.
My mother found Armel in my bed. Her horror shook the room. Her anger formed clouds of blackened breath.
You are the one of great promise, she shouted. And you waste your time on this piece of insignificance.
I had broken the rules. Witch and human ne’er shall mix. We are taught it from birth.
To talk to a human is just acceptable. But to love…
There is no going back from love.
My mother was merciful. It was a surprise. I had expected death for both of us. She turned him. A creature closest to him in spirit.
Now he comes at night, flitting through the trees, hovering at my window as the oaks do, grey-brown in the changing light.
He sings. Two notes ringing. A flute and an oboe in duet.
I cannot bear the silence before or after his song. It summons him to me then sends him back again. My cry stretches through the night. My love. You are with me but you are gone from me at the same time.
And my heart aches.
And the clouds whiten the dark.
And this is life.
And I am thrown into the fire.
And this is love.
For three nights I have drunk hemlock. It is less bitter than I thought. It fills my throat with fear and hope.
It is mixed with angelica and heart’s ease to protect my spirit so that only my physical body dies.
I have cast a spell so that at the moment of my death my spirit transforms and I can join my love.
The final draught is strong. A drowsy numbness pains my senses. My vision spirals to the stars. The world is larger than it was. The world is smaller. I am afraid the magic I have cast will fail me and I will plummet to the underworld alone.
The walls close in. All at once I am falling, falling, a rock thrust from a wall. I try to scream but I have no voice. I try to stop myself but I have no arms. I am dead or I will be soon. I will be gone from this world for good.
The softest wind beats at my back, at my throat. The ground looms, black, sharp-eyed.
A song lifts me, carries me. I am the air. I am the light. I am small but immense.
The song calls and I follow. I will follow forevermore.
I fly. We fly.
Two nightingales in the dark.
* Image by LonesomeAesthetic at DeviantART.