Card Challenge: Day 8
NOTE: This was actually written yesterday, but due to travel, I did not have an internet connection until I got home super late. So I went to bed instead. I’ll be posting Day 9 later today!
Card Day 8: A boy sits inside a house-shaped music box, gazing through a barred window. Outside, music notes litter the ground. (Missed Days: 1)
Fifteen years was a long time to live with a curse. It was a hard punishment for a life that was, as far as he was concerned, had been without serious flaw. Yes, there had been the occasional youthful foible or mischief, but Marik felt certain that he had done nothing to warrant such a penalty. Nevertheless, this was the hand foisted upon him after he killed a pheasant in the Ageless Queen’s forest. He had not know, had once been his protest. Those words died on his lips long ago, along with everything else.
It had started imperceptibly. He had been a youthful young man, spending a day watching after the sheep in the fields along the forest. It had gotten later than he wanted—he had been forced to track down a wandered sheep—and his meager lunch had long since faded from his gut. It growled and rumbled, and Marik longed to settle in for the night, strike up a fire, and cook something for dinner. But he had missed his chance to find something. As he led his sheep towards a sheltered spot for evening, his thoughts turned over and over, mourning his pitiful dinner of dried berries and a hunk of nearly-molded bread.
As if a missive from the gods, the crow of a pheasant pierced through the dimming evening. Marik’s eyes scanned the surroundings swiftly, catching sight of the lovely bird just beyond the perimeter of the forest. He glanced at his sheep, mildly munching on the grass, but weary for the evening. The docile beasts would likely stay clustered for long enough to attain his goal. He pulled his sling from his pocket and crept forward, loading a hefty stone into the pouch.
The shot was true, and the bird was delicious, roasted over the open fire. Marik slept with a full belly.
The next day, he woke to a silent forest. It was odd to him, and he glanced around, expecting to see storm clouds barreling in on the horizon, but only the cheery blue sky and bright sun met his gaze. Perhaps it was just his presence.
He continued on, wondering what made his sheep so silent as well. They were normally a grumbling bunch, but today they marched in silence. Marik felt his senses sharpen as he strained his ears and eyes for any sign of a predator. Nothing. The day passed in silence, and Marik began to feel the weight of the unnatural silence settle on him.
The next morning was the same. He began to whistle, hoping to banish the sound, but he could not even here his breath through his lips. At that, his heart began to pound. What devilry was this. He opened his mouth, trying to speak, and watched as his world went from the boring life of a shepherd to some twisted nightmare.
From his lips poured his words, airy script written on the air. The words hung there for a moment, fluttering in the breeze, then crashed to the ground as if they were made of lead. Marik blinked, hoping to banish the mites that danced across his vision. He spoke his name, and watched the string of letters dance from his breath. Chills crept up and down his body as the impossibility of the thing settled on him. The silence of yesterday sunk in, pulling him deeper into despair.
He was quick to round up the herd and begin marching towards town. He was not due back for another couple of days, but this warranted an early return. The sheep protested—he could see their mouths opening and closing in angry silence—but he pressed them on back towards town. Once they were securely placed in their pen, he marched his way to the village pharmacy.
It was near midnight when he banged—silently—on the door to the pharmacist’s home. The old man eventually opened the door, and Marik suddenly missed the wretched thing’s squeal. He raised his lantern, his lips moving in silence. The words that poured from his lips were not words, but some jumbled script that looped back in, above and over itself, in incomprehensible patterns.
Marik began to explain, his words tumbling over one another in his haste. The pharmacist simply stared at him, not a hint of comprehension flashing over his face. Marik began to panic, to speak more. His words piled at his feet, a weight pinning him to the spot. Eventually the old man held up a hand and walked inside, only to return with a quill and piece of parchment. Relief swelled within Marik as he took the quill, ink shimmering on the tip, and pressed it lightly against the paper. He wrote, and watched as the page remained empty, the ink only briefly touching the paper before dissipating into the air.
Marik tried again, panic palpable in his face. The same result followed, and the pharmacist gave him a perplexed look. The weight of his curse sinking in, Marik dropped the quill and parchment, fleeing back to the safety of his home.
It was, at least, easy to sleep in the silence. He slept, and heard her voice. The Ageless Queen laughed and mocked him, singing her accusations against him. Marik woke the next morning, the taste of pheasant rotting on his breath, and wished that he could have silence again, but only her voice. It laughed and sang, lopping its indictment again and again as it replayed the words of the curse. He screamed, trying to break free, but only watched as his vowels piled below him on the floor. Outside his window, he could see a bird singing in the tree, its chest rising and falling with the action, but instead leaden notes collapsed to the ground. Only her voice cut through the silence, endlessly reminding him of his crime.
After that, Marik lost the color green. Then, blues became black. Brown was the next to meld into the solid shade, his vision swiftly narrowing to a world of bright colors not yet taken and solid, endless black. When he slept, her face mocked him, and he woke to the haunting green of her eyes following him, her words endlessly mocking his wretched state. The loss of smell was a welcome relief, as he no longer had to smell the tiny village, but the loss of taste robbed him of his last pleasure. Finally, he woke one day to realize he could not feel his toes against the rough cotton blanket. As numbness crept up his body day by day, Marik resolved.
Fifteen years was too long to live with a curse.
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.