Young Writers Society

Home » Literary works » Short Story » General


The Song of a Muse

by HGsomeone


I do not know when I was born. Whether it was at the same time as Amanda or some point after that, it does not matter as I have been with her more years to bother counting.

I have always been a part of Amanda’s life, hovering at her shoulder or humming in her ear. I love to watch that peculiar flare spark behind her eyes whenever she catches a hint of my song. I do not know if she can sense that I am always there, or if she wonders who plays the music for her soul.

Sometimes, I sneak up on her when she least expects it, to coo a soft whisper in her ear or serenade a melody. I largely like to sing at night, crooning to the stars above and weaving soft lullabies to fill her mind in sleep. My voice comes more smoothly in the dark, swirling farther beyond my imagining and transfiguring into sounds that would be alien in sunlight; you could say I get carried away with myself. Amanda doesn’t always remember my night-time melodies. She often forgets them by the time the sun tentatively tilts her head upwards and slides into the day.

We both began small. Her hands with their little chubby fingers had been so difficult to guide, clumsy even. What came from them would be a deranged heap of lines that I would have first aroused in her as the image of a palace. But whilst doubt had crashed down on her in uncertain waves when our work was presented, my tolling lilt always floated above this as a comfort, carrying her fantasies away.

Amanda was earnest, and her ears grew sharper as she aged, along with her hand. At my sound, she would instantly grab hold of anything I sang and draw her pen across a page in a flourish of trills in hopes of capturing my voice. In a way, we both matured. My melodies became more complex and Amanda became more adept at transcribing them. I was like a river, the source, and Amanda was the waterfall through which my harmonies cascaded down through the ink of her pen.

While we worked, alas, a shadow would howl at our backs, clawing at our minds. I would do my best and sing ever louder over its wretched barks but at times its talons would curl over my mouth and bring Amanda to a halt. Our coursing connection severed. There were many battles akin to this, studious attacks to fight through this enemy. It was difficult, and my throat was wrung hoarse more than once, but we always recovered, in the end. Amanda and I, forever pushing forth until we had finished our symphonies.

Our lives were intertwined, laced around one another until we had become the same thread.

Soon, it came time to turn our face to the world. We were only a foot away from our music reaching near a thousand other hearts when a metal-bound vehicle of flame careened into our life. I felt Amanda unravel away from me.

More had been scarred than her body after the collision. The funeral of blank faces in that grey strangled morning was foggy to my eyes and I found it difficult to see without a congregation of images choking me, all black with outlines in red. They hacked at my voice, fracturing it, and I found it difficult to breathe. My sound had been altered beyond recognition and I knew it could never be undone.

Amanda listened little to me after that. Whenever I neared she would turn away. I feared she was scared of my new voice, of how it had changed. Looking at her now, sitting at our old desk, the wood unchanged to the hands that shook upon it; I realise she can feel nothing when my words now seem to scrape over concrete to her ear.

Her eyes were fixed to the ghost in the window in front of her, glass mirrored in glass. I hang forgotten like a forsaken coat that has been torn without ever any hope of being mended. The distance between us is stark and ice creeps colder around me every hour, freezing me in an abandoned time. Even now I feel myself glazing over, shards spiked at my throat, preventing my song.

Amanda. However did this happen?

Amanda. Don’t let me go.

At the edges and in the corners of the room, I see the shadows slip and slither closer to her chair; there are more of them now. For so many years we had fought them, and I know I can’t let them claim her now.

My movement is slow, and sluggish, and shaky. I feel the tarmac road biting into me as I pull myself forwards through the room curtained in night. Looking up, I see that comet of flaming barreling towards me once again and I let out a cry, a screech of metal. Ahead, I see Amanda’s head shift at the sound.

She can hear me. Deep down, a new strength uncoils inside me.

Eventually, through tortuous agony, I stretch out a hand to place on her shoulder. She is shaking, shuddering with my breath. There is nothing I can say for the words would hurt too much. Instead, I open my mouth and a song cautiously rolls forward.

It is a melody unlike any other I have ever sung. The sound is bent with the rings of metal, whirling around us in a rush of silver fused heat. It turns to a scream of pain, a forte of fire, unfurling till it feels that it might scrape the heavens above and drill into hell below. Shrieks resound as a chorus to my voice and I am unsure if they come from the shadows or myself. The song struck terror within me, but also awe.

Silence is a patient friend who waits quietly for my mouth to close. I am nothing more than a husk at the conclusion of my crescendo.

In her mirroring window, I see a spark. A drop trails down Amanda’s cheek and others soon follow its course. That hand, that I had guided all my life, rose and traced a familiar line across the desk to take hold of a pen. The tool seemed heavy, an ancient relic.

I heard Amanda take a cumbersome intake of breath and set the pen to paper. She began to write, pain coming as her ink.


Note: You are not logged in, but you can still leave a comment or review. Before it shows up, a moderator will need to approve your comment (this is only a safeguard against spambots). Leave your email if you would like to be notified when your message is approved.







Is this a review?


  

Comments



User avatar
41 Reviews


Points: 69
Reviews: 41

Donate
Sun Aug 02, 2020 8:59 pm
View Likes
IamI wrote a review...



Preface
Hi @HGsomeone, I’m here for a slightly belated review (I’ve had the link to this copy pasted for so long it still gives the title of the piece as 'singing'). This review may be shorter, since most of my comments are rather positive ones

Bad

Since this piece is mostly about the prose I'll focus on that.

Getting right into it, I think you occasionally pile on too many modifiers. to demonstrate what I mean I'll use this sentence from the fourth paragraph:

But whilst doubt had crashed down on her in uncertain waves when our work was presented, my tolling lilt always floated above this as a comfort, carrying her fantasies away.


The phrase that first stands out most to me was this:
...doubt crashed down on her in uncertain waves


What I want to focus on is the 'uncertain waves' part. this phrase confuses me, are the waves uncertain? I believe it means 'waves of uncertainty', but honestly I think it would be better if the 'uncertain' part was just removed. In most cases, the fewer words used expressing an idea, the greater the impact.

With that in mind, I would suggest altering the phrase:

my tolling lilt always floated above this as a comfort


to something like 'my tolling lilt always floated above as a comfort'.

Something that I think this story could do with is some more precision: as @Que mentioned we don't really get any idea of what kind of music they make, I just think it would be nice to know. Doing this would also give more context to the rather abrupt change of scene to the car crash.


Good
I remember seeing a bit on your wall about how this piece was mostly you experimenting with figurative language. to this end I think it you did very well. I especially like the opening:

I do not know when I was born. Whether it was at the same time as Amanda or some point after that, it does not matter as I have been with her more years to bother counting.


It does an excellent job of establishing the attachment between the characters.

Along with this, the imagery throughout is stunning and your description of a reflection in a window:

Her eyes were fixed to the ghost in the window in front of her, glass mirrored in glass.


is so good that I'm absolutely stealing it, with some reworking of course.

and even though the characters aren't the main part of this story, I still feel attached to them by the end, not an inconsiderable achievement in a short story of a page or so.


Conclusion
This is probably one of your best works. The prose is absorbing and expressive and its lack of restraint is negated by the fact that the narrative doesn't overstay its welcome.

I look forward to seeing more of your work!




HGsomeone says...


Hey hey and thanks for the review,
It%u2019s always a pleasure to read your reviews and I really must try to repay the favour whenever I can.
So as always, thank you :)



User avatar
483 Reviews


Points: 5141
Reviews: 483

Donate
Sun Jul 12, 2020 7:11 pm
View Likes
Que wrote a review...



Hiya HGsomeone,

Q here for a review per your request! This might be a little lengthy, so just a heads up. ^_^ Everything I have to say is a suggestion, so feel free to ignore things that don't work for you and ask any questions you may have!

Whether it was at the same time as Amanda Crawford or some point after that, it does not matter as I have been with her more years to bother counting.

Ooh, I like this way of introducing Amanda Crawford and instantly indicating the narrator's closeness to her! I think it was very smooth, but the last part of the line, "as I have been with her more years to bother counting" seems a little off to me. I can't put my finger on what, but it feels like it would fit the beginning of your sentence better if you wrote something like, "it does not matter because the moments we've spent together have been more meaningful than any count of years" or "it does not matter because the two of us were both born, and we've been together ever since." I wish I had something better to offer, but it's mostly just the feeling that the line doesn't quite pull me all the way in like it should.

Sometimes, I sneak up on her when she least expects it, to coo a soft whisper in her ear or serenade a melody.

Sorry to be picky about your word choice here, but I think the "coo a soft whisper" and "serenade a melody" is really a bit much. It's good to use different words if you're going to be talking about songs/singing a lot, but when it's this extreme it just seems a little bulky. When you use "serenade" as a verb, it already implies "a melody," so it can just be left as "serenade her" if you'd like.

We both began small. Her hands with their little chubby fingers had been so difficult to guide, clumsy even. What came from them would be a deranged heap of lines that I would have first aroused in her as the image of a palace. But whilst doubt had crashed down on her in uncertain waves when our work was presented, my tolling lilt always floated above this as a comfort, carrying her fantasies away.

A few things here. I think "had been" isn't necessary because you're completely in the past? It sounds a little strange to me. Also, the following lines are a little confusing--I know that music is in lines, but when you just say "lines" it can be a bit strange to readers who don't usually think in musical terms! The phrasing makes it difficult to understand your metaphor of a palace and the work being presented, and I'm not quite sure what a "tolling lilt" is.

While we worked, alas, a shadow would howl at our backs, clawing at our minds.

You have some really nice imagery here, but the first part, "while we worked, alas" has a bit of a light tone to it. Yes, it sounds formal and a bit old-english-y, which is really cool! But "alas" just seems like, "oh well, I guess that's the way things are" rather than something terrible which they are fighting against. (I'm also curious about what this shadow is, and it is really working against both of them? or just Amanda??)

forever pushing forth until we had finished our symphonies.

Another thing about word choice. Are they working on a literal symphony or is symphony just a term for their work? (if it's the latter, then maybe something like "opus" would be more of what you want! :D) I am all for specific music imagery, as long as it's used intentionally!

They hacked at my voice, fracturing it, and I found it difficult to breathe. My sound had been altered beyond recognition and I knew it could never be undone.

Amanda listened little to me after that. Whenever I neared she would turn away. I feared she was scared of my new voice, of how it had changed.

This part is very interesting!

Okay, so here are some overall thoughts! I think you did very well in terms of plot and the idea at the heart of this is really neat. You don't often see stories about muses from their perspective. :) You also have a great deal of imagery, which can be very pretty--I'm going to talk in a moment about how that can be a double-edged sword.

I think what this story could use most is some clarity. As before with your imagery, it can be very detailed and beautiful, but the problem with this is that if you go overboard, it can be hard to actually figure out what is happening and what is important to the story. For example, the car crash. I'm still not quite sure what happened!
a metal-bound vehicle of flame careened into our life.
Where did the fire come in and what exactly was this situation?? You don't need to abandon your imagery, but balance it out with some more straightforward lines. Both extremes--all imagery and a straight telling of events--can be negative, so you just need to make sure that you have a nice blend of both.

Also, you have a lot of interesting things about music! You use a lot of terms, but not in a very specific way. I would really love some information on what Amanda is working on. It seems mostly related to classical music, but maybe she's writing songs for guitar? Orchestral scores? Rock or jazz or operatic? I think it would help give more of a body to your piece to decide on one thing. Then it would be more definite and less generic. This would be especially helpful at the end, when Amanda's style changes. Readers don't have a grasp on what that style was, and it's even harder to tell what it becomes next! So anything you could do to narrow it down into one thing would be great.

That's about all I have to say! This was a really interesting story, and it was engaging. It could be refined a little more, but you have a really nice start to it and a good arc of transformation. You can use your strength with imagery to make this piece really pop out when you cut back a little and add clarity. Also, the narrator as a muse and a character with feelings is really neat! I would love to see you work more with that too. :)

Have a great day!

-Q




HGsomeone says...


Hi Que and thanks for the review,
When describing what they were working on I was trying to be intentionally vague as to what they were working since in head I simply thought that a muse would think of all artistic endeavours as a kind of music. (E.g the heap of lines could%u2019ve been a child%u2019s drawing)
I can understand why you and others would have thought of them working purely on music as I did layer a lot of that sort of imagery. Do you have any suggestions of how I could make my original intent clearer?



Que says...


Ooooh that makes more sense with the writing at the end!! I think that you could tone down some of the more specific music imagery, like "trills" and add in some other images too. If the muse is singing, then the muse could sing colors, or songs with/without words, and that could help with all kinds of creativity. You could also give description of what Amanda is putting on the paper, making sure to include different things each time to cover a lot of different art forms. Also, maybe you add dance in with the music to stretch the boundaries even more. Very cool though!



User avatar


Points: 25
Reviews: 1

Donate
Sat Jul 11, 2020 4:33 pm
bookieblues_07 says...



Hey there!

You've written a really good piece. I just want to let you know to reduce the usage of posh words. That is the only con from my side. Its upto you though to change and all. This piece of writing really touched a raw nerve and to be specific the last line was just amazing.

Be positive and keep writing :)




User avatar


Points: 25
Reviews: 1

Donate
Sat Jul 11, 2020 4:33 pm
View Likes
bookieblues_07 wrote a review...



Hey there!

You've written a really good piece. I just want to let you know to reduce the usage of posh words. That is the only con from my side. Its upto you though to change and all. This piece of writing really touched a raw nerve and to be specific the last line was just amazing.

Be positive and keep writing :)






Please ignore the above.



HGsomeone says...


Hey hey and thanks for the review,
I definitely have to reword some parts so I%u2019ll see what I can do about trying to weave some of the fancier words more effortlessly into the story.
Again, thanks for the feedback and have a good day!



User avatar
63 Reviews


Points: 4947
Reviews: 63

Donate
Sat Jul 11, 2020 3:55 pm
View Likes
Andrewknorpp wrote a review...



Okay! I really liked that, it was very poetic, strong, and had a lot of good imagery and metaphors. The idea was strong and the turn in the middle on improving it.
So for specifics, I'll start with the opening line.

"I do not know when I was born. Whether it was at the same time as Amanda Crawford or some point after that, it does not matter as I have been with her more years to bother counting."
It's a good idea, and the sentiment is effective, but the wording is a little clunky.

"I have always been a part of Amanda’s life, hovering at her shoulder or humming in her ear. I love to watch that peculiar flare spark behind her eyes whenever she catches a hint of my song. I do not know if she can sense that I am always there, or if she wonders who plays the music for her soul." This was evocative, and from it, I began to imagine the muse was like a little bird perched on her shoulder.
"swirling farther beyond my imagining and transfiguring into sounds that would be alien in sunlight; you could say I get carried away with myself." The 'You could say' bit doesn't feel like it fits entirely well.

"What came from them would be a deranged heap of lines that I would have first aroused in her as the image of a palace" This is wordy, my brain has a difficult time following it, I had to read it multiple times before I got what you were saying, consider shortening it a bit.

"While we worked, alas, a shadow would howl at our backs, clawing at our minds. I would do my best and sing ever louder over its wretched barks but at times its talons would curl over my mouth and bring Amanda to a halt. Our coursing connection severed. There were many battles akin to this, studious attacks to fight through this enemy. It was difficult, and my throat was wrung hoarse more than once, but we always recovered, in the end. Amanda and I, forever pushing forth until we had finished our symphonies." I don't know what the shadow represents, but there is a chance that's just me.

" The funeral of blank faces in that grey strangled morning was foggy to my eyes and I found it difficult to see without a congregation of images choking me, all black with outlines in red " really wordy again.

"I heard Amanda take a cumbersome intake of breath and set the pen to paper. She began to write, pain coming as her ink." That a really solid line, ends the story excellently.
Overall I really enjoyed this, though it is wordy in a couple of places, that seems to be a consequence of the poetic way it is written.

So, that's all just my two cents.
Thanks! and keep writing




HGsomeone says...


Hey hey and thanks for the review,
I%u2019ll definitely get started on fixing some of those sentences since they even felt awakened even to me but I couldn%u2019t figure out what was wrong with them.
Thanks again and have a good day!



User avatar
131 Reviews


Points: 11
Reviews: 131

Donate
Sat Jul 11, 2020 3:50 pm
View Likes
Vil wrote a review...



I... I'm VP, and I think... I'm gonna cry.

Yep, those floodgates have been unleashed.

This is such a sad story, which is one of the big three reasons I love it. The emotion you have portrayed here is so human... so easy to connect to-- the second reason I love it. The figurative language ha been well-used and well-placed, helping to define the sorrowful demons we find after death, separation, and/or tragedy.

As I think about this, try to reread it through the tears and emotional mess that I am, I am reminded of my own grief and mourning periods, including over those that do not deserve it. I am also reminded of Dumbledore's words-- "Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living [...]." In this case, I pity both. I want to give the Narrator and Amanda a hug apiece and tell them its going to be okay, whether it will be or not.

This is so wonderfully written, HG. So very [redacted] well written.Nothing could convince me otherwise.




HGsomeone says...


Wow, thank you
That%u2019s certainly one of the most touching reviews I%u2019ve ever read.
I%u2019m glad you enjoyed the story and that the emotion was able to get across (being the writer, everything kind of feels flat when I read back over it)
I hope you have a great day and thank you again for such a kind review.




The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.
— Samuel Johnson