23: The Night Everything Changed (Part Two)
“I—I guess you don’t remember any of this,” she said as they continued onwards, one step at a time. “You were only a baby. It was—” she winced, clasped her side with her free hand. Dante wondered if she had cramp from running so much. “It was your birthday…”
His mother stopped for breath, then gestured towards the houses ahead of them. “Over there,” she said, her voice growing hoarser with every word. “Number seven. That was … our home.”
Each step seemed heavier than the last, each breath drier. Dante wanted to take a drink from the Donaran flask, but he daren’t let his mother go lest she stumble and fall into the mist playing about their feet. Something about that fog, about the way it moved, made him nervous. It was as if it had a life of its own.
His mother hacked, a painful laugh, but a laugh all the same. “Some of them aren’t so bad … when you get to know them. The rest are … the rest you should probably avoid. I can—I can already hear…” Her voice faded to a murmur, and from there into a delicate humming. The tune — twelve notes, repeated — sent a sharp jolt up Dante’s spine, pinched every nerve in his body with freezing pain.
It was the Song — the Twelve Notes for the Twelve Wings. Whenever the madness tried to steal her away from him, she would hum those notes. Sometimes, she would she would mouth their words.
Dante shook her shoulder. “Mother! Ophelia! Ophelia Orpheus!”
Their sanctuary still lay a good thirty feet away, and he could feel his muscles ready to snap from the strain, but he wouldn’t give up. Dante Orpheus wasn’t like his father. Dante Orpheus kept his promises.
“It’s … it’s their fault,” said his mother. “If they’d listened to me … bloody … bloody faeries.” She made the warding symbol with her free hand. Dante thought his saw something glistening on her fingers, but she hid them inside her cloak before he could check. “Don’t … you ever let me hear you … use that word, you hear me? They don’t like it, and some of them … some of them will curse you for it. And you don’t need … don’t need any more curses in your life…” She pursed her lips and Dante sensed, as he always did, the tears welling up in the corners of her eyes. “No,” she whispered, almost to herself, “you don’t need any more curses.”
They were a few steps away from the edge of the light when Dante noticed the fog had reached their knees. The next step was a sudden struggle, as if he were pulling against a thousand invisible hands, digging their nails into his shins, and the step that followed was worse still — and was his mother humming again, or was that just his imagination? Then, with a gasp that almost sounded like a sigh of defeat, she staggered, topping face-first into the mist. With a scream of anger, Dante surged forward, drawing on every last ounce of strength he could find. Stumbling over himself, he pulled them both into the light.
Behind them, the fog crashed against an invisible wall like the great tsukinami of the ocean battering the titanic Seventh Wall, desperate to flood the lands beyond. Dante turned to his mother and helped her to her feet. Free from the fog and their whispered song, the final stagger towards the house was the easiest of all.
I’m still trying to find an a cappella version of ‘Moonlight Sonata‘ to demonstrate what the Song sounds like.