A Sonata for a Tombstone
by Ian Cooke-Tapia
Deceiving was the night sky, with its million twinkling eyes still as the illusion of lightspeed and relative great distances through time allowed. The stars stared down through a clear atmosphere at the top of a forest of bent shapes – cellulose-based structures broken by the strength of raging tempests, unmended and healed back into twisting, gnarling shapes. That forest was made of impossible trees of impossible angles, bone-thin and tall, if they were straight they would be tall, taller than any tree ever was. But the northern wind was relentless and hard as fathoming the depth of a star or the breadth of a comet, and it bent anything that stood before it out of shape. Those trees never snapped, simply twisted around themselves and others while their scratchy claws tried to reach out to the twinkling stars above as if trying desperately to show that ancient, indifferent and probably dead gazes something precious.
Down by the trunks and roots, the wind whistled through the trees it squirreled its way through, and many a night creatures whistled back in response, confused, as if to a friend folk. At the top the reaching hands of leafless branches rustled together, so very close as to put lovers to shame.
The northern wind was blowing, hard and relentless. Trees bent in impossible angles; never snapping, never breaking, just moaning in the tones that make every creature turn their heads away and shudder. Their tops kissed, making a sound of ruffling and rubbing that could put lovers to shame. Clouds came and went, never staying long for the stories of their shadows to cast any significant darkness upon the overgrown grounds; like an unwanted family guest, they just made you aware of the moonlight that you took for granted but didn’t want to go away. The sky was clear, and stars speckled the endless darkness like freckles on a ginger’s face.
A silhouette danced around the stones.
She moved with grace. Her steps were silent. Her breathing but a whisper compared to the whistling of the wind. She spun and whirled around the obstacles in her road, never turning or changing directions but flowing from one motion to the next. Her long, long hair brushing against the tombstones and branches on her path. The wind calmed down, and she found her step lighter and calmer.
She moved over a fallen pillar, her feet kissing the ground with a sigh, touching the coldness of pebbles, the wetness of soil. She breathed in, and the scents of a graveyard at night filled her world. She could smell the tall trees, with their flowers of such scent that perfume makers would me envious. Wet earth and rotting leaves floated in the air, and soon after she knew that the grass was recently cut; the fresh, pungent scent pushing all other scents from her mind.
She kept walking, up the hill she knew so well, past the citrus flavour in the air close to the lemon tree, past the pile of stones and broken concrete, past the bed of blue flowers growing on the old grave, past the scurrying rats, past the abandoned tool shed.
The woman with the hand around a violin case, the dark silhouette against a grey sky, skipped and twirled as if dancing to a song of laughter and moans. Her toes sank into the mud, she wriggled them and giggled at the tickling as it came between them.
The silhouette danced and pranced, from this tree to the next, moving with speed and grace and never once stopping, even if a tombstone, or stone, or tree was in her way. She simply spun at the last moment and danced around the tree. She was a nymph of the dark. The graveyard her playground.
And when an owl, grey as the moonlight, made its night song, the woman stopped. She let her arms drop and turned her ears towards the beauty of the night – a sibling. She whistled, clear, crisp and beautifully. And the owl hooted once more and then flew away, its wings flapping silently. The woman walked, quiet like a shadow, towards where the howl had hooted from.
Her hands brushed against the stone, smoothed by years of rain and sun. She let her fingers touch the faded sigil of a sun and sword, and slowly traced the fading name on the stone. The letters were foreign to her. Unknown. A mystery. Who lied here, who had died here, was unknown to her, and for that very reason, she smiled. She didn’t know who was here, and for that, she brought a gift. A new gift every year.
The wind picked up, and high on the hill, it bit into her nearly naked skin like a blade bites into flesh. But she didn’t shiver, she didn’t shake. The woman raised her head, closed her grey, grey eyes, and let the wind bathe her. Clean her worries, her sins, her life away; the silhouette let the wind blow away all the things that held her back from giving her gift. Her hair danced in the night, her clothes threatened to fly away. She stood there, arms outstretched, taking the full blast of wind cold enough to make fire cower.
The moon was full overhead. The stars all but gone. The graveyard a beauty of greys and blacks, of blues and hues unknown. For she didn’t see the world in colours. She didn’t even see the world. She understood, as only a person like her could understand.
The scent of the graveyard filled her. The scents brought by the northern chill intermixed. Stone and ash, feasts and ale. She could smell the graveyard, and the lives that lie underneath.
It was time.
She sat on the nameless grave. She prayed an apology to the person she bothered, and promised a tune to elate the spirits, if there were any still around.
Her bow moved over the strings and they made a beautiful sound, like the caw of a crow and a song of opera. Her violin was black wood, ebony and strong. It was old, with faded polish, and engravings of gold and silver. It was a gift, after a fashion, old as stone, and it existed but for one thing.
She took a deep breath, scents of earth and night inspiring her. The cloth clinging to her dark skin was nearly transparent, and soon enough it will be gone. The woman’s body called for warmth, and the woman would make it come, with song and music.
The bow kissed the strings. The fingers played their magic.
The sound that came forth was beautiful, nostalgic, gloomy like the night and grey like the moonlight.
She didn’t sing, at least not in a way one could hear. As her notes rose into the heavens, and her fingers danced on the strings, as her bow kissed them, the sky smiled. As the music flew, and flew, and flew the world around her rejoiced.
In time she stopped playing, and her dark violing rested. Her robes were discarded, broken away from her body by the greedy wind. She stood naked, a dark silhouette against the grey sky. Her nipples were erect, her skin like a goose’s, her smile charming like fire.
She brushed her thighs over the tombstone, ran her fingers over the long-forgotten name, and smiled. She thanked the spirits, she thanked her god, for letting her give a gift of music to this faded thought, this faded person, this forgotten language.
The blind woman walked down the hill, prancing, and dancing.
In the distance, an owl hooted, not unlike the music from the violin.