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June 27, 2022

Of Search

By Hridi

He was the first who did not have to open the gates to enter her field. That is where, quietly, doubtingly, irretrievably, the Violin came to fall in love with the Magician.

The Violin lived in a field surrounded by a sturdy fence at the top of a mountain, where she was first brought by an ancient horse many years ago. The wise horse had told her she was called a Violin, but never told her why. Before leaving, he had locked the gates. But the Violin didn't mind; the mountain top had a beautiful view, the clouds played incessantly, and in Spring, if she was lucky, the soft grass bent under her.

This Magician had a wand. Which, had the Violin known anything about wands (which she did not), would have thought was a very curious object. It had a stick and hair attached. In fact, although the Violin didn't suspect this either, it looked suspiciously like a bow.

The first thing he did on entering the field was graze the wand along the length of her body. For the first time, the Violin heard the music inside her.

He did not tell her where he came from, where he was headed to, if he would stay or merely touch in passing. Nor did she ask. He was resting here for the night, and she had heard music, which until this day, she believed belonged to the songbirds alone, erupt from inside her. And it was his magic trick. It was enough.

With a little shyness, she applauded at the melody he played on her. Intrigued as she was by his magnificent silken cloak, richly dyed in the Royal Colors, she dared not wonder what lay beneath that robe. What creature was he? A horse, a bird, a violin? Although his face looked like none, she believed it was a beautiful mask. The reigns of her imagination, tearing within the relics of her small known universe, searched frantically a fathom for this mystery.

At dusk, he told her the piece he had played had a name. It was called "Discovery." With ill-concealed excitement, she asked why he had chosen to play it. That was when he showed it to her. Parting the cloth of the iridescent robe, he asked her to move closer. She was transfixed. In the leaving light, it took her as if an eternity to fully realise what she was looking at. There, at the center amid the soft hairs of his welcoming body, slightly to her right, was a mirror. As the sun cast its last glow across the western horizon, for the first time in her naïve little life, the Violin saw herself in another. Her own face bathed in shadows of surprise and desire, a million little imperfections, cast perfectly upon the heart of another, framed to fit. "What lies below this?" she managed to whisper. "See for yourself," softly dared the deep-flecked voice, as if from miles afar. She lifted the little brass-framed mirror from his chest. Underneath was a scar, a cavernous niche. A hollow where the heart of all living creatures should be. This she knew, the sudden contradiction grabbed her insides in unnamed terror. This empty cave where the heart should have been. Some terrible, terrible memory of that past she had asked nothing of, etched there, unforgiving in mirthless derision. She was afraid, violently repulsed. A desire seized her: to run, to scream. "Are you alive?" she whispered the question, her voice choking in mad hatred, as if it was a sin she was accusing him of.

He laughed. And in that laugh, the moment dissolved. Her tense strings mellowed, and as the Magician stood there caressing her, whispering tender words, she welcomed him: "Let me rest my head in this cave. Let it hold me. Play your music, play it again, for I love what you have uncovered in me. Perhaps, even you." As the first star of the night rose, the Violin brought her bridge to softly kiss the monster.

Through that night, under the glittering heavens, he played on her, for her, serenading the vast clear sky, contoured by the edge of the cliff, the acquiescing grass, the dark diffident trees. She remained, quivering under his wand, torn and healed, accepting, only accepting.

At dawn, he was gone. Nothing left behind to tell her he had been there at all. With the receding dark, she had fallen into a trance from the strange music. That was when he had left, leaving the gates open.

As the morning advanced, from behind the veils of her grief, the Violin increasingly became aware of a rising sensation. Again and again, she would rush towards the gates, step on the boundary, only to halt in surprise and disbelief -- she who had always been content within the fences of that lovely field, suddenly wanted to flee! How the absence of that music haunted her, the notes raging within the wood and metal of her body in diabolical chaos! By midday, she had diagnosed it. The wretched Magician, in leaving, had cast the Wanderer's Spell on her.

And that is how the Violin, who had lived all her life in the field at the mountaintop, came to leave the comfort of her known prose, in mad search of an elusive verse.

* * *

Her first halt is at the turn in the road. Stopping a small furry grey and white creature scurrying at the bottom of the hedge, she asks her question -- "Have you seen one with a glorious colorful robe pass by?" The creature, awfully polite for someone who tries to run away first thing it sees a stranger, curtseys and introduces itself as the Squirrel, and confirms that indeed it has, and this robed fellow floated down the left fork.

The Squirrel, this is such a new thing she has seen! Her heart flutters at this, even amid her hurry and sadness. This journey feels exquisite. Although, unaware as she is of what this strange feeling that tickles her bridge and caresses her strings is, it is, in truth, the exhilaration of escape. Everywhere is brand new, every road full of possibilities, every tree chorusing in exotic birds, and even some lucky glimpses of unheard-of creatures, like the Squirrel.

The Violin does not know it yet, but travel and experience can heal like no medicine in the world. With every step she takes, she casts a little of her anger and sorrow behind. But the love persists, it clings on, a fellow-traveler. At every turn, she repeats her question to the first stranger in sight. Yet soon, she is left wondering who it is she is searching for -- the magician or the music he took away with him?

This is how the protagonist of our story makes progress. Often, she is misdirected, spends weary days on lost trails, nights shivering in cold forest floors, but always, returning. The glorious gown of the Magician's turns out a huge help, no one who has seen it once could forget it. Thus, slowly but surely, the Violin makes her way towards the sea.

It is windy and cold on the afternoon she sights her first wave. The humid air has already damped her wooden frame, and her strings are beginning to rust, one of her tuners is broken, another wobbly. Even if she did ever find the Magician again, she doubts if he would recognize her, much less, have any use for her rusty strings and moldy body. Not the most potent of spells could restore ever again the naïve and beautiful Violin of the mountaintop. Charm that would ooze from the strings, and wonder and delight resonating in the empty insides at the smallest provocations, loveliness that would swoon even the grave horses of the hillside ... all this has been shed off, cast off with her helpless anger. Yet here she is, this far in the search that turning back is inconceivable.

The first warmth on this inhospitable day comes from an unexpected quarter -- the sand. "Lift me!" says a squeaky voice. Puzzled, the Violin looks around, and finally at the ground. A repeat of the instruction reveals that the speaker is not the sand, unlike what her crazed brain imagined, but a small creature half burrowed in. It is beautiful, even her wearied vision can appreciate that, with a gorgeous spiraling shell and a small white head poking underneath. At her baffled speechlessness, the creature decides on introductions -- "Hello tired traveler, I am the Mollusk. I believe you must be the Violin, from what I have heard. I have news for you. But first, lift me up and take me into that cave in the cliffside to your left. Pray do that, weary instrument, and it shall be to your benefit." Still a little dazed, the Violin picks up the Mollusk, following the orders. The cave turns out to be surprisingly cozy, sheltered well from the wind and spray. Just what she needed!

Tonight, there is no more conversation. She sleeps, deeper than ever before. A terrible storm rages outside, and if she were but aware of it, she would be grateful to the Mollusk for saving her life. But she only sleeps, dreamless, aching all over in the dark void of that rest.

Like on all mornings after a storm, the Violin wakes up to a clear blue sky and warm sunlight entering the mouth of the cave. So complete has been her rest and so guileless the beauty of this morning, that for a few moments, she begins to believe the horrors of the past few days were merely a bad dream she dreamt in that cozy cave. "Good morning, my friend! Hope you recall our meeting last night," from a squeaky voice brings her back to reality.

Sitting at the entrance of the cave with the Mollusk in her hand, looking out into the deep blue waters, watching the waves build, crash on the rocks, scattering in white foam, incessantly advancing and receding, pulling the sand hither thither, then build again, over and over cyclically, instills a deep sense of peace in the Violin. She does not remember the last time she felt this way. Or doesn't she? Was it not at the edge of that night, when the magician pulled out note after note from her bosom, covering her, as it were, in her own delight's mystery?

"Who are you looking for?" asks the Mollusk. And for the second time, the Violin doubts her words -- is it the magician, or his magic? She decides to leave it to the Mollusk to decide, and starts narrating her story from the beginning.

The Mollusk, though obviously bored, lets her speak. The sun is past its peak by the time she finishes, and the Mollusk, grabbing the chance to put in a word, exclaims, "So you say you are the Violin that is looking for the Magician who arrived here two moons ago. No, no, don't get excited, he has left. But your story got famous with the whole coast long before you arrived. But before I go any further, I need proof. Prove that you indeed are the Violin we've heard so much of." Confused, half in delight, restless, she asks how. "I have a question which the Magician left in my special care. Only the right Violin knows the right answer. Tell me now, what is the name of the most beautiful melody in the world?"

"Discovery" -- her answer is spontaneous.

The Magician's gift to the Mollusk is a spell with instructions, which it promised to keep safe until safe delivery to the Violin who, the Magician had said, was bound to reach the coast in her quest. It is the Spell of Flight. "Three morns from this day, at the water's edge on the beach, you will find a dying bird, its heart ripped out by one of the eagles nesting on the cliffs, in a terrible fight. Standing next to this bird, you will throw me into the sea with as much force as you can summon. It won't be easy, for I am your only friend now. But you must gather the strength. You have these three days to decide what it is you are searching for. If your mind is made up, the moment my shell touches the water, the spell will break loose. Fear not, friend, you shall find what you desire."

Three mornings later, a rusty battered Violin stands on the shore at the water's edge, wailing noises emerging from her bleak body, as she flings a friend far into the ocean. An unbearable pain seizes her; with unspeakable horror, she watches the remains of her fine wooden body twist and shrivel, start dripping blood. The strings are churned into a whirl from which emerges a bunch of muscles, clinging to a body that is no more wood but flesh. In a matter of minutes, the transformation is complete.

Dusk is witness of a miracle. A dying songbird revives, breaks into beautiful melody. Far near the horizon, her kin flock towards distant lands, across the sea. She raises her wings to join them. In her beats the heart of discovery.






Article © Hridi. All rights reserved.
Published on 2022-03-28
Image(s) are public domain.
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