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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Flash Fiction: Listen to the Queen's Song

The cries of the crowd rose like a roar of different throats crowing the same thing, the same desperate love, the same swelling feeling in the breast; then the kick drum began, a throbbing, low note stinging in the chest, thrusting through her sinuses; the crowd's roar increased, the mouths moved with adoration in this shared moment, uniting into a chorus that she was certain she could inhale, could dine upon so thick was it.

Xanthe closed her eyes to the lights on stage as the drunken woman next to her jostled her with pointed elbows, and strained her other senses as the bass began its profusion of thudding notes. The woman stepped on her foot with pointed heels, but Xanthe braced to endure it as the man behind her, tall and looming, pushed her forward with the might of the ten people behind her. She dug in her heels against the onslaught, because she wouldn't miss the sight.

There on stage, wearing her tattered jeans, her ancient leather jacket patched together with shiny duct tape, her boots so careworn that mud still clung to it, appeared the singer.

Singer. Capital S.

Xanthe knew that even if the crowd didn't.
Familiar strong lines of cheek and jaw lifted toward the too bright glow of lights flickering across the stage, a face once lovingly recreated in ebony by the master artisan of the court, a bust fit for a queen, but a queen of roaming. A queen of dust and roadsides. Now she was here, glorying in the ten thousand screaming fans in a way Xanthe had never seen before. Xanthe had followed her and her cohorts when the queen began years ago in the usual roadside bars, until the smell of stale beer and lonely desperation clung to her pores.

That's where the queen had always roamed. The cities. In alleyways. Crooning in opium dens. Sometimes she was a priestess and sang with the fervor of the god or goddess, but the queen quickly flew from that disguise, because there was no god or goddess but the Song.

Up on stage, the queen lifted her broad, rough hands and shook her head back, her tightly woven dreadlocks long over her shoulders, her ebon skin shining like a statue. The crowd roared louder at the gesture as if understanding that their love was required at her whim.

It always had been, Xanthe mused.
Xanthe didn't know the lyrics, not like those around her who formed them upon their lips like prayer. But the queen raised the microphone and Sang.
Not the voice of too bright and too young and too pretty little things, those babes that now graced the airwaves with their stamped-for-approval voices. It was rough cut, a shattered diamond; it was a shriek and a croon in one; it was a fusion of lost highways, lost lives, of time passing, of loneliness and all of those eternal sunsets and--

The air seemed to thicken; the drunken woman next to her rolled her eyes back in her head in ecstasy. The man behind her seemed to sag into her, until she had to push back, the flecks of his sweat pouring over her.

Xanthe knew their joy. She felt it every time she heard the queen Sing. In Abyssinia, in Roma until it seemed the Voice would shatter the stone streets near the Circus Maximus, among the rōnin whose faces were always drawn with their shame, standing near the sentinel Lion's Gate in Mycenae while the guards listened on, on the paddlewheeled steamships making their way down the Mississippi, and in a thousand dusty American bars.

Never had Xanthe dared to approach the queen.

Her hands fell on the edge of the stage, and using her foot on the drunken girl, she launched herself up; the lights blinded her for a moment, but she staggered forward.

Voice gone for a moment, the queen looked at her with a bright, beautiful grin.

Xanthe staggered toward her, and the queen laughed, gesturing her forward to the roar of the crowd. Her tongue felt dry, and she could feel the ridges on the roof of her mouth like sandpaper. But she managed, "I hear you! I've heard you for so long!"

She wasn't even certain what language she had called in.

The queen embraced her tightly, and Xanthe could smell the sheen of sweat, the dusty clean scent of roadways at the first rain; she could feel the low vibrations traveling from the queen's chest at her amused laughter.

The queen's breath tickled her ear. "My traveler, my follower. I've seen you. My Listener, how I've waited for you, as I always do. I Sing for all of them, but I Sing best for you."  

The queen's lips were smooth as tumbled stone as she left a peck upon Xanthe's cheek.

Xanthe backed away from the spotlight, and the queen gestured away the guards rushing forward.

Lifting her arms, the queen crowed, "This is for my number one fan! My eternal Listener."
Then devoid of the hum of guitars, or the ear-piercing feedback, or amplification, or her cohorts, the queen Sang.
And her Voice transported Xanthe to everywhere she had been.

872 words



At December 13, 2015 at 8:09 PM , Blogger Peter Morrow said...



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