At the youngest age, I was a quiet girl. At first they thought it was the mere factor of my personality. Raised with an overachieving sister and in a humble family of bar owners, it was bound to have one of the family members be the one left out. I always noticed I was not what they would call the cream of the crop or the one who stood in the spotlight. I was an observer, but what they didn’t know and what I figured too late was that my lack of emotions and response was not based on my personality, but my gift.
The first day I heard music come from the ornaments attached to my ears was when I was 1. Everyone panicked when the quiet baby who never cried even in her own birth burst into tears the night calling for someone. It was like the whole town went into a panic, not knowing what was happening. By the time the priest who was bestowed the knowledge of our gifts to aid us arrived, the room had already distorted and the song had morphed into one of despair.
The priest called it ‘The Miracle of Music’, a rare gift for a dancer and musician that could manipulate the world around her. He taught my parents how to press the buttons on the controller and stop it before it gets dangerous. That was the first indicator that there was so much more happening here.
When I was 5, I had learned how to stop the music myself. My parents forced the idea down my throat that I must not let my music ever reach the end of the song making me scared of my own power. My sister had just developed her own power of invisibility and I couldn’t help but be jealous.
Why does she have a normal power while I have to watch it like a hawk? I have to be scared of it while she doesn’t.
The next few years were filled with those same thoughts until they stopped completely. I was 10 when my quiet, unlike my sisters bounciness, was questioned. I had started working at the bar as a helper of sorts hearing the gossip of the ladies of the west. They were talking about me which I didn’t care about until I noticed they were talking about the fact that ‘I did not care’. My mother had joined the conversation a few times to assure them, that I was just me. My dad had made one or two comments of my inability to be anything which should have bothered me.
But I didn’t care.
This continued on for a few more days that it started to make me question. One day, I made the decision to let a song finish. It was the first time I had felt my power completely. To my luck, it was a happy song, one of love and beauty. Soon, I spent listening to the songs, humming after them, then I started dancing.
One song lead to humming, then dancing, then singing until all three traits were combined. I made it my little childish endeavor to hide my powers from parents. It was a freedom I never had. I sometimes let the song do as it wished, let the flowers grow and the ladies fall in love, until the bad grace came upon me and I was given a song of despair.
It was a sunny day, at the end of fall, starting the winter of starvation. Me and my twin were with the other children learning our last lesson of the day before the school was locked away and our battle of survival began. Thanks to our gracious King, death was not common during winter. Food did not disappear, shelter existed and warmth was a free right for every citizen under the immortal king. The battle was still present in our culture though, so even if we did things the right way, it wouldn’t make a difference mentally.
Of course, I did not know of the cruelty of winter during the time, only witnessing 11 in my young years. For me, the immortal king was a much scarer tale.
“Can someone tell me what were the exact words of King Darrell Lucion on the first winter of his rein?” A simple phrase that made many hands jump up in anticipation. Of course, my sister was one of the expecting hands not breaking her record of most raised hands and correct answers. The teachers eyes roamed through the crowd, measuring every student on if they had spoken before, but I knew they all had. Through my boredom, I had found counting and measuring to be my saving grace, as well as singing of course. I knew that all students had answered previous questions expect me and from how the eyes of the teacher zoned in on me, I knew the teacher knew as well.
“Mai. Why don’t you join the class and tell us?” Many turned in sneers, not knowing that whoever was chosen made no difference in the end. I raised to my feet respectfully, having learned all the movements of utmost respect from my father when serving the bar. For an 11 year old who only served a low-income bar, I was a most educated child in all my right. Bowing my head in respect and ignoring the peering gaze from her interruption from my sister, I answered with a clipped tone I had gotten used to.
“On this frosted season of death, I will not accept anymore careless tragedies. You can stand there and wait for death to come or you can join me in warmth and survive the coming month. We must not be scared of something that happens every month more than war and the survival of humanity from other more grave dangers. Join me in the castle if you must, but don’t die a foolish death.” In reality, these weren’t the words the younger generation learn. I have come to learn that the world simplifies everything to understand the bigger picture while missing the smaller one. I had learned the full phrase from a book in my father’s study. It took me a few days to understand every word, but I had learned it none-a-less.
The king’s words were awe inspiring to say the least. For someone I would never meet under any circumstance and that quakes the world at his feet, I find that a man who plays with words as well as strategies to be awe inspiring. In a way, he was my idol as well as my nightmare.
The teacher coughs surprised, her eyes wide and her expression agaped. All the other students stared confused not sharing our teacher’s fear. Then laughter erupted.
“Mai is so stupid.”
“What does ‘trag--dy’ even mean?”
“That’s not what the king said!” I ignored the laughters, they didn’t bother me as I sat down. Everyone was laughing, all but my sister who stared at me knowing where the phrase had come from.
“Class! CLASS! Enough. Mai is not wrong, a bit advanced, but not wrong.” The teacher reasoned and started her lecture on the speech he said a long time ago. The conversation was redirected after that to something not as dangerous as the mysterious girl who knew too much. I didn’t pay much attention all the way to dismissal.
“Mai, can you get your parents please? I would like to talk to them.” I sighed in my usual pre teen mood, but in reality, I was not very amused on the prospect of another talk that would not fare good for me. I did not refuse the teacher though as I waddled outside with my expression that had ingrained itself on my features over time and politely asked my parents to let me ‘escort them’ to a very important ‘discussion’ with my teacher. I was far too educated for child.
I waited to the side next to my twin sister whose blond hair was far from close to my brown one. Whose brown eyes were far different from my blue ones and whose body was getting more developed by every passing second unlike mine who had stunted in growth already.
“I am concerned on Mai.”
“What could the concern be, Mother Shayla?”
“She has been showing behaviors far from normal for an average 11 year old.” I was a bit offended. Does my education being far higher than the simple child of a pastor be a form of concern? Sarah, the name chosen by my estranged uncle for my counterpart, sneered next to me. She loved the attention as naturally as breathing and having a sister whose too abnormal turned the attention as much as cause the attention to go to her. She would not like those boys questioning about my weird behaviors instead of her stellar abilities, something I had advised her of not worrying about. I love her as much as she loves me, but even I would get annoyed if I had a sister whose attention was wrongly justified.
“Like what?” My father’s voice was snapped. For a soulmate of a peaceful mother such as mine, I could never understand why such a brute would even consider to be her equal. The snapping of his voice and the anger always coursing through him was nothing to be said for a woman as sweet as my mother, but a puppet master wouldn’t be a puppet master without coursed words and crinkling words.
“Today we were speaking of his majesty’s winter speech as we do every winter. I find it quite impossible for a young girl to fully understand, much less, remember the speech to perfection, but she has done with precision.” My father was getting angier. He knew that I was at his studies and the strict discipline I would be receiving when I arrived home will be nothing less than a learning experience. My mother rested a hand on his shoulder calming him down momentarily.
“Isn’t this good? She’s advanced!” I was confused as well on the concerns that came from being advanced.
“Yes, it is stellar, far from expected for even a normal prodigy, my concern is how she said it. I don’t know if you have noticed, but Mai is very...quiet.” The way she said it was like a crime. I felt surprise course through me surprising me even more as it was such an unknown emotion at the point.
“Yes, we have noticed that she is far too quiet for a normal girl, but maybe this is to balance out her achieving smarts.”
“I do not believe it to be the case. Mai is abnormally quiet, too quiet, more emotionless than anything else. My concern was how she said the part we were talking about. Even if her silence was to balance how advanced she is, she would at least be wary of such dark topics such as death, but she is immune to it.” The teacher continued, speaking on how my lack of wording is a more inner cause. Or outer. I didn’t care, like many times before, but this time it bothered me.
Then, I heard it for the first time.
A dark song, one too dark for me to comprehend at first. A gasp flew from my sister and a growl breached my lips like I was a feral monster. At the moment I was. My parents turned instantly and the teacher was already on the move.
In my mind, I knew. This song was not meant to be sang. This song was not meant to be seen. A song about a monster, a raging uncontrolled monster.
“Mai! Turn the song off.” A breaching smile filled my lips and everything stopped in awe. The first time I smiled in ages and that’s when the figured out. I have emotions, deep inside, under all of this music and protection, but it only breaches at the utmost circumstance. It was my item that was covering it, they thought, well they will never truly know until they took them away.
The awe vanished automatically when my smile wasn’t innocent anymore, wasn’t true and screams penetrated the walls. People burst in through the door and the priest moved with his shield, but it was already too late.
The walls were filled with blood, the chairs and the decorations were adorned with claw scratches. Bodies strewn the floor. Three unconscious girls and one conscious man. In the middle, posed like she just finished a performance, with her toes curled, her body straight from practice and hands gracefully to the side with long claws, was me.
The dancer of ‘The Dance of Death’. The true name of my gift.