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From a Whisper to a Song – short story

From a Whisper to a Song

A rainbow of colour bathed her, it was followed by the light that exists between the darkness of night and electrical bulbs, she walked onto the side of stage slow and steady. The stage was raised, lights pushed into her, she could feel their heat as much as she could the countless eyes that watched her from the abyss. A chasm separates the performer from the audience, a moat of long silence and crashing applause, along with the murmuring voices. The audience awaited her.

Her make up was the mask that hid her vulnerable humanity, the face of a performer, a jester if she failed or a skilled juggler should she do well. It was a magical act, the culmination of practice, talent and luck. She would not admit to the luck, but she believed that she had enough of it to not fail. Though no luck could account for the days in bed from singing herself sick, the tormenting dreams of lyrics or constant humming of tunes when she wanted just silence. Singing had caused her throat to hurt, red raw that she could taste blood, a jaw that throbbed and ached as though she had been punched. The tiring hours of rehearsing, before judging eyes and ears trained to pick imperfections.

Imperfections, she often smiled at the myth of perfection. Art was imperfect though the balance between gaudy untalent and the perfect ability of understanding ones own niche. She was perfectly imperfect in between the two as only an artist truly could be. Though she was more than a singer, she also wrote. The lyrics were her pride, the ‘sin of her arrogance’ one lover had once told her. She should not be so proud, she could not help to be. Her words were a musical poem.

She had cried over the pages as she wrote, whispering the words until she made them sing. She would scrunch up paper and throw them to the bin of failure, others would remain lost as incomplete journeys, meandering thoughts and memories yet to be heard. Others were manifestos, desires and declarations, the roaring words of passion. Yes, she was proud. She could be. They were her words and should no one ever hear them, she would have. From a whisper to a song she raised them as a parent would a child.

Did she still get nervous? Off course, she was human. There is that early anxiety one always feels when they first begin. To stand before strangers, to expose oneself as though naked before so many eyes and ears, to declare oneself as they exist inwardly to be heard outwardly. To make her words not only heard but felt. Then as one gains that experience, the nerves are washed away by bravado, the cockiness of familiarity makes one reckless. A bad night or period can trip any performer, self loathing, doubt, being over the hill. It takes courage to pick one self up from the floor, to climb onto the stage again to stand in front of the abyss knowing that many are there to see you fail, to watch you tremble, then to turn them. To return you, to yourself. To sing, to whisper again with a humble note until you again deserve to roar as an orchestra of one.

She was not a singer for fame or fortune. She had always been a singer, it just took the years to find that voice, hers. It took years to mature, to establish the bedrock of vocals that strangers she had never met could hear and suddenly her face and name would emerge like a bubble generated from the very sounds that she had invented. To her that was magic.

Secretly she would know the meaning and genesis of each song, the moment they first emerged from within her. As she sang them for an uncountable time, she recalls that very moment it was born, mutated from its original sound, the scribble on her sheets as she changed words and keys, adjusted and tore away lyrics and sometimes stumbling into the chorus. The feeling, thoughts and memories attached to the song still remains within her, each time she sings it like a key it unlocks those memories, some painful, others happy, the emotions are as mixed as the sounds. For her the real art was in her ability to swing from one personal moment of her words to the next, with a tapestry of her life on display to the ears of those listening and yet they can’t see it for what it is. She can.

Sometimes the songs are too painful to return to, expressions of tragedy, A need to comprehend anguish and turmoil, to sing to the darkness that surrounds and dwells within. Those songs bleed her spirit, though she performs them all the same. Often they are the most requested, attached to memories of failed love, an epitaph to the lost or as a soundtrack to depression. “I played this at my Dad’s funeral” an innocent fan will comment, she will weep inside, ‘I wrote it for my sisters’.

In her younger days she was more passionate, caring about causes that still need a voice. Hers songs still play above the oil soaked birds, starving children and imprisoned innocent. The commercial appeal of such songs ripping their original punch, cheapening the message and downplaying what she meant. A song she had written about a terrible famine now plays unironically over a commercial for indigestion tablets. She had no control once she signed her soul over to a corporation. She was paid, though robbed all the same.

Now as she stood on stage, the lights revealing her, the abyss cheers and claps. She is famous, she is why they are there, why they paid to wait. She is the feature. Taking a bow, she holds the microphone, feeling it inside of her tender grip. In another life, before the fame, she would rest a tape recorder on her piano to hear herself, to record the noise that she made. Now millions knew her and she was here to be heard, again. The music began to play, she dipped her heads, closing her eyes. She did not need to think, the words came. They fell from her mouth, powerful, even and with clarity. The many eyes watched but their ears embraced her.

Somewhere out there in that darkness as she sung, a memory of a dead relative came to mind, another found themselves in school again when they first heard the song, another remembered a first kiss. Couples held hands, sharing a silent smile, knowing what the song meant, to them. Those alone imagined what it can mean, if they had a hand to hold. In that crowd a budding writer heard his muse and future singers murmured along. All because of the words she wrote and sang.

When she went home, far from the stage she would write one more song, Her last, the epitaph to her music. The beginning did not seem that long ago, the cruelty of time. Every emotion and memory that had inspired her to sing, those that had frozen her away from music for weeks were also involved. So long as she could feel, she could write and sing. Feel she did. This was her best song, she knew it. The process of presenting and the recording the song along with the release often removes any romance, it was a profession. The single was welcomed with great anticipation from fans and critics alike. When it was heard, it was hated. The fans and critics did not like it. She did, she loved it.

The end

December 2022

Published inAll Articles and EssaysShort stories and fictions