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The Blithe Window

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! Bird thou never wert, That from Heaven, or near it, Pourest thy full heart In profuse strains of unpremeditated art. Higher still and higher From the earth thou springest Like a cloud of fire; The blue deep thou wingest, And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest. ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley (To a Skylark).

By Caroline JanePublished 2 years ago Updated about a year ago 8 min read
The Blithe Window
Photo by Bob Brewer on Unsplash

The outside world was unknown to her, but she could see a glimpse of it through the window in his room.

All it took to get that glimpse was everything she had.

***

She gulped at the air like a landed fish, her fingers frantically searching for the rail that ran around the edge of her cot as her body juddered under the slaver from her brutal, slimly rewarded labours.

One.

Two.

She counted her breath. She knew what came next.

Arrrrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhhh.

Nail-gun bolts of cramp ripped through her, arching her back, forcing her stomach up toward the ceiling and sending her distended limbs flicking out in crippling agony. Her little cot clanged against the steel wall and bounced against the concrete floor as she flailed.

How many more glimpses did she have left before her time was up? One day he would return to his room to check on her and find a bleached fossil where she lay. He would lean in to kiss her forehead, and she would be cold. He would stroke her brow as tenderly as ever, and she would shatter. Dust to dust. All life force leeched away in unrequited determination—a relic in a sterile halfway house on the edge of death.

She bit down on her bottom lip to channel the pain from her body into one excruciating, controlled point. Her teeth tore through her flesh like knives through butter, and thick, bitter blood welled in her mouth. She gagged, then spluttered, spraying mucus and blood across her naked body, over her mattress, and up the metal walls as though she were a spasming geyser drawing up hell's bile.

The torture of glimpsing was exponential, with each failed attempt to get through the window compounding. To be so close to ecstasy, to smell it, to watch it, to bear witness to the magnificence that lay outside only to find yourself ectopic within it, dismissively expelled from it, and all for no discernible reason. It was brutish and violently binary. She either got through the window and lived or stayed in the room and died.

She readied herself to go again.

There was nothing to be gained from hanging back. The longer she stayed in the room, the more the memory from her last glimpse faded. Right now, she could still feel it tingling through her marbling veins like an echo through a coal chamber. She was not about to let that lead go.

With the conviction of a warring saint, she clenched her fists as tightly as she could around the cot's rails and braced herself against the mattress. The rage of the pain thumped against her skull in an engorged tantrum, desperate for her to release herself to it, to give it control. It screamed in her ears and writhed through her muscles in visceral, searing sweeps. She kept herself braced, locking her pain inside a self-inflicted iron maiden, a living rigour mortise in which to bury her agony.

She closed her eyes and started to search the back of her lids for an ignition.

The white noise fell like beads of polystyrene through space, seemingly infinite and buzzing with coldness, colliding and drifting together, collecting in barren, glaring mounds all around her. She galvanised her eyes in their sockets, over-ruling their desire to twitch, and stared out through her lids like an intruder in her own head, an insignificant speck amidst an intimidating and mounting mob of white.

Somewhere in that certain white desert, there would be a point of ignition where surety and constancy started to crumble. Last time it had been a mist; the time before, she had seen glances of fractured light. All she knew was hidden within the glare of sameness, there would be a point of difference, doing its own thing against all the odds, and that would be the start of everything.

The difficulty was spotting it. It had to survive in a barren and hostile world; it knew how to avoid the radar. It had to be hunted.

She focused on the horizons, searching their hard, thin lines. It was usually at the edge of the mighty blank canvas that the difference presented itself, lurking in a frayed corner, ignoring the rest of everything, defending itself against the uniformity, being itself and igniting the possibility of change like an imperceptible crack of dawn.

A matador in a bullish landscape refusing to kowtow to its glare, she dug deep into herself and stared out as far as she could into the blinding white. The nothingness was a morbidly unwelcoming and unforgiving landscape. In past attempted glimpses, before she had even known what the ignition was, the mob of white had consumed her and kicked her out before she had ever really begun. Experience had taught her to hold on, to dig in. She had faith that she would find it. The ignition, after all, despite its protestations and inclination to hide, was pure ethos; it needed recognition to thrive.

This time though, it seemed to have surpassed itself. Its concealment was almost immaculate. She had scanned and searched for what felt like an eternity before she found it, a meek tremble of light softly pulsing at the periphery of her vision behind a thickly falling blizzard.

She locked her sights on it, splayed her minds-eye wide open, and assuredly walked toward it.

Realising it had been seen, it started to flash a monochrome warning siren, simultaneously and paradoxically making itself more recognisable while attempting to dissuade her approach.

With her sights wide and singular, she approached unintimidated by its display, appreciating it for what it was: The start of everything, an uncertain and nervous something amidst the hostility of nothing.

The tremble of it grew to a rumble the closer she got, as though life was growing in response to her attention. Its wavelength began to mutate and evolve, sending flares of vivid yellows, verdant greens and scars of hot red shooting out across the white in great explosive blasts destroying the homogeneity of the edge. It was growing in confidence, aroused by her acknowledgement, and it began to push away the white noise in a jubilant and kaleidoscopic display, illuminating the ether, swaddling it in colour.

She watched, mesmerised, as it swarmed around her, forming huge cumulus clouds swollen with pride. She forgot about the room; she was utterly hooked by the palpable anticipation filling the space, pushing away the cold buzz from the air with giant ever-increasing billows of vibrancy.

The change in the landscape was fast, and the cosmos of clouds quickly reached a point of critical mass that brought surges of electricity crashing into existence. They zipped and zoomed all around her in an ecstatic light show, needling the giant dough-like clouds until they burst, spilling from them showers of pure joy that drenched her and the whole of the remaining blank canvas in millions of droplets of colour, pixelating the nothingness with an abundant eruption of psychedelic static.

It was as though heaven had opened.

Then she remembered.

The window.

Somewhere beyond the rain, its light would shine like a schism of pure joy radiating unadulterated acceptance, singing and ringing with possibility.

She listened.

The static and what remained of the white noise hummed in a low continuous breathlessness. But there was something else. She strained, trying to tune into it. Yes, there it was, delicate and distant. Perfect trill notes were trickling in amongst the pillows of colour and the growing rainbow of rivers. She could feel the notes dripping into her, harmonising discreetly with the memory that still faintly ebbed in her veins. Gradually they crescendoed, washing through her in a balm of rapture, effervescing and caressing her heart in disarming waves.

She felt herself collapsing into it, her fight smoothed away by the pure abiding joy. Shivers ran through her in the building thrill of euphoria. She dove and twirled through the colours, chasing the music, a willing captive in a perfect song, spiralling through newly formed waterfalls and synchronised fountains, losing herself amongst them, threading herself into it all. Until she saw it. The source of the magic stood on the ledge of the window. A lowly and unremarkable brown skylark in full-throated song, humbly orchestrating the future.

She reached toward it, propelled by unabridged cosmic joy. She was whole-heartedly grateful for its guidance and desperate to thank it.

It stopped its song, cocked its little crested head to the side and looked at her, and in the blink of its tiny, shining eyes, she started to fall, inhaled, like a star into a black hole.

NO!

NO!

The window and the skylark raced away from her as she collapsed into the void, ectopic and aborted, with all the colour in her path sliding together in a slurry.

NO!

She screamed out into the deafness. She could not do this again.

Please, no. Not again!

Then, from inside the room, she heard his whisper at the side of her cot.

"Sing," he spoke calmly, "sing."

Her chest felt as though it was caving in. How could she sing? She was hurtling through despair. There was no music here. No tune to follow. She was being dragged away from the window, from the outside. She had no reason to sing.

"Open your heart and sing." His voice was firmer.

She opened and closed her mouth like a guppy as the window evaporated and the spew of nothingness reclaimed its territory.

"Sing," he spoke again. "Open your heart and sing."

Through tears and rasping wails of fear, she opened her mouth and pushed out of her what air she had left in her lungs. It chimed out like a death rattle.

"Breathe." He said.

The air felt like a blade plunging down her throat as she took it in. She expelled it swiftly, with all the force her lungs could levy, pushing it out against the deathly rip tide like a canon hurtling into the pitch of night.

"Again." He urged her. "Sing!"

She opened her mouth again. Her breath this time was rapid and erratic, firing out tin bullets in a brash staccato.

"Again!" His voice had an urgency to it.

She did as he asked, throwing out into the void all she had in her as one long, hoarse, rasping wretch that stretched out and past her like a grappling hook searching for purchase. She held on to it as long as she could, her descent slowing each second she clung on.

She took another lungful of air, and this time she opened her mouth without any encouragement or instruction, pushing her voice from herself with the entirety of her heart. It rang around her, reverberating like a sentient communion bell through the pit of despair.

"Listen." His voice was a whisper once again.

She fell quiet.

Beyond the ricochet of her call, she could hear an earnest melody of sweet notes moving toward her as though they were seeking the communion of her song.

She opened her mouth to sing out again. Her voice rang through the dark in a fever pitch, rising higher and higher through the despondent and destructive coil of the black hole towards the source of the melody. She rose with it, rising through the chaos and mayhem, chasing her heart's true song like a bird on a prayer toward the window.

Short Story

About the Creator

Caroline Jane

Warm-blooded vertebrate, domesticated with a preference for the wild. Howls at the moon and forages on the dark side of it. Laughs like a hyena. Fuelled by good times and fairy dust. Writes obsessively with no holes barred.

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Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insight

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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Comments (6)

  • Mike Singleton 🌜 Mikeydred 🌛2 years ago

    Excellent work , great story and probably a challenge winner

  • Madoka Mori2 years ago

    Wow. This was incredible.

  • Heather Hubler2 years ago

    Wow, this had such intensity to it. I was holding my breath waiting for her to say something, to sing. Masterfully done :)

  • Morgana Miller2 years ago

    Goodness gracious every time I read something of yours I shake my fists at the sky and wonder how on earth vocal hasn’t honored you with a 1st or 2nd yet in these challenges. Your way with words is just so masterful and mellifluous, your stories have so much heart. I’m such a huge fan of your writing Caroline 💕

  • C. H. Richard2 years ago

    Beautiful meaning. Song will save us even in times of despair. ❤️

  • Cathy holmes2 years ago

    This is mind-bendingly wonderful and intense. Well done.

Caroline JaneWritten by Caroline Jane

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