A certain sort of something, that feels like a fairytale.
Some would say that he was hopelessly lost; but others might politely suggest that for one to be lost, they must surely know where they had been going in the first place. And so it was, with no destination, the young man with warm air in his lungs and firm valves on his heart strode on. And on. Alone through the twirling wind and the whipping grass, alone on a path that wasn’t much of a path at all.
But winds change, as winds are wont to do; and as the young man walked, the wind turned chill before beginning to howl like a young wolf on the night when it first discovered the moon. Even so, he strode on. And so it was that the young man with warm air in his lungs and firm valves on his heart came upon a proper path.
Well-tread, beaten through the tallest grass; it was formed of sandy brown gravel, circular stones that seemed far too perfect to have been formed in nature. But they were.
At the head of the path, a grizzled fellow with the face of a deflated toad sat alone, tossing bits of gravel into his mouth and listening to the nightmarish sounds they made against the mortar and pestle of his teeth. When he saw the young man, he spat out a feast of chewed-up stones and grinned.
“Howdy hello,” said the young man with warm air in his lungs and firm valves on his heart.
The young man had not been prepared. No man, no man could have been; for what came from the vocal chords of that speckled little creature that looked as if he’d been flaked off a taller man’s back, what emanated from the deepest depths of that squat-spud’s throat, was the purest, most melodic trill of a voice that one could ever hope to hear. It was a voice that could send a shiver up the spine of a morning. And so it was, that the young man with warm air in his lungs and firm valves on his heart fell to his knees and vomited tears.
“Er…” said the Toad-faced man.
Eventually, the young man managed to gather his composure amidst the wailing winds, and this time managed to brace himself when he saw the other about to speak.
“You seem a stout chap,” said Toad-face, with the raw power of a thousand arpeggios.
“Aye sir,” said the young man, as he kept his knees from buckling, “Aye sir! I sir, am indeed stout of person -- after all, I’m a young man with warm air in his lungs and firm valves on his heart.”
The Toad-faced man’s head tilted, as if he were looking for the core of a puzzle box.
“That may be, that may very well be…” the squat-spud Toad-face said sympathetically, symphonically, “But this path ahead, this trodden-spot of sandy-stone…this path belongs to me, young lad. I have little to call my own, but I do, I do have music -- and it turn, I have the path. And in turn, you should turn away.”
Despite the strength of the path keeper’s voice, despite the range of its influence, something began then to rumble inside the young man. The warm air in his lungs began to turn and churn and yearn like a gale, and the firm valves on his heart began to shake and quake and ache like the gaskets of a steam engine. He was angry.
He really, truly was.
“What do you mean?” said the young man, with all the force he could muster.
“I mean nothing,” serenaded the Toad-face, “nothing which is meant as an offense.
“But the path ahead is not one for you, even if you’re boisterous, even if you’re blessed, even if you’re brave -- the path ahead is for those who have music. For those who have suffered to find their voices, who have suffered through the voice itself; for those who have taken the time to sing.”
As this opera came to a close, the young man with warm air in his lungs and firm valves on his heart suddenly found that he could not help himself. He was angry.
He really, truly was.
The warm air in his lungs grew hot enough to boil his blood, and the blood then surged through the firm valves on his heart, sending the young man forward as if he were an engine, a gnashing, burning, hellish engine that charged toward to the Toad-faced man with a singular sense of purpose. The young man grabbed a fistful of the immaculate gravel and rammed it down the squat-spud ugly fellow’s sonorous throat, which caused him to choke and sputter and fall to his warty knees; what remained of his beautiful tones were all but lost in the howling of the first-moon winds. And so it was, that the young man with warm air in his lungs and firm valves on his heart set forward on the path, finally having someplace to go. And so it was, that the young man found himself hopelessly lost.
For the path was long.
So, so long.
Long, and cold, and winding, and dark.
For even with the warm air in his lungs forcing back the frost during the endless nights, even with the firm valves on his heart keeping him always moving, always forward, charging down the countless turns on the sandy-brown path; even with all the efforts of his breath and blood, the young man still had no harmony.
He couldn’t sing his way through sorrow, couldn’t see his way with sound. The young man with warm air and firm valves had no music. And so it was, that the young man grew old.
The warm air in his lungs had long-since cooled.
The firm valves on his heart had worn themselves down.
Still on that path, with that wind howling ever louder,
Still on that path, with that grass growing ever taller.
Still on that, on that…that same sandy-brown gravel.
Until another morning, still one of seemingly little consequence.
The old man had lungs with no air; the old man had a broken down heart.
And so it was, that he could go no further.
He fell. With the wind spinning around him, sending up clouds of dust from the unknown recesses of the tall grass, he fell to his knees. His hands hit the gravel; the stones were surprisingly warm between his fingers. The old man shuddered. Despite the wind, he could hear the sound of his bones. And then, as if it had nothing left, his body fell. Face first. Into the smooth, warm stones.
Which is when it happened, of course.
The last of his breath -- the last, tiniest, hidden puff of air was pushed out from the depths of his lungs. Alongside that, there occurred the last, the last, the last, shakiest, involuntary flutter of his heart. And so it was that the old man, in his last moment, whistled a pure, revelatory note.
The note sang above the scream of the wind; the note tore through the density of the grass. The note spun up, around, and down, forcing everything that stood to lie flat as if in deference, forcing all that were alive to weep as if in shame. It forced the sky to blanche.
The old man was dead. But even so…he might have heard his music.
It was far too far from being lost.
It was nothing but beautiful.