It’s what makes everything worth it. In the beginning, there was nothing. A void. When Heaven and Hell, Earth and Sky were made, it was through song. A melody that was full of layers and texture that can’t even begin to exist anymore. Singing was literally the building blocks of the universe, even those of us in the Pit know that. Humans were given parts of that song, sheets from the hymnal, given the ability to sing, to spread that creative force throughout the universe. It’s something most demons like me never got, something the angels can only do sometimes. So just for you, just for humans.
And you humans waste it.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen someone sing. Feels like forever, really. I don’t mean hum along, or compose some Top 100 Pop Hit. I mean reach down into their soul, grab a hunk of it, still writhing and screaming, and pour it into the world as sound. That’s what makes the world goes round. That’s what makes life worth living. That’s the gift humans were given, and the gift that either goes wasted or used as a weapon.
And I wish I could remember how.
I said most demons like me, remember? I used to sing. I loved it, as much as I can love anything. But humans ruined it. They’d take what I sang, twist it, turn it into weapons, turned it on me, themselves, each other. They’d butcher their own souls with it until nothing was left in there but pain. And pain begets pain, if you can’t rise above it, reach for empathy, forgiveness, hope. Sooner or later, it eats you alive. And then you can’t sing anymore. I’m not the only one it happens to; the kid who locks himself away from the world, not letting anyone close out of fear, or hate, or self-loathing; the girl who decides she can’t take being hurt anymore, so her life becomes a game of trying to hurt as many others as she can. They’re examples of the rot that spreads when the songs turn nasty.
It shouldn’t be that way.
Doesn’t have to be.
That’s a new thought, for me. I’ve spent years wandering around, letting that part of me rust and rot until it seemed impossible that it’d ever work right again. The worst part was that I was beginning not to care. That’s what happens, when you forget to sing, forget how to sing; it rots away the core of you, the ability to love, to think, to care. Eventually you just become a black hole, spreading discordant notes into the songs of others everywhere you go, and you stop even worrying about what it’s doing to them. That’s what I was turning into, and I couldn’t even worry about it, couldn’t regret it.
And then I saw her.
Some might have thought she was nothing special. A sadly pretty young thing, wasting away in obscurity. Gathering up the pain, betrayals, a hundred petty insults and a thousand tongue-lashes. But something about her made me stop, and when I did, everything else stopped too.
For a moment, I remembered.
Remembered what it was like to sing, to have a reason to sing. Nothing special, to some… but to me, she explained everything, was worth everything. She was just a girl standing in a parking lot, but the blast of sound I felt within said she could have been one of the seraphim of old. The orange fluorescents shone down on her like she was center stage, though; reflecting off her thick, honey-colored hair as it whipped in a wind of her own creation; it seemed like she twisted and turned in impossible ways, singing with her body rather than her voice, and I was hypnotized, rooted to the spot.
Everything was driven from me.
Except the need to watch her, to hear her.
Because she was singing. Singing! I could hear her, not just with my ears, but in the old and dusty corridors of my soul, the places that had been boarded up or locked down. She was hurt, she was wounded, and that was reverberating in the layers between the words… but there was hope, and love, and light twisted in it as well. Just one human’s attempt to embrace the infinite and become something divine, if only for a moment. And she could laugh, laugh in a way that was almost a sob but still full of life, of the hint of happiness, the hope that someone, somewhere could sing with her and make the song whole.
I’d forgotten what it was like. To want to sing.
I’d forgotten… but I could feel the first stirrings of it, that wanting to remember. There was doubt, certainly… when you’re something — someone — like me, your company is often unwelcome. But she had laid claim to a part of me that I had almost forgotten existed, and no matter the risk, no matter the terror that spread through me, I had to try.
To go to her was to risk damnation.
But not to go would ensure it.
If I was brave. If I could remember.
If I could just remember what it was like to be around someone by choice and need rather than convenience or punishment. If I could recall how to let myself feel, to just be. If I didn’t send her screaming when I appeared to her.
I went to her. Let her see me. Stepped next to her. Being near her was overpowering; the heat of her body, the heavenly scent of her wanted to consume me, devour me. Part of me wanted that. When her hair brushed against me, the texture was like silk, the whisper of her brushing past me an ecstatic shiver unlike anything I’d known before.
But the song was the greatest part. From a distance, it had been a siren’s call, a beacon that went unanswered until I found what was left of my withered courage. Here, standing beside her, it was overpowering, ringing against the walls of my self-imposed prison, urging them to shatter. She paused, becoming aware of me… but when her eyes turned to me, catching me in their prismatic depths and drowning me in what I saw there, I saw no fear.
“Hello,” she said, almost shyly. My hands ached, wanting to reach for her, to clutch her to me and ensure she wasn’t a mirage, an illusion created by my own mind in the last extremities of it’s madness… but I hadn’t yet found that much courage. It would have to be enough to be near her, to feel the force of her personality bearing down on me.
“I…” my words dried up. I was overcome, unable to put it into words. But I had to try.
“I heard you. Your singing.” Sheesh. You sound like an idiot. This was it. Here was the part where she’d run. Where that flicker of hope would die.
She didn’t run. She flushed, blood rising to her creamy cheeks and making her look no older than a schoolgirl. She averted her eyes for a moment, hiding behind her hair. But she didn’t run.
I found a small part of my courage, a small measure of what it was like to sing. Reached out to her, slid one lock of her hair from her eyes — the texture of it indescribable, solid proof of her reality — a shudder working through me as I tried to force the words out before they choked me.
“I want…” My mouth dried up. My tongue was moving, but no sound came out. I couldn’t finish.
She turned those eyes — those marvelous, soulful eyes — back to me, the traces of a smile forming on her full lips. She whispered, “…yes?”
I closed my eyes for a moment, forcing the world to stand still. Until there was nothing but myself and this beautiful creature in it, forced myself to focus, to reach deep and find the faint traces of song still buried in me.
Beauty and the Beast, I thought.
Say it, fool!
“I want you to teach me to sing.”