Cloud Singer had been named for the mighty wail she issued to the sky on the day she was born. She had nearly been named Cloud Wailer but then it was remembered that she had an aunt by that name. Later it was learned that the aunt was called Storm Wailer, but by then the name had been decided and everyone had moved on.
In Cloud Singer’s youth she learned that she had a way with the birds in the trees. Being a giant, they were at eye level to her and she listened for long hours to their conversations. A few years on they sang into her ears as they flew past her head on their journeys to other places. Many don’t know that birds, geese in particular, have a wicked sense of humor. She often burst into raucous laughter before realizing that the friends around her had not heard the joke.
By the time Cloud Singer reached adulthood her height was considerable, even for a giant. Clouds caressed her neck and filled her with new songs to consider. These were soft, like the hushed sigh before rain, and they filled her with serene thoughts. It was a world of wonder she found around her, and the more she listened the more she found to love.
One day though, the songs changed. She noticed it from the birds first. A hush had fallen over the forests at her ankles. No jokes passed between silently winging V formations. The clouds held their secrets close. Even the winds, who shrieked and shouted on turbulent days now did their business quietly. She wanted to ask what was wrong, but for all of her listening she had never learned how to speak the languages that she understood.
Cloud Singer decided to take a stroll. First she visited the mountains, and found no difference there. Next she waded the oceans. The same silence met her. She explored other continents and still the oppressive quiet followed her. Finally, she returned home. She’d have to find a way to ask.
Words were useless. Her voice was too powerful for the delicate sensibilities of the birds, and great flocks of them lifted into the sky in fright. She tried to mimic their bird songs, but she had no idea if she was saying anything correctly. Based on the askance looks she got, she guessed no. Finally, she began to sing.
The song was inspired by her memory of cloud song. Peaceful. Issuing from a deep, calm place within her. She wasn’t trying to say anything in particular; just ask what she could do to help. She realized that birds swarmed around her in great circles when she opened her eyes. Clouds had drifted close and several swirls and eddies at her feet made her think a few winds had come close as well. Her voice drifted away and she listened. At first, nothing. Then, quiet as a mouse’s whiskers, a clue.
“They are listening,” it said.
“Who?” Cloud Singer asked, forgetting herself.
Great trumpets of fright erupted from the departing flocks of birds.
“Sorry,” she sighed.
The clouds lingered though, and she heard the soft voice again.
“The shadows,” it said.
Cloud Singer thought about this through the days that followed. She watched the shadows of the world with new interest, and sure enough, something was funny with them. Not always, but every so often she’d catch one doing something unexpected. She recalled learning about the early days of the world when light and shadow warred, and the triumph of light. What could it mean if shadow had suddenly changed its mood?
She turned to the elders in her community. Some of them had lived in the early days. They told her tales of a great consuming dragon that gobbled the sky. They spoke of a lady of light and her followers. In all, she heard a great many stories that told her nothing at all about what had silenced the songs of the world. Cloud Singer left with her head filled with no answers.
Instead of listening to the silence, she decided to follow whatever songs she could hear. It took her a while to recognize them but there were songs going on. They were the lurking, heavy hearted kind. Their rhythms clacked like crawling insects. She followed them as far as she could, but always she ended up at the entrance to a cave.
“There is whispering in the shadows,” she announced to the elders, but they did not believe that such a thing could be heard.
The whispering grew bolder, and stronger. The birds and clouds went even more quiet. And one day, she could not find a bird in the sky. It felt like the whole world held its breath.
“It comes,” she said.
A great shadow stole over the land, and a chill followed it.
“It is just winter,” many from her community said, but she could see doubt in their eyes.
“It is not,” she said, and she set out in search of the shadow’s source.
It did not take long before Cloud Singer spotted the black mark in the sky. It spread like an ink stain and the terrible cold of it was frightening.
“What is it?” she asked.
No one answered.
“I can’t stop it if I don’t know what it is!” she exclaimed. “Someone tell me. What is this thing?”
“The shadows have punched a hole in the sky,” a voice whispered.
It took some time before Cloud Singer recognized the wisp of a cloud lurking at the corner of the sky. Brave little cloud. She smiled.
“Can we patch it?” Cloud Singer asked.
“It would take sacrifice,” said the cloud.
Cloud Singer understood. If the sacrifice was hers she would have no problem giving it. To ask someone else to make the sacrifice, though, was another matter. She returned home and shared her discovery with her people. Many went and verified it in the weeks to come, as the world froze under an ever darkening winter. The hole in the sky continued to grow and the temperature plummeted. Finally, the elders brought Cloud Singer to their evening meeting.
“It is time,” they said gravely.
Her heart heavy, Cloud Singer stepped out into the frosty night and began her song. She sang of peace and hope. She sang sorrow at what she was asking. Soon clouds began to form. She traveled with them to the hole in the sky. Starlight blared through more brightly where the hole was, and Cloud Singer sang to them as well. She thought she saw them flash in answer.
The clouds bound together more tightly, swirling and roiling where they met at the center. They rose and gasped as they merged into the ice chill of the hole. Cloud Singer could hear their pain and she sang as much soothing peace as she could for them. Soon another song joined hers. She realized it was coming from the distant stars. Then another. Bird song. So many birds. More than she had ever seen at once. The clouds no longer expressed pain. Their song had turned into laughter, and joy. The sky was whole, and a new song emerged, somewhere between star song and cloud song. Cloud Singer spent the rest of her days smiling at the new harmony to the world.
Written by W. C. McClure. This may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure. This is a work of fiction. None of the characters or events depicted are meant to represent anyone or anything this side of dreams. Comments are welcome! Also, please help support this indie author by telling your friends about the excellent short story blog at
http://www.farsideofdreams.com and buying W. C. McClure’s books at http://www.wcmcclure.com. Thanks for reading!