The Forgotten Tale
Author’s Note: This is a story, inspired by the Pied Piper of Hamlin.
Inspired by the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamlin (Fairytale)
Credits to Reedsy Weekly Writing Contest Prompt : ” To Kill A Mockingbird”
Also posted on AO3, Wattpad and Asianfanfics
Just a note here >< I originally wrote this as a story to submit for the Reedsy Weekly Writing Contest that just ended. Unfortunately xD I didn’t win--however I’m crediting it as the source since that was the prompt that inspired me in the first place.
Disclaimer: All characters here were written loosely with a certain image in mind. While to me as the author, Park Jimin from BTS and his band members fit the physical descriptions of the way that I wrote the Pied Piper and his lover, likewise--the characters can be interpreted differently by others with other people, idols or characters in mind.
This is a retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, so the character Pied Piper of Hamlin and the progression of the Piper abducting children through his music belongs to the Pied Piper of Hamlin’s story.
However, the entire re-imagining and retelling of the Piper’s background, village and experiences as well as the book cover all belong to me.
Trigger Warnings: Character Deaths, Implied/Referenced Internal Homophobia, Implied/Referenced Character Death, Implied/Referenced Child Abuse, Domestic Violence and Child Abduction.
A stone clatters as one of the children shifts, unsettled as the enchanting music ends, tiny hands reaching—for a semblance of security, garbled noises falling from its throat as it hacked water from its lungs, limbs flailing for balance like a newborn just out of its mother’s tummy.
Here. Hands, scarred and burned, reached the pair of tiny hands, fingers curling over the smoothened back of the wooden pipe upon the man’s lap.
The child starts, unsettled.
“Would you..give a poor old piper one last listen?” Breath rattles through the piper’s lungs, heavy with disease. “It’s a sad tale, but a tale that must be told, nonetheless.” Trembling fingers caress the pipe that lay, heavy upon his lap. “Before everything comes to an end.” Long lashed eyes flicker up to the unseeing pair of eyes, set like jewels within the child’s face, innocent and youthful, marred lightly with confusion, yet tender with attempts of compassion.
“Listen.” Firm hands grasp the young child’s patting hands, bringing it to the front of his chest, where the steady beat of a broken heart lay, dying beats in his chest.
The child fidgets—and then remains still, the wave of unsettledness settling over as it’s foot brushes against another tiny hand.
Where were its laughing companions? The child wanted to ask, drawing closer to the shivering warmth of the piper’s gaze and lovely voice. Fingers found their ways to his cherubic face, splayed softly against the skin of his cheeks, grasping—greedily. The piper remained still in his place, only pulling the child a little closer, spreading his cloak of green and red over the child’s shivering shoulders, as he begins his story with a hum of a low lullaby.
The sound of his enchanting voice, spilt from rasping lips draws the child in, stirring it from its attempts to slumber and into a dream.
Once upon a time, the piper hummed, low notes of despair turning into a note of trilling hope, filled with childish wonder.
There lived a young boy, with pixen features, a small stature, and a talent and love for music. So strong was his love for it, that the music he created enchanted his voice, and called nature out to him.
Light dusted his features, and the sun hung at the corners of his cupid bow lips as he smiled, flickering through fingers that grasped at the branches of the tall oak tree that stood in the backyard of the house he lived in, like an angel that had descended upon earth, untainted and bathing everything he saw within his long-lashed eyes with hope that he thought he could see.
Laughter would linger, twittering along with the birds in the trees that saw him as a companion, and the other creatures of the forest, that believed his enchanting voice, a tender friend.
But the boy lived in a family that didn’t see him for who he was.
A father with a hard hand and a terrible gaze, angered by the thought of a son absorbed in birds and creatures instead of an interest in smithing and an axe.
The pied piper pauses for a moment in his story, milky eyes soft but melancholic, as though reminiscing—something that had happened, all too long ago.
“It was a glass cup.” His large hand finds the young child’s own, gently pulling it to the scar up his forehead, hidden behind tendrils of curly wisps of his blonde hair. “I had made it for his birthday, thinking that he would love it. I spent hours on it—all for it to shatter against my head, when I gave him a painted glass cup instead of a crudely made axe or sword from the forges that he wanted me to make.”
The glass had shattered against his forehead upon impact as his father raged, and his mother—torn to pieces by two failed miscarriages after him, hummed in her rocking chair, like a boat aimlessly, neither here, nor there.
The boy remembered the screams of his younger sibling in his ears, barely two years old, and the hardened fist of an angered man fisting into the tendrils of his hair.
The corner of his mouth ached with pain the next day, an eye swollen shut, and a medicinal herb he had scavenged amongst the forest crudely applied to his forehead.
The song he’d blown upon his pipe lingered in the forest, mournful and uncomprehending—and as the drop of heavy rain pelted upon the back of his head, the boy wondered if the skies had opened their eyes to weep for him too.
Still, the boy loved with all his might, the family that only sought to tore him apart, and his younger sister, who loved him just as he did her.
They were never too far apart, both siblings, with him playing foolish little tunes to fascinate her on days of boredom, making figurines of dolls out of clay.
Your music—is beautiful. She told him one night, both snuggled under the covers of the bed, her eyes trained upon the bruised corner of his mouth, and the broken pipe that lay between them, smashed in a fury by the strict hand of their father. Don’t stop playing the music. Please.
So, the boy persisted, crawling up to his seat in the oak tree to warble notes to the creatures, the knife his father made for him fashioning a new pipe each time the old one broke, from the old oak tree’s bark, caressed with his lithe fingers and touched with loving blessings from his lips, even with the marks that lined the corners of his lips, and the unfamiliar swell of a bruised eye that marred the rest of his pretty face.
For a long while.
That—was his refuge.
Just him, the oak tree, the animals of the forest, rays of sunlight, and the ever-loving sound of his sweet sister calling out to him as sundown came.
They worked things out as they grew older, his feet always finding the path back to the tall oak tree in the forest, his name etched in its branches, the sound of his younger sister’s pattering feet, light with the fruit basket and a waving hand in the air at sundown, dusting dirt upon to his cheeks to mimic the lie they told of him playing with other children at the forges and of his age, just so that he wouldn’t incur their father’s wrath.
The boy lived simply, just like this.
And for a long time, he was..happy.
Until another child came into his sanctuary, with eyes as bright as stars, the familiar sight of the sun in their smile—and the boy feels his heart pound in his chest once again, like the first stirrings of love deep in his chest.
The child was a neighbour of theirs, drawn to the sound of the music played from his pipe, and the enchanting voice that sang along with it.
Play a song! The other child called out, hands thrust open and smile wide their eyes creased happily, squinted lightly in the sun, the crack of the oak tree’s branches loud in the boy’s ears as he stared, wide-eyed at this child that invaded his private space with every step upwards that they took.
I love hearing your songs! The child smiled widely at him, flashing shiny white teeth, innocence in their gaze, uncaring of the bruised mouth and eye that perforated the boy’s face, for once—the boy felt as though, his gift of music was not a curse, and that after years, someone had finally, seen him for the first time.
I love you, he wanted to say to those star-filled eyes, lips that seemed as soft as the sun’s tender rays after months of them lingering in the tree branches, the pipe pressed to his lips, and the charming music flowing wordlessly from his lips.
But he couldn’t. Not when the child grew and gazed at him with those earnest eyes, dressed in the pants and overalls of another boy, dirt scuffed upon his face, and wild, rambunctious laughter as they sat opposite each other, the scent of maple leaves lingering through the air.
He could not.
They would not accept it.
None of them would.
And he couldn’t just do that to another person that he loved, thrusting another into the margins of the world like himself, just for being loved by another.
Thus, he left that love unanswered, and years passed, and the boy with the gift of music and the pipe by his side grew into a lonesome man, hunched over with the lack of recognition and wrath of his father, and the disdainful looks of the other villagers.
His lithe fingers found peace in the art of sewing behind his parents back, in the flickering light of the candle and the thrum of thread between his fingers whilst the snores of his parents and younger sibling rumbled away.
Stitching together the left-over pieces of unwanted fabric that he saved with his hands from tattered clothes, and clothes left for ruin.
Green--for envy. For the world that could live normally and accept others, while he could not.
Red, for his pain, love and rage, for the lack of courage and bravery that he could not muster, to raise a hand against others that would hurt him.
Against the family that would not love him for who he was.
Against the village, who saw him as a fool, too incapable and weak-willed to be recognised as one of their own.
It was like this—that the boy would spend his nights stitching a tapestry of his unspoken pain into clothes that seemed foolish--like a jester, marginalized and unable to fall into place.
Morning would come, and the tapestry would be stuffed beneath the loose plank beneath his bed, with him donning on the mask of the incapable boy of the village once more, trudging in too large shoes and arms too skinny to lift an axe to chop wood.
The boy waited, question unanswered, until disaster befell the village in the form of a rat infestation, and the answer came to him, errant and free.
He would put on the clothes he sew, and with a mask, walk into his village and show his worth.
Play a tune. Enchant an animal. The thought festered deep within his mind, like a scab he constantly picked at that wouldn’t go away.
Save the village and watch them love him as they should have for all these wasted years.
The boy set off, feverish, long limbs encased beautifully in the clothes he stitched for himself, and a mask--carved from the bark of the oak tree where he once sat, his incompetence that they once saw hidden behind the pretence of the handsome piper starry eyes, and a playful tune upon his lips.
He turned up to the mayor’s office and showed his abilities, playing a merry little tune that sent a few of the rats dancing, scurrying away from the village as soon as his tune ended.
Their eyes look at him, desperate—feverish, burning like coals in a burning mine, festering with greed.
And finally, he thinks to himself, sweat adorning his brow and arms flung open in ecstasy. They see.
Enchanted and delirious with his accomplishment, he danced his way through the streets, trilling an enchanting tune that sent rats scurrying after him, bewitched by the hope in his music.
A hero. His feverish mind burned at the thought.
They--would finally love him, when he returned home to his village.
With the deed done, the boy put the pipe away, pulling off the clothes he had made with cloth he stole and stitched together, skipping on his feet back home—only to the sight of pitchforks, burning stakes, grim faces and cold eyes.
Witch! The villagers screamed, spittle flying from their lips and fingers pointed as they huddled around his emaciated frame, cowering in fear and salty tears upon his lips.
Why weren’t they hailing him as a hero? He’d saved them from their fate—the boy wailed in his anguish as their fingers tore his clothes, and their nails ripped at his hair…until nothing was left but the shameful sight of his naked self, huddled on the ground and dirtied from the mud that splattered with every step of their feet.
Witch! His eyes burned as his mother, once so still in her grief, rose from the masses and pointed at him, eyes wide and gormless lips screaming, a hand lifting the clothing he had handstitched his hopes onto, like a damning verification to his case.
She’d found it beneath the rotting floorboards of his bed, her fingers bleeding, filled with splinters from ripping everything apart, just to find the familiar piece of cloth that had burned into her memory, from the arrogant man with a pipe—who had reminded her so much of her incapable son.
Eyes turned, hollowed with certainty, and the howl of the villager’s voices slipped into a steady beat of a crazed cacophony, and the boy felt as though each raged scream that tore from their lips akin to a skewer deep, like shards of glass that punctured till nothing was left but a bleeding heart, painstakingly pieced together with battered hands.
Kill the witch.
Burn his flesh.
Rip his guts.
Filthy hands reached forth, nails scratching against skin, tearing—against his wounded frame..until the boy fled into the arms of the forest with a valiant cry, terrified, tears hot against his cheeks, yearning, for his saving grace.
And they did--carrying flickering torches of light, a basket of food, and fresh clothes for his battered self.
His younger sister, and the boy he loved.
Run. They whisper into his bloodied ears, cupping his face, mangled beyond repair from vengeful nails.
They part him with a last wave, feet fading into the distance just as the boy calls out, voice shrill and eyes large with worry, hand clutched to his chest, and butterflies fluttering in his stomach.
I love you! he called, voice shrilled and sharp, his eyes trained upon the boy with starry eyes and a loving smile.
The starry-eyed boy turned, eyes creased and mouth lifted in a happy but saddened smile, the memory of two boys hidden in the branches of a solid oak trees, hands covering their mouths, foreheads pressed together, and eyes wide with wonder fading into the distance as tears rained down his face.
The whisper of acknowledgement is more than enough—and with tears in his eyes, the boy fled deeper into the forest, before worry overcame him with each passing minute, and a douse of foolhardy courage, sent him back to the edges of the forest, eyes aglow with melancholy, searching--for the silhouettes his lover and sibling.
You cannot do this!
A familiar basket, broken upon the ground, and the sound of his sister’s voice, terrified and shrill, draws the boy’s eyes to the village centre, where the mayor stood, yellowed teeth bared in a smile, and eyes swivelled into mocking slits.
The world--is cruel, the boy thinks to himself, a low moan passing from his lips as he watched the villagers tie the starry eyed boy and his younger sister to the stake, the scent of burning oil and charring flesh filling his nostrils, the tremble of his lips, pained.
The villagers watched as the creature stumbled forward, ragged with bloody bandages and a broken voice, clutching the burned bodies to his frame, his enchanting voice twisted into cold night in a cacophony of broken screams.
The days pass, and the boy spends his time seated next to the unscattered ash of the burned remains, soot marring his face and dirt in his hair.
None recognise him once more, and everything turns back to what it was then—the same old lull of filth in his hands, and disdain in their gaze.
The pipe laid untouched in his pocket, cool against his flesh--until a pair of small hands reach for his, and his eyes lift to another sun-filled smile and star filled gaze, brimming full of innocence of a young child, with clear affection in her gaze.
Be happy, Mister she said, laughter bright, a flower gently laid in his hand.
Suddenly, the world turns bright again, the boy’s eyes filling with an obsessive and determined gaze.
The world still had hope, he slowly realised, eyes opened, fevered with obsession—ones untainted by the scum of the world that was maturity given with age.
And he was here--perhaps, with the purpose, to keep it safe.
With tears in his eyes, the boy parted his lips one last time, voice cracked and pipe unpolished, playing a mournful tune in the depths of the night, and the children of the village heeded his call with closed eyes and dancing frames.
Come with me, the mournful voice called in the night, enchanting and filled with youthful promise, as the village awoke with screams of terror and parents, trying to pull their children from the enchanting lull of the piper’s musical gaze. Come with me, to a place where you would be loved and safe.
The piper ends his story with a wheezing cough, air battered in his lungs from a sickness that ate away at his frame as the unseeing child squatted upon the bodies of its friends and listened.
Go home, he whispered, leading the child to the light of the cave, voice soft and world weary. And tell them the tale of a boy with star filled eyes and the sun in his face, unloved and unseen in every way.
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