Warlands of Song

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Chapter Two: Glen

Glen Mykel peered through the blinds of the den’s window toward the cabin up the hill.

“I’ve never seen anyone move in so quickly. She didn’t even have any boxes. No moving truck, and no family with her. She looks way too young to be living on her own. We should go ask if she needs anything.”

Robert scoffed. “It’s not our business. Stop being nosy and find yourself something to do. You keep saying you want to go hiking. Do that and leave that girl be. If she found the money to rent the place, she’s old enough to live there.”

“She barely looks like she’s out of school—”

Robert’s hand slapped onto his shoulder, jerking him away from the window. His friend raised a brow. “Let it go. You’re too busy being in everyone else’s business to care about your own. Shouldn’t you be calling your daughter?”

He turned back to the window, peeking out again. Why, he didn’t know. It wasn’t as though the girl was outside. She’d arrived at the property the day before with the real estate agent, and today she’d returned, a single bag in hand. She hadn’t emerged since. She couldn’t have even had food.

“Glen!”

He turned around. “Lizzie said she has a lot of homework, so she’ll call me this time.”

Robert shook his head, retreating. “She doesn’t even know how much her old man needs the distraction right now. Maybe you should call her anyway.”

“I can’t distract her from her work. You know how she get about it.”

His friend waved him off. “Whatever. Just find something to do. Better yet, make dinner. I’m starving.”

He wanted to look through the blinds again, but stopped himself. Robert was right. The girl wasn’t his business. Even if her moving in was suspicious, she’d done nothing wrong. Apparently the real estate agent hadn’t noticed anything strange either. She wasn’t his business.

Later, after dinner was ready and he sat at the table with Robert, he wondered if they should invite the girl to dinner. He hadn’t heard her truck, so she hadn’t gone for groceries. She probably only had snacks to eat. And he was tired of eating dinner with his roommate every night. Every day he wondered why he hadn’t just left Robert back on base. Sure, they were a team at work, but living together was just weird.

It wouldn’t hurt to invite her over for one night. She’d eat, they’d find out her story, and he would push her from his mind. Then he’d figure out how to kick Robert out without looking like he wanted to do so.

“I’m going to invite her to dinner.”

Robert’s fork hit the table. “I swear to—”

“Once I figure out her story, I won’t think about her ever again. You know it’s going to drive me crazy if I don’t.”

The other man’s jaw flexed, though his mouth was empty. “We go through this every time we move. You feel the need to stick your nose into everyone’s business. We haven’t even moved this time and you’re doing. Leave that girl alone, Mykel. She’s fine. If she comes to us, that’s one thing. But you going over there and inviting her over? Into our house? No. Then she’ll think she can pop over whenever she wants, and it’s going to cause problems.”

He opened his mouth, only to be shut down again. He scowled.

“I’m a grown man. If I want to invite someone into my house—”

“Then you’re free to do so. But if you want to invite someone into our house, then we both have to consent to it. And I don’t. End of discussion.”

His forearms began to turn black with power. Robert glanced at them while he chewed. He set his fork down again, softer this time.

“Look,” he started, “I know you have this weird need to know everyone’s story, but you can’t. And we shouldn’t. If she was some kid you’d never have to see again, I’d say go for it, but she just moved here. She’s our neighbor. We have to see this girl again and again, and we don’t form attachments to humans. Or let them form attachments to us. You know this, so why are you so determined to do this?”

Glen put his indignation aside, following his training, and focused on the question. It was a good question, to be sure. It deserved an answer. And the more he thought about it, the more he knew what it was.

“I saw her face,” he said, looking down at his plate. “Yesterday, when she was with the seller, and today before she went inside. I can’t explain it, but it hit me a little too hard. She looked...” He waved a hand in the air. He shook his head, and looked Robert in the eyes.

“She looked dead.”

Robert frowned. “What do you mean?”

“You know that look after a person dies and they’re no longer there? When they’re eyes are open, and you look into them, there’s nothing staring back at you. Because they’re not there anymore. They’re dead. And you hate to see it, so you close their eyes for them?”

Now he frowned. The explanation felt so right. He’d been hoping it would make sense, but now that it did and everything made sense, he felt an undeniable weight in his chest. He’d never seen a living being with that look in their eyes before. For such a young girl to look that way...

“I won’t invite her over. But I will take her a plate. I just need to see her face up close. I need to know for sure that I saw the right look. Because if I did, we have to do something. Because I don’t know anything good that can follow it.

His friend’s silence spoke for him, and so he went to work arranging a plate. Then he slid his shoes on and left, travelling the short distance up the mountain to their new neighbor’s cabin. There were no lights on, and he wondered if she’d already gone to sleep. But it was far too early for that—Barely eight o’ clock—so he knocked anyway. Crickets chirped behind and around him, and a wolf howled somewhere in the distance. A moment later, he knocked again. No answer. Frowning, he looked around. Her truck was still parked where it had been before. Maybe she was sleeping.

Mouth pursed, he set the plate on the porch swing and walked back down the steps. He paused at the bottom, and it was only then that he caught a slight sound. He stilled, listening harder. It almost sounded like music, but it didn’t come from inside the house. He walked to his right, then to his left, and the music increased in volume. Where was it coming from?

His ears took him behind the cabin, and into the woods beyond. He tread carefully, his training kicking in. Around twigs and leaves, stepping onto rocks to avoid leaving footprints. As he walked, the music became louder, and he recognized it for what it was. Singing. But it sounded like multiple people singing at once. Almost a great crowd. But no matter how far he walked, he never saw a group of people anywhere. The music simply increased in volume.

He walked for miles, enchanted by the song, until he reached a clearing he didn’t know existed. Of course, he had yet to explore the grounds, so he couldn’t have known. But the sight before him caught him off guard in more ways than one.

Mere meters from where he stood at the edge of the clearing, a large hot spring sat. And in the hot spring was his new neighbor. He could barely see her through all the steam covering the clearing. Her skin was so dark it was nearly black, and blended in with the forest behind her. But he could certainly hear her. If it truly was her. She was the speaker for the music. The sound of a crowd of angels came from her mouth alone. It was impossible.

Then the music, the song, stopped. He blinked, and soon realized that she was staring right at him. Soon after, he noticed the rest of her frame. She was completely nude. But she didn’t cover herself, or make any more to leave the area. They stared at each other for a few long moments, until he broke the silence.

“Your voice—”

“You’re going to leave,” she said. Her voice was soft, calm, but there were underlying notes to it that puzzled him. “And you’re going to forget you ever saw or heard me tonight. Do you understand?”

He frowned, blinking hard. Half of his brain urged him to leave, and disorientation soon followed. Where was he? He needed to go home. His body jerked, shaking itself without his aid, and he returned to his right mind.

“Do you understand,” she repeated.

No, he didn’t understand. What had she done to him?

“I understand,” he said. She obviously wanted him to answer that way. He turned and left the way he came.

But when he was far enough that she couldn’t see him, he stopped and turned back. He could still see glimpses of her. He stayed hidden in the brush, watching and listening for over half an hour. He felt like a creep, but his reasoning was valid. She was a young girl in the middle of the forest, on top of a mountain. He didn’t know of anyone else who lived nearby, but it wasn’t safe for her to be out alone, even with her power.

Her power. What—How—Why? It made zero sense. And yet it made complete sense. She was terrifying.

Her voice—the voices of dozens of angels—rang true and clear through the forest. He’d heard crickets and animals at her cabin, but in this clearing and surrounding it, all was silent. All wildlife hushed to listen to her.

She continued to sing even as she exited the spring. He watched her lift a towel from a tree stump and dry herself, and grimaced. Her body was like that of a starving child. She was almost a skeleton. His eyes rose to her head once again. Her hair had been shaved off, entirely. If not for her feminine features—The brilliant silver eyes that stood out starkly against her nearly-black complexion—one could almost take her for a little boy. She would surely need the food he’d brought her.

She dressed without hurry, and began the journey back to her cabin. He followed a way’s behind, careful to remain quiet. She sang a new song now, and it sounded like a single voice this time. Her voice. The tune lulled him into a lazy stupor, but with concentration he managed to remain silent as he saw her home in secret. When she reached her cabin, he watched her take notice of the plate he’d left on her swing. She lifted it to her face and smelled it, then turned to look toward his and Robert’s cabin. He wished he could make out her expression, but both the night and her skin were too dark to allow it.

When she entered her cabin and locked the door behind her, he was left with far more questions than he’d started with, a healthy dose of fear, and the sound of her voice ringing pleasantly in his ears.

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