The Song of the Sea

Written for the Thousand Cats LiveJournal community, December 13, 2009.

There once, on a small island whose name is now lost to history, lived a lady who as long as anyone could remember, had loved the sound of the sea. Even as a baby, any time she was fretful, her parents had only to take her outside to where she could hear the sound of the sea, and she would grow calm and still, listening quietly to the sound with a dreamy smile on her tiny face.

As she grew to girlhood, she proved to be exceptionally gifted in music, and could produce the sweetest and most haunting of sounds from nearly any instrument. Flute, viol, lute, mandolin—all responded to her touch as though they had always been waiting for her alone to awaken the music that lay within them. And always, in all her playing, there was the echo of the sea. The rhythm of the waves moved her fingers on the cither; the cries of sea-birds could be heard in her flute-playing.

By the time she was a woman grown, she had already attained considerable fame in the surrounding lands, and many people travelled to the island village in which she dwelt to hear her play. Less often, she accepted invitations to travel to other places—nearby islands, or sometime the coast of the mainland, but she would never go beyond the sound of the sea, no matter who invited her or what price she was offered. And yet, despite her renown, she never seemed entirely content with her own music, as though somehow, no matter how hard she tried or how skilled she became, she could never quite match the music of the sea that she loved.

As the years passed she grew less and less interested in playing for human audiences, and would instead bring one or another of her instruments down to the seashore with her where she would sit on the rocks and play for the seals, the birds, or perhaps the sea itself, her melodies always blending with the natural sounds around her. She did not mind if people came to listen, as long as they did not disturb her—in fact, she seemed barely aware of their presence. And even then, she always had the same faintly discontent expression, as though no matter how magical her playing was to any listener, it was still not quite enough for her.

One days she did not return from one of her ventures to the shore, and some while later, her body was found washed ashore, drowned, yet with a beatific smile still on her face, the likes of which had not been seen since her parents rocked her to sleep by the sea when she was a tiny baby. And it was whispered among the villagers that perhaps she had found the song of the sea at last.

Her body was placed, as they imagined she would have wished, in a sepulchre built of grey sea-stone, on the farthest point of the rocky shore near her home, facing not inward toward the village, but outward to the ocean, so that she could forever listen to the music she had so lived, in her tomb by the sounding sea.

And it was said, even generations later, when the tomb had fallen into a tumble of rocks at the water’s edge, that if you listened carefully there, you could still her the sound of her viol in the crashing of the waves.

Based on a piece of random text drawn from a spam e-mail: “In her tomb by the sounding sea” (which is actually a line from the poem “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allen Poe).

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