A short piece based on this prompt (I take no credit for the original idea):
An Unheard Song
You take a break from tending your flowers and straighten up, stretching in your neatly grown home garden. A couple strolls past on the street, laughing quietly between themselves. You pause, then you hear it. A soft, happy hum – almost like it’s from a fairytale – from one of them, and the sound of excited, energetic guitar riffs from the other. You smile to yourself, and bend back down to tend to your plants.
You’ve had this gift since childhood. At first, you thought everyone could do it.
“All you have to do is listen,” 10 year old you insisted six years ago as you concentrated on your mother’s gentle lullaby, one she seemingly couldn’t hear, to your bemusement.
Once you got older, you realised that this particular ability of yours is unique – not quite a curse, not quite a gift – just a part of who you are.
The fine details of every soul’s song vary as the soul ages, as moods fluctuate and as people grow and change, but it always sticks to the same song, the same instruments and atmosphere, the very defining energy of a human being. When you first met your best friend, her soul’s swinging and courageous choruses harmonised perfectly with yours. The reverb and gentle dream like world of your soul melded perfectly with her grand and fantastical one to create another moving song when overlapped. You’ll never forget what it sounded like the first time you met.
Since then, both of your songs have grown and developed, but still harmonise in peace just like the very first day. You’ve been friends for seven years now, and you still remember her song perfectly even though your families have moved miles apart.
The next morning when you return to your front yard with a book and a cup of tea in your hands, there’s suddenly a new sound in the neighbourhood, unlike any song you’ve heard before. It’s a quiet melody, with hints of flute and the gentle twinkling of wind chimes, and completely out of the blue. You place your things down and follow the noise, tuning out the others of the neighbourhood – the jazz and the metal and the piano, every soul emitting their own unique songs into the universe.
You nod at the neighbours you walk by – you can recognise each and every one of them by song alone. But this time you don’t stop and chat. Instead, you focus on the new song, tilting your head and following it into the small woods at the edge of the neighbourhood, where flowers bloom and trees tower towards the light blue sky. The music grows louder and louder in your ears until you see a teenager sitting alone amongst the grass and the bushes – a young boy – about your age.
“Hello?” You ask curiously and he looks up, startled, nearly falling back over into the ferns.
“I – Sorry.” He stammers back nervously, hurriedly getting to his feet. His eyes and nose are red and cheeks smudged, and he quickly wipes his face, turning slightly away.
“Don’t be sorry. Are you alright?”
He shrugs and you sit down cross legged amongst the grass, inviting him to do the same. He reluctantly settles down again and begins picking at the dirt beneath him. There’s a moment of silence between you, and you wait for him to speak.
He takes a deep breath and rubs his eyes again, still not meeting your gaze. “Sorry. I just come here a lot. My parents aren’t ever home. I just like this place.”
“That’s okay. I like this place too.”
His forehead scrunches questionably, but he nods, and you lean back, still hearing his music all around you – soft and lonesome and calm.
You return to the woods almost every day afterwards, usually finding him there taking walks amongst the trees, humming to himself. Soon enough, weeks pass and you fall into a routine with him; telling each other stories, picking flowers and studying the plants growing there, laughing and recalling weird childhood memories and embarrassing moments.
As the days pass, he smiles more, laughs more, and begins to talk about his achievements in school, his love for playing the piano, his dreams for the future.
Although you can still hear the music of the rest of the souls not so far away in the neighbourhood, you start listening for his, and his song begins to sound comforting and familiar and safe, like home.
“I got a scholarship to this music school,” he announces one day, as you two sit in the same spot you met several months ago. He beams as he plays with the grass, the unbridled excitement reaching his eyes.
You hug him and tell him how proud you are of him.
Later that afternoon as you two head out from the forest, the sun going down, you realise that the song in his soul has changed since you first heard it many, many weeks ago. Instead of a stranger’s lonesome, almost melancholic tune, you hear threads of happiness intertwining in and out of the flutes and chimes, a certain hopefulness for the future. You smile to yourself.
“What?” He asks curiously as you two split off at the crossroads.
“Nothing.” You reply. “I just want to say, I’m glad you were at the woods that day. I’m glad we met.”
He smiles and nods gratefully. “Yeah. I’m really glad too.”