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Juddering Music

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Once upon a time, there existed a village by the ocean.

 

A lot of the village was archaic (well, not to them), and the houses were mostly made out of wood. The extent of technology included fishing rods! The roads were dirty, and sweeping them was a job befit only those who were punished with community service.

 

In this village by the ocean, the people were boring.

 

No, that wasn’t the accurate description. Rather, they were bored. Games of Tag, Red Rover, Hide ‘n’ Seek, and Octopus got boring. Sometimes, the most fun they could have was hitting each other with stones and sticks.

 

“Dodge Rock!” One of them would shout. Each side would chuck stones at each other, and the goal was to hit everyone on the other side before everyone on your side got hit.

 

Jeremy wasn’t very good at that game. He was used to getting thrashed around, however. Everyone was.

 

Pain was better than boredom, at least.

 

On a brisk morning in the middle of The Rejuvenating Times, or ‘Spring’ as some people referred to it, Jeremy pulled on a dark cloak he had weaved himself. He sewed in white stars all over it, too.

 

The infinite emerald shoots were probably the most amazing thing about Teclair. That was the name of their village, and obviously, they were known for the Teclair Forest.

 

Sometimes, Jeremy liked to walk in the forest to clear his head. If he had any baggage, he could drop it in the ivory grass. Most of it was pure white, like snow, but there was the occasional patch of sapphire grass, too. Jeremy just liked to move around, and let the swaying sounds of the forest throw him off-balance.

 

Too bad he had no friends that appreciated what he liked.

 

Jeremy was eighteen, and he was expected to find a partner soon. With liking both men and women, Jeremy wished that his decision was easy. It really wasn't. He was kind of a loner, and people just didn’t like talking to him, he assumed.

 

The forest outskirts were quiet that day, however. Where were all the magnificent birds? That knocks on woods? The beating of his heart took prevalence, but was it nervousness? Apprehension?

 

When he walked forward, he could hear animals cry in the distance. Not cries of anguish or pain, but simple sounds that normally filled the even the outsides of the forest with verve.

 

So, Jeremy moved forward. His cloak blew to the right due to the breeze, but it didn’t impede his movements. Every heartbeat, every bone, every impulse was telling him to move forward.

 

What could possibly be drawing the attention of the forest away?

 

Jeremy ducked through oak branches, boingy frogs, overgrown vines, and passed the occasional buck. However, the animals seemed to converge towards the center.

 

The Teclairan was almost morbidly curious. He wasn’t going to stop until he found the catalyst of the coalescing attention.

 

After a stray branch thwacked him in the head, Jeremy peaked into what was basically the eye of the forest. It was an open prairie, despite the fact that it wasn’t a lot of open space, and there was a man in the center of it all.

 

And he was moving.

 

Except it was without direction.

 

He had dark skin that wasn't common in Jeremy’s village. Maybe someone would roll around in mud, and get stained, but his skin seemed to be normal. It was quite beautiful, too. He wore a cloak that matched the sapphire grass and spectacles rested on his face. His shoes were shiny and dark, too.

 

He was quite the strange sight, but that made him more captivating.

 

Instead of walking around in circles, he spun, laughed, and twisted in multiple directions. He looked like he was having the time of his life, moving around to nothing in particular.

 

Yet, the animals were loudest around him.

 

The infinite birds chattered and called and laughed and cried. The deer stared in every direction with a blank expression. The squirrels ran up trees but stay perched to keep their eyes on the stranger.

 

Eventually, he exhausted himself. Jeremy could tell that every move he made got weaker with time, as one would expect with exercise. The animals slowly yet conspicuously retreated away.

 

Jeremy couldn’t hide himself anymore.

 

“Who are you?” Jeremy stepped out and asked. He made sure he had his hood down, so that the odd stranger wouldn’t see him as a potential threat.

 

“And to whom can I give the pleasure of my company?” The stranger wondered. His face was drenched in sweat.

 

“Jeremy Heere, of Teclair,” Jeremy introduced himself.

 

“Michael Mell, of Montag,” Michael responded.

 

Jeremy had never heard of Montag, but it sounded quite interesting. He had more prevalent questions on his mind, however.

 

“What were you just doing? You seemed to be calling all of nature towards you as you moved, and that call seemed to attract a human, too,” Jeremy said.

 

“A human like you followed the sounds of nature to me, correct? Are you an adventurous one?” He wondered.

 

Jeremy chuckled. “You speak oddly, Michael Mell. Yes, by the way. I like coming here to clear my head, as strange as that may sound. I believe that we Teclairans are famous for being bored in the most eldritch way possible.”

 

“I see. I did not know of this rumor. We Montagans are famous for having boundless energy,” Michael explained.

 

“But that doesn’t answer my question. How were you moving like that? Moving in a way that captures the, frankly, short attention span of a human?” Jeremy tilted his head.

 

“I move to the sound of nature. When nature’s creatures sing, I move in a way that feels… right,” Michael said.

 

“Sing? What is that?” Jeremy thought Michael was playing a joke on him.

 

“The calls of the birds. The ruckus of the insects. They’re singing,” Michael said like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

 

“So, you move to the singings of these animals?” Jeremy tried.

 

“The songs. Those noises are called songs, and singing is what they do,” Michael taught him.

 

“Can humans… sing, then?” Jeremy wondered.

 

“We’re singing right now. You’re talking, I’m talking, and the world is listening in. Can’t you hear them sing with us, now?” Michael grinned.

 

“But it’s not the same,” Jeremy insisted. “Your movements were captivating due to song, right?

 

“Of course."

 

“But, you don’t wish to move from our speech right now, do you?”

 

“Nope.”

 

Jeremy furrowed his eyebrows. “So, can humans make ‘songs’ that make others want to move?”

 

“Absolutely.”

 

“How?” Jeremy sat down and faced Michael.

 

Michael shuffled over to him and kept up the small grin on his face. “Try to mimic the birds. Try to make your own song, then.”

 

“Mimic the birds? I can’t…” Jeremy tried to find the right word.

 

“Just let something out,” Michael said.

 

AGGUH!” Jeremy shouted. All the animals in the vicinity ran away at the loud noise.

 

Michael started cackling. Jeremy looked down in shame.

 

“Try again, but this time… make a noise that won’t scare other creatures, okay?” Michael suggested. He couldn’t help but burst into another fit of chuckles.

 

Jeremy nodded. “Agguh…” he whispered.

 

“You can’t scare anything with an unhearable noise,” Michael sighed.

 

Jeremy gulped. “Do you know how to make your own songs?”

 

“I’ve tried. It never seems to work. It only hurts my throat,” he said.

 

Jeremy took a deep breath. “Ah-rhey…” he sung in a low voice.

 

“Just like that!” Michael’s entire demeanor flipped in a heartbeat. “You’ve got the sound part down, now you just need to put feelings inside.”

 

“Feelings… what?” Jeremy stared dumbly.

 

“Like how you change your voice when you’re emotional, you can change how you sing. I’ve listened to birds that were angry before, for example,” Michael expounded. “I’ve never heard any person make such an inspiring sound!”

 

“Wait, I understand now. Singing is almost like putting extra emphasis in my voice, right? I think that means that I can put words in my songs,” Jeremy realized.

 

“What words do you want?” It was Michael’s turn to be confused.

 

“I’ve written… poems and such. Sentences that flow together and make people feel something. I think songs are just an extension of that.” Jeremy explained. He cleared his throat.

 

“What are you going to s-”

 

“We’ve crossed these rivers countless times…” Jeremy murmured. “Left broken bones out on the ice.”

 

Michael stared at him. His entire body was frozen.

 

“Turnpike signs turned to subway lines,” Jeremy continued. “But we were never done… cause this is an extension of more than one love!” His voice got unexpectedly high sometimes, but ‘singing’ his poem didn’t feel wrong. It felt more than right. It felt alive as he was.

 

Michael stood up, his legs quavering a bit. His moves were a lot slower than last time. Every step was expected, planned out. His original movements was more free while his new ones were more contained and restricted yet still as distracting.

 

“This was a long, long, long time coming…” Jeremy continued, his voice a bit stronger. “For when the bar is so high, you can’t tell you’re beneath it. When you’ve got archer’s eyes, but you can’t even see it.” He watched Michael move. “Then just look, look out, look out for each other. We gotta look, look out, look out for each other… Look out for each other, baby brother…”

 

Michael pulled Jeremy onto his feet and grabbed his hands. He squeaked a little, but he already trusted Michael enough to let him guide his footsteps.

 

“November crashed and crawled away… tail tucked between its sh-shaky legs,” Jeremy continued. He was getting more breathless as Michael’s intense gaze focused on his own eyes. “But we were never done, and this is extension of more than one love. This was a long, long, long time coming.”

 

Michael clasped Jeremy’s left hand with his right hand and cupped Jeremy’s shoulder blade with his other hand. Jeremy kept his free hand on Michael’s shoulder.

 

A few minutes after Jeremy stopped singing, Jeremy froze and breathed hard.

 

“I… what did we just...?” Jeremy stared at him.

 

“Something incredible,” Michael realized.

 

“But I can’t move like you. I was relying on you the whole time!” Jeremy squawked.

 

“You were lost in the song. You know, once you stopped singing, the birds and other animals came back to reprise!” Michael outstretched his arm and made Jeremy look. The golden star up in the sky beamed down on every animal along with the two of them.

 

“I don’t know what I just did. Was that singing? I’ve never heard it before, and now my throat is scratchy, but in a good way?” Jeremy coughed a little. “Michael, I… I’m so confused,” he admitted.

 

“You just did something new. Something truly mystical,” Michael promised.

 

“My head is telling me otherwise.”

 

“Then listen to your heart. Rely on your feelings more, Jeremy! What do you want right now? Make that choice while free from whatever is hanging onto your conscious,” Michael said.

 

“I don’t know, I have to thi-”

 

“Don’t think,” Michael whispered. “Just feel things the way you want. Express yourself to me,” he said. His eyes were nothing but soft and warm and bright and magnificent.

 

Jeremy had to lean up a little to pull Michael into a warm kiss. Jeremy realized how cold it was otherwise and broke away to shiver. Within an instant, Michael had his arms around Jeremy.

 

“You’ve learned to express yourself through your singing, and I got to be the luckiest person alive for a few minutes,” Michael told him. “Your singing was spectacular.”

 

Jeremy asked, “Do you teach people to sing, often? Do you move so freely and so wonderfully all the time?”

 

Michael said, “Only to you.”

 

Jeremy said, “You’re radiant.”

 

Michael had a flash of inspiration drawn on his face. Michael asked, “Are you less bored now, Jeremy?”

 

Jeremy said, “How could I be bored around someone like you?”

 

Michael said nothing more and kissed him carefully, like he was glass.

 

“I want to share my feelings with everyone,” Michael realized. “I’ll take you to Montag. We can spend so much time getting used to each other and, if you’d like, get married in the future. What do you say?” He wondered.

 

“But, isn’t the journey to and from our villages long?” Jeremy couldn’t help but ooze reluctance.

 

“My home is less than half a day’s walk away,” Michael promised. Jeremy wondered how he never heard of Montag before.

 

“How about this? We can go back to our village and share this beautiful thing with everyone. It’ll be fantastic!” Jeremy suggested.

 

“But I like having these special expressions between the two of us. I fear that our messages will go unheard in front of a large crowd,” Michael countered.

 

“My people aren’t much for movement unless it is fun and games. I believe that our expressions will be strange and new, but ultimately entertaining because it is strange and new. They crave the strange, so trust in them and more importantly, let me guide you this time.” Jeremy laid a hand on his cheek.

 

Michael nodded. Jeremy held his hand and walked him out of the forest back to his village.

 

His home was about a hundred strong, so word got around fast when Jeremy was seen holding hands with a mysterious dark skinned man that was about two inches taller than him.

 

“Hey, dad. This is my…” Jeremy realized that he never established his relationship with Michael.

 

“Boyf-” Michael started.

 

“Riend,” Jeremy finished for him. “I met him in the woods and we instantly connected.”

 

“Well, Jeremy. I wanted a granddaughter, but you being happy with someone else is far more important,” Mr. Heere’s tone instantly changed from dejected to proud.

 

“I’m Michael Mell. It’s a pleasure to receive your company.” He shook Mr. Heere’s hand.

 

“Just call me Mr. Heere. And don’t hurt my son or you’ll die.”

 

Michael gulped. “Noted. And never.”

 

Jeremy lightly slapped his dad’s arm. “Don’t threaten him. Michael is a fantastic person. In fact, we have something brilliant to show you and the village,” Jeremy said.

 

“I think you grabbed everyone’s attention, anyway. They’re curious about your new partner,” Mr. Heere told him.

 

Jeremy took Michael to the center of village where everyone converged. A bunch of the kids around his age started asking him about Michael and some were trying to flirt with the dark skinned stranger. He respectfully rejected them, thankfully. After the flirtations stopped, Michael gripped Jeremy’s hand. He wasn’t sure how, but it took some of the pressure off his chest.

 

“Michael and I made something ethereal in the forest. It was new and interesting and I’ve never heard it before,” Jeremy said.

 

“Well, what is it?” A girl named Jenna piped up.

 

“Song,” Jeremy said. “Michael, I’m going to do something different. Do you trust me?”

 

“I can move to whatever you can sing.”

 

Jeremy took a deep breath. “Woah… Woah…” He absent-mindedly tapped on a piece of stone nearby. “Lips are twitching so you crack a smile. You’ve been conditioned to listen and wait…” His voice took an even lower tone than before, and his melody was more haunting, too.

 

Michael reflected that by focusing more on moving his cloak with his moves. He would guide it by using his arm to drag it along with his movements. His moves were deliberate as before, but they were faster-paced.

 

“Move an inch and I will trek a mile. Yeah, I’m the fisherman and you’re the bait.” Jeremy couldn’t take his eyes off Michael, either. “You know you’ll always be my valentine. Now, swear to God that you’ll never tell. They’re streaming every indiscretion live for caterpillars of the commonwealth,” he finished. Michael stopped moving and Jeremy’s face turned red. What if they didn’t like it? Would Jeremy have to le-

 

“What did you just do?” Chloe piped up.

 

“Show me how to do that!” One of the younger kids named George or something shouted.

 

A whole bunch of voices overlapped, but Jeremy could tell that none of them were negative.

 

“Just like how the birds tweet, how the frogs ribbit, and how the bears roar, humans sing, too,” Jeremy said. “I’m not sure how to explain it, but Michael showed me how to… song? Sing? Sing. I can’t describe his movements to the song, but he’s… expressing himself,” Jeremy tried to explain.

 

Michael stepped up and laced his fingers with Jeremy’s. “I taught Jeremy to sing, and he sounds ethereal, but I can’t promise that everyone can do it. I can’t sing at all,” he admitted. “So, who wants to learn how to sing?”

 

The adults had to get back to work, but forty of the forty five kids wanted to learn.

 

“Okay, so the first thing I told Jeremy was to mimic the birds. Just let something out!” Michael beamed.

 

Everyone took a deep breath. The smile from Michael’s face disappeared.

 

They all screamed at once.

 

“AGUHUIOPAPUJHLJKSIOAABKPAWOURAOS2AKN!”

 

Michael and Jeremy covered their ears, yet their skulls were still vibrating.

 

“Try again!” Michael shouted. He wasn’t sure if he went deaf or not. They took another deep breath. “Wait, no! How about five of you go at a time?” Michael interrupted.

 

A group of girls stepped forward first. Three of them released a sound equivalent to a bear dying, one was too quiet to be heard, and the other’s had a nice sound.

 

“Oh, hey, Christine,” Jeremy waved.

 

“Hi Jeremy!” She sang the words. Michael and Jeremy beamed at each other.

 

“Just like that, Ms. Christine!” Michael told her. “You’re singing right now!”

 

“You mean this?” She continued to talk-sing.

 

“Yes, you’ve almost got it, Christine. You just need to add tone to your words. Like anger, joy, melancholy, or something,” Michael said.

 

“I understand completely!” Christine cleared her throat. “I love playing dodge rock because it’s the best!” She sang. Her vivacity for dodge rock was… unparalleled.

 

“You know what, that works,” Michael shrugged. He didn’t know what dodge rock was.

 

Christine went around and helped people learn how to sing. Jeremy and Michael continued to help groups of people, too, but by the end, fifteen of them were proven to be talentless in the singing department.

 

“When it comes to moving like I do, I’ve heard someone in my home-village call it dancing,” Michael said.

 

“But dancing is how a leaf moves in the wind,” Jenna piped up.

 

“I know that, but you can treat it as symbolism. We are the leaves, and the song is our wind,” Michael countered.

 

For some reason, that explanation clicked with them and understanding spread across them like a virus.

 

“When the song starts, just move in a way that feels right. You’re not supposed to think too hard on it. You have to let yourself bend to the song like how a leaf bends to the wind, okay?” Michael said.

 

Jeremy started singing the poem from back in the forest. Everyone started moving.

 

“It’s a good start! You just need to stop thinking about everything else, and just move the way you want to!” Michael walked around. “Don’t be too stiff,” he said to a young boy. “Don’t get that relaxed, or you’ll topple over,” he murmured to Jenna.

 

An hour passed, and everyone was watching them learn how to dance. A few people tried to join in, but five minutes of trying told them that it would be easier to sing than dance.

 

The sun was blazing overhead, and Michael’s sweaty palm rarely left Jeremy’s. Neither of them minded the heat after they put their hoods up.

 

“Sorry, guys. Jeremy and I are going to make a trip to Montag. The dancing and singing lessons have to stop,” Michael said. Lots of groans and protests. Michael laughed.

 

“We’ll come back, guys. Promise,” Jeremy said. He led Michael out of the village after saying goodbye to his dad.

 

“Your village seems nice,” Michael commented.

 

“They never really liked me, honestly. I was kind of an add-on,” Jeremy bitterly admitted.

 

“Well, jokes on them. I have liked you since I met you, and now I’m in a relationship with a pretty man who can sing like a bird,” Michael replied.

 

“They only like me because I can sing.” Jeremy’s eyes darted to Michael before they looked forward.

 

“I’ve only known you for a short time, but I like everything about you already,” Michael promised.

 

Jeremy said, “What if there are parts of me that aren’t as beautiful?”

 

Michael responded, “There’s nothing that I won’t understand.”

 

Jeremy smiled and said, “You’re radiant.”

 

The village of Montag was mostly made out of bricks and stone, but the occasional wood house. Jeremy thought stone was better suited to tools, but he did think that the houses looked beautiful compared to the ones in Teclair. The roads were covered in sand, and it got into Jeremy’s shoes, but he didn’t mind it that much.

 

“No one knows how to sing like you do, here. I’ve tried teaching everyone, but they’re inept in that field.” Michael showed him around.

 

“All of them?” Jeremy’s jaw dropped a little. “But we taught everyone back in my village with relative ease…”

 

“I don’t know, Jeremy. I don’t have parents, so there’s no one for you to meet,” he admitted.

 

“Oh, Michael, I’m so sorry. I lost my mom, too.” Jeremy cupped his cheek.

 

Michael covered Jeremy’s palm with his own. “The first time I danced, it was really depressing. I had no outlet, so I just ran into the forest and let it guide me. Then, I was moving, and all my feelings came out. I blubbered like a babe while dancing.”

 

“Let’s leave this place, then. I feel like it’ll only stir up bad memories,” Jeremy told him.

 

“Where would we go?” Michael asked.

 

“Travelling. Exploring. Sharing this gift with everyone,” Jeremy realized. “I want to tell everyone about these songs and dances, but I want to do so with you.”

 

“Jeremy, this is sudden and-”

 

“You told me to not think, right? Do what I feel is right? So, trust me. Trust yourself, more importantly. What do you feel is right?” Jeremy grinned.

 

“I think-”

 

“Not think,” Jeremy interrupted.

 

“I feel like I want to go where you go,” Michael admitted. “But we do have to get some supplies. I have a decent amount of money from working, so we can start our travels.” He emptied his pockets.

 

“I have some money, too. I’ll write a letter to my dad and we can go where we’d like. Just you and me.” Jeremy jumped into Michael’s arms and held onto him for a short while.

 

Not even thirty minutes, Michael held a map in his right hand and had a bag on his back. Jeremy held a compass and Michael’s free hand.

 

“It looks like the closest village is Hackwood?” Michael squinted at the map.

 

“Sounds like a plan, then,” Jeremy said.

 

Throughout the rest of their lives, Jeremy and Michael were moving. Whether it was walking or dancing, they moved together. Tales spread around of a duo that introduced foreign concepts of ‘song’ and ‘dance’ to every village that they passed.

 

Years later, they become celebrities. Almost everyone had heard stories of them. People created their own songs and dances. Some dances were practiced and memorized while others were free and unrestricted. Both had their own beauty.

 

Decades later, they become legends. The first ‘bards’ as someone once said. A few stories circulate around a mysterious ‘third member’ that quickly gained popularity. Most speculated that the two pioneers of song and dance adopted a child.

 

Centuries later, their influence continued to affect culture along with contemporary songs and dances. There was an even a book and a movie based off their legacy.

 

Millenia later, the tale that was ‘the younger sibling of time’ was heard of everywhere.

 

Of course, many versions of the story existed. Some were almost identical to what really happened, some were far off-target. But most, if not all, knew a certain truth about their story.

 

As long as someone was dancing or singing, their love would never stop moving.