The giveaway game starts today, and will last until the 26! Here is the first story, and at the end of this post is a question to answer; if you answer correctly, I will put your name in the jar to qualify for a paper copy of Dissonance!
To learn all about this giveaway, click here!
Here’s a graphic explaining the rules! I hope you enjoy the story!
What was corrupt song? The question flickered in his mind, flickered like the candle on the ground before him: One shivering light to reveal concrete walls trapping him. This was the only prison that could steal a Muse’s freedom, because he scarcely heard his own ragged breathing.
Months ago, Giulino attended presentations given by the Muse Council. None of them had given a satisfactory answer to the question of what corrupt song was. They failed to give a clear definition of what he and his partner hunted.
But Giulino had been a fool for not pressing the matter, carried away by the glory that came with his first assignment.
A lot of good it did me, he thought, holding out a trembling hand as if to strike the candle. He knew the light wasn’t here to bring comfort, but to torture him; he would watch the wax melt until it left him in a pitch-black cell.
He could end it now and put out the candle, making a choice to bring about darkness himself.
There was no point dwelling on what should have been, or how they failed to prepare him for this corrupt song. He no longer cared that he and his partner had been told the bare minimum: Corrupt songs surfaced when Muses were careless.
In these presentations, the Council discussed what society accepted as ‘decent’ songs. They listed the qualities of songs parents banned from children who, upon reaching adulthood, were all the more eager to listen.
Those lectures turned out to be pointless—human bias had nothing to do with what Giulino and his partner faced.
The Dark Songs were more than sound; they infected society where it was most vulnerable, gripping the art and tainting peoples’ spirits. In attacking Muses, the source of art, they left humanity vulnerable.
Giulino was a Muse himself, but hadn’t been corrupted. He’d been doing the job they assigned him, never stopping to ponder the magnitude of it.
The candle flickered again, taunting him. His arrest took place in the dead of night, so people didn’t know he’d been taken. Giulino pondered the irony—he’d set out in hopes of fame but instead was put in Silence.
He wondered if the Council had planned it all when they assigned this task to young people. They tossed over the file, flashing smiles, washing their hands like Caesar—Here, you do it—but don’t do it too well, or we’ll accuse you of corruption—
The Muse stopped himself before his thoughts could consume him. Bitterness filled his heart, but he didn’t want the last thing he felt to be anger, so with a sigh he scoured his memory for the most beautiful thing he knew…
He’d gone against the unspoken code of his people, falling for a human girl because of the purity in her gaze…because she would make him cookies for no reason…because she always had time for him—
The candle flickered, shattering his concentration. He felt, rather than heard, the shout of fury that escaped his lips, felt it because it hurt physically—lunging forward, he punched the candle so it rocketed across the room and hit the concrete wall, the flame going out and leaving him in darkness.
Hot tears slid down his face and he crumbled to the ground, sobbing—painful sobs—think of her, think of her, think of her…
The first time Muses recognized Dark Songs as harmful, he’d been an apprentice. On his way home after lessons, he would listen to crowds gathered in discussion. They were always talking about the latest victim to lose their mind because of a melody.
Then faery tales began to fall literally, beautiful houses plummeting from the sky to land in remote places. It seemed as if someone were going through storybooks, cutting the buildings and letting them drop. The Council sent Giulino a message suggesting these incidents were linked to the Dark Songs.
He investigated and came up with a theory: Every time a Dark Song came forth from a corrupt Muse, it weakened the veil between this world and the one where dreams lurked. Those buildings falling through came straight from the imaginations of storytellers everywhere.
The Council left this responsibility to two young Muses, so they could continue their lazy lives of luxury. It was against Muse nature to oversee one project for long, so they juggled tasks amongst themselves.
He still wondered, as he sobbed into the darkness, why the destruction of their universe wasn’t enough for them to spark into action.
Giulino and his partner tracked the Songs across the globe. Some people denied their existence while others embraced them as miracles. He could not remember the names of those people, or the places where Dark Songs were strongest.
It was a wonder he remembered his own name in this soul-sucking prison; he’d already forgotten that of his partner. All he felt was abysmal Silence torturing his mind. Muses might be lazy when it came to distributing music, but they couldn’t live without hearing it.
Giulino’s life would end soon, or he would go mad. Fight the madness, he thought, fight it… Taking a deep breath, he thought of her again, longing to see her one last time.
He remembered her blue eyes tearing up sometimes when she smiled. He remembered her voice being the purest he’d heard, even when she wasn’t singing—how it healed his soul when she whispered his name.
The precious nothing they would do together made him ache for a life where it was acceptable to settle, not fleeing the notion of responsibility. He would give anything to bring her a life of happiness, forgetting thoughts of glory he’d entertained months before.
He whispered her name, a breath of beauty in this place of darkness: “Enna.” He wanted to see her because he never said good-bye, promising he’d be back for the new year. He hoped that, wherever she was, she could feel him thinking of her.
In his last remaining moments, Enna was music breaking the Silence.
He stretched out on the concrete ground, taking steady breaths. There was no point screaming, but the tears came anyway. He might be breathing, might still have a heartbeat, but the young man Giulino was dead.
He heard through a daze when the cell door was kicked open—bang! He was too weak to jump at the sound, curling up against the echo keeping him awake.
“He’s here!” It was her voice; perhaps he’d begun to hallucinate beautiful things. He tried to hush his breathing so he wouldn’t miss a moment. It sounded like she’d been crying, her words thick with horror. “We’re not too late!”
“Not too late,” said a voice he recognized but could not assign a face to. “He’s almost gone. Hold the flashlight…”
“No,” she wept. He felt a hand on his face, the tickle of her long blonde hair on his cheeks. “He’s not gone. He’s stronger than that.” Her voice dropped to a whisper: “Giulino, you can’t leave me, I won’t let it happen—”
Wasn’t he already gone?
“If he’s here a moment longer he’s going to lose his mind,” the other voice said impatiently. “We need to get him out.”
He felt a soft kiss on the cheek before drifting into semi-consciousness. Occasionally he woke to hear Enna fussing over his health, Enna who had always been his lullaby…perhaps death wouldn’t be so bad, if he could listen to her.
He faded, grateful to hear something beautiful in the moments before he ceased to exist.
Question #1: What was the name of Giulino’s partner in the quest to learn about the Dark Songs?