Danal listened to dying songs.
Hymns echoed up and down the stone tunnels. Music held the lie of a place without snow, a place without smoke, where those with black lung could breathe and never be forgotten. A place where tears never froze on a child’s cheeks. They sang a dream of a place that never existed.
He lay on his cot in the hall and covered his ears with his cold pillow. The sound still crawled into his ears, into his mind, invading it with its mournful, hopeful tones.
Danal remembered old Pater. He heard the creaky voice talking about the time before. “And then the waters went away. The old man let all the animals out of the boat, and God made a promise: ‘As long as there is seedtime and harvest, day and night, I will never again send a flood like this one.’”
Danal remembered trying to catch the thought, but it was like a rabbit and he had no net. “So why did he send the snow?”
The old man scratched his beard. “He hasn’t told us.”
“Are we still evil, like he said?”
“Yes. Only the one who made us holy changes any of that.”
“So why doesn’t he make us all holy so the snow can go away?”
Danal flung the memories away. The old man had taught him all those songs, those useless songs, those rhymes and notes that still found their way into his thoughts and made him recall those lyrics about made-up men and fairy tales of people in power.
His sister taught all the people here the songs, though. She wanted them to have hope.
Danal supported his sister in her attempt to atone. It was good to help the living. It was no use lying to them, though.
In the morning he would leave. Hopefully he would return.
He coughed and rolled over. He tried to shut out the music.
He fell asleep to dying songs he refused to sing.
Read more of the world of Snow and Smoke here.
Read the previous story, Coming Home, here.
Read the next story, Late Night Meetings, here.