The Song of the Sky
words by Autumn Tsai
photo from Wikipedia
photo from Wikipedia
Have you ever wondered what is beyond the darkness, the darkness that crouches beside the windowsill, and looks at you every night when the evening stars fall?
It creeps through the window, inspects your soul, and charms you with its gentle whisper so elegant and unpredictable that the eye cannot resist its hungry call.
The monstrous beauty.
Every night I would crawl out of the window and stare into its eyes, and wonder what is beyond the houses that stretch out far into the horizon, like sketches, and then like linear lines, as if they were only the ideas of houses in the dark, containing nothing else but pure emptiness. Every night I would imagine that I have wings strong enough for me to fly, up, up, and up into the starry night, away from everything I remember, and everything that remembers me. I would feel the wind touching my skin, and dancing with my hair, and my soul would blend into the darkness as I soar into the night, into the pure danger where I seek freedom. Every night.
That is why, I jumped.
I cannot recall much about the moment when I made the decision.
“What’s she doing?”
My name is Zero, I have come to learn…
“Oh, the clumsy one’s here.”
“She ruins everything!”
“Why doesn’t she just quit?”
… to hope to learn, to…
“I don’t want her. You take her.”
It seems that everything in life takes some kind of effort to gain. It seems that every human being is searching for some kind of satisfaction in life, whether dreams, or money, or love, or all of the above. The loneliness of the city creeps into my mind too often in late evenings, when I, gazing at the vast darkness, recall everything from the past and the present. Sometimes, the uneven life of the city is so loud that I feel pain. Sometimes, I just feel tired.
It is funny that human beings can be so fragile.
You know, child, it is okay.
I crawled out of the window and sat on the windowsill, looking into the night. Rain fell down about the roof, as the vast nimbus of darkness enshrouded the ash-grey city. At the edge of my journal Darkness of the night spoke tenderly to me, with claws clinging on my throat.
To be, or not to be... what does it matter?
I did not speak.
What is love, or dreams, or longingness…
There is nothing you must seek--
I am always right here—
Just you, and I, in this wild little world.
I held onto my pen. Ink splattered on the sheets of paper. And alchemy of sight, sound, and tears, it forced human language through, yet only babbled nothingness.
Dear, dear, poor little child, abandoned from the world--
No one wants you, no one needs you…
Better leave them ﬁrst before they leave you… it whispered.
With eyes narrowing into the shape of a new moon, it stretched out its forelimbs, enclosing me. I held onto my pen, feeling its smooth, cool concreteness in my palm. With the touch of my fingers I read the inscription on the pen: Travel on, go Beyond. And I remembered the past, present, and future it had written down for me—now all of them were mocking me, haunting, judging, and distorting everything I must hold dear in the breath which I have to call “life.”
I felt the pen’s cool steel upon my skin, aching to record its last.
Time will no longer control my soul now.
With a sense of peacefulness, I let go.
Who is to say that Darkness is an evil existence? It speaks to me almost too often in the late evenings through the bars of the windows, where I gaze into the far horizon, as the stars of man engulf the stars of heaven.
Here, in this vast darkness, it is just me and the starry world. I could fly into the night, and the stars will hold me in his arms—not the stars of the sky, but the stars of the lonely earth dragons when I fall down, down, and down into its arms.
Come, let me catch you.
I peered off into the far horizon, where the stars fell. And then, I closed my eyes, feeling my skin ache of the heat. Soon, I would be burned into the same race of Darkness: evil, brutal, and monstrous. Wind howled around me, with all the cries of miserable creatures that were once human beings. The souls, mad and ghastly, clung to my flesh and began to gnaw.
And I imagined the story—
And the stars caught her in his arms.
Then a thundering horn called out.
There was a sudden mumble, and then among the howls there was a cry, a cry as vicissitudo as those of the wolves. It soon turned into a whimper, and began to die down.
I could feel the heat around me dispelling, and after an endless moment I had a strange feeling that I was floating in the air. Something gentle, something like the cool streams that run along the mountain hills in summer times, something like the breeze of the forest in autumn days was carrying me. In the air it was nothing like the above, but the same comforting, relaxing feeling made me felt that I could sleep in it forever.
I carefully opened my eyes, and saw the linear lines of the buildings conversing, dancing like water plants, with lights glimmering about the water.
And, as if swimming in a lake, I held my breath and began to kick.
In front of me a door appeared among the darkness.
As I peered through the door, I saw an image of a little dark-haired girl standing at the bottom of a forum so deep that it looked like a well. Before her stood an old banyan tree; its heavy leaves shuddered in the wind, falling about the little girl. She looked up into the sky from the bottom, all the way through the thick leaves of the tree. She gazed and gazed, as evenings turned to mornings, and mornings turned to evenings. I wondered how long I had waited with her, and yet she had not noticed me. And then she reached out her arms. A little paper-boat floated down from the starry night through the heavy leaves. She caught the boat, and then turned and looked at me. The stars began spinning. And I met her eyes.
She was holding the paper-boat in her arms.
Follow the paths of the Birds…
It was her, or not her that was speaking. Voices came from every direction as far away as the wind blew, and then they became a song--
Follow the music and you will ﬁnd
The ﬂuttering wings of the sky
Up up up and high
Into the music of the sky.
I woke up, finding the deep velvet-blue starlight shining upon me. I sat up and looked around. I was at the bottom of a paper-boat. Around me numerous old banyan trees stood in shallow waters. Water dripped down from the trees, and faint starry lights glistened in-between the shades of deep green and blue.
Not too far away, a girl was staring into the lights beside an enormous tree, as if listening to the winds of the forest. Lights glowed upon her cheeks, her hair swung in the breeze. Immediately I recognized her: she was the Girl in my dream. I stepped out of the boat and stepped into the water, and realized that I was stepping on the debris of forum as the cool, smooth marble touched my skin.
The water was velvet-blue, glistening stars swam across my feet.
I stared into the water.
“It’s almost dawn,” she said.
I looked up.
“The Birds always set off at dawn. They will take us to where we need to be. Perhaps, you might also find your path too.”
I walked closer towards her.
“Where are we?” I asked.
The trees shuddered as the wind blew.
“Come,” she reached out her hand.
She took my hand, and the two of us began climbing the thick roots and stems of the deep-blue banyan tree. The tree was rough, and watery, and yet the touch of her hand seemed to lighten my body so that I could match her speed. Playful winds brushed my cheeks as I began running on the stems and branches instead of climbing them on all fours, sweet dew fell down about me, as my senses became more and more abstract, feeling only the coolness of the winds, water, and the tree.
“Where the Birds approach.”
I caught her smile as I looked up, and held up my breath as I suddenly realized that we were on the very peak of the forest. The sky had turned iris-blue as the contour of the edge of the sun shone through the horizon.
With pale light, far across the horizon, shadows of line-sketch figures approached towards the deep forest where we were. As the rays of sunrise in summer days that creeped through the windowsills, the Birds rose into the sky, lightening the velvet-blue night.
As they approached and hovered above us, I sensed the warm and cool morning sunlight; in the wind it was the sound of summer days, early in the morning, when evening rain had just passed; it was the sound of the countryside, the gentle breeze blowing upon the green patty, fresh air awakening the plains and meadows, the rivers running amidst the forests; it was the sound of the awakening cities, the sunlight reflecting from the tall buildings, bad traffic sounding through the city, the bells of the schools ringing and students running through the corridors, people chattering in and out as phones rang throughout the office buildings, lights and music dancing in the theatres as audiences cheered for the performers—the sounds of life.
Then I heard the Girl calling, “is everything alright?”
“Yes,” I muttered.
My heart beat, excitement arose as the paper-boat glided with the wind and flew up into the mellow sunlight waters, sailing the paths of the Birds. I kicked the branches and glided into the starry heavens, as drops of lights fell into the water. The evening stars were falling across the heavens, entering the river of stars and her little boat as I was floating in the air. I gazed at this scenery, wondering about the reality of this surrealistic view.
Then all of a sudden the Girl came from behind and pushed me into the air. I rolled two or three times forward, feeling dizzy.
“How did you…” I looked at where she appeared.
Before I could finish, she swung onto another branch.
“You can’t catch me,” she disappeared from the tree. I caught the branch and heard her giggling from another tree.
“A-hah,” I kicked at her as soon as I was balanced.
“Oops, not good.”
She dived and I missed, but I pulled her arm, and both of us went sliding across the sky, turning round and round until we started to feel dizzy. She let go of my hand, and we went spinning separately in the air.
“It’s always nice up here, feeling the winds,” she laughed.
She held my hand and we dived into the night, as the boat trailed behind us inbetween the Birds. In the stream of glittering lights, the stars danced around us, and held us up into the iris-blue night.
We began dancing ballads with the stars.
As if sinking into the flow of life, the winds entered me and left me, with no intentions to stay. We skated across the sky, jumping from this tree to another. Drops of water fell into the shallow river with splashes like bells ringing in the night, harmonizing with each other.
We flew up to the highest tree tops, watching the forest river of stars beneath us. I gazed upon the Birds, the forest, and the far horizon. My senses were wide open, as I could capture each moment, each detail of the color, lights, and sounds that entered my sensation.
And then in the heavens songs poured out. Mellow sunlight began falling into the water as colors of bright yellow lightened up the sky. The lights of the river joined the lights of the Birds, extending into a long and winding path towards infinity.
The boat gently approached, swinging with the rhythm of the stars, as lyrical as the violin, as light as the marimba, and as gentle as the harp. I caught its edge and climbed back into the paper-boat. The music went on and on, leading us further and further away from the deep forest, towards the place unknown in the far horizon.
“Will you take this for me?” the Girl held out a thin thread.
“What is this?” I took the thread. One end was tied to a jar, clear as crystal.
“I think I can catch some image of the Birds,” she said.
At the edge of the boat she let go of the jar. With the flow of the winds it floated into the air, and then gently sunk into the river of lights. I tied the thread to my wrist, and lay down.
Where does the path lead? I wondered.
Dwelling in the night of peacefulness I fell asleep.
Our little paper-boat sailed in the heavens of velvet-blue, towards infinity where nothing was certain. I wondered where the Birds may guide. And yet the rays of sunlight the Birds brought to the starry night gave me a sense of longing, yearning to seek, to strive, and to reach out to something warm.
I thought the heavens whisper.
Then in darkness I heard a song soft and gentle, sad too, like the song of a lonely traveler, singing the song of Time. I opened my eyes, seeing the Girl at the front of the boat, her hair swinging in the air. The glistening lights fell down about her, whispering sounds and languages that I could not understand.
“Will you take us Beyond?” I heard the Girl ask.
And the heavens, in a thousand winds that blew, replied,
We will take you to the furthest place we can reach for you.
But the quest should be sought on your own.
I sat up. She turned to me as the Birds fell silent again.
“With the images of the Birds, he would finally be happy again.” She said.
“He?” I wondered.
I untied the thread as she pulled out the jar from the starry forest. She held up the jar, and, carefully, captured a little star that landed in our boat. Little lights danced around the little glass bottle, clear as crystal. Shadows of the Birds swirled and turned, shuttling among the lights of the stars. I felt the breeze of the Birds in my hands as music poured out.
“In the vast of darkness I was a little piece of heaven, roaming in the lonely world,” she said. “I realized that my job is to place the little pieces of heaven before the beds of children in their sleep when I myself, was seen. By seeing me, he… the lonely boy in the grey city, created me.” And with soft whisper, she began:
I am a bard, a poet of songs.
I travel through cities, singing the song of the sky.
I sing for everyone a piece of the stars.
Man and woman, young and old.
The rich and the poor,
They pass by, but know not me.
They are too busy Roaming their own little worlds
Some of them see me, but cannot understand my language.
They leave, hardly different from everyone else.
“Where is the sky?” a boy came to me,
The first one in the city.
“You saw me?” I stopped my song,
The first time in the city.
“Yes, and I heard you, too.”
So this is how the story began:
With joy I asked
“Why do you want to know where the sky is?”
And with a childish laugh he began to sing,
“The music of the sky is beautiful, I want to see it myself.”
“The music of the sky is beautiful, I want to see it myself.”
I repeated his song, and looked at his sky blue eyes.
“Well then,” I said, rising with excitement.
“Allow the poet to tell you where the sky is:
Once upon a time there was a land,
a land of freedom which all seeks.
Where the past does not dwell,
and the future does not exist.
All you seekers, those who try
Listen carefully for the winds:
East, west, north, and south,
summer, winter, autumn, and spring,
different voices in one tune.
Follow the music and you will find
The fluttering wings of the sky
Up up up and high
Into the music of the sky.”
And as the song came to an end he looked up
Dancing and laughing, he hummed along
“Up up up and high
Into the music of the sky.”
I looked at her looking at the stars. The lights soon died out as we, sitting in the boat, sailed across the starry sky along with the Birds. As we, following the paths of the Birds, had been sailing further and further away from the watery forest of stars. Beneath us was the city where I used to live, deep and dark. We sailed on the paths of the Birds; their glistening shadows guided our paths. Far across the horizon, where the paths of the Birds led to infinity, the stars fell into the heart of Darkness, and the Birds began to fade.
“I have seen too many people consumed by Darkness. Each one of them disappeared in the night, but the Call carried you to my boat,” she said.
“Why me?” I asked, looking at the ash-grey city beneath us.
“I don’t know, but the Call protects all creators in their fall… when they fall.”
“Am I a creator, then?”
She fell silent.
As further and further away the Birds flew, lighter and lighter they seemed. Each star began disappearing into the winds, and the sky fell dark again. I gazed into the heavens, and through the breeze I thought them speak in a choir.
We must leave now.
To guide the paths for many others.
To seek the paths for ourselves.
I sat back into the little boat as the Birds disappeared with the music.
Perhaps there should be a certain place called Beyond, and yet perhaps they do not even know where the place should be. “But where is your path?” the Girl had asked, yet I have not yet answered her. The boat had sailed towards the grey city enshrouded with darkened clouds, and it continues to sail towards uncertainty obstinately. Perhaps the spirit itself is Beyond.
At the front of the boat, the Girl sang as if the winds could take her tune to the places that were too lonely for human beings, and send her warmth to the one she could not let go:
She gave him a china flute.
“What is this?” he asked.
“This is a piece of sky. It will allow you to find the stars.”
He played the flute, and music flowed,
it was the eastern wind of mellow dawn.
She left him, playing the song of the sky.
He sought, and sought, and sought.
And he fell, and he sought
She waited, at the edge of the city, thinking that he would come,
She waited, singing the song of the sky, waiting for him to arrive,
With the last rays of sunlight, she saw him on the streets.
With joy she was about to call out,
When she heard his shaking voice
“Does the sky really exist?”
And then he hung the flute on her tree,
Not seeing her, nor hearing her,
she cried and cried, as he sat beside the tree
Watching the stars falling dark
The Birds flew away, and he never knew
He turned back, into his grey city
Away from the music of the sky…
Away from the music of the sky…
In the vast darkness our boat had stopped among the emptiness. Stars sailed across the sky, falling about the far horizon which we are heading to—a vast darkness—under the darkness was the grey city where I came from.
I gently covered her with a piece of cloth, and saw that she was holding her jar of Dreams close to her chest, as if protecting something as dear as her life. I took the jar and looked into it, suddenly feeling alienated from her, and jealous about her.
“Where does your boat lead?” I had asked.
Without hesitation, without a doubt, she had answered easily, as if nothing could harm her. It must be happy to be seen by someone in the world. In the wild lonely world where people are as brutal as they could be, being seen is like tasting a piece of snowflake in a barren land—life could die ninety-nine times for that one single revival.
Is there something that I have to do, something that I have to protect, and something that needs me in my life? No. With me or without me, Time flows on. What I do or don’t do does not make a difference to the world I live in; no matter if I exist or not, Time flows on. Someday, I should disappear from the world, without a person to say, “I remember you.” Like a piece of dust in the universe, if it disappeared, no one will notice.
It is sad when you fall. But it is sadder when you do not even care if you fall.
I hope you could stay. I imagined her saying.
I looked through the darkened water. Beneath the water, little paper doors, as if dancing a dangerous waltz, were floating in the swirling waters. They were the portals to the city where I came from. Each of them was a piece of memory from the city. This was the grey school I went to, those were the noisy streets where the vendors gathered, this was the restaurant where my classmates went, that was the damp lamplight beside the park, this was the lonely road which I stared into, and that…
I stared through the door.
Is the pen which I left in the arms of Darkness.
“What do you want?” Without looking up I mumbled. Every time on the verge of fall Darkness would come and mock at me, as if enjoying my misery.
Just to give a little warning, for that little friend of yours.
“She’s not my friend.” I moved further into the boat, not wanting to see him.
Hurt again? He laughed softly.
“Shut up.” I mumbled.
I never existed. He sang, peering at the Girl who was sleeping at the edge of the boat.
Don’t you want to know what will happen to your little friend?
She cannot pass the border-line. Hasn’t she told you that?
She never wins me, Darkness of the night.
“I don’t believe you.”
Ask her yourself. He disappeared.
“Who were you talking to?” The Girl mumbled in her sleep.
“Darkness.” I said, looking at her face under the starry night. Her hair was flowing with the wind as it gently caressed her skin.
“Why… how…” She sat up.
“Why is it that you must find the Boy? Does it really matter if he gives up?” I asked.
“Is this something that Darkness told you?” She tried to stand up, but stumbled and fell back into the bottom of the boat. The cloth slid down from her back.
I held the jar of Dreams tight in my arms.
The images of the Birds were shining faintly in the jar.
“Darkness is nothing good. It tempts creators to interrogate themselves, and doubt their own paths. Because of it, nothing is certain; because of it, everything is impossible.”
“Does it really matter if he does or does not do what you want him to do, to live among emptiness and boredom and does not question anything about his existence, or to dream despite the fact that no one believes what he thinks? Does it really matter if he chooses to return, to be free of thoughts when thoughts cannot change a thing?”
“He withers and falls because he was led to question every pros and cons of his own life, and to ask how everything comes to a meaning. How could you measure love and hatred, and judge your own creation?”
“Everything has to have a purpose.”
“The purpose is not meant for destruction, and I am abandoned because of this monster.”
I looked at her.
And she looked back, with tears welling up in her eyes.
How much I wanted to tell her that everything will be alright, that everything will be fine. Yet I could not. The winds howled beside us. The lights faded away. I could feel the two of us began falling down from the heavens, away from the paths of the Birds, and away from everything that should have been done.
“Do not listen to it. Please,” she whispered.
“And you will still go to him, even though he does not need you?”
“No one needs him more than he himself, and his own creation.”
“Even though it might not be the best choice.”
“Even though…” She paused.
“You do not exist, to him.”
“Nothing will happen if I do not try.”
The paths of light had darkened. The portals withered in the swirling darkness beneath us. Our boat began sinking down from the heavens into the grey, empty water. Soon we would be devoured by the vast, empty hunger. Darkness never ceases before he feasts on his prey, and there is no way to stop him from performing his ritual. His words are law.
I looked into the dark water.
My pen continued to flow in the portal, the one which I had left my “present” from. I recalled the cry of the night, and the voices that thunder inside my ears. Weariness swarmed back to me.
“You didn’t tell me that.”
“You cannot pass the border-line.”
She fell silent.
“I am not going with you.”
I turned my back towards her.
“To a creator, nothing is certain. To a creator, anything could be a choice that would change everything in life. Nothing is right or wrong in the choice of a human being...”
“Let go,” she stood up.
“…this is the forest of stars, where Dreams are made for those who dare to dream. You should be where you need to be.”
“Wait!” She cried.
Welcome. I heard Darkness whisper.
Notebook pages floated around me.
I heard the Birds speak in a choir in the jar of Dreams. What a joke.
I swam through the portals and returned to the grey city.
‘Falling,’ the action of releasing the self, is nothing to be afraid of. And I had chosen to fall, to embrace the ash-grey city beneath me, the city without light, without color, and music, and senses. To embrace Darkness.
This is a jar of Dreams for you. I imagine myself saying.
Beside the portal, I had stopped in front of a sketch of the grey little house. Its contours were wild with haste, each line piercing out into the dark shadowy night.
And now there he is, looking into the heavens beside his windowsill, already grey and old. Darkness crouches on his neck, as his empty eyes gaze into the vast of nothingness. Among Darkness I am there, carrying the jar of the images of the Birds, in the dark water.
He could not see me. I went through the portal and sat at the edge of the heavens not far from his windowsill.
Your little gift will only cause him to fall. Darkness whispered.
Give it to me. He spoke, tenderly.
I looked at the images of the Birds in my arms.
The familiar peacefulness came back to me.
Through the lights I saw the starry forest, the little Girl, and her little paper boat, sailing the paths of the Birds. I recalled the colors of the sunlight, and her song.
I lifted the lid slightly.
Good kid. There is nothing else you can do.
The winds are still. There is no sign of passing time in the portal. I look up, seeing my pen floating in the winds, still as concrete. In the sky there is nothing else but pure emptiness, and the hungry yellow eyes of Darkness that stares right into mine. Yet to the sight of his gaze I am not afraid. “Present” is the moment in which I gaze into this dark, black night, where the stillness of everything is free with the lights of the stars, and above the heavens it could only be seen through the inner eye. Measure, but measure with light; hate, but hate with love. Each fall has a purpose, and that is why the stars return. I wonder how Darkness could have baffled me.
“No. I can do better than this.”
I tossed the jar towards the windowsill.
Songs poured out as the lid fell off the jar.
Move Beyond. There will be happiness, and sadness, and anger, and love. With all of these thoughts spoken, I breathed onto the jar of Dreams, and the warmth welled up onto his windowsill.
When he began to fall, I saw the lights of the Birds descending into the grey city, lightening up the sky. A clear path of velvet blue cleared off the vast Darkness, and the Girl, in her little boat, slowly descended with the Birds. Stars fell down about her, adorning her with their harmony. Stars flooded the city, leading a path of light towards infinity.
He had jumped. Even though he knew he would fall, he had to fly. With tears whelming up in his eyes, his hopeless soul gazed into the vast Darkness. With both hands reaching out into the heavens of desperation, he gave out his life.
Beyond. I thought I heard him say.
And the stars caught him in her arms, almost too gently.
I heard a thousand winds spoke.
You are the maker of my boat.
I caught my pen when the grey city, the portals, and the starry world had begun to dissolve. And I heard the song of the sky pouring out from the starry night:
With the last rays of sunlight,
I saw him, on the streets.
With tears I heard his shaking voice
“Does the sky really exist?”
He looked at his shattered flute.
A white feather fell out of the debris,
soft and light, it found the wind.
Twirled and turned, it flew up high.
He chased, and chased, up and high
Singing the song of the sky
those who teased and those who helped
They followed his tune
“Up up up and high
Into the music of the sky.”
On the verge of hopelessness
The stars would guide the lost to his path
A white dove soars into the summer winds.
The sun rises again.
Who are you?
I heard the heavens ask as I sat up by the windowsill. It was almost dawn, and the sounds of the city were as loud and uneven as I could remember. I gazed into the far horizon, where damp mellow sunlight weaved into thin fog, the air diffusing with early morning.
Travel on, go Beyond. I touched the words that were inscribed on my pen.
Where is Beyond? Above the heavens, the path towards Beyond never fades. The sun shall rise once again from the darkest night, to guide the paths of the lost, and to lead the paths for itself. And beyond light and darkness, the stars would always sing their song for the creators who roam in our little lonely world, to console their lonesome souls, and to accompany their darkest paths.
And so I reply to the heavens:
“I am Zero.”