The Piper 32

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If The Piper did not know the dreams of his followers and would-be converts, he would, graciously, allow them to tell him. In fact, he had known them all along.

Chris stirred in his sleep and fell into wakefulness. The almost total silence of the night greeted him and for a moment he was reassured. Then, he heard it. From far, far off came the sound. It floated beneath hearing yet washed against senses only dreams could have.

Chris’s eyes were wide open but nothing appeared before him. He waited knowing that the world would take a little time to settle. He waited for the long darkness to fade. He waited for the time when all would give way to light. He waited for the not so familiar surroundings of his bedroom to establish themselves once again.

He waited.

And waited.

There was no light, only darkness woven into a thick coat. And, for the first time, Chris noticed that there was no sound apart from that which had woken him. He strained his hearing to pick up any other notes of normality, but found none.

Before, he could unpick sounds. He knew that things went on. While others slept some worked. A train could be heard from many miles away. A car starting would cough itself into existence. The distant chimes of an unknown church would signal the passing of another hour and an aeroplane would cut a huge swathe through the emptiness of the sky. Now, no matter how hard he tried, there was nothing but the one sound and that, he was sure, was getting closer.

Against his will, Chris raised himself. He planted his feet on the carpet and was pleased that it was still there. He had expected something else. He pushed himself up from the bed and walked barefoot towards the door. The velvet dark wrapped itself around everything.

He used his hands to guide him, walking like a blind man to where he knew the door would be. His memory had given him a compass from which to navigate. He reached the door and opened it. His hand pushed out into the hallway and travelled to where the light switch should be. Once found, he pressed it down. There was no, absolutely no response. The darkness stayed the same.

If Chris had been another, he may have felt panic. But Chris was Chris and he never panicked. He moved towards the stairs and was relieved that he was able to guide himself without fear of falling. He took his first step.

He had never consciously counted the stairs. His body told him when he should be reaching the end; yet, the descent continued. He stepped down more and more aware that this was probably still a dream. Chris was not one for dreams. Even after the death of his father, Chris had never had those memory movies that others took for granted. He had never made his father live again, been carried on his back across a warm beach, had never snuggled into the warmth that was no longer there.

The last time that he saw his father was the last time that he had been alive. Since then, nothing. He had always accepted his as a matter of fact, in the same way he accpeted this nocturnal illusion as a fact. And, in this dream, he was on a flight of stairs that refused to end. In this dream, he heard something that now wrapped itself into a more familiar sound of a flute.

In this dream, the sound of the flute was a man.

For Michael, there would have been warning signals. Michael would have sensed the danger. Michael would have reached out for the light of consciousness. He would have turned and pulled himself back up the stairs and out of this rapidly developing nightmare. Unfortunately, Chris was not his brother and, being consciously unaccustomed to this other world, he did not know what to expect. Indeed, he moved forward in expectation rather than in trepidation. He was starting to enjoy this night-time sojourn.

Chris stumbled as he reached the bottom of the stairs. His stride was broken and he found himself on an even surface. Where this was, he did not know.

The was the beginning of a bluish light that showed him what looked like a cavern. As his hand touched the wall, he felt a slimy dampness. It an oily texture and this made him pull away.  He was confused. Chris, who had never knowingly addressed fear, felt the needle points of a thousand explosions run along his arm. He knew he ought to turn back, but could not.

As he continued to edge into the darkness, he found each step an exertion. He was fighting for control, battling with the thing that had always conformed to his requests, his own body. It was as if a revolt was taking place, that his own muscles had decided to mutiny. He would have, and should have turned back if it was not for the singular enticement of the flute. Its mellifluous invitation was both a comfort and a challenge.

Ahead of him, the most fragile of lights crept from an opening and he moved towards it with a more purposeful stride. He would not be defeated. He peered into the hollow and saw the thing that was making the flute sing. As he entered, the flute fell silent. A voice, if that is what it could be called, rose up and greeted its new visitor.

Even without seeing the source of the voice, he knew that a smile had appeared.

It ran like a razor across a face he would never be able to describe.

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