Death Whispered a Lullaby
Under the fog there are shadows moving,
Don’t be afraid, hold my hand.
Into the dark there are eyelids closing,
Buried alive in the shifting sands.
-Opeth, “Death Whispered a Lullaby”
I opened my eyes to see that I’m being held by a funny-looking man in a green pair of pants and the biggest red jacket I’ve ever seen. His hair is nothing but a horribly-kept poof. He’s not particularly handsome, and I’m wondering why I’m here, until I try to take in some air.
Then I feel the pain. It’s not a dull ache, like when your muscles are sore. It’s not really a sharp, quickly receding pain either, like when you stub your toe or slice your thumb on a piece of paper. No, this pain was something else entirely- gripping, consuming. I thought I was going to faint.
I look up at the man holding me again and I want to ask him who he is. How did I get here? And then I remember.
Faye. Julia. Vicious. This must be Spike.
“So… you’re Spike, huh?” I ask. I grimace when I hear my voice. It’s high and frail. I’m in a lot of pain.
“Yeah. You must be Gren.” I smile. Julia was right. His eyes are different colors. You really have to look to see the subtle distinction, though. But it’s there for those willing to look for it.
“You knew Julia.” I feel his arms tense. She must be a touchy subject. “She said your eyes were different colors.” I cough, my body screaming in protest as I feel something come up from my lungs. I cover my mouth with my hand and when the hacking subsides, I look at my palm. Blood is splattered across the skin. I wipe it away.
Spike says something about an internal injury and holds his cellular communication device up to his ear, mumbling about ambulances. I weakly lift my arm to brush the unit away. “It’s too late for that.”
“But I can help you. Please, let me help.” He grasps my hand, squeezing it reassuringly. I smile. He’s a nice guy. Julia was right about him.
“Julia talked about you.” I say simply. He grips my body a little tighter and I look in his eyes. He’s got some nameless emotion etched into his features, a permanent kind of weariness, nervous energy, anxiety. He’s been looking for her.
“Where did you see her?” he insists. His voice is strained. He thinks I can help him. I can’t.
“In the nightclub where I play saxophone. She came in one night when I wasn’t watching. She used to sit on the end stool. The stool where Faye sat.” He brushes away the mention of Faye.
“How long did she stay? Where did she go? Tell me, Gren!”
I can hear the desperation in his words. To others, he may seem cool, calm, collected. But not to me. I can tell that he’s breaking inside. All the time I spent with the unreadable Vicious on Titan honed my perceptive abilities.
Vicious. He’s the reason I’m here now. He’s the reason I’m laying in this man’s arms, my blood slowly choking me, my body beginning the final process that will consume me, leaving me forever in darkness. I remember the music box, the treachery I felt as I was being handcuffed and dragged to that hell of a prison. I nearly died when I heard that he had testified against me in the trial.
I had loved him. Could he really have cast me aside so easily?
The side-effects of those drugs I was fed left me looking like a woman. Had I been any self-respecting human being, I would have been shamed to the point of holing myself in a filthy hull of a spacecraft and lain down to die. But I was past that. My heart was hard, my soul empty.
“Gren! Tell me where Julia is!”
The wind blows my long hair into my face. He brushes it aside. How considerate.
“She came in one night, like I said. She ordered her mixed drink and sipped it, hands playing with the tips of her long hair. God, she was really beautiful. A real woman. She watched me play my sax. After my set was over, she just got up and left. She was back the next night, though.”
He’s listening. It’s getting harder to breathe.
“She asked me to play a song. I knew it. It was a strange tune, really slow and sad. I liked it well enough, so I played it. She nodded her head with the notes, said I played it better than anyone else she’d ever heard.”
His face contorts into another emotion. Sadness, maybe?
“She came every night for a long while, a few weeks maybe. Asked for that tune every single time.” I don’t tell him about our conversation about the music box. She had been right about Vicious, though, and that made her infinitely smarter than I.
“She was beautiful. Those eyes… that hair.” I close my own eyes as I try to conjure up a picture of her. It’s easy to do. She was a real gem.
God, it hurts so much now. I just want to go to sleep. My eyelids are so heavy.
“Say, Spike, can you help me get back into the ship?” I ask, my voice barely above a whisper as the words fall off my dry lips.
“You’re not in any condition to fly.” He protests. “Where do you propose that you go?”
“I want to go back to Titan.” Back to the place where I met the love of my life. The one who gave me life and took it away. My Deliverance and my Damnation.
“I want to see the sands. I want to remember the sacrifices that my buddies made. I want to experience again the camaraderie I once knew and believed in.” God, it hurts.
I want to remember the love I once knew and believed in.
“You won’t make it,” Spike says. “You’ll never get there.”
“It’ll be enough that I’m on my way,” I sigh. I knew he wouldn’t understand.
He nods, and I feel a small kiss of moisture on my cheek. A tear? I don’t know. He lifts my body and gingerly sets me in the pilot’s seat. Even though he’s trying to be gentle, it still hurts like hell. Something’s being jostled that just ain’t supposed to be.
Before he closes the airtight glass, he smiles at me. If he was crying before, he’s not now.
“I’m sorry I can’t help you.” I whisper meekly. He brushes away the apology.
“Tell Faye that I’m sorry. Tell her that I’m glad I met her. Tell her to appreciate her comrades.” He nods curtly.
“I’m glad I got to meet you, Spike. You’re lucky to have her love.” I don’t have to clarify that I’m talking about Julia.
He is crying now. A crystal tear falls down his cheek. “Me too, Gren. Good luck to you.”
With a hiss, the glass is down and I’m alone in my ship. I’m not really afraid. Rather, I’m relieved. I feel empty, but satisfied. I feel Spike attach something to front of the ship’s hull. A cord. He’s going to help me take off.
I feel the shifting of the ship and I know we’re slowly ascending. I feel like I’m in a fog. The pain is lessening. How strange. So this is it. As I’m closing my eyes, I can hear that tune in my head. It’s sad, but beautiful, just like she was when I first laid eyes on her, her golden hair shining in the dim light of the bar. I think of her, and a small smile graces my lips as a single tear falls from my lashes.
= = = = = = = = = = = = =
I love Gren. After watching ‘Jupiter Jazz’ for about the fifth time, I realized that I had truly fallen in love. His dusky blue eyes, his thin form, the way he sauntered. He didn’t deserve what Vicious did to him, but he was blinded by his love. I ached for him.
I’m glad that he got some closure before he passed away. I hope that Indian wise man was wrong, and that Gren will find a final resting place that is worthy of such a strong warrior.