SONG OF RELIEF
A Sci-Fi Flash Fiction
by Linda Mooney
at the harpsichord and stared out the bedroom window. Her fingers idly walked
down the keyboard, but her thoughts were drawn inward, preventing her from
seeing the fresh blooms that swayed gently in the morning sunlight in the
garden below. As she absentmindedly played down the scale, she pressed the E
two octaves below middle C. She stopped to look down at her hand resting on the
ebony key. She pressed it again. Three times. And a tender smile kissed her
lips as she repeatedly played the note. Sighing, she remembered.
month of her pregnancy was becoming more difficult, and she feared it would get
worse. Her appetite was non-existent, she was unable to sleep through the
night, and Asherton’s inattention to her problem was growing more and more
gone to the physician for a sleeping draught, but the foul-smelling, worse-tasting
concoction only caused her to heave up what little food she’d been able to keep
down. The only solace she was able to find was in the several glasses of wine
she consumed before bedtime. Yet she feared that could be causing harm as well
to the child.
to her feet, the young woman shuffled to the door of the bedroom and leaned
heavily against the frame to watch her husband hunched over a stack of
manuscript paper as he busily scribbled his latest work. In the light of the
single candle, she could see the signs of intense concentration that sat on his
back and shoulders, and cast his face in stone. She winced, partly in pain, and
called out softly so as not to startle him.
up and turned to stare at her. Even in the few steps that separated them, she
could see that the music still flowed behind his eyes, and knew he only heard
her over a vast difference.
he allowed, turning back to his work. “As soon as I’m finished with—”
Ash,” she sternly interrupted.
“Please give me just a few moments of your time. It is
popped the quill back into its well and swiveled around. As he did so, he wiped
his hands on a dingy rag in a vain attempt to remove the permanent ink stains
on his fingers. “Very well. I’m listening.”
paused for a couple of heartbeats to get her thoughts together before
continuing. “I’ve been ill, Ash. I’m having trouble with the baby, and I don’t
know what to do. I went to the physician, and he gave me some medicine, but I
get sicker when I take it.” She ran a hand across her eyes and shifted her
position so that her back pressed up against the jamb.
forgot his irritation. Jumping up from his stool, he quickly went over to her
and took her by the arms, guiding her back into the bedroom and over to the
to rest,” he ordered softly but firmly. “Can I get you something to eat? Or
drink? How about a nice cup of tea? Or maybe you’d prefer a glass of wine?”
shook her head, moaning as she stretched beneath the coverlet. Her pinched and
pale face shone with sweat, and he suddenly realized how badly the pregnancy
his work momentarily, he strode over to the water closet and brought back to
the bedside table a washbowl of water and a cloth. He wiped her face, arms, and
hands with the cool water, then folded the cloth and laid the compress on her
forehead. Leaning back where he sat on the edge of the bed, he watched her
close her eyes as she tried to relax. An unexpected spasm twisted her bloodless
lips, and she raised a trembling hand to rest it on the gentle swell of her
“If only I
could rest…” She took a shuddering breath. “Without pain.”
her as he caressed her cheek. She peered at him through her lashes.
“Ash, why ever
did you pick this time to come to? I thought the future was supposed to be
Sisi, but I wasn’t happy there. I’ve always known my heart belonged to Earth’s
past. To this day and age. That’s why I chose it.” Leaning forward, he lightly
kissed her wan cheek. “Now that I have you, there’s nowhere else I’d wish to
would have medicines to help me, wouldn’t they? In the future?”
can’t take me into your time, can you?”
Neither can I return to it myself, even if I wanted to.”
only go further back.”
“But that will never happen. My place is here, with you.”
to adjust her position, and moaned softly. “I’m so tired.”
He got a stroke of inspiration. “A
moment, my love. I think…I have…” He never finished his sentence. Instead, he
got up and hurried from the room. Strange sounds came from the drawing room:
various clinkings, rattlings, and rustlings. Ysidra opened her eyes as she
tried to decipher what he was up to that was causing the noise. She was
answered when her husband propped open the second half of the double doors to
the bedroom and began to drag the cembalo across the floor, into the room.
are you doing?” She managed to lean on one elbow and stared as the man brought
in his stool.
he instructed, helping to tuck her back under the covers. The candle on the
bedside table was the only source of light in the room. He took it, leaving her
in the shadows, and went back to the instrument to place it on top of the
frame. Hitching up his breeches, he sat down, then stretched his arms, cracking
his knuckles before placing his fingers on the keys.
ago, before he’d banished himself to this century, he’d read up on as much
about Earth’s history as he could get his hands on. One unique article, in
particular, had intrigued him to where he’d never forgotten it.
about the ancient practice of medicine drumming.
of the piece explained that, by playing the drum at the same speed as the
patient’s heartbeat, then gradually slowing the tempo, the patient was able to
rest more comfortably, and thus heal much faster.
Asherton didn’t have a drum, but
perhaps he could improvise. At least it was worth the try.
He placed his left hand on the
lower section of the keyboard, testing then finding the bass tones he needed.
He played the octave, repeating the deep notes at the same throbbing speed as
his wife’s pulse. Watching her closely, he began to match her.
closed her eyes, willing herself to relax and let the vibrations soothe her.
Incredibly, she felt her muscles softening. Drowsiness enveloped her, and soon
thereafter her body slumped against the pillows.
believed the pain had sufficiently subsided, Asherton began to improvise a
long, flowing melody with his right hand. A light, delicate lullaby in
counterpoint to the steady but imperceptibly slowing bass rhythm. He glanced
over at the bed to see that her breathing was becoming shallower and more
regular. He repeated the theme several more times before ending the piece the
same way he’d begun it.
fingers from the keyboard, he got up from the stool and tiptoed over to peer
down at a beloved face that was now completely relaxed and pain-free. He smiled
tenderly and crept out of the room, shutting the doors behind him so that he
wouldn’t disturb her as he went to finish the concerto he’d been working on with
following morning, Ysidra woke up from her first full night of rest in more
than a week. She rolled over in bed to happily nudge her husband’s shoulder,
playfully nibbling his neck and behind his ear. Asherton moaned sleepily and
cast one half-opened eye at her.
night, what you did, it was wonderful! Did you write that, or was it something
you made up as you went along?”
write it down for me?”
both eyes. “Why? I can play it again for you if need be. It’s all right here
when I want it.” He tapped his temple with a forefinger.
“I know it’s there when you
but I would like a copy for me, for when I
want to play it.”
I will.” He nodded and buried his face back into the pillow. “Later.”
Ysidra shifted under the covers, spooning herself as best she could against her
husband’s back, and drifted back into a light sleep.
the shifting silver rays of sunlight on the back of her hand as she kept up the
rhythm of the single tone on the instrument before her.
Asherton had yet to write down her lullaby.
After a while, her illness had gone away, and she’d forgotten all about
to herself playing the low notes, she softly began to hum the melody as best
she could remember it. Behind her, their daughter moved restlessly in her bed.
when is Dada coming home?” a plaintive voice asked as the child suffered
through a tummy ache.
sweetheart. Very soon. He has one more concert to give before he can return.
Now, close your eyes.”
stumbled a few times as she tried to recall the music, but after a while it finally
came back to her. It was as if the notes had imprinted themselves on her soul,
and only needed a bit of coaxing to return. And, as they had those few short
years ago, they worked their magic again. The little girl was soon asleep.
But will I remember next time?
wondered to herself. Will Ash remember to
write it down, even after I remind him?
Rather than take the chance, she
reached for the pot of ink and quill pen that was ever present on top of the
harpsichord, pulled a sheet of manuscript paper across the prop, and began to inscribe
the song of relief one careful note at a time.