This story was originally published in Dimension6, run by Australia’s esteemed Keith Stevenson. If you enjoy this story, please go check out Dimension6 at https://coeurdelion.com.au/dimension6/.
Hell, even if you DON’T like this story, please go check out Dimension6. I feel lucky and honored to have been included in it in the first place, and there are truly great writers in there.
Many years ago I was given wings to fly, and I did fly, but in doing so discovered that the sky itself is just another set of chains.
The unmarked of the world spend their lives yearning for destinies. They foolishly believe that some heroic calling will free them from the yoke of their meaninglessness, but those of us touched by destiny know that it is but a different sort of prison.
To be alive is to be bound.
We are all joined together in our captivity.
The only choice given to us is whether to rush into Death’s liberation, or to sing in our shackles.
I chose the music. This story is my song.
We start in the shadows of the eleven Weeping Ladies on the cobbled streets of the city of Coiyaba, which rests in blue sands beside the Salterio Sea.
The day seemed deceptively like any other day as I, sixteen years old, entered the courtyard of the Palacio de Porenta. In that architectural garden constructed of tiles colored a thousand different hues, with the scent of street vendor’s soups and meats mingling with the briny air around throngs of shoppers, an old man in a dusty blue serape sat at the edge of a turquoise fountain strumming a guitar. His head was cocked low, so his sombrero concealed all of his features except for a thin, grinning mouth.
Initially, the instrument absorbed my attention more than the player. It was no ordinary guitar. That much was clear from the first. It was not jeweled or plated with gold or anything so obvious. Rather, the simple, weathered wood hinted at many lifetimes of history, as though the sun and storms of a hundred different lands had left their mark there. But, perhaps the magic of that instrument was something that I cannot adequately explain to another. Perhaps it was something that spoke to me alone.
I approached the player. His long fingers danced soundlessly over the strings like spiders, as though testing the slack of the web upon which they lived, memorizing every inch of that space.
“You are a Guitarrista,” I said. There was no rational way for me to know what he was when I said it, yet I knew it was the truth with perfect certainty.
Guitarristas are no ordinary musicians. They are men and women of legend, figures destined to spend their lives wandering the world and weaving stories that will be passed down by lesser artists for generations and generations.
It has been said that all the great songs were made by the Guitarristas, and all other music was but an imitation. Such characters have always been rare, but by that time, they had become phantoms of history. Some people even claimed that they had never actually existed at all. Yet, in my heart, I always suspected that they were wrong.
The Guitarrista’s fingers glided over the strings. “I am many things,” he said.
“Yes,” I said. “But a Guitarrista is one of them.”
“Perhaps.” He grinned wider. “Why does this interest you?”
“It doesn’t,” I said, which was, of course, a lie. “But I know it’s true.”
He nodded. “And what are you?”
The Guitarrista strummed the strings. “You are young, but you don’t talk like a young man.” His fingers played a few subtle notes, as if playing with the notion of a song. “Your mother drowned in the Salterio when you were a child,” he said. “Your father was gone before you were born.”
A tick of nervous surprise disturbed my countenance. I fought to compose myself. To survive on the streets of Coiyaba, one must learn how to hide fear. The slightest show of weakness can get a person killed. I was well practiced in the art, but he had caught me by surprise.
I shrugged and looked out through the crowded courtyard. “How do you know that?”
He strummed some chords. “It is my job to know certain things.”
© 2016, Jeff Suwak. All Rights Reserved