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The Salamander's Song - Short Story

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posted on Mar, 13 2005 @ 09:22 AM
-- The Salamander's Song --

The Salamander sleeps, quiet as a striped stone. His little body basks, motionless but for the rhythmic pulse of the embers, awash in the gentle undulation of the fire’s heat. The crimson and black bands gleam like gemstones through the hypnotic gauze of heat. This radiant pearl in the oyster of our world begins to awake for the first time in eons. The coals beneath him are growing cold. The little Salamander senses their waning heat, its dwindling caress so long felt. He stirs. He wriggles slowly at first, groggy and still in the grips of intricate dreams, but as the cold seeps in from the darkness and the fire’s fierce song grows quiet, he cannot help but awake. His timeless urgency is born of duty, silent, watchful, committed service.

The little Salamander opens its eyes. Pools of dark mercury peer into the world his trusted friend had so painstakingly crafted, as he lovingly remembers all the times that came before, and all the wondrous things the little salamander had dreamed, and of the wonderful worlds the old man had built.

The Old Man breaths deep, knowing the time of awakening is near. Their lives are entwined like lovers and snakes, wholly separate parts of the same intricate sphere. He raises himself from his station slowly with the help of an age-withered walking stick. Gnarled fingers wrap gently around the twisted rod as the Old Man takes to his feet.

The little Salamander slithers free of it’s rapidly cooling bed of coals, and into the light of the world. The dreams fade from his mind as the light of the world intrudes. The Salamander hates to see them go, and it never gets any easier.

The Old Man returns, this time with a cup of tea and a pipe. He settles back into his seat, walking stick at his side, awaiting the arrival of the little Salamander. He sips quietly from the cup of tea, wondering if perhaps his oldest friend has overslept. The Salamander scuttles out from beneath the crumbling nest, it’s tiny legs propel it dutifully to the tip of the Old Man’s boot, then it stops. The Old Man looks down and smiles, happy at the arrival of his forever friend. The little Salamander opens his mouth, sparks like immolated pixies mad with pain spray from the tiny creatures throat, dancing in the air like fireflies, sizzling as they land on the cold stone beneath their feet.

The little Salamander scuttles up the man’s leg, coming to rest on his knee. The Old Man reaches down slowly, allowing the small creature to ascend into his palm. Though the tiny creatures flesh ripples with enormous heat, the Old Man is not burned; he brings the salamander to eye level, looking into the abyss as it looks into him. The Salamander opens its mouth, a tiny gust of steam escaping as the air boils.

“I can’t. Not this time. Please.” He pleads to his old friend, tears of mercury evaporating in tiny whorls of steam about his head.

The Old Man sighs.
“You must."

The salamander curled into himself, wishing he could burn like everything else, just to be done with it.
“It’s so beautiful."

The Old Man stroked the fiery creature gently, his gnarled fingers unconcerned. They had been through this before.
“I know." Said the old man softly, a sad smile flickering across his features.

And it was beautiful. The world of the little creature’s dreams was splendid, and the old man had built it just the way it had been imagined, in every sweet detail.

“Just let me go back to sleep." The Salamander's words sounded like wildfire and tasted like chrome in the old man’s throat.

“You know I can’t." His sadness was evident.

The darkness was already creeping in on the horizon, like smoke seeping out of a wound. The Dragon was coming. The Salamander saw it too. He continued to weep.

“Let him come, they’re stronger now, they might..”
His words never came. Looking into the eyes of his friend, the eyes of his beloved, he saw fear.

“Quickly now, before he comes. For them.” The Old Man whispered.

The little salamander looked down on the world of his dreams. The world of men that his friend had built, with its inhabitants like ants upon a beautiful flower; unconscious of their circumstances and free. And he loved them. The salamander looked longingly at the world he would burn, the light of joy and suffering, of experience and the temporary ecstasy they lived so fully. “To be like them, I think, is what I want."

The old man sighed again, impatient. “You cannot."

“How can you ask me to burn it down, look and see how beautiful it's become?" The Salamander pleaded with the Old Man.

The Dragon unfurled in the depths of the sky, it’s rotting wings stretching across the world.

“You cannot deny what you are. They need you, more than anything they need you. You must be strong for them." The Old Man's voice was firm, but gentle. He suffered every time, but there was never any other way.

“How many fires old friend? The years, they weigh heavy on my heart. I am too small to bear such a burden."

The Old Man shook his head and set down his tea. “As many fires as it takes, even if they damn us.”

A hiss of sorts, the sound of hungry fire, his declaration of presence and purpose, the tiny creature signals it’s weary agreement. His eyes tell of times past, and hint at things yet undreamed. The man strokes the little Salamander gently on the crown of its head with his thumb, eliciting a thank you that sounds like the purr of a volcano. The Old Man knows he can do no more than sympathize.

How long had it been since the little Salamander had awoken him in the same way, bringing him gently up from sleep to commence a changing of the guard? The fire burns lower still, consuming itself and growing colder by the moment, its progress watched by both Salamander and Man. Their eyes reflect the dying light of the embers, casting its glow into a darkening world, they are lost in silent conversation. So many things he had wanted to tell the little Salamander while it slept, so many accomplishments to share. Even in eternity, there was never enough time.

And oh, how the Salamander had dreamed the years away. He dreamt a world more fabulous than any in existence, of cities too beautiful to look at, and of rivers the color of his old friend’s eyes. Those green orbs dimming slowly in the light, as the last vestiges of the fires gift are exhausted, the old man finishes his silent story, his wordless song, and the Salamander starts its own.

The telling of it burns the sky, and slowly the lullaby of fire soothes the old man’s valiant heart. His muscles relax, his vigil is at an end. The little Salamander watches the old man close his eyes, watches as he settles even deeper into the chair.

The Old Man will soon be dreaming, and the time has come for the awakening. The little Salamander cocks his head to one side and watches his beloved friend sleep. The Old Man's lips are drawn up, smiling and silent; he is at peace, and now the salamander must take its rightful place. The little creature turns away from the Old Man, watching as the last mote of light in the heap of ash is suffocated into darkness.

When the needle of light disappears, the glow surrounding the Salamander is apparent. Its body radiates light soft as angel wings. The creature boils the oceans, gently drawing a sheet of molten rock over the sleeping form of its friend, and over all he had built.

Truly the cities were marvelous, and as the last of the Old Man’s memories settle beneath the shivering curtain of fire and stone, the little Salamander looks on with wizened eyes and humble heart. The cataclysm ignites the heavens, and the stars beyond. The little Salamander watches the universe begin to burn, watches the puzzle fall apart. When the Old Man awakens from his slumber, refreshed and renewed after a thousand years, the salamander knew he would approve.

He would look at the little Salamander and smile, just the way he always did, and then the little Salamander could get back to his dreams. He takes one last look at his old friend before wriggling away to work, selfless love is reflected alongside the florid embers of a dying universe in the eyes of the little Salamander.

He pushes the curtain of darkness back as he goes, it disintegrates in his wake, and the Salamander’s heart is strong enough to keep the darkness from his old friends dreams, just the way it always has been.


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