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He was walking in the garden when he first heard it. It was faint, at first, like tiny Christmas bells in the distance. The sound brought with it a strange sense of peace and warmth, despite the chill of the wind blowing through his jacket.

He stopped and listened. It seemed a little clearer when he stood still. It wasn’t bells; it was voices. Strange, entrancing voices, melodic and beautiful. A mysterious choir in the distance.

He turned his head from side to side, trying to pinpoint the source of the sound. It seemed to come from somewhere beyond the garden, in the wild woods beyond. He climbed the fence and walked slowly through the undergrowth. The singing grew louder and clearer as he battled through the brush, ignoring the thorns that scratched at his face and the nettles that stung him through his trousers. It grew louder and louder until it made his ears ring, yet still he could see nothing.

He stopped, breathless. It was the most incredible music that he had ever heard, the clearest and most exquisite voices – even though he couldn’t identify the song they sang, or understand the words.

It felt like he was standing next to the sun; in close proximity to the gods. He stood immobile in the woods with tears running down his face, his arms raised in exultation.

Abruptly, the singing stopped.

“No,” he whispered. “Please, don’t stop.”

There was silence. He felt bereft, as if his heart had been broken and trampled upon, as if all meaning in his life had suddenly been stripped away.

“Why,” he begged. “Why?”

A light shone through the trees and he realised where he was. It had been many years, but he could still recognise the low branch upon which he had hung his jacket that winter night, warmed by the exertion of so much digging. He could see the track upon which he had parked through the gap in the trees, the gap through which  he had dragged his heavy burden, shrouded in darkness and blankets. Although the ground was no longer visibly disturbed, he thought he could almost make out the soft bump, the gentle rise of the earth he had moved.

“Retribution,” the voices whispered.

He clutched at his left arm and fell to the cold, frozen ground.

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: Three Word Wednesday this week offers the words Immobile, Proximity and Retribution. An interesting selection!)

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