Domini Mortum

By Paul Holbrook

A supernatural murder mystery novel set in late Victorian London.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Can You Hear the Music of the Earth?

The campaign continues and, although past the halfway stage, there are still plenty of pledges needed in order to get Domini Mortum published by those lovely people at Unbound.  

If you haven't pledged already, then please do not put it off any longer.  This book needs your support and needs it now.

For those who have pledged their support. Thank you, I am so very grateful for your help, please share news of the book if you can, the more people that hear about it the more likely it is that the pledges will come in and the finish line will be reached.

In the mean time here is a little short story all about sound originally published in the most excellent Massacre Magazine. We live in a noisy world, a world where everyone demands your attention and where the best way to get it seems to be to shout the loudest.  I do not shout, I haven't got the voice for it.  I prefer to write. Enjoy.



His screaming grew with heavy yearnful latitudes; sorrow winged, downtrodden, Neanderthal, like excreta anathema, all lost to outer reality. 

I listened to him for a good while, his howls of anguish and dismay muffled by the door which held him my captive, my guest.  The sound was pleasing to my ears, soothing to my heart, the antithesis of everything that the sounds should bring to mind and body - to anyone else who had the good fortune of hearing such cries of agony and despair.  To me however, to me the architect of this destruction and rebirth of man, it was as sweet a melody as the most gentle of arias, a lilting sequence of tone and delight that danced into my consciousness, like the tips of a butterfly’s gentle feet upon a newly opened flower.

The gentleman, (let us call him Gerald for I do not know his name and it is not important in the slightest) Gerald had been a guest of mine for nearly four full weeks now.  He had spent this time in my gracious company shackled, for the most part, against the wall of the small room that I had allowed for him.  The heavy iron which circled his wrists and ankles made a constant scraping sound as he shuffled about in the dark, the noise that they made as they dragged upon the stone tiled floor a constant background accompaniment to his calls for mercy and release. 

From time to time, I would open the thick wooden door, first rattling the keys within my hands to increase his expectation and prayers for liberty, and I would enter the room to sit upon the wooden chair on the other side of the room to observe him.  He made a pitiful and depressing sight; stood clothed in nothing more than his underwear (I had kept his clothes, cleaned and pressed awaiting use once more), blindfolded and desperate, using only his ears to try to pinpoint my position in the room.  His skin had become waxen; pale in the dim light and unused to the touch of the sun.  He was thinner too, dear Gerald; he had begun to show the first signs of emaciation and I could begin to count the ribs upon his wasting chest, (the sparse victuals that I provided suitable only for survival and nothing more). 

He would rarely scream and cry when he knew that I was in the room with him, poor Gerald.  He had learned early on in our relationship that it only led to my hastened exit.  Instead he would sit and listen out for me. 

I was predominantly silent however, as I watched him, not making any movement to create sound for the duration of each time that I visited.  The only significant sound that I made was my slow, controlled breathing, which I kept to a quiet minimum.  It would not have mattered however if he had of ascertained my whereabouts in the darkened space in which he resided, I had measured the chains carefully before his arrival and ensured that my chair would be quite comfortably out of his reach should he attempt to lunge towards me.

He spoke to me on occasion, frantic and urgent at first, demanding for knowledge and information regarding his fate, but this never lasted.  When he realised each time that it would only ever be a one way conversation between us he would settle.  His dialogue would change to random and disconnected subjects; from telling me about his life before, about his family, his friends and his lifestyle and then suddenly changing topic; to a reminiscence or a story he had heard, something tangential and without purpose or substance.

I would sit and I would listen to him, the sounds of his voice trickling like a stuttering waterfall into my ears, each word and syllable a piece of weighted but sometimes discordant music.  When I had had my fill I would stand, being careful so to not allow the legs of the chair to scrape upon the floor, the only noise the slight rustle of my clothing.  Sometimes he would not know that I had left until I reached the door and withdrew my keys to lock it once more.  Then the screaming and the cries would begin again, until they sank to a whisper and finally back to silence and defeat.

Gerald was a lucky man indeed, lucky that I had chosen him and lucky to be my visitor.  He did not realise his good fortune however; how could he?  He was born and raised ignorant into a world of wasted noise and aggravating tumult; a world where the ears of man were constantly bombarded by the battery of useless information and free spoken nonsense.  Here, in this place that I had prepared and created just for this purpose, I gave him the opportunity to appreciate the silence, to learn to love the beauty of sound once more, probably for the first time since he lay curled within his mother’s womb listening to the rhythmic roll of her heartbeat surrounding him.

I will know when he has reached this state; poor sweet, ignorant Gerald.  I will know and then I shall release him into the world once more; a changed and better man, free of the constant assault upon his most delicate of senses and finely tuned, like a exquisitely crafted violin, to properly hear the clarity and splendour of sound, that the world has always created but which he has been unable to hear.

But for now...

Gerald’s screams send delightful lullabies, sweet tunes sent to orbit the ears.


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