This story is one of the April Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
Tom made his way up the hill.
It was a surprisingly hot day for April, and the CD player Freya had lent him was slipping from his grip with sweat. On a day like this – or any day, for that matter – Tom would have much preferred to stay in his cool, dark room with a good video game, but Freya had been insistent.
And when it came to Freya, there was no arguing.
After what felt like a decade, Tom found himself at the top of the hill, and rather out of breath. Someone, he noticed, had been merciful enough to put a bench at the peak. He sat himself down on it, his legs and lungs grateful for the rest.
While his heart rate slowed, Tom recalled his first instruction from Freya.
“Take in the view, and appreciate everything you see,” she’d said. “We’re so lucky to live in such a beautiful place, and we must make the absolute most of it when we can!”
Tom sighed at the memory of Freya’s violent enthusiasm and willed his eyes to look out beyond the hill and down to the town below.
Rows of pastel cottages. Cars the size of ladybirds in the distance, skimming over winding liquorice roads. An azure-blue sky strewn with candy-coloured clouds. And a wide green ocean that sent salty breaths of sea air back up the hill.
Tom realised with surprise that the town he’d always thought of as simply a dull place to live and die could actually be quite pretty.
And now that he’d taken in the view as told, it was time to listen to the CD.
The earphones that had been dangling from Tom’s shirt front during his hike up the hill found themselves in his ears. He carefully placed the CD player down next to him and pressed the worn-away play button.
There was moment of silence…
Then the music began.
It was nothing like he had ever heard before.
Tom had always been drawn to the kind of music created by using only a computer – tracks with thumping beats, jarring tones, and robotic vocals. This was anything but. Instead of synthesised melodies, the delicate notes of a piano played about his ears, and thundering basses were replaced with the calm and deliberate strokes of a cello.
Tom shifted on the bench, unsure of what to make of it. But somehow the harmony between the two instruments was starting to pull him in, like pulsing waves on a summer’s shore.
Before he knew it, he was entranced.
The world melted away as the music grew louder, and Tom’s heartbeat fell swiftly into step with the rhythm that began to course under his skin. It was as though the sound was being conducted through his very veins, each new note a vibration racing to the tips of nerves he didn’t even know existed. When the music became even more intense, Tom found himself torn between wanting to shake out the strange and vibrant energy it gave him and wanting to hold on to it until he burst into uncontrollable flames.
“Let the music take over you,” he remembered Freya telling him. “Let it guide you – your thoughts, your feelings… you never know what you might discover.”
Tom held on, the music bounding around him now like an abandoned firework display. Almost entirely overcome, he closed his eyes. But instead of finding soothing darkness behind his eyelids, he saw her.
Tom’s heart clenched, but there was no stopping what his mind and the music were making him see. Freya’s willowy figure danced easily to the music while her hair tumbled in auburn curls down her back, and her wild emerald eyes sparkled at him as she smiled that dangerously infectious smile.
Despite knowing it was all in his mind, Tom couldn’t help himself from smiling back. In that moment, he wanted nothing more than to get up from the bench, walk over to the imaginary Freya, take her in his arms and dance along with her forever.
“So,” Tom thought as he got to his feet. “This is what falling in love is.”