I didn’t see it happen the first time. We had just moved here, and I’d gotten the flu, possibly from spending every day after school exploring the woods behind our house, no matter what my mother told me. It’d been a damp year, but I’d only lived in the city before this. Everything else seemed new.
I don’t usually get sick, but it hit me particularly hard that year. I’ve never felt so deathly ill and weak in my entire life. I could hardly move without wanting to throw up, but then, I could hardly move anyhow.
I didn’t see it that year, but I sure heard it. The most haunting, glorious music I’d ever heard. It was high and clear and beautiful. I wasn’t sure if it was a voice or some sort of instrument—all I knew was that I wanted it. The music seemed to crawl inside me and attach to the innermost parts of me. Despite my weakness, everything inside of me wanted to find the source of that music and bury myself inside it. Instead, all I managed to do was fall out of bed.
I dreamed about the music after that. Not every night, but sometimes. I was sure it had been a fever-induced invention. Music like that wasn’t possible—or at least wasn’t anything I’d ever experienced before.
Not that I knew very much about music—I was fourteen. And I for one didn’t have an ipod, even though everyone else around me seemed to. I’d never been too particular about music. Most of what I’d listened to by that time was whatever the local radio station had in mind for me.
Life went on, though, and the memory of the music faded.
But then the next winter, it happened again.
I wasn’t sick that year. I was lying in bed working on a problem for Pre-Calc. It was late, and my parents were down in the den, watching a movie. Only my desk light was on, and the darkness was starting to encroach upon me, pressing me with sleepiness and boredom.
And then I heard it. Faintly at first, but growing ever stronger. My heart flew to my throat, and for a moment I sat frozen, drinking in the sound. The tune had changed slightly, but its effect was still the same—it was calling to me.
Then all of a sudden I realized that I had to go. I had to follow it. I shut my textbook with a bang and flew out my door and downstairs and into the kitchen where I squinted out the window into the darkness behind the house. There were beautiful, glorious figures with tiny glowing things floating around them, and being held in their hands. They were slipping into the woods, the very last of them disappearing, and before I knew what I was doing, my hand was on the doorknob, starting to turn it.
“Hey hun, could you do us a favor and bring that popcorn in here?” My dad called from the den. His voice jolted me. I felt like I’d been slapped. Like I’d been sleeping.
I looked at my hand on the doorknob, and was torn. I loved my father so much. I loved my mother too. But the music was fading…
“Jessi? Did you hear me?”
Hearing my name was like a weight settling in my gut. Bringing me back down to earth. I hadn’t realized I’d felt like I was floating until the sensation was ripped away from me.
“Yeah, I heard you, Dad. I’ve got it.”
I didn’t sigh, but I felt a sigh all through me. I saw the blinking “Enjoy your meal” on the microwave and pulled the popcorn out, then I sat at my parents’ feet and watched the rest of the action movie with them. It was loud and just what I needed to push that beautiful music out of my head.
It took me another year to realize that what I’d witnessed was a faerie procession at Winter Solstice. It was the same year that Chelsea Roy, twelve years old, went missing, just after the music came. The news called it another disappearance—apparently it was something that had happened in this area several times over the years. None of them ever came back. It explained why I was the youngest person on my street.
I’d been taking a bath that year. Sixteen, and wanting nothing more than to pamper myself and be pretty. I didn’t feel pretty, though, which is maybe what saved me.
I ran out of the bath in time to see most of the procession through the window in the Gable. It was led by a tall woman with flowing curly auburn hair in a billowy white dress. The others around her were smaller, and dressed in shades of green and brown. The tiny lights floated around them and I saw one of the little men swat one away from his face, then jump as the light flew to his head and pulled away. I could have sworn that little light had pulled his hair.
Again, I wanted to tear downstairs and run after them, but my hair was tangled and wet and I was naked, in a bathrobe. I couldn’t bear the thought of presenting myself to that beautiful, majestic woman like that, and it was all I wanted to do.
This year, I decided to prepare. I Googled the date of the Solstice. I wrote a letter to my parents explaining to them that I had to leave, but I’d be back someday. I packed a bag and perfected my eyeliner.
The only problem is… it’s nearly dawn. The Winter Solstice is over, and I hadn’t heard a single note. I hadn’t seen any lights or any beautiful, mysterious women followed by admiring servants. The forest had been dark all night. Once I’d seen something moving, but it was just the neighbor’s cat, Whimple.
I feel a yawn coming, and tears fill my eyes.
I’d read somewhere once that the fae like to steal away children—I guess at seventeen I was a little too old.
It’s okay, and I know that my life will probably be a good and full and wonderful one—someday. But I also know that I’ll never hear that music again. That I’ll never find them again.
It’s okay. Really.
In an hour my parents will wake up. A little longer, and they’ll call me down to breakfast and I’ll go back to my normal world, like I do every year. Days will pass, time will move, and I’ll be just fine.
But right now, I just want to wait a little longer. Hope a little longer. Believe that if I listen hard enough, I’ll be able to hear the music, one more time.
Believe that this year, I’ll let myself chase it.