The Breath of Life
The familiar tingling was back in Ronan’s fingers, only this time, it was stronger. He gritted his teeth, curling his fingers into fists, pulling them tight against his side. He would not--could not--give in.
Ronan struggled to distract himself, making patterns out of the speckles of moonlight that adorned the wall and ceiling. Seconds passed, but the urge didn’t pass, let alone lessen.
Before he could talk himself out of it, Ronan kicked off his damp sheets. The floor was warm and sticky, a testiment to the thick and humid air that was causing sweat to trickle down the passageway between his shoulder blades.
Or, at least that was what he told himself, that it was just the air, not what he was about to do.
I promised I wouldn’t do it anymore.
Guilt nagged at Ronan, but he pushed it to the side. His addiction was too strong for any kind of reason, and no matter how hard he tried to stop, he always caved in the end, always went back, always did it more.
The hallway that led from his small attic bedroom to the stairs seemed to stretch out. He quickened his gait, reached the stairs, and climbed down as fast as he dared without making too much of a ruckus. This excursion would be hard to explain, and if anyone knew what he was doing. . .
The price was too high for Ronan to pay.
The floors downstairs were cooler, though not by much. An old, mildewy air conditioner rattled softly from by the faded couch, forming an odd sort of monotenous melody in the stillness.
The window was open, its thin curtains hanging limp. It was through this that Ronan escaped, as he knew the door would squeak. His parents, now more on edge than ever since his last incident, the slightest noise would send them scurring towards its source.
I can’t believe I’m doing this, he thought, heart thudding in his chest in rythm with his feet.
Clouds obscured the moon, but he’d traveled this path so many times he could do it blind. In fact, if he got caught, he might just have to do.
The thought was disturbing to say the least, but not enough to give Ronan pause. He was too far in now, past the point of no return.
The slight breeze began to cool as the hill sloped downward, the pathway narrowing as it wove between the massive trunks of the old oaks. Even though Ronan’s eyes were well adjusted to the dark, he couldn’t pick out the dilapitated old building he knew was there.
He squeezed through the door, barely breathing. Fear and excitement coursed through his veins, forming a sort of poignant drug that drove him over the threshhold and towards the platform mere feet a head of him.
Ronan stumbled up the stairs, catching himself on the brittle wooden bench. He sat down on it, tingling spreading from his fingers to his elbows, all the way through his shoulders and down his back. Ronan found the pedal, letting his fingers wander over the chipped keys.
The notes were out of tune and muted, but Ronan didn’t care, melting each note together to form a tapestry of beautiful melody. He closed his eyes, drinking it in, a feeling of calm washing over him. This was all he ever wanted.
The Libertas Accords had changed all of that, banning anything that could encourage rebellion against the State. One had to be State approved with a license to prove it to be allowed to play music, and then it had to be only State approved music. Ronan had thought it would never be enforced. . . but fear was a powerful tool, more powerful than any amount of friendship or trust or loyalty. The State didn’t need cameras or spies when everyone was so scared they were willing to turn in their own neightbors to save themselves.
The more Ronan thought about it, the more frustrated he became. The chords flowing from his fingers strengthened and darkened, growing on each other. Each note was a part of his soul, pouring out into the space, begging for someone to listen.
“I can’t keep doing this,” he growled, jerking his fingers away from the keys as if they were scalding hot.
He wasn’t sure how long he sat there, tears slowly forming and slipping down his clammy cheeks. The tingling was gone, replaced by an emptiness that grew with each time, and each time, it took more to fill.
With a tired sigh, Ronan got up from the bench, shuffling down the stairs and center aisle. Back outside, he drew in several deep breaths of air, trying to steal the feeling of being alive. But without the music bleeding from his veins, it as just an illusion.
Ronan trudged back home without feeling or noticing anything.
He was already plotting his next trip back to the old church and its secret hidden within.