Above their heads, in the city of hopes and dreams, the songs of tomorrow are played tonight. The music rains down. Each drop, a perfect world full of sound. Look how this one sparkles, mewling newborn kittens. And here, another, full of glittering moonlight. They patter on the street, a little drummer boy’s a-rum-tum-tum. Fill the cracks between the stones, this too makes music.
The countless stream’s murmuring flow reminds her of bath time with mother, playing in the tub, bubbles, laughter. His dreams are of a past life. Wine after the troupe finished. The stage and props packed away, the horses fed, the tents set up. And blood.
She moves closer to him, “Will we find my mother?”
His joints creak, flakes of rust fall from his jaw—this rain hurts in more ways than it should. Past memories rise to haunt—or do they taunt? Where sits the line between the two? His mind chatters, tells him stories he doesn’t want to hear.
Her dreams and his memories twist into each other. Meld and bend, swirl and drift. His mind, a thing of cogs and wheels that click and clack. Her’s, a place of wonder and hope. Without him the world would crush her. A hope-filled diamond buried beneath a world of shattered dreams. And he, alone, would fall to pieces. A machine without purpose or need.
“Can we listen to the music?” she asks him.
He doesn’t hear it so well anymore. Only when she reminds him does he catch a few notes. Her pristine youth gives rise to such joy and beauty. After the wars started there wasn’t much use for a dancing machine. Cut throats, cut limbs, burning homes. He remembers a stone wall toppled over, animals running free. Was that him?
“I’d like that, but I don’t know the way.”
“Like this,” she says leading him by the hand. “Don’t step on the cracks, that’s music waiting to go back up to the city.”
There, a string of notes. For a moment he sees the city where harmonicas and accordions play. Lamplit streets, cobblestone chimneys puff smoke from happy fires, candles flicker in windows. Mothers hold their babies, fathers read stories.
“Alright.” He watches where he goes, careful to step only on the stones. His joints don’t work so well now. He used to dance, but now it hurts to walk.
“Past the light,” she points. “Maybe we’ll get there tonight?”
“Maybe.” Maybe so. With her there’s hope. But is it hers or his? Does it matter?