Sand and Music
He feels he cannot walk another step, until he does. The next step is the same, and the next, and he has stopped counting the sunsets and sunrises because measuring eternity has no purpose. He has wandered an eternity already, carrying his small harp for some indeterminable, compulsive reason, because it will be years before he can play again, if ever, and the sand blows into his eyes and into his throat as he sings. His hands are burnt and scarred and his voice is hoarse, and he wants to rip the strings from the taunting harp and scream, but he is unable to do either because it hurts too much.
Every muscle that has been on fire begins to numb from sheer fatigue, and he feels that he will die without food but is too weak from walking to fish or hunt- but then, Maitimo survived thirty-some years without food, didn't he- and now he is thinking of Maitimo again and he swore to himself that he would not think of them right now. Just for a little while, he needs to be free of them but it is impossible, and the music begins in his head again and threatens to burst from his very heart if it cannot escape through his ruined hands and exhausted voice. There is an impotence born of this forced silence that only a musician can understand- he feels useless, he is useless, but maybe that is for the best, because he has seen the destruction those hands caused and has all but forgotten the beauty that came before it.
The music weaves itself into images, ghosts of people, and the dead eyes of the Teleri and Sindar slain by Noldorin hand are everywhere, and they seem to demand that he sing their names again, and he begs forgiveness, that he cannot do it anymore, not today, the sounds will not come. Atar is there- but of course he is there, where else would he be- and there is an air of disapproval about him no doubt brought on by this skeletal apparition with paper-thin skin, this wraith who was once his son, is still his son, the only one left. A change comes in the music and there are his brothers, each with his own theme, weaving together in a cacophony of loyalty and death and joy and pride. The horrible sand blows into his eyes and he blinks and they have disappeared, carried away by the wind, but the song moves ceaselessly through his veins like blood, and it is only because of the sand in his eyes that he is crying.
He had a wife once, and it almost makes him laugh, because she is the one he thinks of least. He does not think of whether she waited for his return, or of the children he might have had if he had stayed, because those options were taken from him centuries ago- if indeed they ever existed, and his doom was not set in stone or in tapestry from the very start. But today it seems as if no ghost, dead or living, real or just possible, will leave him be, and there they all are, their images stitched into the never-ending song playing in his mind. Her face is blurred because he barely remembers it, and the children- for there are children- have no faces at all, but he feels that they are his and for a moment he loves them, and then they are gone again. They fade back into sand and music as if they never existed, which is appropriate because they never did.
He is unsure at exactly what moment he gives up and allows himself to fall, but it is close to the moment that darkness begins to numb his mind to match his body, and he gives himself over to the embrace of the warm sand and the sleep he has not allowed himself in so very long. He will sleep, there on the beach, and if the tide washes him out into the arms of Ulmo, and from there to Mandos, then he will not be sorry. But if it does not he will wake and begin to walk once more, and sing with voice renewed by rest, until use and grating sand wear it down again. The only constants as time passes are the sand and the music, and the lingering ghosts, and if he wakes, they will be there, and they will keep him company into unmeasured eternity.