It was on the island. I had been asleep under some palms, dreaming of my faraway home, when I was awakened by the memory of a human voice, or more than a memory, an actual voice. As if someone was singing a mournful song too low for me to make out the words. I sat up and rubbed my eyes, looked around. Millbrae and the others were asleep by the fire. I could see the lumpy shapes their bodies made in the sand, edged by the orange glow of the flames. Carlos The Liar stood and barked, then shook his head and circled a couple of times before lying down again. He looked into the fire and yawned, then settled his head on his paws, unconcerned. Now that I was concentrating on hearing the sound of the singing, or whatever it was, I couldn’t tell if I was still hearing it or just listening to the remnants of a dream. Still, I stood and took a few steps into the jungle. I crawled over a tangle of roots and squeezed through a gap between two fallen trees. I walked for some minutes, then turned and looked back. I could no longer make out the campsite or even the glow of the fire. The sounds of water dripping from the high branches of the trees made it difficult to really listen, they were so lound compared to the haunted keening of the song I was chasing. I crouched down and cocked my head and it was there, I was certain of it this time, just at the very threshold of sound. A music like water rushing over a smooth stone, like the sound of a cricket breathing in his den, like the cry the moon makes when she breaks free from the earth and rises into the night sky. The sound of a mother’s fingers caressing her child’s hair. The sound of two earthworms entwined in the throws of their dark passion, eyeless and earless, their mouths full of earth. Someone was singing the stars into being, and I was being lured more deeply into the jungle, for it was impossible that I should turn back now. I had sailed the four corners of the earth and had heard the tales of the mermaids whose singing lured lovestruck sailors to their deaths in the reefs. I myself had never heard their singing but I knew it could scarce be more enchanting than this music I was following. Would follow to my death, if need be. I had the sudden urge to cut my chest open and uproot my beating heart, make a roost for it in one of the nearby trees, and go on without it. My teeth began working themselves free of their nests, restless as little birds eager to fly, mewling for their mother who’d gone days ago and was yet to return.
I stood by the river a long while, staring into the water, feeling my bones uncouple from their joints, my skull pulling free from its long root.
This music would be the end of me.
I set off deeper into the jungle.