Dead Children Stop Playing For Ungrateful Audiences
News report of an orchestra of ghost children who return to play after their untimely demise.
A summer ferry on its way home to the coastal town of Mer Pointe sank beneath the waves of the Atlantic on the night of July 20th, taking with it the community’s entire pep squad. No one noticed that their children did not return from their concert performance until the morning.
It was then, in the dawn that felt so much like midday, that people started seeing the bodies washing up on the shore. The sea had been decent enough not to strip them of their ornamental garb.
Out of respect, the press did not capture photos of the collapsed loved ones in the sand mourning their loss. There does exist one single everlasting Snapchat of a duck-faced shoobie, and just behind her a man raising his daughter out of the waves — her trumpet spilling water down his body.
When asked aggressively to delete it, she surrendered that it had already gone live.
The small coastal town held a community funeral to lay their children to rest. Head plates, chiseled gold with the name of the dead, their instrument, and a quote by a close relative, set as a constant gleaming reminder of what Mer Pointe, as a whole, had lost.
The cemetery is on the highest point in Ohio Bay, facing away from the sea toward the town, Crest Inlet, with its mounds fertile and sprawling. Eighty-five* graves occupy the fenced off area of The Children of Music Memorial Park. Survivors ask that you not enter or disturb the area.
But in late September, storm clouds danced in and ghosts drifted up from the waves to frighten the devastated shore folk. To the town’s astonished horror the children had returned.
Their beautifully decorated outfits had taken a sour turn beneath the coastal waters and what was once red and gold, was now green and black like the growths covering their skin.
How would you describe the music of the dead? Would you use words such as soulful, everlasting, macabre? If so, you would be wrong. Their music was terrible.
It made everyone laugh with relief — it made corpses roll in their graves. The phantasmagoria lent rhythm to the dancers working through a new out of step jig.
With the music came regrets and apologies. Steps endured the interruption of a loved one grasping at them in the waves. No one heard what the cheer squad had to say about the great dark beyond because a mom was wailing so loud that blood squirted from her mouth as though she were some malformed fish.
At 10 o’clock the ghostly performance ended, and the children returned to where spirits live away from the living. Lifeguards worked tirelessly until dawn to pull wayward people back from their attempts to reclaim the disappearing forms of their loved ones.
The children did not show trumpet or pompom until the night of December 23rd. That night the sky hung endlessly above the cold waves, and the families crowded the beach as they had done all through the fall, expecting or hoping that the dead would return to play again for them.
The town clock chimed at seven and again at eight. At a quarter to ten, people stood to and began to head back to the shining homes nestled in the hills lining the bay. But all movement stopped when the inland wind brought back with it a horn’s slow and subtle departure.
Strings caught everyone’s ears.
Over the night lands of the coast, came the missing orchestra, band, step team, pep, and cheer squad performing with learned spirits. Their song came from a place the parents swore was not inside them when they were alive.
As the ghosts started to descend into the sea, a sister ran to her brother and asked, “Why didn’t you come to play for us?”
Without losing the tune, he vibrated his middle finger and answered, “Because we wanted to play for people who would listen.”
*Footnote: Records show that there were twenty crew members also aboard the ferry when it took to the bottom of the sea. When asked where their bodies were buried, townspeople shrugged. From what I gathered, Mer Pointe did not see the point in looking for them amid everything else that was going on.
Aigner Loren Wilson is a queer Black SFWA, HWA, and Codex writer. She was listed on the honors list for the Otherwise Fellowship award for 2019. Her work has appeared in Tor Nightfire, Rue Morgue, Terraform, and more. She offers a writing craft newsletter to people who want to become better writers and publish quality pieces.