Atlas Song

by themoontonite


They sing to me.

It’s quiet, like the crystalline hum of a lamp from a room over. It’s quiet like the hushed roar of the waves crashing against a beach as you lose altitude, coming to rest on a rock weathered by the endless motion of water against it. It’s quiet like hoofsteps coming up worn oak stairs, ever so gently. Sometimes...

Sometimes they’re loud.

They were almost deafening when I first met the sun and its warmth, when its oppressive heat and scorching light first moved through me. Their voices split me open and for a moment I could understand them as they spoke about an infinite web of star-light and the vacuum that separated them. Their voices were boiling pinpricks of light in the aching void of my mind and I tried to scream but their cacophony rose over me.

They told me a lot about the nature of myself. About the life and death of a single star, about the way they burned themselves into cold husks until the last of them would go silent. They told me I would be there for each death, endless until I wasn’t and the last of the heat of the universe escaped with my breath and all would be cold and empty. They told me what this meant for a pony, how something so small and fragile could hold all of this and not explode into starstuff.

I promptly tried to forget it all.

They have been quiet every morning since except this one. Their voices ruffle the edges of my mourning veil, and I think maybe they’re trying to part it, to grace my tired and puffy eyes with their light and love. I turn my head away from them as the sun crests the horizon but their voices only grow more and more insistent, and it’s only now that I realize they’re singing a funeral dirge.

It was the same one my sister and I led as we lowered our mother into the ground, it’s the same one I sang alone as I buried her crown in the scorched earth just outside what remained of our castle. I think they are trying to comfort me. I do not want comfort, and indeed I do not need comfort, for in this moment comfort does nothing but make the pain longer. I need a sharp knife, I need the heat pooling in my chest and just behind my eyes to come pouring out to boil this world alive so that I might not have to live another day without you in it.

I’m crying, and I can hear them crying with me. The sky cries as best it can, a cascade of meteors, a desperate simulacra of this saline catharsis that streaks my cheeks. Those doomed satellites that criss-crossed the sky like hatch marked razor scars were trying their hardest as the light of the sun slowly burned their contrails from view.

I wonder if she could hear them too? Can she hear me sing in turn, late at night? I hope so.

This morning I heard her voice. My mother's voice, so many centuries behind me that I forgot she ever even had a voice at all. She was singing as they always did but it was just her, just the soft angelsong of her voice straining to make it over the horizon. I could hear her and I responded, my own voice faltering as it did when I was young.

Our voices fell into place and we harmonized, and I think maybe she understood me, understood what had happened between now and then. I heard her apologize and I forgave her as I did a thousand times in my dreams. I told her it wasn’t her fault, that there was no way either of us could’ve escaped this. I apologized and she forgave me, and I felt her touch me for just a moment, a brief connection for two souls trapped in between one place and the next.

I do not let death haunt me. I have seen them, the little ponies who scurry below me as the sun rises steady in the sky, live and die and live and die and live and die a thousand times over. I do not let their deaths haunt me anymore. To do so, to be there for each of their lonely little deaths, is pointless. I can’t change it.

All I can do is listen as I do now, to her voice and to theirs in kind. She sings to me and I sing along like I do for my little ponies. Our voices are beautiful when they rise in unison, aren’t they? Together we can create so much joy my body can hardly bear it. Her voice went quiet and the stars returned, sombre and polite so as to give me the space I needed. I never heard her again after that.

For the first time in a thousand years I could hear my younger sister, beloved of the moon and closest to my heart, her voice carrying out loud and clear over the sprawling city that lay sleeping before me. It took all my effort not to throw myself from the balcony and launch into the air, to go chasing after her in the quickly-brightening sky. I know had I taken even another step closer she would’ve wavered and faltered or burned out entirely, and her voice would’ve gone silent.

So it was all I could do then to stand transfixed, rooted in place as she sang to me a song I had never heard in a language I could never speak. Still, though, despite our distance I could understand her tongue plain as day. She loved me. She had always loved me in the way that only the night could love the day and I burned for her, near-immolated myself just to be nearer to my darling moon.

She would not be with me if I was aflame, so again I remained. She was less singing now and more speaking, plain and open and so far from me that I could hardly hear her. I spoke back and we carried on a conversation as the world slowed to a crawl around me. I did not know and did not care how long we spent talking for my only concern was her. She tells me she will return soon, very soon, but she will not be the same upon her arrival. I tell her I know this and I am not unprepared, for the voices in the stars have told me of a young pony who might bear a similar fire to us.

She will burn like you and I, dear sister, and she will hear them sing too.