“The Stories of Strange Melodies” — a short story by Vivian Li

September 30th, 2019





“The Stories of Strange Melodies,” a story by Vivian Li, was a finalist in our recently concluded 51st Short Fiction Contest. It is published with the permission of the author




Image by Bessi from Pixabay


The Stories of Strange Melodies


Vivian Li




…..The girl lived on the outskirts of town. It was mainly deserted, save for a few wild beasts that roamed the lands. But she lived with the wolves, and couldn`t breathe without feeling their fur across her lips and teeth. She asked them: what would you do if I left? And the wolves shook their grey eyes and stared at her until she cried.

…..One day, when she was walking across the grassland, she came across the sound of a yearning flute. It rang on for miles; coaxing the grass to spring and twirling the vines from their holes. It had the song of a mournful, yearning hunger. It desired to engulf something in its path— it sang to her. But when she approached it, she realized that the ground was sinking beneath her.

…..She glanced around, startled. The golden landscape of rolling hills was transformed into one of rushing, twisting rivers. The flute twittered away above. Now it grew to a swell, a crescendo. She reached for it, but the sun shone in her eyes, until all she could see was a tiny circle of light, burning into her retina. She was a pure trilling note, suspended, in the eye of a hurricane.

…..The flute twirled, into a coaxing, ethereal lullaby. Now she was walking along the green fields she used to live. She walked past the roses, the daffodils, the marigolds with their bowed yellow heads. And she brushed her hands across each of them, her skin feeling like a part of their skin, and she a part of them.

…..Then there was starlight. And she was in the midst of a shower. She touched the first star that fell and whispered, “Please. Let me go home.”




…..The boy set out from his home, hiking over the hills. It was still early, but he was determined to trade in his catch in the village before the sun rose. As he walked with his cane by his side and a pouch slung over his right shoulder, the sun showed its face on the side of the hill. It draped itself over him like a sheet of silk, and in the distance he heard the ring of a familiar clarinet. It sang of the plenty, of the beauty in the world, of the freedom in life. It was a celebration of everything the boy knew, and he stared into the distance for a moment, drinking in the music like a musician caught in the perfection of his performance.

…..Now and then a voice would call from the hills—other farmers, asking him where he was going, but their voices would fade. It was the sound of the clarinet that followed him wherever he went.

…..It followed him from the hills, and into strange boxes with imposing and structured frames. It followed him over the oceans and beyond the present; it carried him forward.

…..It was the momentum he wanted to understand. At one point, he could almost see the figure in the distance, playing on his clarinet. But as he neared the misty shadow, it receded further from him. When his feet ached and he was prepared to retreat, a voice behind him called out and asked the shadow for its name.

…..“Samus,” the shadow shouted back, in a voice all too familiar to him. Samus. The boy. The rascal. The brat. The slave. The mute. The old sheller.

…..Samus, the old man whispered. He blinked, and he was in a dingy room, shelling peas with five hundred other labourers. There were holes in the thatched roofs. His fingers strained to touch the stream of sunlight. But they curled and would not listen to him.




…..The man smiled at his son. The expanse of the world was greater than he’d ever imagined. The tribe was singing their songs, drumming beats and tapping along to the music. His son stood in the midst of them, releasing the long forgotten melody from his oboe.

…..Right now, every note swelled into a perfect shape, and each one felt as soft as sunlight brushing against a hand, or like the moon shedding its tears into the night, crystallizing into a perfect web, catching their hearts in the process.

…..They’d been brought here as English hostages, and at one point the leader had been eyeing them down like prospective sacrifices, but now the men were grinning and bouncing along to the beat. The mountains around them seemed to add onto the majestic symmetry: every man’s breath was a smoky figure towards the tips of its abode, to the peaks of human potential.

…..And the song continued— forever and ever.

…..Before he picked up his oboe, the boy saw a group of men polishing a knife. They kept glancing back at the pair of hostages even now. The grating sound of the knife against stone reverberated in his ears forever.

…..Let the song continue on, and on, and on.

…..Then the sun set, and the men were cold.

…..They tell me that songs will always die,

…..and I suppose it’s true this time.

…..But when light is dark and dark is right,

…..music once again will come alive.









Vivian Li is an emerging writer, musician, and inventor who enjoys exploring obscure and intriguing concepts. She also likes to play piano, sing, take nature walks, write poetry/ fiction, read, and learn about how machines work. She is currently studying at the University of Toronto, and has been awarded Gold and Silver Keys from Scholastic Awards for her poetry, and Silver Keys for her fiction. Her creative works are upcoming or have been published in journals or magazines such as .The Window,. ellipsis…literature & art, .Mad Scientist Journal,. and the .UC Review.. Most recently, she has received a certificate of participation from the Humber School for Writer’s Summer Creative Writing Program, a Book Prize for Ted Chamberlin’s Poetry Prize, and Honorable Mentions from Muriel’s Journey Poetry Prize 2019. She can be reached @eliktherain.




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