Tags: capricious, julie cox, serialized fiction
Welcome to Fox Pass, Texas, a small community where the people are friendly and the mythical creatures aren’t so mythical after all. Capricious by Julie Cox follows the adventures of satyr Luke and his fellow myth-folk in a town that borders a whole lot more than Mexico. (Do you need to start at chapter 1?)
Luke, Orson, and Sally surrounded the sobbing former troll in silence, stunned by the unprecedented death of a myth-folk’s immortal soul. Luke was the first to move, to press on with what had to be done, though he did so with the feeling he had just acquired several new nightmares. There were still the chupacabras to deal with. They were currently hiding in the shrubs, waiting to see how things developed before committing themselves, but they would not hold back for the sake of reverence for the fallen.
A set of panpipes hung from Alan’s belt. Upon seeing them, Luke struck upon an idea—this was what Alan had used to call the chupacabra. He took the pipes from Alan’s belt; Alan didn’t stop him. His sobs had quieted to near catatonia. The pipes were wood, made of reed or bamboo, and Luke suspected they had been repurposed from some other object, like a wind chime. They were braced with popsicle sticks and red acrylic yarn—hardly the stuff of legend. He glanced at the collared chupacabra; it sat up, gazing at him in a terrible parody of a dog.
“Hey,” he said abruptly, turning to Sally, “where’s Sootie? I thought you said she was here.”
“Yeah, as soon as August attacked you this morning she ran into my bedroom, and is presumably still there, hiding under my covers.”
“Gawd, useless little piece of—all right.” He fixed the chupacabra with a narrow-eyed glare. “You’re part of the Wild Hunt now. You and your brethren. And the Wild Hunt is going to go looking for bridge trolls.”
“You can do that?” Sally said. “Order the Wild Hunt around?”
“I think using the collar, which connects this chupacabra to the Hunt, in conjunction with the pipe, which controls the chupacabras en masse, will have that effect. Who knows; magical items are hard to predict when combined. But it’s worth a shot, ain’t it?”
Sally and Orson exchanged doubtful expressions, to which Luke made a rude noise before returning his attention to the pipes. He closed his eyes and reached back for a memory of life long ago and far away. Salty air, sandy earth, grape leaves and olive trees, wine and cheese, laughter and beautiful music, and his first lover from his very first life teaching the young satyr to play the panpipes. He recalled the angle against his lips, the shape of his mouth, the strength of his breath, coaxing reedy notes of music from the slender instrument. He remembered leaning against his lover, lounging under the olive trees while he practiced the pipes, the lustful hands of the older man roaming his body, the hungry excitement as he drew in his first taste of sexual magic during that first shaky melody.
A song—he needed a song to summon them to hunt. Another memory flickered across his mind, of the last time he’d played an instrument purely from memories of a past life. He was six years old, dragged along to a meeting between his mother and his older brother’s music teacher. He tried to be still, tried to listen or otherwise occupy his thoughts, but little by little he slid out of his seat and onto the floor, bored out of his mind. His mother admonished him to get up, this was no place to lie on the floor. So he did, and walked around the office, looking at things and getting minute-by-minute reminders not to touch anything. He picked up a child-size violin; his mother barked at him, and the music teacher stayed her. It was all right, he said, that instrument was for a small child, Luke could mess with it if he wanted, and if he promised to be very, very careful. Luke agreed and was delighted to find he could hold it between his chin and shoulder, just the way he should.
It did not register at the time that he should not have known what to do with it. He plucked the fine metal strings, pressing them against the bridge with his small fingers, twisting the fine-tuning knobs on the tailpiece until it was just right. It took a few minutes more for him to figure out (remember?) how the fingering for certain notes went, how to hold the bow and draw it across the strings just so. But all at once he got the angles right, the old skill from long ago snapped into place, and a song leaped into his mind as if he had heard it every day of his life. It was a song far older than old, ancient, a fast patter of notes like the rhythm of many dancers, or many hooves. Luke flew through the song, joy flooding his heart as old memories—not imaginings, memories—came to him, of dancing and playing around a bonfire. It was a hunting song, to stir the heart before setting out after a stag or another large, fast, dangerous prey. It was the first time the song had been heard aloud for eighteen hundred years, and six-year-old Luke played the ancient song in a music teacher’s office in Fox Pass, Texas.
With a screech the song was interrupted—the teacher snatched the violin out of Luke’s hands. The man was bone white, shaking and sweating. He spoke rapidly to Luke’s mother, who was also pale. Luke went to her, and she hesitated before putting out a hand to him, drawing him close to her. It was the first time he’d ever seen his mother frightened of anything. She was afraid of him.
They left the office in a cloud of shouting that Luke didn’t understand. What was the teacher accusing him of? Why were they angry, and afraid? He had liked playing the little wooden instrument, the man had said it was all right! He cried in the car, tears of frustration, humiliation, fear, and a shadow of rage. Luke’s mother took him home and held him on the couch, and stroked his hair while they listened to a gospel CD.
Finally, she bade him sit up and raised shaking fingers to the tiny knobs on his head. “I thought I was imagining things,” she said. “I thought I was going crazy.”
“I’m growing horns I think,” Luke said happily, hoping this would cheer her up. “Aren’t they cool? Just like the goats!” Their dairy goats were special pets to Luke. “But Mark couldn’t see them when I tried to show him, or Daddy too. I didn’t think anyone else could see them, and so they must be magic.”
“They are,” his mother said. “I don’t know why I can see them and no one else can. But Luke, you must keep this secret. You are special, and the world does not understand people who are special. They will hurt you, and judge you, and they will not listen.”
“Like Matt’s music teacher?”
“Yes, like that.”
“Why didn’t he like my song? It was a great song.”
“Yes,” she said, “but he wasn’t ready to hear it. How did you know how to play the violin? Was someone talking to you, telling you how to do it?”
“No… I just remembered. I did it before. A long time ago, though. I think it was before we moved here.”
She nodded. They had moved to their new house the year before. “I don’t think we had a violin at our old house, either.”
“No, it was before that. I mean a long, loooooong time ago. Like, before we talked like we talk now. And you weren’t my mommy, I had a different mommy and daddy, and we lived somewhere else. It was a little house, and it was near the ocean. I played a lot of violin back then, but we didn’t call it a violin, we called it… a lyra, I think.”
“You’ve never talked about it before.”
“Well, I didn’t remember it before. Picking up the violin, that’s what made me remember. I don’t know why I forgot, it seems a big thing to forget. But I remember lots of things, and sometimes I forget them again. Not like how Grandpa forgets, it’s different, I think.”
Luke’s mother studied him very seriously and nodded solemnly. She was an excellent mother, in Luke’s opinion, not only because she made good food and was glad to stop cleaning to have picnics but because she took him seriously. Other adults never wanted to listen to the wild stories he spun up about his adventures, played out in the creeks and fields near his home, but his mother would always listen, and ask questions, and be interested. She, at least, he could talk to. She listened now with the same air of importance and belief. But this time at the end she didn’t smile and encourage him to think on it more, or draw a picture of it, or run out and get the other kids to come along with him (which just as often landed him playing with the goats as with the human children.) This time, she took his face in her hands.
“You must never tell other people when you remember something like that, honestly remember, not imagine it. I don’t understand it, Luke, but you tapped into something today that frightened that teacher and will frighten other people. They will always fear what they do not understand. There will be other people you can talk to in your life, but you must look for those people carefully. Hide this like a valuable secret, like a treasure chest of gold that they will snatch away from you if they can. Do not trust.” Her face softened, and he thought then that she looked very old and sad. “But always tell me, all right my darling? Secrets don’t count when it is your mother. I am on your side now and always, no matter what your side is.”
He hugged her, and was afraid. They both were.
And now, thirty-something years later, he played that song again.
Julie Cox lives in Texas with her husband, children, and ever-expanding menagerie of animals on their farm. She runs a small online yarn business and teaches yarn spinning. She has numerous stories published with Circlet Press and elsewhere. For her full list of published works, see her website at www.lazypifarm.com.