Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Story time: The Tale of the Gothic Lullaby

Ashar and I have once again collaborated on a story, using a vintage postcard as the jumping off point for a fanciful tale. And so, without further ado...

The Tale of the Gothic Lullaby

You are about to hear a timeless tale. There was once a huge stone castle atop a cliff. It was full of towers and twisting staircases and secret passages and more memories than one could imagine.

The current occupant of the castle was Xavier Moon. He had lived there for four years.

When our story opens, we find Xavier in his study, with his black cat, Jupiter.

Jupiter was a very special cat. Jupiter liked to sing (which means he can talk). Sometimes, though, the singing started to annoy Xavier.

On this day, Jupiter was singing classic rock.

“Will you quit your singing, I’m trying to write,” Xavier said, exasperated.

“What are you writing, Boss? Is it that gothic musical you’ve been trying to write for the past three years?,” Jupiter said, and then started to lick his paw.

“Yes, it is the gothic musical and it probably wouldn’t have taken me three years to write if you would just shut up every now and then,” Xavier said.

“But I’m your inspiration,” Jupiter said while eyeing his tail. “Are you going to give me a role in the musical?”

“You know, Jupiter, that wouldn’t be a bad idea,” Xavier said.

Just as Jupiter got an excited look in his eyes at the prospect of being a star, they heard a loud bang from somewhere else in the castle. They looked at each other.

“What, what was that?” Jupiter said, acting like a scaredy-cat.

“Relax,” Xavier said. It was probably just the wind.

And so they relaxed.

* * *

Later that night, Xavier was in his bedroom, where he also had a writing desk. His gothic musical was now going to feature a cat. And so far, his best song for it was titled, “Enchanted Darkness.” The song was written for three instruments: piano, bass and acoustic guitar. Because Xavier wasn’t sure how much his musical was going to cost, and was trying to be thrifty.

Suddenly, a panel on the wall opened. It was a panel that Xavier had never noticed in his four years inside the castle. Out floated a purple, wispy phantom.

Xavier was intrigued.

“I have been watching you,” the phantom said. “I am a lover of music, too. I was a composer in my day, which was so long ago we shall not speak of it.”

“What kind of music did you compose?” Xavier asked.

“Mostly death metal,” the phantom said. Then he winked and laughed. “I’m such a kidder. Get it? DEATH metal? I’m not exactly very alive these days, if you catch my drift. … Actually, I wrote love songs, because I was constantly trying to woo the maidens who live in the village below my castle.”

Xavier laughed.

“You have a good sense of humor,” the living person in the room said to the phantom.

“Thank you,” said the phantom. “And I think you have a good sense of music. Do you need any help getting your musical started? Do you have enough funds?”

Xavier smiled slightly. He looked at the phantom.

“I could, if you don’t mind, use your help to write my musical,” Xavier said. “The funds, though, are a different problem.”

“Right,” said the phantom, affecting a British accent. “Let’s take these one at a time. First up, I have some of my old composing ideas in the library. Did you even know this castle has a library, because I’ve never seen you in it.”

“I personally had no idea there was a library, or I might have gone there and looked for some more inspiration to help me write,” Xavier said.

“Follow me,” said the phantom.

* * *

They went through seven different halfways, down two cobweb passages, straight through a fireplace (which shocked Xavier) and then emerged in a tall room with shelves that went fifty feet high.

“Here’s your inspiration,” the phantom said. There are all kinds of subjects. Anything you can imagine. Where would you like to start?

Somewhere, a poodle barked.

“Can you point me in the direction of the mystery and horror books,” Xavier said.

“Certainly can,” the phantom said. “Those were my favorite, too. Though it wasn’t smart reading them before bedtime.”

The phantom drifted over to a shadowy corner of the room and pointed at a shelf of leatherbound books with titles like “Ghosts of the Marshland,” “Sounds That Will Tickle You With Fright” and “Mysterious Cases of the Unknown.”

Xavier was delighted. He spent many days and hours looking over the volumes and eventually, his gothic musical was in wonderful shape, full of a dozen songs, including a brand new one with the title of “Gothic Lullaby.”

* * *

But one morning, the phantom found Xavier in his kitchen, looking quite sad.

“If you were in my position and you worked so hard on something, how would you go about making it known to the world?” Xavier said.

“Well,” said the phantom, while picking his remaining tooth with a toothpick, “I think you’re going to need some funds so that you can have props, an orchestra, advertising, a venue, and a sound system.”

The phantom paused.

“I know a secret about this castle, mate,” he said, once again going British for no reason.

Xavier looked at the phantom, confused.

“Down in the wine cellar, behind some of the shelves, there’s a rocky passage that leads to a room full of plundered pirate treasure. Enough money for you to fund your show,” the phantom said.

“That’s very kind of you to offer,” Xavier said. “But I couldn’t take your money.”

“Oh it’s not my money,” the phantom said in a sing-song voice. “It’s pirate money. Haunted pirate money. Cursed, even. Because there’s a catch.”

“What’s the catch?” Xavier asked, sighing.

“The hallway to the pirates’ treasure is guarded by a harpy, whose songs could drive a man insane,” the phantom said. “And there’s only one thing on Earth the harpy is afraid of.”

“And what’s that,” Xavier asked.

“Black cats,” said the phantom.

Just then, there was a gentle meow behind the phantom

* * *

Two days later, after much planning, Xavier, Jupiter and the phantom went down into the wine cellar. Even though they had a black cat, Xavier was uneasy. Jupiter, meanwhile, was also nervous. The phantom was humming a song to himself and suddenly sneezed into his elbow.

They went down the dark, dark hallway behind the wine shelves. Xavier began to hear soft singing.

“Love your curves and all yours edges, all your perfect imperfections,” sang the sweet and evil harpy in a legendary voice.

Suddenly, a pair of red glowing eyes appeared in the dark. Xavier and the phantom saw a creature that looked like a beautiful maiden with wings and talons.

“Not today, chicken lady,” said a voice from the other side of the darkness. Out stepped Jupiter, who took a step toward the harpy.

“You think calling me a name will scare me off?” asked the harpy.

But then she saw a black cat step in front of her.

There was a horrible screech then. And the harpy disappeared.

“Bye-bye, feather queen,” Xavier sang. “That was a great job you did there, Jupiter.”

The three of them continued down the passage and came to a small room. Indeed, it was filled with gold, silver and rubies.

* * *

Two months later, after much rehearsing, “Gothic Lullaby” debuted in a theater in the village below the castle. It starred Jupiter, Xavier and Hugh Jackman.

They gothic musical was a huge success. The phantom sat in the front row and sang along with all the songs. Way, way in the back of the theater, a pair of red eyes glowed. The mouth beneath them smiled.


* * *

And this was the original vintage postcard that inspired the story...


  1. This is definitely the highlight of my week (and month). Thank you!!!

  2. Which is why I always sit way, way in the back of the theater :)