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 Cameron's Hymn

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Shea Ballard



Posts : 53
Join date : 2012-11-28

PostSubject: Cameron's Hymn   Fri May 24, 2013 4:27 am

This is a long (21 pages) short story. It is a modern retelling of an old tale from Britain. If you want me to tell the original story, I'd be happy to. Just ask.

Cameron’s Hymn
By
Shea Ballard

Cameron watched as needle touched vinyl for the first time. Sitting on the edge of his bed, he leaned into the new turntable which he’d placed carefully atop of an end table. An extension cord ran to an outlet in the small dorm room. His hands in front of his face, palms pressed together as if in prayer, he watched the record spin as if it were the latest iphone, and not a relic of the past.

The crackle of analogue recording. Ecstasy. Cameron let out a squeal of delight. It was like he was a child again and excited about a new toy. The first notes of the song came. They sounded wonderful, spiritual even. It was like a religious experience.
Cameron leaned back and closed his eyes. He just wanted to get lost in the music. Music, good music, could be mystical at times. The tune carried him away to another world. At the moment, Cameron was in church.

The phone rang.

“Goddamnit.” Who would interrupt sacred time? “Hello.” Only his brother, of course. “No, I have to study. I have a test tomorrow. Yes, I know what turning twenty one means. No, I don’t care. Sorry, not interested. What? Really? Serious? You better not be lying just to get me to the bar. I mean it, if this is a birthday prank. Okay. Alright, I’ll be there. Bye.” Click.

Cameron lowered his face in his hands. “Something tells me I’m going to regret this.”
The song seemed to confirm his fear.

And heaven knows I’m miserable now…

The din of many voices combined with the blasting of music made the bar sound more like a club. It was karaoke night and the mostly bad renditions of current pop songs were like fingernails on a chalkboard.

You show the lights that stop me, turn to stone…

Cameron wandered in with the appearance of one who was in a strip club and embarrassed to be there. He stumbled through like he was lost, trying to avoid being in the way, and not making eye contact with anyone. Just as he felt he must escape or die, Cameron’s brother, Colin, waved him down.

“Over here, Cameron.”

Squeezing past a row of bar goers heading the opposite direction, Cameron took a seat at a booth with his brother and two pretty girls, a blond and a red-head.

“Glad you could make it, my brother, happy birthday.”

Before Cameron could even say ‘thank you,’ Colin shouted out an order to their waitress.
“Get this man a beer. He’s twenty one today.”

Both Colin and the two girls responded with applause and hollers. Even other bar patrons near their table got into the act.

Cameron attempted a weak smile, uttered a few ‘thanks’ and sank a little lower in his seat.

The cute red-haired girl, whom Cameron was sitting next to, put an arm around him.

“Happy birthday, Cameron.” She kissed him on the cheek.

He blushed. “Hi, Nikki. Thanks.”

The waitress returned with a large glass mug and placed it in front of Cameron.
“Your first beer,” said Colin, “drink up.”

Cameron picked up the glass and brought it to his nose. He sniffed it.

Colin provided encouragement. “Go on, take a sip.”

The girls got in on the act. “Drink. Drink. Drink…”

They all stared at him as though he were about to do something extraordinary.
Putting the glass to his lips, Cameron took a tiny sip of the fizzy concoction. It tasted terrible. He grimaced as he swallowed the bitter liquid.

Colin shook his head. “It can’t be that bad.”

“People actually like this stuff?”

“It’s an acquired taste.”

“I don’t think I want to acquire it.”

Nikki reached over and grabbed the mug. “Well, if you’re not gonna drink it.”

Michelle, the blond girl sitting next to Colin, made a suggestion. “Order him a girl drink.”
Cameron sneered. “A girl drink?”

Michelle attempted an explanation. “Yeah, something fruity like a strawberry daiquiri. You’ll like it better. You know, since you’re a first-timer.”

Nikki grinned. “Yeah, an alcohol virgin.”

Fruity? First-timer? Virgin? This was sounding worse and worse.

“Well, let’s de-flower him,” said Michelle. She and Nikki gave each other a high-five.
Cameron sank even further into his seat.

“Now don’t go getting offended, little brother. A ‘girl drink’ doesn’t literally -”

Colin was interrupted by the DJ. “That was Melissa with Ellie Goulding’s ‘Lights.’ Next up is Trevor with ‘Freebird.’ Come on up, Trevor.”

Colin shook his head. “Why does someone always do freebird?”

Nikki put an arm around Cameron again. “Cameron, you should get up there and sing something for me.”

Now Cameron shook his head. “No, I can’t sing.”

“Neither can he.” Colin pointed to Trevor, on the stage butchering Freebird. “I just don’t get it. What’s the fascination with Freebird?”

The waitress walked by, and once again Colin flagged her down. “Hey, can we get him a strawberry Daiquiri and a copy of the songbook, please.” He turned his attention back to Cameron. “Pick a song you really like, and it’ll be more fun. See if they have any ‘Smiths’ or something.”

Cameron crossed his arms in front of him. “I told you, I can’t sing.”

“Neither can most of these people. Sure, you get a few good ones here and there, but the majority of them are drunk people who can’t carry a tune even when they’re sober. I’m sure you’ll do no worse than them.”

Encouraged by Colin, Nikki persisted. “Come on, Cameron, I wanna see you up there. Sing me something good.”

The waitress returned and plopped the book of song selections in front of Cameron. He looked at as though it was evil.

“Pick something you like,” said Colin. “If you’re still nervous about it, I’ll go up there with you.”

Cameron sighed and opened the book, resigning himself to the fact that he wasn’t getting out of this. He picked a song, filled out the request slip, and turned it in.

When it was finally his turn, the DJ called Cameron up to the stage. “Next we have Cameron and Colin singing ‘Tainted Love’ by Soft Cell. Come on up, Cameron and Colin.”

As he got up to the microphone, the familiar intro started playing; first the electronic disco-like chirps followed by the synthesized keyboard baseline. As soon as the lyrics began to become highlighted on the monitor, Cameron and his brother sang.

“Sometimes I feel I’ve got to. Run away. I’ve got to. Get away, from the pain you drive into the heart of me…”

Cameron sang completely flat. He stared at the screen, attempting to avoid the gaze of the audience. He looked like he wanted to be anywhere else but up on the stage.

“Once I ran to you. Now I run from you. This tainted love you’ve given…”

Cameron could feel many sets of eyes on him, judging him. He dared a glance. There were people smiling, laughing, one even pointed up at him.

“How about singing something, dude?” said a drunken guy in the front row.

Sweat began to bead on Cameron’s forehead. He turned his eyes away and back toward the lyrics.

“Don’t touch me, please, I cannot stand the way you tease…”

Cameron blushed as he said the words. Finally, the song ended and he put the microphone down.

“Give it up for Cameron and Colin. Great job, guys.”

“You suck,” said the same idiot who heckled him before.

Cameron felt very warm. He was sweating heavily now. Looking down at the floor, he tried to blink away the tears that threatened to come.

As Colin rounded the corner to head back to their table, Cameron marched straight ahead and out the door.

“Cameron?”

The girls looked both confused and concerned. Colin shrugged then turned to follow his brother.

Cameron pushed past people that were entering the bar. This time he didn’t care if he was in anyone’s way. A few gave him dirty looks, but no one stopped him. The tears were coming now, so he kept his head down so nobody could see.

The cool night air felt good. Cameron was sweating so much it was like he was standing in the summer heat. He walked out into parking lot and toward his car. Fumbling with his keys, the hurt and humiliation turned to anger. This was all Colin’s fault. You got me into this, he thought.

“Cameron, wait up!”

Cameron turned around to face his brother. He wiped the tears out of his eyes. “What do you want?”

“I want to make sure you’re all right. Why did you walk out on us?”

“I told you I couldn’t sing. Are you happy now?”

Colin shrugged. “So what? It’s a stupid little karaoke song. No one cares. Most people suck up there. I mean, did you hear me? I wasn’t sounding much better.”

“They laughed at me, Colin. Laughed and pointed. And that one guy up front -”

“Fuck him. He’s drunk and stupid. He’d probably suck worse if he was up there. Anyway, what do you care what he thinks of you anyway?”

Cameron crossed his arms in front of him. He had no response.

“You know I don’t get you, Cameron. I really don’t. You take everything so seriously. You always have. Even when we were kids, no one could make fun of you without you crying and running to your room. You could never take a joke.”

Cameron leaned against his car, arms still crossed. “They weren’t joking. They really-”

“Thought that you sounded bad up there? Probably. Why does that bother you? Why do you care so much about what other people think?”

“I don’t know. I just do.”

Colin sighed. He appeared to be collecting his thoughts. “You have a pretty girl back there.” He gestured toward the bar. “That likes you and doesn’t care that you can’t carry a tune. And instead of laughing it off and making fun of yourself…and in fact…” He pointed a finger at Cameron. “I’ll bet if…if you would have just relaxed and had fun with it, I doubt you would have sounded that bad, cause the only problem up there tonight was you sang flat. You weren’t into it. It looked like you were having a root canal instead of singing karaoke.”

Cameron hung his head in shame. What his brother said made sense. “I’m sorry.”

“Come on back inside. It’s your birthday. We’re supposed to be celebrating.”

Cameron hugged himself tighter. Now the chill was getting to him. “I can’t face her now. Besides, I have a big test tomorrow. I’d better get some sleep. Tell Nikki I’m sorry. I’ll be more fun next time.”

“There might not be a next time.”

“I know.” He removed his keys from his pocket. “I gotta go.”

Colin reached out to hug his brother. “Happy birthday.”

“Thanks, Colin.”

“Get some sleep.” With that, he broke off the embrace and headed back inside the bar.

Cameron did go to bed right away. Upon returning to his dorm room, he took an antihistamine in an attempt to sedate himself. As he lay in bed, all the feelings returned, the humiliation of being laughed at and the shame of having reacted the way he did. He thought of Nikki and what she must think. What a pussy. Runs out of the bar in tears. Yeah, that must have impressed her. It all came rushing back and he cried himself to sleep.

“Cameron, why are you crying?”

Cameron opened his eyes. He hadn’t been crying.

“Cameron?”

Standing above him was a beautiful young girl with blond hair and fair skin. She appeared to be glowing, and not metaphorically. There was a shimmering halo of light surrounding her, like the pictures of auras in Kirlian photography.

“This isn’t real. I must be dreaming.”

The girl smiled. “Of course you’re dreaming, but I am very much real.”

It was then that Cameron noticed his surroundings. He was in a stable, and was lying in a bed of straw on the floor. In the room with him was a cow, a horse, a pig, and a few chickens. He was back home in Ohio, on the farm he grew up on.

Cameron stood up. The horse took a step toward him. He cradled its head in his arms and petted it affectionately. “Who are you?”

“I’m a Messenger.”

“So what’s your message?”

“Why were you crying?”

“That’s a question, not a message.”

“But one that deserves an answer, don’t you think?”

The cow mooed, as if in agreement with the Messenger.

“I can’t sing. They were laughing at me. It’s all my brother’s fault. He -”

“But of course you can sing, Cameron. You sing beautifully.”

Cameron looked the girl like she was crazy. “No, really, I can’t. Last night was a disaster. I sounded like I was murdering cats.”

As in answer to that, a cat rubbed up against his leg.

“God, this is the strangest dream I’ve ever had.”

Little Miss Messenger was undeterred. She continued with her permanent grin, which appeared genuine. The girl seemed blissful, surrounded by all the animals in the stable, like a real-life Disney heroin. “Go ahead, try it. Sing, Cameron. Sing.”

Cameron had ceased petting the horse and now had the cat cradled in his arms, who seemed to be enjoying the attention all too much. “O-kay. What should I sing?”

“Whatever you wish.” She sounded and acted just like Glenda the Good Witch.

Cameron was half convinced she was about to start singing. Perhaps the birds and other woodland creatures would join in. Or were there Munchkins about?

“Fine, I’ll give it a go.” He gave the kitty one last scratch behind its ear and set it down. “This dream can’t get any stranger.”

He took a deep breath, cleared his throat, and began to sing. Much to Cameron’s surprise, he sounded amazing. His pitch was perfect, his voice strong and clear. He hit every note right, and crooned just like the artist he was imitating. He could not have sounded better if he tried.

After a few moments, Cameron started to get into it. As the shock wore off, a smile reached his face and he could feel the joy of singing. He imagined himself on stage and sang to the animals like they were a cheering crowd. He sang to the Messenger girl, and even danced with her.

“And if a double decker bus crashes into us. To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die.” He twirled his angelic dance partner around. Was she an angel? Cameron decided she must be. “And if a ten ton truck kills the both of us. To die by your side well the pleasure, the privilege is mine.”

He leaned her way back, like he’d seen in old movies, and gazed into her eyes of gold. Wait, golden eyes? They were gold, and there was a light behind them, literally.

There is a light and it never goes out. There is a light and it never goes out.

“There is a light. Never. Out.”

Cameron opened his eyes and let them wander around the room. He was back in bed, back in his dorm. Gone was the stable, the girl, and all the animals.

“Wow, what a dream.” He sat up. “I wonder.”

He dared a few notes, quiet at first. Didn’t want to wake his peers. Sounded good. He sang just a bit louder. Sounded even better. Before long, Cameron was belting out alone in his dorm room in the early morning.

Soon he stopped. It finally came over him. The dream was real. He could sing. “I can sing. I can sing. I CAN SING!”

A loud pounding on the wall. “Yeah, who cares, shut the -”


After several apologies to neighbors, Cameron called his brother and begged for a do-over of the night before. It had taken Colin some persuading to get Nikki to return, but the follow week Cameron finally got his chance. It was the same group, the same location, and it was once again karaoke night. The universe had given him a second chance.

“I like this one.” Cameron pointed to his selection in the song menu, showing Nikki which one he intended to sing.

“That’s one old one,” she replied.

“Yeah, but I like old songs.”

“You want me to go up there with you?” asked Colin.

“No, I got this one.”

“You sure?”

Cameron smiled and nodded. “Yeah, you’ll see. It’ll be good this time.”

Everyone at the table looked at each other, unsure what to make of Cameron’s new confidence.

Colin shrugged. “Okay, sounds good. Go for it.”

After what seemed like an intolerable wait, Cameron was finally called up to the make-shift stage area. After being introduced, he grabbed the microphone and awaited his cue to start.

“Once upon a time. Once when you were mine…”

As in his dream, and in his dorm room, Cameron sang perfectly. And just like with the Smiths tune, he sounded much like the original artist.

His friends stared open-mouthed from their table at the performance. They watched as Cameron got into the song and attempted a stage presence.

“And when the music plays I hear the words are touched with sorrow. When the music plays I hear the sound I had to follow…”

The audience near the stage got into it, too. They cheered, danced, and swayed to the music. Some of the girls up front appeared enchanted. Some reached out to try to touch him, flashed seductive smiles, or gave him other telling looks. It was as if Cameron was a rock star surrounded by rabid groupies.

“I wonder where you are. I wonder if you think about me. Once upon a time in your wildest dreams…”

Once he returned to the table, Nikki greeted Cameron with a hug. “That was amazing!” She kissed him on the cheek. “How’d you do that?”

He shrugged. “I just practiced a lot, you know, had to redeem myself.”

“Well, the practice paid off. You did great up there.”

Colin came up and gave his brother a congratulatory pat on the back. “Yeah, good job, Cam. I was impressed.”

Even Michelle joined in with the touching and compliments. “Yeah, you did a one eighty. That was way better than last week.”

“That was so good,” said Nikki. “You are better than anyone in this bar, maybe even this whole school.”

Cameron blushed. “Thanks, I’m sure I wasn’t that good, though.”

“No, you were. Hey, you know what you should do?” Her eyes lit up and she touched him on the shoulder. “X Factor auditions are next month in LA. You should try out.”

The two girls looked at each other. “Road trip,” they said simultaneously, high-fiving each other.

Cameron shook his head. “I can’t afford that. I’m a poor college student.”

“No, problem, Colin’ll pay for it,” suggested Michelle.

Colin put his hands up. “Now, wait a minute…”

“We could all pitch in,” said Nikki. She put an arm around Cameron. “This man needs to share his gift with the world.”

“Yeah, we’ll totally make this happen. Vacation in LA.”

The girls high-fived each other again. Cameron and Colin gave each other a confused look. How had this gotten completely out of their hands?

“So, what are you going to sing for us today?” asked Simon Cowell.

He was finally here, finally in the room with the judges. The LA auditions had drawn a huge crowd and Cameron, his brother, and friends had waited long hours with countless other contestants. But now it was time for Cameron to show off his ability to Simon and the other judges.

“I’m going to sing ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ by The Smiths.”

Simon smiled. “A favorite of mine. Please proceed.”

Cameron cleared his throat, took a deep breath, and started to sing. But what came out of his mouth was not The Smiths.

“Nu we sculon herigean. Heofenrices weard.” He stopped.

The judges were looking at him as though he lost his mind.

“Sorry. Don’t know what that was. I’ll start again.”

But the same thing happened again. Cameron would open his mouth to sing and an entirely different song in an entirely different language came out. He stopped and started several times, each with the same results.

Finally, Simon Cowell lost his patience. “Alright, stop. Stop. Is this some sort of joke? Really we don’t have time for this. This is a contest for those who are serious about making a career in the music business. We’re supposed to be hearing The Smiths, now what is this nonsense?”

Cameron wiped sweat off his brow. “I’m sorry, I don’t…I don’t know what’s going on…I…”

“Well, just what the hell are you singing?”

“Look, what you’re singing is good,” said Mario Lopez. “It really is. It’s just not what you said you were gonna sing, and we need to hear more contemporary music in this contest. I think I heard that last one in church once.”

“You probably did. It’s in Latin and it’s part of a traditional Catholic mass. It’s called a Gloria. And the first one was Caedmon’s Hymn and it’s in Old English, West Saxon dialect, ninth century, and the other one was in Irish Gaelic, and don’t ask me how I know any of this ‘cause I don’t speak any of these languages.”

The judges continued to look at Cameron as though he was someone that needed to be committed.

Simon Cowell broke the silence. “Well, look, you obviously sing well, so work on this problem, whatever it is, come back next year, sing us something more contemporary, and it’ll probably be a ‘yes.’”

The other judges nodded.

Cameron stood silent.

“So it’s a no, then,” said Simon. “Sorry.”

Cameron nodded, eyes on the floor. As he walked away, he managed to get out a quiet ‘thank you’ he wasn’t sure if the judges heard.

As he exited the audition room, Cameron’s brother and friends were waiting for him. They were smiling, obviously expecting good news. Nikki had hear arms spread out, waiting to pounce with a congratulatory hug.

Cameron couldn’t look at them. The tears that were threatening in the audition room now sprang forth.

“So it’s a ‘no?’” asked Colin.

Cameron simply nodded. He couldn’t speak. Feeling weak, he sat down on a bench outside the audition room. He cradled his head in his hands and sobbed.

Colin went over to him. “I don’t understand. You practiced so much. What happened?”
“I couldn’t sing.”

“I don’t get it. You couldn’t sing, then you could, now you can’t again?”

Cameron look up, tears running down his face. “I could sing. I sang beautifully. It was just…just…”

“Just what?”

“Not in English.” He leaned forward again, resting his hands on his forehead.

Colin looked confused. “What?”

Cameron sat up again. “I could have done it. I coulda got through.” He banged his head against the back wall.

Colin put a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “Please don’t do that.”

Nikki walked over and put her hand on Cameron’s other shoulder. “I think I know what happened. He choked up. The pressure. I mean, Simon Cowell? Mario Lopez. I’d probably crack, too.”

Cameron knew it was not just a matter of ‘chocking up.’ Something else had happened, something very strange. But he wasn’t about to argue with his friends. They already probably thought he was crazy.

Upon returning to his dorm room, Cameron sat down on his bed. He had long stopped crying, but still looked utterly defeated.

Colin took a seat on his brother’s desk chair. “Alright, a six hour drive home and you barely said a word. I think you need to tell me what happened.”

“Do you remember last month, at the karaoke bar, when I couldn’t sing?”

Colin folded his hands in front of him. “I recall that evening. Not one of your better moments.”

“Well when I got back here, I fell asleep and I…well, I…you’re so not gonna believe me.”

“Try me.”

“I fell asleep and I had a dream, a very strange dream.”

“Go on.”

“I dreamt I was back home, in the stable, only it wasn’t just the cows. A horse was there, Mabel, I think. And pigs, and chickens. Even our cat, Tiger. And there was a girl.”

Colin leaned forward. “A girl?”

“A beautiful girl, an angel, I think.”

“An angel?”

“I don’t know. She might have been. Anyway, she asked me why I’d been crying, and I told her I couldn’t sing, and she said I could. And then I tried to sing. And I could. I sang great, in my dream I did. And then when I woke up.” Cameron paused. “I could sing in real life.”

“Interesting.” Colin leaned back in the chair.

“You don’t believe me, do you?”

“It is quite the story, like something out of a faerie tale.”

Now Cameron leaned forward. “Do you remember when we were kids, and you said you’d seen a UFO. I didn’t see it. I wasn’t looking where you were, but I believed you. No one else did, but I said, ‘if my brother says he saw a UFO then he saw a UFO.”

Colin nodded. “That’s true. You did believe me then.”

“Colin, something happened to me and I can’t explain it. Maybe I didn’t really see an angel, but something happened. I don’t know what, but it was a real experience. Just like your UFO. You couldn’t explain that one either.”

“Okay, fair enough. I believe you. Something happened, but that still doesn’t explain what happened at the audition.”

Cameron hesitated. Should he tell his brother? He didn’t want to push his luck, so he just shrugged. “Probably what Nikki said. I choked up.”

Colin was silent for a moment. His eyes scanned the room, as if looking for something else to talk about. They locked on to an item he had not seen before. “When did you get the turntable?”

Cameron smiled, for the first time since the audition. “Last month. I got it as a birthday present to myself.”

Collin scooted the rolling office chair closer to the record player. “Nice birthday gift. Did you get any records?”

Cameron nodded. “Yeah.” He got up from the bed and walked to the closet. He returned with a small stack of vinyl records, each in a clear, plastic cover, and handed them to his brother.

“The Smiths. Sweet. Well, should’ve expected that one.” He flipped to the next record. “Echo and the Bunnymen. Nice.” He flipped to the next one. Joy Division. Excellent taste.”
“And I owe it all you to you. Remember, you introduced me to this stuff back in the day.”
Colin smiled at the compliment, then flipped to the last record. “The Chameleons. Script of the Bridge.” He looked up at his brother. “Very nice.” Removing the record from its sleeve, he examined it like a Holy relic. “Shall we play our favorite?”

“Yes, track four.”

Colin placed the record on the turntable and turned it on. He then carefully placed the needle on the appropriate spot.

For a moment the two were quiet, just listening to the music.

It was Cameron who broke the silence. “You now, it’s funny, what a song can do. How it can effect you. How much you can need to hear it.”

“And how much it means to you.”

And cold, numb, naked I emerged from my cocoon…

Cameron lay back down on his bed.

And a half-remembered tune plays softly in my head…

He yawned. “What a long day.”

“Yeah, you said it”

If this is the stuff dreams are made of. No wonder I feel like I’m floating on air…
Cameron closed his eyes.
Someone’s banging on my door.

A knock on the door.

Cameron opened his eyes.

Another knock, louder. A banging, like someone desperate to get in.

Cameron sat up, heart racing.

Bright light spilled into the room from the crack underneath the door. The door itself then began to shake as though there was a small tremor. It then began to bulge outward from the center, like it was made of plastic instead of wood.

Cameron scooted back into a corner between the wall and his bed. He brought his knees up to his chest and hugged himself tight.

The door exploded.

Cameron winced and covered his face. When he opened his eyes again he had to shield them with his arm the light was so bright. As his eyes adjusted he could make out a figure in the door frame.

It stepped into the room and looked straight at Cameron.

His eyes grew wide in recognition. “You!” He stood up on his bed then jumped down onto the floor. “What are you doing in my room?”

She looked at him as if he spoke nonsense. “You wanted to see me.”

Cameron took a step forward. In the tiny dorm room he was now only a few inches from her face. “Not you. You’ve made a terrible mess of things!” He took a small step back. Should he be this close to angel?

The girl ignored his accusations. “You were crying again.”

“What are you, the crying police? Yeah, that was yesterday after my totally fu-dged up audition.” Should one swear in front of an angel? Perhaps not. “What the…heck did you make come out of my mouth? What were all those weird languages?”

“You cannot sing in your own voice.”

“No shit!” Cameron covered his mouth with both hands. He held his breath waiting to be destroyed. The angel did not move. He uncovered his mouth. “Sorry.”

The angelic being remained silent.

“Nor can I use my own words it would seem.”

She crossed her arms. Cameron got the sense she was studying him, like a lab animal. “You’re angry.”

“Of course I’m angry. You’ve ruined everything.”

She put her arms back down. “I’ve ruined nothing, Cameron. It is you who cannot sing.”

Cameron shook his head. “I don’t understand. You’re talking in riddles, like a demented Yoda.”

“What is a Yoda?”

He shook his head again, then stared at the floor. “Never mind.”

“You need to find your own voice, Cameron. Find your own voice and you’ll be able to sing again.”

He looked up. “How do I do that?”

“I cannot tell you.”

“Well, why not?”

“Because I do not know. You must figure this out for yourself, Cameron. You must find your voice.”

She stepped forward, getting closer than Cameron dared. “But this is a dream.”

She touched his face. Her skin was hot. He instinctively pulled back, but then allowed her to touch him.

“And in dreams you can still sing. Sing for me, Cameron. Please.” She moved her hand down the side of this face, brushing past his ear. She leaned in and whispered. “Sing.”

In his mind he heard music, and a song came to him. He sang, sang his heart out to the beautiful angel girl. The two were only an inch apart, staring into each other’s eyes. As before, her eyes were golden. There was a fire behind them. Literally. He could see flames burning behind them. Burning bright. And there was heat. Cameron could feel it.

He kept singing as they drew closer. “Your eyes. The light, the heat. Your eyes. I am complete. Your eyes. I see a doorway, to a thousand churches. Your eyes…”

His eyes looked down, to her mouth. If her skin was hot, would her lips burn? Would a kiss from an angel kill him? His own lips stopped moving, but the song still poured forth from his mouth. “Oh, I want to be that complete. I want to touch the light, the heat, I see in your eyes…”

Her mouth opened slightly. Cameron moved in closer.

“In your eyes.” Cameron opened his eyes. “The light.” He sat up in his bed. “The heat?” He looked around his dorm then collapsed back onto his bed. “What a dream.”

“You dreamed of her again? What did she say?” asked Colin.

The two were hiking up South Mountain, the sun setting to their right.

Cameron kicked a rock out of the way. “She said I had to find my own voice.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know. She didn’t know, said I had to figure it out for myself.” He took a sip from his water bottle.

“Weird, dude.”

“Yeah, very.”

“Almost there. Race ya.” Colin took off at a run.

“Wait, Colin.” Cameron tried to catch up. “You know I can’t…” He struggled to follow his much more athletic brother, panting and sweating along the way. “…keep up with you.”

Colin reached the peak first. As Cameron took the last step before the top, he tripped on a rock and started to fall over.

Colin grabbed his wrist just in time, pulling his brother up. “Not that way. We’re going up the mountain, not down.”

Cameron steadied himself, trying to catch his breath. “Funny.”

“You know what I love about coming up here? You get a whole new perspective.” He gestured to the spectacular view below.

“Wow.” Cameron looked down to see the entire valley. The sun had completely set now and the city lights were visible.” It’s beautiful.”

Cameron was silent for what seemed like several long minutes just staring down the mountain. He then turned his head skyward and noticed the stars coming out in the darkening sky.

“Cosmic thoughts?”

“I was thinking of…Toad the Wet Sprocket.”

Colin raised an eyebrow.

“The Nightingale Song.”

“Ah, I understand now.” Colin started to sing the words. “And little ever changes when you view from the sky. And the damage we encounter the Earth just passes by…”

Cameron joined in and the two sang in unison. “Little ever changes if anything at all. Just reminds ourselves how small we all are.”

Cameron had the song stuck in his head all the way down the mountain. While on top of it he had felt very small indeed.

“You will have approximately forty five minutes to complete this test,” said the professor.
Cameron was sitting in his Advanced Algebra class. He twirled his pencil between his fingers as he waited to receive the exam.

“That’s it, take one pass it back, just like your IQ was normal.”

Finally, the test came. He grabbed the packet, took one for himself, and passed it behind him.

“Oh, and there’s an extra credit problem at the end. I don’t honestly expect any of you to solve it, of course, but you’ll credit for the attempt.”

A hand went up.

“Before you ask, it’s an unsolved problem. No one’s come up with the answer yet. It’s called Hilbert’s 16th Problem. We talked about it the other day. If one of you actually does solve it, you’re a genius. Everyone have a test? Okay, great, start now.”

Cameron took a deep breath and began the test.

“And pencils…down.”

Cameron continued scribbling furiously on a separate piece of paper.

The professor cleared his throat. “Cameron, I said pencils down. What part of that instruction did you not understand?”

Cameron looked up. “Oh, sorry Dr. McLaren. I finished ten minutes ago. I’m just writing this extra credit problem down. I wanna keep working on it.”

“Ambitious, heh? Carry on. Just don’t forget to turn in your test.”

Cameron put his pencil down and pushed the paper away. “This is impossible. What was I thinking?” Pulling up iTunes on his computer, he selected a song and turned up the volume. “Time to clean my room.”

As he set about straightening things up, Chaz Jenkel boomed from the speakers he’d attached to his laptap.

Number one is a hard time in the making. Number two is the one place I’m not taking. Number three goes on one knee for a token. Number four is the short straw, but it’s broken.


An hour later, Cameron was singing in the shower. “I’d give my all if I could be number one.” After a few moments, his singing slowed considerably. “Number one is the…one…way…too salvation.” He smiled, then laughed. “That’s it. Eureka.”

He jumped from the shower and wrapped a towel around himself. Running out into the hallway, he shouted, “Eureka! Eureka! I have found it!”

Like Archimedes, Cameron ran through the hall announcing his discovery. He even went so far as to jump up and down for joy. “Eureka! Eureka!” The towel dropped. “Oops.” He picked it back up and wrapped it around his waist, then looked left and right. “Good thing no one saw that.”

Slipping back into his room, he continued his private victory party. “Yes. Yes. I found it. I found it. I found…my voice.” His jaw dropped and his eyes grew wide. “I found my voice.” He started jumping up and down again. “I found my voice! I found my voice!”

As quick as he could, Cameron put on some pants and then opened the door back up. He stuck his out into the hall and again shouted his discovery. “Hey everyone, I found my voice!”

In moments there was a reply. “That’s wonderful. Now shut the -”

Cameron slammed the door to his dorm room. “Front door?”

Cameron ran hard, crossing campus to reach the mathematics department. He had a folder in hand, stuffed with the solution to the unsolved problem. He slowed abruptly, then stopped, as he passed Nikki and some dude he’d never seen before. The scene was comical, almost like a cartoon character stopping on his heels.

Cameron turned around and approached his love interest. “Nikki!”

The red-haired girl regarded him. Her smile slipped and she sighed. She said something to the young man she was with, then went to meet Cameron.

Cameron spoke first. “Who’s your friend?”

“Justin. Cameron, we need to talk.”

“Can’t talk right now. Something amazing just happened.” He tapped the folder. “I gotta see Dr. McLaren. I was running to the math department, then I saw you, and I had to stop, and see you, and -”

“Cameron, slow down.”

He had an excited, almost manic look on his face. His feet shuffled back and forth and a nervous energy appeared to resonate throughout his body. “Nikki, I just wanted to say…”

Cameron licked his lips. He looked at hers. Another song started playing in his head. It seemed appropriate to the moment.

“I just…Nikki…Your kiss…”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s on my list.”

She rolled her eyes then turned to leave.

“Nikki, wait!” He grabbed her hand and then turned her back toward him. Without another word or warning, he kissed her.

The guy she was with jumped into action.

At first Nikki froze in shock, then she relaxed and started kissing Cameron back. Before Nikki’s new friend could reach them, he broke off the kiss.

“Gotta go, Nikki. I’ll call you.” With that, he ran off toward the math department, a favorite song still in his head.

Because your kiss, your kiss, is on my list. Because your kiss, your kiss I can’t resist. Because your kiss is on my list of the best things in life.

Cameron picked up his guitar. They were at his brother’s place for band practice, but the drummer had yet to arrive. Just fooling around, he started playing the riff to a Cure song.

“Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick. The one that make me scream, she said. The one that makes me laugh, she said, and threw her arms around my neck…”

Colin and Michelle were seated nearby, observing Cameron’s impromptu performance.

“So I don’t get it,” said Michelle, “he solved a math problem?”

“Not just a math problem, one that hadn’t been solved yet, by anyone. Cameron’s the first one to do it.”

“He doesn’t seem the type.”

“Genius is like that. The most brilliant minds in the world write poetry, fiction, compose classical music, draw, paint, sculpt, and then…you have Cameron, who plays guitar, and rather well I might add.”

He stood up and walked over to the keyboard. “Let me help you with this one.”

Michelle followed his example and picked up the base.

“You. Soft and lonely. You. Lost and lonely. You. Strange as angels. Dancing in the deepest oceans. Twisting in the water. Your’re just like a dream…”

Nikki watched as an adoring fan, cheering them on. Especially Cameron.


Cameron looked down at the valley, the lights of the city resembling a glowing circuit board. He turned around and noticed his surroundings. He was back on top of the mountain.

“I’m dreaming again. Which means…”

“Which means your dreaming of me.”

Cameron turned around. The angel girl approached from his right.

“Congratulations, Cameron. You found your voice.”

“With your help.”

She smiled. “No, this was all you. All I did was prompt you toward your need to discover it.”

“Well, it worked. I have a voice now, my own. And…” He looked down and smirked. “A girlfriend.”

“And that is you as well. I did not help in the slightest.”

He looked back up and met her eyes. “But it is because of you that I got here. And now…”

“Something wrong, Cameron?”

“Now I feel like, maybe…You’re like Puff the Magic Dragon, aren’t you? I don’t need you anymore, right? So you’ll go away now?”

The angel nodded.

“So I’ll never see you again, right?”

“Maybe. Maybe not. It’s had to say, but my work with you is finished for now.”
“I’ll miss you.”

“And I you, Cameron, but you have Nikki now. And your brother. Like you said, you don’t need me anymore.”

He walked toward her. The two met in the middle of the mountain top. “If we have to part then, let’s do so on a happy note.” He reached out for her hand. “May I have this dance?”

She allowed him to take both her hands. “Of course.”

“Music please.”

His dream obeyed and music played as loud and clear as if they were at a concert. The two danced on top of the mountain, danced until it was time for Cameron to wake up. In the heavens above every star was their audience, while the valley below set the mood lighting. It was as idyllic a scene as Cameron could dream. And the music played on.


Send me an angel. Send me an angle. Right now. Right now. Right now.

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Angelique Clark

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PostSubject: Re: Cameron's Hymn   Wed May 29, 2013 12:49 pm

A very interesting short story. It's written extremely well, and I enjoyed every word. I noticed here you forgot to add the "an"; Should he be this close to angel? And I kind of felt like there was a lot of crying, and I know that was necessary for most of it, but it still seemed difficult to picture a 21 year old guy crying that much. Maybe I'm wrong though.

I liked how you took the intro with Cameron listening to the turn-table. The focus in this story was great.

Off to read the next Shadowman chapter! Smile

-Ace
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Shea Ballard



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PostSubject: Re: Cameron's Hymn   Wed May 29, 2013 1:48 pm

You're right about the crying being necessary. This is actually a modern re-telling of an old tale from Anglo-Saxon England. The Brits will totally get it whilst we Americans will be left scratching our heads as to why this bloke is so weepy.
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