by Yr Ham
In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit. He was a quiet, unassuming little Hobbit, with no aspirations beyond his station. His life so far had held few surprises. He had gone about his business gathering dreams from his dream-catcher, spinning his stories with care and passing them on to one of the Muses that sometimes passed by his place. He had never wondered about what they did with his stories, or where they took them. Until now.
‘Now’ had begun when his dream-catcher malfunctioned; at least, he hoped it was the dream-catcher. Stretched out between the needle sharp crystallites that towered above the entrance to his hole, his catcher had begun singing earlier than usual; before light-break. The Hobbit had been taken by surprise – he was usually way out of his slumber-chamber before the first vibrations began. Out, and ready to begin spinning.
The song was faint at first, sombre and foreboding, with red overtones that sent shivers through him. Unease filled him, but he ignored the warning. Excited about the unusual behaviour of the catcher, he clambered out of his hole and set to work. He reached first for the notes in the higher register; gathered them along the finest fronts of his tentacles with gentle swaying. He was careful not to tear them, but wound them into suitable spinnin-coils with quiet movements. The colours shone around him, infusing him with their wonder and light. He caught quick glimpses of adventure, beauty and joy. Love and delight rushed through his whole being as sweet tones flowed in wonderful harmony in through his spinning ducts.
With all the brighter notes gathered, the colours changed. So did the music. Darker and darker, the notes and colours flowed through him – darker and deeper, until he was forced to apply all his strength in order to pull the pitch-black notes from the slowly pulsating dream-catcher. He had never encountered such force before. Nightmares surged into his dream-chambers, forcing back the newly-gathered delightful dreams, as well as remnants from dreams that had furbished his stories in the past. Monstrous visions of contorted images flooded his mind. Evil took form, surrounding him with waves of despair. He felt watched. Felt his mind invaded with a consciousness even darker than the throbbing music that threatened to tear him apart. An alien mind filled his being, scanned his thoughts and memories; devoured his stories. Desperation surged through him. He knew he was dying.
The dream-catcher shattered as the Hobbit wrenched away his tentacles. Burning pain surged through him as delicate fronts tangled with the wreckage, tearing from his body. Nightmarish images crowded his mind, rushing and heaving, making it difficult to think. He lay motionless by his spinning frame, allowing his emotions to subside. At last the darkness settled.
Then the Hobbit began to weave. Caution drove his pace as he gathered the music from his aching chambers. Light and dark tones began to weave in and around each other, blending and moving with perfect harmony. Colours flowed; separated; flowed again, until a story began to form on his frame. Dark undertones of despair provided the background for lighter colours of courage and love. Rough textures flowed throughout the story, razor sharp in places, while delicate chimes of pure gold softened the surface with their gentleness and hope. The story took a long time to weave, but at last his masterpiece finished.
He slept in his hole for a long time – nearly missed the seven Muses as they flew by the twisted remains of his dream-catcher. But their excited thoughts sought him out, finally roused him from his slumber-chamber. The Muses were full of questions; were curious about the destruction all around – destruction that bore evidence to unusual events in a place where such things never happened. They probed relentlessly, until he told them what had occurred: he told them about the strange music that had grown into a raging torrent of dark horror; told them about the evil that had nearly overcome him, as it poured out through the dream-catcher and into his chambers; and he told them about the nightmares. He showed them his injuries, deriving comfort from their pity and attention.
His story lay on the frame where he had left it, giving credence to his account. The Muses gathered around it, drawn by the kaleidoscope of colours and music.
‘Wondrous colours’ said the first, ‘wondrous, but wild. Unfit for painting’.
‘Yes,’ said another, looking at her sisters, ‘its wildness is harnessed in the music that soars with crystal clear tones one moment, but falls to darkest despair the next. No composer could survive its power.’ Their discussion continued as each had their say in turn: unfit for drama; unfit for sculpture; unfit…
Only Calliope, the wisest among them, stood silent in the end. She held out her hand, gently touching the frame. It quivered under her touch.
‘So beautiful,’ she whispered, ‘so strong. Reminds me of the Iliad and the Odyssey - of Homer…’ She stood ever so still. ‘There is another – a man of language and knowledge... I believe him strong enough.’ She looked at the Hobbit…’Can I?’
The Muses were gone. The Hobbit stayed outside his hole a-while, thinking deep thoughts. It was a malfunction of the dream-catcher that caused the dreams to pour through him with such intensity and dread…it must have been! The alternative was too dark for him to contemplate – the evil he had encountered through the catcher… He shuddered. Alone, he cast his mind outward, following the golden flight of the Muses as long as he could hear their music. He had never wondered about their travels, until now…
* * *
The man writes. The study is quiet, stuffy. Blue smoke from his pipe curls through the air, creating unseen images as it fans out above him. He sighs, signs his name to yet another marked exam paper. The pile to his left appears just as high as it was when he begun this morning. He stretches, reaches for another paper – begins his labour all over again; is bored. Above, the smoke from his pipe begins to curl furiously, as if touched by an unseen hand. The man turns the first page of the paper he is working on; stares in disbelief at the next. Blank. A wry smile passes across his face – oh, well…one less page to mark! He stretches again, casts his eyes down onto the carped by his feet. A small hole by the desk-leg draws his attention. He sits still awhile, day-dreaming. Then, turning to the empty page in front of him, he writes: ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit’… This story was inspired by the beginning sentence in The Hobbit by J. J. R. Tolkien.
This story was inspired by the beginning sentence in The Hobbit by J. J. R. Tolkien.