A kind of music

Ibsen’s tongue was already lapping up the water by the time Samuel reached the stream.

‘Ibsen, no, come on.’

Samuel pulled the dog’s collar and caught sight of his own wobbly reflection on the surface of the water. He saw strange fish swim over the smooth, polished stones. The fish had purple scales and faces like very sad (and very small) old men.

The dog held firm, his tongue lapping with increased desperation.

‘Ibsen! Come . . . on. We can’t stay here, it’s -’

A kind of music floated through the air towards Samuel.

Music so soft, so beautiful, it seemed to gently tickle his ears. The music was so full of wonder that it made Samuel forget everything the Truth Pixie had told him. He left Ibsen to drink from the stream, and began walking towards the sweet sound.

As he got closer, the beauty of the melody overpowered everything else. The trees became nothing but obstacles in his path, standing in the way of this wonderful food for his ears.


He said his sister’s name to remind himself of why he was in the forest in the first place, but it was no good. As the music got deeper inside his head the only thought he had was to get as close to it as possible.


He followed the stream towards a waterfall, and saw rainbow colours in its spray. Behind the falling water, sheltered in a cave, Samuel could see the source of the beautiful music. A woman and a man – or creatures who looked very similar to a woman and a man, but taller and with longer stretched out faces – were sitting in a slab of sunlight on rocks near the mouth of the cave, playing musical instruments Samuel didn’t recognize. He was so lost in the music that he didn’t pay attention to why the instruments cast shadows on the stone, but the creatures did not.

The woman was playing something similar to a harp, but with a square shaped wooden frame, while the man had another string instrument, which he played like a violin although it was shaped like a banjo.

Their faces were sad, and so was the music, but it was such a sweet and captivating sadness, a sadness that seemed to speak of all the mysteries of life, that Samuel’s brain had room for nothing else.

The stream broadened out into a pool, the surface frothing from the heavy cascade of water. Samuel could hardly hear the sound of the waterfall itself, even though it was very loud, louder infact than the music of the Froogins. But loudness is no match for such loveliness, and so the pounding water was almost silent by comparison.

Samuel dropped The Creatures of Shadow Forest by the water’s edge, and began to wade into the pool. The water was ice cold, but Samuel didn’t notice.
Neither was he aware that as he got deeper, the water whirled faster around him.

When it was over his belly button it was going so fast it lifted his shoeless feet off the polished stones and spun him around like a piece of washing, before pulling him under at the deepest point.


The word came out as bubbles, and lost his breath.

Down and down he went.

Deeper and deeper.

And still he could hear the music. The beautiful, beautiful music, spinning him around like an underwater ballet dancer.

He saw one of the fish.

The strange ones with purple scales and faces like old men. This type of fish only exists in Shadow Forest and is called a Trunklefish. Like the freshwater mer-people who live in the lake, the Trunklefish is not mentioned in The Creatures of Shadow Forest and nor does it have a catchable shadow. It is therefore doubly free from the Changemaker’s influence.

‘Close your ears!’ The Trunklefish was shouting rather crossly at Samuel. ‘Your ears! Close them up! That music will kill you if you don’t put your in your ears!
Put your in your ears, you’re whirling up the whole pool!’

The Trunklefish didn’t know the word for ‘fingers’, as he generally had no reason to use it. But Samuel was still so lost in the music that the spaces where the words should be made more sense than the words themselves.

‘Put your in your ears!’

‘ fingers !’

Samuel couldn’t bear to stop listening to the music, but when he saw that Ibsen too was now underwater, swirling around with his ears streamed back, he suddenly realized what was happening.

I am drowning.

And so is Ibsen.

He put his fingers in his ears, and as soon as he had done so the water calmed down and both Ibsen and himself could swim back up to the surface.
Kicking their legs they eventually reached the shallow water and made it out of the pool.

‘The book,’ said Samuel aloud. ‘How am I going to pick it up with my fingers in my ears?’

Ibsen answered his question for him by bending down his dripping wet head and picking the book up with his teeth, as if it were a stick.

‘Good dog,’ said Samuel, as they walked back up the hill. Once Samuel was a safe distance away he unplugged his ears and found his way back to the Humming Flowers. From there he and Ibsen set off towards the Hewlip bush, dripping perfect straight lines of water behind them.