Her hand twitched, as if afraid to move. Then she placed it lightly over mine. “I’m glad you’re here, Will. I really am.”
“Hey, that’s good news,” I said with a half-smile. “I wasn’t too sure about that in the beginning.”
Her cheeks flushed, and I plucked up the courage to put my arm around her shoulders. The rain had ceased, but the air was still thick with moisture and I imagined how bright the plants and trees would look in the morning. I felt her head drop onto my shoulder and closed my eyes, reveling in the silence.
Seized by a sudden thought, I dug in my belt pocket, fingers closing around the thin, cool shape of my phone.
“You still have it!” Maggie exclaimed. “What time is it in New Yawk City?”
Her imitation was spot on. I pressed the power button, but the screen stayed dark. I pressed again and again, until I realized stupidly that it had been weeks since I had last checked it. It was dead now, forever doomed to paperweight mode without a charger. I rubbed my thumb over the cold glass. “Dead,” I said at last. “These things don’t charge themselves.”
Her fingers brushed against the glass, then my hand. “I’m sorry, Will.”
I was surprised by how little I felt the same. I put it back in my pocket, sighing a little. “Nah, don’t be. I don’t need to know anymore.”
And so we sat, waiting for Lina to return while the moon rose over the lake beneath the lattices of the platform villages. The crickets and the birds and the frogs and Jake himself poured out their songs around me, and way up in the trees, I could’ve sat there awake all night, puzzling through the melodies, as the rain thundered down in sheets.
This was never the song I meant to release first. Then again, I should have known that I could never hope to keep myself to some kind of idealized schedule lingering in the practical corner of my brain. Guiding the architecture of a song is very much like fleshing out the decisions of a character—you can’t hope to force either one to go in a direction that they wouldn’t choose for themselves. Maybe you are thinking that it sounds stupid to think a song could choose anything, but you try wrestling for hours with drum samples that don’t belong in your song while your headphones press your glasses into your temples and then, my friend, you tell me how that goes for you.
So, although this isn’t chapter one, it’s a chapter, and that’s honestly more important than anything else. I wasted enough of my public school experience awkwardly explaining why I had fairies and maps in my composition books to know that there were only certain people who were safe enough to know the truth. Writing stories about magic, fairies, and other worlds could have easily catapulted me into a realm of truly inescapable geekdom, even within the circle of honors and AP students with whom I shared my classes. I didn’t care much for being popular, but I cared very much about being left alone, and that didn’t happen much when a few fourteen-year-old boys discovered that the girl with the glasses had dragons in her composition book.
This surprisingly didn’t change when I went to Yale, even if I hoped as an oblivious freshman from a massive public school that it might. I found that I was still hiding, not from bullies and rude classmates, but from the real (or unreal) image of the untouchable Yale creative writer, who just had a different filter through which to judge me. I didn’t, I realized with an embarrassed jolt, write the type of abstract, architected language that I found when sifting through the pages of the Yale Lit magazines lingering on the dining hall tables. I wrote young adult fiction, a genre overflowing with dull, sloppy writing and plots with bigger loopholes than a Marvel movie. I sent a chapter of YA fiction as my application for a creative writing seminar. I didn’t get in. And I didn’t try again, not because I was deterred, but because I was a biology major and a musician, and music, I realized, was something I was just better at sharing than writing. No one scrutinized me much for slapping distortion pedals on my violin at basement shows or even for playing Mahler in Woolsey Hall. But at Yale, the creative writing world seemed like a small fortress lodged at the heart of Linsley-Chittenden Hall, a fortress that I, dragged down by endless chemistry prerequisites and ensemble rehearsal, simply didn’t have time to attack. Book 1 and its companion book 2 were kilobytes of data on my hard drive and trillions of neural connections in my brain, but unlike my shows and other performances, they weren’t advertised.
Then, my junior year, I took a songwriting course: a Morse College seminar taught by the wonderful Mike Errico, songwriter and fantastic independent artist. In addition to studying the art of songwriting itself, we had conversations with music business professionals, lawyers, and other artists about the constant flux of the music industry: the “death”(?) of records, the rise of streaming services such as Spotify and iHeart radio, and whether or not, by the time we have children or sooner, people will even be selling music at all. This was all fascinating and depressing and there were moments where I might have dragged myself starving into Brooklyn just to have a go at the music industry, and there were other moments when I wanted to cry my way through medical school just so I could eat and write a few MIDI sequences in between exams. Eventually, I found a middle ground, and there was the moment at an end-of-year gathering at BAR pizza where I had gotten to talking to Mike about my writing and he asked me, “Por que no los dos?”
No, of course he didn’t really say that. But throughout the course, I had begun to wonder: with all of the digital distribution of iBooks and iTunes and iEverythingElse, why couldn’t someone write music to go along with a book? Any YA movie adaptation has a whole extra soundtrack full of inspired songs that aren’t even in the movie that tweens’ parents can buy to their hearts’ content. Why not do it?
Because, the logical part of my brain chided me. It’s kitschy. What agent or publisher will take me seriously when I tell them, “Oh, by the way; I wrote songs to go along with my magic story, you know, the one that isn’t about dystopic white communities or toxic relationships with the undead?” And how could I write an album about other worlds, about a sorcerer on a power trip, about magic and visions and the fairies, the cursed fairies?
Sadly, I don’t have answers to these niggling doubts. I have queries drafted for this novel, and none of them mention the album, because, at least in the beginning stages of finding an agent, it’s probably not appropriate to go on shouting about how you’ve written an album to go along with your story. But you lovely people on the internet are not agents, and I need you to know. Because what I found while writing the album, is that it’s not really that hard to track with a story, especially one that’s been with me, albeit in vastly different incarnations, for at least seven years. I grew up with these characters, and they’ve grown up with me. I know them, and I know my music, my melodic inclinations, and my violin. So it wasn’t that surprising that when I finished, I found a lot more of my life, my senior year at Yale, and my past scrunched in between the lyrics than I perhaps had bargained for.
So, fittingly, this was not the album I expected to release; I expected an album that tracked so tightly with the plot that you could hear each character’s voice in between the layers of synth and still come out humming the tune. Instead I got an album with Will’s, Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Jake’s voices, who, apparently, left me a lot of room as well.
This song comes from the last third of Prodigal, the first book in the Mirrors of Kylraen trilogy that I have every intention of finishing. In the book’s universe, there are six worlds, of which ours is the largest. The sorcerer Kylraen created mirrors that connect the worlds, but since they only flow one way, anyone who passes through must travel through all six to return home. Will Ryan is one such person, and Maggie Solmacia is from the world “next door.” In the chapter from which this slice was taken, he and Maggie think they are about to escape into the next world, but by doing so, she knows she leaves her world behind forever. This was one of the last songs I wrote for this album, and it wouldn’t be improbable to think that leaving Yale behind influenced its creation, most of which was done by keyboard input while I was doing confocal microscopy experiments for my thesis at the medical school.
More songs and more posts (hopefully more in-depth and with more writing and less introductory!) forthcoming. Thank you for reading, and thank you most of all for being my friends and letting me share all of this with you.
“I’m sure you would manage,” Lina replied dryly. “Besides, you might not have to do anything if those two fools have anything to say about it.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Curse that mischievous gleam I saw creeping into her eyes! “Oh don’t be absurd!” I snapped.
“Betraying so utterly his sister’s good graces—”
“—well, he’s just brainless—”
“—and the testy one; he seems quite taken—”
“—he already told me he’ll never forget Kiraya died for us! Besides, he barely tolerates me.”
She shrugged mildly as if in mock surrender, casting Alatriaar and changing us both into our aliases with a gold-tinged twist of her hand. “Stay Lyeva then,” she said. “For Will’s sake.”
I crossed my arms, feeling explosive. “You’re incorrigible.”
“Yet not incorrect,” she said with a smile, opening the door and ushering me outside. “After you, my lady.”
in the terminal bookstore
magazines lined up to view
is this how i close my chapter
begin and ending at gate two?
they called me prodigal girl
they called me prodigal girl
wired wings lying in shatters
you and me before the frame
i could stand here for a lifetime
just to not forget your name
and call you prodigal girl
and call you prodigal girl
and no matter what the clocks say
or how much faith i have above
my heart will still be breaking
into the shapes of those i love
and no matter if you miss me
i still can’t help but fear
that your heart’s one shape less broken
even without me near
even without me near
so call me prodigal girl
call me prodigal girl
when we were prodigal girls.
i keep one headphone tilted left, keep
one ear open
because i find myself still waiting
for your knock
on my door.
“I must say, my brain is quite fooled to see you as my sister,” Lyal said, sidling alongside me with his mottled gray horse snickering at him. “It fills me with such a mixture of joy, sadness, and regret that I find I cannot express!”
“He means you looked better before,” Kalen replied thinly, looking particularly sour in a simple tunic emblazoned with the shield of Saerfen: a golden star upon a stylized book.
“Oho, my clever manservant, such is not my intention at all!” Lyal replied rather quickly, flashing me his smile that blinded me like the FluoroBrites that lined the walls of Libera 52. “I only mean to convey my regret over the fact that I cannot behold Lady Solmacia without betraying utterly the good graces of my sister.”
“The struggle surely pierces the heart quite utterly,” Kalen muttered.
“And it surely pierces me to interrupt this fascinating discourse,” Lina said rather measuredly, “but unless my far-superior vision is mistaken, it would seem to me that the city is at hand.”
One of These Days - Original Song by Caitlin Pequignot
Thanks to Madeleine for making this song complete! <3
snow day—by me
white, like the weight of the snow
i reckon you know
how i long for the sun to bring light to the wind and the gray
how i long to be with you close on this snow day
it’s a mystery to me
why we can’t have what we need
but they say even snowflakes are infinite in their own way
still i pray we’d as infinite stay on this snow day
bury me gently, freeze me down
tell me there’s more to the sky and the ground
carry me home, carry me home
white like the weight of the snow
you can bet that i know
how you long for the sun to bring light to the sighs on your face
how you long to be with me close on this snow day
We sing and uke and violin and jazz.