Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stone Fiddle

Emmebath found the stone fiddle in one of the least productive of Potterton's copper shafts. She thought, at first, that it was a fossilized instrument, akin to those weird looking shellfish that often turned up in the mines. The foreman assured her that no dinosaur but her played the fiddle and laughed the find off as another of Emmebath's idiosyncrasies. That night after dinner the old woman put that fiddle through its paces. The low notes seemed to moan with the sound of plate tectonics while the high notes screamed louder than the crack of frozen granite. Late into the evening folk tunes filtered through the canyon, filled the mines, and echoed over the stones. And the stones responded.

When Emmebath finally lowered the fiddle and her bow there was a faint ring of dust encircling her on the floor. Several pebbles had traced paths across the clapboard floor and outside the door all the flagstones from her yard perched as if listening. Emmebath struck up another, louder jig and the hillside fairly danced as she summoned every stone within 1oo yards of her old shack.

News spread over the town and up the canyon the next day that Emmebath could command rocks. Most folks assumed it was more Emmebath idiosyncrasies and headed back to the mines or out to the gardens as usual. But the few who payed a visit to her place soon discovered what a boon a rock moving fiddle player could be. Rock walls shot across the landscape over night. Cobble streets sprawled about the township in a few hours. The primary mine shafts doubled in depth each day. Emmebath and the fiddle became the creme de la crust. Everyone heaped gifts and payment on her for help with work from sculptures to buildings. Mining was more lucrative, tourism soared, and the town looked and felt as comfortable as could be. Then the rockslide buried most of Potterton.

Apparently the surface stones weren't the only ones moving closer to Emmebath's fiddling. The entire mountainside had shifted ever so slightly each time the strings vibated and finally gave way and came crashing down. The slide buryed the town and its inhabitants and sealed off the small road that led to the outside world. Emmebath kept her head about her and played the whole time the slide was happening.

Rocks swirled around her forming a protective hall as, fiddling, she backed away from the tumult of stone. At last she stepped out from the swirling rubble and dust, collapsed in the grass and dropped the fiddle at her side. Emmebath lay there breathing and considering. After several long minutes she propped herself up. She had come to a conclusion. The responsibility for this disaster rested squarely on her shoulders. Seizing the fiddle once again, she drew a dischordant sound from the strings. As the notes penetrated the rock mounds Emmebath dragged the chord into a single, sustained, high pitched whine. The mountain of rocks quivered and began to move, almost imperceptibly at first, toward the lone fiddle player. Dragging and sawing, dancing across the strings and flinging notes to and fro Emmebath played as she had never played before. The entire mountainside began to hover and then move around her. Louder and faster the fiddle music went. With a grey blur and thunderous cracks the stones swirled round and round the old woman.

When the survivors of the rock slide gained their bearings they quickly noticed a solid stone pillar towering over the edge of their town. No one knew at first where it came from but most could guess. On quite summer nights rumor has it that if you press your head against the pillar you can still hear a fiddle playing inside. The pillar is called Emmebath's Idiosyncrasy and the people of the town know it brings good luck.

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