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Story 4

Antonio Urias


Antonio Urias is a New Yorker born and bred. He was raised on a steady diet of grapes and books, often fantasy, and spent an inordinate amount of time telling stories, often involving cowboys. Not much has changed in the intervening years. He still loves grapes. He still loves fantasy. And he’s still telling stories, though these days there are fewer cowboys and more magicians. He has had a few stories published in the Mad Scientist Journal, T. Gene Davis's Speculative Blog, SpeckLit and Occult Detective Monster Hunter: A Grimoire of Eldritch Inquests. He is currently finishing his first novel.

 More about Antonio Urias can be found at

"I have been interested in the idea of a 'musical invasion' story for many years now. I’m not sure where it came from, perhaps my own furtive efforts at composing. To Sing a Song of Distant Worlds is my first variation on the theme, a dark fairytale set in the wild West, another old obsession of mine."

-- Antonio Urias

A mute girl in the old West dreams an alien song that grows to an obsession. An alien wants to replace the Earth with his own universe, and all that stands between him and his goal is the mute girl, the song and a confidence man who is more than he seems. Enjoy as we did, Song of Distant Worlds.




To Sing a Song of Distant Worlds

By Antonio Urias


Florence dreamt of darkness. It stretched endlessly all around her, darker even than the purest black, and empty except for the Music. It was faint at first, just a few notes whispering to each other in the void. Then by some inscrutable alchemy, they formed a melody. To Florence’s trained ear, it seemed to be the opening chords of a greater theme, achingly familiar, full of longing, yet utterly foreign.

     “Sing!” The Music whispered to her in a voice that was not a voice. “Sing!” Florence blinked and when she opened her eyes, the void was gone.

She was on a small stage. It smelled of new paint and wooden planks. Behind her sat a piano innocently playing itself.

“Sing!” Came the voice that was not a voice. She stared out at rows of empty seats.

 “Sing,” the Music compelled, burrowing under her skin, and without conscious thought she obeyed. Her mouth opened helplessly, desperately.

“Sing!” The compulsion, the need to sing, grew unbearably strong. She tried, and she tried, but no matter how hard she struggled, no sound could ever come.


     Florence blinked and was awake. She gazed around blearily. The stagecoach rattled down the road. The swinging motion making her nauseous, sending tendrils of pain up the back of her neck. She felt tired, trapped. The dry heat pressed against her skin and crawled inside her pores.  Her mother stirred next to her, sweating profusely. It had been a long road from Spearfish. Across from them sat a strange little man. His clothes were well tailored, but crumpled and dusty from long use. He had introduced himself as Mr. Greene, Gent. But Florence decided he was probably a con man of some sort. She knew the type. They fluttered from town to town like carrion birds.

     Mr. Greene frowned at the horizon. Florence turned and followed his gaze. At the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of a rider in the distance. She blinked and the hazy shape was gone. Only a mirage. She sighed in relief.

     “Bad dreams?” Mr. Greene asked. She caught traces of an unfamiliar accent. He watched her with a mild, expectant expression, and the merest hint of a twinkle in his eyes. She felt an irrational desire to tell him everything, to tell him about the months of bad dreams, and above all, about the song in her head. Somehow she knew he wouldn’t think it was silly or meaningless. Oh how Florence wished she could tell him, but she couldn’t anymore than she could sing. Florence was mute.


     Calliope, South Dakota was one of countless mining towns dotting the landscape. It had started as a handful of pitched tents filled with desperate men looking for salvation in the gold. Now the town was growing at an increasing rate and hints of civilization were trickling in from the east: a telegraph office the previous May, and tonight, the grand opening of the Argos Theater.

     Inside, Florence sat in one corner reading the same paragraph over and over. Every so often she would glance up at the stage. Her father sat at the piano with his fingers poised.

“Ready,” he asked glanced up at her mother. She nodded and began to sing. Their duets were always a thing of great beauty. Once it had seemed that she was destined to tread the boards in London or Paris. One by one those dreams had died, but biter disappointment could not destroy her voice. The other members of the troupe stopped their own rehearsals to listen.

Florence took the opportunity to study them. She hadn’t seen them in months, not since they had gone ahead to build the theater. There were the acrobats, Krueger and Rice, stretching and getting limber, Albertus the Great, whose acts of prestidigitation were variable, depending on how much liquor he’d had that day, the Machen Brothers who could perform Shakespearean quotations at the drop of a hat, and all the rest.  Florence hadn’t missed them, any of them. They were always watching her, some with eyes full of disgust. How dare Celia Coburn’s daughter be mute! Others pitied her. ‘Poor little Florence’ their eyes seemed to say. She was sick of it. She didn’t want their pity. She didn’t want any of it.

“Sing,” whispered the voice that was not a voice. Just because she couldn’t talk didn’t mean she was stupid or slow, but even her own mother treated her like a half-wit sometimes.

“Sing,” the voice demanded. She could hear the melody now intertwined with her mother’s song. Florence looked back at the stage. Her mother was silent, staring at her with an unreadable look.

“Sing,” her mother said at length. Florence started. Her father looked up from his piano keys. “Sing,” he said.

Florence’s book tumbled to the floor. The Music was everywhere. It drowned out her thoughts. The song bubbled up against her skin. Her own body felt claustrophobic. She wanted to tear at her flesh, to escape. Her head felt like it was going to burst. She glanced at the troupe, who were watching her with blank eyes, her parents looking down from the stage.

“Sing,” they all said with the voice of the Music.  She opened her mouth, the Music swelled, and she awoke.


Florence sat in one corner of the theater. The Machen Brothers were rehearsing on stage. She blinked the sleep from her eyes. She just wanted peace away from the gnawing eyes and the Music.

“Sing!” whispered the Music.

 “No,” she shouted, but no one heard her.

She ran. Out the door and through the streets, she ran and kept on running. She dodged riders and carriages on instinct. Hogs, horses, and the people watching passed without notice. She stumbled, mud splattering all over her new dress, but she ran on until there was no more town, only the desert, and the mountains. Here on the edge she found Mr. Greene. His eyes twinkled at her softly. He offered her no pity, only candy.

There was something different about him. Florence had spent her whole life among actors. She knew an act when she saw one. Beneath that twinkle was something smoldering and utterly foreign. She felt strangely reassured. In the distance a wren rasped out a song.

Mr. Greene smiled. “There is music everywhere,” he said. “In every river, every bird and beast, even you and me.” Florence glanced sharply at him. “We are nature’s orchestra,” he continued.  “But I wonder who’s writing the song?” He gestured almost imperceptivity out at the desert. There in the distance, Florence could see the hazy idea of a man. She’d seen it before, from the stagecoach, and it was coming closer. She shivered slightly.

“Trust me,” Mr. Greene said and tapped her softly on her nose. Despite herself she smiled back. So arm in arm they headed back toward the theater.

“I believe you’re looking for this,” Mr. Greene said as they entered. Celia was on them in moments. She immediately began to fuss over her daughter.

“How could you run out like that? Where did you go?” She asked as if Florence could answer.

“I found her at the edge of town,” Mr. Greene said. Celia spared him a glance.

“And we’re grateful to you for bringing her back,” Florence’s father joined them. “I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Francis Coburn.” They shook hands. “I hope you’ll join us tonight.”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” said Mr. Greene.


The townsfolk packed the house, as Mr. Greene took his seat. Under the flickering gaslights of the theater, Florence stood proudly at her father’s side, while he gave his speech. Florence had heard it dozens of times before, in every new town.  His voice lilted up and down almost like a melody. Florence tried to shake her head clear, but she could hear the Music in his voice, in the squeaking of chairs and sick coughs. The cacophony of noise and silence somehow merged with the song in her head and filled her beyond saturation point. She felt so heavy with its weight. She needed to escape and be free. The music pounded at her skull. She collapsed to her knees, and the world spun into darkness.

“Sing,” ordered the Music. Florence opened her eyes. There was a gun pointed at her head. The dark faceless shape of the Songwriter stared down at her. His very skin seemed to hum. “Sing!” he said. His voice called to the Music within her. Florence wanted to, needed to sing. The great theme gathered itself together. Notes quivered in anticipation.

She stared out at the rows of seats, all full. The crowd was screaming and yelling with their own guns drawn. Her mother was shouting something, but all Florence could hear was the music.

“She can’t talk,” Mrs. Coburn cried.

“I don’t need her to talk,” the Songwriter said. “I need her to sing.”

The song surged up her throat but she desperately choked the first notes down.  Her parents, the crowd, and the guns were all distractions. All her concentration was focused on keeping the song inside, but it hurt so much. Her eyes searched the crowd wildly. Mr. Greene was in the third row, the only still point in the seething mass of the crowd. He met her gaze steadily. Then he nodded ever so slightly and winked. Florence sighed in relief and began to sing.

She sang with a gun pointed at her head. The lyrics flowed through her. Words she didn’t know painted images she could never comprehend. She drowned in the song of universes. Her thoughts and dreams were hollowed out and all that remained was the Music. She sang of distant worlds and suns, of comets and asteroids, of space and time.

As she sang, the melody began to morph, by some strange alchemy into reality. The world transfigured into the universe of her song. The crowd sank down vanishing into the notes. Mr. Greene made his way cautiously to the stage. He put his hat down on top of the piano and sat. He glanced around. The theater was gone now. The stage sat alone in a clearing. Where the crowd had been grew purple saplings reaching their branches up toward a strange sun. Mr. Greene cracked his fingers and began to play.

The piano notes echoed out into the strange air, at first only a variation on the Songwriter’s greater theme. Lost in the music, Florence latched onto Mr. Greene ’s creation. Slowly the variation grew ever greater. The piano keys wrapped themselves around the music and hollowed the chords out. Two musical themes did battle but Florence didn’t notice. All that mattered to her was the song. The lyrics stayed the same, but the melody changed note by note.

The Songwriter turned his faceless glare on Mr. Greene. His skin hummed desperately. “Stop,” it demanded.

Mr. Greene stared down the barrel of a gun. He played one more note mockingly then stopped. There was silence. Then Florence continued to sing Mr. Greene ’s composition.

“What have you done,” the Songwriter asked. “That is not my song.”

“No?” Mr. Greene stood. “But I thought you might enjoy a duet.” Florence sang of the stars. The Songwriter felt a sharp stab of pain. The gun slipped from his fingers. He screamed. Searing hot pain filled him.

“What have you done?” He sank gasping to his knees.

“A minor alteration in scale,” Mr. Greene said. As Florence sang of alien birds and beasts, of star children and icy darkness, the walls of theater faded back. The crowd lay in silent repose. Still Florence sang.

“I just wanted to see my creation,” the Songwriter said.

“You will.” Mr. Greene stared down at the screaming Songwriter.

“This isn’t what I wanted.”

“No,” Mr. Greene agreed. Behind him his shadow seemed to grow, flickering in the light, and for the briefest moment it was not the shadow of a man, but of a great horned creature with cloven hooves, and the legs of a goat. The Songwriter fell back with a cry then collapsed. 

The song reached a crescendo and finally ended. Florence gazed around feeling strangely empty.  Behind her Mr. Greene was knelt over the still form of the Songwriter.

“Don’t worry,” Mr. Greene called over his shoulder. “It’s just a shell. That’s all it ever was. The only difference now is what’s inside.”

“What happened?” Florence asked without thinking. She gasped and put a hand over her mouth. “I can talk!”

“Yes,” Mr. Greene said. “The Songwriter wanted to replace this world with his own. He injected your mother and waited for the song to incubate, but he didn’t expect you to be mute. To make a mute sing, he had to come here himself,” Mr. Greene smiled a crooked smile. “That was a mistake. I changed the music just enough. Instead of replacing the world I replaced him.” Mr. Greene gestured down at the Songwriter. Underneath his lifeless skin lay the universe of his design.

“I know who you are now,” Florence said.

Mr. Greene stood. “Do you?” His eyes were unreadable.

“You’re the confidence man, who makes the world believe he’s human.”

“Yes, that’s right. I’m the confidence man.” His eyes twinkled again.

“I can see the universe. I can hear its song.”

“I’m sorry,” Mr. Greene said.

“I know,” Florence smiled softly. Mr. Greene reached out. “Wait,” his hand paused. “Will I still be able to talk?”

“Maybe,” he said. His eyes filled with a terrible kindness. “I don’t know”

He brushed a hand against her forehead. Florence’s mind went fuzzy and she knew no more. 


The theater was empty. No one was quite sure what had happened. Florence knew she had something important to tell her mother, but she couldn’t concentrate. She’d even opened her mouth to speak but only garbled sounds came out. For some reason that had disappointed her, as if she should have been able to talk, but that was impossible. She stared sadly at the rows of empty seats. “You know you can’t talk,” she told herself silently. Then slowly as if in a dream she began to sing softly, but there was no one there to hear. 




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