Story by Water Sensei

 His eyes were closed, but he could feel the cold, damp of the wood grain at his back from the elm. Thunder broke overhead and the sea of darkness was mediated only by the constant downpour—and the sound and anger that went with it. The skies fought above with many-bladed swords of white cutting through the blackness, but the anger didn't abate. The boy felt the cold, glossy clay in his fingers and then at his lips as they found the mouthpiece. A single breath through the instrument ended up being a whole song, melting a new ease around himself. The clashes of lightning returned to the clouds they'd stemmed from and the thunder faded off into a distant murmur. The boy opened his eyes and saw the thunder to be harsh words and the lightning to be the blinding stares of a man and woman in the middle of the room. But the anger rolled out like the most gentle tide. They were both looking at him, but the hate had left their faces. The man dropped his shoulders and put a hand over his face just for a second.

    “I guess I am overreacting a little. I'm sorry.”

    The woman sighed and stared at the floorboards, then met her husband's eyes.

    “No, honey, it was my fault.”

    She stepped forward and embraced him.

    “Still friends?”

    “Of course, babe.”

    The man looked over to the wall to see his son sitting there, smiling now, with his little ocarina.


Submission 2:

    The sculptor's lithe, old fingers turned the clay piece over in his hands once and twice and once again. To anyone else it would have been a plain, uninteresting blob not worth a dented penny. But the sculptor saw something else. He saw a perfect, egg-like form—elongated into a sweet potato shape. He saw two sets of holes curved along the top. And he saw the mouthpiece drawn out to the side, a clean curve stemming off the body of the creation. But he didn't see what magic it would bring. In some days or maybe months it would be in the hands of another, possibly on the other side of the Earth. It would silence the waterfalls and its sound would ricochet through canyons; dance through windswept grassland and between dainty raindrops as the midsummer clouds opened up. The sculptor didn't see the young girl soothed to sleep by the instrument's dove-like cadence of sound. Or the birds of the highest trees fooled to thinking it was one of their own kind. The sculptor watched the heat glow like a fiery shadow around the instrument as the kiln's temperature soared. Built of earth and water, forged in burning flame, and played by the breath of life, it was the grandest instrument. It was his best work, as had been the last, and so would be the next. To the morning light he painted it the colors of the sun and let it dry under that inspiration. That night, under the glow of the moon, he held back a tear as he polished it, wrapped it in a cloth, laid it lovingly into a box, and handed it off to the man that would see it found a loving home. There the instrument rested—the warm, the soothing, the powerful: ocarina.

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