The day that no one thought would ever come finally arrived on a hot summers day: the day when Billobi's good friend Thomas Althorp got married.
Graduation day was still fresh in their minds, a memory only a year old. All dressed up, a day as hot as this, their heads and hearts filled with plans and motivation, eager to get going. Thomas had bought an old shop in Horsehead, Billobi needed to travel the countryside, and Tristan had signed on to the Acorn Afloat to take him overseas. Naturally, all ceremonies follow the same universal speed, written in stone at the beginning of time, to make all formalities as tenacious as possible: the pace of a snail.
Billobi wiped the sweat from his forehead, and wondered why all ceremonies had to take place outdoors. He sat on a hard, white chair, and waited for the groom, much like everyone else. Long rows of white chairs were placed in front of a crudely built stage, which was decorated with flowers and hay. It swayed even at the slightest breeze. The priest, stationed in the middle of the stage, looked nervous.
"I just hope my boy remembered to buy her a gift!" whispered the women next to Billobi. It was Thomas Althorp's mother.
"Well, he's managed to keep his antique shop for a whole year now, so I wouldn't worry", Billobi whispered back with a smile.
"You've ever been to his shop, Bill?"
"Yes, but w...? Point taken, Mrs. Althorp."
Suddenly out of nowhere, Thomas came running, half-dressed. He jumped up on the stage and took place next to priest, finishing up on his tie and shirt. The stage waggled a bit, much to the enjoyment of the younger ones in the audience.
"Sorry!" Thomas said and waved to the rows of people. He tried to avoid his mother's gaze.
"Are we ready?" said the priest with a snooty, high pitched voice. When Thomas answered with a nod, three young girls from the front row got up on the stage, each carrying a small trumpet. As soon as the stage had stopped moving, they began to play.
"Let me present to you", said the priest and raised his arm slowly, "the bride!"
Everyone stood up, and to the horrible sound of untrained trumpeters battering their instruments, a women dressed in a beautiful green wedding gown walked up to the stage and took place next to Thomas. To everyone's delight, the three young girls stopped playing and returned to their seats.
"We have gathered here today, on this hot Horsehead day, to witness the completion of the union of the circle of the once broken lines of love and honesty that is the ritual that needs to be and wants to be fulfilled with the two formerly lost but now to be connected in the short infinity that we speak of and think of as life. Of love. In the circle. Of the union. And so on."
Billobi yawned. He could've sworn that his old headmaster said something similar a year ago.
"Shut that mouth of yours, Bill, or I'll put my fist in it", whispered Thomas mother to Billobi, who shut it promptly.
"But the circle in the union", the priest continued, "of the lines that was broken and shattered and lost but found and reunited and forged back together, cannot be all that if the two souls that are about to meet in the perimeter of the circle that is the union of honestly love don't participate in the lovely exchange that fulfils the contract. Of the union. Of love. In the circle. And so on."
The priest smiled and looked at Thomas, who smiled back.
"Great speech", said Thomas.
"As I said, the union of love that makes the circle complete needs its worldly exchange to take place."
"So..." said the priest, clearly annoyed. "Do you have your part of the exchange?"
"Oh! You mean the gift!"
The priest smiled and nodded.
"Yes, I have it right here..."
As Thomas began to search his pockets for the gift, Billobi heard the words "He'd better!" leave Thomas mother's mouth.
"Here it is!"
Thomas pulled out a tiny box of metal and handed it over to his bride. The box was dark brown in colour but didn't have any other significant features, except for a small hinge on one side.
"How lovely", said the priest. "The groom have completed his part of the lovely exchange in the circle of the union..."
"Open it!" Thomas interrupted.
With great care his bride slowly opened up the tiny box into two equally sized parts, connected only by the hinge. The two parts looked identical, with a perforated lid covering their contents. A lovely melody immediately began to play.
"It's a music box", Thomas explained with great joy. "I knew from the day I first got it at the shop that it would make a perfect wedding gift!"
"It's wonderful", his bride responded. "I didn't know they made instruments that small."
"Oh, there's not a single instrument in there", Thomas said. "It's one of them old, genuine magical music boxes."
"Let me see that", the priest said and started to inspect the small box. After only a glimpse he immediately closed it, and bellowed: "You fool! Do you know what this is?"
"Yes, it's a magical music box", Thomas said. "A gift for my..."
"It's not a gift, it's a torture chamber! It's not a suitable gift for something as lovely as the union of the circle in which you two are about to enter! No, young man, your gift to this lovely bride will be the release of that poor soul - or, souls! - that are contained within this cursed and wretched piece of torment! Destroy it!"
"Now! Pry the lid open and redeem your idiotic actions!"
The priest handed over the box to Thomas, who slowly opened it up as if he was expecting something to pop up. As soon as he did that the wonderful melody that played before spread yet again. It was a soothing and beautiful sound.
The thin, perforated lids broke under the pressure of Thomas thumb. In an instance, the music stopped. Peeking inside, the space under the lid was empty.
"You've cleared your mistake", the priest said and then turned to the bride. "And you?"
"Y-yes?", she answered, slightly shaken by the events.
"Do you still want to merry this idiot?"
Music boxes can be found all over the known world. They're small, brown and made out of thin metal. Once opened, they play a melody that depends on the soul captured within it.
These devices originates from a vicious group of people that experimented a great deal with music. Somehow, they found a way to extract the very life essence of beings and store it as music in various contraptions, such as the music box.
When opened, it begins torturing the captured soul to make it sound. By breaking or otherwise destroying the device the soul is released. Dealing with these kind of devices are generally considered unethical.
The melody depends entirely on the soul, and is said to be a summary of memories and emotions.
The 2016 Cartographic Review!
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