A lyre. Music was the soft strain of strings tightening and bristling, loosening and falling through scale and pitch. A vibration between silence and chord. The lower strings cut through the abdomen, beat through blood and sinew; in the sparseness of the cave, they echoed so gently that the rock itself softened. Each shape was surrounded by the sound; enveloped by it, submerged in it. Notes absorbed into tiny pockets of air and were breathed in; fissures and clefts in the stone trapped them and released them in one continuous cycle. An immersion of sound.
Her delirium was traversed, dissected. Chords sliced through thoughts of snakes and smoke. Eyesight gone, and still limping, she thought of Orpheus and his lyre, without hearing his voice or his lyre. Listening.
She was called. She had been called. Men and women were stooping; the king and queen wiping traces of salt from their cheeks under swollen eyes and the voice becoming more fragile and tremulous in the dark of the great hall. A feeling of urgency. Still walking with the left leg hanging shy, foot turned in and dirty, like an injured dog, her right foot stomping quickly and hard, the ball of it squeezing and pressing against the ground. She moved quickly through the shuffling crowd , hearing the music grow louder, notes budding like magnolias; unwrapping and revealing, then dying and scattering within the lower air. Each note sung like magnolias, blossoms opening and falling in designed patterns overlapping each other, peaks and troughs beginning in different places. Crescendos followed by pauses halted by further crescendos, and all the time his voice sighing like pond weed, moving back and forth and wavering in the air. Her own tears, springing impossibly from her cheeks at the sound of it; eyes bathed and becoming clearer in the stinging salt. Longing words; absence; ringing about her and pushing the fog away from her sight. She saw different shapes, glistening and sharpening; a beetle still clinging to the cloth of her dress, nestling in the folds of the drapes, and scratching at it with limbs like conical shells. An image of the beetle resting on her was overwhelming, the music was overwhelming as each sense was invaded by things felt more closely, more magnified. Threading through the enormous cavern, she could now see him with the instrument, plucking away and wailing whilst everything about him became soaked in tears, the Furies’ cloaks saturated in tears. But he was turned away from her and playing only to Hades, and Proserpine, and not to her. With now near-perfect vision, she could only make out the back of his scalp, and the way each clay-coloured hair twisted and curled out of each follicle on it; how the hairs on the nape of his neck, craned to play the lyre, stood sparking charged. She was held in her place, but her limp foot began to claw the ground, struggling to see him fully. He left ahead of her; a feeling of being set free, and ascension, and pain, because he showed her only the back of his scalp, and his neck, and her ankle was painful for her, and he wouldn’t help.
In this way they passed upwards, Orpheus’ head twisting to the side despite himself, and Eurydice urging him with each step to let her take just one look at him before the surface; a feeling so intense that he could feel her eyes burrowing into his skull. They passed marshes which rested on the steep against them, but were stagnant, and rotted, and filled of nothing but a few sprigs of dead roots and an innate gloom, which chilled them both. And they climbed up rocky pathways which she struggled to manoeuvre through, wedging her left leg between the cracks in boulders to use it as a lever, and silently crying when she felt the poison still resting in her veins. And always she was moving in his shadow as he moved towards the light, and whispering to him secretly to turn around and look at her. She was beginning to tire; breath becoming more shallow and jittery, bending and tearing fingernails from their beds, clawing and scraping her way up ledges and steps and begging him to turn around.
The light; a feeling of relief and homeliness, but knowing he refused to look at her, neck straining to turn. And she was exhausted, and bleeding, and her dress had turned black with the seams of coal they had passed running through the rock. Without opening her lips, she screamed for him to turn around and comfort her.
He could not resist. And she was lost.