Two sisters, crowned with stars and fame, sitting atop their cumulus thrones.
They waved to their adoring fans, tossing handfuls of glitter that rained down like stardust.
The elder sister, on the left, shone silver as the moon in deepest winter. Metallic thread spidered across her gown and down her arms, and diamonds glinted in her raven hair.
The other sister, the younger, seemed to glow from within, her skin pulsing with ichor like the golden dawn of a summer’s day. Honeysuckle and gilded orchids tumbled from her sleeves, and warm citrine and topaz gems glimmered around her throat.
She sang first, while the older sister demurred, her young voice lifting over the crowd, silencing their excitement. The notes kept rising, lilting into a graceful aria that conjured up birdsong in a sun-drenched field, ripe with the promise of light and warmth and sweet fruit. Her voice dripped with honey as the notes slid into one another, and the long line of her throat straightened as she raised her chin to reach the highest note. She extended her arms and a burst of fragrance came forth, along with a bright glow from her clouded seat.
Her cloud broke away from her sister’s, who demurred no more, her face growing stormy as thunder rumbled around her.
As the younger sister’s song ended, the elder cut in, her voice low and sonorous, stirring deep in the bodies of all who listened. She sang of tempests and frost, of galaxies colliding, of burning nebulae and the formation of the universe itself. Her voice tumbled over and through the notes like water over rapids, rising and falling with ease into a breathless crescendo—until she stopped.
Every soul hung on her last syllable, dangling there in the silence, the void. They held their breath as her long eyelashes fluttered and closed, her pale hand on her heart.
Her eyes shot open, two smiling pools of violet, as she knew she had ensnared them in her web.
She began again, her voice clear and cold as the evening star rising in the twilight. Her clouds had dimmed to the wine-dark shades of dusk, although the underside was tinged orange with the setting sun. Or was it the rising sun?
The younger sister saw her opportunity and took it, adding her voice around her sister’s, and their duet filled the space, swelling the hearts of the crowd. The tones of their voices blended in harmony, the dark shading the light, the sun giving way to night, and they rose together in a final crescendo—when two ropes snapped.
One on each cloud.
The two sisters shrieked as they clung to their thrones, now revealed to be no more than tattered chairs behind painted wood. The pulleys squealed and the remaining ropes went taught as the teams of men off-stage struggled to control their charges. The orchestra sputtered to a stop, the stage lights came up, and the audience’s gasps gave way to laughter.
The floating clouds, so convincingly real in the half-lit hush of the theatre, were now exposed for the gaudy tricks they were. With much swearing from the men and squeaking from the pulleys, the hanging platforms were slowly lowered to the stage. The sisters climbed out, the illusion fully shattered.
The two sisters—winded from their brush with treasonous gravity—shrugged, wrapped an arm around each other’s waist, nodded to the conductor, and with a last big breath sang the final note.
The crowd cheered and clapped, and the curtains closed.
Meredith is a writer and art historian who writes adult historical fiction and fantasy. You can read all of her Muses stories here.