The Keledon, by John Collins

“I think what I’m going to miss most is her voice. She had the most wonderful singing voice you ever heard. None of those singers out there hold a candle to it.”  I set down my glass and motioned to the bartender to bring me another.  He gave me a worried look instead, glancing at the row of glasses in front of me.

My drunken rambling was interrupted by someone new.  “Ya think that’s a voice, m’boy? You think ya’ve heard the voice to end all voices?”  He began to laugh, then went into a coughing fit.  “No,” he started again, “ya haven’t. Trust me.”

I turned, trying to put a face to the voice.  An old man sat a couple of chairs down, his thin hair greyed, and skin browned by the years, though he had a look of sincerity and strength in his face. “You don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that.”  There was a challenge in his voice.

 I blinked and tried to focus.  “Yea, I guess you’re gonna tell me all about it, then? What, you used to be some famous singer?”

He snorted and turned away from me with a contemptuous look.  I looked back at my glass.

“Just sayin’,” he croaked, “there ain’t any voice on this earth like…”  He broke off and mumbled something.  “Not mine, boy, not your girlie’s, not the angels above.”

I sighed and turned back to him.  “Alright, old timer. Spit it out. You’ve got a story to tell, don’t you?”

He glanced up at me out of the corner of his eye.  “Eh, you don’t wanna know. You’re young yet and know everything. Enjoy it while you can.”

I rewarded his obvious ploy with an eye roll and a slight amused smile.  “Well, I don’t know what marvelous tale you have in store, so…”

He nodded and turned back to me.  “Alright, then. If ya really wanna know….”


I was young yet, maybe even younger ‘n you.  Strong, full o’ myself, at the top o’ my game. Fresh from doin’ my time in the Navy.  Back then, if you were an able young man, you put your time in for your country.  There were a few things I’d learned along the way. Don’t sass your superiors, make sure ya know whether you’re on a date or not, and there’s a magic to the ocean.  It’s that last one you may not know yet, but it’s true.  You know, they say we all came from the ocean.  Well, some of us can’t wait to go back.  Sometimes, once you get a taste o’ the wide open, the salt spray, the movement o’ the ship and the water, ya fall in love.  And there’s no woman, no man, that’s gonna compare to that love.  Well, almost, but I’m gettin’ to that.

So once I was on my own, I ran back to the open arms of the sea as fast as my land legs could carry me.  I got on a boat, and if it were up to me, I’d have never looked back.  There are things I got to do here on the land, and people I got to do ‘em for, but that’s another story.  I found myself another love while I was on the water, not some girl, but exploration.  There isn’t so much left to discover anymore, but back then it was different.  When I got out there, I discovered a big world full o’ stories waitin’ to be told.  Mysteries to be solved, treasures to be found. I had time, and I had a big head, an’ I was gonna do it all.  See every place worth seein’, get to know every lovely young thing in the biblical way, and be the one who comes home with the pirate gold.  You couldn’ta’ told me otherwise.

That’s how I found the islands.  If you ever been out to Greece, you know half o’ what I learned. Lovely don’t begin to cover it. It’s beautiful ‘nough to make your heart ache.  And everything we know now days, we owe it to them.  See, the ol’ Greeks set down the beginning o’ our knowledge, maybe some things we’ve forgotten too.  And culture? Man, we got a couple hundred years o’ America to talk about, they got thousands.  They knew culture long ‘fore any of us cut down cherry trees.  And if we told the truth, they figured out what it was and cleared it up for us.  All our best stories were theirs first.  What a place. You can go out to those islands ‘n get lost, and you’ll still be better off than most o’ the folks you’ll ever meet.

Truth is, gettin’ lost was the best move I ever made.  Was sailin’ out there, just listenin’ to the wind sing me a tune, thinkin’ back on my life and all I’d heard about those islands; that’s when I realized maybe I’d had a couple too many beers, ‘cause things didn’t look right.  They didn’t seem familiar, know what I mean?  I couldn’ta’ told ya where my ass was with a compass and a map right about then.  It was still a great place to be, with the sun goin’ down in front of me, the moon comin’ up, and the water like some big glass mirror shinin’ a thousand colors back at me.  But I was outta my territory, had no idea just how far, much less how I was gonna find my way back to dry land.

Sometimes the land finds you.  I looked up, and there they were, hills come out of nowhere like a ghost, and caves in the side of ‘em.  And somethin’ ‘bout those caves was like a magnet for my tired eyes. I couldn’t look away, and that’s where I was headed.  So I sail up and set my boat in the first place I can, and headed toward those holes.  It was dark back in there, in a way I wasn’t used to dark.  Now, there’s always a light around ya.  A little bit o’ the sun, a reflection o’ somethin’, or just your trusty flashlight.  My light fought against that darkness like a brave soldier, but it never stood a chance.  Gave me a few inches dead ahead, that’s about it, and dim at that.  Did I mention I was full o’ myself back then?  Because I stepped inside just like the damn fool I was.

It was tame in there once ya got over the eeriness of it all.  Sure, you could trip o’er yourself and get knocked senseless easy enough.  ‘N’ there were some funny little creatures crawlin’ around, and some plants what seemed to be fightin’ the darkness with their own spooky light, but nothin’ a proud Navy boy wasn’t equipped to handle.  I was a bit disappointed there wasn’t any treasure in sight to be sure.  Seemed like the kinda place where somebody shoulda’ lost track of their glitterin’ goods.

But what I heard…

If you took an angel from the heavenly choir on her best day and set her on a heartbreakin’ little tune about loss and time and loneliness, you’d barely match that sound.  I stumbled half aware o’ myself, absorbed in that melody, ‘til I entered a cavern. In the middle of it was a… well, I wasn’t quite sure what she was.  Looked like a lady so gorgeous it would drive men mad, only it was also like a statue, a pure golden statue come to life.  To say I was stunned would be like callin’ the heart of the sun bright.  I was in a daze, I was in love, I was completely sure that I had lost my everlovin’ mind. But I couldn’t care less in that moment if what I was seein’ was real, or a daydream, or whatever else.  She was all I wanted, more than anythin’ else I’d ever laid eyes on.  And her voice was liftin’ me out o’ this world.

She saw me, and she stopped singin’, and that was a tragedy.  Though it was also a little bit of a relief, ‘cause I could feel a tiny piece of my sanity comin’ back.  She looked at me with those fantastic golden eyes, and I could see so much in ‘em.  She wondered who in the gods’ world I was, and whether I was gonna hurt her.  Hurt her? I couldn’ta’ hurt her if I’d wanted to, and that was the last thing I wanted to do.  I could see it all on her face, and when she was done sizin’ me up to her satisfaction, she gave me a smile. I almost had to be scraped up off that cavern floor.

She spoke, an’ her voice was as musical as her singin’.  At first, it didn’t sound like nothin’ I coulda’ understood a word of, and I was kinda disappointed by that.  But just a moment later it’s like somethin’ clicked in my brain, and I heard her speak in clear ‘merican English.

“You are the first living man I have seen in countless years. So whatever you seek from me, be it for good or ill, I rejoice in having met you.”

I’d already been half in a daze, but even if I could speak at that time, I wouldn’ta’ known what to say.  I opened my mouth a half dozen times, then closed it again ‘cause I just didn’t have any words.  She laughed at me, but it felt good.  ‘Course, she probably coulda’ called me a hundred insultin’ names and I’da treasured every one of ‘em, ‘cause she was there, and talkin’ to me, and boy was she unearthly beautiful.  “I couldn’t… I wouldn’t do anything to a… a goddess.”

She laughed again.  “No, I’m not a goddess. I’m merely a Keledon, the creation of a god. In another age, Hephaistos created me and my sisters to serve in the temple of Apollo at Delphi. I soothed the gods’ tempers and entertained their followers and guests by singing.”  Her smile faded away, and a haunted look came in her lovely eyes.  “But the gods have left the world of mortals, and I no longer have a purpose. I am without a reason or a single ear to hear me. Perhaps I am here only because Death has also forgotten me.”  And she got such a look as you see from people when they survive terrible disasters but leave everyone they love behind.  After a minute, she started to sing again, to soothe her torment, and begin mine. My heart’d already been broken, but then I felt the rest o’ it shatter.

I listened hard to her mournful song, ‘cause really there was nothin’ else I could do. I had no means o’ comfortin’ her, and the song was as entrancin’ as the one that had drawn me in.  But I never could stand to hear a girl cry, though I think maybe she couldn’t cry tears, she cried songs, and they’d bring the tears from your eyes.

“I’m sorry,” I finally said weakly, “wish there was somethin’ I could do for you.”

 She just kinda nodded sadly and gave me a slight little smile.  “You’re a good human. Only good people mourn another’s sorrow.”

Again, I didn’t know what to say.  I finally started to speak, ‘n’ poured out a bunch o’ foolishness ‘bout how beautiful she was, and how her song moved me, and maybe I could stay right there by her side so she at least wouldn’t be alone.  She just shook her head ‘n’ told me I was meant for elsewhere, that she could only thank me for comin’ to see her, she’d always remember me and be glad someone finally got to hear her song again. I stubbornly remained there for a little bit longer, even though I was hungry, tired ‘n’ cold, and had no idea how I was gonna find my way home.

She gave me that sad little smile again, and maybe she could command my mind or somethin’, ‘cause all o’ the sudden I was turned around and headed back out.  I didn’t recover my senses ‘til I was back on my boat and realized I could see familiar sights, and that cave seemed to’ve disappeared as strange as it appeared.  I was already startin’ to wonder if any’ve it really happened.  But I knew in my heart, and I know it now, that I was there, and I met someone I can never forget.


The old man’s story trailed off into mumbles then, and he began to look past me, past the bar, to some probably imaginary island long ago and far away.  I raised my last glass in a salute to his storytelling ability before downing it.  I think someone must’ve thought I was mocking the wrinkled sailor, and wanted to be in on the joke, so they started laughing in that obnoxious way people have when they’re drunk.  A couple of others joined in, and then the whole bar was about rolling on the floor, jeering and calling out half-understood insults and requests for another tale.  I felt sorry for the old guy, but I’m no hero, so I kept my mouth shut.  Then he did something I’ll never forget.

He looked around with a certain kind of glare only the elderly can get, and he reached into his pocket.  He pulled out a small tape recorder and put it on the bar.  When he hit Play, I heard a sound that no cheap little recording device should have been able to make.  It was a song, and it was the most striking thing I have ever heard before or since. The laughter died, everyone in the bar went silent as the grave, and tears began to quietly come.  There really is no singer in the world, and no sophisticated equipment, that approaches what I heard that night.  It was a siren’s song. No, a Keledon’s song, and for a moment I believed in gods and myths and mysterious island caves.  To my slight annoyance, I lost the drunken state I was starting to enjoy.  But I haven’t picked up a bottle since.


My ex is a faded memory now, and so are the bar and the old guy, mostly.  But not that song.  I went home, scraped together some money, and bought a plane ticket.  When I get out to those old Grecian islands, I’m going to get on a boat, and I’m going to set sail and try my hardest to get lost and look for a cave that calls out to be explored.  Because I agree with what the old man said.  You can’t hear that song and keep your heart. It belongs to a woman made of gold now, singing about her loneliness and days long gone. And I’m going to find her.

John Collins enjoys reading and writing science fiction and fantasy of a thoughtful style with a sprinkle of humor (sometimes a large sprinkle).

He lives in Arizona, where he spends entirely too much time goofing off and taking care of cats.