"The Music Box"

(The characters of Angel Sanctuary are not mine, nor are the lyrics of this song.
All rights are credited to their proper authors)
Note: Totensonntag is the last Sunday before advent in November in Germany. It is also
known as Sunday of the Dead. Similar to All Souls Day. A day of remembrance
to those who have passed away.

(Story inspired by Katou Yue. Written in his point of view)


A small human only pretends to die
It wanted to be completely alone
The small heart stood still for hours
So they decided it was dead
It is being buried in wet sand
With a music box in its hand

"No matter how hard I try, it's useless."

I think, even at a small age I knew the truth, but just refused to see it. Humans are like that. Even the young ones. They don't want to face the harsh reality that is life. They tuck themselves away inside hope and dreams, praying for something better to come along and bite them in the ass. It never happens that way. We live with the hand we're dealt. If we get a better card, it was nothing but luck. Praying doesn't have much, if anything to do with it, but people insist on it anyway.

I was no different. I watched my parents and sister, pretending to be the perfect family, from the dark shadows they carefully put me in. It was all silly pretense. Nothing but a pathetic play, but that didn't stop me from wanting to participate. I wasn't satisfied being behind the stage, though my father would prefer I not even be that close. I did my best not to irritate him, but just looking at me seemed to set him into a fit of terrible fury and rage. It frightened me, but my desire to be accepted out weighed my fear of him. The need to be nurtured and protected is what makes a child's heart beat. Without those essential necessities, they wither like flowers in the hot summer sun. I believe, that deep inside, every child knows this. It's called instinct.

For instinct's sake, I endured the beatings my father doled out. Every punch, every kick, reminded me that he knew I existed. Each time he screamed in my face and pushed me to the floor, I felt a small bubble of relief. I was alive and I hadn't been forgotten. Silly, maybe a bit sick, but it was a child's logic. I feared being forgotten more than anything, and the pain I felt told me that they still saw me. They knew I was there. I wasn't going to disappear.

I knew nothing of tenderness or kindness. If I'd been shown any of those things as a babe, I didn't remember. I saw other children laughing and playing with their families at the parks and shopping centers. Watching them confused me and made my heart pitter in my chest. It was as if I lived in a completely different world, a world that I didn't want to be in. Why was I so different? I thought that maybe some kids were just born bad, and had to work a bit harder to be worthy of their family's fondness. Unconditional love was an oblivious concept. Love always came with strings. Or fists. Cold hard ones. No child wishes to be born, and when they take their first breath, their entire world is their parents love and protection. If I'd known then how children came to exist, unwilling and unfree, I think I would have been more angry at the life I'd been living.

In my mind, I just had to try harder, I was one of those bad children. So I pushed. I fought. I worked myself into their happy little world where I wasn't suppose to exist, killing a part of myself with each thrashing I received. Deadening my heart was the only way to relive the flusteration and unfairness I felt, because I did feel it. I wanted what those other children had. Love, happiness, laughter, everything a family was suppose to be. I didn't dare let my aggravation rob me of what I worked so hard to achieve. I wouldn't give my family an excuse to cast me aside. I continued hoping and praying that my persistence would finally win them over, all the while, my tiny heart was wilting, blackening like the bruises upon my body. I was dying and I didn't even know it.

The first snow covers the grave
It woke the child very softly
In a cold winter night
The small heart is awakened
As the frost flew into the child
It wound up the music box
A melody in the wind
And the child sings from the ground

A simple music box taught me hatred. I'll never forget that day, seeing my sister smiling with glee, holding the gift my father brought home for her in her pretty little hands. It was beautiful, ornately carved and carefully modeled, straight from France. She looked so happy. So sure of herself. So...loved.

We lived in the same house, but existed on entirely different planes. There was me, the dirty little boy covered in bruises and bandages, and then there was her, always a shining picture of beauty and perfection. Where I was beaten and bloodied, my sister was praised and reveled. She was the perfect child in my parents eyes. She held their gaze in a way that I could only dream about. I wanted them to look at me that same way, with adoration and pride. I envied her and I watched her, trying to discover the secrets of the hold she held over our parents. She seemed amused by my attentions, but she was never honestly hurtful or cruel, a bit thoughtless at times, but never malicious. Her kindness was a small blessing in my world of suffering.

When she turned to me with a small smile and asked our father where my gift was, I felt something break inside me. He never gave me anything but bloody lips and bruises. Was she so blind? Her unintentional cruelty stabbed my wounded heart, piercing deep beyond my capabilities of forgiveness. I hated her in that moment. I despised her for reminding me of my place inside our family, that I didn't have one, that I didn't belong. I hated her for not noticing my struggles and my strife. I felt betrayed. I felt foolish. I'd trusted her and come to rely on her compassion to ease my pain. Her words shook the fragile foundation of my hopes and dreams. My world of carefully placed bricks began to crumble and scatter.

I buried that damn box in the backyard. I stole it from her room the very night she received it. Petty, I know, but I was only a child and it was the best I could do the vent my anger. I wanted to repay her unkindness in spades, though somewhere inside I knew she meant well. She hadn't meant to hurt me, but I didn't care. When I think about it now, I believe I needed someone to lash out at. Someone safe. Someone who couldn't hurt me with their fists or feet. People don't realize how utterly helpless children really are. Or perhaps they just forget. Yet, at that moment, I understood exactly how helpless I was, burying a stupid box in a shallow grave behind our home. How ironic that my own body would succumb to a similar fate years later. Would anyone remember that box once it was gone? Would they remember me?

I remember holding the music box in my hands, turning it over and over again in the moonlight. It really was a beautiful thing. The design was simple enough, but the carvings and colors were intriguing. Curiously, I opened the lid and listened to the sad melody that tinkered out from the motorized keys. After listening for a few moments longer, I decided that the song didn't suit my sister at all. If it had been me, I would have chosen something more upbeat. My sister was a cheerful girl. Why shouldn't she be? She was loved. Adored even. My fond nostalgia disappeared instantly, remembering the anger I felt, and I dropped the box into the cold, hard ground while it still played. As I pushed the dirt over it, the tune grew faint but it fought the against the soil to reach the capturing wind. When I patted the ground with a filthy hand, I could almost swear I heard the muffled, mournful melody playing up from its grave.

I forgot about the music box. So did everyone else. I pushed the memory of the sad singing box into the back of my mind and continued my crusade to win some semblance of acceptance inside my family. I tried hard, desperately even. The simplest things gave my waning hope power. Photographs, stories my mother would tell me, the fact my abusive father gave me my strange, girlish name. I took them all as signs not to give up. To keep fighting. My own sad melody was playing out from beneath a suffocating darkness, but no one was listening. Not even me.

Up and down, rider
And no angel climbs down
My heart does not beat anymore
Only the rain cries on the grave
Up and down, rider
A melody in the wind
My heart does not beat anymore
And the child sings from the ground

The day my father killed me I sat in a darkened hospital room surrounded by sterile, stale air and the eerie hum of machinery. I'd been in an accident of some sort, though I can't remember exactly what. All I remember was the sound of my father's voice as he called my mother down the hall. He was worried, scared even. I sat up, a thread of hope curling through me. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected him to rush to my side. For a moment, I believed there truly was a God in Heaven and He'd answered my prayers. However, my fantasy splintered and cracked an instant later, shattering in a million directions when my father sighed in relief that it was me, not my sister, who had been injured. In fact, he was saddened I hadn't died, since that was a wish he'd been making ever since the day I was born. Those were his words. I heard them clear as day while lying in that bed. I think, maybe, he hoped I'd hear him and finally get the point.

How do you fight that kind of hatred and loathing? I was just a child. My father, the man who was suppose to protect me, wished me dead. I didn't understand what I'd done wrong. All I knew was I'd built my entire world out of winning his acceptance, and I understood at that moment my efforts were futile. All those years of enduring the physical beatings and mental torment were for naught. No prayer would save me. No amount of hope would change anything. My pain meant nothing. My feelings weren't relevant. It would be better if I hadn't been born.

I suddenly felt like a fool. I was too shocked to notice the tears forming in my eyes. I'd swore I'd never cry over them. That I'd never let them break me that way, but that's what I was. Broken. My heart died in my chest, growing cold and dead to everything around me. It still beat, but feeling was gone, ebbing away with each throbbing pulse. 'Why' was the only question in my head. It too, pounded through my body, over and over and over again, a frantic chant for answers I couldn't possibly fathom. I lay in my hospital bed, the darkness closing in around me, and I wept.

It took weeks to heal the wounds from my accident, but the ones on my heart still bled red. I lived in fear of my father, paranoid he would come and take me away to fulfill his wish. I knew those beatings he gave me were the closest he'd ever get to killing me, but I was still frightened. When I wasn't being afraid, the ache in my chest left me lethargic and irritable. No amount of medicine would sooth my sickness. Again and again I replayed my short life back in my head, wondering what I could have done to make that man hate me so. I was just a boy, yet I had a death sentence on my head.

The answers to my life were closer than I possibly realized. I happened on them one day while going through my mother's dresser. Beneath an old photo album I found several pictures, and as I stared at them, I laughed. It was a sick, garbled sound, perhaps more a cry. My hands trembled in rage as I stared down at a man whose face looked just like mine, yet I'd never met him before. I suddenly understood everything. I wasn't my father's child. That wasn't his face in the picture. I was the bastard son of that man staring back at me. We were so similar if was frightening. The pieces clicked so solidly into place, I reeled with the force of my new found knowledge.

I wasn't suppose to be born. Not of that union anyway. Perhaps never. No one bothered to tell me. They just hid it from me, letting me wonder why I'd been sentenced to a life of punishment. I understood then though, how looking at me could anger my father. I reminded him of my mother's wonton love affair that ended in an horrible accident. That accident being me, of course. I knew at that moment that my father would never allow me the comfort of his family.

I seethed in anger. I pulled it around me like a cloak of armor. I never asked to be born. I couldn't choose my parents. I glared at those photos and shook with fury. I'd done nothing to deserve the life I'd been given. Nothing other than taking my first breath into a world I didn't even want to be in. My mother was the one who should be punished for her infidelity, she and the sperm donor she'd gotten pregnant by. The more I thought about it, the more it pissed me off. People might assume my mother was being punished by watching me suffer, but I never felt that way. She pretended along with the rest of them, allowing that man I called a father to set me aside or beat me senseless. I was her whipping boy. It was her guilt that sat on my shoulders and I paid the price for it while she moved forward with her fabricated life.

The more I thought about how hopeless my life was, the more angry I got. I was done fighting them. I was suddenly tired of all the pain, both mentally and physically. I'd done everything in my power to make them want me, but it wasn't enough. It would never be enough. Years of flusteration, confusion, and anger were unleashed. My life was hell because those ridiculous pretenders were too selfish to realize their idea of a perfect family was already shot to hell. They fed me false hopes to keep up their charade, even if it was tucking me away in the corner of our home. Why didn't they just give me away? If I was such an eye sore, why not at least give me the chance to have a decent life like the other children? I already knew that answer too. To give me up was to admit they weren't perfect.

I'd been cheated.

I cut the photos up. I cut them all up, even the ones of our phoney family. I sliced them and shredded them until they were nothing but pieces. With each cut, a piece of myself tore away too, my connection severing from them bit by bit. When I felt the tears burn my eyes, I reminded myself of the oath I swore, that I wouldn't cry for them, but it was pointless. I was too far gone, too fractured. I cut and cried, killing them over and over again while whatever was left of me died inside.

Hope was gone from my life. I had no direction, no plan. My entire being had been wrapped around winning over my family, and that had been torn from me. My existence was pointless, as far as I was concerned, so I busied myself by doing whatever the hell I wanted. My family wasn't happy that I'd changed the rules, but I made it clear I didn't give a damn what they thought. Fair was fair, right? I wasn't pretending anymore. I knew what my life was, and I'd make due with what was left of it. If I tarnished their so called fairy tale family, well, so be it. I wasn't a part of it anyway.

My grades plummeted. I dyed my hair blonde and ran with gangs. I stayed out all night and got into fights. I became the child from hell. I gave them what they wanted. I showed them what my "tainted" blood was capable of. My father tried to stop me more times than I cared to count. He threatened to kick me out. I didn't come home for a week. He tried to call the cops. I got myself arrested anyway. He tried to beat me, but now that I wasn't a little child, I was harder to hold down and could fight back. I felt pretty liberated when I realized he couldn't raise his hand to me they way he used to. I made sure their lives were as hellish as mine, that they paid for what they put me through. I wanted their perfection to be destroyed, just as my hope had been.

I thought it made me happy. I told myself I was doing what I wanted. I put up shields around myself, never letting anyone get to close to me. I refused to be a victim again, but what I never realized was I never stopped being a victim. There was a hole in my heart. An inert stillness. The emptiness hurt, urging me to fill it with what it needed most, love, acceptance, respect. I couldn't give that, so I turned to drugs. Lots of drugs. I drown the pain with pills and booze until my body was so numb I could have been shot a dozen times and not felt a thing. Still, the ache lingered, never going away. Day by day, it gnawed at me, my soul rotting away while I still breathed.

Dope allowed me to leave my parents home for good. I sold it on the street, turning a pretty coin. I rarely returned home, though my sister and mother persisted that I come back. I told them to fuck off. I wanted no part of their charade. I wasn't anyone's dancing monkey. My sister seemed to understand even less than my mother, but then again, she always was a naive girl. Despite myself, I still felt a slight attachment to her. She was the only one in that house that even attempted to pretend I had feelings of my own. She was awkward and often said the wrong things, but she meant well. When I learned she was to get married, I took my mother's advice and decided to congratulate her. Oddly, I remembered the music box I buried years ago, and out of guilt, I dug it up and took to her.

My good intentions, along with the final thread that attached itself to my family shattered on her floor that night. Perhaps it was the shock of learning she knew all along that I was a bastard child, or maybe it was the hint of pity in her voice, but I exploded in a fit of rage. I was so jaded. So cynical. I never stopped to think for a second that perhaps my sister was indeed, just a foolish girl who tried hard to be kind to her unfortunate brother. I saw her niceties as an extension to my mother and father's facade. I saw her friendship as a betrayal. I wanted to hurt her. Make her feel my pain. I'm not sure what I would have done if my father hadn't have rushed up to the room, but I left that house and never looked back, leaving my family and the beautiful music box in shambles.

When my father lay dying in the hospital, I sat dying in my apartment, surrounded by my pills and booze. I was wasting away from the inside out, consumed by my own self-loathing and disgust. I'd told myself again and again I didn't care, nothing mattered. In my head, I'd convinced myself that it was the truth, but in reality, I'd just given up fighting. I was living to die, barely existing. My biggest fear, being forgotten, had become a very tangible reality. No one would notice if I vanished. My life didn't matter to anyone, not even myself. The only way to protect myself was to not care, to lie to myself again and again. It was all I had left.

A friend told me to go home, to go visit my father one last time. He said I'd regret it if I didn't, but I couldn't move if I wanted to. I was too stoned, too hurt to even try. Besides, what was a little more regret added to my life? My entire being was based on the regret of my mother's love affair and myself being born. I sat in my room, drinking and smoking while my father slipped away. I hid behind my addiction, running from my fears. Maybe if I'd faced him one last time, I could have let go of my anger and loathing, but I was to afraid to try. I couldn't bear anymore failure, anymore disappointment.

I didn't go to the funeral. I didn't owe the old man a damn thing, but more so, I didn't want to see what I couldn't, wouldn't have. No one would cry for me. No one would stand over my grave and mourn my loss. No one would remember a loser like me.

The cold moon, in full magnificence
It hears the cries in the night
And no angel climbs down
Only the rain cries on the grave
Between hard oak boards
It will play with the music box
A melody in the wind
And the child sings from the ground

I should have listened to my friend. He warned me that regret would tear me apart if I kept running, that the price for not fighting would be heavy. If I'd known I was to die at the age of seventeen, I may have heeded his advice, but no one expects to die that young. I thought I wasn't afraid of death, that I would welcome it. It would mean my pitiful existence would finally come to an end and my suffering would be finished, but as I lay bleeding, dying on the grass in the woods behind some park, I felt afraid. Terrified. I knew I was going to die. It hurt so badly, but I thought of all the things I should have done in my life and saw how utterly ridiculous I'd been. My worst nightmare was coming true. I'd disappear from the world, leaving behind nothing worth remembering.

I thought of that music box, shattered and destroyed upon my sister's floor. I recalled the night I buried it, dropping it into the shallow ground as it played its sad song. Even as I pushed the soil over the top of it, it continued to play, crying out to me as I damned it to be forgotten. Would I end up like that? Buried in a shallow grave in some remote wood where no one would find me. Would they look for me? Would anyone know I was missing? The thought terrified me as I gasped upon the ground, my blood feeding the grasses beneath me. My tears, the one's I swore I'd never weep, leaked from my eyes like rain.

I didn't want to die. What about my life? What about all the things I dreamed about doing as a child? I had hopes, wants, and needs. I'd just forgotten about them, buried them beneath a mound of emotional shit that was too deep to shovel. I wanted someone to help me in that moment, to comfort me while I lay afraid and breathing my last breath. No, that's not right, I'd been wanting someone to rescue me my entire life. I'd cried out for help, knowing in my heart that I was too weak to keep fighting on my own. No one heard me, or if they did, they ignored me.

When did I stop believing? When did I stop fighting? I thought being rebellious and doing what I wanted was the way to fight back the unfairness that was my life. In truth, I was just running. Running and running and running. I told myself I didn't care about any of it, that the past couldn't touch me, but I was stuck there, in the past. I never left it. Around and around we chased one another until only in death did it catch up to me, and I understood how afraid I was.

Warm hands touched me, holding close. I could feel a heart beat against my cheek, and my fear waned a bit. A soft voice, soothing and gentle told me to look into the light and not be afraid. "Trust your own strength," it said to me. Those were the last words I heard as a living being. They haunted me in death, as I roamed the netherworld in search of redemption, but I felt something move inside me for the first time in many years. I tucked it away, that niggling feeling, always buried but just barely beneath the surface.

I carried my cross through the realm just beyond hell, longing for peace but never quite finding it. I died with too many regrets, too many things left unfinished, just as my friend had warned me. I was barred from Heaven, yet unfit for Hell, but as in life I proceeded in death, telling myself it didn't matter. If that was so, why did I feel so determined? Why did it anger me when I laid eyes upon the very one who slew me? I was sent to guide him, to lead him to his own demise. In return, I was promised salvation, a ticket to the pearly gates above, but when he looked at me with those eyes, so sad and mournful like my own, I couldn't bring myself to betray him.

His determination, his immense will to fight against the odds intrigued me. Didn't he know that it was useless? I watched him bare his teeth at the forsaken destiny he was borne into and I was struck in awe. Why? Why did he fight? Where did his strength come from? I'd spent my entire life struggling against my own existence, just as he had, but he still moved with a force I couldn't even begin to imagine. Defeat wasn't something he was willing to admit, not until he gave everything he had. He spoke of possibilities and wasted efforts never truly being meaningless. I didn't understand. I couldn't comprehend. What power animated him? Why didn't he understand that death and life were one in the very same? Nothing mattered, trying too hard for something impossible was stupid, a waste of energy, futile.

I told myself it was his naivety that angered me, his blindness to the truth, but it was me who was blind. Me who was weak. Me who was a fool. "I pity you," he said, those soulful eyes burning deep inside me. "You rotted while you were alive and don't even realize it." The words struck me like a sword. I realized why I was so lost, not just in death, but also in life. I'd been such an idiot. Such a fool. My anger turned inward, ravaging me from deep inside. Old fears rose inside me. Fears of being forgotten, of being alone, of being nothing, threatened my soul with eternal darkness and I felt them consume me. I couldn't run away. I didn't want to suffer anymore. I didn't want to be afraid, but I was weak. Weak like a newborn kitten. I'd always been that way. I didn't know what it was to be strong.

He saved me, somewhere inside that dark place, without even noticing. I watched him, and that feeling I tucked away wiggled to the surface. His mission, his perseverance sparked something inside me, an understanding of how wrong I was and how right he'd been. I couldn't continue on the way I was. I had to make my soul worth something, so I threw it away. I threw it all away for him. I gave him my life of pain and sorrow. I fed his own soul with my anger and disappointment. I let him consume and take all that was left of me, even if it meant I would no longer exist. At least I was worth more in death than I'd been in life. For once, I knew what it felt like to be needed, to be worth something. For the first time in years, my heart beat in my chest and life poured through my soul.

Up and down, rider
My heart does not beat anymore
On Totensonntag they heard
This melody from god's field
Then they unearthed it
They saved the small heart in the child

The man who killed my mortal body was the very man who saved my soul. In a selfless act, he came for me and took me from the darkness of my own creation. Together we watched the scenes of my life and when my hopelessness nearly consumed me once again, he told me to fight. Fight with the strength he knew I had. A weaker person couldn't move of their own power, and while I lived, I'd carved a place for myself in the world. I didn't matter if the choices I'd made were bad ones, but at least I made choices. An effete mind wouldn't have the courage to move down any path, even the wrong one.

It was too late to change the wrongs I made in life, but there was time to rectify my death. I thought about his words and knew I didn't want to sit for eternity in darkness. I didn't want to vanish. That had always been my worst fear, and I'd always managed to hold the reality of it at bay. I did it with my own strength. My own power.

My shackles fell away and I stumbled into his arms. I was confused, disoriented, and unsure of what had just happened. I didn't feel much different, I still held a sliver of doubt. His words were pretty, full of the hope I'd long discarded. I looked at him through frightened eyes, not certain of what to do, but he just smiled gently. There was a knowledge in his eyes, an understanding I'd longed to see for so many years. "Someone is waiting for you," he said to me.

I found myself inside a home, much like the one I'd grown up in as a child. I saw my sister, her pretty hands frozen to her embroidery, like a beautiful statue. She couldn't see or hear me, and for that I was relieved. After all I'd done, I was certain she wouldn't wish to face me, and frankly, I couldn't blame her. I'd done such horrible things. I'd want to forget me too.

I couldn't contain my gasp when I spied the music box I shattered sitting on a small table next to her chair. She'd glued all the pieces together, like a jigsaw puzzle. In the center sat the photographs I'd torn, also mended with clear tape. Our family smiled back at use with crooked awkward smiles. An untouched, almost perfect picture of herself and me sat next to the box. The corners were worn, as if it had been handled often and I felt a pang deep in my chest. What a fool I'd been. What a blind, selfish fool.

My sister pieced our family back together, holding dear each tattered and torn shred of us. I always thought her to be naive and thoughtless, but I knew then that out of all of us, she was perhaps the most wise and the most strong. She couldn't choose between us, we were all important to her. She loved each one of us, regardless of our faults. Her kindness, which I mistook for pity, was perhaps her way of protecting me from the horror of my life. She was trying to reassure me, to let me know that I mattered to her. I never noticed. I was too busy hating myself and everyone around me.

As I looked at her, I had to smile. She'd never forgotten me. Even after my death, she still made the effort to remember me, to think of me. The thought made tears well in my eyes. My dear sister knew that my biggest fear was vanishing before their eyes, being lost and unremembered. She kept me alive in her heart and that was all I needed to know. I'd come full circle and now I understood how wrong I'd been. I could die a happy man, knowing that she would always keep me close to her.

Up and down, rider
A melody in the wind
My heart does not beat anymore
And the child sings on the ground
Up and down, rider
And no angel climbs down
My heart does not beat anymore
Only the rain cries on the grave

This story was inspired by the story of Katou Yue, a character in the series "Angel Sanctuary". I left out references to names and specific events on purpose, as I felt they had no place in this first person telling of Katou's story. Also, those who have finished "Angel Sanctuary" will know that I didn't include any events after Katou's rebirth at Yggdrasil, though I did consider it.

Hn…a first attempt at an Angel Sanctuary fic. Probably my last too. Had this story laying around for awhile so I figured I'd post it. Comments welcome, as always, but I hate flamers, so if you can't say what you want nicely, don't bother saying anything at all. Anyway, thanks for reading this little piece of...uh...well...whatever you care to call it!