The Institute is prestigious and stretches skywards accordingly, white walls and grey slate against pebbles and shorn grass, on one side a bramble twist of bracken, on the other, the sea.
I have a whistle, humming low and sweet under my breath, and I have a bodhran, skin stretched taught to be pattered by hand and stick. Above all, I have my clarsach, which I heft in its case from the boot of my car and wait, itching round my forehead as the midges swarm, unsure what to do next.
As day breaks, I begin my study as I will do every morning for a year until I graduate or I fail. I lean my clarsach on my shoulder and pluck pure, vibrating bells from the strings. My fingers feel jointed with crudest wood, a puppet girl playing with a harp, but the sound is clear and true. Is it enough?
The old calluses on my fingertips wear thin and fray. I play for hours, and my tutor sits and says nothing. I grow angry. Why won’t you say anything? I intensify my playing, and anger turns to boredom to despair to bloody fingers limping fractured melody. A bead of blood wells and trickles down my wrist where it drips to the floor next to my shoe.
A year of nights is lonely but it is the only time I have to call my own. Amid the darkness of the moon-swept hours, I cloister myself under fluorescent lights and I practise, wringing from myself every drop of music until I have leeched the blood from beneath my skin.
This year of nights and judgement days changes me. I grow thin and hard, sound-dulled flesh becoming resonant bone. Skin sloughs from my fingertips and my arms, shredded lace wearing through to expose a mesh of harp string tendons that hum with more guts than my clarsach ever could. I open my throat to sing as the gulls wheel on wreathing air and as the wind blows, I catch every note of their flight. I have no more need for my whistle; the wind playing upon my throat sings for me.
I bleed, I play, I sing. I pray, I practise, every nerve thrumming in pained harmonics, and finally, it is the day of reckoning. I enter alone into a room and the first thing I do is open the window. I mount the stage, and the sea wind moans through my throat, thieving rippled counterpoint from my singing tendons. Under the skin of my belly throbs a drum of rapid heartbeats, and beneath it all, my blood howls.
The wind stops. The music ceases, and I collapse, exhausted. I tear my breath, catching harsh notes of air in a ragged trill. Was this enough?
In silence now, I seek my tutor and face, in return, a cracked smile, nothing more.
A. L. Kersel is a writer from the west coast of Scotland. Her short fiction has appeared in anthologies from Tranquillity Publishing, Tales of Tremendous Tragicide and Halcyon Days and Cyanide Nights and online at A Million and One Magazine. She is currently working on her first novel, a chaotic dark comedy featuring extraordinary inventions and the inept navigation of human relationships.
If you enjoyed ‘Anatomy of a Musician’ leave a comment and let A.L. Kersel know.
You can find and follow A. L. Kersel at:
Twenty-four short stories, exclusive afterwords, interviews, artwork, and more.
From Trumpocalypse to Brexit Britain, brick by brick the walls are closing in. But don’t despair. Bulldoze the borders. Conquer freedom, not fear. EXIT EARTH explores all life – past, present, or future – on, or off – this beautiful, yet fragile, world of ours. Final embraces beneath a sky of flames. Tears of joy aboard a sinking ship. Laughter in a lonely land. Dystopian or utopian, realist or fantasy, horror or sci-fi, EXIT EARTH is yours to conquer.
EXIT EARTH includes the short stories of all fourteen finalists of the STORGY EXIT EARTH Short Story Competition, as judged by critically acclaimed author Diane Cook (Man vs. Nature) and additional stories by award winning authors M R Cary (The Girl With All The Gifts), Toby Litt (Corpsing), James Miller (Lost Boys), Courttia Newland (A Book of Blues), and David James Poissant (The Heaven of Animals), and exclusive artwork by Amie Dearlove, HarlotVonCharlotte, CrapPanther, and cover design by Rob Pearce.
Visit the STORGY SHOP here…
Unlike many other Arts & Entertainment Magazines, STORGY is not Arts Council funded or subsidised by external grants or contributions. The content we provide takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce, and relies on the talented authors we publish and the dedication of a devoted team of staff writers. If you enjoy reading our Magazine, help to secure our future and enable us to continue publishing the words of our writers. Please make a donation or subscribe to STORGY Magazine with a monthly fee of your choice. Your support, as always, continues to inspire.