Featured Story
Recent Stories
Stories by Topic
News
Make the universe a better place! Join Daily Science Fiction for only $15 / year.
Membership
Take me to a...
Random story
top-rated stories only
Enter any portion of the author name or story title:
small-go-arrowsearch
Sign up for free daily sci-fi!
your email will be kept private
Breaking News
Get a copy of Not Just Rockets and Robots: Daily Science Fiction Year One. 260 adventures into new worlds, fantastical and science fictional. Rocket Dragons Ignite: the anthology for year two, is also available!
Kindle Edition
Kindle Edition
DSF stories are available in monthly digests for Kindle!
DSF for Kindle
Publish your stories or art on Daily Science Fiction:
Submit your story
Check story status
Not just rockets & robots...
What is Science Fiction?
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.
close






Lullaby

It is quiet.
It is a sort of quiet that chokes your ears, the quiet that drowns out the whispering of the wind as it makes the leaves dance along the streets.
It is a sort of quiet that follows after one takes their last breath.
But it is always silent for the boy that runs barefoot through the rotten slums. He is used to the quiet that presses harshly against his ear drums, and instead of sound his mind is filled with colors and smells and the cold frigid air that clings to his shaking hands at night. They are the feelings that keep him alive.
The girl has a name, and her name is Isadora. She lays on her bed, surrounded by pale gold cushions, white lace, and overwhelming pretentiousness. She hears a door opening and turns to face the uniformed people filing into her room, her blue eyes devoid of the life she has been grasping desperately.
They wheel in various machines and glossy metal carts presenting an assortment of syringes. Gentle but uncaring hands start attaching wires and the like to her. There is a prick as they take their daily blood sample, then replace it with a purple liquid. A paper cup holding two familiar blue pills is shoved into her hands. Isadora frowns at the pills, and they look back at her sadly.
"These are the ones... that made me see things last time, aren't they?" The words sound tired as they hang in the air, receiving no reply. They all know the question is pointless. She takes the pills and feels them slide down her throat.
The boy's eyes take in every detail of the world and consider them with an anxious unease. He has broken into this mansion several years ago, with its pale cream walls and sickeningly ornate decor. The security cameras are easy to evade, and he climbs onto a balcony with little difficulty.
Brown eyes peek into the room, and are surprised to see a girl in the bed, eyes closed and lying on her side. Dark curly hair is spread across her pillow and her body rises and falls with shallow breaths. Streams of wires and tubes hang off her body, and an IV bag drips a black liquid into her bloodstream.
Society doesn't allow illness. The sick stay at home, away from people. The boy tells himself not to feel sorry, because he had seen her the last time he came, and she had had everything. No illness, no poverty, no disability that made parents abandon their children from birth.
No, he has had nothing his whole life, and so he tells himself not to feel sorry for the girl.
He turns to the vanity, deciding that the girl will probably not wake up from whatever drug induced sleep she is in. He starts rummaging through the drawers, and finds a multitude of jewelry, which he quickly pockets.
He's about to leave when there's a sudden change in the air, a coldness that wasn't there before. The boy turns, and brown eyes meet blue.
The boy doesn't seem to notice that Isadora is awake, and for a while she thinks he is another hallucination. She is used to the voices in her head that aren't hers, the shifting images in the corner of her eye, the demons that inhabit her mind. The feeling of hopelessness that makes everything look slightly blue.
But the dirty boy doesn't seem to fit in, and it doesn't really matter to her if he isn't real anyway. The concept of things mattering is a faded memory. He finally turns and she watches as he freezes and stares.
"Hello."
The boy doesn't reply.
"What is your name?"
He presses his lips together, then motions to his ears and shakes his head. Deafness.
"Can you read my lips?" The boy frowns, so Isadora repeats herself. His eyes flicker to her mouth and he nods.
The boy takes a hesitant step towards the balcony, probably wanting to leave, but stops when Isadora asks, "Can you take me with you?"
The boy's eyes widen and he shakes his head at the girl. She sighs and her mouth moves, and he struggles to decipher the words. Why not?
He blinks at her incredulously. Did she expect him to explain himself?
He wants to ask, and the words sit in his mouth, so unsure of what to do, of how talking works.
He fidgets with his hands for a moment. And then for the first time in years, he tries to speak.
"Wai wouo yew wount tew carm?"
Isadora doesn't expect to hear words. Effortful and stumbling, but words all the same. Why would you want to come? A smile finds its way onto her face. She closes her eyes and allows the emotions crowded inside her to answer.
"I want a story with an end."
As soon as she pulls the wires and tubes from her body, an alarm starts, one that the boy cannot hear--but he feels the footsteps throughout the house. And so there is no turning back.
For seven days, they sleep next to each other in his little hut, by a small fire that burns most of the cold away. They talk by the creek in the slums, and he finally learns her name: Isadora. It means gift of Isis, she explains. She asks if he has a name, and he shakes his head. Do you want one? He shrugs. I'll think of one for you.
By the fourth day, she's falling apart. The boy watches how her tongue can't form words in her mouth, how her legs stop holding her weight, how her fingers tremble uncontrollably. There are moments she can't breathe. She spends the sixth day curled up in the hut, unmoving.
On the seventh day, the boy returns from stealing to see Isadora sitting by the creek, gazing at the water. He sits next to her, and she turns and mouths, Do you ever wonder what the creek sounds like? He shakes his head.
It's gorgeous. Like a pretty song that rushes over the rocks. A gurgling lullaby. It's like a mother singing to her child. I could fall asleep here, right now.
The boy doesn't know many of the words he makes out from her lips, but in his head they seem beautiful. For a moment, he can almost hear the melody of the creek.
His attention is brought back when the girl says, I was thinking of a name for you these past few days. But I'm bad at thinking of good names so I guess you could take mine if you like. Isidore. I won't be using it for much longer.
He likes it, and he nods approvingly. Isadora smiles.
She rests her head on his shoulder and Isidore watches as her chest falls and rises. Maybe the creek's lullaby is taking her to sleep. But he knows it's not that, he knows it when he feels tears sliding down his cheek. Another rise of the chest. A sigh. One last breath.
And then it is quiet.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, February 22nd, 2019
BECOME A MEMBER!
We hope you're enjoying Lullaby by Lynden Xu.

Please support Daily Science Fiction by becoming a member.

Daily Science Fiction does not have a paywall, but we do have expenses—more than 95% of which are direct payments to authors for their stories. With your $15 membership, less than 6 cents per story, we can continue to provide genre fiction every weekday by email and on the website to thousands of readers for many years to come. Tell me more!

Support Daily Science Fiction

RATE THIS STORY
Please click to rate this story from 1 (ho-hum) to 7 (excellent!):

Please don't read too much into these ratings. For many reasons, a superior story may not get a superior score.

5.4 Rocket Dragons Average

SHARE THIS STORY

JOIN MAILING LIST
Please join our mailing list and receive free daily sci-fi (your email address will be kept 100% private):
 
Copyright Info
Tell a Friend
Send Feedback
About Us