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Rebecca L Fearnley

A Song of Forgetting: A Nowhere Chronicles Short Story (Ebook)

A Song of Forgetting: A Nowhere Chronicles Short Story (Ebook)

Released May 5th. Preorder Now!

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A season of deadly song. A creature in desperate need. Can our heroes save it in time, or will they lose everything they remember?

Once a year, the birds of Nowhere sing their raucous and powerful songs. In Singing Season, Annie’s memories and sanity are never safe. She just has to get through the month without hearing a nosta bird sing, and she should survive.

When her best friend discovers a nosta bird that cannot sing, Annie reluctantly agrees to help it learn, so that it can migrate with its flock when the season is over.

But teaching a nosta bird to sing comes with grave danger.

Can Annie save the bird, and hold onto her memories? Or will Singing Season destroy her and everything she holds dear?

A Song of Forgetting is a raucously wild short story set in the world of Nowhere. Before The Shadow and the Scream, find out how Annie and Sheb survive one of the deadliest months in the Nowhere calendar, and if this Singing Season might be their last!

Get A Song of Forgetting to swoop into Nowhere today!

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Read the first chapter!

The war-drum song of Nowhere’s birds is at cacophonous levels by the time Sheb returns from his trip. I’m pacing like a caged predator across our little earthen-cave home beneath the roots of the Soother Tree. I practically leap on him when he arrives.

“Where have you been?”

Sheb, his eyes obscured by a pair of crystal-glass goggles that magnify them to several times their usual size, grins enormously. He pulls a wad of moss from his ear. “Pardon?”

I give up being angry and help him fit the door back into its frame. From outside, the Soother Tree—our protector—lowers its vines, creating a curtain that hides the entrance from view.

“I had no idea where you were,” I sigh. “I didn’t know if the nostas had started singing yet, or the hypnofinches were dancing. You could have forgotten who you were or been bewitched to walk into the Snatching Sands—” I stop, bite my lip to quell the sudden tightness in my throat. I grab Sheb and hug him close, ignoring the pungency of his unwashed musk. Sheb chuckles and hugs me back, kissing my scorch-black curls. He tilts my head so I’m staring into his gentle grey eyes.

“Never fear, dear Annie,” he says, in that strange, duke’s accent of his. “The forest was taking care of me. I was fine.”

I frown. Of Course he was. Nowhere, with its poisonous green storm clouds, its predatory trees, its howler horses, nosta birds, and lizard-sharks, loves Sheb. Despite its dangers, the forest bends for him as he passes, gives him everything he needs. Me? Not so much. It’s afraid of me. And the reason for its fear twines itself round my ankles in the form of a little black snake with blood red wings. The snake nudges my ankle.

Bored, it tells me, straight into my brain. Can we go outside now?

I kick the snake off. It—he—grumbles and slithers into the shadows. I let him go.

“He’s been doing my head in,” I say at Sheb’s look of concern.

Me and that snake. We ain’t friends, but we’ve been stuck together for the last four years, since I came to Nowhere. He’s what Sheb calls a monster. Not just a creature of Nowhere, but a being of strange energy, given shape by my rage and hurt. I’ve no idea why he chose me, why my rage tasted so delicious to him, but he’s locked onto it and now we’re stuck together. He ain’t always this small and harmless. If I let my rage get the better of me, he transforms into a giant, lightning-serpent of world-ending proportions. Even the howler horses leave me alone when he’s like that.

And, seeing as we ain’t escaping each other anytime soon, and he’s been useful in the past—helping us reunite a gremlin with its estranged shadow, and rescuing a blood fawn from the Snatching Sands—I’ve named him Wriggler.

But, even with his size and power, he can’t protect me from the songs of nosta birds, which steal memories right from your brain. Or from the dances of hypnofinches, which bewitch you into wandering where you shouldn’t.

Which is why Sheb told me to stay here while he went searching for moss and the glass to forge me a fresh pair of those ridiculous goggles. I broke mine a week ago in an incident involving Wriggler and several cracklemice. Long story.

Sheb removes his own goggles, hands them to me. There’s a squawk of recognition from the shadows, and a fluffy purple shape swoops to Sheb’s shoulder, nuzzling his face. Sheb laughs and tickles the owl-squirrel’s cream-colored belly. The bizarre creature flattens his ear tufts and flags his squirrel tail.

“Hey, Bartok,” Sheb coos. “Missed you too, buddy.”

In the back of my mind, I hear Wriggler making gagging noises. I clamp our bond closed and follow Sheb to the rickety table full of vials, trinkets and strange tools, pressed against one wall.

“Won’t take a second!” Sheb announces, riffling through his pockets and pouring mounds of moss and several shards of strange, crystal-glass onto the table. “The lizard-sharks were very forthcoming. Gave me everything I need. We’ll have you out and about again in no time!”

I fold my arms, watching as he sets about filing down the crystal shards and fitting them into the leather frames he fashioned last night. I start pacing again, hating that I’m stuck inside.

Bloody singing season! The birds of Nowhere are always cacophonous, but at this time of year, for a whole month, they blast their dangerous, memory-snatching songs, or dance their hypnotic dances, trying to impress each other enough to find mates. They all have a glorious time, but the other creatures of Nowhere are thoroughly miserable. Hiding in caves or burrows, hibernating below ground where the songs and dances can’t reach them, only braving the forest at night, when it’s at its most dangerous and the birds are quiet.

And that includes me and Sheb.

The only way to walk safely through the forest at this time of year is to stuff moss in our ears and put those ridiculous goggles over our eyes, shielding us from the worst of the avian antics.

Sheb uses rumbleroot sap to glue the crystal glass in place, holds the goggles out for me to inspect. “Reinforced,” he tells me, beaming. “In case they’re threatened by another Wriggler-related incident.”

It wasn’t my fault! Wriggler protests, which is pointless, because Sheb can’t hear him.

I smile, take the goggles from Sheb and fit them over my eyes. I blink through the strange glass, the way it makes the world ripple and distort. Wearing them always gives me a headache, but at least I’ll be safe from the hypnofinches.

“Perfect,” I say. “Foraging time?”

I need to get out of this bloody cave before boredom drives me insane. Sheb shakes his head, but his smile is indulgent.

“Foraging time,” he agreed, sliding his goggles back over his eyes and handing me moss for my ears.

“Pack it in tight,” he tells me, stuffing his own ears. “They’re raucous, today.”

I sigh. Great. I shove as much moss as I can manage into my ears and try to ignore the way it makes me itch.


It’s weird, moving through the forest like this. The glasses distort the trees so I struggle to fight off their vines when they grab at us. Their multi-colored leaves shimmer like jewels in the sun. The lenses tinge the usually red-and-indigo sky a violet color, and all this bloody moss in my ears is messing with my balance.

Me and Sheb pick our way down to the rainbow river, our bark-woven forage bags bumping against our hips as we stumble over our own feet and—occasionally—Wriggler.

Watch it! My lightning snake grumbles when I trip over him for the third time. I scowl down at him, which I reckon looks ridiculous with these goggles.

“Stop slithering right under my feet then, you painful worm!” I snap. Wriggler flicks his tongue at me, skulks off in a huff. Good riddance.

We’ve left Bartok at home, too. Owl-squirrels ain’t immune to nosta song, and it’s a bit difficult to stuff moss in his ears. He protested sharply at being left behind, but, for once, Sheb was firm. Last thing we need is to be chasing round Nowhere after an owl-squirrel that’s lost his memories.

The rainbow river is busy today. The trees overhanging it are festooned with birds, shrieking their heads off so loud that even my moss doesn’t keep out all the sound. I wince, pressing it deeper into my ears as I feel my memories sliding to the edges of my brain.

Annie. My name is Annie. Analise Amaranth Aluna. The daft name my daddy gave me. My awful daddy, who tortured me until I murdered him. Had no choice, even though it still haunts my nightmares. That was four years ago.

I go round and round like this in my head, reminding myself who I am. Where I come from. I cling to those memories like my life depends on it. I grit my teeth against the pain of remembering, fight the power of the nosta bird song.

Something touches my arm. I start, snatching a knife from my belt. There’s a man in front of me, his hand outstretched, grey eyes wide with concern. He’s mouthing my name. Have I seen him before? I reach for my ears to clear them. Something’s blocking them.

The man lets out a shout and grabs my hand, holding it away from my ear. “Annie!” he mouths. “It’s me, remember? Come back to yourself!”

I blink once. Twice. I know who this man is. I fight through the muffled sound of nosta song for a name. Who is he?

It’s Sheb, you ridiculous woman, comes a hissing voice in my head. Stop letting them get to you.

Wriggler’s voice in my mind brings me slamming back to myself. Of course it’s Sheb. Of course I know him. Holy Oak, this nosta song is powerful today!

Sheb points towards the river. Under its rainbow waters, I see several lizard-sharks floating aimlessly, like they’ve forgotten what they are and why they’re there. A couple have tried to crawl out of the water and got stuck on the banks, forgetting their strange, lizard-like legs are not designed for land.

Me and Sheb coax them back into the water, then chase them downstream, away from the nosta song. Hopefully, in a few hours, they’ll remember themselves. In the meantime, we need some forage for dinner. Sheb hunts between the tree roots, looking for wandercaps and trickertruffles. I squat by the river to harvest cacklereeds, and then I’ll search the leaf litter for scatterpods. I keep reaching for my ears, pressing the moss deeper into them. Even with it shoved into my ear canals, I still hear the nosta song through it. I feel myself unspooling.

Wriggler winds himself round my ankles, talking sharply into my brain whenever my eyes go glassy and my jaw goes slack. Still, it’s hard to forage with this racket. I glance into the trees, at the nosta birds thickening the branches. They’re a strange bird, about the size of the crows I used to see on my home world. Instead of black, their feathers range from fiery yellows and oranges to deep, blood-red. They bicker in the branches, swooping from tree to tree, preening and screaming and generally causing chaos. A few have already paired up, and I see the males offering the females trinkets as a sign of their affection: stunned grumbleshrooms, or glassy-eyed cracklemice, stupefied by the nosta’s song. I shake my head, slap myself across the cheek. Concentrate, Annie!

I move on from the cacklereeds, shoving them into my bark-woven bag. Scatterpods next. I could hunt something more substantial for food, but it doesn’t seem fair during nosta season, when half the beasts won’t remember to run away. And anyway, Sheb hates me killing the critters of Nowhere, even for food. Most of the year, we’re vegetarian. It’s only in winter, when the grumbleshrooms burrow deep underground and the trees aren’t producing pods, that Sheb relents and lets me hunt so we don’t die. He’s never happy about it, though. So, scatterpods it is.

I’m on my hands and knees, raking through the leaf litter to find the fist-sized, brown scatterpod seeds, when it happens.

The flutter of wings, a soft pressure on my shoulder. I freeze, turn my head slightly.

Annie, Wriggler says, poking his head above the leaf litter. Don’t freak out, but there’s a nosta bird on you.

No shit, I think back to him. I clench my teeth, slowly get to my feet. The nosta chirps, pecks experimentally at my flax shirt. It’s a little male. I can tell from the length of his crest feathers. He’s a young’un. Still got a pale brown tinge to his beak. Too young to have mated yet. This must be his first Singing Season. I lift my arm, and the bird hops along to my elbow, examining the dirt-stains on my sleeve. His feathers are pale yellow, with flares of orange around its eyes, on the tips of its wings, and on the longer feathers that make the crest at the top of its head. Its beady, green eyes fix on me. It chirps again.

It’s such a pretty sound, and I can’t hear it properly. I paw my ears, trying to free them.

Annie, says a voice in my brain, but it’s faraway, and whatever it wants doesn’t seem that important. I shake my head. The nosta lets out a few bright notes that jingle in my brain. It’s like summer thunder and dawn sunlight and the promise of something wonderful that I won’t fully understand until I hear it properly. I smile, dimly. There’s something in my ears stopping me from hearing the song and I can’t remember why that’s important. What a daft thing to do. Who’d not want to hear this song? I reach for my ear, hooking the blockage out of it. Something dry crumbles in my fingers. I look down. There’s moss in my hands.

Why did I have moss in my ears?

Annie! Says the voice in my head again. A brief panic needles me. I know that voice. There’s a reason for the moss in my ears.

But then the young nosta opens his beak and starts to sing and none of it matters. I’m floating on the bright, brutal notes of his melody, smiling as his song unravels all the things I don’t need. I realize, I’d be able to fly if I just let go of all these memories weighing me down. Who needs a name? Why worry about silly things like who I am or where I come from? I let the nosta song unpick the threads of my memories, watch them scatter like insects into the sky. I drop the bag I’m holding. It thumps to the ground. Doesn’t matter.

Annie! Annie! Says the voice in my head. I shove it away. It’s getting in the way of the nosta song. And who the hell is Annie?

The nosta bird opens its bright yellow wings, chest expanding with the power of its song. And I know I can be as happy as this bird if I let all of myself go. Open my mind and let all the hurt and the pain out. The hope and joy will go, too, but that’s a small price to pay for the glorious peace of the bird’s song.

“Annie! Annie!”

Something grabs me. The nosta bird takes off. I shout at him to come back, struggling against whatever’s now holding me.

“Let me go!” I cry. “He hadn’t finished! I need to hear the end!”

“Annie, for Oak’s sake!”

I blink. That voice isn’t inside my head. It’s in the air. Something tugs at the back of my mind. My breath quickens. There’s a name for this feeling. I grapple for it. Fear? Never mind, It’ll go as soon as the nosta bird comes back, as soon as he carries on singing.

I thrash against whatever’s got hold of me. I glance down to find my arms pinned at my sides. Strong hands hold me. I rear back, snapping my head into whatever’s got me. There’s a crack, a muffled grunt and then the voice says, thickly, “My nose!”

But the hands don’t let go. Why won’t they let go?

“Wriggler!” the voice says. What the hell is a Wriggler?

On it, says the voice in my head again. Honestly, Annie. You bloody fool.

A little blunt head appears from the leaf litter at my feet. It’s a snake. A snake with red wings. I shriek, kicking at it, but it dodges aside, lunges, and sinks its fangs deep into my ankle.

I yell, but it ain’t just the pain. Or at least, not the pain of the thing’s bite. It’s the flood in my brain. A sudden rush of the things I should know, that I couldn’t wait to forget.

I’m Annie.

I murdered my father.

I ran away to Nowhere.

I summoned a monstrous lightning-snake with my rage (did the little ingrate just bite me?)

My mother abandoned me, twice.

Everyone abandons me. I’m evil. Broken. Dangerous.

And for one, glorious moment, the nosta song took all that from me. Freed me from the wicked burden of being me, and I was beautifully, tragically free.


The hands let me go. I turn my tear-stained face to find a man behind me. Kind grey eyes. Floppy hair. A trail of blood trickling from his nose. He bites his lip with concern.

“Sheb,” I sob.

And then it’s all too much. My knees give way. The world goes blissfully black.

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