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Once upon a time there was a city where no one ever spoke.

It wasnt that these


people couldn't speak, or that they weren't allowed to, the activity had merely
fallen out of favour. It had been so long since the last words had been uttered, no
could remember exactly why. And so the streets echoed only with the patter of
footsteps and cartwheels. Offices and public buildings were home to the gentle
rustling of papers and the occasional scraping of a chair leg. In cafs, lone
gramophones played to mute audiences. It was not a very exciting place to live.

Now in this city there lived a boy, a boy with rusty coloured hair, who collected
shells and oddly shaped buttons and dreamed of one day sailing the open sea.
And of course since there was a boy, there was also a girl. She worked in the
local greengrocer,had a pet frog and always kept a pencil tucked behind her ear
for emergencies.Whenever the girl smiled, the boy felt as if he was falling a great
distance but with a gentle warmth fluttering around him as he plummeted.
Having only read about it in books, he couldn't be completely sure if this was
"being in love", but it felt like it mightbe. He would visit the green-grocer's
everyday and buy an apple, even though he had long grown sick of them.
Sometimes henwould try and catch her eye but she would look away and
sometimes she would try and catch his, but then he would become the shy one.

So consumed by this emotional predicament was the rusty haired boy, that one
autumn morning he climbed to the top of the old bell tower in the northern
quarter of the city and asked Grandma Faraway for guidance. With the city
sprawling out below him, the boy tore a page from the little notebook he, as did
all residents of the city, wore on a string about his neck and scribbled his
question on it. Then, delicately between finger and thumb, he held the note up in
the air until the wind shook it free from his grasp. He watched as it was spirited
away into the distant sky and eventually out of sight. Two days later, the boy
with rusty hair awoke to find the wind had plastered a small strip of paper
against the exterior of his bedroom window. Retrieving the note he found it was
his own, but on the reverse, in elegant, curving script, was the reply from
Grandma Faraway.
The message simply read: You have to sing to her.
The boy reread the note several more times, once or twice even turning to the
other side and then back again as if hoping the message might have somehow
changed. It didn't. Those five simple words remained, staring up at him. He had
to sing to her. Singing was even more unheard of in the city than talking. The boy
didn't even know where to begin and so he folded the paper carefully and slipped
it into his pocket to contemplate his predicament. Several weeks passed and
little changed. People still went about their daily routines. The boy still went to
purchase his daily apple and still managed to avoid all eye contact with the girl
who had a smile like gravity. And then one morning, with no forewarning,
everything changed. The citizens awoke to find their streets and homes covered
in a great, white blanket.

Grandma Faraway had gifted them with a fresh snowfall that crunched
satisfyingly under foot and was accompanied by rows of little icicles along the
eves of all the houses. By the time the boy had reached the green-grocer, the
tips of his ears had gone scarlet and his eyes were wide with wonder at this
transformed world. At the shop, the girl was waiting with flushed, glowing cheeks
and her hair was dotted with little clumps of snowflakes that looked like
diamonds against the soft, golden
strands. When she smiled at him today, she looked so beautiful and the boy was
so excited by the snowfall that this time he didn't feel as if he was falling but
more like flying. And then the boy opened his mouth, and without even thinking
about it, he did something that no one in the city had done for many years. He
sang. He opened his mouth and out came all these words and melodies that he
had never heard before but yet somehow seemed undeniably right. His young
voice, wavering with nervousness, told the girl just how she made him feel.

How he wanted to lean across and place his hand upon her face and not have to
feel nervous around her anymore. The scene was so surreal that the boy almost
felt as he was sitting watching this happen to somebody else, perhaps even in a
dream. Finally he paused, taking in a deep gulp of air and looked at the girl with
diamonds in her hair. The pink in her cheeks was not from the cold any more but
from blushing. But then something even stranger happened - her eyes met his
and her pale irises held his gaze for a long moment before she too began to sing.
She sang about the long days she spent selling vegetables and how she would
much rather be painting or helping people but her family needed the money and
besides, there was this boy,with rusty hair, who came in every day and for those
brief few seconds she felt as if the entire world was spinning around her for once.

Neither of them noted the bell jangle as the shop door opened. A customer, an
older gentleman, stood half-in, half-out the doorway, watching this remarkable
scene unfold. His mouth was hanging open, the boy and the girl were sure they
were going to get in some kind of trouble for what they had done. But the man
smiled and picked up the tune where they had left off he even danced a little
and waved his hands as he chanted about how much he loved snow and that
there hadn't been a proper snowfall like this since he had been a boy and he and
his father had spent an entire day making a family of snowmen. From the street
beyond more voices joined in - different words and stories but all to the same
simple tune. The boy, the girland the man came out of the shop and onto the
cobbled street beyond, the boy taking the girl's hand almost absent-mindedly,
and watched as the song spread through the streets like flames across an
ancient, water-starved savannah. The melody echoed down alleyways and across
the tiles of rooftops and neighbours and strangers alike told each other just how
happy they were to be alive. Some people still seemed reluctant as if any minute
they would get told off, whilst others grabbed the hands of anyone nearby and
began to dance to and fro across the snowy streets, looks of relief and happy
bewilderment smeared across every face.

And so that was the day that that strange place became, not the city where no
one ever spoke, but the city where everyone always sang. And as for the boy
with rusty coloured hair and the girl with a smile like gravity? Well they lived
happily ever after of course.